February 27, 2009

Margie's home!

OUR friend and colleague Margie Quimpo-Espino, who had suffered a stroke almost three months ago while on a press tour in New Delhi, has just arrived with her husband, Chet. She is now at the Asian Hospital in Alabang where she will undergo more therapy and medical care under our really great Pinoy doctors.

I couldn't help but shed tears as I saw the latest photos sent out by Chet of their homecoming, albeit it was at the hospital. The hugs his children gave him and the look on the faces of Margie's family as they welcomed her back were just all too precious. Although I wanted to share w/ you those photos, forgive me for not doing so, out of respect for the family.

There are many who have written me who don't know Margie personally but said they have prayed just the same, like all of her friends, for her recovery and safe return home. To them we say, thank you. From your lips to God's ears.

Pls. keep praying and saying those novenas for Margie and her family, that they may face her long road to recovery and rehabilitation with strength and grace. No request is too large or small for the Lord. He hears us and will answer us.
"And all things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive." (Matthew 21:22)

February 26, 2009

Good news...the sky isn't falling

Here's an interview I did of one exporter who isn't suffering from the economic crisis:

Mama Sita’s maker says global crisis will push its exports

COUNT this among the heartwarming exceptions to the adverse impact of the global crisis. Unlike most exporters, Marigold Commodities Corp. believes the economic crisis plaguing most of the Western hemisphere will actually boost by 25 percent this year the sales of its Mama Sita’s brand of marinades, mixes and sauces.

“Because we’re in the food business, we think the economic crisis will encourage more people to cook more at home. They’ll avoid eating out, so it’s more economical to buy our sauces or marinades, our mixes, and cook at home. Our mixes cost 69 cents across-the-board. So we’re hopeful our exports will still grow this year,” said Jane Rubinos-Taguinod, export sales manager of Marigold, in an interview with BusinessMirror. (Read the rest of my story here.)

February 25, 2009

McDo says: Don't be a hero

(Nigel Haskett photo from the Arkansas Times.)

THIS is really disturbing.

McDonald's employee Nigel Haskett saved a woman from getting beaten up in his restaurant. In the process, the assailant shot Haskett, who had to undergo several surgeries, thus pushing his medical bills to reach $300,000.

Instead of saying thank you to Haskett for protecting its customer, and helping him defray his medical expenses, McDonald's insurer junked the young man's claim for worker's compensation. According to them, his injuries "did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment.”

McDonald's message is: Don't be a hero. If a crime is being committed in the restaurant, just call 911. This is what McDonald's calls good corporate governance. Its executives are truly touched in the head. And you wonder why its mascot is a scary orange-haired clown. Read it here.

Bourdain cares

CHEF Anthony Bourdain is a really decent chap. Check out the last paragraph on his latest blog entry:

"Lastly, I want to thank Augusto Elefano for getting my sorry ass to finally make the trip to the Philippines. I would not have done it without his final push. He and his family were lovely to me and my crew -- and the fact that they were a bit shy with cameras jammed in their faces -- if anything -- speaks well of them. I'd rather a shy, thoughtful guy, telling me something real about himself than an "expert" professional anytime. Thanks as well, to Claude, Ivan and special shout out to MarketMan -- whose preparations for the Cebu lechon extravaganza made the filming of Apocalypse Now look quick and easy."

I suspect Bourdain has heard about or read the nasty comments about Augusto and his family, and felt bad for putting them on the spot. Other celebrities wouldn't even probably given a rat's ass about those comments. I think that says a lot about the kind of person Bourdain really is and how he genuinely cares about other people. This makes me even a bigger fan.

So can Augusto's detractors shut up already and let's just enjoy this once in every 20 years positive mention about the Philippines in the international media? The last time the Philippines got this much favorable attention was during the People Power in Edsa.

February 24, 2009

The Sleeper

EXCEPT for Hugh Jackman looking oh-so-hot, and the cutaway to Angelina Jolie while Jennifer Aniston was onstage (gasp!), the Oscar awards yesterday was pretty much a sleeper. Everybody already knew beforehand who was going to win (except for Kate Winslet maybe? Or maybe she really is a good actress bec. she still looked surprised about her win and blubbered as she received her award for Best Actress).

Even if I knew Sean Penn was going to take home the award for Best Actor, I was still rooting for Frank Langella. He was brilliant in Frost/Nixon and even w/o the disgraced President's trademark jowls, Langella was Nixon! The former president's personality and demeanor just took over Langella, you could say the latter was actually channeling Nixon.

But the same could be said of Penn as well. All the people who apparently knew Harvey Milk said that Penn took on the late board supervisor's persona. Every inflection and nuance in his voice, and every tiny swish of his little finger as he conducted symphonies in his mind was so much like Milk.

(Btw, long-time character actor Richard Jenkins did deserve to be nominated as Best Actor even if it was a long shot that he would win because he was just terrific in The Visitor. Those who haven't seen the film yet should watch it. It's just honest and riveting.)

Of course, Slumdog Millionaire was a sure winner from the onset. Americans are still riding high on Obama's hope train that there was no doubt in my mind that the Academy would award it Best Picture. It's a feel good movie where the underdog wins a million bucks and gets his lady love in the end. Plus there's dancing and singing in the end! The theme is so Pinoy! except that the film is very polished and well-crafted. The writing is sophisticated as well, no baduy dialogue here like we're used to hearing in our local films. (Josku, and we sent Ploning to the Oscars? Ngek. This is one of those times I wish Lino Brocka was still alive!)

