Monday, November 21, 2011

When It Rains... It's Oysters!

This happened two months ago... two days from now. But I’ve just gotta post something mouthwatering as I recuperate from a stubborn bowel condition. What bowel condition, let’s not ruin your lunch.

One of the many perks I’m so enjoying in moving to Cebu is the cheap food. So cheap one can have buffet every week, as many times as you can in each week. And what better way to celebrate such privilege but by gulping down some of the pricy fares in Manila. Oysters!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Misbehaving in Cebu Taoist Temple

Another place worth conquering in Cebu is the Taoist Temple. It has enough respite to magnify the sound of a dropping pin. Throw in some harmony of colors, revered oriental architectural classicism, ornate murals, immovable Taoist figures, magnificent sculptures... I’m running out of adjectives... and spectacular view of the Queen City of the South (now there’s the cliche)...


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cebu and Indie Film

Some of the many luck I earned in Cebu is having a cake and eat it, too. More specifically, watch a movie and eat in it too. That’s pleasure after pleasure.

Ok, so I’m being base. This is suppose to be a review on Brillante Mindoza’s film Lola, yet I opened up with food. Sorry, I can’t help it...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

To Pungko or Not to Pungko

What's the word? Famished.

Yes, it's that human condition where one could say "I could eat a cow!" In my case, if I could grab one, I'd kill it in one sweeping decapitation, quarter the carcass with my bear hands, and smear my face with blood and gore at every bite on bovine flesh.  I was in this barbaric state when, thankfully, Cebu City's idiosyncrasy came to the rescue. Not my rescue, mind you, but every living creature's within two feet radius.

This happened a month ago and I was with a friend when I was figuring out where and which of Cebu's food venues I was to stage my metaphysical resolve to give in to my animal cravings.  My friend suggested we head to Ayala Center as we were just around the corner. I violently refused as I was all-out vandal with my unabashed table manners. The friend, noticeably worried that I was about to gobble him up, was quick to suggest a wonderland for my fantasies.

Thus, went the following conversation...

Me:  So saan? Saan ako magpapakawala ng naghihimagsik na gutom? (So, where? Where shall I let my raging hunger run amok?)

Him: Kumakain ka ba sa carinderia? (Do you eat at food stalls?)

Me: Oo naman. Minsan akong naging mahirap... hanggang ngayon. Pero carinderia? Daming carinderia. Gusto ko maiba. (Of course. I was once in penury... now in relative poverty only. But there's always a food stall anywhere. I want some place with a twist.)

Him: Mabuti. Meron akong alam kung saan ang mga pagkain lahat nasa lamesa. Kainin mo lahat ng gusto mo. Sobrang mura. (Great! There's this place where everything once alive is laid out on the table. Just pick anything. Cheap thrills.)

Me:  Pwede ang bastusang kain? Pwede ako magkalat? Pwede ko bang ipakita ang natatago kong talento sa pagnguya at pagsalita nang sabay? Pwede ako manigarilyo? (Can I eat obscenely? Can I drop my trash anywhere? Can I show off my talent in chewing and chanting the Bhagavad Gita all at the same time? Can I smoke?)

Him:  Lahat! Mas maganda pa nga bayaran mo lang kinain mo pag puno na tiyan mo. Sabihin mo lang sa tindera. (All of the above checked! Better yet, you only pay for the ones you ate until your stomach is about to burst. Just tell the caterer. Smoking is the last of your unhealthy concerns.)

Me: Ha? Pano nya malaman kung ilan nga kinain ko? (Really? How would she determine I'm giving the correct number of items I ate?)

Him: Honesty system. (Your guess is as good as hers.)

Me:  Anong pangalan ng lugar? Sabik na ko. (Identify the prey. I am out for the kill.)

Him: Pungko-pungko. (No English equivalence. Sit-sit?)

SFX: Crescendo from Handel's The Messiah rendered by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus in an impossible concert with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

According to Friend, there's a proliferation of such places across Cebu. We headed to the one beside JY Square in Lahug. There nestled in one corner is a dirt-floor eatery with tents and tables laden with everything delectable. Water containers, cooking arrays, and tools of the trade strewn everywhere.  They serve as fascinating pieces of decors. This place is not for the faint-hearted (read faint-stomached). In segue, a place for adventure but reservations on fear of gastric infection as precaution, otherwise, Diatabs and Lomotil may not be enough to fix a raging vowel.  But for a cheap thrill, this is what I was talking about!

