30 April 2009

Inspiration for the Day

Playing For Change: Song Around the World - Stand By Me

"This song says that no matter who you are, no matter where you go in your life, at some point you'll need somebody to stand by you." - Roger Ridley

29 April 2009

Puppy Love

This is not part of the Taiwan Trip series. Consider this as a brief intermission post.


A couple of weeks ago, my aunt gave us two adorable little poodles named Bingo and Bong. They are the sweetest and most well behaved pair of puppies I've ever seen. Being unable to fend for them, our family decided to dispatch them to our friends who we've ascertained will provide and shower them the exemplary care and love that they deserve.

Of course, giving them away means that the puppies would have to stay with us for a few days before the recipients would be able to take time and pick them up at our place. Due to this delay, my soft heart was captured by these dogs and letting them go became such a heavy burden. Bong, actually, was the first dog I've slept with on my bed. He was such a well behaved pup - he never made a mess nor did he run around the room; he just laid there beside me, all wrapped up in my blanket sleeping quietly, stirring only when I move, waking only when I woke up. He'd follow me around the house, struggling to climb up and down the stairs just to be close by.

The day he was going to be picked up, it broke my heart so much that I struggled with my emotions, crying, begging, going crazy until I decided that I was being extremely irrational and shouldn't let feelings get in the way of what is best for the little puppy. With the help of my boyfriend, who talked to me through the process of letting go, I was able to give them a new home.

Understanding my pain, my boyfriend chatted with me one day and drew me a little puppy to cheer me up. Now, isn't that just cute?

Trying to console me, he promised me that one day, when we finally get a place of our own, we'll adopt one or two or even a litter of them - and we want them to be fat and cuddly (well some), others have to be good house guard dogs. :D

28 April 2009

Taiwan Trip 2009. Day 2.

Our second day in Taiwan started with a doctor's visit a couple of blocks away from our hotel. Although I wasn't able to catch the doctor's name, according to my grandfather, he is a popular figure in the community, offering his services and even medicine for free.

Despite being at his 60s, he still carries the spunk and enthusiasm of someone of a much younger age. He would be at the clinic on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Often times the place would have a relatively good number of patients waiting for him on separate tables. In less than a minute, he would diagnose the problem of the person and the patient is free to leave afterward. By simply touching one's wrists, he can inform you of a whole heck of things you wouldn't even have thought about checking. For our group, his diagnoses were all accurate to a T.

Of course, I won't be divulging the details of our ailments in this blog post as it is irrelevant to anyone else but our own. :D


In the afternoon, we were to go to TaiNan or Southern Taiwan riding the THSR (Taiwan High Speed Rail), Train 449. Coming from Taipei (Northern Taiwan), the train will stop over at Banciao, Taoyuam, Hsinchu, Chiayi, Tainan and Zuoying. Our departure time is 2.30 in the afternoon, and we were expected to arrive in Tainan by 4:13 pm.

My aunt was supposed to book us on an earlier train with a cheaper fare, but since the seats sold like pancakes, we ran out of seats and had to take the more expensive, but faster THSR. I know it's a little shallow, but I was pretty stoked over the online booking of the tickets. Items they will require from you are your name, address, telephone number and passport numbers. They will send a confirmation email detailing everything you need to know about your purchase as you can see below.

According to my grandfather, it used to take 6 hours to travel from Taipei to Tainan, but now with the advancements in technology, travel time has been reduced to two hours. I've lifted a picture from Wikipedia to illustrate how in a day, we seem to have traveled across Taiwan.
Below are photographs of what the Taipei station looks like and the interior of the THSR.


Upon reaching Tainan station, there will be three complimentary buses that you can ride to get to where you're going. To be honest, I completely forgot the destinations of the three buses, only that we were dropped off the TaiNan Fire Station, where our hotel, the TaiNan Hotel is situated nearby. Below are pictures of the said vicinity.

