Never Again

(This is a guest post featuring a fellow Filipino, a man who has taught me to always be proud of who I am as a woman, as a Filipino, as a citizen of the world. I thought this was an important post to share as there is just too much negativity about my country, the Philippines. I am not naive. I see the wrong that is going on in my country. I see the social and political ills that continue to drag us down decades after we have declared independence from oppressive rules of both foreign and local governments. I see the mental shackles that keep us from moving forward as a nation, a people. Still, I am proud of my country and my heritage. I am proud of my people. I am proud of my father for feeling the same.)

Why is it critical to have positive thoughts about our country? I reflected on this post by a young Pinoy.

In the context of the coming Holy Week, I also asked: Why do we Pinoys indulge in self-flagellation?

In 1978, I was chosen to be one of the JICA Scholars for Electrical Steel Engineering, in Nagoya, Japan. But before National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) could approve the grant, all JICA scholars had to undergo a deep immersion seminar at the University of the Philippines. NEDA insisted on this because Pinoys, based on their experience, feel small and unimportant when associating with their counterparts abroad.

I recall it was the late Prof. Jocano, foremost anthropologist, who stirred my feelings of pride and glory about my country, the Philippines. “The mummies of Mountain Province are evidence of the advanced state of knowledge in organic/inorganic chemistry, concepts of the soul and afterlife, community organization, etc. How come only the Egyptian mummies are mentioned in history? We have such an advanced civilization, like Egypt!”

Years later, National Geographic featured the mummies that Prof Jocano lectured about.There were others we learned: our own alphabet, our seafaring ancestors and maritime skills, etc.

Back to Japan in 1978. Did I feel small and intimidated when grouped with trainees from Turkey, Iran, and Thailand among others? We have our own ADVANCED CIVILIZATION, was what I reminded myself. I stood TALL, in spite of my height. I spoke the best English and I showed my command of carbon-iron metallurgical theory.

When our Japanese lecturer mentioned Turkdogan, the Turkish delegate bragged to us that Turkdogan was a Turkish icon. What did the Philippines contribute to steelmaking? I HAD NO ANSWER, but I did not feel small. We have an advanced civilization, remember?

Never again would I look down on my country, on our country! Never again!

(Daniel T. Saracin was a National State Scholar of the Philippine government for the degree of Chemical Engineering. He finished his MBA at the Asian Institute of Management.)

Period.

Someone very dear to me often tells me, “Your period’s an amazing part of you.”

And in spite of the pain, and the horror, and the physical and mental changes that wreak havoc on my body during the first two days of my period, I believe him.

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Oh, for the monthly periods alone, I know all women are invincible.

After all, when the initial two days are over, when my body has finished its process of release and renewal, when my blood has exited my body and my womb has emptied itself again, the world is just as beautiful as when it all began. My body is once again strong. There is no longer any pain. No numbness. No emotional fluxes. The world is once again just as it should be.

This cycle happens every single month. Without fail. And every month, I survive it.

My period, my bleeding, my menstruation is an integral part of who I am. It is a natural process of healing and renewal, a natural biological process vital to all humankind. Someday, I hope that my womb, this natural part of me, will be able to create wonderful little people, just the way God designed. When this happens, my period will temporarily stop. And when my womb has finished this process of creation and birth, my period shall come again.

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Including periods.

It is no wonder that these words from a Sikh poet resonated so strongly with me:

i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.

The accompanying photos, tinged with some media silencing controversy, resonate just as loudly.

The gallery and the entire story here:

period. (a photo series shot by sisters rupi and prabh kaur.  art direction by rupi kaur.)

Bike Ride for Women’s Month

I had wanted to join the Fireflies’ Critical Mass Ride in celebration of Women’s Month today, but biking with my brother is celebration enough of my strength as a woman and women everywhere.

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And I thought the route from Chino Roces to Fort Bonifacio Gate 3 going to Ayala was gonna be a flat ride. Boy was I wrong, lol. Uphill most of the way.

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Cheers to steering ourselves any direction we choose! And yes, that includes us Women! Hurrah!

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I don't sweat, I sparkle! Happy Women's Month!

Like Red Wine and Kisses

One of my favorite memories from 2014 was spending my birthday week in Vietnam (and Cambodia). Ho Chi Minh itself is a feast for the senses. The ubiquitous motorbikes, Vietnamese street food, and the hot and dry tropical weather all made for a rushed feeling that made my touristy-self crave some R & R after only a day out in the sun. Of course, this wasn’t a bad thing. While I truly enjoyed the energy and excitement of the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh, one of the things I regret not having enjoyed is Vietnamese coffee.

