March 28, 2008

I know what you did on Good Friday

IF the crowds at the various malls last weekend were any indication, hundreds of families spent the Holy Week just here in Manila. Well, I don’t blame them. Why go to Boracay, where it’s all hot and crowded, when you can enjoy the free air conditioning at the malls? It may have been congested like any other weekend, but at least there were fancy shop windows to look into, and you weren’t all sweaty and icky. Never mind if you never intended to buy anything.

A friend who owns a resort in the new summer capital of the Philippines confirmed the same. He said there were fewer bakasyonista in Boracay last week compared with 2007. (On the upside, those who were on the island were Caucasians and other Asians...a development that will surely be welcomed by our hardworking tourism secretary, Joseph “Ace” Durano. It is, no doubt, the fruit of his relentless marketing efforts abroad.)

Time was when Holy Week meant Visita Iglesia, the pabasa, Seven Last Words, Way of the Cross, and processions of religious images depicting the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

Except for last week, normally, school is officially out by the time the Holy Week rolls around. It also heralds the start of the summer travel season. Families are on grand excursions to the beach or vacations in Hong Kong, Baguio and the US. Those who don’t want to add to the crowds in the nearby tourist destinations, or don’t want to spend ginormous sums of money on resorts unreasonably jacking up their rates for the four-day holiday, now choose to stay put in Metro Manila. And, yes, as was prevalent last weekend, they went a-malling.

Many people I know tried to catch up on their sleep and backlog on books they’ve been wanting to read.

Jeff said he was going to watch old cheesy biblical epics. (My favorite has always been The Robe, starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and that greasy hunk Victor Mature. Ooof!)

Sis had house guests visiting and planned to treat her nephews and nieces to the newly opened Manila Ocean Park everyone has been going gaga about. Even Pangs, who is normally in Bacolod for the Holy Week, was in town working on his editorial assignments, although, lucky dog, he still managed a few laps in the swimming pool.

As for me, the four-day Lenten holiday started out with a visit to a dear friend, Swit, whose brother had passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Despite the rather sorrowful circumstances of the visit, it was a rather enjoyable gathering with friends. It took us just an hour from Quezon City to get to Bacoor, Cavite, where the wake was, as there was hardly any traffic on the road. We caught up on the latest gossip and basically laughed ourselves silly, tempting the Almighty to strike us with lightning. (Note to self: Never miss the opportunity to go to a wake in the provinces where funeral parlors donate kakanin to the dead’s bereaved families. I unashamedly devoured a plate of the softest home-made cuchinta courtesy of Samson Funeral Home.)

On Good Friday I started cleaning out my DVD and CD collection, as well as tons of books gathering dust in the attic. While I actually had made plans for Black Saturday, I knew I couldn’t finish the cleaning task in just a day. It eventually turned into an unscheduled spring cleaning of all the stuff I had in storage...and by God! I could not believe the amount of material possessions I had accumulated over the years! I decided to make the spring cleaning my penitencia for the rest of the Lenten weekend.

A lot of my CDs, DVDs and books were still in huge cartons, because that’s where I left them when I went abroad to work for a year. Along with some Pyrex dishes and other houseware, I still hadn’t unpacked them because I kept on thinking I would eventually move out of the parents’ house again and into my own rental one day. The attic dust must’ve shot up straight into my brain as I inhaled, shaking me out of my reverie. How dare I go off into Lala-land and think such crazy unrealistic thoughts! Achoo!

The task was sheer burden as I struggled to decide which items were still worth keeping and which ones I had to let go. Sometimes I had to force myself to label several items as junk just so that I wouldn’t think twice of tossing them out (e.g., college class cards), or undeserved nostalgic shit (e.g., petrified roses from ex-boyfriends).

Twice I had to go through the CDs just to weed out the music I had outgrown, such as the New Age woo-woo and shamanic recordings. (Anyone care to buy my Narada CDs?) As for the books, I decided to keep the classics, bestsellers and all-time favorites (e.g., the Dune series), and let go of authors I really didn’t know but whose books I had bought from the annual cut-price book sale of a popular bookstore chain.

Of course, there were brief moments of amusement amid the grueling task. I sat and sifted through old photographs and marveled at how amazingly thin my friends and I were way back when. True, we may miss our old slender selves (hey, round is a shape!), but not the hideous fashion we wore. It also gave me immense joy to note that over the years, we have remained basically unchanged. To this day, we still have the same ear-to-ear ludicrous grins on our faces. Sure, we’ve grown a bit wiser, but we still haven’t lost our sense of humor and our enjoyment of the ridiculous. Ah, those photos are definite keepers!