The TaiNan Hotel

The TaiNan Fire Station

Since we arrived close to dusk, there wasn't much sand left in the hourglass; so we decided to take a quick stroll at the nearby park and then head off to the buzzing metropolis for dinner. The park, although not distinctly spell-binding, had beautiful Chinese styled bridges and memorials, and ducks waddling and paddling in its slightly murky lake. I wasn't able to grab hold of the park's name, sadly, but comparing with an online search, it seems to be the ZhongShan park. Below are some pictures by my uncle; I left my camera in the luggage.

This is a picture of me with my granddad, uncle and aunt.

After this, we visited a temple as TaiNan seems to be abundant with small temples and fortresses and parks. Although it was late, we were allowed entrance by the monk. The monk explained to us the history of the said temple and the distinction between the three different gods seated on the altar - one of which is the medicine god. He also gave my European uncle a special book containing all of Buddha's important prayers as a keepsake.

We went to one of the malls in Tainan for dinner and my uncle took another photo to document his trip. This is one of his pictures.

Why so many scooters? Well, parking is relatively difficult in Taiwan, so it is more practical to be riding a scooter than driving a car. You can walk in a lane lined tightly with scooters and bikes.

Finally exhausted with much walking, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest. End of Day 2.

To check other hotels in Tainan, click here.

26 April 2009

Taiwan Trip 2009. Day 1.

Strangely, 2009 has been opening many doors for me. After almost five years, I have once again been given a chance to leave the Philippine Islands to visit to another country. My last trip to Taiwan was still back in December 2000 - it has already been 9 years since and I don't have a single recollection of what Taiwan used to be then.

As a keepsake, I am writing this long overdue blog post to detail my adventures in that foreign land. So as a forewarning, this is likely to be a very long series of posts. I decided to divide my posts by the days (depending also on the number of items in our itinerary as we did have rather lazy days).

DAY ONE, April 17
Our flight to Taiwan was at 7 in the morning and preparing all the must-do notes for all the folks I've requested to take charge of particular tasks while I wasn't around has left me.. well, sleepless and tired.

We were at the airport as early as 5.30 in the morning and proceeded with the necessary stations until we finally boarded our plane. There were only a few people flying to Taiwan so many of the seats were vacant - for those who aren't very experienced, this means you can opt to switch to more comfortable chairs once the plane has taken flight.

We arrived in Taiwan soil at 9 in the morning. From the airport, we hired a bus to drive us to our hotel, the First Hotel in the heart of Taipei. You can find it at 63 Nanking E. Rd. Sec 2, Taipei. My grandfather attests that it used to be so much bigger, but the hotel seems to have "shrunk". Thanks to Google Maps, this is where you can find the First Hotel in the Taipei map.

After settling in, my grandfather gave me a card prepaid to pay for most of travels in Taiwan (especially the MRT and buses). According to him, the card can also pay for purchases in stores.

Gramps then took us to our first destination - the Jen Dow International, where there is a stupendous vegetarian buffet. It was a vegetarian's delight. The food were amazingly delicious despite being meat free - with such an awesome variety that it was completely mind blowing. Who knew vegetarian dishes could be so delectable - they try to mimic meat products and have succeeded where many have failed.

This is my plate for the first round

The table's favorite. Best eaten when freshly made.

A popular Taiwan delicacy is the fermented tofu, which is also known as the stinky tofu. From a distance you can already tell its nearby with its distinct and pungent aroma - one that I would often associate with the public toilet and one that my aunt associates with body odor. In the entirety of the trip, I encountered this specialty many times and I was sane enough to decline after trying it at this particular restaurant. Perhaps its an acquired taste, but surely it brought my tongue nightmares that I had to wash it down (without a trace of disgust on my face) with a good gulp of almond milk.


After stuffing ourselves full, we returned to our hotel for some good rest before heading off to Taipei 101, the world's tallest building.

This is a photograph of Taipei 101, taken by my uncle, Keith Fuller

Taipei 101 is known for many things, including boasting rights for the fastest ascending elevator with the speed of 1010m per minute. It also has the largest super wind damper sphere in the world weighing 660tons and measuring up to 5.5 meters. Being an specialist of earthquake-resistant infrastructures, my uncle really seems to have taken a particular interest in this building.

