31 December 2010

Our Last 2010 Supper - Shrooms Bruschetta

We were a few hours away from dinner time. Mom and I still haven't got a clue what would work as a special appetizer. We had wanted to try the Jewish Baked Tomatoes with Mozarella which my friend, Lynda, had prepared during our get together pot-luck. Unfortunately, we couldn't find those big beefy tomatoes in the market places.

While we were preparing the ingredients for the other dishes, mom goes "I have an idea what we can cook", and writes a list of ingredients to ask the maid to buy. I kept asking mom what the dish is called, but she couldn't provide me with a name since there wasn't any.

She first tried it in the United States of America when she visited her brother's family. Her sister in law was at a buffet luncheon and chanced upon this tasty appetizer. Curious, she asked the chef for the recipe and tried it for her family. It apparently, was a hit.

Rather than naming it "The Untitled Dish", as was the case, I decided to baptize it Shrooms Bruschetta. Of course as always, we have tweaked the recipe a bit to suit our taste.

Shrooms Bruschetta

2 packs of oyster mushrooms, sliced*
1 sweet white onion, sliced into rings
3 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
salt and pepper
french bread, sliced
olive oil
Italian seasoning
grated cheese
Bacon bits (optional)**

*You can use any mushroom you like. My mom recommends Portobello mushrooms, but if that is unavailable, you can opt for button mushrooms or oyster mushrooms as a substitute.

**We opted to use bacon bits as they were convenient for us, but you can use other meat like ground beef or pork if you like. You can also discard adding any meat products and go vegan.

How to:
1. In a skillet, heat the butter until it melts. Toss in the onion rings and cook until onion has softened.
2. Add the mushrooms and mix. Add in sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until mushrooms have browned.
3. Rub some olive oil onto bread slices. Put mushroom mixture over the bread slice and sprinkle a bit of Italian seasoning on top of each slice. Top with bacon and grated cheese.
4. Pop in the oven and leave there until cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.
We were able to make around 12 slices.

It was interesting. During dinner, my grandfather who rarely says anything about the food except when it's inedible, commended that he enjoyed this little appetizer. I guess that scores some real mean points for this baby.

We hope to be seeing more of this in the weeks to follow.

Our Last 2010 Supper - Lasagna ala Agoo

After almost a year of no cooking, I've found the perfect opportunity to use my kitchen skills. Having work for most part of the year, I would usually drag myself home and slump unto my bed into sweet repose. The kitchen was hardly a place of rejuvenation, for me. As 2010 comes to a close, I decided that a week long vacation would do me good. With time, I volunteered to take part of our last 2010 supper with my version of the all favorite, Lasagna.

I never really had a specific recipe for most of what I cook, and would only follow the biddings of my instincts at that moment. The recipe below is generally a mental calculation of the ingredients I used. In the end though, everything boils down to personal taste and preference.

Lasagna ala Agoo

1 pack of Lasagna noodles
Bacon bits
Grated Cheese

Red Sauce

3 tablespoon olive oil
1 head of garlic, chopped
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1/4 kilo ground beef
1 pack of 750 g Del Monte Gourmet Beef and Mushroom
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup of cubed cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried Herbs

White Sauce

bacon bits and edges
1 tablespoon margarine (optional)
1 head of garlic, chopped
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 can of sliced button mushrooms
2 tetrapacks of all purposed cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 can of evaporated milk
1 can of cream of mushroom
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
Dried herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Red Sauce
1. In a sauce pot, heat olive oil then add in chopped garlic and onion. Once onion starts to become translucent, put in the ground beef. (Note: We have some red wine going a little vinegar-y after air exposure and I decided to add two to three drizzles on the beef while cooking it).
2. Add in the pasta sauce and sugar. Mix. Throw in some dried basil and tarragon.
3. I was feeling a bit adventurous so I added a few dashes of turmeric, curry and Spanish paprika. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add in the cubed cheese to make mixture more creamy. I just really love adding cheese to my tomato based sauce. Simmer until reduced slightly. Set aside.