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Vietnamese street scene

It was a good thing I brought home a small sample for myself. I brought two samples for two of my pastor friends and their families, and the third small sample, I kept for myself, to savor once I had time. Coffee, after all, should not be rushed. More so for this type of coffee conconction, using this Vietnamese drip method.

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My small package of Vietnamese coffee from the market

My small coffee-souvenir package contained a pack of ground Vietnamese coffee and a personal aluminum filtering contraption. The filter itself is made up of four parts: the saucer-like filter, the cup-like filter, the plunger-like filter, and finally, the cover. The first three parts all have tiny holes punched into them so all three act like a sieve. Put together, the entire thing sits over a regular coffee cup or mug so that your coffee can drip through.

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Bird's-eye view of the drip-coffee filter without the cover

If you’ve never tried drip coffee before, the contraption may look odd, but really, the entire thing is so easy to use AND environment-friendly, too (no packages to enter landfills!). You only need to fill the filter cup 1/4 full of packed ground coffee. Pack the ground beans tight with the plunger, place the filter cup on top of the saucer-like filter, place the entire thing over a coffee cup or mug, then fill the filter cup with freshly boiled water. Cover and wait for it to drip a thick, syrupy, espresso-like brew (I’m not even sure if this is a form of brewing). You can then add milk and brown sugar, or you can do it like the Vietnamese do and add condensed milk!

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You see the hot water starting to "brew" the coffee grounds and drip through the filter

The only downside to this method I think, is that you have to wait around 5-10 minutes for the entire cupful to drip. It’s not such a big thing for me, though. Coffee, after all, ought to be savored slowly. Like red wine and kisses.

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For some reason, the drip cover had two apples embossed on the cover. Just waiting for the coffee to drip through...

(*update 12 March**

This coffee left me buzzing over twelve hours after I took it. I didn’t feel it triggering my vertigo, but I was really BUZZING: cleaned out my closets, wrote letters, published a blogpost, checked my students’ papers, recorded and computed their grades, jotted down new ideas for projects, and messaged people for follow-up. I was abuzz until 1am. That was an effect I was not prepared for and even though it was good, I don’t want to be up at 1am when I have 7:30am classes with teenagers. The coffee tastes great, so I tried it again today, with more milk and half the amount of ground coffee from yesterday. I hope I don’t feel tremors, lol!

Review: Escape Hunt Manila

As a family, we have always loved games.

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The players of Escape Hunt Manila Jewel Heist

From the simple Snakes and Ladders board games, to Word Factory and Uno and Scrabble and Topple, we have evolved into playing more and more party games, RPG board games, and other forms of tabletop gaming. We are quite competitive, too, having developed different gaming skills that are put to the test in the variety of games that we play.

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Our game master, my brother Deejay, with one of our favorites: Seven Wonders

Some of us pay attention to detail and planning. Others like risk and attacking. Still, some excel in mathematical probabilities. Others are just trivia-smart, word-smart, or skilled in drawing or acting. It was time to put our gaming skills to the test in a bigger arena that is ESCAPE HUNT MANILA.

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The photo wall

From what I understand, Escape Hunt Manila is one of two locked-room reality games currently available in the metropolis. Locked-room escape games have recently become a trend, an offshoot of locked-room games we easily find in our mobile devices across all platforms.

I booked the game for our family thinking it had some similarity to Cluedo, but I was quite mistaken. While the game involves solving mysteries of who did which crime (in our case, who stole the family jewels–Jewel Heist), the game uses a different set of skills than that of Cluedo.

They are still sluething skills, to be exact, but to tell more would be divulging secrets of the game itself. We wouldn’t want to give away some spoilers, would we?

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Yay, we escaped! Even the Senior Citizen (who was initially grumpy), contributed to our escape!

My family and I really enjoyed the game and perhaps would sign up for another. We suggest that you play ESCAPE HUNT MANILA with a group of friends with diverse skills and backgrounds, but with enough camaraderie and bonding to allow you to work together using your different skill sets. You will need each of them, to be sure. Also, wear comfortable clothes. There will be no heavy physical work involved, but you’d want to be wearing comfy clothing while solving a mystery within a limited time (60 minutes), wouldn’t you?

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Along Ebro Street in Poblacion, Makati

While to place itself (Ebro St., Poblacion, Makati) can be a little tough to find, the staff are quite helpful. (I was half panicked that we wouldn’t get to our booking on time. Had we been thirty minutes late, we would have forfeited our scheduled game!) Also, you realize, after getting there, that ESCAPE HUNT MANILA is not quite far from Makati Avenue, which is rather a busy and easy to navigate street. You can even spend 30 minutes post-game sipping iced tea and lemonade as you do a post-game analysis (my family and I often do this at home, so this was a plus!)

