Going back to Binondo

No matter how many times you come back to Binondo, there is always something different. Everyone can go on a food tour, but with the sheer number of places to eat along Ongpin and its side streets, each visit is always new.

Last Sunday, I joined my new friends Nalani, Jonats and Marjorie for a food exploration in Binondo. Costs were divided among the four of us and we added P5 each for tips.

Stop 1: Dong Bei
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Dong Bei’s one of my favorite places to go to when I’m in Binondo. It’s a small dumpling place off Ongpin. Here you can see the attendants make the dumplings and cook them in a pot of boiling water. You can be sure that what you are eating is freshly made. We shared a plate of the mixed dumplings, popped open a can of Wai Long Kat and got to know each other better.

Cost: PHP 65

Side trip: A bakery along Carvajal
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We were going to Quick Snack along Carvajal but it was closed (along with most of the establishment along the esquinita). We passed by this bakery where I bought some tikoy bread from during the Chinese New Year. I didn’t buy anything, but everyone else did. Everything was freshly baked, which added to its appeal.

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The Sounds of Manila Transitio

It was a beautiful night as my Couchsurfing friends and I sat on a makeshift mat made of cardboard boxes at the Plaza Moriones at Fort Santiago, Manila. We were waiting for the Manila Transitio to start, and after a full day of walking and eating, it was nice to just be able to relax like this in the middle of busy Manila. We had food and drinks. The night was pleasantly cool and not a sign of rain anywhere in the horizon.

Manila Transitio 1945 is an annual event organized by Walk This Way tours and Carlos Celdran. It is held every February to commemorate the fall of Manila during the second world war where an estimated 120,000 lives of Filipino civilians were lost in a battle. This year, the crowd was treated with performances by the Mabuhay Singers and Deoro.

The program started with the singing of the Philippine National Anthem. It was the second time that day that I sang it, but this time it was in Spanish. It was a pretty rousing rendition and you couldn’t help but be amazed by it. After a few words of welcome from Carlos, the Mabuhay Singers took the stage.

The Mabuhay Singers
The Mabuhay Singers has been around since 1958 and is one of the pioneers of the kundiman genre. Many people of my generation would not be familiar with it, being more inclined to listen to foreign pop acts. It was great to listen to these singers who have been around far longer than I have been alive.

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Continue reading The Sounds of Manila Transitio

Philippine Postal Heritage Tour

Pictures to follow. Sorry! Photos added. Still a work in progress. 🙂

About two years ago, I went with Lornadahl for a Postal Heritage Tour around Manila. While it’s not an official tour of the Philippine Post Office, it was nevertheless an educational tour on the postal service and philately, as well as some places around Manila that isn’t covered by the usual Celdran tour. This tour is hosted by the Filipinas Stamp Collectors Club and guided by Lawrence Chan.

What makes this tour interesting is that you get a look into the very fascinating field of philately, as well as a glimpse inside the majestic yet sadly dilapidated Metropolitan Theater in Manila. The tour also stretches to include Intramuros but as the tour is flexible, it sometimes doesn’t even get that far. Still, it’s a trip that is worth the time and effort.

I joined Anne and her cousin for this tour. Rence said that it usually lasts until early evening, mostly because the participants are fascinated by exploring that it’s hard to stick to the time table. We met at Liwasang Bonifacio, the park in front of the Post Office that is more known as Plaza Lawton. The older generation would probably recognize it as Arroceros Park.

The fountain was being used for the Bourne Legacy shoot, and the crew had set up camp at the park itself. I tried to catch a glimpse of Edward Norton but I doubt that he was still around.

The Historical Post Office
We went inside the Post Office first. The Post Office is a small, self-sustaining compound. Because of the large fleet of vehicles it needed, they had their own gas station. There are also smaller buildings within the compound, but sad to say, more than half of them are in a bad state. One is the Post Office museum, but it’s currently closed. I had the chance to attend a philately lecture there during the last tour, but the building is off limits now because it’s structurally unsound.

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The Post Office building is an impressive structure. It is often used in many local productions as a setting for school graduations or law offices. Sad to say, there is news that the building will be sold in the near future as the postal company is losing more money than what they are earning. Fullerton Hotel is said to be interested in it.

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Post Valentines meet with the Philippine Volcanoes

Note: Parts* of this post are advertorial.

