Sunday, February 27, 2011

Food Trip: Peri-Peri Chicken Sunday

Sunday is always a gastronomic treat for the family. After hearing Sunday Mass at the Novena Church, you can be sure we are headed to a new foodie find! We love looking for family-friendly places where you can enjoy great food and not bother with stuffiness chu-chu.

Grilled Peri Peri Style Chicken
Today we were led to Barcelo's Chicken at the Square 2 Mall in Novena. Barcelo's serve Portuguese style Peri-Peri Chicken grilled to sumptuous perfection with select Peri sauces of your choice-- there is Tangy Lemon, Mild Peri, Very Peri and Supah Peri. Peri means "spicy". We loved the fact that the mild Peri Family Style Whole Chicken we ordered was just the right balance of tanginess and mild spicy goodness for the kids! We actually couldn't make up our mind so the other half was Tangy Lemon and they gladly indulged us.

House Peri Sauce.

The chicken is freshly grilled when served. You can see the grilling station through the glass window of the kitchen. Peri chicken reminds me of our very own Chicken Inasal! Even without any condiment, the chicken in itself is heavenly! The meat is tender and you can taste the hint of herbs and spices.

Chicken is served with your own choice of peri sauces-- we opted for Tangy Lemon and Mild Peri sauce which came in bottles for a generous serving to suite your desires. The sauce is similar to the familiar gravy but with hint of herbs. I for one, cannot eat chicken without gravy and great tasting gravy, I realized is tough to find here. You can actually buy their house sauce for 5.50SGD, Alvin liked them so much we bought the Mild Peri sauce! They also have a variety of side dish including rice (for Asians), bread and fries (Western style), corn on cob and salads. To complete the fare, they also have an assortment of desserts and milkshakes- which we decided to skip after being so full.

Barcelo's will definitely be a family favorite!

Kyla strikes a pose in front of the Barcelo facade at Novena Square 2

Kevin looks onto the goings-on below where the open space is visible from his seat.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flexing My Wings: How I Overcome Shyness

The butterfly is my chosen icon for Metamorphosis. There is parallelism between the lowly and unglamorous caterpillar transforming into a butterfly after weeks of hibernation. The original article Metamorphosis was born at a clandestine time when I was going through my own coming to age journey.

Reaching Out

In my second year in college, I experienced working in a fast-food industry as a service crew. Financial crisis struck our family and supporting me through college put a toll to our finances so I had to find a way to help out. I was a shy person and you'd understand that this is quite an effort for me. I dont mind working but one that required constant exposure to people is enough to make me cringe. Not to mention that I had to learn my way in getting SSS, NBI, Medical clearance, interviews, etc etc and enduring long queue.

My first job was at Dunkin Donuts in Sta. Lucia East Mall. We were to be the 1st set of crew in this franchise store in Cainta, Rizal. The glitch? We had to complete a 72-hour OJT in their shop located at Novaliches! And we did not even get paid for it, mind you. For the OJT duration we received an allowance of Php30/day which, if you add up the fact that I had to eat and commute from Binangonan Rizal daily, is not even enough for a day really. But between nothing and a prospect of a job, we had to take it anyway. I left Rizal at 4:30 am daily because my shift starts at 8AM and came home past 9 PM. I met my friend Mhel in my first day of OJT and we were both from Binangonan. Our friendship continued long after I went back to my college, graduated and worked in Makati. I was even in her wedding entourage and a godmother to her daughter. There were six crew in the Cainta branch and being a small team, we bonded naturally and worked well together. They were all present in my 18th birthday and we continued our friendship long after our contract ended.

My next job during my 4th year in college was at Pizza Hut. It was also a new store in the same mall where Dunkin Donuts was located. You can also say that after my stint at DD, a veil was lifted from me and somehow helped me overcome my shyness. I was more confident already when I joined PH and had less trace of awkwardness that I had years before. I was stationed at the slice pizza counter. I already started writing for the college journal then and the other crew would always run to me if they had to write promisory notes.

