Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How to make Potato Croquettes

Our balikbayan neice, Melissa saw our blog on potato croquettes and was anxious to help in the preparation of our favorite Christmas dish. It took only a few instructions and she already got the hang of it. Below is Melissa, expertly making the potato balls.

Here's how I make potato croquettes.

1. First, sautee the meat - I use lean ground pork - in garlic and onion. I also add mushroom and hotdogs, but it's really optional.

2. Boil the potatoes. Once soft, mash them. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Using your hand, get a handful of the mashed potato and flatten it. Put the meat inside and shape the potato into a ball (you can actually make different shapes, like egg-shaped or cylindrical-shaped). I also add cheese in the filling. Ensure that the filling is thoroughly covered. Make sure also that the meat is dry - leave behind the oily sauce. (Also, don't make the potato ball too big - I made the mistake of making humongous balls, and they turn into disaster when I fried them - each bursts open because of the weight, spilling the insides! )

4. Roll the ball into beaten eggs and breadcrumbs.

5. Deep fry until golden brown.

Presto! Delicious home-made croquettes! It's a bit crunchy on the outside but soft inside. The meat and cheese taste yummy with the hot mashed potato. No sauce requried. It's best eaten with wine and cheese.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I enjoyed our Traditional Kapampangan Food

One of the highlights of Christmas is the food served during noche buena and parties. During our Coronel Family Christmas reunion held last Dec 26, 2010, I enjoyed the potluck food served. The original plan was to have the food be catered. But we ended up bringing our own food contribution to the party. And it was good because the dishes were tastier and conforms to our traditional and original kapampangan taste. My favorite dish was the tidtad cooked by my cousin, Moro. The Callos of my Tita Bea was also yummy. The other dishes I enjoyed were the kinilaw and lengua.
In our case, we brought boneless bangus (inihaw by Pixie), There was also siomai contributed by my twin sis, Ate Lou and Ate Rose (ordered from Pampanga by cousin Alma). There were desserts like tibok-tibok (the Kapampangan version of maja blanca - made from carabao's milk and a dash of dayap juice), leche flan, blue berry and strawberry cheesecake and casava cake. Almost all the dishes were good. So we ended up taking home the left-overs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Dory Fish at ROC

Remember Dory in "Finding Nemo"? Yes, the large-eyed blue fish! It's one of the kid's favorite character in the movie. It's also the name of the favorite fish-dish of Geoffrey. (Note: the fish is not the blue-wide-eyed cute fish in Nemo - they only share the name ;)

In one restaurant at the UP Diliman Bahay ng Alumni, the Dory fish is a specialty. ROC, the abbreviation of Restaurant of Choice is one resto which serves good food.
In our most recent visit there, Geof and I ordered their Dory fish dishes. Geof ordered the Fish Florentine, while I ate the Pesce Parmigiana. Their menu describes the Fish Florentine as cream Dory, spinach cream, chefs veggies with steamed white rice, while Pesce Parmigiana as Dory fish, marinara sauce, cheese, chefs veggies with steamed white rice or buttered pasta. The fish was really good especially the sauce but the veggies are not well cooked. But over-all, we were both satisfied with our lunch date with Dory and the service at ROC.

ROC also serves other fish dishes like bangus and salmon and meat dishes. But the Dory fish is what makes ROC different from the other resto here at the Bahay ng Alumni.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Painting Mr. T

During the Family Day at Miriam Child Sudy Center, Geof tried his hand on painting a ceramic turtle which her mom named as Mr. T. From an immaculate white turtle, Mr. T was transformed into green and black colored turtle. It took Geof about less than an hour painting the turtle. This is another creative activity that kids should try.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Twisted Potato

The kids really love potatoes - french fries, mashed potatoes and potato chips. So when I found a stall selling twisted potatoes, I didn't hesitate to buy it for the kids. Tater Twist is made from 100% fresh potato - one whole potatato was cut partially, twisted and fried - then a stick was stucked in the potato. You can add powdered flavors - cheese, barbecue and others. It's a little expensive though at P50.00 per potato but it was fun eating it and the presentation is unique. The potato is soft - you can even eat the skin. Geof consumed almost half of the stick of twisted potato.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Our tent was first used in 2006 at Malabon.

Every November 1, the family troops to Pampanga to visit the tomb of my husband's parents, Mauro and Corazon. We usually travel on Oct 31, spend the night in the Coronel old family house at Floridablanca, and meet-up with the Coronel relatives in that brief visit.

