Baguio Weekend Getaway

Strawberry Picking at La Trinidad
Strawberry Picking at La Trinidad

Like half of Manila, we trekked up to Baguio for the long weekend with childhood school friends. Who decided to make it Chinese New Year, Pinagbengan Festival Kick off and Hot Air Balloon all in one weekend!?!

It was the longest time I was away from our kitchen to cook my Cohen meals. I brought our entire kitchen (practically! haha) and thanks to my supportive friends, I was able to keep to my strict meal plan even though our adventure was one gigantic food trip. Three cheers!!!

Over 20 Years of Friendships Right Here!

Breakfast at Cafe by the Ruins
Breakfast at Cafe by the Ruins
Dinner at Chef's Home
Dinner at Chef’s Home
Hanging out at PNKY Cafe
Hanging out at PNKY Cafe

While I was intent on making sure I kept to my eating plan, Drew was determined to introduce the gang to our new favorite board game, Settlers of Catan. OMG. That game. Obsessing. Somehow, despite our seemingly jam packed schedule, we managed to play two rounds! Those who play Settlers know how much time that took!

Photo by Patty Filart
Photo by Patty Filart

Aside from finally being able to pick strawberries in La Trinidad (a childhood dream ever since I heard the Von Trapp kids talk about it), the highlight of our trip was probably dining at Chef Vicky Tinio’s Mama’s Table. Well, alright, their dinner. I asked they just serve me a platter of raw vegetables!!! So definitely it wasn’t great because of the food for me. Chef Vicky was scolding me that I should have just said I was on Cohen since she was familiar with the meal plan and she could have whipped something up for me. But, anyway, the ambiance, the conversation, Chef Vicky’s passion for food, the smell and sight of what was served — quite enough to convince me to trek up back to Baguio after my Cohen to actually taste her food!!

Mama's Table is at the Tinio family's private Baguio residence
Mama’s Table is at the Tinio family’s private Baguio residence
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Bicol Drive Blur

Every two or three months, I take the car and drive down to Bicol to visit our office there. It takes me 7-8 hours. That’s 7-8 hours of being able to enjoy the view of a changing landscape from industrial, to commercial to farm lands.

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The view of Mt Mayon in Legaspi doesn’t get old nor a visit to the Cagsawa Ruins, where you can also buy the cheapest pasalubong and the cutest baskets and sinamay products. Aside from the famous Bicolano spicy dishes, a must try is the toasted siopao and First Colonial Grill’s ice creams. My favorite is the combo of Sili, Pili Nut and Tinutong na Bigas (Burnt Rice) ice cream flavors.

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Drew’s Little Tokyo Birthday Tour!

Drew with the map I made for his birthday foodie tour in Little Tokyo
Drew with the map I made for his birthday foodie tour in Little Tokyo

Drew and I have both been curious about Little Tokyo but never had the chance to explore the spot in Makati so to celebrate Drew’s birthday early this May, I crafted a foodie tour of the restaurants inside the little complex.

We bookended our trip with Ha Na, known for their takoyaki and their snow cones which fit perfectly as appetizers and desserts respectively.

2013 Drew's Bday1

Next stop was at Seryna. What’s a Japanese food trip without sushi and sashimi, right? We picked our spot at the sushi bar to watch the Japanese chef prepare our dishes. They had the freshest (and biggest cuts) of sashimi I’ve ever seen! Sooo yummy!

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Then we were off to Kagura. This restaurant owner has a funny thing for baseball. Apparently, the tv shows nothing but baseball games. Look at all the baseball items on display. Aside from this fetish, the store is known for their okonomiyaki, a dish made famous by Ranma 1/2. It’s like soft pizza with squid omelette and noodles. It seems weird but it actually wasn’t that bad! But the serving was so big, we just took half of it home.

2013 Drew's Bday3

Then, the highlight of the foodie trip: yakiniku at Urameshiya. It was so good, we weren’t able to take photos of the yakiniku! This was definitely our favorite stop — as long as you don’t mind all the smoke from the griller.

2013 Drew's Bday4

We were crisscrossing the complex again and again, the waiters were giving us funny looks already, like, di pa ba busog ang mga ito?! hahaha There’s definitely a few more restaurants worth visiting like Izakaya Kikufuji which is known for their sukiyaki but was too heavy to include in our food tour.

Happy birthday, Drew! Let’s plan a proper food trip when we go to Tokyo for real!!

Livin’ La Vida Imelda

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I first joined a Carlos Celdran walking tour in 2006. I had just started working in downtown Manila and was determined to get to know the city a bit more. It really wasn’t an actual walking tour as it was a cultural tour. Going to a cultural tour in your own country about your own country sounds funny but I do credit Carlos for my renewed and passionate interest in talking about our country to foreigners, balikbayans and 2nd generation Fil-Ams — to help them find the good that is in our beautiful islands.

First ever Intramuros tour with my college buddies, Knox and Ivanna.
First ever Intramuros tour with my college buddies, Knox and Ivanna.

The best thing about Carlos is the conversations he sparks after his tours. Conversations about politics, about our country’s progress, about the Americans, about Filipinos. I’ve since joined the same If These Walls Could Talk tour thrice to accompany three different groups of people and the Livin’ La Vida Imelda walking tour. And the effect is always the same.