I realized now that it was after my stint with the fastfood industry that I actually learned to overcome my shyness and be more comfortable around people. After my DD stint, I finally had the strength to apply for the staffwriter position at the college journal, compete for (and won) a position in the Chem Engg Society organization, led the SK at our hometown and many others.

Looking back, I did not only gain experience about life, I also got an important gift for myself.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Living Her Dream

Small but terrible!
Making her mark amidst the older girls

My little girl never really had true interest over dolls and the usual girlie stuff. Her dad was the one who observed that growing up, she leaned towards sporty activities like biking, scooters, roller skates and ball games.  I thought she took after her Titas because as a kid, I was such a klutz when it comes to anything sporty. She also liked gardening and started exploring photography.

She started liking soccer ball about two years ago and Alvin bought her soccer ball and uniform. But because soccer is not yet a popular ball game for kids, she would be content to play alone doing some footwork stuff. They have seen the movie "Goal" for a gazillion times by now.

She was very happy when upon moving to her new school in Canadian International School, there is of course a Girls' Soccer Club where she can join. Now she can participate in a true soccer game and really improve her skills. Alvin and Kyla took one afternoon to buy a complete set of soccer uniform, cleats and shin guards. The works.

Kyla found a new adventure to explore and enjoying every minute of it. After what she has achieved in SSC-W, I am amazed that her enthusiasm for new activities never falter!

Fitting session. Her soccer ball is the one she used to play with 2 years ago.

Gunning for it!

In pre-school, Kyla received the Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence award. That day she showed us why.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Memories from Club Balai Isabel

It must have gotten a lot of media mileage being the recent wedding ceremony and reception venue of young celebrity couple... and why not? Club Balai Isabel for me is an idyllic getaway for folks who would like to have a serene weekend respite in a lakeside town.

Located in Talisay, Batanggas and accessible via the STAR tollway, Club Balai Isabel is also an ideal place for teambuildings and conferences without having to exhaust your energy over a long drive. I have been in CBI twice and in one occassion, we had the opportunity to spend the night in their loft-type cottages.

CBI also boasts of an obstacle course where you can hold outdoor games for team building. They have an infinity pool which overlooks the Taal Lake, or you can simply watch sunset while strolling along the breakwaters.

What I found unique is the lunch served a la boodle fight! Select Filipino dishes are served in banana leaf lined tables and everyone partakes the food the Pinoy way (Kamayan!), definitely not for the prude and timid unless you want to starve. You can request this setting for teambuidings. But if you want the regular sit-down lunch, they have a spacious and airy hall at the pool-front. They also have overnight stay package inclusive of lunch, dinner, merienda and breakfast.

The quaint loft cottages were spacious and comfy. They have rooms that can hold up to 6 people which was a good thing because there were 6 women in our team then. It comes with a sattelite TV for couch potatoes after dark. Else? We actually just spent passing time by the pool and chatting the night away. Talisay being a rather quiet lakeside town, dont expect a lot of buzz or partying in this place after sunset. My roommates woke up very early in the morning and found it refreshing to stroll around their gardens and inhale fresh morning air, enjoy the calm serenity of it all.

We opted for the usual sit-down dinner this time.

Our Miss U shot by the lake

WPI Pillar Team Building

I love Sunsets.

The Infinity Pool overlooks the Lake. Can get quite chilly for night swimming though.

Overall, Club Balai Isabel is an ideal getaway if you want some peace and quiet, slow paced and non-taxing weekend vacation. If you are like us who looks for rest, food and a bit of swim (for the kids).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Portrait of My Hometown (Part 2): The Birth of Metamorphosis

Life at the Country Sides

We moved to Tayuman last summer of ‘87. The house was nearly complete but still needed finishing touches. Some of those “finishing touches” came later when there were extra money; some never came at all for the lack of it or due to other pressing needs, like schooling and the family business. The basic shell of our house remain unaltered save for the front lawn which became an open resting place, a covered work area for the family business and the “future garage” at different points in time. There were still no cemented streets to this very day even though the population had tripled after almost 15 years. Running water had been installed finally but potable water still had to be purchased from nearby water stations. Security took various degrees of beating and fortunately, we have never been victims of nighttime looters. During my high school and college years, I experienced going home during the wee hours of the morning. I remember walking from the National Road up to our compound (which was like 50 meters) and the gigantic Sampaloc tree along a dark portion of the Barrio road looked really intimidating.  Sometimes, there would be a group of young men huddled there and who knows what they were up to! I’ve heard one too many creepy stories about ghouls along Barrio Road
and even inside the compound but I’ve never encountered one myself after all those years of traversing those dark, tree-laden dirt roads.