There's puso (quintessential Cebu rice in coconut fronds) for three pesos, bulad (dried fish) for eight pesos, and ngohiong (Chinese style lumpia)/chorizo/fried egg for five pesos each. Now, the piece de resistance of this meal of an adventure is ginubot (chicharon bulaklak, crispy intestine) for ten pesos.

Pardon me hyperventilating, but ten pesos?! Ten pesos!  Correct me if I'm wrong but a serving of chicharon bulaklak in Manila can be had at an average price of Php200.00++!

This was a months ago and I did not have my ever-reliable documenter, Casio Exilim I lovingly call D'Bull's Eye because I'm the Bully, right?  So last Sunday I went back with two other friends, Brylle and Aika, who were equally excited to grab a feast of everything fried, therefore high-fat, and low-cost. (supply Carl Orff's Carmina Burana here)

So here are some visual documentations. This entry makes me hungry. Famished.  Not to mention that I am in the throws of dementia trying to configure the algebra involved in a ten-pesos chicharon bulaklak.

Grab a tissue!

Pork chop or chicharon bulaklak? Choose the greater evil. It's worth it.

This ten-pesos chicharon bulaklak should be declared the 8th wonder of the world.

Look, Ma, everything's within reach! Especially the price!

Eating at pungko-pungko is the practical application of  Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

For all three of us, the bill came to an unbelievable Php174.00. Don't ask me. Your guess is as good as mine.

Choose your poison.

Another marvel of pungko-pungko is how it brings everyone into a harmonious community. There should be a lot of this all over the world to promote world peace.

By the way, I heard JY Square hides another food destination to goggle over. All-you-can-eat dimsum  for less than Php200.00.  But that would be another story.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cebu Beckons to Dare Colon

First, a disclaimer:

This blog is suppose to promote Cebu as a travel destination. Well, this blog still is. But as one may read in this entry, I would have to be honest with what I could say about our latest subject, Colon. It's filthy. It's crowded. It's extremely pedestrian and reeks with pirated merchandise, not to mention street urchins, pimps and their wares. Hooligans and thugs are just some of the likely attractions. Ok, locals refer to it as a dangerous place, not so less at night. Colon, despite its historical significance, is hardly a tourist destination such as Shangri-La Mactan but, hey, I believe that there is always  a market for anything and everything including obese ladies prancing in a peep show. No, they don't have that there. Wait... I will check.

Going to Colon is a feat. Some local friends here have warned me of the many risks that could be had on a trip to Cebu's version of Escolta, and the Philippine's oldest street.  One local told me that anyone could be knifed in the streets for a measly ten pesos; suffice for me to contemplate distributing twenty pesos to every thugs there and become Colon's kingpin. But my friend alleged that there is a long line for that job. Another local told me that she is afraid to venture in the area blamed on snatchers and their minions. I must agree. One time, after a shoot at Fort San Pedro, we were having a post production refreshment at AA's Barbecue fronting Plaza Independencia. Suddenly, a passing Korean tourist had her cellphone snatched. People simply looked and, as if an endemic bird has just flew by, continued with their business. The tourist and her companion quietly walked away. I had the impression that, in Colon, a haggling scene between a customer and a Muslim vendor is more interesting than the one we've just witnessed.

Haggle or get snatched? Whichever comes first, pick your attraction.

Every time a photographer/friend/lawyer/college classmate comes to Cebu for a hearing, he invites me to stay with him in his hotel so I could help art direct his photo shoot. Yes, he always stay in a hotel right at the heart of Colon. At night, the street lights were off save for the hotel's front, grizzly shadows lurk the side walks, taxis were afraid to stop... get the picture. I would not be surprised to see tires burn incessantly in the middle of the street and homeless people warming their palms by a fire from a trash can.  Robocop patrolling.

Seriously, one may ask, "Why the damp?" Urban ecologists and theorists would be out of job if I have the answer.

