The Colors of Spain

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I have always associated people, places and events with smells, colors, tastes. I guess this is our mind tagging them in its archive with some sort of filing system. Sinulog has always been red and gold. Growing up I have always wondered why these two colors, I have always thought they were so 80’s. Later on, I found that these are colors of Spain, our conquistadores.

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Without fail, every year on the 1st day of the novenario, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino will always be decked with banderitas and swags in red and gold. Last January 10 was the 1st day of the novenario and it was gloomy and rainy. This didn’t stop devotees from showing up to complete their 9 – day commitment.

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To my delight, the Basilica had prepared large umbrellas for everyone to use! In the usual colors of Spain. Good job Augustinians!

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Drums Beating

Last weekend we went to the City Sports Center after almost a month of wolfing down tons of food from the holiday parties.  We wanted to start our early morning walks again.  How time flies!  When we got there, we saw that the Sinulog stage is already up and a whole contingent was hard at work rehearsing at 530am!  It is Sinulog Month and in a few weeks time, the Grand Parade.

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Ofcourse, the oldies would always caution and remind everyone to focus on the solemnity and the real reason for the season – Sto. Nino.  This sounds like Christmas to me but I, erring on the side of sounding self-righteous, have always been one to celebrate this festival for the right reason.

For almost 12 years now, I have always completed the 9 day novena.  Okay there may have been years I didnt, but for those years, I made sure to join the foot procession.

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So anyway, when we got home from the sports centre I went online to check out news and updates around the festivities.  I ran into an article that posted the English version of the Prayer to Sto. Nino.  Reposting here with some images of my beloved baby Sto Nino taken from exhibits around the city.

Prayer to the Sto. Nino:

O Senor Santo Niño, you are our king and our God, we worship you. You are our strong defender, we turn to you. You are the patron of Cebu, the Philippines and the world, we come to you; You have made extraordinary wonders through your miraculous image in those chosen islands, remember us. Look down at this poor soul that comes to you for help. Lead us with Your wisdom; discipline us with your truth; console us with your tenderness, protect us with your might.

We consecrate today our thoughts of you, only with you shall they be occupied; our words, only of you shall they speak; our sufferings, that we may endure them for your sake. We beg you Señor Santo Niño, illumine our understanding, kindle our will, cleanse our body, sanctify our soul. We wish what you wish, because you wish, as you wish, as long as you wish.

Grant us, Señor Santo Niño, that we may feel love toward you, be strict toward ourselves be zealous toward our fellowmen, and rightly despise the things of the world. Help us to overcome sensuality with strict discipline, avariciousness with generosity, anger with gentleness, indolence with zealous industry. Make us wise in counsel, courageous in danger, patient in adversity, humble in prosperity.

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Teach us, dear Santo Niño, how worthless is the world, how sublime is heaven, how brief is time, how long is eternity. Grant us, lastly, that we may remember you, adore you, love you and serve you here on earth that we may be happy with you forever and ever in heaven.

Amen

Revisiting Kawasan Falls

 

August 2012, Shaun and I went south to another one of our spur-of-the-moment road trips and ended up in Badian.  Shaun has been missing this place which was an oft visited seminar venue in college.  As always, “kinowboy” or rugged was the order of the trip.  We checked into La Playa and after a good night’s rest, went for an early walk to Kawasan Falls.

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We stopped for breakfast by a roadside eatery and found nicely prepared native pickled fish “inun-unan”.  Fish slow-cooked in vinegar and salt in a claypot with ginger and tomatoes.  We were told that the governor had shut down operations and had not allowed people in to the waterfalls area.  The governor was said to have been worried about buildings and commercial structures sprouting along the trail towards and around the waterfalls.  We were surprised to learn this as we have always assumed it was open.  At the same time we were secretly pleased that the government cared enough to want to leave nature be.