Two more days of organizing, filing, cleaning and sweeping...I fell asleep each night utterly exhausted. It was finally over by Easter Sunday evening, and managed to get myself to Mass. Everything was in order, packed and neatly labeled. Piles of stuff I wanted to sell were in one corner, and another pile was for items to give away. After dinner and the usual marathon CSI Sunday shows, I laid back against my pillows and clicked on my downloaded torrent of The Robe. There I lay laughing hysterically at the mala-Goma and Shawie dramatic dialogue between Brando and Simmons, and the constipated expressions on Mature’s face. Before I knew it, I had zonked out, but awoke on Easter Monday completely refreshed.

Thank you, Lord, for a new beginning. I really needed that.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photo from BM)

March 27, 2008


WAS about to have dinner at the Shang Palace in Makati Shangri-La Hotel last night, and as Ms. RP and I were looking for a good table, I espied a function room with its door open. As I passed, Kris Aquino looked up. She appeared very sad, distressed, and obviously in pain. My heart immediately went out to her...the poor girl. She had just had a miscarriage and was dealing with the illness of her mother, former President Cory Aquino. Let's all pray for them please.

In one another table at the far corner of the restaurant was former First Lady Loi Ejercito and her amigas. I think they all have the same cosmetic surgeon.

In yet another function room with its door ajar, were Ambassadors Fred Yao (of Zest-O Corp.) and Donald Dee (chairman emeritus of PCCI) along with Asian Spirit owners Tony Ang (founder of CATS Motors), Toti Turalba (Active Group Inc.), and Lakas party/Ramos power broker Noel Oñate. There were two tables in that room, and all the men were dressed in business suits, while the women were spiffy in their nice cocktail dresses. Were they perhaps meeting about Yao's takeover of Asian Spirit? Could smell the tension in the air. Hmmm...

MS. RP and I eventually found a good table, but to our utter disappointment, there was no dimsum available. Diners can only order those delicious treats at lunchtime. Drat! I almost wished we had eaten at Inagiku instead.

March 25, 2008

Bilib si Ellen sa Pinoys!

IN case you missed it, Ellen de Generes on Good Friday said she wanted to have as a guest on her show, Arnel Pineda, singer of a local band called Zoo, and who has been doing covers of Journey songs. Apparently, one of the Journey guys (it wasn't Randy Jackson, silly!), saw Arnel singing on Youtube and auditioned him for a chance to sing with the band in States. (Didn't even know these guys were still around, to be honest, and I was never a fan, sorry to Steve Perry fans out there.) And now, Arnel is recording a new Journey album. Waw!

But what was cool was that Ellen proclaimed that "there are very talented people in the Philippines!" Of course, she had wowed her audience only a couple of months ago by featuring Charice Pempengco. Hmmm... I wonder if she'd ever consider doing one of her shows here. We can show her just how many talented singers we really have around these parts.

Anyway, here's the video clip of Ellen and of Arnel Pineda. Another proudly Pinoy moment.

March 23, 2008

March 16, 2008

Preparing for Holy Week

(Holy Week 2007: A caroza bearing the arrested Christ, as St. Peter denies him. To his right is the Virgin Mary. I took this photo during the Good Friday procession in San Pablo, Laguna last year. More of my Holy Week 2007 photos at Flickr)

FR. VIC, our priest for the 6 pm Mass at the chapel in the village where I live, made some interesting points during his sermon tonight, which I wanted to share with you. I hope I can deliver his thoughts as well as he said them.

WHY is the week called Mahal na Araw? In English it's called Holy Week so shouldn't it be "Banal na Linggo" in Filipino? He said the week is all about Christ's love (in Filipino, pagmamahal) for us, which made it possible for Him to suffer and die for our sins. Thus, Mahal na Araw.

The origin of the Visita Iglesia which is done every Maundy Thursday, he noted, was perhaps a way to keep churchgoers from filling up the Church to the brim as they keep vigil for an hour before the Blessed Sacrament, which represents the body and blood of Christ. As you know, it is only on Maundy Thursday that the Blessed Sacrament is exposed to the public. So the Visita Iglesia helps break down the hour into 10-minute portions so believers go to about seven (7) Churches to see the Blessed Sacrament, this way preventing an overflow of churgoers.

He also said that because the Blessed Sacrament is exposed just one day in a year, we should venerate it. It isn't the time to do the Way of the Cross, which should be done, instead, on Good Friday, because this is the day when the Christ Lord died on the cross.

Because the Visita Iglesia has become somewhat like a tourist attraction already ("Panay pa-picture sa harap ng simbahan kasi maganda", says Fr. Vic), it was better, he said, to just spend an hour in one Church praying and keeping vigil, meditating on the Blessed Sacrament.

The most important holiday, he said, should really be Easter Sunday, instead of Christmas, which is "the beginning" of Christ's life. Easter Sunday, however, is the day when Christ resurrected from the dead. This is the "culmination", he noted, of Christ's life and works here on earth. So actually, we should place more importance on it than on Christmas.