So why go to Colon?  Again, for a culture vulture (the sociologist kind, not the pretentious snobs frequenting Republique in Pasay and what-used-to-be Embassy in The Fort), Colon is a melting pot of so many curiosities, though not for the squeamish.  First, one cannot claim to have toured Cebu without a visit to the Sto. Nino Shrine, and this Cebuano's most sacred of places is smacked right at Colon's periphery. Then there's, of course, the gamut of cheap merchandises you'd be happy pirates exist in this world. While looking for prepaid load for my cellphone, I ended up in an electronics shop.  There I found some fancy speakers that's worth Php6,500 at a local Mac store. These are sold for only around Php1,500 and still could be haggled with.  But I dared not buy a second hand.

Rich countries spent billions to find life in outer space. Aren't we glad we have such thriving organisms in Colon that other planets lack?

Lately, I have developed a new vice - HD DVD in cute tin can packaging! Hehehhehe... And in one of my trips to Colon to satisfy my craving for fancy HD DVD packaging (not for the movies they contain), I noticed the facades of some of Colon's edifices, particularly one where I buy my DVD (again, I insist, for the packaging). Man, Carlos Celdran should put up in Colon a branch of his city archi-tours! 

Here is a treasure trove of architectural interests that could only be considered a blast from Cebu's glorious past, rivaled only by Manila. Other than historical landmark Sto. Nino Shrine, here is Colon's offering of urban edifices that should keep a conservationist nervous.  For tomorrow threatens this particular past.

Behold why I dare Colon in spite of the threats:

Just one of the third-run theaters that jot this side of Colon. I know, this is so Recto Ave. in Manila reminiscent of my college days when entering Eastern Theatre is like a trip to Disneyland. Sorry, inside joke.

Art deco innovation: a finely lined edifice with columns that punctuate its facade, lending it a classic feature on an otherwise flat geometric surface. 
One sorry state for Colon's historical buildings. Another art deco edifice being sacrificed in the name of change.  I love the signage of the mall. Reminiscent of American 50's burger joints.

This is definitely not Collegio de San Sebastian. Influenced by the contemporary architectural style of  the era when it was built, the definitive design was obscured by masonic emblems that's quite gothic and a broken arch that's quite baroque.  At any rate, still a safe mix. As one character in Disney's Beauty and the Beast suggested, "If it ain't b'roque, why fix it?"

This modernist design must have been inspired by Zaragoza's Meralco headquarters in Ortigas.

Architecture such as this makes me teary-eyed and prompts me to genuflect. That's because I am a fanatic of everything camp and art deco facades are always campy.

The crown jewel of Colon's architectural curiosities. Though an untrained eye might fail to recognize its being ersatz, I give credit to the Italian designer for coming up with a fine imitation of Italian classicism.

By the entrance of what-used-to-be a theater turned pirated DVD mall is a historical marker being eaten by grime. A dramatic juxtaposition of ironies: a rundown theater turned pirated DVD mall exalted in sooty historical marker.
(BLOCK 35)
Still a significant landmark in Colon which featured a grandiose classical design and nude sculptures by the Italian Architect Dante Giudetti, it was inaugurated in the 1930's by the owners Agustin and Beatriz Jereza.

The Vision Theatre should be declared a historical landmark not only because of the strength of its foundation (sometime in the mid 1940's, many people tried to chip off the concrete wall in order to get the steel rods but they were not able to get through) and also for the grandeur of its design.

In 1953, a Cebuano film Kapintas sa Kinabuhi, written and directed by scriptwriter Eugenio "Gen" C. Labella was shown there.  His wife Estrelina Colina was its leading lady and Bert Nombrado was the lead actor.

Before I end, I must admit that my architectural appreciation of Colon has been both enkindled and blurred by my interest in HD DVD cute packagings. In fact,  it is the ultimate reason. Suffice to say that the penultimate is still about architectures and facades, particularly one that follows:

Built in the glorious era of ABS-CBN's Talent Center, Gaisano's facade is emblazoned with Michaelangelo's quintessential idea of a perfect human form. In obscure architecture, this feature is simply called "My Baby." 