We were told not to worry and to just take the trail on the other side of the river.  So off we went and like always, the trek alone already made me feel refreshed from all the busy days at work.  Shaun hadn’t been here for 12 years and myself, even longer.  It felt good to be back and trekking along fresh air and green foliage, not to mention the occasional dip into very cool waters.  And since operations had been shut down, did I mention we had the place all to ourselves, on a weekend!

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what better way to warm up than to have our very own San Miguel Beer!

From the Hearth Of My Kitchen

The holidays came and went and everyday was a complete blur, what with the craziness in the office and the string of parties on weekends.  So here I am on December 31st wondering how I could’ve missed the shopping and gift giving.

Well it is never too late now is it?  So up I went and baked a batch of butterscotch.  Shaun has brought home tons of dried fruit (yes tons, industrial tons, not the teeny tiny expensive packs from the grocery) so why don’t I go ahead and throw that in as well.  The ending was a sweet, chewy homemade dried fruit butterscotch.  You will find many recipes online and I strongly recommend using local products.  In my case, I used dried pineapples and mangoes.

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Gifts do not always have to be storebought, and home made gifts are not necessarily cheap too.  The time and effort that goes into the homemade ones, especially if it is my time and effort, is very precious!  Kidding aside, I just think that putting in the time and effort into a gift is much more meaningful than just grabbing an item from the store.

I have always believed that the wrapping is just as important as what is inside.  DIY homemade goodies do not always have to come in the plain tin, plastic or cellophane wrapping.  If you know where to look, there are many cute packaging materials out there.  Made in China ofcourse.  Sometimes, I get more excited about the packages than anything else.

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Anyhow, I just gathered up the slices of butterscotch in grease-resistant (read:wax paper) paper.  Put them into boxes and tie up a gift card.  There you go, your diy, homemade gift!

I signed mine, From The Hearth of My Kitchen!  Happy Holidays!

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What goes around, comes around

Then universe is a curved mirror .  Like the kind we use to check our facial pores.  What you transmit, goes back to you in multiple folds, in a magnified version.  For what it showers back on us, we can only be thankful.  Acknowledge with a grateful heart all the good things that you have.  This starts the cycle of continuous blessings and positive energies. This sounds so new age, but come to think of it, various religions and spiritual groups advocate the same thing in many different terms.

Most people do not cherish the smallest conveniences around them.  Mostwould easily fall into the trap of seeing what is lacking, complaining and rejecting, that they fail to see the many other good things and good people surrounding them.  In other words, they wallow in a cycle of ungratefulness, continuous defeat and overall frustration.

Being grateful allows you to see the good in every situation, in every person.  It magnifies all the little good things happening around you.  When truly acknowledged, it will leave you feeling light, happy and positive.  And these are the energies you transmit all around you.  And the universe will respond…many folds.

Simple Pleasures

Summer this year came a little late. Usually it comes just around the Catholic Holy Week with the weeks leading to it starting to get really warm. This year, we had rainy days and thunderstorms for weeks prior to the Holy Week. They say, the times are really changing, what with volatile weather conditions worldwide. That big summer sky said “better late than never!” and decided to hang himself up there right after the Lent celebrations. Summer! the smells, the tastes, the feelings all come rushing back. Summer is the briny smell of sea breeze, it is the cool cucumber and tomato in your kinilaw and it is the hot, languid, carefree afternoons with your summer lover.

So here is Cebu again with temperatures rising to 35C with people running to the beaches to cool down. Ofcourse I just had to have that requisite beach picnic too. The first for this year was with Shaun and his friends last weekend. They were to celebrate the last few remaining days of American friend John in Cebu. He’s been in the Phils for 5 years total, 2 of the most recent in Cebu and will be moving back to the States. I tagged along. We were headed for Bantayan Island.