Family Gatherings During Meals (2008)

Since 2008, we started "camping" in the extension-kitchen-veranda of my cousin-in-law's place in San Pedro, Pampanga. Okay, it's really not an authentic camping since we are still in-doors, but it still has the 'camping' feel since all four of us (the two kids plus me and hubby) sqeeze together in the tent (which, surprisingly, accomodates us four comfortably). There's no wi-fi in the farm and my son's use of his Nintendo DS is limited, so we have more time doing non-techie stuff like reading our books, visiting/ bathing in the river, harvesting veggies, have a liesurely mid-day sleep, play with the chickens :) ....
Vegetables at San Pedro (2008)

A Dip at the River with Carabaos (2008) ... Carabaos not shown!

My 5-year old enjoys our one-day-one-night "adventure" immensely, she looks forward to this trips. Even Geof who is so into computer games and You-Tube also enjoys this day out. I am therefore determined to keep practice and make it a family tradition. In an environment of too much modernity and commercialism, it is important to find simple pleasures like this where the family can have fun and enjoy each other's company, sans all the techie-gadgets. After all, its the company and not the trappings that make a day-out fun and memorable.

Good Morning, Carabao .. mooooo! (Nov. 1, 2010)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lutong Kapampangan at Cely's

One of the joys of visiting Pampanga is eating the tasty and yummy kapampangan dishes. At Angeles City's Nepo Mart, Cely's Carinderia is a favorite eatery of ours whenever we visit our Tita Bea and cousin Faye. Cely's is popular for its bulalo. But on our last visit on Oct. 31, 2010, we ordered fried hito, tagilo or buro (fermented rice) with vegetables, kilain (pork and liver cooked in vinegar) and tilapia in tausi. Bulalo soup is served free. Our bill for the main dishes plus 3 cups of rice, 2 buko juice and 2 tropicana juice is P357.00. "Maniaman keni" - Masarap dito.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yen-Yen Taiwan Street Food

On our way home passing through the funeral parlors along Araneta Ave., QC, Apple and I noticed a new eatery called Yen Yen which offers Taiwan Street Food. Our first visit there was very satisfying. We ordered Taipei Braised Beef Noodle Soup - Jumbo (P168) and Spicy Wonton (6 pcs @ P 78). The noodles are soft and thinner than the Japanese udon and the soup was tasty with a little tinge of spice. We also ordered their Taiwan mini-siopao for take out (4 pcs @ P78). We were lucky to receive a discount since one of the owners recognized me as one of his teachers at DLSU-Manila. He graduated BSME in 1998. We enjoyed the food very much that we promised to return the following Sunday.
Our second visit the following Sunday was with the kids. We ordered Wonton Noodle Soup, Crispy Taiwan Porkchops, Chewy Kikiam, Crispy Taoso Tofu, Taiwan Special Fried Rice. The kids love the noodles. The soup though has too much seaweeds. Geof enjoyed the porkchops, while Apple and I consumed the tofu with the crispy toppings soaked in soy sauce and the kikiam. The serving of the special rice was generous which is more than 3 servings.
The resto is relatively small with about six tables for four. You will have no problem with parking since Yen Yen is part of the Parking Building.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Japan Memoir: An Experience with Japanese Workers

It was the end of the year in 1988 and a brief rest from my six-month Nihonggo course at Nagoya University had finally commenced. After spending two days of idleness at the Sakurayama Kaikan, the foreign students' house, I felt bored.

Nothing much to do during the two week Christmas break, my Malaysian friend, Rahman and I decided to look for a part-time job at the Nagoya International Center (NIC). A lot of advertisements were posted on the bulletin board -- mostly dealing with English-Japanese exchange lessons -- but what caught my friend's eye was an advertisement of one cleaning company in Fushimi, a business district in Nagoya that needs people to do some cleaning chores in some offices. It looks like a dirty job but still we went to see the manager, Mr. Fujiwara, to find out really what kind of job is being offered.

Mr. Fujiwara, a man in his early fifties, welcomed us warmly in his office. He speaks fluent English -- this may be due to his numerous trips abroad -- and he candidly explained to us the type of job and compensation offered by his company. From his explanation, I concluded that the job does not look very difficult and the pay (800 yen per hour), small it may seem, could pay out my daily expenses during the break. Besides it is better that doing nothing. So we accepted the job.
Our job which is to clean the offices at the Nagoya station starts at 5:30 PM just after office hours and finishes at 8:30 PM for a total of three hours.