Please, don't be gullible. I beg you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Ends and Symbiosis in Bantayan Island

My fanaticism for Cebu can be compacted in one following micro-statement: Dito na ako mamamatay (Cebu shall be my final resting place)! But ever since I discovered Bantayan Island, I would have to clarify which of my deaths is going to find its finality in Cebu; obviously, there is now an established competition for the possessor of my terminal remnants.  As such, I grant Cebu my physical remains - where my morally abused once-sumptuous body shall lay rest; my potent psyche (imagination, thoughts, intellectual being, fantasies) to Manila; my regrets to Los Angeles, CA.   And my impervious soul, ladies and gentlemen, shall claim its peace at Bantayan Island.

Spot the X where my grave shall be.

Ok, I'm exaggerating. Know that I am such a sucker for beaches and, as of this writing, Bantayan Island has simply charmed my sun-sand-and-sea fancy. Go see my video previous to this post as I displayed unabashed shamelessness. Nonetheless, knowing my unfaithfulness, I reserve the right to change my judgment on Bantayan when I get to Amanpulo and Shang-Boracay (aside from elevators, I lately fantasized on fornicating in one of those outdoor balconies perched on cliffs atop emerald sea levels).

Excuse me, Sir, is there a balcony here somewhere on top of a cliff or the likes? How about symbiosis?

There were so much to write about my first trip to Bantayan Island.  It has only been a little over a month but the details are starting to fade out owing to the many events that since marked my so-called life.  Yet some memories clamored to be configured in words and in blog.  

Bantayan the Overstated

I may overstate this but my curiosity of the island went awry when I heard that the island is the south's Puerto Galera during Holy Week. That is, Cebu City's population is in virtual collapse resulting from the exodus of inhabitants - from The Island - to the island. Compared to Puerto Galera though, where the attraction is at the level of Sodom and Gamorrah, Bantayan has the religious offering of a celebrated procession featuring life-size Passion scenes.  In fact, I read that Bantayan is the only place in the country granted dispensation by the church from fasting and abstinence on Good Friday. The rest of the adventure is left to a vacationer's inclination, whether good or evil, between benign and profane.  But don't quote me on that. Besides, I also heard that the local government has made efforts to curve the partying in the island during the country's holiest of seasons. So, harlots, beware!

Ahm... well... really... honest... we didn't party. You have no evidence!

Bantayan the Understated

Compared to Boracay, Bantayan is still magically blessed with respite and calm. That's because in Boracay, only the water is calm; there's so much partying in the evenings and the carousing is inebriating; the emerald shores is faked by green algae. Ok, the sand in Boracay is powdery but I can still afford talcum. In my last visit, I went snorkeling to see bombed corals at the bottom of the sea. In Bantayan, one needs goggles to avoid stepping on sea urchins.  That's just part of the adventure and awe. Hop in a banca and take to the neighboring Virgin Island. Aside from reminding you what you don't have in terms of morality, you will find this island at par with those you can visit in Honda Bay, Palawan. And compared to Honda Bay, you can play with the wilds at Virgin Island. Put a little simply, you can pick anything edible and throw them in the fire for eating. Otherwise, just throw them in the fire and revel like the deranged kids in Lord of the Flies. Joke.

Though one is free to eat what they can pick in Bantayan and neighboring islands, I admonish my readers to observe concern for the environment. Or you can wait for fishermen to pass by and buy anything loaded in their banca to eat.

You can't do this in Honda Bay and Boracay. But don't abuse.

At Virgin Island sleeping like a virgin... as if!

While we were in Virgin Island, my friend Prof bought a variety of shellfishes from the fishermen. We had them grilled and discovered that some variety comes with a kind of crustacean living in them. I amused myself by discussing with Prof the principle of symbiosis. The shellfish grants the other creature a home and protection while the crustacean does the housekeeping. Not to be outdone by my knowledge, Prof expressed romantically how symbiosis could also be detrimental to the survival of each as both wills to die with the other such as exemplified by those that we were eating.

I must agree. I have never seen such commitment among humans.

But Prof went further by raising a legitimate question. Is it still symbiotic when a shellfish allows another crustacean to take over the housekeeping from the first?

Hmmmm... That’s not symbiotic. That's rather opportunistic.  And I have only observed such commitment among humans.

And so I digress.