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My youngest brother with our Senior C

So, would we play ESCAPE HUNT MANILA again? For shure! Maybe next time, we’ll try the murder case, see what we find!

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Maybe we will do this next!

(Disclaimer: This is not a paid review. My family and I paid to play Escape Hunt. All photos were taken by me, unless otherwise specified.)

Satinka, Our Urban Oasis

Some Sundays are just meant for dates with handsome men who listen, who encourage, and who will stand by you.

And what better place to spend Sunday lunch with my grown-up baby brother than at our favorite secret nook just within the city?

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the older brother, on another visit

The place was quiet, well-lit (not-too bright), and cool. People don’t come here to be rowdy, or to rush through their meals, or to party. This spot is for those who want a quiet escape, a few moments of drowning out the midday crowd.

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Me on an earlier lunchtime visit.

On this visit, instead of going for a place on the Asian bamboo mats and sitting comfortably cross-legged throughout our meal, we opted for the brightest spot at the corner, where one can look both ways at the trees just outside, offering their leaves toward the sun.

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This is the place to go for a quiet pick-me-up, a healthful and filling meal, and for when we want to pretend that we’ve stepped out of the urban jungle that is Makati. Interestingly, this quiet little bistro-cafe is situated just beside a bar. On Sunday mornings, as well as on weekday brunches, we can only hear ourselves talk as quiet house music plays on the bistro’s speakers. It is the ideal corner cafe for those like me who shun crowds.

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No fuss.

At the ground floor, one can buy natural products for the home, as well as vegetables and ingredients for cooking healthy, organic meals. On the walls, one can see a number of artsy curiosities: sculptures, a painting or two, lithographs.

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What you find on the walls

The menu changes daily, but there are regulars one can order as well. Last time, I ordered a vegan meatball platter and we had fresh cucumber-lemon juices, as well as hearty salads.

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Weekday menu

Today, I had a greek platter heaped high with greens, lean chicken strips, Greek vegan “meatballs”, and brown mountain rice.

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Sunday lunch

My brother had a deliciously aromatic platter of rosemary chicken, with greens and a bowl of pumpkin soup.

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Rosemary chicken and pumpkin soup

It was a pleasant meal paired with quiet talks of ourselves, our loves, our concerns, our dreams. Talking with my grown-up baby brother always refreshes my soul. Coming to this little bistro cafe feels like a balm to the urban-spirit. There are no bells and whistles; just good food and a quiet place to enjoy the meal and meaningful conversation with someone you love.

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my date

We took photos of ourselves and our food with the sunshine peeking through the corner window. We had a wonderful time.

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Love this man!

Food indeed should be your medicine, and your medicine food.

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our secret corner in the heart of urban Makati

(All photos taken by me, unless otherwise stated. Please let me know if you intend to use it for anything outside of this blog.)

I need Love…

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We all need a reminder every now and then...

I am a firm believer of the Universe conspiring to draw all that we need in order to accomplish what we have set our hearts on. From a Believer’s perspective, this would sound even more encouraging as this means that God will supply all your needs!

“I need a love that trusts in me, in the person I am now, the person I was, and the person I can be. I need love: a love that would never seek to dishonor me, not a love that seeks only his well-being and ambition. I need a love full of forgiveness, as I know that the kind of love I can provide will need much of it—I often stumble and say the wrong things without  meaning to. I am only so small, and I can only love as much as a small girl can. My love may not seem like it is enough, so I will need a love that hopes for something greater, for something better for our future. I am sometimes impatient, and this results to me sometimes being rude. That means I need a love that can be patient with little inconveniences, a love that is kind in words and in deeds. I remember all those who have wronged me a great deal. I know it is not easy to forget when one has been wronged. But I sometimes do the wrong things as well. Hence, for love to grow, I know I need a love that will not keep a record of these wrongs, my wrongs. Perhaps, I will inevitably cause this love a great error, but let him be a love that will keep forgetting the wrong I may have done. Because I am willfull, I need a love who perseveres, even if the most trying circumstances. Because I have experienced failure, I need a love who will keep at it with me, and in doing so, a love that does not fail.”

Juicing for Life

Today was one of those perfect Saturdays when you lazily roll out of bed without an alarm clock…at 7 o’clock in the morning. With the pantry and fridge stocked with fruits and vegetables, it was easy to put together a filling breakfast of strawberies, oats, chia seeds, and mango yogurt.

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Breakfast parfait with strawberries, oats, chia seeds, and mango yogurt.

Then, because our kitchen table was just begging for it, we decided that we would make a big batch of juice: carrots, oranges, ginger, lemons.