On our first day of work, we were given working clothes (light blue uniforms) and shoes to wear. We dressed up at about 5:15 PM and reported for work at the basement of the building. The Japanese workers, numbering about 40, were mostly elderly - probably 50 to 60 years old. However, there were also a number of young workers; students perhaps doing "arbaito" or part-time work to support their studies. Before starting work, we assemble at the basement for some briefing and announcements from the head of the workers. On that day, we were introduced to the group and we were assigned a buddy or co-worker. My Japanese buddy was a short and friendly guy. It was from him that I learend my tasks. Since he can not speak English and I can not understand Japanese yet being only on my third month of Japanese lessons, instructions were mostly given by sign language. It was not diffcult to understand him though since I can catch some Japanese words he says while doing the signals.

My job was to collect the trash from the waste paper basket and transfer them to a big bag made of canvas and then throw them away at the basement. I realized that it was not a messy job after all since the trash is mostly paper. All in all, we have to clean about six floors with at least two office rooms per floor.

During my work, I observed the Japanese way of doing things - very systematic and efficient. The workers were divided into groups, Each group is assigned a particular task. The men were assigned the ardous chores - the group where I was assigned collects the trash while another group of elderly men do the vacuum cleaning. The tasks of the elderly women were also divided - one group cleans the toilet, another group collects only cigarette buts from the ashtrays while another group only wipes the office tables. It was a marvel to see everybody doing his/her small and simple task. It was like watching a mechanized factory in motion where each machine functions according to its intended purpose. When the task is over, we return the cleaning equipments - vacuum cleaners, canvas bags, mop, etc. - in their proper storage and dress up for home.

My last day of work coincided on December 30, the last day of work for the year. After completing our cleaning tasks, a small party was held. This simple party serves as the year-end party or "bonen-kai" for the workers. Beer, sake and food stuffs like dried squid, potato chips and cake were served. I was served beer and sake successively. Probably, I drank four to five glasses that night. "Kampai!" was shouted everytime we toast our drinks. It was really an impressive experience to witness the close relationship and camaraderie among ordinary Japanese workers. They seem to belong to one big family. After the food and drinks have been consumed, we exchanged New Year greetings and farewells as well. Next year, back to the same job for the Japanse worker.
-June 14, 1990-

I lived in Nagoya from September 1988 to April 1994 during my graduate studies at the Nagoya University. I completed my Master of Engineering in 1991 and Doctor of Engineering in 1994. I wrote this article during my creative time or maybe when I was pressured doing my research at the unviersity.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fresh Fruits and Juices at the UP Diliman Coop

Whenever we visit UP Diliman, we make it a point to drop by at the UP Cooperative where you can see stalls of xerox copiers, UP T-shirts, small eateries like Rodic's, Ersao and Mashitta and a fruit store. At the UP Coop fruit store is where we usually buy our favorite fruits like papaya, mangoes, banana, apples and avocado. Geof and Julia also love their fruit shakes - Geof prefers Mango shake and Julia loves strawberry shake. Oh, yes this store also sell tinapa and various dry goods. The UP Coop - its a one stop shopping complex!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blueberry Cheesecake of my dreams, Chicken Empanaditas to live for!

Blueberry cheesecake. Mouth-watering creaminess that melts in your mouth, textured with the semi-sour, semi-sweet blueberries, with the contrasting buttery and slightly salted crust... sinfully delicious...just thinking about it makes me salivate like a dog. Yes, it's one of my weakness. The first time I've tasted it, I was done for. I'll actually trade any dessert for blueberry cheesecake.

Unfortunately, not all cake shop can satisfy my standards. Let's just say that I've tasted my share of this pie that I 've become a self-declared connoiseur. So it was really a delight to discover a small cake shop along Katipunan Road, White Plains, Quezon City that serves my type of blueberry cheese pie.

I've heard of "Gateau de Manille" sometime ago in a radio commercial, advertising for lunch and dinner. I've passed by it a hundredth time and paid no attention. It's outside has no fanciness, it actually looked like a very ordinary restaurant. Our discovery of it was purely coincidental. We've placed an order for chicken in a nearby store but had to wait for 20 mins before it cooks, so we went looking for a decent place to while the time. It was providential that we landed at Gateau de Manille. Their blueberry cheesecake was everything I hoped for! (No contest ang Red Ribbon dito! - Andy).