Even if Milk was a frontrunner in this category, who ever heard of the Academy awarding Best Picture to a gay-themed film, right? Remember how the Academy ignored Brokeback Mountain in 2005? (Although, I did love Crash and the interlocking stories of its characters. Now that was a surprise winner.) And who wants to be reminded of Washington's dark past as in Frost/Nixon, now that "change" has dawned in the nation's capital? Of all the nominees in this category, I think only these two were strong contenders. Doubt's transition to film just didn't work well, The Reader was just too morally ambiguous, and well, I didn't watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button because I'm not a Brad Pitt fan, so I can't comment on that.

Now speaking of Kate, I really don't know why she won as Best Actress. Sure her behind looked great and she was naked in almost half of The Reader, but was she really the best among her peers? She can't hold up a candle to Meryl Streep's tour de force acting in Doubt! Or even to Amy Adams (although she was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category) who was just perfect in her role as Sister James, where she ran a gamut of personalities from trusting to doubtful to morally upright.

Okay so maybe I wasn't too in love with Kate's role as Hanna Schmitz, pedophile/Nazi guard to begin with. I had zero empathy for her character. So Hannah eventually taught herself to read and write. That made her screwing a 15-year-old boy and letting Jews burn to death alright? The only lingering thought I took away from that movie was that, begeezus! Lena Olin is aging gracefully!

Anyhoo, here's a humorous take on the Oscars c/o Sandip Roy.

February 23, 2009

What matters most

"As we get older, we try to return to what remains true and good in our lives. As we find peace in our hearts and love in our age, we realize that some things, like the dishes at our favorite restaurant, the great friendship and family, do not change." (Click here for the rest of my column, Something Like Life.)

THANK you Billy Cortez of Finex, for your kind words about my column. Mabuhay ka!

Spend! Spend! Spend!

"Today, years after the recovery, even well-off Japanese households use old bath water to do laundry, a popular way to save on utility bills. Sales of whiskey, the favorite drink among moneyed Tokyoites in the booming ’80s, have fallen to a fifth of their peak. And the nation is losing interest in cars; sales have fallen by half since 1990." (Click here for the rest.)

I think we're in too much of a panic over this economic crisis. Things won't get worse than they already are. Our economy has been in a rut for the longest time, so it will be more of the same. How can you believe that Filipinos are so hard up when they're still at the mall eating, watching movies and shopping? Heck, even our househelp who comes in three times a week has bought a new TV recently! How? She sells Avon products. And according to her, people are still buying the products.

Unless you are in the export business, or in garments, or semi-conductors, you will still have a job tomorrow. But of course, you won't get a raise this year. Let me rephrase that...there are some exporters who will fold up this year, but some will keep growing. I've already interviewed two separate exporters who are projecting more than 10% growth in 2009. (Will post their stories soon.)

So if you have enough financial resources, go ahead and spend. Don't be shy if you are among the privileged class. But instead of buying foreign brands, may I encourage you to go local? You will help keep the economy afloat. Consider it your patriotic duty.

February 21, 2009

English the Obama way

Found this interesting story today:

"Other speeches may be better for learning vocabulary, but Obama's speeches make me excited about speaking English," says Nobuhiro Murauchi, who listens to Mr. Obama's speeches four times a week in the bath. The 41-year-old Mr. Murauchi, who runs a company selling computer goods on the Internet, has purchased two copies of the best-selling book about Mr. Obama's speeches, one for everyday use and the other as a keepsake. (Click here for the rest.)

An afternoon w/ Mang Manny

Met the girls at Chariya last Monday for a pre-birthday lunch, and as usual had the blast making chismis. Told Sis and Ms. Gorgeous that I saw Vegan girl recently looking fabulous and very young, and I joked that she was probably having lots of sex. To which Sis, our usually quiet and demure, may-I-look-at-my-coffee-when-you-embarrass-me friend, retorted, "Sex? baka sex with an asparagus!" hahahaha!

Btw, to those who still don't know, Chariya is a small restaurant along Reposo St. in Makati, serving Thai dishes and has been featured in many newspaper write-ups already. Unfortunately, I haven't replaced my camera phone yet which means I wasn't able to photograph any of the dishes we had that day. Suffice to say, the food is cheap and unpretentious, but if I had a choice, I'd still have me some Azuthai. Of course, they have different price points, but there are other cheap Thai restaurants in the metro like Jatujak, which is located in SM The Block in Q.C. and is more to my liking. The latter's dishes are more flavorful and have that extra punch from the herbs and spices that Chariya appeared to scrimp on. I dunno, maybe the chef was on his day off when we ate there. (More on that in a future entry.)

(Paete artist Manuel D. Baldemor has been commissioned to do a mural for the St. Therese Convent in Lisieux.)

Anyhoo, after lunch we walked to Alliance Francaise for some coffee and cake. I must say that the lemon tart at the cafe was just delish! The cafe serves Lavazza so it made a great combination. I am a lemon tart addict and so far the one served at Alliance is number 3 on my top tart list, after Lemoni Cafe's and La Regalade's.

Our afternoon turned from funny to hysterical when artist Manuel Baldemor walked in. He is old friends with Sis and Ms. Gorgeous, but It was the first time I met him. He was so makwento, and his anecdotes about his childhood just outrageously funny. So how do bats pee? Upside down, that's why they're mapanghi, Mang Manny said.