White Sauce
1. In a new sauce pot, fry bacon until crispy. I usually like using Purefood's Bits and Edges since it's cheaper and I don't need my bacon to be uniform anyway. I just try to slice them into bite sized bits though. They tend to have big chunks of fat which I use especially for this purpose. Strain bacon bits and leave bacon fat in the pot.
2. I know it's a bit fatty but when I think the bacon fat is not sufficient, I tend to add in a tablespoon of margarine. This is optional though. Once heated, I add in my garlic and onion and cook until onions turn translucent.
3. Add in sliced mushrooms and mix until mushrooms have browned.
4. Add in the all purpose cream to the mixture and mix. In low heat, wait until mixture begins to simmer. Once simmering, add in mayonnaise and evaporated milk, mixing until well incorporated.
5. Slowly, add in the cream of mushroom and mix until there aren't any chunks of mushroom soup left
6. According to taste, add in sugar, salt and pepper. Throw in part of the fried bacon bits.
7. Once again, I play with my herbs - mostly I added dried basil and a pinch of curry powder. I want my white sauce to be rich, but not too strong as to overpower the tomato based sauce.
8. Let this simmer until reduced. Set aside.

1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions. Usually add a pinch of salt and oil to prevent them from sticking to the pot. Once al dente, take them out of the pot and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.
2. In a baking pan, spread the meat sauce at the bottom of the pan then top with lasagna noodles. Then spread the white sauce over the noodles and sandwich this with another layer of lasagna. Keep alternating sauces and noodles. Make sure the topmost layer is sauce - either white or red.
Note: I had my sister help me out on this.

3. I left our lasagna in the fridge for a day since I prepared the lasagna ahead of time. (Make sure lasanga has already cooled off before popping in the refrigerator) I'm not particularly sure if it has an effect, but mom says it's better to wait it out a few hours before serving.
4. Top lasagna generously with grated cheese and remaining bacon bits.
5. Bake in oven until cheese melts. Serve.

I received quite a lot of commendations for the lasagna, which I am very proud to announce. It is a rather heavy and rich viand though, that I don't recommend partaking too much. Browsing through the ingredients list, I bet you can already compute how much calories a slice of this baby contains. Winks.

For the white sauce, I'd like to thank Marie Ong for getting the recipe. We first tasted the Carbonara Alfredo at Rommel's birthday bash back in college and were very much impressed. Apparently, it was Rommel's mom's recipe. Marie requested for it and eventually passed it on to me. I just tweaked it a bit to suit my taste. My Alfredo experience has never been the same after.

Looking Back - 2010

As firecrackers begin to simultaneously thunder and the skies start getting polluted with a magnificent show of dancing colors and smoke, everyone seems to be abuzz with New Year preparations. With the first decade of the 21'st century creeping to a close, dying to a new year of promises - I'd like to take this occasion to appreciate the many things that have made 2010 a memorable year for me.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” - Robert Brault

30 December 2010

Welcoming 2011 Calendars

This Christmas, I had that rare drive to Photoshop like crazy - and the only way to be able to so is if I would take on a project. Having long retired from being an artist, it takes a while to get back on track.

Inspired by one of my mom's give-aways a few years back, my boyfriend and I designed the following CD labels for 2011 - the year of the Rabbit. I really must give a hats off to the bf for all the patience and hard work he has exerted for this project.
Using old discarded CDs, which are plentiful in our household , we decided to recycle them into nice calendar give-aways to friends and officemates.

For presentation, I bundled the CDs together and secured them with a thick strap of plain colored paper. I would then put them on a small frame stand. The picture of the final product below.

It's a pretty neat idea that I would like to attribute to Dianne Tan, who first made CD calendars for my mom a few years back.

Have a hopping 2011!

10 September 2010

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

"To every thing there is a season,
and time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace."

Photo was taken by Noel Salazar.

30 August 2010

Spontaneous Saturday at Rizal

As my Saturday (August 27) plans got cancelled one after the other, I was ready to resign myself to an uneventful day of rest - perhaps busy myself doing trivial activities that have so long required my attention. Yet, my luck didn't run out as I've calculated. Marjorie responded to my SMS informing me she was free that afternoon for whatever I had planned. And although I didn't really have much of an itinerary set out except that I was ready for a back packing trip to wherever - we agreed to do a spontaneous adventure at Rizal. Bahala na si Batman.

Marjorie picked me up at 1.30 in the afternoon and we headed to Antipolo City. The first on our unplanned list of to-do things was to have her car blessed.