The community is serene throughout the school seasons.  Summers and Christmas vacations were the busiest time of the year. Our house faced the open space that was the center of the compound’s activities. Sports tournament, Fiesta, Miss Gay Beauty Pageant, Battle of the Bands and everything under the hot Tayuman sun was held in this mini-Plaza. When I was younger I’ve been a part of those activities as an organizer.

Basketball tournament was held in April for the fathers, teens and kids. We alternated as cheerers and officials for the game. Town fiesta is held every June. The sound of the nearby carnival can be heard at the onset of the afternoon up until midnight. Although we never really took the fiesta seriously, the Homeowners decided to hold our own Foundation Day every April.

During the early years, the most awaited event was of course the New Year Party held at the Basketball court. We actually pioneered this to make it an event that everybody would look forward to. There would be parlor games, food, gifts and raffle, disco and a time for homeowners to socialize. It was a party for all the Homeowners and the youth club spearheaded the preparations. I experienced leading the youth club while I was in college. I was actually in my 2nd semester of my returning year in college and we decided not to enter at the dormitory that semester. After school, I would normally spend time for the youth club’s activities. It was not an easy task, especially since we had no funds to start with and some people were bound to think only of their self-serving interests, but I survived. It was in the same year when I entered the Thomasian Engineer Journal where there were tons of things to do as a staff writer. And of course, I had to ensure that my grades were in good shape especially since I was a returning student and it was not easy catching up on things that I missed in school.

I do not know how and where I got all that energy then—thinking about them now made me wonder how I was able to do all those difficult tasks! I guess, it was spurned by the passion to do the things you love doing.

The Birth of Metamorphosis

Before the front lawn was converted into an enclosed workshop, I spent long hours at the open area, sitting at the reclining wooden chair and just staring at the summer sky. Watching the stars and the constellations fascinate me. I could sit there for hours, unaware of the hours passing by. The night sky has been the inspiration of countless stories, poems and anecdotes, which I have written through the years and gave birth to the writer in me. I encountered a shooting star twice while I was watching the sky. The second shooting star was the inspiration behind the article “Metamorphosis” which became the name of my column for the Thomasian Engineer Journal. Whenever I get the chance to visit my folks and stay for the night, I make it a point to spend a few minutes outside the house which had been my home for the past 12 years, to breathe in her fresh air and to marvel at her skies.

The stream of memories came flooding back. The different folks and culture; the endless trips to the deep well to collect a day’s supply of water; the long hours of doing laundry, the routine of a day’s work. The long travel to and from home to my school in Cubao. The rainy days that meant trodding through the muddy roads, the no-jeep days, traffic and tardiness. The SK days at the compound, Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties for the young and old, summer games. Brown-outs and homework over lamplight; my UST Dorm days; the years I worked at Dunkin Donuts and Pizza Hut; The TE journal days; Sleepless nights; Thesis and Projects; Graduating; Working at Ayala and the Cabuyao Plant EOs until midnight and beyond.

Growing up at the country had been so different vs. the life I led while we were still in the city. I cannot say though that one episode was better than the other.

When I think about it, my life has been a constant shift between the city and the country. One leads to the other, an incessant interflow clearly evident in my life. The country and the city were both very much a part of me. Where Cubao reminded me of my carefree days of childhood, Tayuman is the cornerstone of my formative years when my consciousness about life and the world was shaped. The city boasts of modern lifestyle and technology – I owe her the knowledge that was imbibed in me by my Alma Mater. She was the backbone of my personal and career growth; but then Tayuman taught me important lessons in life: how to live within my means, to distinguish the few things that matter most in life and cherish them, a self-awareness and discovery of who I really am- the things I do best and the things I love doing. Where Makati had been the birthplace of early personal accomplishments, Cabuyao was the sojourn to maturity and being a woman for others.  But as destiny would have it, the country became the inevitable home for our family and me.