My dear hubby and also Geoffrey, on the otherhand, fell in love with the chicken empanaditas. It's a bread-filled pastry that's bursting with a very tasty mixture of chicken, potatoes, green peas, raisin, and carrots. As you bite it, your tastebuds welcome the succulent chicken mixture with a tinge of sweetness because of the rasins. The cover is not thick unlike other empanadas where the filling is sooo small compared to the thick covering. Let the pictures speak for themselves. (Talong talo ang Goldilucks at Red Ribbon sa sarap at presyo! - Andy)

Cheesecake is only P415 while chicken empanaditas cost only P18/pc or P105 per box of 6. They also have a broad range of cakes, pastries, pies, and bread. (Magandang pampasalubong! Di ka mapapahiya! - Andy). I look forward tasting their other creations.

Gateau de Manille is located at 117 Katipunan Road, St. Ignatius Village, White Plains, Quezon City, with tel. 9116547, 9116750, 9128573.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chicharon Bulaklak

I haven't eaten a chicharon bulaklak for a long time. I don't know how many years since my last taste of that crispy chicharon bulaklak dipped in vinegar. It's a favorite among beer drinkers. Chicharon bulaklak is fried pork omentum. The omentum is "a sheet of fatty tissue that hangs down in front of the intestines."

When I read about P.Noy's love for the chicharon bulaklak, my craving to taste it once more was ignited. I looked for one at Lapid's Trinoma but it has long been removed from their specialties since May 2010 according to the sales guy. When I went out for dinner with my DLSU friends to celebrate the end of the term, we ate at Gerry's Grill (Trinoma) and I was again disappointed. No chicharon bulaklak in their menu. It was also removed in their menu. "Maybe P.Noy has hoarded all the chicharon bulaklaks", I wondered.
My search and craving for the chicharon bulaklak was finally ended when I visited Cherry Foodarama. There is a stall there called Peanut World which obviously sells different kinds of peanuts and also the elusive chicharon bulaklak. I bought 100 gms for P102.00 and brought it home for dinner. Peanut World's chicharon bulaklak is not as good as the taste that I remember and imagined. But anyway, now, I know where I can buy that chicharon bulaklak. And I don't have to go around town to look for it.

PS: Don't let P.Noy read this blog. He might buy and hoard all of the chicharon bulaklak of Peanut World.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Experiencing DEODATO's Music

Thirty years ago, I bought my first music cassette tape of Eumir Deodato. During those years in my college days, I was influenced by my batchmate Royce to listen to Jazz music and one of the musicians he introduced to me was Deodato. The music of Deodato is characterized by repeated rythms with his keyboard as the lead and with back-up of sounds from a horn, flute, trumpet, percussions, drums and guitars. When you listen to his music, you will imagine a complete orchestra but actually his band consists of only about 7 to 8 musicians.

After thirty years after my first exposure to Deodato, I didn't realize that I will watch him perform live here in Manila last July 31, 2010 at the SMX. Before going to this concert, I first watched YouTube videos of Deodato. During the Manila concert, I noticed that the quality of his music remains outstanding whether he performs in Finland, USA or the Philippines. His band may be different for every location, but his performance and music doesn't change. In the Manila concert, his back-up band were all Filipino artists - very versatile and talented. Each musician showed their talent by doing solo acts.

Watching a Deodato concert is like going back in time. For one, the audience is composed of old timers - grey haired or bald headed fans. I had influenced my wife, Apple with Deodato's music ; that's why Apple has also became a fan too. Listening to Deodato's music is a mixed experience - exhilirating, relaxing, highstrung and passionate - depending on the musical piece he plays. I enjoyed the music especially my favorites: Adam's Hotel, Speak Low, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Baubles, Bangles & Beads and Carly & Carole. I bought a two-CD album at the concert site which is a bargain for P300 being a collector's edition.