We talked about the urinating bats bec. he told us that they all ate bats as a child, back in his old hometown of Paete, Laguna. And they had to submerge the critters overnight in running water, so they could get rid of their bad smell. So how do bats taste? "Chicken na chicken!" Mang Manny retorted, cracking us up even further. Boy, I learned a lot from Mang Manny that afternoon, haha.

After hearing us talk about our interest in local cuisine, Mang Manny encouraged us to go on a road trip in Laguna where there were interesting restaurants and bakeries to visit. We told him we'd do it if he'd come w/ us and take us on a personal tour. I've done San Pablo to Paete (which is really quite a distance, mind you), and am eager to see the other towns within the province.

(Former actor/model Leandro Baldemor...ooh wasn't he just yummy then?)

It may interest to know that this esteemed sculptor, painter, writer, and book illustrator told us that he was doing a mural for the convent (or was it the basilica?) of St. Therese (The Little Flower) at Liseux, France. How cool is that? I thought that was just inspiring news for the Philippines. He told us in detail how he snagged that gig but initially described it rather humbly as "parang tinawag lang ako habang bumibili ng suka."

Of course I just had to ask whether it was true he was related to that sometime hunk actor/model Leandro Baldemor, to which Mang Manny admitted the artista was his nephew. But no, Leandro has not picked up a chisel nor an easel in the aftermath of his short-lived career, but a stethoscope. He is studying to be a nurse.

Still wanted to chill w/ Mang Manny but unfortunately I had to catch the rail back to QC and the girls had their own stuff to do. But by far, that was one of the coolest afternoons I've had in a long time.

February 20, 2009

'The Rock' wants to help needy Pinoy kids

I'm a super fan of The Rock! I used to watch him wrestle back in the day, and cracked up whenever he would cock his right eyebrow menacingly at the camera. His films (e.g. Scorpion King, Game Plan) may have had weird plots, or unconvincing storylines, but they were entertaining enough.

Did you know The Rock graduated w/ a degree in criminology? Coolness.


AFTER Chef Anthony Bourdain's feature on Philippine cuisine, here's another Pinoy food story for you. Goat's head I can take, rat parts, I don't think so! People w/ delicate tummies should not read. Ick!

The Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) is now investigating a complaint filed by an employee of the network giant ABS-CBN who claimed that the tomato sauce that his wife used in cooking contained what appeared to be a “heart of a small mammal” suspected to be that of a rat.

The complaint filed by Mario Bautista of Bacoor, Cavite, and an employee of the ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation, is now being heard by the Bfad in Quezon City.

Bautista said the entire family was traumatized after discovering that the tomato sauce they used to cook spaghetti last year was contaminated with rat parts. (Click here for the rest.)

No idea why this story was only published now when this happened last year. Imagine how many people may have gotten ill from consuming contaminated tomato sauce from this well-known food brand. Yikes!

February 19, 2009

No Reservations on the Philippines (full episode)

(Part 1)

(The rest on YouTube. Many thanks to ArcApex of Toronto.)

I couldn't help but love this episode. The hosts Ivan Dy, Claude Tayag, and MarketMan were entertaining and informative enough. Augusto, the guy who sent in a fan video w/c convinced Chef Tony Bourdain to come to the Philippines, unfortunately, was not.

Poor guy. He seemed lost and his family was rather bland. I think Bourdain has been to some Filipino-hosted events and knows how noisy and festive we can be when we get together. So it was kinda a letdown for him I suppose that Augusto and his Cebu family were not animated enough for this episode. Na-conscious siguro sa cameras. Still, if not for Augusto, Bourdain wouldn't come, so he still gets props from me. Clap for the guy will ya?

I have no arguments against the foods served by the various hosts to Bourdain, from fishballs and taho in the beginning, to lechon at the end; the episode showed authentic Pinoy cuisine which even the masses appreciate. And we know how Bourdain loves street food. Yum! Sorry, no cholesterol-laden high-priced restaurants here, w/c would have been so out of place. It was just simple and sincere cooking, and in a few instances, served up in a group setting w/ San Miguel beers in hand. (I told a friend at SMC's PR Dept that they should probably send a one-year supply of SMB to Bourdain in New York for showing the product so prominently on the show. haha.)

Now I want to try the four-ways goat. That goat head broth looked particularly intriguing. How cool was it for Bourdain to just get a hook on the cheek and eyeball of that goat! Winner! I also want to try Aling Lucing's sisig. I've eaten sisig in restaurants here in the metro (w/ the one at Trellis supposedly the best), but Aling Lucing claims to be the original.

Btw, for Ivan Dy's info, adobo came by way of the Spanish conquistadores. It actually means "to marinate" w/c can mean in anything from soy sauce and vinegar, or tomato sauce, etc.

I only take issue w/ Tayag's rather un-PC comment about Capampangan food being "the best", and that "you can't be a Filipino w/o being Pampango first." Even though I identify myself as an Ilongga, I am conscious enough of regional sensitivities, and will not proclaim on international TV that Ilonggo food is the best.

I've eaten lots of dishes from different regions and provinces, and each has its own unique flavor and attitude. We should really stop this regionalistic behavior w/c is what's dragging us as a country down. We should all be Pinoys first and all local dishes, whether from Davao, Cebu, Iloilo, Pampanga or Ilocos Norte, are the best. Period. Nairita ba ako? That said, Tayag's kare-kare looked particularly appetizing. Mmm.