This is the backyard. I was sitting under the Indian Mango tree when I saw a shooting star and started writing Metamorphosis circa 1994.

The covered garage where my old reclining wooden chair was stationed.
I used to watch the stars seated here.

The front yard used to be all soil and a wooden fence surrounding it.

And as I write this blog, I am actually back in the City. Again, the interplay, the pattern. So I guess now I can tell where I am headed next.

[1] My Hometown, May 5, 2002, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. I wrote this anecdote to commemorate our 15th year in Rizal. We relocated to Tayuman May 17, 1987.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Living and the Dead

I did thought that death is such a gruesome topic for blog at the eve of my birthday. But the memory did cross my mind suddenly and the lightbulb moment was on! There was no turning back.

No one wants to ever confront the thought of dying. At least, not now and not at our current age anyway.... But it was not too long ago when I dreamt about death. Mine.

In the dream I was lying on a bed, talking to a lady with a little girl beside her. The lady must be the grown-up Kyla. I remember telling her not to be sad and that everything will be alright. That I will always be there for her.

Only that. And I was gone.

The next thing I knew, there were two Angels (sigh of relief...). They told me not in speaking words but by way of telepathy that I was actually not supposed to go yet. They were supposed to fetch Kevin. They couldn't call him.  They had to get me to get to Kevin.

And so there were three of us, looking at him. In a blink-of-an-eye-moment, I was there with two blinding light Beings beside me, calling my son. I recall telling him "It's time." He looked my way and heard me.

Only that. And we were gone.

Whenever I had to confront what is out there in the future for our son, the memory of this dream comes back. There is comfort in knowing that I will be there for him, that we will be together until the end and we will both be watching from afar those we love whom we will leave behind.

And my life... between now and then... are simply moments to fill and cherish!

And Kevin's life... it is in dying that he will start to live again!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Much Ado About Something

What Kevin has been up to these days?

Everyone experience change at one point in their life. And we have our own ways of dealing (or not dealing) with change.

Our son Kevin is going through his own swirl of changes in the last three months. New country. New home, New faces surrounding him. New places to explore. No more car, more walks and trains. No more SM or ATC. New playground. New food. Etc etc.

We tried to "space out" the wave of change happening so that whatever impact it would have on him can be minimized as much as possible. Any parent of special kids would understand what I am talking about.

We realized is that he is coping with these changes in his own way. How?  Here's how...

Everything in pairs

... or symmetrical

... or neatly lined up (despite having a shoe rack)

Most picture frames face each other, in this case, it "faces" the trinket

his and hers
 We actually tried to 'correct' it at first, like bringing the things back to their original places. Because we are seeing it from "our" point of view. But he would "fix" them later anyway. So we eventually let him be for his peace of mind. But his Dad has to put his foot down on non-negotiable items (like moving the sofa or the bedside tables). We suppose there is 'order in his world' by putting symmetry into things.

He would also sweep the floor, put back dried utensils into the dish cupboard and wipe the kitchen counter dry. He did this on his own and we didn't have to tell him what to do. We make it a point to praise him for a good job and I know he feels better to be able to help around.

Of course, things get pretty interesting when he is outside the house. Like when he would try to move the bench in the park, or rearrange the monoblock chairs in the library when we visted Kyla's school :-)

So in case you ever had the time to visit us, if you happen to see unique arrangements at home, you would know that it is Kevin -- bringing order into his world.

Friday, February 4, 2011

X-plore Singapore Series: Jurong Bird Park

Today is a good day to take a breather and visit the Jurong Bird Park. We decided to take the Bird Park as the first destination because it is quite unique to us who were raised in the era of Manila Zoo, Q.C. Wildlife and much later, Ocean Adventure and Zoobic Safari.