I’ve been wanting to drag Drew to one of his tours but haven’t had the time so when I found out they were restaging the theatrical version of Livin La Vida Imelda in CCP, I knew we had to catch it. I heard they’re doing a 4th run of the show in Silverlens Gallery this coming February 2013. Do catch it if you can. For Carlos’ tours – check his website here

But if you have some relatives coming home for Christmas, make sure you let them also see Damian Domingo’s works at the Ayala Museum and the section about Philippine 19th Century Traditional Attire.

Damian Domingo Prints
Damian Domingo Prints

When I first laid my eyes on these paintings when I was in college, I was both mad and excited. I was mad, as in really quite mad, because I didn’t understand why I never saw these images during my history classes when I was younger. I felt absolutely ripped off with my education about my own culture. And I was excited — because I finally understood just how rich our cultural heritage really is.

Our forefathers wore these everyday. They were literally wearing a “melting pot of cultures”: british top hat or the local farmers hat (salakot), muslim pants, chinese slippers, spanish lace. What a rich rich culture!

Manila Art 2012

I finally managed to catch ManilaArt this year. These three below tugged at my heart and made me wish I could drop money just like that so I could bring them home to my little condo.

Robert Deniega
“Birth of the Stars”
Roel Obemio
“Play”
Dominic Rubio (didn’t get the title of this one.)

Happy art is my kind of art so it’s quite ironic that Reuters interviewed me for an artwork that is rather terrifying, although brilliant and unique. This below was made with hand compressed feathers on canvas. Imagine how many chickens were killed for this art.

Augusto E. Elopre
“The End of the Black In-Hear-Itance”

I think I was just babbling nonsense. I was too scared I’d say something bad or impolite about the artwork. All I really wanted to say was even though it was brilliantly made, I really wouldn’t want it hanging in any of my walls. It’s scaaaary.

(Clockwise starting from Top Left): Joined the walking tour around Manila Art by Robbie Santos; I was internally jumping up and down when I saw Dominic Rubio’s work again; Breathe again; More happy art by Roel Obemio
Happy to see a little bit of the Jeepney Art
Glass sculptures by Ramon Orlina and Piyukherts by Secret Fresh

Manila Art is at SMX Convention Center and tomorrow is already the last day! All photos were taken with my blackberry.

The BGC Bus

If there is one agenda that always always gets my attention, TRANSPORTATION would be it. Not the bit about oil prices and color coding schemes, but about INFRASTRUCTURE for mass transport. The positive multiplier effect that a newly-made road creates in a village is simply amazing. There’s even a book called The Roads that Built America that tackles how a well-thought out road system can bring so much progress to a society.

The next time you are airborne over the city of Manila, look at where the houses are all clumped together. The buildings and houses are all squeezed around where a road is while there is so much open space around them. Suffice it to say, I get so frustrated that a SIM CITY gamer can probably zone our city more logically than how it’s being done. So whenever I see a positive step towards progress in this issue, I celebrate it.

BGC launched their busing system that costs P12 regardless of where you get on and get off. On our first week of living in the area, I tried out the bus and was so happy, I even liked their Fan Page and posted a comment to cheer them on!

hahahaha I’m such a geek!

There are three routes: Central, East and West. You can find the maps on their website, http://www.bgc.com.ph. I chatted with my bus driver and found out from him while they run 24/7, the buses that run from 10pm until 6am merges these three routes into one so the ride takes longer. But to me, that sounds like good business sense.

They also recently launched the HOP ON, HOP OFF Weekend route that costs P25. Watch Carlos Celdran talk about it some more. I’m so happy we can ditch the car and just take the bus on weekends!

Philstar coverage of Carlos Celdran giving the press tour around the sights at BGC that’s covered by the weekend Hop On/Hop Off bus.

Epic Davao Getaway

Over the weekend, I had an awesome awesome time going around Davao. I made the trip with a few people from our Manila office to attend the 10th year anniversary of our operations in Davao. It’s extra special because it also marks my brother’s 10th year with the company. He was the one who started our Davao office, our very first branch. Today, we have about 20 offices nationwide. God has been awesome!

It’s amazing what we were able to squeeze in just three days. Want to commune with nature and animals? Visit Davao. Care for extreme sports? Head to Davao. Want to comatose on fresh seafood and fruits at a ridiculously cheap price? Come to Davao! Looking to sight see beautiful people? Davao, Davao, Davao!

Here’s the highlight of our trip! BROWN water rafting! hahaha Check out the first boat! There are more rapids here in Davao than the one in Cagayan de Oro. The rocks are much bigger so it was actually a bit scary to fall since you can really hit your legs on the rocks.

Beautiful Davao
Time for some zip line adventure!
What's a visit to Davao without eating durian?
Communing with the crocs
To the batcaves! The home of the largest fruit-eating bats colony in the world.
Butterfly Farm!
One of the better fire dance shows I've seen
Care for some durian halo halo?! No? Then choose your own toppings!

Check out this site for information how to do these things too when you’re in DAVAO!