I love Bantayan and I have vacayed several times in this island. The last time I was here was almost 2 years ago. I love that the beachline is not crowded, and that it is wide. The water is clean minus the algae floating and the docked pumpboats. Yes, I mean algae, not seaweeds. Not a lot of us know that algae is a telltale sign of polluted water no matter how blue green the water is. But I digress. Now I also appreciate the peace and quiet. I just don’t understand why some people try to make a party place out of beaches like they do in Boracay. They can always do so in the City. Bantayan is hush quiet, just the way I like it.

As expected the beach was there, the water was there and the quiet was there. One change I noticed was that the ugly oil depot near Sta Fe is now gone! Another was that there are motorbike and bicycle rentals around town now. After we sated our beach hunger, we rented bicycles the next day.

I love bicycle rides. I remember all the summer breaks growing up when I would be really dark with sunburn cycling around Mabolo. These were the years when San Jose dela Montana didn’t have the traffic volume it has now and it was safe for 9 year old kids to be passing thru its thoroughfare on their bicycles. I would go out on my bicycle every afternoon, no matter the heat, and go around the corners and nooks of Mabolo. I remember the wonderful feeling of discovery everytime I found a new route or found a new neighborhood. I believe I never again rode bicycles after I turned 10 years old…

When I saw the rental signs, my elan kicked in. So I invited Shaun, John and Clint and they were up for it. And like they say, I quickly remembered how to ride a bicycle, nothing really to almost 20 years of not riding one. Oh! the sheer freedom of breezing through the little streets of Sta Fe. Past Brgy, Okoy, Okra, Ampalaya, Talong and Kamatis! Everywhere we went, the womenfolk and the children would say “Hi” or greet us with “Good Morning!”. Everytime Shaun and I would find something nice, we would ring our bells. I found myself driving the bike wiggly woggly as I get myself distracted looking at the houses, new and old, the neighborhood scene of Sunday cockfight, and the green all around.

Ofcourse,  we were cruising around town with the sun’s heat beating down on us mercilessly. But hey, wasn’t this the idea? We did a le petit bonheur, a little happy hour after a few minutes though. The best way to cooldown…halo halo…no matter how overpriced.

On our way back, we chose to follow a different route, this time by the beach side. Warm sun on my skin and cool sea breeze on my face. I love summer. Who would have thought summer fun can be just this simple, but then this is me talking. What’s your idea of summer fun?

Homemade Kimchi

The Korean Invasion of Cebu, or the Philippines in general, has grown considerably in recent years.  When a long time ago, you only see them at the popular touristy places, now they are everywhere.  It did not really catch on to me, not the Korean novelas, nor K-pop, nor the sprouting Korean salons (I have a Cantonese stylist of 8 years by the way).  Not even the fact that Koreans bought my high school alma mater and took over the entire school.

But Korean food….ooohhh…now this is something I found hard to ignore.

When in Cebu, you will see quite a few of these restaurants sprouting up.  Being the adventurous foodie that I am, I have had my fair share of trips to sample bulgogi, bibimbap, kimbap, samgyupsal, and the jigaes(stews).   I’ve grown to love the sweet and spicy dishes of Korea.  Not to mention, dining at Korean restaurants gives very good value for money considering the generous refills of banchan(side dishes).  The thing with me is that once I get the hang of a particular dish, the next step for me is to try and make it myself.

So after much research, thanks to Youtube, I finally made my very 1st Kimchi.  I have gone crazy over Korean recipes that I have grown to become a celebrity fan.  My favorite Youtube Korean Chef is Maangchi.  Her videos are easy to follow and fun.  Every once in a while, she will model the funniest (and the cutest) outfits and headdresses.

What better dish to prepare than the world-renowned Kimchi, or fermented vegetable side dish.  Kimchi is said to contain almost 50% of your daily requirement of Vit. C, Vit. A, Thiamine, B1 and B2.  It is so big in Korea that at one point, when prices of cabbage (or was it chili ) went up around 2008, the country (South Korea) I mean, declared it a national calamity.