"With over 4,600 birds across 380 species, Jurong Bird Park is one of the world's best in the conservation and display of birds in its natrual settings." Its awesome how Singapore is able to create a sanctuary for such different bird species.

Ready for my close-up!

We took the Panorail to have an overview tour of the entire park and later on, we can choose areas where we would like to linger a bit longer. We enjoyed watching the Flamingos and  Pelicans because they were set in their natural settings and you can enjoy watching them swim afloat the lake, unlike the other birds who have to remain in guilded displays. The Hornbills and Toucans are also interesting but quite monochromatic for camera saved for the yellow beak.

The Aviary was also fun and we had a chance to have close encounters with the most colorful birds we've ever seen!  There were also series of shows round the clock in the Ampitheaters. We enjoyed Birds n Buddies the most! You can even experience bird feeding at The Loft!

Photo-Op starts at the entrance

Bee-Eaters neatly lined up. Just liked the way Kevin liked 'em.

We lingered at the African Waterfall Aviary.
Kevin loved the rustling water.

The pink Flamingos were a joy to behold.
Kyla was busy snapping a few photos of her own in her Digicam.

Before calling it a day, Kyla even went to buy a replica of Barry (red and blue Parrot) who starred in the show and for Kevin we named his new pet Jurong (Bird of Paradise)!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kung Hei Fat Choy

Bidding the Year of the Tiger goodbye and full of optimism for the Year of the Rabbit.... I was born under the Tiger year and I have to say that 2010 lived up as MY year indeed in more ways than one.

Living in SG this year made us a little bit more in tune with the CNY hullabaloo which pretty much reminds me of the fuss we Pinoy's make during Christmas season. The stores are also decked with gold, red and orange trimmings and symbols of prosperity and good luck. Grocories were brimming with mandarin oranges/lukans, Lo Hei, Yu Sheng and many other assortment of Chinese goodies. I bought some goodies to try at home.

Kyla and Kevin also wore their traditional Chinese costumes and we gave them some good luck baskets. And as for me, it's time to get some much needed sleep and catch up on my blog!

Happy Lunar New Year!!

The Portrait of My Hometown (Part 1)

“When were you born? Where do you live? Where is your home?”

An anonymous author said that the simplest of all questions are the most profound ones. These questions made me think back about a place close to my heart.

A view of Laguna Bay from the Binangonan Hills
I’ve never given my hometown as much thought until today. I’ve been accustomed to the daily routine of leaving and coming home through the years. But having been separated for it for almost 3 years now made me look back into those growing up years I spent in it.

Age of Slumber

I’ve been reading a book about the “Mysteries of the Taal Volcano” and the lost towns that had been buried centuries ago underneath volcanic ashes from the furious Taal volcano eruptions. The accounts made by Spanish priests about the Spanish-era towns near Taal volcano reminded me of our hometown in Tayuman.

There is not a lot of printed literature about Binangonan, Rizal except for my sister’s book report in high school days. I never heard about its existence as a significant Spanish settlement, unlike the neighboring towns of Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo, Angono, Morong and Tanay which had a richer history, evident in their culture and architecture which gave a flavor of Spanish influence.

Add caption
Binangonan is a combination of mainland and a fishing village – despite its size, it might not have been a settlement then and that it was only a point of access for the neighboring towns, esp. that of the southeast section which traverses provinces of Southern Luzon (Laguna and Quezon). The western section is simply a dead end facing Talim Island and Laguna de Bay. Based on its terrain, it’s quite obvious that most of the earlier habitants were fishermen (Binangonan being a lakeside town) and livestock raisers. There could hardly be any farmers due to the nature of the soil. It could raise select types of vegetation, but not plentiful enough to make a rich harvest. The vast track of land at the foot of the mountain range had been underutilized up until the early 90s when immigrants from the city and other provinces settled in Binangonan. The lowlands were slowly converted into Industrial estates, residential villages and community facilities. The Binangonan hills were actually a part of the low mountain range of Montalban, Antipolo, Binangonan all the way to Tanay-Morong-Baras and Laguna. It was known to be a physical border separating Rizal from Laguna and Quezon.