What do you think, guys?

A most blessed Holy Week to all!

March 15, 2008

What I know about men

Something Like Life
March 14, 2008

THERE are just certain truths about men that all of us women must learn to live with. We should know them by heart, and keep them in mind whenever we’re: a) trying to attract a new man in our life; b) kicking out the old one; or c) considering to become a nun.

These truths I’ve culled from my experiences with most of the nuts I’ve had the tough luck to associate with, as well as from the experiences of my girlfriends in their own relationships. Perhaps in knowing them, we can better deal with our issues with our men.

1. Men like long hair. It’s insane but true. They think long hair makes women more attractive and feminine. Short hair just makes women look butch. Men like to feel the long hair running down a girl’s shoulders and back. They just find it sexy. (All those shampoo commercials aren’t helping us short-haired girls one bit, but thank goodness for extensions!)

2. Men will always have a wandering eye. Don’t be insulted. It’s not because your boyfriend doesn’t love you. It’s just because men are easily visually stimulated. Even if they know they can’t have that gorgeous babe strolling by in a tank top, miniskirt and stilettos, they’d still like to fantasize that they have a chance with her. (And admit it, if George Clooney walked by, wouldn’t you gawk, too?)

3. Men like it when you listen to them. No matter how boring their boardroom battle stories may be, they will love you when you are quiet and attentive, and make the proper supportive comments at the right time. (Besides, they, too, have to listen to you go on and on prattle about your day with your girlfriends, so try to be generous and patient.) Now, a buddy of mine told me, if your man refuses to tell you what’s on his mind, it’s probably because they know you’re not going to listen anyway. Hmmm…

4. Men don’t have ESP. If you believe your man did something wrong, don’t go sulking about the room and just decide not to talk to him. Don’t make him guess what’s eating you up. In the same manner, tell them what you want or need. So if you want your husband to buy you for Christmas that nice bracelet displayed in the jeweler’s window, tell him. Of course, it does take some of the romance out of relationship but, c’mon, would you rather he surprises you with a brand-new set of Teflon-coated pans? (Personally, I’ll take the pans over the jewelry.)

5. Men can be insensitive. Sometimes when you think he’s doing something deliberate to hurt you, this may not really be the case. It may be because he’s really clueless about doing the right thing for you. I remember a friend griping that for her birthday, her husband gave her a diamond ring that once belonged to his late wife. To her husband, perhaps he just wanted to give his new wife a great big piece of rock to show her how much he appreciated her. To my friend, it was just distasteful. (I joked that she should sell the rock and buy what she really wants.)

6. Men don’t like it when their girls talk about their ex-boyfriends. No matter how your present beau acts like the topic is just part of another intellectual discourse with you, it really eats him up. When you talk about your ex(-es), your boyfriend unconsciously feels you are comparing him with whoever came before he turned up in your life. (I made that mistake once and my man kept on bugging my girlfriend how he measured up to my ex. Thank God, I have friends who are would-be candidates for the Best Actress Oscar.)

7. Men are liars...especially when they want their women feel good about themselves. So stop asking them questions like “Do I look fat?” or “Is this dress too tight?” Men will never give you a straight answer. If you need an honest answer about the way you look, go ask your gay best friend.

8. If a man is really interested in you, he will call you or ask you out. He will not pretend that he lost your phone number. Or make some lame excuse, like he’s been very busy. Even if the latter were true, he will find the time to get in touch with you, yes, even if he never was able to get your phone number. He will find a way to call you.

9. Men won’t say “I love you” more than once. That’s just the way it is, girls. He’s said it once, you should have listened. Don’t expect him to say it over and over again just to make you feel secure. Most men think their actions speak louder than words and anything they do for you is proof enough of their love for you.

10. Corollary to the above, men don’t like talking about “us”. He’d rather wing things and rely on his own past experiences or the experiences of others to monitor his relationship with you. If there’s a problem with you, or if he’s feeling uncomfortable in the affair, he will talk to his best friend about it, but try to avoid discussing the issue with you. And, yes, he will make a lot of excuses (e.g., “I’ll be working late”) not to see you, if he’s already feeling unsure about the relationship. If he’s already found a new girl to replace you, he will come right out and tell you it’s over. (Hopefully, you don’t end up like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Whales’s girlfriend, who found out things were over between them when he announced it in a Wiki entry. In retaliation, Jimmy’s ex, Rachel Marsden, has decided to sell his stuff on eBay. You go girl...don't get mad, get even!)