It's true though what Mary Tayag says, Pinoy cuisine is not popular abroad because there are so many different versions of say, adobo. Or sinigang. In the north, they use guava or sampaloc. In the south, they use batuan for the kansi, which is like a sinigang na baka. So foreigners will not take away one outstanding memory of the sinigang, but several confusing versions of it.

I don't quite agree that it's because no one visits the Philippines. I think it's because when the foreigners come, we always make yabang and treat them to the "best" or "newest" restaurants, which may not offer Filipino cuisine. I am partly guilty of this. When my cousin from the States arrived for the first time in Manila, we took him to what was considered the best Japanese restaurant then. And w/ my aunts, to the best Spanish restaurant. Ngek.

Pinoy food is so ordinary and everyday for us, we normally don't think of treating our guests to a Filipino restaurant unless they specifically request for it. We don't think of offering up Pinoy cuisine maybe bec. we think the dishes pale in comparison to the more sophisticated foreign cuisines. Perhaps deep inside, we still carry some of the colonial atiitutde, and continue to suffer from a national inferiority complex. We think of Pinoy as "baduy" but anything foreign as "modern, improved, and better."

Meanwhile, maybe we could take a leaf from what the Thais did. Their tourism authority simply drew up uniform recipes for traditional Thai dishes and exported the cookbooks abroad. So if you notice, Thai dishes anywhere have the same ingredients, tastes, and textures. Very few restaurants stray from the original recipes. But then yun nga, who's to say whose adobo version gets to be included in said official Filipino cookbook? I used to think all you had to do was pick up Nora Daza's Cooking it Up with Nora and you have the traditional chicken, pork adobo. (I like my version deep fried and flaked.)

Anyhoo, despite some minor irritants, it made me proud to see this show. It speaks tons of Bourdain's respect for his Filipino fans that he became a bit anxious about what exactly to show in the episode, and if he showed enough. Most of us were pleased. Kudos again to the hosts, and to Augusto. Wherever you are, I hope you enjoyed rediscovering your Pinoy roots through our wonderful multi-faceted cuisine.

(UPDATE: Upon request by MarketMan, we deleted his real name out of respect for his privacy.)

February 17, 2009

Tony Bourdain says our lechon is the best!

And speaking of pig? It can now be said that of all the whole roasted pigs I've had all over the world, the slow roasted lechon I had on Cebu was the best. This puts the standings in the Hierarchy of Pork as follows:

#1. Philippines

#2. Bali

#3. Puerto Rico (Click here for the rest.)

The No Reservations episode on the Philippines is currently showing in North America via the Travel Channel. From the comments on Tony Bourdain's blog, it was a smash hit, especially among our kababayans abroad. My eyes were moist as I read their foodie memories and their longing to come home or visit.

Congratulations to Ivan Dy, MarketMan and Claude Tayag for helping the No Reservations crew put out a well-researched and entertaining feature on Philippine cuisine. While not all regions were covered due to time constraints, be proud fellow Pinoys about this immense publicity. Hopefully this will help attract more tourists here and drag our economy out of the rut.

Check out the full menu of MarketMan for his portion of the show. Grabeh, nakakagutom!

UPDATE (11:17PM) I know you can't wait for the episode to be shown here, so here's a taste of it courtesy of the Travel Channel and YouTube:

Here's another by YouTube member mrfhardy:

February 16, 2009

Jollibee invades New York!

“This is the taste of my childhood,” said Emma Ilagan, a 36-year-old customer service representative for Verizon Wireless who left the Philippines when she was 21.

“Until now, you have to go to California for Chickenjoy,” she added, referring to the chain’s popular dish of fried chicken, gravy and rice.

Or as Natasha Starkey, a conservatory student, said last month when she dropped off an application for a part-time job, “This is Filipino soul food.” (Read the rest at NYT)

I dunno about it being Pinoy "soul food", but Jollibee is truly a phenomenon. You have to hand it to Tony Tan Caktiong, beginning with just two ice cream parlors back in 1975, Jollibee now has 600 stores nationwide and 30 overseas. It also owns Deli-France, Greenwich Pizza, and Chowking. It is only here in the Philippines where McDonald's has been beaten by a homegrown burger company.

And while I'm not a total fan of Jollibee's food, it still makes me proud that a purely Pinoy brand, has just landed in New York. What a great way to start the week, isn't it? Clap for them!

February 15, 2009

The Vogue profile on Michelle Obama

Choice cuts from Andre Leon Talley's piece:

(Photographed by Annie Leibovitz)

I had a chance to ask Jill Biden, the wife of the vice-president, about Mrs. Obama's parenting style, and she put the accent on how real the new First Lady is. "During the convention, my grandchildren and her children had a sleepover, watching movies, eating pizza and popcorn, just having fun hanging out," she said. "And I think that's what's special about Michelle—she maintains a normal life in an extraordinary time. You only need to be around her girls for a few seconds to know what an incredible mom she is."

* * * *

"I am excited about the potential of the White House kitchen being a learning environment for the community. The current chef, Cristeta Comerford, is the only female chef in the history of the White House. She's a young Filipina woman, a mother with a young child, and I am excited to get to know her and for her to know us as a family. If you think about all the kids interested in finding out about all of the inner workings of the White House—I'm hoping that we can build a team to reach out."

* * * *

At one point, the president-elect and his wife worked their way through the narrow aisles along the length of the train to meet everyone in each car. Mrs. Obama sat down among her friends. Knowing I had to ask what she was wearing, she graciously divulged that her lavender jacket—worn with leggings and sexy, flat black-suede boots—was by Zero + Maria Cornejo. "This jacket was supposed to have a belt," she said. "I love a belt, but we forgot it." (Read the rest here.)