Before I got married, I spent 12 years of my life in Rizal. Relative to the other municipalities under the 2nd district of Rizal, the majority of the baranggays in Binangonan remain as rural towns until this very day. There had been changes through the years to keep the town abreast with the needs of the growing population – but nothing significant enough to alter the face of the quiet, unassuming town.

It was around 1983 when our family visited our future home in Tayuman. Our house was being constructed then. The trip from Cubao to Tayuman lasted anywhere between 30-45 minutes. It was a breezy drive and you can hardly see anything interesting along the way save for the endless stretch of highways, the tall shrubs in empty lots and occasionally, mountains of gravel, sand and hollow blocks piled long the perimeter of budding subdivisions along the towns of Cainta and Taytay. And although it was a long, uneventful trip, it never bothered me. The cool breeze brushing against your face is a welcome relief from the humid city air. The highway overlooks Laguna de Bay and it felt serene to watch the lake as we drove by. In the early 80s, jeepneys were the only public utility vehicles that made trips from Cubao, Pasig and Mandaluyong and vice versa. There were tricycles that can bring you to the adjacent town of Angono, where the nearest public market, church and schools can be found.

Aside from the sprouting malls along Felix Avenue in Cainta, the predominant landmark then was the then newly established NCBA, Taytay campus along the Manila East Road highway. The building looked very modern compared to the typical low-rise, semi-concrete schools In Rizal. The Sienna College of Taytay Annex also gained preference over the other private school in Eastern Rizal. The newly constructed High School complex was a far cry from the antiquated campus near the St, John the Baptist Church at the Taytay Municipal Town Plaza. Some of the interesting places then were the famous Bahay Kawayan restaurant beside NCBA, while Balaw-Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery in Angono were just beginning to carve a name for itself as a gastronomic haven for tourist and lovers of the Arts. The Vicentian Hills Seminary was a predominant sight atop the rolling hills that stretched along the Angono-Binangonan terrain. Tayuman had a number of resorts targeted mostly for out of town tourists, the most popular among them is the Lake Island Resort located directly across Barrio Road where we lived.

I was in my pre-adolescent years when I first set foot at Binangonan. The stark contrast between the rural town and the city never left me unsettled though it was a far cry from the urban living I’ve been used to in Cubao. The road that was called Barrio Road, leading to C.O.D. Compound was actually not a road but a dusty, rocky pavement during hot seasons that became a muddy alley during rainy months and it was impassable for vehicles. Electricity had just been installed then to a few households who can afford it until it became a necessity to the barrio folks after a few years. But potable chlorinated water and telephone were definitely unheard of. The source of drinking and utility water was a deep well located 50 meters away from the compound. It was in the late 80s when a deep well station has been installed inside our compound. PLDT was able to reach Tayuman only in the early 90s after the population had grown so much and installing phone lines became viable. Internet and Cable TV followed only in early 2000.

The nearest store from our house  then was at least 30 meters away. Luckily, we had 1 neighbor but the next one is much farther and was obscured by the tall bushes. Our house was built along the perimeter of the compound. Behind our house is a vast track of uninhabited land and a small duck farm which reeks of foul sulfide gases during summer. There was a cluster of nipa houses built in the middle of the land, which looked more like a farm to me. And you can imagine how life at the country side was – slow paced, simple, bereft of the luxuries we were so used to at the city. But nevertheless, it was home and a place that my parents can call as their very own. Somehow, there is a sense of pride and security living in a place you can call your own regardless of distance.

The place was so quiet, almost a deafening silence. We often make giant paper kites and play kite flying in the afternoon. 2-3 years later, the families who lived in the compound and in the surrounding neighborhood increased. There were a handful of kids playing around then it almost tripled after several years after most of our teenage friends got married and had children.

Talim Island

(To be continued... My Growing Up Years in Rizal)

Note: This was written in May 5, 2002 in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, to commemorate our 15th year in Rizal. We relocated to Tayuman May 17, 1987.