And so both shellfish and crustacean die... in our guts.
I could continue on and on as to the highlights of my Bantayan adventure but I now relegate such to future tales of anecdotes. Suffice to say that I have already planned year ahead to be there next year (redundant?) to witness the procession.  And, yes, practice symbiosis with the locals.

I suspect malevolent questions forming in my readers’ minds.  My answer is “Secret…”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crazy Birthday at Bantayan Island

Before I write about what transpired in Bantayan Island on my birthday last week, let me simply post a video that could sum up what tops a summer at 42.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How To Chicken a Larsian. Vice Versa.

My love for chicken can be summed up by one elementary correlation: I worship sushi, but chicken makes me mad. It's a bird. It's a foul. It's a domesticated pheasant. Every part of a chicken is a travelogue on its own. Like, the wing is Tibet, the neck is Nepal, the legs is France, the butt... uuhhh... the butt is all American!  Isaw (intestine) is undoubtedly Filipino.  But it's just me. A chicken fan.

Coming to Cebu is a gastronomic adventure similar to a trip to Disneyland. There are chicken barbecues everywhere. When I say everywhere, it's like every five-meter radius.  Not to mention that a whole roasted chicken  can be feasted on for only Php99.00; Php130.00 max.  Hey, that's only in Cebu. So read again before you attack the roasted-chicken vendor at the corner of E. Rodriguez, Quezon City for selling you Php250.00 a whole chicken.

So imagine now when I discovered Larsian. It's one place near Fuente Circle right next to a hospital, where everything chicken is skewered, bathed in all sort of sweet, sour, soy sauces and laid on flaming coal. Paired, of course, with ubiquitous puso and more soy sauce (or vinegar) with lemon juice and chili to dunk it in before having the delectable morsel disappear in your mouth.  Then you convulse. 

But Larsian is more than just about roasted chicken. If I wanted chicken, I told you they're all over Cebu.  Larsian is a fascination in food, culture, and... ahm... food. And culture.  It's all about the manner of eating and the food you eat. That's because Larsian is not your typical eating place.  It's devoid of air conditioning (what exhaust fan?),  ambient lighting (they're trying), fine tables and silverware (not even plastic). It's not  a place to bring a date, unless you're dating Angelina Jolie who's always on the lookout for an Asian orphan to adopt.  You eat with your hands.  You can choose to have your hands gloved in plastcc or wash from a jug of water.  I prefer the former as washing means having to endure the water splattering on my feet and having it flow on the crude cement floor towards somebody else's table. The plates are made of coconut fronds or some native materials that are not suppose to be washed. Which explains why they're all covered with plastic. Say, do the dishes... waterless. 

Some of the best eating experiences I had were done in hotels, classy Japanese, character Italian with all the finery of high table manners.  But a great eating experience I would rather have is where one could simply slack at manners. Larsian has such feel. Go put your other feet on top of your seat. Chew and speak at the same time, and discover a newfound talent. Go grab anything from across the table. Avoid asking somebody to hand you something. It's rude to interrupt somebody in a feeding frenzy. You can smoke all you want. It can't be worse than the smoke coming from all the grills all over the place. You can drop your leftovers on the floor and nobody will give a hoot. Reminds me of a friend who drops his leftovers on the floor instead of putting them on the side of his plate. He'd love Larsian.

One can also feel like a celebrity upon entering Larsian. The marketing scheme among consignors involved having customers almost wrestled to their tables although they're all selling the same lovely cuisine (one of my BFF's describe cuisine as food prepared artistically):  barbecued pork, blue marlin (at Php60.00?! a piece), squid, siomai (to die for), liempo, chorizo, chicken innards, butt, wings, breast, legs, nothing human. For rice, there is always Cebu's national cuisine (really artfully done) puso.  

Segue: to eat puso, one simply has to break it open from where the wrappings have been slit by a knife. Then take the compacted sticky rice by hand to mouth.  If it's too big, just take a bite. You will know somebody from Manila or outside Cebu when they spread the rice on their plates.  Wrong! That's like having dinner with a spoon in Canada.