It has been a popular practice to bring newly acquired cars to the Antipolo Church - a beautiful shrine situated in the heart of Antipolo City devoted to the Virgin of Antipolo, also known as the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Having the car blessed is a tradition believed by many to keep the car, as well as its owners safe from harm especially whenever on the road - think of the many recent bus accidents. In addition, those who intend to travel long distances, go abroad for example, would visit the Shrine prior to their departure to pray for a fruitful and safe trip.

It was a fairly clear and sunny day, and we arrived with a funeral car leaving the church and a wedding about to commence. We were directed towards the office where Marjorie deposited a donation for the blessing.

With my dad's SLR, here are some of the unedited photos of Antipolo Church.

We found a photographer hanging around the place and requested him to take a photo of us near the church doors. So here I am, with Marjorie in the front steps of the Antipolo Church, baking under the August sun.

At a far right side of the Church, a rack of candles holders was installed, with a few lighted ones melting wax. A curious human-shaped wax figure (that somewhat resembles the gingerbread man) and three red candles attached to it with a thin cord caught my fancy, my initial thoughts were of course, voodoo or some sort of black magic. But then, I'm sure the Church wouldn't have tolerated that sort of practice being propagated on its grounds. Asking around, we learned that this oddly fashioned candle was meant to drive away bad spirits and diseases from specific individuals being prayed for by their relatives and friends.

Please, if I'm in grave sickness, just visit me and bring me some apples. Don't burn candles for me.

Before leaving, we passed by a small market place just outside the church grounds. There, vendors would hawk their goods - from casuy treats, sticky rice desserts to prayer booklets and special amulets. Knowing well that people aren't always inclined to purchase their wares, some vendors can be quite tricky and use emotional guilt against soft hearted passers by. Some of their lines after one's decline of a transaction are: "Maawa ka naman kay lola" (Have pity on this grandmother), "Pambili lang po namin ng bigas sa pamilya" (We need this so we can buy some rice for the family), "Para sa tuition ko lang po" (For my tuition fee).

Who are we to say no? - but when three or five are huddled around you, pushing their necklaces and figurines to your face, and you can see a whole bunch of new vendors eying you like vultures and hyenas ready to leap in after the hunters have enjoyed their meal, I just turned apathetic and walked away.

Antipolo is known for its amazing night view of the city, and that is one of the attractions we were hoping to see. With hours to kills before night fall, Marjorie and I decided to have a late lunch at the Balaw-Balaw at Angono, Rizal - the hometown of artists. Two of the Philippine's national artists hail from this town namely musician Lucio San Pedro and painter Carlos Botong Francisco.

I first learned about Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant at Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods and was curious of the different exotic dishes they have lined up. Taking from Pinoy Foods, here is a link to the exotic foods menu available at Balaw Balaw.

Upon entering, one is greeted by a variety of masks pentel penned with greetings, commendations and encouragement by celebrities and patrons.
Aside from being an intriguing gastronomical treat, Balaw Balaw is also a small-scale museum for the amusement of those with an appetite for the local visual arts. With the sculptures and paintings of Mr. Perdigon framed and displayed throughout the place, customers are given tours around the Perdigon house. Below are some of the photographs I managed to take of the place.

For those who'd like to pay a visit:
Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant
16 Don Justo, Dona Justa Village, Angono, Rizal
(02) 651-0110

After our late lunch of crickets (would've been perfect as a pulutan), adobong usa and crispy kangkong, we headed to Thunderbirds Resort, which was a few miles away. Before leaving Manila, my dad had been adamant about the place, insisting it was a must-go place. And due to the unexpected turn of plans, and Marjorie being intrigued after all my repetitious chatter about the place, we heeded dad's advice and were definitely not disappointed. Awe struck, the said resort felt like a nearby sanctuary we can easily retreat to when Manila life is getting a bit too wacky for our sanity.

It was a steep drive around a winding cliff, but upon reaching the top, only then do you realize the haven you've taken yourself to. Overlooking the Laguna de Bay, Thunderbirds resort is a quiet and relaxing space to gather oneself and take a breather. We were in such a divinely ecstatic state that Marj and I were already compelled to stay the night - of course, this wouldn't be possible for many reasons.

Driving down, we were greeted with glimpses of the city from below - a seemingly strange and other worldly vision of lights and buildings. We drove back to Antipolo and got ourselves seats at Padi's Point where the wide expanse of lights and structures lay abound. Dots of airplanes buzzing through the navy sky.

We wish we had taken a different, more serene hub to have our late dinner, but we were in agreement. Antipolo is definitely a great date place, and we intend to venture back there soon.