Watch this YouTube concert of Deodato in Finland. The performance is the same as what I experienced.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Comfort Food at Pen Pen (de Sarapan)

Pandesal with pesto-kesong puti?! Penoy Carbonara??!!! Tomato Kebab Rice????!!! These are just some of the food that caught our attention when we visited Pen Pen (de Sarapan) last week. It boasts of "comfort food araw araw" at very affordable prices. Indeed, we take our hats off.
Pen Pen at 105-C Scout Castor St., South Triagle, Quezon City, Metro Manila is a small cozy restaurant that serves comfort food such as various pandesal filling like adobo, kesong puti, menudo, ham and sardines, soup combo with pandesal, pasta with local flavors like tinapa, aligue, penoy (duck egg), crispy liempo (bacon-cut), rice with flavors like kebab or aligue and more.

(Obviously, this resto is not for the health buffs who are concerned about calories and cholesterol. :)

We tried their carbonara, double burger steak, molo with kesong puti, tomato kebab rice and crispy liempo. I am not so much into white sauce for my pasta (but my little Julia is), so we ordered the carbonara. I have to say the preparation is very tasty. The sauce is not too creamy-sticky (which I don't really like) but rather, light and smooth. The topping is a mix of bacon, cheese, and a white chewy 'thingy' that feels very much like the white part of the penoy-egg (we didn't order the Penoy Carbonara that's why I'm not sure of this - blimey, we didn't ask!)

The fried liempo looks and tastes like bacon to me - Andy who is really a pork lover - enjoyed it. Geof is a burger kid so that's his order. The burger is tasty - the mixture is acually similar to how I prepare my own version (naks!) The sun dried tomato-kebab rice was a delight.

I was the most 'adventurous' and hence, ordered the pandesal with kesong puti-pesto and the Molo soup (ok, not that adventurous :) But to my surprise, the molo soup has melted cheese on it (feels and tastes like pizza cheese).

And, as always, the price is the best. Food prices range only between P50-P150. It even has free wifi. Every Tuesday, if you feel like pigging out on pasta, it offers pasta all you can - where, according to their ad, 7 sauces are available! View more photos of Pen Pen food offerings at

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Presenting, Toby and Coby Hamsters!

Last Summer, I made a pact with Julia, that as soon as she finishes her summer swimming lessons, we'll get her hamsters. She was ecstatic that just after the first day of her swimming lessons, she bugged us to no end about "the promise." How can one refuse a kid who bargains with that sweet little eyes and smile ...

So we got the hamsters - two males since we don't want a poultry of hammies. Naming them was tricky. We argued on several names - Bob, Rocky, Brownie..., until the names just sprang out - Coby and Toby! Coby is the colored brown hamster, while Toby is white one.

(Though Toby 1, the white hammie, suddenly died after just 10 days for reasons we couldn't understand. We buried him and had a small white tomb with his name on it. We got a second white hamster and named it Toby 2).

Very tiny when we got them, now they are "adolescents" - how did we know? Because their 'testicles' suddenly appeared from nowhere that we had to research if they are afflicted with a sickness called 'huge testicles syndrome' or something. We soon learned that it's normal for hamster, as soon as they reach puberty, to have huge t's and there's nothing to worry about (Believe me, they are H-U-G-E- huge)

They have been a joy ever since, Toby and Coby. After a tiring day at work/ school, just watching these two energetic kiddos fool around and exercise their hearts out is enough to put a smile on our face... They actually are good inspirations to those too lethargic to exercise.

(in the first video is Coby in the exercise wheel while Toby is busy cleaning himself)

(in the second video, Coby and Toby share the wheel)

Monday, July 5, 2010


I am really amazed with the fast hands of magicians. During the birthday party of Julia at Kenny Rogers, we hired a magician to entertain the guests. One of his tricks which you can watch in the video was the "Magic Newspaper." After tearing the newspaper into small pieces as seen by the audience, he finally presents a newspaper - in one piece. Wow! I watched the video several times but I can't seem to catch the trick. You know I developed an interest in magic tricks. I was inspired by my nephew, Memong who does magic tricks during our family reunions. I did one of his magic tricks, "the missing drinking glass", during our department and college christmas party. I taped the trick in video and this was presented in our college christmas party. My DLSU colleague, Dr. Raymund Tan, a genius and an NAST awardee is still wondering how I did the trick. Magic tricks can not be explained by mathematical equations. It's in the hands!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Kids' Summer Activities

During summer vacation, we make it a point that our kids will engage in a hobby or sports activity. These activities help them develop their skills, talents and creativity. They also meet new friends and make them socialize.