So here I am, one weekend, making my homemade kimchi.

The steps are very easy and you can always visit Maangchi’s youtube videos.

First, you steep the cabbage in salt for an hour and a half.  Make sure to turn it over once every 30 minutes so it will be even.  Rinse it well, 3 times at least.

While steeping the cabbage, you may start preparing the other vegetables.  Chop carrots,spring onions and radish julienne.  Mince, garlic, ginger and onions.  If you have a food processesor, blend this together with fish sauce.  I do not have a food processors so I just minched the spices and soaked them in the fish sauce for a few minutes.

For the paste, make a congee from flour, water and sugar.  Let cool at room temperature.  Once cooled down, add the vegetables and the spices soaked in fish sauce.  Add your desired amount of chili powder and mix well.  This is now your kimchi paste.

In a large bowl, start mixing the cabbage and the paste until all leaves are well coated.  Let sit overnight in an airtight container before transferring to the refrigerator.

After a day, I was so happy when I smelled and tasted my Kimchi, it was the real thing, plus it was home made.  I always take kimchi with fried dishes.  It also goes well with braised pork or Humba.  Enjoy!

Hersheys Kisses DIY Chocolate Bouquet

It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog.  What with changing job assignments and our busy season just recently.  I work for an accounting software company that provides support for financial and employee management solutions.  This said, January is always our busiest month considering the deadline for tax filings.

I am glad that is all over now.  Since I last wrote something here, I’ve been to many different restaurants, four holidays have gone by, I’ve mulled over many different thoughts and went through many different emotions that I wish I was able to share online.

The most recent happening was Valentines Day and I won’t let it go unpublished.  Lately, I have been enjoying YouTube very much, and have gone crazy over Korean recipes and DIY projects.  I have found a nice DIY project for valentines which I completed successfully!

I discovered videos for DIY Hershey’s Kisses Chocolate Bouquet.  I thought it was a cool idea to have both flowers and chocolate in a bouquet without really hurting your budget.  I know of a chocolate shop that sell chocolate bouquets for nothing less than P1500.  I spent half of that for three bouquets!

Here are the fotos of my finished project and their recipients!

Fatal Attraction

After the Holidays, four of them to be exact(Christmas, New Year, Fiesta Senyor and the Chinese New Year) Shaun, myself and my sister have slipped into a weekend habit of shopping, doing grocery errands and then having  dinner and coffee/dessert all in the mall.  We usually do this on Sundays.

However, one particular weekend, we fell into this routine and I ended up in the hospital.  How?  Well, I work nights and the last day of my work week is Saturday AM.  I usually get off work at 10am.  This particular Saturday, I had scheduled a lunch with my team.  Afterwards, Shaun and I spent the whole afternoon shopping for shoes.  I had to buy a new pair since my favorite 2 – year old pair of sneakers are now really worn. I bought a grande cup of my favorite hazelnut mocca frap to keep me up.   It was already around 5pm when we got done buying the shoes and paying off some bills.

My sister works on weekends and she gets off work at 5pm, so we decided to text her to come over so we can have dinner together.  When she got to the mall, we ended up looking for an outfit for a party she will be attending.  That done, it was already 930pm.  Then we had dinner.

By this time, the caffeine has long left my system and I am just about to crash.  Off we went to our fave restaurant and sat at our favourite spot, promising to not take any longer than dinner.  I decided to order something light, my favourite shrimps, skewered and barbecued with a side of rice and vegetables.  I only had enough energy to sit thru dinner and then get home.

4 hours later…1AM…I went into anaphylactic shock.

I spent 2 days in the hospital, groggy from steroids and was so sad when the doctor made me swear off my favourite shrimps for life!  The doctor said it was hypersensitivity.  My immune system went so low and was not able to fight off the histamines.  If I want, I can undergo desensitation.

It was truly one of the scariest moments in my life(…drama queen in me), I surely miss my shrimps…