The day after Valentine’s day I was at Izakaya in Greenbenlt with Joiz for an event with Globe. I’ve been a longtime Globe subscriber and I’m generally happy with the service. I have never tried their mobile Internet service because my phone uses only GPRS and that is SLOOOOOOW. Plus, as I’m on prepaid, the charges will surely drain my load. I’m better off relying on Gladlycast or something.

Globe's Free FB

Globe and TM recently launched a service where prepaid subscribers can use their phones to browse Facebook for free. This promo is ongoing until March 14. All you have to do is send FREE FB to 8888 (or you can call *143# for free). Once you’re subscribed you’ll get a confirmation message. Point your browser to m.facebook.com and you’re all set.*

Note that this isn’t applicable for Blackberry users and those who have Opera Mini set as their default browsers. Which is fine with me since it’s only Facebook. I tried it (after I re-downloaded my settings) and so far it works fine with the Facebook Java app. I managed to update my status while in transit and check some messages. Since my phone uses GPRS it’s still rather slow but is good enough in a pinch. I do need a new phone though (that’s a big hint for Globe to give me an iPhone 4S so I can fully experience this awesome thing called mobile surfing haha).*

Philippine Volcanoes
The other exciting part about that night was meeting a few of the guys from the Philippine Volcanoes (who are Globe’s newest ambassadors): Kenny Stern, Chris Everingham, Jake Letts, Jonny Morales, Darran Seeto, Nick Perry and Andrew Wolff. If you haven’t heard of them, you probably have been living under a rock in the far flung regions of the country. Coach Matt Cullen said that their team was following the footsteps of the Azkals in terms of rising popularity and games played but with a big difference: “We will win.”


From left: Andrew Wolff, Chris Everingham, Jon Morales, Darran Seeto, Nick Perry, Jake Letts and Kenny Stern

Continue reading Post Valentines meet with the Philippine Volcanoes

March Music

I’m going to see three artists in concert this March. That’s somewhat of an achievement for me since I don’t really like going to concerts unless I really like the artist. Last year I splurged for Jason Mraz and I don’t regret a single minute.

On March 3, I’ll be watching L’Arc En Ciel in Hong Kong. It’ll be my first trip there, and my first trip out of the country just for a group. Biggest adventure so far, and I’m pretty excited.

March 20 is all set for Toe, another Japanese band that my brother Nunik introduced to me sometime in 2010. He’s a big fan of the drummer, and he has been gunning for the group to perform here. Thankfully, the group said “Ok, we’ll play in the Philippines”. Weeee.

All set for Toe

March 30 will mark the return of Hanson after seven years. I’m going to watch with the biggest Hanson fan I know. During their first show I didn’t go because I was in Baguio and I chose to watch Jars of Clay instead. Now that they’re back, well why not?

I can’t wait.

February list

We’re well into the second week of the month (and the week’s nearly over too). I thought I’d list down some goals for February, as inspired by Carina. There’s still time, and there are a couple of things that I want/need to do. Here we go.

  • Write 5 articles a day
  • Have $500 by February 28
  • Write down everything I eat
  • Write down all expenses
  • Take daily photographs
  • Memorize katakana

Not much, really. Let’s see how well I fare come March.

In other news, here’s my horoscope for the day (Wednesday, rather. I didn’t realize the day has changed). I don’t quite fully believe in them, but it’s always fun to read them and perhaps use them as a guide for my life. Without going into detail, let’s just say that today’s forecast for my sign is a little apt for something that’s running through my mind.

Love may be in the air with sweet Venus visiting your impulsive sign until March 5. You’re optimistic about your chances, whether or not something actually happens. Just remember not to come on too strong or you might overwhelm someone with your exuberance. Express what’s in your heart, but make sure to allow enough room for others to be themselves.

Such fun.

Also, I want to change my writing style/voice. If it were music, I think it’s too pop but not in anyway appealing.

The Macaron Search

A few months back, I wrote about the macarons my best friend brought for me from Paris. It was my first time to taste the treat and became my standard for every macaron I tasted afterwards. Macarons are widely available here in Metro Manila, and I decided to try as much of them as I can.

La Patisserie
My cousin once told me of giant macarons that were being sold in the Salcedo Market. I managed to find it and grabbed three. Their macarons are about thrice as big as a regular macaron and came in chocolate, pistachio and vanilla (I think). I found it a little too sweet, and the texture of the macaron is a little rough compared to Lenotre’s. The big size also made it more difficult to eat everything in one go, but it’s good for sharing.