Btw the magenta silk sheath dress worn by Mrs. Obama for the magazine cover was created by Jason Wu, the same guy who designed her inaugural ball gown. This time I'm loving the Vogue dress! Thank God the prom queen has been banished! What say you, Ruby? ;)

Recessionista love

For Mr. Matsumoto, Valentine’s Days past meant splurging on $700 to $1,000 dinners, $400 and $500 dresses from Theory and Eli Tahari, and jewelry from Tiffany’s. This year, he and his wife are planning a meal at home. The menu includes foie gras with persimmon port and lobster sous vide with yuzu butter, but they will split the $125 cost. (Read the rest here.)

February 13, 2009

I miss Pluto

Something Like Life
BusinessMirror, Feb. 13, 2009

WHAT do men really want? Does anyone know?

I often think that men, whether they be our fathers, brothers, lovers, husbands, or sons, only want one thing of us women: that we keep being their good girls and not sleep around.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to you if you have a pimp.

* * * *

DATING can send you to the poorhouse.

I would always spend way too much money on trying to find the perfect dress, the most gorgeous pair of shoes and the sexiest underwear that would bring the man of the moment down to his knees.

I’m comforted by the fact that whenever any of my relationships end, I’m still better dressed than the slut my Ex would be dating.

* * * *

WHEN men are dating, they will do anything and take us anywhere just to get us to go steady with them (or, at the very least, naked in their bed). They max out their credit cards just to treat us to the fanciest fine-dining restaurants or send us the most fabulous floral arrangements.

After we give them our precious “yes,” watch out, ladies. The next date will be at McDonald’s. And we’ll be picking up the tab.

* * * *

THEY say men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

I don’t know anything about that. I still can’t get over the fact that Pluto is no longer a planet.

* * * *

THEY say it’s all about pheromones.

What attracts us to men, or vice versa, is often biological and has to do with how we smell to each other.

So if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend right now, change your deodorant.

* * * *

I LOVE scientists. They spend other people’s billions of dollars just to come up with evidence to explain even the most mundane things, like if it’s actually safe to pick up food that’s fallen to the ground (no, the five-second rule is a fallacy), or how long love lasts.

By checking their test subjects’ neurotrophin levels in their bloodstream, scientists from the University of Pavia in Italy said in 2005 they accurately measured that romantic love lasts exactly a year.

Okay, so they just gave one more reason for men to cheat on their wives or girlfriends.

* * * *

I ONCE had a boyfriend who gave me an all-in-one gift: his pasalubong from an out-of-town trip, a Valentine’s gift and a birthday present. Sure, it was a gold bracelet, but I still thought he was a cheap bastard.

This was the same guy whom I asked to bring home fresh strawberries from Baguio, but instead gave me a jar of ube. Which I absolutely detest, yuck! The relationship lasted for three years.

Yeah, I’ll say it again...love makes you stupid. (Okay, not quite, I kept the bracelet.)

* * * *

WHY are so many women single or unmarried?

They now earn as much as men and can afford to buy vibrators.

* * * *

RELATIONSHIP experts say there is no such thing as frigid women, only clumsy men.

Of course most of these experts are women.

* * * *

WHEN a relationship ends, both parties will spend endless hours and days finding fault in each other. There will be too much crying, sleepless nights and drunken foolishness just to try and understand how something so wonderful got so bad.

I say let’s just blame it all on our mothers and move on.

* * * *

IF you’re still at a loss over what to give your girlfriend, wife or mistress(es) on Valentine’s Day, just remember that women like the flashy stuff!

We like it when you guys try hard to impress us. So give us the luxury cruise, the diamond earrings, the five-star accommodations in the private beach resort or the most fashionable furniture! Bring it on!

Any woman who says she is more turned on by her boyfriend’s handwritten notes of love than a three-carat diamond ring is a lying bitch, ’di ba, Roopa?

No, the economic crisis is not a good excuse to wiggle yourself out of a Valentine’s Day present for your lady. Deal with it.

* * * *

SO you still don’t have a date for Valentine's Day? Be thankful. You don’t have to buy that new expensive outfit you can’t afford anyway, and sit in hours-long traffic on the way to the crowded restaurant where the wait staff will probably serve you the wrong order, and the bill will take forever to ring up.

* * * *

LEVITY aside, why not stay at home and cook yourself a nice thick steak and watch the American Idol Hollywood tryout reruns? Or experiment on the new pasta recipe you’ve been meaning to.

It’s a Saturday, so you have the whole day to read that book that’s been lying on your night table for months, or do those chores that have gone unattended (e.g. burn your photos to a CD, back up your computer files, clean out the attic or the garage, pare down your wardrobe and set aside the clothes you no longer wear for charity, etc.).

Or why not go over to your parents and spend the day with them? Cook their favorite food or give them nice presents to show how much they mean to you. Watch TV or listen to them tell their World War II or First Quarter Storm stories. For the nth time.

* * * *

IF you’re unwilling to endure another round of your parents’ endless questions why you’re still unmarried (just tell them you’re gay; that will get them off your back for a while), get your other single gal/gay pals and single male buddies together and have them over for a potluck dinner. While getting sufficiently soused over expensive vino, share stories about your Boyfriends/Girlfriends from Hell.