In addition to being tall, this building also has a mall. Below are pictures of the interior of Taipei 101.

We did some groceries at their supermarket. There were a lot of interesting stuff we found there like.. Honey Grains for better skin, good wines, pork floss and my favorite, Black Squid Ink Bread. (It's literally black! Too bad I wasn't able to take a photo of this). For those shopping, please be advised that you'd have to pay for the plastic bags if you want the sales lady to put your purchases in them - it's best to bring a big bag or an extra one to put your buys in.

We weren't able to go to the balcony of the Taipei 101 because it was raining on the day we visited, but my uncle returned a few days later and below is one of the pictures of the view he managed to capture from up there.


Being young, I wanted to check out the night market in Taipei. From Taipei 101, there is a complimentary bus that brings passengers to the nearest MRT station. There my grandfather, uncle and I took the train all the way to JianTan where the biggest night market can be found. Posted below is the map of the MRT of Taipei, which I found lying in the vast cyber space.

It is nice to note that while riding escalators, it is best to keep to the right if you are not in a hurry. The left side of the escalator is reserved for passengers who would like to climb or run up or down the stairs of the escalator than just ride at its slow, steady pace.

The night market, although is very fun to look with all its varied offers, I couldn't help but feel that the items can easily be purchased here in the Philippines. Not to mention, I did feel a bit awkward shopping with my uncle and grandfather. Hehe..

We returned to our hotel room without making any purchases. Completely exhausted. Thus ends Day 1 of our Taiwan trip.

To check out other hotels in Taipei, click here.

Fried Chicken Alfredo and Penne

Inspired by the world's greatest chef, Dave's delicious video recipe of Fried Chicken Alfredo with Egg Noodles, I decided to try it myself at home for my family to enjoy.

I intended to cook this dish a couple of weeks ago, but due to the constraints trying to get everything ready for our Taiwan trip, I just couldn't find the time to really go to the kitchen and do it. My parents and I already bought the ingredients then, and because of the delay, sad to say, my parsley already withered and was of no use to me now that I wanted to prepare the recipe. So with a few alterations from the original procedure, and some help from my mom with the dredging and frying, this is our version of Fried Chicken Alfredo (with Penne).

Fried Chicken Alfredo and Penne
Inspired by Dave

1. Prick half a kilo of boneless chicken breasts with a fork and slice them into strips.
2. Season the strips with Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. I used McCormick's Club House One Step Seasoning Italiano which contains dehydrated vegetables as red and green bell peppers, garlic, onion and parsley. I've also combined it with a local McCormick Italian seasoning which contains marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory sage and spices. After massaging the seasonings into the chicken, leave the strips and prepare the other ingredients you will be needing for the recipe.
3. Put your penne or spaghetti or noodles in a pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. Don't forget to add some salt and oil into the water so the noodles won't stick to the pot.
4. Chop one onion and a head of garlic. Optional: Slice six pieces of large button mushrooms.
5. After step 4, dredge the chicken strips in flour and deep fry until golden brown. Set aside.
6. In a wok, melt a stick of butter (or according to how much you can handle), add the chopped onion and garlic. When fragrant, throw in the sliced mushrooms and give it a few stirs.
7. Once you think it's ready, pour in some all purpose cream into the mushroom-garlic-onion mixture. I added two tetra-packs for mine. Just add according to what you feel and think is best.
8. Season this with some pepper and salt. I added some tarragon and basil leaves just for an extra kick. Once the sauce has come to a simmer, add some Parmesan cheese in. Since I don't have Parmesan, I just grated some Quickmelt and threw that in. Mix that and taste. Season accordingly.
9. To plate, put the pasta in a bowl and top with some chicken strips. Pour the sauce over that, then put a couple more strips above that. Crown everything with a sprinkle of dried Italian seasoning and cheese and it's ready to serve.

My siblings loved it and have expressed their favor of having the same viand next time. My mom told me that I made mine too creamy but overall it was good; she gave me a 92 over 100 score for this. This is a really heavy dish to consume, just a few mouthfuls could fill up one's tummy satisfactorily. :)

If you want to watch the original video, I took the liberty of posting it below. Cheers!