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Fruits and vegetables fresh from the Cordilleras

Food, like fashion, should delight the eyes with color! It sure is a feast when you see that all the ingredients in your juices and smoothies look this way!

After a few minutes of washing, cutting and pushing through the juicing tube, we had fresh juice in our individual mason jars.

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Fresh juice in individual mason jars.

I like to use mason jars for our juices because if you’re quite thirsty, there is no need to transfer the juice to glasses or tumblers. You just drink right up. Also, I read somewhere that storing juice in glass containers helps against oxidation of the nutrients in the juice.

What do we do with all the “waste” carrot pulp?

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Carrot pulp can be used in salads

Because I had a not-so-colorful bulgur and jicama (singkamas to us Filipinos) salad still leftover from last night, I decided to plump it up by mixing some apple cider vinegar (ACV) with the pulp, and mixing it all in with my leftover salad. Lunch was ready in a snap!

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Bulgur salad with chickpeas, jicama, leeks, carrot pulp, and lemon juice.

Juicing might sound like a tough kitchen task, but it really is much, much simpler than cooking a big meal.

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We started juicing about a decade ago, beginning our juice conconctions with just a blender, using this book as our guide to juice recipes/medications ranging from tonsillitis, to vertigo, to colds, and other common illness described in the book.

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The book that started us on the road to wellness.

Years later, we decided it was time to invest in a more powerful juicer-blender, since we had become converts into the world of fresh fruit and vegetable juicing.

Some people might think that juicing is just a fad, or that this is just some pretentious diet, but my family and I really swear by the benefits of juicing. Sure, I (we) still eat tasty, unhealthy food like chips and cookies and cake sometimes. Meat even. This doesn’t negate the positive and powerful effects that juicing has brought into our diets. I can no longer count how many times I’ve avoided going to the doctor, avoided taking strong antibiotics, just because I take potent, pure, highly concentrated fruit and vegetable juices.

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Cheers!

How about you, have you tried juicing yet?

Lessons From Life (1971)

As a child, an illustrated copy of this simple yet very meaningful poem hung in my room, which I shared with my little brother and doubled as our learning and playroom. I remember how this small illustrated poster hung just above my little desk, not far from our colorful toys and books, not far from where mom would read us stories and let us play our imaginative games, Lego, and story-role-playing. 

Somehow, without memorizing this poem, I came to understand what I wanted to learn (and not learn) as a child, and now, in between reading values-filled Bible stories, I want my future children to learn the same. 

The following is the October 1972 issue of the poem from Reader’s Digest, which also appeared in the Reader’s Digest Treasury of Modern Quotations, (1975), (NY: Reader’s Digest Press), an adaptation of the 1969 version:

BY RONALD RUSSELL

Lessons From Life (1971)

A CHILD that lives with ridicule learns to be timid
A CHILD that lives with criticism learns to condemn
A CHILD that lives with distrust learns to be deceitful
A CHILD that lives with antagonism learns to be hostile
A CHILD that lives with affection learns to love
A CHILD that lives with encouragement learns confidence
A CHILD that lives with truth learns justice
A CHILD that lives with praise learns to appreciate
A CHILD that lives with sharing learns to be considerate
A CHILD that lives with knowledge learns wisdom
A CHILD that lives with patience learns to be tolerant
A CHILD that lives with happiness will find love and beauty

Copyright 1971 © AA Sales, Inc. Reprints at one time could be ordered from Reader’s Digest.

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Just an added thought. Because I am grateful my parents taught us these life lessons by example. And more.

Lamb Chops with Corn and Couscous Salad

More than chicken or even beef, my favorite type of meat is mutton, lamb. Whenever I’m at Middle Eastern restaurants or even in ones that serve Asian cuisine, I usually try to look for a mutton dish.

Mutton bears a different, if somewhat odd smell, but when cooked with the right amount of spices, tastes creamier than chicken and beef. And the texture….oh, the texture!

Last night, I slow cooked some lamb chops in a marinade of pineapple sauce, salt and pepper, olive oil, allspice, soy sauce, and whole garlic. I added half a Korean pear for sweetness and to add juicyness to the meat. After six hours on high heat, the lamb chops were falling off the bone and the house smelled divine!

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Lamb chops and corn and couscous salad.

Today, I made cousocus (bring 1 1/2 cup water with some salt and pepper to a boil, turn off the heat, then add a cup of couscous. Wait ten minutes then fluff up couscous. Add seasonings or veggies of choice: green onions, cilantro, lemon zest or lemon juice, etc.) With some sweet corn. Paired with some romaine lettuce, it was the perfect bed on which my slow-cooked lamb chops could sit.

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Lunch for my bosses!

With a quick plating, Saturday lunch was ready!

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Saturday lunch with family is such a comfort.