Better yet, go to church and hear Mass. Your boyfriend may elope with your best friend; your husband may leave you for the 23-year-old office tart; your friends may all get married, while your parents and siblings look on you with pity for still being single. But the one thing constant in this world is God’s love, isn’t it? That’s a good a reason as any to enjoy Valentine’s Day whether you’re hitched, dating or otherwise.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day!

(This is the unabridged version of my column Something Like Life, published every Friday in the BusinessMirror. Photo from BM.)

Guy proposes to FA girlfriend

CUTE story in time for Valentine's Day:

LOVE must be in the air: A flight attendant who flew in from Korea on Thursday morning was offered a diamond engagement ring by her love-struck Filipino boyfriend shortly after debarking at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

With a bouquet of yellow flowers in one hand and a diamond ring of unknown carat on the other, Eugene Padua knelt on his knee and asked Marian Ocampo, 23, that much-awaited question: “Will you marry me?” (Read the rest in BusinessMirror)

February 12, 2009

Capricciosa optimistic on Manila

WDI Corp. of Japan has high hopes that its Capricciosa restaurants in Manila will continue to attract a lot of customers in spite of the sluggish Philippine economy.

This developed as Tan Vy International, a company co-owned by Cencio Vy and Vyson Tan—Filipino businessmen on Guam —with their Manila-based brothers, opened a second outlet of Capricciosa on November 25, 2008, along Connecticut Street in Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. Tan Vy International, a Manila-based company, owns the Philippine franchise rights of the popular Japanese restaurant chain. (The rest of my story in BusinessMirror.)

(Capricciosa in Connecticut, Greenhills. Photo from Clickthecity.com.)

THE first time I ate at a Capricciosa restaurant was when I was living on Saipan in 2004. The restaurant was usually packed with the more privileged residents of the island. I personally thought $25 for one small dish was too expensive (of course in my head I kept on converting to pesos), so I didn't eat there very often. Between that and the $10-Japanese buffet every Friday at Hafa Adai Beach Hotel's Hana Restaurant, guess which restaurant won hands down?

Still, I am a fan of Capricciosa's salmon spring rolls, ang sarap I swear! The wrapper is thin and crispy, and when you'd bite into it, there's just the squishy salty and smoky goodness of the salmon. The last time I ate the salmon spring rolls was in Capricciosa's Greenbelt 3, where the food prices are more affordable. Now that the Greenhills branch is open, I think I'll pop over there just to indulge again in my favorite appetizer, and perhaps try out a few of their pastas and pizza with my food buddies.

Namets is namit

MIGGY and I caught the last showing of Namets at the Robinsons Galleria on Feb. 3 .

The plot is simple: Jacko (Christian Vasquez) incurs a gambling debt to the local kingpin Boss Dolpo (Peque Gallaga). To pay off the debt, Jacko turns over his Italian restaurant to Boss Dolpo. But Boss Dolpo wants Jacko to stay on as chef, at the same time, he wants the restaurant to become a moneymaker. In comes Cassie (Angel Jacob), who studied in the prestigious Les Roches in Switzerland but curiously works as a caterer in Bacolod (ngek!), and whose food Boss Dolpo enjoyed at party. The latter takes her on as a restaurant consultant. (Btw, I wonder if the name "Jacko" was a play on the Ilonggo word "dako" meaning big. Mmmm...Vasquez sure gives me the shivers.)

Right off, we already could smell some history between Jacko and Cassie and that they would probably fight w/ each other but still end up back in each other's arms. (Predictable but oks lang. This is after all, a Pinoy movie so predictable plots and storylines are a given.) All this time, Oscar (Dwight Gaston), Boss Dolpo's right hand man, provides the one constant thread of humor in the film as he makes his boss' wishes known to all. (Boss Dolpo keeps stuffing his face w/ food so he can hardly speak. It is only Oscar who understands him.)

(Christian Vasquez as Jacko. Sorry ladies, he is completely clothed in this movie.)

Namets isn't really a serious film of great historical or cinematographic importance. But it's a sweet little film wrapped in all good things Ilonggo or Negrense - the food, the people, the sweet singsong/lambing of the dialect - which unfortunately, makes its audience too limited. Throughout the film, only Miggy and I were laughing out loud at the touches of wit and Negrense humor. The other two in the audience were strangely silent; perhaps the humor didn't translate well to English.

True the writing needs some polishing as some scenes appeared contrived. Like one of the vignettes showed a man teaching his children how to eat chicken inasal/sugba and what dipping sauce one should use - I thought this was an excuse to show the audience what inasal is all about. Or the part were Jacko's mom gives him the recipes of his lola, which miraculously transforms his character into someone who found Negrense food "boring", into someone who believes it's God's gift to humanity!

I also thought the characters needed to be fleshed out further. Jacko cooks, he owns a restaurant, he is Negrense. How could he not know that the special souring ingredient used in kansi (beef stew) is batuan, a small green fruit endemic to the Western Visayas region? Cassie, the Swiss-trained chef, had to be the one to show him the ingredients to this yummy broth! The irony here was that the supposed irony in the said scene failed to be ironic. I have yet to meet an Ilonggo who doesn't know what batuan is and what it's used for.