14 August 2010

Love is Like A Mirror

"Love is like a mirror.
When you love another, you become his mirror
and he becomes yours.

And reflecting each other's love,
you see infinity."

- Leo Buscaglia

08 August 2010

Mark and Jacque's Wedding

There is only one happiness in this life - to love and be loved."
- George Sand

August 1, 2010

The much anticipated day of Mark and Jacque's admittance to the world of the wedded, their momentous crossover from one status world to a higher, more responsible plane.
The Friday prior to the culminating event, our group, headed primarily by Christel, organized a bachelor slash bachelorette party for both the bride and the groom, but with the exclusion of hot sexy strippers, suggestive toys and outrageously orgasmic cakes. It was just a gathering of the couple's close peers and friends, some of which, came all the way from other parts of Asia, to wish the happy pair the best of luck as they enjoy their final days of freedom.

Quite a small party, it was held at the Astoria Plaza in Ortigas with a Gossip Girl theme dangling over our heads. Of course to stay true to the theme, everyone was requested to dress up as their favorite Gossip Girl character. Having not watched the series, I relied on my friends to direct me what to wear. Initially, I had wanted a Vanessa look, as her character intrigued me lots - but with my limited supply of boho clothes and accessories, I ended up going as a "Serena" wearing a dress bought all the way back from college.

The group prepared a selection of treats for the guests - macaroons c/o Tel, Delifrance finger foods (which I kinda pigged out on), and chips. We also had lasagna c/o Jacque's friends. Overall, everyone seemed to have had a good time, especially with Marj going around trying to make everyone drunk. I abstained from the alcohol mostly, as I was going to sing at the wedding and had to save the voice from any unwanted stress.

So below, is the photo of our almost complete group. As can be observed, the guys aren't really too keen on following the party theme.
The day of the wedding finally arrived. At 2 in the afternoon, the gang was already at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Everyone was dressed up, prim and proper, fully made up. Never have we fretted over our looks and fixed ourselves up this way since our prom days... which was, what, almost a decade back. Mark looked dashing - like a member of the Chinese mafia, we'd joke.

Marjorie was among the entourage, assigned the role of a secondary sponsor for the candles. Anne was one of the offerers. Christel and I didn't seem to have any major roles during the wedding ceremony.
I wasn't too keen whether the wedding commenced promptly, but what we recall most was the time when the big church doors opened to reveal a blushing, beautiful bride. Jacque looked absolutely beautiful, and it felt like we all held our breaths as she walked down the aisle accompanied by her parents.

We half-expected Mark to be teary-eyed, overwhelmed actually, by everything that was happening - but there he was, stalwart and happy with a semi-smirk lined upon his lips.

The wedding started and ended with none of the melodramatic objections, surprise twists or camera crew fails. It was a simple and generally straight forward gathering of families and friends sharing the exchange of eternal vows between two people in love.

Marjorie and Anne decided to drop by the house to freshen up prior to going to the reception. Also, to prepare our last minute surprise for the newly-weds.

Evening celebration was going to be held at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila at Ortigas Avenue, and I had to be there by 5.30 to speak with the host regarding my song number for the occasion. Their host was Eva Poon. Initially, we were all frightened by her, as she came across as forceful and exceedingly direct - but after managing to snag her for a few minutes to introduce myself, I understood her busy situation and believed that she was really a nice person stuck with a lot of work that had to be rushed.

As all good guests know and should know, there is nothing better that making sure the couple gets their money's worth when it comes to their photo booth investment. And we tried our very best to exploit it as well as we could. Mark and Jacque got Baicapture. Below are some of our group photographs.
The party, like the wedding, was simple - nothing exceedingly out of the ordinary that would make the event other worldly. None of those Lady Gaga look alike competitions, or Spocks' crashing in telling guests that the planet's under invasion, or zombies from the grave devouring pigeon brains out of its head - nah, none of those. But, I just did a song number (Lea Salonga's Two Words), and introduced the wonderful video presentation Christel did for the new Mister and Missus Tan - a compilation of the many pictures we've shared with the couple ever since the world began.

I even surprised myself many times as I felt high and crazed over minute details, or signs of affection shared between the couple. Not that those were all new to me, but because that was already the real deal. The contract had been signed. The mark had been made. There is no turning back.