11. Men will do anything for sex. Yes, even tell you they love you and will marry you. I’d like to think it’s just because of their role in the universe, like males in most animal or insect species. It’s their job to help populate the earth with their kind, so they will hook up with any female, whose role in the universe is to bear and nurture the offspring. So, yes, men think with their dicks. And at the slightest opportunity (or in other words, basta makalusot), they will have sex with any female that interests them, even if they are already married or in a supposedly committed relationship.

And lastly,

12. A man will love you more if you’re less intelligent than he is, and if you make less money than him.

Any more truths about men you want to share? E-mail me.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photo from BusinessMirror)

March 13, 2008

And it's back on again...

BRIAN has had a change of heart apparently and reopened his blog to quash rumors that he had already been paid by the subject of his blog. But in his latest post, he confirms our earlier entry that he has not been paid. He also apologizes that he had to switch off the comments section.

(Looks like GMA is in luck again. No one's gonna pay attention to the ZTE-NBN hearings with the salacious gossip being dished about the pasosyal group.)

* * *


At a media event:

(To a lifestyle columnist): "Hala ka, ikaw na ang susunod!"

(Columnist): "Ano na naman ang ginawa ko?" (giggles)

* * * *

Same event:

(To a photographer): "Hoy wag mo kaming kunan! Baka ma-blog pa kami noh?"

* * * *

Over dinner:

"It's closed na daw."

"The blog?"

"Ay baka he got paid na?"

"That's what they should have done in the first place! That's the easiest way to make it go away!"

"Onga. Pinatagal pa nila. Any crisis PR guy would've told them that. Pay the guy. Tapos!"

"Who kaya paid him? E wala naman pera mga yan!"

"Baka si _____? He's the only one among them who has the money!"

"Yeah, kasi his last post was, '_____, you're next!'"

"Ay magandang gawin T-shirt yun a!"

"Mas maganda sana 'yung 'Magbayad ka na!' Sayang."

* * * *

"Poor ______! She got dragged into it. Inutangan na nga pamilya, nasabit pa sya sa gang."

"E kasi nga she's rich. So the commenters just lumped her in with them."

"But they're not rich! Kaya nga umuutang. Si ano can't even afford to clean her house daw. Ang baho!"

"But that was a cool bar."

"Ako I liked the food in his restaurant. In fairness."

"Well, when I met him back then, he was nice naman to me. Well, maybe nga because I was in media and he needed a writeup."

* * * *

"My experience with _____, I was with my friend, and she was buying cosmetics. She's a regular customer e. Then si _____ shows up, siguro there was a media event at the same time there, tries to grab the products my friend was buying and says, 'You can't have this, it's already supposed to be for someone else! I'm _____! I'm the ______.' My friend goes, 'I don't care! I'm a regular customer!' My friend gets the bag and pays for it. I was there, and I was like...ano ba ito? She was really loud."

* * * *

"So why did they kick _____ out from _____?"

"Well, si ano told me, kasi nagreklamo na ang staff. He would arrive at the office midnight and work until the next morning."

"But I thought si ano was there to oversee it."

"E hindi, sya ang creative director e. Minsan daw darating sa office, e naka-layout na ang page, papalitan na nya. So nag-complain na ang staff."

"Well that's the official reason!"

"I'm sure sina kwan knew about what he really did, yung pa-mention, mention ng name or product... but just used the staff complaints as a reason to let him go."

"Ay no comment nalang ako jan. He's a friend."

"But you have to give it to him, he made himself. From nothing when we met him years ago..."

"Oo, masipag yan. He really asked questions. Wanted to learn how to break into the industry."

* * * *

"Naku, ano na ang babasahin natin?"

"Onga, kasi kayo di nyo ginawan ng mirror site agad e!"

"Bitin naman."

"Buti nalang me American Idol mamya."

"Uy magaling yung bata. Si David Archuleta."

"I wanna pinch his cheeks! He's so cute!"

"Yung Pinay magaling din. Big voice ha."

"Pa-cute lang masyado, nakakainis. Pero sana manalo."

"Ay but the other one was an exotic dancer! Gwapo sya. Latino. But he admitted it."

* * * *

"Dapat bigyan ng talk show si Brian!"

"Onga! Tapos sa interview nya, tanungin ang guest, "So what was your favorite part in the blog?'"

"Ahhh, my favorite part was Anonymous 6:49...hahahaha!"

* * * *

"May rally daw ulit sa Friday."


"Sa Ayala ulit."

"Me nag-comment nga sa blog, 'Pati ba naman ito, kasalanan ni GMA!' "

"Hahaha! I read that. E kasi someone said, sa hirap daw ng economy, kay daw di makabayad si _____!"

"Ay magdala tayo ng streamers sa Friday, 'Ibalik si Brian!' "

"Or, "______! Magbayad ka na!' "

* * * *

"He texted me nga, 'it's not true I am small. I'm a medium.' "

"I texted back, "But ___! I told everyone you're large!' "

Blog over

THE blog everyone's been gossipping about in the past few days is now "officially over." There were no explanations from the blogger, an Australian gay man. The archives have been deleted, with only one remaining entry dated March 4 which the first entry to the blog detailing the blogger's purpose in putting it up. All the comments have been removed as well.