Those little inconsistencies aside, Namets is cute. There was just something comforting about hearing people talk in one's dialect. The acting was effortless for most of the cast – Dwight Gaston was positively brilliant, so was the girl who played Jacko's sister, Ronnie Lazaro as a man trying to feed his children by slaughtering their pets, and remarkably, even the kid who played Lazaro's son perpetually screaming as he tried to prevent his father from doing the deed. What was troubling though was that Vasquez, despite being a Negrense himself, seemed uncomfortable and a bit stiff in his performance. But Jacob was a pleasant surprise - I didn't she could act as I always see her hosting, although in a few scenes she did tend to be shrilly and OA.

Some of my Ilonggo friends were critical of Jacob because she didn't speak like a Bacolodnon (or as MAR Roxas says it, "Bacolodian," LOL!), but then she is not an Ilongga, unlike the other cast members. Still, I thought she gave it real effort and pasable na sya. (I'm not a native speaker myself having grown up in Manila so perhaps I'm a tad kinder to her attempt at speaking the dialect.)

(Angel Jacob plays Cassie. Photos from Namets web site.)

Being a small budget film, understandably Namets wouldn't be able to attract bigger name celebrities who could've help expand the audience beyond the limited Ilonggo market, which is unfortunate, because the film was truly respectable in its intent, w/c was to showcase Negros and its food. I wouldn't put it exactly on the same level as Babette's Feast, Eat Drink Man Woman, or Like Water for Chocolate, but the film's limitations considered, I think this was a great effort on the part of Director Jay Abello to show other Filipinos or cultures how our food bonds us together. I think people should see Namets when it gets shown again. Miggy and I enjoyed it, laughed at the jokes, salivated over the food (and marveled at how Peque Gallaga has grown even bigger).

I haven't seen Bacolod since the 1980s and watching the film made me miss it tremendously. The last time I was there, McDonald's didn't have a branch yet, and the best hotel was still Sugarland, yikes! Oh I miss the piaya, the kansi, the batchoy, the napoleones, sigh...

Congratulations to Abello and cast for making a heartwarming film. I look forward to seeing more Ilonggo films in the future.

February 09, 2009

Grazie Mike

MIKE Francis is dead na pala. Sad naman. He passed away on Jan. 30 and from what I deduced from the Italian web sites, he died from a lung tumor, w/c I suppose means cancer.

One online French newspaper even cited his popularity in the Philippines outside of his native Italy. (He did release an album called Mike Francis Live in Manila, which to this day, remains one of his most popular albums ever.)

I caught one of Mike's concerts here in Manila at the Araneta Coliseum back in the day when the bleachers cost P25...oof! I loved his cool danceable tunes and have such wonderful memories of those times his songs were playing. Fashion aside, the '80s was really a great music period for me.

Let Me In (1984)

Survivor (1984) Ang saya-saya naman nila.

Medley w/ Adika Pongo, probably one of Mike Francis' last public appearances.

You can view other Mike Francis videos here

February 07, 2009

An Xasperating Xperia at Xpress

BUYERS of cellphones, beware!

I just received this email from my friend Ruby Gan, owner of Schu and MYTH. She was apparently sold a second-hand phone by Sony Ericsson's dealer, Memo Xpress. I am publishing her email in full to serve as a warning to those planning to buy cellphones to make doubly sure that what they are getting are new units.
Dear Stella,

Thank you for allowing me to vent my frustration.

This happened in the afternoon of February 3. I went to the Sony Ericsson shop in Glorietta 3 to get the Sony Xperia. This shop is owned by Memo Xpress. Annabel was the girl who assisted me while I tried their demo unit. Convinced that this phone is good and had all the features I was looking for, I decided to get a black one.

Annabel went to the stockroom to get the unit. After showing me that all the paraphernalia was complete and filling up the Warranty forms, etc, I made sure for the last time and asked her if the unit was brand new. She assured me it was.

Once at home, I did the usual things: installed and synced the phone to my laptop. After successfully doing those, I started to check the phone. Much to my surprise, I saw that the Owner's Information was already filled in, complete with a name, an address, phone number and even a yahoo email address. Upset that I was duped, I immediately called the shop. I told them I wanted my money back and that I would be leaving my house soon so I could be back in Makati in no time.

In the car, I asked my son to browse some more - and there he found contacts in the address book - mixed with mine, photos and a string of text messages. Since I wanted to make my contacts private, I decided to delete all contacts in the phonebook, together with the other previous entries.

In the shop, Annabel was no longer there. Marty assisted me instead. I don't know if he's scared because I was very upset and I made sure that I spoke loud enough for the other customers to hear that what they sold me a few hours ago was a USED unit, this Marty guy was pale and his eyes were bloodshot. Was that a sign of guilt that they've been found out? I am not sure....

Anyway, after he told me that it was impossible to get my money back, I asked for several black units so I can check them. He took out two black units - the only ones left in the store. (They had only 3 black units, including the one I got that afternoon.) My son proceeded to check and found that one had a text message inside, while the other unit had photos - photos of which the background clearly showed they were taken inside the store because I could see the display units on the wall. I showed both units to Marty and he could not explain how these things got there. Also, one unit had a box with a sticker indicating that it comes with a Hancock Movie SD but according to Marty, the sd is not inside. If I decide to get that unit, the SD will follow. (Yeah, right!)

In any case, I thought I'd ask friends who may know people from SE. I finally got the number of Patrick Larraga and the email address of Jingjing Romero - she's from SE's PR company. I sent a message to Patrick but didn't get a reply. Since it was already getting late, I had to make a choice between the other two USED units. You know, like choosing which is the lesser evil of the two. I was dumbfounded! Never in my life did I think that I would have to choose between two lemons! Anyway, I made a choice and left the store. I told myself this is just not right!