That was surely the first time my zeal and glee had taken completely over me. Most of the time, I'd be apathetic of couples smooching with an endless five second count administered by a family member or friend - I'd be sympathetic even, to the poor pair that had to be put on the spot for everyone's entertainment. On this particular occasion, I was among the happy audience - hooraying at their orchestrated PDAs.

As the evening's merry making came to a close, and the friends gathered together - quite happy and content. Our exhilaration throughout the day was already wearing thin, and we all felt quite exhausted. Happy and exhausted. Wondering. When will be the next wedding? (Well, not really.)

Random Random

It took me almost three weeks to have one roll of film developed and suffice to say, I was pleased that the photos came out fairly well. This is my second photography post, my first one was Visitation of the Past. More of random photographs taken from different locations - Manila Memorial Cemetery, Dasmarinas Cavite and Antipolo City. Most of which have already been uploaded in my deviant art account.

"Old habits die hard when you got,
When you got a sentimental heart.
Piece of the puzzle, you're my missing part
Oh what can you do with a sentimental heart?"
- Sentimental Heart, She and Him

I am blue and green, and lots of orange in between.

Just another open window.

These are my little black soldiers.

"The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
When they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down."

Locked out.

Eulogy from Serendipity

You know, the Greeks don't write obituaries. They only ask one question when a man died. "Did he have passion?" - Serendipity, 2001

I cannot account any other eulogy more poetically written as this one. From the 2001 movie, Serendipity, one of my all time favorites, this is the transcription of the obituary written by Jonathan Trager's best friend, Dean Kansky as a resolution to Jonathan's successive losses of the women he sought and loved.

Jonathan Trager, prominent television producer for ESPN, died last night from complications of losing his soul mate and his fiance. He was 35 years old. Soft-spoken and obsessive, Trager never looked the part of a hopeless romantic. But, in the final days of his life, he revealed an unknown side of his psyche. This hidden quasi-Jungian persona surfaced during the Agatha Christie-like pursuit of his long reputed soul mate, a woman whom he only spent a few precious hours with. Sadly, the protracted search ended late Saturday night in complete and utter failure. Yet even in certain defeat, the courageous Trager secretly clung to the belief that life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences. Uh-uh. But rather, its a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite, sublime plan. Asked about the loss of his dear friend, Dean Kansky, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and executive editor of the New York Times, described Jonathan as a changed man in the last days of his life. “Things were clearer for him,” Kansky noted. Ultimately Jonathan concluded that if we are to live life in harmony with the universe, we must all possess a powerful faith in what the ancients used to call “fatum”, what we currently refer to as destiny.

07 August 2010

Chiang Kai Shek Fun Run 2010

My brain was registering only quiet darkness in its peaceful state of repose and repair, when suddenly the intrusive monophonic tune of Kefka's Theme began crescendoing faintly first in the backdrop of my pure blankness - forcefully kicking me into consciousness. It was 3.30 am; my cellphone alarm was violently vibrating on my bedside table. Time to wake up, it called. With a swift press of a button, it was silenced into a 5 minute snooze mode. Sleep was beckoning me back into it's wide armed embrace, when without warning, my cellphone once again rang scandalously. Leo was calling, it was my wake up call number 2. Time to get ready, Kat.

July 25, 2010. A Sunday. It felt awfully wrong to be waking up so early on my day of rest, but I had promised Leo and the others at the Grand Family Association that I will be participating in the Chiang Kai Shek Alumni Fun Run 2010. It was also a matter of school spirit - to support the activity of my dear alma mater. Thus, with a heavy, lazy body, I pushed myself out of bed and began to dress up.
The run won't be until 6 in the morning at the Mall of Asia Complex, but since I will be hitching a ride, I had to be extra early since Leo's school bus has other stop overs - Berns, Irene and their friend.

When we arrived, day was just about to break. The sky was still a lonely grayish blue, with hints of red violets. My stomach was slightly protesting over its emptiness, but we couldn't find any open stores that could cater to my sad tummy. I'll make it up to you later, I told it - and it quieted down like a child anticipating his big reward after some unwilling sacrifice.

A few morning stretches, a quick jog and we felt our muscles warming up. We found Liza and the others, who handed us our blue jerseys and numbers. I was Runner No. 4602 - going for the 5km run.
There were four categories, three of which are official - 3km, 5km and 10km runs, with gun starts of 6.00, 6.15 and 6.30 am respectively. The unofficial category is the 1M run.