11 April 2009

Visita Iglesia 2009

Every Good Friday, our family would head off to the unknown in search for churches we've never been to - well most of the time, that is. This year, rather than venturing off to some remote province for some serious church hopping, dad decided to just stick to the NCR region. This annual visitation of seven to fourteen churches is called Visita Iglesia in commemoration of the fourteen stations of the cross, fourteen defining moments in Christ's life as he meets his death to redeem us from our sins.

Mom would always have us pray our rosaries as dad scouts different areas for churches we've never been to. We take this as a big treat, as tradition says we are allowed 3 wishes whenever we visit a new church. For some reason, mom printed out Latin versions of the prayers so we generally were reciting our Our Father's, Hail Mary's and Glory Be's in the most holy tongue.

Here are the churches we visited this year:

(1) St. Paul the Apostle, Panay Ave.
I was still searching for batteries for the camera so I wasn't able to take any photographs here. As a note, yes this isn't a first-time church - we've been here before.

(2) Christ the King, E. Rodriguez Sr.

I haven't visited this church for years so it was pretty refreshing to be there again. The best part is, they've revamped the grotto into a beautiful garden. They've also commercialized the space by accepting the burial of ash remains of loved ones.

As a little trivia, according to my mom, back in the days when our country was still going through a perilous war - people would hide in the cave under the little mountain of this grotto.

(3) Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral, Quezon City

The Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral can be found on New York Street, near Cubao. We were startled that it began to pour. For some strange reason, according to my mom, this is the first time in her entire life that it rained on a Good Friday.

(4) Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Quezon City

We nearly missed this church. It was still raining when we got out and we had to run to shelter since we left our umbrellas in the other van.

(5) Monastero de Sta. Clara

The Monastery of St. Clare is a beautiful little location. A statue of the beloved saint stands in the middle, where people leave their devotions, prayers and offerings of flowers and eggs. Couples who wish to bear children would often visit her to request a child. I found a prayer left on the stoop and decided to make a copy of it. For those who wish to ask for favors, click here to see the novenas.

(6) Sto. Nino Parish, Pasig

We had our Sacred Heart novena here, as we hit 3 in the afternoon - the time of Jesus' departure from this mortal world.

(7) Sta. Lucia Parish Church

We had our mass here. It was a very long ceremony with all the kneeling and standing that aren't present in regular Sunday masses. My siblings were a little irritable at this point as we haven't had any lunch yet, aside from the tuna sandwiches mom brought with us.

(8) Sanctuario de San Jose, Greenhills

After the mass, it is already observable that my siblings don't have any spirit of adventure left to continue our visitations. We've already completed the fourteen stations at the Santo Nino Parish so they think it's best to start heading home and get some quality time with the computer. With my persistence for another church, my dad gave in and stopped by the Sanctuario de San Jose in Greenhills.

This is the church, coincidentally, that my boyfriend and I liked when we were looking through a friend's sister's wedding. We complimented the church as individuals to that friend, without either one of us knowing. Oh well.

Thus, with that last church, we headed to a nearby McDonald's for some fries then went home. This ends our Good Friday Visita Iglesia for 2009.

10 April 2009

Smoked Fish "Tinapa" Fried Rice

It's been almost a year since I really tried a new dish in the kitchen. Ever since I started employment, I find that it has been extremely difficult to spend time at home and laze about and do the regular, trivial things I love doing before - cooking included.

Today, thankfully, I had the chance to check if I am still adept with my cooking and blind measuring. Mom asked me to use the smoked fish, tinapa, from this morning and make some fried rice for dinner. Since it's Good Friday, we aren't allowed to feast on any pork or beef - only fish is the permissible meat. So with brief instructions from my mom, and limited ingredients on hand, this is what I did.