On my way home, I got a call from Patrick and told him the entire story. At home, I emailed Jingjing about the matter. (Stella's note: For brevity's sake, after expressing her apology, Ms. Romero said the matter was referred to SE for investigation and that Ruby's phone would be replaced w/ a new Xperia.)

The following day, February 4, I got a call from Juliet Jose. She was told by Patrick to give me a call and get the details once more. By mid-afternoon, I texted Juliet for an update. She said that they will get me a brand new phone but could not get a straight answer from the people in the Glorietta store. By early evening, I got a text message from Juliet that Memo Xpress will now handle this incident and that they will be the one to deliver the phone to my house. I got my phone and a free Hancock SD (maybe to appease me?).

February 5, I received a service call from Aizz of Memo Xpress, asking if the unit is working, blah blah. I asked about the used phones but again I did not get a straight answer. The whole day went by without a word from Sony Ericsson nor a reply to my last email to Jing.

It is now February 6 and I still have not heard from anyone. I called up Aizz this morning but all she could tell me was that there is an investigation going on, that they don't know how this happened and that the units could have come from their Head Office or other branches. I pointed out that regardless where the units came from, bottomline is that there are sticky fingers using the phones and putting them back for re-sale! But she could no longer give me any answer.

This is really frustrating! Am I supposed to just keep quiet now because I finally have my brand new phone? Why is SE so quiet? Aren't they bothered with what happened? Aren't they supposed to give me an update? Or did they expect that this will blow over if they just kept mum about it? Probably, with the silence, they are thinking na magsasawa din ako and that will be the end of it. You know what I am thinking - it is highly possible that Memo Xpress is their biggest distributor and if this is the case, how can SE reprimand them? You might as well cut off your right leg!

Stella, I don't know if I made sense in relating the story. Sobrang naiinis pa din ako because the phone is definitely not cheap (P43,990) and to attempt to sell USED units is totally disgusting! How many other customers were victimized? Baka ako lang ang pumiyok! I hope the readers will be warned...

Thank you again, Stella!


I suggested to Ruby to file a complaint with the Consumer Welfare Group of the Department of Trade and Industry, so that it could teach Sony Ericssson and Memo Xpress a lesson on ethical business practices.

REMINDER: Before making any cellphone purchase, a buyer should first check the phone unit's owner's information, contacts, text messages, incoming/outgoing calls, photos, URL's visited, etc. to make sure the phone has not been previously owned or used. Of course, this is applicable only to so-called reputable dealers who actually sell new phones. (Okay, so we all thought Memo Xpress was "reputable".)

Come to think of it, even the haoshiao cellphone retailers at Greenhills do a better job of deleting any previous information on "used" phones they resell to the public. Tsk, tsk.

February 05, 2009

Here we go again (Updated)

U.S. President Barack Obama will be the featured speaker at the 57th National Prayer Breakfast hosted by by the U.S. Congress. And guess who's on the first plane to Washington D.C.?
“She really just wanted to have a photo opportunity with Mr. Obama," a source said, referring to President Arroyo, “even for one minute."

The officials of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs are pulling every string to make sure Mr. Obama gets her attention, a source added.

"This breakfast event used to be no big deal in DC until this year," the source said. (Read the rest here.)

At magfo-Four Seasons pa! Gee, whoever said the Philippines is in an economic crisis and has a massive budget deficit must be nuts!

And uyyy, yung isang pupunta din, si feeling Obama. LOL!

* * * *

UPDATE: According to a report on the ABS-CBN News web site, the presidentita failed to meet President Obama again. Geez, I dunno how much more humiliation she (and our country) can take! This woman just won't quit!

February 04, 2009

When there's smoke...

It was a rude baptism of fire for the Japanese contractor. Right before him, “(They) first discussed bribes. They had a rough approach.” From that meeting, it was impressed on him that “(bribe) money was important to do business in the Philippines.”

This was how the Japanese contractor described his meeting with First Gentleman Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and a former senator to World Bank investigators who looked into alleged collusion and rigging in the Bank's funded road projects. (Read the rest here.)

...there's fire. This has happened too many times already. The First Gentleman's name has cropped up in the course of various investigations into separate instances of corruption by this government. Still, he sits there proclaiming his innocence. Allow me to puke, please.

February 03, 2009

Love that E*Trade baby!


(WARNING: E*Trade's investment products are not insured by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Commission. Don't let that cuteness fool you.)

February 02, 2009

Chiz plays coy

I hate to be so crabby on a Monday, but Chiz Escudero's drama managed to irritate me this morning.
"Given the lack of age requirement, I cannot categorically state that I am running. There is a proper time for such declaration. While others may have openly declared their intention to run, I respect their right to do so and wish them the best," he said.
"So when am I declaring? You can ask me again after my birthday on October 10, 2009," Escudero added. (Read the rest here.)

But two days ago, he said this:
"I am running because we need a leader that can provide solutions to the unemployment problem, the clamor of teachers for higher salaries and [I am] a man that could address the issue on hunger and poverty," he told reporters here. (Read the rest here.)

Hah! I knew there was something not right about Chiz. This kid is just all talk. Glib, glib, glib.

Btw, why does every Tom, Dick, and Harry for President thinks he's the next Barack Obama? First, Jojo Binay, now Chiz Escudero? Who next? Loren Legarda, too? Gads.

Enough! MAR Roxas 2010 pa rin!