Geoffrey enrolled at Ateneo's Chess Clinic. I already taught Geof the basics of Chess but here he learned to play with kids of his age and sometimes younger. Geof received the "Sportmanship" award and a gold medal for topping the Chess puzzles for beginners. Geof knows the moves the chess pieces but he still has to learn the strategies of the game, particularly, aiming for the check mate.

Julia, on the otherhand, enrolled at the Ateneo's Swimming Lessons. The first day was a nightmare for Julia because her coach asked her to do the bubbles. Not yet trained on the bubbles, Julia drank some water and cried running to her mommy. Apple then taught Julia how to do the breathing. After that brief trauma, Julia enjoyed her swimming lessons with her new coach (not the day one coach) who is more systematic and patient. She learned quickly and developed her confidence in the water. She practices her swimming skills with Apple at Celebrity Place.

Oh yes, the kids also enjoyed biking at the UP Diliman Oval during Sundays. We tried to teach Geof to bike on two wheels. Geof was struggling in his bicycle without the training wheels. His uncles from Malabon also tried teaching him. He still needs to learn how to balance and stir the handle properly. Julia, on the otherhand, enjoys riding her new bike (our gift on her 5th birthday).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hooked on Greek Mythology

Last summer vacation, I bought Book One of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan for my son, Geoffrey. After two days, Geof finished reading it. Book Two, The Sea Monsters followed, then Book Three, The Titan's Curse and then Book Four, The Battle of the Labyrinth. I tried to buy Book Five, The Last Olympian but can't find a copy in any bookstore so far. Apple and I were also intrigued by the interest of Geof in reading the book that we also read the four books. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a modern tale with the characters of Greek Mythology as protagonists and villains. The gods, goddesses, half-bloods and monsters live in the modern world. You will find here gods like Poseidon described as wearing beach shorts, Hawaian shirt and sandals, Apollo driving a Maserati car and Mt. Olympus located at the Empire State Building in New York..

I remember reading the Mythology book by Edith Hamilton during my highschool days but I didn't developed a liking on the theme of myths. However, after reading Percy Jackson Books, my interest in Greek Mythology was ignited. Thus I tried to find a book on mythology and found one, Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology by Michelle M. Houle which is downloadable at scribd. This book is simple to read. It has illustrations and also review questions. It's a good introduction to Greek Mythology.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My First Experience with Onsen

Oct 2009.

Onsen is every woman’s dream. One will really fall - line, hook, and sinker - with Onsen. I was liberated and blissfully contented with my experience with Onsen.

Alright, Onsen is not a person (although one would really wish it is). It’s the Japanese public bath, with natural, mineral, hot water.

I made a mental decision to try out the Onsen as soon as I learned that I will be staying in Japan for two months. When the opportunity came, however, I was a bit fidgety and was on the verge of backing-out. Hey, I was brought up in a society incubated by Christianity for almost 400 years. The whole educational and socialization process I received taught me that I should only show my body to my partner. Read: Naked body = Malice. Now, that is a lot of baggage to shackle.

Needless to say, I have limited exposure to a naked body. More than that, the only naked body I’ve seen of a woman is myself! Well, of course I’ve seen also lots of pictures from educational and health books, but I don’t think that counts.

Public baths are separated by gender, but there are also common baths – but that is way too much for me to even imagine entering.

D-day comes. Ok, now what should I do. I was asking my Japanese friend and (self-appointed) guide Kaori every single step.

“This area is where we remove our clothes, and put them in lockers. You can bring a small towel to cover parts of your body.” Mmmm, others were doing it nonchalantly, I’d definitely look funny if I appear too prude. Ok, strip away.

Then we entered another door, where the public bath is supposed to be located. Just imagine the image that jumped out on me. So many naked women, walking here and there, no care about the world! I was the one who felt ashamed of their nakedness (as I’ve said, I had a lot of conceptual and cultural baggage).

“This is the public bath, but you have to wash yourself first.” On the side are ‘shower corners’ where you’ll find liquid soap, shampoo, a plastic basin, a plastic stool, and a hand-held shower.
After cleaning myself, I dip in the bath. It was pleasantly hot (40 C) and women were chatting in every corner, while some just enjoy their aloneness. Of course it’s an understatement to say that I observed every single event happening in the Onsen. It was a totally new experience for me and it’s justifiable for me to be curious.

Different women, all shapes, sizes, texture, age, disposition. Women I know, women who are strangers. All naked, all natural in their nakedness. I began to relax about my own. It totally gave me a whole new perspective about one’s body. And I began to celebrate our being women.