Tinapa Fried Rice

1. Using your hands, tear the fish's meat into shreds.
2. Chop one head of garlic and half an onion (big one). After which, dice two small tomatoes.
3. Ready one big bowl of day-old rice. I don't measure so it's more of personal taste and preference.
4. Fry the fish meat in oil until it's "crispy". Take it out of the oil. The idea is to have the fishy taste in the oil.
5. Throw in the garlic, then the onions into the fish oil. Add some salt and pepper. Once browning, add the tomatoes. The oil will turn a little light red/ orange because of the tomatoes.
6. When you think it's doing okay, add the rice in and then mix until every grain of rice is coated. Leave for a few minutes.
7. Make a well in the center of the rice, then crack an egg into the middle. Let it cook a bit before mixing with the rice.
8. Throw in the fried fish shreds into the rice and mix again. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.
9. For personal taste, I threw in some white vinegar into the rice, since it's seems a little to bland for me.
10. Dice some salted eggs then add that to the rice. Mix. Taste and season according to taste. Close the heat and put the rice into a big serving bowl.
11. Top with some spring onions and it's good to go.

This is my first time to cook this, but I think it was a big success since the first serving was quickly finished and I was requested to make a new batch for those who weren't able to try it. By my second try, there weren't any salted eggs left so to remedy that, I just added butter to the oil in step number (5) and added some brown sugar into the egg of step number (7).

They finished the second batch of tinapa fried rice as well.. with big compliments. I haven't lost my touch yet! :D

Maundy Thursday Jogging

Maundy Thursday barkada outing.

I know that Holy week is meant for contemplation and rigorous prayer, but since this is the nearest circumstance when everyone would be free from any employment-related responsibilities, it's best that we take advantage of the occasion.

Ever since Mark bought his puppy, a Siberian Husky named Tart, our group has begun to shift our interests to our pets. So last Thursday, we decided to meet early in the morning at the MOA complex for some jogging and running to keep our pets in shape. Another first for our group, as we're likely to still be snoring on our beds at that time of the day.

Anne brought her Golden Retriever (mixed with some Labrador genes?) named Arwen with her. Denis hesitated bringing his dogs for this get-together, but he did mention that he will consider bringing his newly acquired Beagle, Martha, once he has her all trained up and all that shiz.

There's a noticeable improvement in Marj, as she seems to have, somewhat, overcome her fear of canines. Not entirely though, but at least they can be in the same picture without any shrieking.

07 April 2009

Kitchen Revolution Vegan Pastries

Just the thought of vegetarian or vegan dishes, and I'd already have pictured in my head, some tasty meaty recipe maimed to become a bland and unexciting tofu-based viand designed to meet the dietary dictates of some poor fool who decided to relinquish his right to feast on animal flesh. To be honest, I can't seem to find myself surrendering my carnal appetite for poultry, pork and beef. I just love my animals.

With Holy Week upon us, believers profess their faiths by a series of rituals, one of which is abstinence - of all meat, well, except for fish. It's a few days to give the animals a break from the slaughter houses, but that doesn't mean that it has to spell an absolute hunger strike - I can't deny that I still do have temptations to indulge. For the love of gluttony and hedonism.

My friend and college classmate, Marie Gonzalez, has an online store called Kitchen Revolution, selling vegan treats guaranteed to "rock your palate". And they did more than rock my palate, they shot my endorphin level into a state of euphoria and addiction. I wouldn't have expected a vegan dish could achieve that.

Dairy-free. Egg-free. Cholesterol-free. Cruelty-free. My first impression was.. with all that "free".. is it possible that it's also taste-free? Thankfully I was wrong. Kitchen Revolution offers a rich and healthy ensemble of cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods that keeps animals out of the kitchen, away from the stove. Ain't it nice to think you're doing yourself and some animals a kind favor.

Together with a friend, we purchased two boxes of cupcakes with the Chai Latte, Almond Rosewater, Carrot Cake and Chocolate varieties.

The Chai Latte topped with a spiced-laden buttercream icing became an instant hit with my office workmates. A workmate, in fact, ordered half a box of them. And as a personal opinion, they'd fit perfectly for an afternoon of English tea or coffee.