Verdict: So-so. I couldn’t quite differentiate the flavors of each macaron, and I didn’t really enjoy eating it so much.

Bizu
Bizu is the store that readily has these treats available. Each piece costs P45, and comes in a wide variety of flavors. For my taste test, I got four flavors: Chocolate and mint, vanilla, rose and lychee and raspberry.

My favorite of all four is the chocolate and mint. It’s colored a funky blue with chocolate ganache. The mint flavor is strong and the sweetness is just right. I couldn’t quite taste the vanilla and I found the raspberry somewhat on the bitter side. The rose and lychee is quite nice, but I wasn’t quite sure what rose was supposed to taste like.

Drew said it was a little on the gritty side, which meant that the almonds weren’t that finely ground. Still, it tasted better than La Patisserie, but still not quite up to Lenotre’s level.

Empire
Empire macarons got the top marks when I went searching for macarons online. However, I had trouble getting them because I had to order from their store. Thankfully, they set up a booth during Eastwood Mall’s Gourmet Market last December and I got to buy a box of mini macarons. For P200, you get about 12 to 14 pieces.

The mini macarons aren’t that small, despite its name. It’s probably about three-fourths the size of a regular macaron, so it’s still substantial. On the Empire site, these are the available flavors: Original would be White Chocolate, Triple Chocolate, Hazelnut (Nutella), Pistachio, Strawberry, and Cookies and Cream. For the special flavors: Lemon, Salted Caramel, Mocha, Candied Rose, Milk Tea, and Chili Chocolate.

If I’m not mistaken, most of the flavors available were the special ones. I clearly remember tasting the lemon, salted caramel, milk tea, candied rose and the chili chocolate. The chili chocolate was quite a surprise because I immediately felt the kick of the chili as soon as I bite the macaron. Not really my favorite, but unforgetfull nonetheless.

Verdict: Empire claims to make their macarons with no shortcuts, and I believe it. Of all the macarons I’ve tried, it’s the one that comes closest to the ones from Lenotre. The macaron shell is smooth to sight and feel. The sweetness is just right, and the flavors that each macaron is supposed to have is distinct. The price is reasonable and the miniature size is just right for a decent dessert. Empire’s macarons are easily my favorite.

One thing I noted with all the macarons here in Manila is that they are less round than the ones from Paris. I read somewhere that it has something to do with the humidity in our air, which doesn’t make the treats rise as they would in colder climates. Apparently, it occurs even if you are in Baguio.

I have yet to try French Baker’s macarons. There is also another bakeshop that was at the Gourmet Market but I wasn’t able to get the name. I didn’t like their macarons either, as it was too mealy and gritty.

Note: This post was originally written on February 2012, but just now posted. Pictures to follow.

If these walls could talk

Carlos Celdran shouldn’t be a stranger to any Filipino these days, thanks to his infamous protest at San Agustin Church a while back. It earned him the nickname “Damaso”, which people would shout to him when they seem him on the streets.

However, long before that, Carlos has gained a reputation for himself through his Old Manila Walk tours. A performer at heart, Carlos conducts walking tours around Intramuros, providing a crash course in Philippine history. His tours are among the first thing foreigners and balikbayans would go to upon arriving in Manila. His unique, no-holds-barred way of telling the story attracts people to listen, providing an insight to the often misunderstood Manila and its people.

I have long wanted to go on a Carlos Celdran tour (naks, parang brand name lang siya), but time and money constraints made it a little difficult. I was fortunate enough to be able to join a quick tour he hosted in part with Samsung. While interesting, it still didn’t have the full Carlos Celdran touch of theatrics and whimsey that I wanted to experience.

He occasionally throws out barter tours, where you can give anything you think is worth something in exchange. However, it is mostly held during the weekdays which automatically made it a no go for me. When he posted a call for another barter tour and I figured it was my chance.

Carlos Celdran

A Crash Course in Philippine History
I expected the tour to be mostly barter attendees, but it turns out we were going with regular tourists as well. There were quite a number of Filipinos among the foreigners, many of whom were balikbayans on vacation. One was a man who thought it would be a nice way to pass time while waiting for his friends. Another was a group of women who had roots in Manila but hadn’t been back in decades.

Continue reading If these walls could talk