When we found out about it, I had still not seen the blog entries for the day, so our first instinct was the blogger had already been paid the $70,000 his blog subject allegedly owed him. Someone in our group decided to call a person with indirect ties to the pasosyals who had been targetted also by the blog, to find out if the blogger had been paid. According to the source, the Australian is still waiting for his money. (Phil. Daily Inquirer finally decided to write about the blog scandal, but declined to name those involved.)

So of course, many assumptions arose about why he had stopped blogging, and why he had deleted most of his entries and readers' comments after March 4: a) the harrassment of the families named in the blog got to him; b) he did it on the advice of his lawyer (after all, there were too many libelous statements already being published including those of commenters); c) the Australian police ordered him to do so; or d) Blogger had requested him to do so after receiving complaints about the blog.

One thing is for sure, a reliable source told us that the father of one of the blog's targets had spoken with the Australian ambassador in Manila to complain about one of its citizens. Not only had his daughter been dragged into the affair, but also him and his ahem, life partner.

We were also told that there was supposed to be a party in support of the group of pasosyals mentioned in the blog, at Embassy at the Fort last night. We don't know if it really took place. But if it did, that was really in poor taste.

Another source also told us that one of the "elder" members of the pasosyal group had already advised the blog subject to pay up, even before the Australian had put up the blog. The elder member had warned his younger colleague that if the latter didn't do so all of them would be dragged into the messy affair. He was prescient. That was exactly what happened.

I must admit that there were also legitimate reasons to have the blog closed. There were other innocent people getting dragged into the affair. Some of them were mistakenly lumped together with the pasosyal group simply because they breathed in the same rarefied air.

There was so much hate being fomented already by the blog, which I attribute to the classic class struggle between the have's and have-nots. The scandal may have validated some people's conclusions about how the rich (mis)behave, and of course, made them feel better about their own selves. Unfortunately, most of the blog's targets aren't even actually rich, but belong to families of political has-beens, poor relations of the few privileged families in the country, social climbers, and users, who all backstab each other all the time. But when emotions run high, and the stream of consciousness tkes over, such distinctions will hardly be even considered.

Well boo-hoo! The public has lost another entertainment outlet. Pretty soon, we'll all start talking about the ZTE-NBN deal again. Perhaps, it's all well and good. There are other more important issues for us Filipinos to grapple with.

March 10, 2008

Bato, bato sa langit...

I was finally able to stop reading that new vicious blog which has kept everyone glued to their computers for the past two days. Nakakalokah na sya! It's so freakin' addicting! Every few hours there was a new entry from the blogger, then an avalanche of comments, and even more rumors/allegations brought up/stirred up about several pasosyal subjects of the was tough reading all of 'em. Hay! Nothing like good 'ol chismis about the so-called high society to make the weekend interesting.

I still can't make up my mind whether the allegations on Brian's blog are true or not, or if it's simply a case of an "away bakla." No offense to all the gay people out there, but you know what I mean. It could just be a lover's spat gone awfully haywire.

But if true, nakakaawa naman 'yung Australian na 'yun. Sayang gwapo pa naman sya. Ahem. What I really meant to say was, it really gives us Pinoys a bad name. That one of our own, albeit a socialite wanna-be, allegedly screwed this poor Aussie farmboy out of $70,000 of his life savings?! Shame, shame, shame.

I knew the subject of Brian's blog many years ago when he was just starting his restaurant and bar in Malate...back then when the district was still cool in its bohemian way. He seemed nice, intelligent, and well-mannered. I think back then he was still not surrounded by these ja-fake sosyals. I could be wrong though. Baka na ja-fake nya rin ako. Hahaha! But I have to admit, I liked the food in his restaurant and enjoyed his seriously fabulous bar. He actually has talent in that line of business.

Last time I saw the blog subject was in Boracay in Mandala Spa with a writer (from Metro Society I think) sometime last year. We exchanged a few words of greeting, small chica about how it was great to be in Mandala again — our favorite spa on the island — and how our treatments felt sooo good, etc. etc. Honestly, in the brief chats we've had since I met him, I have never felt any negative or ill vibes from him. And I'm not one to cut down people I know unless I've been on the receiving end of their nasty behavior.

So it's quite surprising to read all the allegations about this guy from his Aussie ex-. Of course the guy is no saint, what with the company he kept, but a thief?! Good Lord! Sayang naman itong batang to kung totoo. Brian's blog makes interesting read, no doubt. Highly entertaining. And definitely more exciting than the ZTE-NBN gossip that have been going around of late. (Madam Presidentita, pls. fire your lousy scriptwriters!)