The chocolate was another favorite with its very rich chocolate-y flavor mixed with a hint of cherry - a beautiful orgasmic combination for my taste buds.

My parents became fans of the Carrot Cake variety crowned with cinnamon buttercream and walnuts. The cake has some good old raisins that tied the flavors together beautifully.

Marie's treats were so good, that my office mates and I ordered another four boxes anticipating to try out her other mouth watering flavors - Lemon, Red Velvet, Coconut Lime and Banoffee. We also got Chai and Carrot again because they're oh-so-good. Will post reviews on those soon :D

A general idea of the price list: A box of cupcakes (1 dozen for regulars or 30 pieces of the mini variety) is 550 Php. Cakes are 450 Php for the one layered kinds and 700 Php for two layered ones.

Note: Pictures were grabbed from her site since I can't take food porn as salivary as Marie can. Want to see more photos? Click here and make yourself drool your tongue dry.

For those who want to try them out, her contact details is listed below.

Marie Gonzalez
Kitchen Revolution

06 April 2009

Ozine Cosplay 2009

My first Cosplay attendance.

Last Saturday, I extended my support to my siblings and their friends as they embarked on their first ever cosplay dressed as characters in the popular Anime, Bleach. The convention was a three day event starting April 3 and ending on the 5th at the SM Mega Mall Megatrade Hall 2. We attended on the second day.

Yes, I'm the one in blue

Initially they wanted me to share in their endeavor as Rangiku Matsumoto (go figure why), but with my work and my stinginess (in addition to my lack of Anime knowledge), I had to beg off. They organized, prepared and toiled on their costumes and props for weeks untiringly, that after declining their initial attempts to woo me to at least go to the convention, I finally conceded. What really took me was the fact that I arrived home 10.30 Friday night to find all of them sleeping and resting for their big day. Being familiar with their sleeping habits, I can tell they're really dead serious in joining the convention.

My brothers went as Fifth Division Captain, Aizen Sosuke, and Twelfth Division Captain, Mayuri Kurotsuchi. My sister, on the other hand, was dressed up as Momo Hinamori. Their friends on the other hand were dressed as Rukia Kuchiki, 6th Division Captain, Byakuya Kuchiki and Orihime Inoue. Let me post the comparisons.

Aizen Sosuke

Mayuri Kurotsuchi

Momo Hinamori

Rukia Kuchiki

Orihime Inoue

Byakuya Kuchiki

I am ever so grateful to my friend Denis for volunteering to be my companion for this trip. Without him, I would've drowned in the pool of cosplayers, being unable to tell who was who and what was what. Not to mention, I needed someone to camwhore with me. Tee-hee.. So below are some of our pictures with other cosplayers.

Okay, so we don't know every single Anime out there, as long as the cosplayer is pretty or has a fairly acceptable costume, we'd pose beside them for a picture. Of course being in the mall as early as 11 am and leaving at almost 6 in the evening, there are gaps of boredom - so Denis and I decided to have our face painted for only 30 pesos each.

Aside from knowing Denis has a Soul Eater symbol, I have no idea what my sign was, but it looked cool.

While going through the convention marketplace, I found some of my friends participating in the said event. A workmate in WideOut happened to be assisting her sister in selling their kawaii hats, chokers, gloves, bandanas and many others - she also has an online shop called Baby Moon Lifestyle catering to Gothic Lolitas and Anime driven folks out there. Another pal back in college was having a small area selling their dressmaking services. The name of her business is Go Kawaii. Below is a picture of us beside some of her dresses.

We stayed and was able to watch a portion of the Group Cosplay performances, and to be kind, I am not volunteering my opinion on this.

Overall, it was an extremely fun-filled and inspiring day - seeing people embodying a character, taking over that character's personality and living his life for a day, escaping their own little circles and braving out to become one-day celebrities with people requesting for their photographs. Now, I am considering to take on a cosplaying role next convention. :D

Let me demonstrate another big deal why it's so cool... While surfing online, one of my brother's friends found a picture of him online with some "fans". I'm not sure where they found it, but ain't it just mighty cool! Camwhoring rocks!