I had no preparation for the said run at all - and had already resigned myself to walking for the duration of the whole race. On the other hand, Berns and Irene will be seriously running in the 10km category, as they've been participating in races prior to this one. Leo, Liza and the two Jerry's of our association, like myself will be going 5km - somewhat suspecting that we won't complete the whole path running.

Below is a map of the 5km run that we would be undertaking.
It was interesting to find so many of my peers and past classmates in the location, all taking part of the occasion. None of my ex-crushes though, FYI.

Armed with my iPod, already set on my "Make Me Happy" playlist, I felt the music pumping me up with energy. Promptly at 6.15, the 5km race was given a gun shot. It was a tortoise-like start as the runners slowly moved past the starting line, but after a few seconds of slow progress, the run has officially begun. Some began with a proud quick sprint, others with a steady jog, others still, just walked.

My first song for the run was Usher's OMG, just to keep me high. I began overtaking a couple of people, jogging happily, trying to keep myself oblivious to the fact that I was going to drain myself tired. The iPod was a great help, as I used it to determine the length of time I should be jogging. Three songs of jogging before I can reward myself with one song worth of walking. After a few more songs later, I was doing half-song jogging and whole-song walking.

The weather was extra cooperative, as the sun never really peeped out of the clouds - never attempted to barrage us with its glorious waves of heat and shine.

I caught sight of one of my classmates, Mark, in the crowd and began to chase him until I finally caught up. We ended up chatting most of the walk-run back, mostly about his upcoming wedding. As we neared the finish line, we began to run again more passionately this time, as we were about to end our almost hour long exercise. The finish line though was the downer, as we had to fall in line (which took quite a while) to have our numbers noted down.

This was the result of my first ever run this year (2nd run in my entire life). I'm in 575th place out of the 1651 5km participants. Not bad, as I'm in the upper 35% of the ones who finished.
Although I am not sure when my next run will be, I thoroughly enjoyed myself - thinking that the mind can really do wonders when you challenge yourself to achieve something.

For those who'd like to check out the results of the Chiang Kai Shek Run, click here.

Note: All photos, except my number and shirt, were grabbed from the Chiang Kai Shek Alumni website and Facebook pages.

25 July 2010

Lots of Love

I wasn't really planning on accepting any artwork projects. With a barely manageable schedule, I could hardly get anything done on time. Despite the acknowledgement of my limitations, when asked for a favor, I would often just fall into my Ella Enchanted curse - I would accept.

A friend needed a logo for her upcoming business called Lots of Love, a souvenir shop that specializes in creating wedding memorabilia, corporate give aways and other tokens. The tagline, "Lifetime Souvenirs Made with Lots of Love".

She had already done most of the conceptualizing, all I had to do was make it happen. She was very specific with the colors and shadows that I didn't really have much trouble creating the logo. My favorite part though would definitely be the pattern of the gift. Hearts. Below is the colored and black and white version of the logo. There were still a couple more changes done to it, but generally that's the idea.

For those who'd like to check out her little shop of "Love", you can find it at The Wedding Lounge, G/F Amber Place Street, Jose Maria Escriva Drive, Ortigas Center at Pasig City (Tel # 964-3123). For those in the QC area, it's at Unit 6 of the Bohol Mansions Eugenio Lopez cor. Sgt. Esguerra Avenue (Tel # 359-2196, 0908-8810416).

24 July 2010

Taiwan Trip 2010 (Part 3)

Part 1 - click here
Part 2 - click

June 14, 2010 (Monday)

It started out as a rainy day. Despite our prayers that our last touring day would be bright and sunny, the weather proved to be uncooperative and mocked us with a worse on-again-off-again downpour compared to the earlier days of our trip.

The first in line for our city tour in Taipei on that day was the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park. A magnificent 24 hectare complex built in memory of the late Taiwanese President, Chiang Kai Shek.

According to Tommy, many students from the neighboring schools would go here on dates with their loved ones. Being a Monday, we didn't see any student courtships happening within the vicinity to confirm Tommy's statement.

As can be seen in the photo below, it was a cold, gray day. Some had the foresight of bringing umbrellas for the trip; others, like myself, were not so wise.
The building below, with its blue glazed roof is the Memorial Hall. Two sets of stairs, both with 89 steps, lead to the main entrance of the hall. The 89 steps is significant as it represents Chiang Kai Shek's age before he died. Trying to prove this, Berns and I counted out loudly as we climbed up and down the stairs - both times we only came up with 88. We weren't sure if our math teachers would be proud of our counting abilities.