Will Brian get his money back? Abangan...

March 08, 2008

Jun Lozada on my mind

JUN Lozada has been on a lot of people's minds lately. From the time he made his first appearance on TV in a press con to talk about his kidnapping, at the Senate where he testified on the corrupt ZTE-NBN deal, to his current speaking engagements, his words and thoughts have shaken up a lot of us to the reality of the evilness of this government.

This may be a belated reaction to his testimonies at the Senate hearing, but I've been truly moved by his bravery, his courage of spirit, and the sincerity of his actions. He isn't perfect. He's no saint. He has admitted to many shortcomings in his past. Which is why he continues to be credible in the eyes of the public no matter how many propaganda stories and gossip churned out against him by GMA's minions.

About a month ago, I stumbled on the blog of Jun Lozada's nephew, Voltaire, and it really pained me to read how his relatives missed him. Voltz talks about his uncle being persuaded to buy them pizzas while he and his cousins play tong-its during family get-togethers and such...just tiny close-up views of his uncle's ordinary life. If you want to read more about what's on Voltz's mind, I've added a link to his blog (Strawberry-filled donuts), which you can also click on from the sidebar at the left.

I hope that this present chaos in Jun Lozada's life and those of his relatives and friends, will all work out in their favor in the end, and benefit the nation. It is heavy burden that they carry and they need all our good wishes and prayers.


THAT elusive fifth taste, which the Japanese call "umami" (a dish is umami when it so savory it makes you swoon) may actually be explained by glutamic acid, an amino acid. Where do you find glutamates? It's in your cupboard kids...the good old reliable Ajinomoto! Tak, tak, tak!

After reading the piece below from the New York Times, I searched for photos of the Ajinomoto bottle, which took me to the company's local site. In its Ajinomoto super seasoning page, the company bravely declares that the product imparts dishes with that savory, or umami, taste. (Click here)

I remember when I was little, I would hang out in my Lola's kitchen and constantly open her bottle of Ajinomoto, dip my right index finger in the white stuff, and stick it in my mouth. Mmmm... When I asked her what Ajinomoto was, she always told me it was pampasarap.

Anyhoo, check out this piece in NYT:

Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor

March 5, 2008

IN 1968 a Chinese-American physician wrote a rather lighthearted letter to The New England Journal of Medicine. He had experienced numbness, palpitations and weakness after eating in Chinese restaurants in the United States, and wondered whether the monosodium glutamate used by cooks here (and then rarely used by cooks in China) might be to blame.

The consequences for the restaurant business, the food industry and American consumers were immediate and enormous. MSG, a common flavor enhancer and preservative used since the 1950s, was tagged as a toxin, removed from commercial baby food and generally driven underground by a new movement toward natural, whole foods.

“It was a nightmare for my family,” said Jennifer Hsu, a graphic designer whose parents owned several Chinese restaurants in New York City in the 1970s. “Not because we used that much MSG — although of course we used some — but because it meant that Americans came into the restaurant with these suspicious, hostile feelings.”

Even now, after “Chinese restaurant syndrome” has been thoroughly debunked (virtually all studies since then confirm that monosodium glutamate in normal concentrations has no effect on the overwhelming majority of people), the ingredient has a stigma that will not go away.

But then, neither will MSG. (Read the rest at The secret behind the savor.)

March 07, 2008

Talagang masarap!

(Family suite at Two Seasons. The extra room is to the left. It even has its own dining table and chairs inside. Photo from Two Seasons)

SO I went off to Boracay during my birthday weekend last month and stayed at Two Seasons Resort on Station 1 again. This time, Francine came along with brave of her to leave little Matthew behind. I know how mothers can hardly tear themselves away from their babies so I knew she was making such a big sacrifice to be with us for for 5 days and four nights! Hay naku, I so love my sis! (And of course, I so love my Pangs also for making all of this happen! Great buddies these two.)

We stayed at one of the family rooms in the resort and it was so huge! Great place to stay if you have family or a gaggle of friends with you. Aside from the two king-sized beds, there's a separate room with its own king-sized bed as well, and its own TV, DVD player, and Ipod stereo deck (aside from the ones in the main room). And of course, I just love, love, love the big banyo! Hay, I wish all resorts give some thought on making their bathrooms big and comfortable like what we have at home.

(Crispy rack of pork with char shiu rice, photo courtesy Two Seasons)

It was super cold though when we went there so I really wasn't able to take a dip. And so guess what we ended up doing? Eat of course!

The first time the gang and I stayed at Two Seasons, we were mightily impressed with the food at barLO Resto Lounge. So some of us thought, maybe it was just a fluke. We were just lucky 'cos the resort had just opened so of course, everything was special.