Upon finishing everything served, you can wipe your mouth of all the grease from all the chicken skin you ate and the sauces dripping from your mouth. Have a glass or two of soda from a large bottle of Coke.  Then pay. Kaching!! all for Php350 (even less) for three or you can stomach-space-is-the-limit for Php500.00.  Where you even? (Sa'n ka pa?)

For those who do not read, here's a pictograph on how to eat at Larsian.

Go find Larsian. It's at the opposite side of Fuente Circle coming from Mango Avenue. It's next to a Chinese-sounding hospital. Go ask.

Enter the hollowed grounds and look for a vantage seat. The place can be an interesting venue to people watch. Don't listen to waitresses calling you to pick their table. Don't be gullible.

Step 3
Choose a vendor. Oh, this one has kinilaw, tinola, siomai and hot soup.  Ahm, this is the only picture I have of a vendor so I am not necessarily endorsing this one.  Your choice is as good as mine.

Pick and choose your poison. The fun starts here.

No! You don't eat it right away. Ask an attendant to have it cooked.

No. This is not the attendant. This is the bouncer in the guise of me.

While your chicken parts are being cooked, go back to your seat with your plate of puso.  You might be handed a bunch but you don't have to finish all of them. Return the excess as long as they are not opened.

Eat! Swallow! Munch! Gorge! Devour! Gobble! Bon a poulet!

Don't forget to document. Click! Click! Click!

After the feast, go back outside and play "Name That Building."
Next stop: Pungko-Pungko

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Homeless on Sinulog... Almost

More like my first and a half Sinulog. In one of those business trips I had in Cebu way back late nineties, I was sent to again organize an event for Islacom. I thought it was just one of those events they usually do in SM City. I noticed though that people were always in a frenzy. And the buzz around town was about a festival called Sinulog. I didnt know Sinulog was a big thing in Cebu then until I went back to Cebu Midtown Town Hotel, amidst horrendous traffic and an ever-dancing-to-a-beat-I-don't-know-where-it's-coming crowd, only to be told by the receptionist that I have to vacate my room since it has been reserved and extending my stay, as requested by Islacom, means I have to seek accomodation elsewhere. The next scene was characterized by sentences ending in exclamation points. I was hurling fire and brimstone while there were celebrities at the lobby. Maurice Arcache was there, palangga.

Cut to: Me settling back to my hotel room amidst the drumbeats outside. But then, I only had half the fun. Mostly from making a scene at the hotel lobby.

Last January, I get to see what Sinulog is really all about. For lack of words, it took the wits out of me. I could have used words like awesome, spectacular, great, and nice but you'd rather find that in Philippine tourism sites. It is indeed the mother of all Philippine festivals with neighboring islands participating in the events. It was a whole month celebration that featured, aside from a mardigras and religious processions that usually characterize Philippine fiestas, singing contests (Cebu Pop Music Festival and Cebu Idol), street parties, band concerts, art exhibits, photo contests, a short film festival... the list goes on. Of course, road traffic stands still on procession and mardigras days and walking is the best option. Or get a hotel near the parade routes. I will publish detailed info on event schedules and parade/procession routes here next year. Maybe I'd throw in some names in cheap accommodations as well just to make that smile grow a little wider.

Luckily, I have enough visuals to sum up what I can say about Sinulog. Otherwise, this entry would have been riddled by words such as awesome, spectacular, great and nice.

Fluvial Parade at dawn taken from Mactan-Mandaue Bridge.

Photos above courtesy of Doc Mon Federe.

The Grand Price Winner of this years Sinulog Photo Contest

Sinulog 2011 Short Film Festival, SM City CebuSinulog 2011 Short Film Festival opening number

Me goofing with trophies at Sinulog 2011 Short Film Fextival


Sinulog crowd at Mango Square composed of locals and tourists from all over the Philippines... and a dash of international colors, too.


I just have to document myself in the crowd. Otherwise, what's the point of these photos?!

Local singing goddess, Dulce, at the Cebu Pop Music Festival.

Yes, I'm serious when I said walking is the order of day on Sinulog days. Here with my good friend Prof. Arelio Vibar of UP and the skinhead guy is my, ahm... no, I dont know him.

And, yes, I made the video below. Music produced by Sony Columbia, Ode to Joy by Beethoven. Credits music by Yani, Flower Duet.