Inside the hall, a humongous bronze statue on the political leader sits firmly in the center-back of the room.
Once we all got back into the bus, we drove from the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall to a bakery called Vigor Kobo, which according to Tommy, had consistently won awards for their pastry and cake creations. To prove the point, in an oblong-ish table, our group gathered around a line of their yummy cakes for taste testing. Their treats were fantastic. Among my favorites would have to be their Milk Sun Cake (10 pcs) which was selling at 350 Taiwan dollars and their Pineapple Mini Cake (12 pcs) at 300 Taiwan dollars. Really, good food don't come cheap.
We were each handed a sheet with the list of items the store was offering and the prices of each. Our task was to fill up the number of packs we would like to order. Apparently, with the great reviews we personally created in our minds from all that tasting (we weren't really just tasting, we kept getting our favorite flavors until the box for the item has been emptied out), many from our group didn't leave empty handed.
After this little food recess, we headed back to the bus to go to the National Palace Museum. It was a modern museum, very well-lit and equipped with high tech equipment that I've never experienced here in the Philippines. We were each handed an ear piece, so we can all hear our tour guide's instructions and explanations of the art works. This was a great help, as it eliminated tour guides screaming histories to their groups, contesting with the other guides elaborating on other iconic items.

The National Palace Museum boasts over 600,000 authentic Chinese artifacts and artworks, most of which were brought by the art lover in Chiang Kai Shek. Among the more memorable pieces that I could recall is the Jadeite Cabbage, an intricately carved piece that many believe symbolized the purity of a girl sent to an emperor in China and blessings for numerous offspring.

Since we weren't allowed to take photographs near the artworks, we managed to steal a few shots at the entrance of the museum as we waited for our bus to pick us up.
As a little information tidbit, Taiwan is an island, Tommy told us. The common mode of transport is through cycling. It was such a common thing, that the government created public bicycles that the people could just get from bike stands and return to a different bike stand after use. No one would dare steal the said bicycles, clearly government property was marked all over it - no one would also dare purchase it.

In addition, he said, should we have the interest, we can bike around the whole of Taiwan in a span of 12-14 days, as was the average among most cyclists. It was such an interesting proposal that I quickly listed it down as one of the things I must try in my life.

Departing from the National Palace Museum, our next stop was the Yehliu Geopark, which was a good hour or two away. Caused by rock erosion and the wear and tear from the weather and other natural courses of nature, several interesting formations came to be - which can be seen in the photos below. Once again, I shall accept that I am a novice in the art of word-smithing, and could hardly do sufficient justice to the beauty and wonder of the place. (In short, I'm just lazy) I hope the photos below would be sufficient to encapsulate the beauty and awe that I've experienced there.
Below is a photograph of Cinderella's shoe. See it?
The below picture has enough room for debate. We really couldn't determine what it resembles - others say it looks like the snout of a crocodile looking hungrily at a prey, others say it looks like a dinosaur, personally, it makes me think of a hippo, half hiding under the water. Whatever it is, it caught our attention.
And of course, the rock formation we've all came to see - the Queen's head, also called as the 女王頭. Tommy told us that in some occasions, there would be a long queue for groups and individuals to have their photo taken with the said formation. It was such a popular formation that people would sometimes end us bickering and fighting with each other just to get ahead of the other for a photograph.

Tommy had also told us, that in a few more years, due to the climate changes and nature taking its course, the Queen's head may eventually be deformed and would no longer represent itself as Nefertiti's nature-borne monument.
Below is a photo of us, girls, with a variety of rock formations. We weren't really allowed to touch them. For whatever reason, I didn't bother asking.There was a curious item buried on the soil, with carvings of a flower on it. We saw it a little too late and weren't able to ask our tour guide about it anymore.
Once again, it was time for everyone's favorite part of the trip. Shopping. The bus went through a winding path up a mountain, until we reached the Chiufen Village.
Here, I found some out of the ordinary trinkets - like the small musical figurines. With a few holes punctured on a figurine, one can play music through it. Among its designs are owls, insects, hearts, etc.
A noteworthy moment during this travel would have to be the time I dared to eat snails. For 50 Taiwan money, I bought myself a cup of barbequed snails swimming in soy sauce. It was a chewy treat, that made me think of eating squid - but it's definitely not something that I'd go craving for in the middle of the night though.
At the end of the long narrow street of shop vendors is an awesome view of whatever it is you're seeing below. Once we've mostly completed our shopping, we headed on to dinner. Being our last night in Taiwan, Tommy definitely saved the best for last.