But four months after, when we returned, the food was still superb. I was pretty amazed and I hardly rave over food unless I think it's really good. (Yup, many restaurants now know I don't do favorable reviews if I don't like their food, unlike other food writers who get off from being fed for free.)

Everyday, a new dish ordered on the menu didn’t fail to disappoint — each had the ability to please all senses with its superior taste, aroma, color and presentation. Our favorites include the Home-made Nachos with ground beef, jalapeños, tomato salsa, and cheese; Three Mushroom and Truffle Cream Soup; the exciting and playful salads; the Crispy Rack of Pork with Char Shiu Rice; and the Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce and Raspberry Compote, and Pineapple Ice Cream on the side.

(Prawns Marikudo and Spaghetti al Nero)

We were also happy that the restaurant had vegetarian selections such as Spaghetti with Grilled Fresh White Cheese, Garlic, Olives & Sauce Pomodoro. All dishes may be shared and extremely reasonably-priced, which is another surprise for guests. It's just unfortunate that the kitchen closes at 11 pm so if you want to stay in and watch a movie on your DVD player, you gotta order those perfectly crispy Nachos (and beers!) early on.

While part of the fun of vacationing in Boracay is to sample the dishes at various restaurants on the island, I would be very happy and content just eating in at Two Seasons.

The magic 12 of AI gay crush Danny Noriega was just booted off American Idol. Tch, he was one sassy sistah, good voice, too, unfortunately not great enough to be among the lucky 12 contestants who will be battling it out in the next couple of weeks for the top prize. Sad ako, truly.

I'm sure some people out there will say that Danny was just too much of a beyootch to AI judge Simon Cowell that he got what he deserved. But I could see that Simon actually enjoyed the repartee. It all just came down to style and voice quality. And compared to Chikezie's vocal prowess and the rest of the male contestants, Danny just didn't quite measure up. Sayang, he was fun and made the show actually interesting. I just loved the way he took chances on the songs he chose (nag-Elvis pa!) and enjoyed himself onstage.

But I have no doubt that this cutie will surface someday with probably, not a record deal, but maybe on the Broadway stage. He's still young but he is a performer. (He reminds me a bit of Mark Indelicato, that talented young actor who plays Justin on Ugly Betty.) I think he'll just make it better in a musicale where he gets to stretch his talents, rather than be a flash-in-the-pan recording star which is how most of the AI winners have ended up anyway.

So the lucky 12 are:

1. David Cook (oof! sexy and hot!)
2. David Archuleta (I wish he was my son! wanna pinch his cheeks!)
3. Michael Johns (yummy! He has that Michael Hutchence vibe.)
4. Jason Castro (dreamy eyes, cool dreadlocks)
5. David Hernandez (smokin'! he must have been one helluva male stripper)
6. Chikezie Eze (he's actually cute, in a Santa clause sorta way?)

(Notice how I commmented only on the guys' looks instead of their voices, hehe. Syempre, you gotta have the face to go with your voice, otherwise, you won't be that interesting.)

7. Ramiele Malubay (mejo nakakainis dahil pa-cute, but she's got a big voice. Except for her last performance which was so-so, her performances have been outstanding. So sigue na nga, go Ramiele! Mabuhay ang mga Pinoy!)
8. Amanda Overmeyer (tough girl. strong husky voice. Fab rocker chick. Smile ka naman jan, 'day!)
9. Brooke White (nice girl but can be edgy. Her take on Joan Jett's "Love is a Battlefield" was fabulous! Different rendition which made the song her own. I like her.)
10. Carly Smithson (another one gunning to get the rocker chick title. Powerful voice. She can hit those high notes and hold it, ooh mama!)
11. Syesha Mercado (great hair. But forgettable voice.)
12. Kristy Lee Cook (Ick! Token country singer. I hate country music, no matter how good her voice is.)

Here's the last performance of adorable Danny Noriega on AI. He's so pretty! Just look at that hair. grabeh! Love him!

March 01, 2008

Reach out and touch someone (updated from my Nov. 2007 entry)

Something Like Life
Feb. 29, 2008

SOMETIME last November, I got a little pissed at Flickr because I could no longer organize my new batch of Boracay photos into a set.

To those still living in a world where they think Wordstar is the best word-processing program ever invented, Flickr is a digital photo-sharing web site where you can upload your photos, organize them, put little captions, and virtually store them all for free (well, almost). You can choose to share the photos to anyone who’s sitting in front of the computer and surfing web sites and such, or just to a small private group of friends or family.

The problem was, I couldn’t organize my new photos into another set, like an album you see, on account of my being a free-account user. Because I’m cheap and didn’t want to spend $25 a year just so I could organize and post an unlimited number of photos and sets, I searched through the discussion forum to find solutions or alternatives to the issue at hand.