That night, we were to dine at the Five Dime Boathouse Restaurant, an avant garde establishment built by a dreamer and an innovator, Xie Li-Xiang. The Five Dime Boathouse may sound like a completely deranged idea at first hearing, but it was an artistic and novel concept that it proved to be a success. There are now four existing branches across Taiwan, each with it's significant unique appearance but all are still tied together by the use of driftwood, trees and ceramics for its architectural construction.
The food were generally good and tasty, served in big, heavy plates and bowls. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously, surrounded by ethnic-like artworks and metal play.
In the Five Dime Boathouse brochure, there is a quote that I'd like to key down here.

"Sometimes dreams alter the course of an entire life."
- Judith Duerk

As Tommy would say it, "It's your last day to use up all your Taiwan money".

After dinner, it was time for splurge away. To the Shih-Lin Night Market. One of the biggest night markets. Our aim? To shop and to eat.
Below is the most expensive corn I've ever eaten in my life, and to add, from the sidewalk. Depending on the weight of the corn, we got one at 110 Taiwan money. After choosing your corn, the vendor would then attach it to a mechanism or whatever that may be, that would cook the corn, revolving over the hot coals. What made this a wee bit different, is that the vendor would wipe on some sauce over the corn. The brownish sauce would then bubble as it heats up, making it look oh so yummy.
So here I am with our corn. Bern, Eveleen, Cathy and myself are sharing this one corn. It tasted like corn with Teriyaki sauce - it was chewy and a little difficult to eat. For my side, I felt that I wasn't really enjoying it as much, and boy, did we realize everyone shared the same sentiment.
Of course, a trip to Taiwan won't be complete without a dare at Stinky Tofu. We were 7 pitted against this one bowl of stench galore. After the first bite, most of us have already had enough. This Taiwan delicacy has always been so controversial for me - what makes it so tasty to the locals? One bite, and I felt like I've placed an entire provincial communal bathroom inside my mouth.

Because there were still plenty left, and since I was the one who was so adamant in trying it, I took it upon myself to eat as much of this specialty as I could. After a few more bites, my tongue began to acquire a taste for it, and it wasn't as bad as I initially conditioned my mind to think it is - but whenever someone would make a crude comment against it, my bias would kick in and my tongue would send a revolting signal to my brain.
After an seemingly excruciatingly long battle against it, we were able to finish off the Stinky Tofu - rushing towards the nearest drinks stall to wash our throats down with some cool, sweet milk tea and Taiwanese halo-halo.

Riding a taxi to our hotel, there was an additional fee of 20 or 30 Taiwan dollars after 11. We left past midnight, sometime around 1 to 2 in the morning. All I can say was that, taxi rides in Taiwan were really more expensive compared to the Philippines.

It was going to be an all-nighter, as everyone packed their respective baggage in preparation for the flight back to Manila.

June 15, 2010 (Tuesday)

Dark circles around our eyes. It was our last day in Taiwan, and we were going to be flying back to the Philippines after a few more hours. I didn't feel as thrilled to be getting back to my real life, but it was something that had to be faced. Four days passed by so quickly, but it was enough time for us to get to know each other better, to create memories and experiences that we could look back to in days ahead.

Tommy helped us at the baggage deposit counter in the airport, still answering our out of the blue questions patiently. As he handed our passports back to each one of us, he gave us his card should we ever need him if we return to Taiwan. We were especially pleased with Tommy's performance as our tour guide - that we continued to speak highly of him even after he had bid us farewell. We boarded Philippine Airlines flight PR897 departing at 1100 in the morning. We arrived in Manila at approximately 13.20 in the afternoon. Missing the coolness of Taiwan, our clean feet despite a whole day of travelling, and the adventure that came and went.

It was a blast. Until the next trip.

-End of Part 3 of 3 -

Some photos were personal photos taken from my camera, others were grabbed, with permission, from Connie Ong, Allen Ong, Eveleen Ong, Bernie Ong and Mark Wang's albums.