Fortunately, some of the guys in the forum mentioned Facebook, the social-networking site, which they said allowed unlimited photo uploads. Hmmm...I thought that sounded cool, although I was still wary of the social-networking phenomenon that began with the establishment of Friendster and MySpace.

I’ve been invited a lot of times by Friendster users to join the site but never did, because I couldn’t figure out how you could call this person and that a “friend” without actually meeting them in the physical world, face-to-face. Some of the users had more than a thousand “friends,” according to their pages. Then there were those reports of kids committing suicide after bullied on their MySpace pages. What ultimately put me off joining these sites was this one guy whom I had never met in person but e-mailed me nonstop to view his Friendster profile, which I found creepy and annoying.

So my joining Facebook was borne out of a real need—that of wanting to have unlimited photo storage online—and partly because I thought it would be a good social experiment.

First of all, I wanted to see how many of my real friends, contacts and regular acquaintances would join the site. I found out that among my e-mail contacts (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail), there were a few who were already Facebook members. So I restricted my invites to people I actually knew, my friends, as well as a few acquaintances I was interested in knowing more.

Two days after I joined Facebook, 10 of my friends who were scattered all over the world — the Philippines, Bangkok, Northern Marianas and the US — joined. Hmmm...not bad.

Second, as I plodded through my Facebook friends’ pages, I also noticed that most of their friends were people they’ve worked with, people they grew up with, or went to school with, or even current companions and colleagues at work. There were only very few who appeared to have “friends” whom they met randomly online.

I don’t know if it’s because I belong to a more, ahem, mature generation (my youngest Facebook friend is 25, while the oldest is probably in his mid-60s) who are more protective of their privacy, but only a couple of my friends had about 130 Facebook “friends” on their lists and I, too, knew most of those people, having met them in press conferences or other social events. So they were not strangers at all. So, generally, I think Pinoys are still conservative when it comes to meeting new people, especially online.

Since signing up, I’ve had a couple of “friend requests” from people I didn’t know and thus ignored, which is probably contradictory behavior on what is supposed to be a social-networking site. I’ve also ignored requests from people I do know but don’t particularly care to reestablish any relationships with, due to unfavorable experiences with them in the past. I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and pretend I like you now that I’m online, right?

Third, the great thing about Facebook and perhaps other social-networking sites, is that I’ve been able to reconnect with a number of people I have not seen nor heard from in over 15 years who are now living in other parts of the globe, just because I found them on other people’s profile pages.

There’s lovable Bessie with her still long curly hair, now married and living in Shanghai with an absolutely adorable son.

Then there’s Tita Minnie, who used to be part of my barkada, but whom I gradually lost touch with when she opted to join the corporate world before going offshore. She now works in Argentina, the lucky bitch.

Then there’s Nona, who was two batches ahead of me in De La Salle University but I knew her because we both worked at the university paper. She’s now based in Sweden with a grown-up daughter—and married. While we were never particularly close back in college due to our differing political beliefs (I was mostly a fencesitter), we now constantly “feed” each other tiramisu or some other yummy desserts.

It may sound silly to those who aren’t members but on Facebook, we send cybergifts of tequila shots to our friends, feed and race one another’s pets, comment on recently uploaded photos, bless and send good karma to one another, and recently, I became a proud owner of a “Tiffany necklace.” (One friend who isn’t a member thinks that those who join such sites are just “desperate” to meet men, the poor dear.)

Of course, the site is now packed with a lot of annoying ads (it’s the only way for the site’s owners to actually earn from hosting the free service) and, technically, you won’t know what gift you’ve received from another person unless you send out an invite to at least 15 other people to use that particular gift application. So it can be a tad irritating receiving numerous invites to use an application. There’s also a lot of spam being forwarded like chain mail, videos and silly photos.

Then, if you’re like me who makes a living out of using the computer and being online all the time, there is the tendency to keep one’s Facebook page open for hours, and use several applications at the same time. A friend of mine in Boracay says she is hooked to the site, but became embarrassed about being online all the time. She finally had to disable her online status setting.

As of today, I have 56 friends on my Facebook page, which is probably small by average social-networking standards, but if you know me, that’s actually more people than I can handle in the real world on any given day anyway. I like sharing my photos with my friends, and keeping in touch, especially with those who are watching the sun rise at the same time I’m off to bed. It’s also a smart way of greeting your friends simultaneously on special holidays like Christmas and Chinese New Year.

I don’t think social-networking sites will ever replace meeting people and making new friends the regular face-to-face way. But I think these sites are powerful tools to keep relationships going, and keep friendships alive and current.

The only downside in joining Facebook is that I found out that creepy Friendster guy is also a member—and on a friend’s page. Thank God for small mercies like “block this profile.” All you gotta do is click, block and ignore.