Now I appreciate why great painters in the world glorify the woman’s body. The curves, the slopes, the bulges, the voluptuousness …. in a strange way these are exactly what makes a woman’s body beautiful. Now, I am at peace with my own. Liberating is exactly the right word for this experience.

Now you know why I glorify Onsen. My experience with it totally gave me a whole new perspective about myself, the body, and women-solidarity.

And yes, I am totally hooked with Onsen!

(Maybe it's just me. But I really find this curiously amusing: While in the bath, I transferred from the indoor to the outside pool where you'll feel the cold wind that signals the beginning of winter while you soak in the hot mineral water-filled pool. It was really bliss! While walking towards the pool, I gingerly try to cover my private part with my small towel - never mind the breast as I don't really have much. But I noticed that the Japanese women in the bath would cover their breast every time they get out of the pool, not their privates. Mmmm...another case of cultural difference on which part of the body is regarded more important? :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Remembering Corazon - our lovable Mom

(Copyright by NicholasNicholas Gordon)

A mother's love determines
How we love ourselves and others.
There is no sky we'll ever see
Not lit by that first love.
Stripped of love, the universe
Would drive us mad with pain;
But we are born into a world
That greets our cries with joy.
How much I owe you for the kiss
That told me who I was!
The greatest gift--a love of life--
Lay laughing in your eyes.
Because of you my world still has
The soft grace of your smile;
And every wind of fortune bears
The scent of your caress

Corazon Coronel Oreta is our mom. What do I remember about my Mommy?
1. HARDWORKING: To proivde us a comfortable life and good education after my Dad passed away, my Mom worked as a pharmacist at the former Basa Air Base, Pampanga and managed a drug store ( I remember watching the store during school breaks) and a small karinderia (restaurant) for the air force men at Basa Air Base. She also travelled to Zamboanga, buying goods (blankets, textiles, etc) and sell them in Manila. She managed a canteen with my cousin, Ate Dina, at a tannery in Guiginto, Bulacan.

2. LOVES READING AND MOVIES: It was through her that I developed the hobby of reading pocket books and novels. I read almost all the books she read like Airport, Lust for Life, etc. She also loves watching movies just like my Daddy. I remember the last movie she watched with me and my sister, Cosette, at Recto, "The Deer Hunter" starring Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep.

3. VERY PATIENT AND PERSISTENT: Despite her sickness (cancer), she never complained about the pain. I remember she wrote in one of her memoirs, "this pain is so small compared to what Jesus experienced during his crucifixion ..."

4. HER LIFE WAS FOR HER CHILDREN: She is a selfless mother. All her actions were for the good of her children - five of us (Rose, Lou, Jun, Andy and Cosette). She was not capable of giving us the luxuries of life, but she gave us our life, education and values which we cherish to this day. Our Mom died young - only 48 years old - I wonder how she will feel if ever she lived longer. We now have our own families and we owe our comfortable lives to Mom and Dad.

As a tribute to our mom and my children's lola, I named our daughter, Julia CORAZON.

Kids love your Moms!

*The poem above comes from the ff site: - Copyright by Nicholas Gordon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nurture Shock - New Thinking About Children

Based on researches conducted in the US about the science of children, Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman reveals that many of our assumptions about kids can no longer be counted on. This book reveals that “many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring.” Many of the assumptions about child development have actually “distorted parenting habits, school programs and social policies. “ With evidence revealed by researches (mostly in the US) on various aspects related to kids, the book teaches us “to think differently – more deeply and clearly – about children.” Here are some insights I got from the book:

The Inverse Power of Praise:
> Giving always the label that your kids are “smart” might cause them to under-perform. Some of these “smart” kids will tend to discount the importance of effort because they think that they already have the natural gift of intelligence.

> Excessive praise may distort the children's motivation; the kids may begin to do things merely to hear the praise, losing sight of intrinsic enjoyment.

> Excessivley praised kids by parents feel so much pressure and tend to focus only on the grade or achievement and not on the effort. Sometimes they may resort to cheating because they come to believe that failure is something so terrible that their parents won't accept.

> Praise the “process” more than the “outcome.” Praise your child for his/her effort, time and persistence to improve not only the achievement.

The Lost Hour:
> When kids grow and go to school, the number of hours of sleeping decreases from the usual 8 hours to 7 hours. At least one hour of sleeping time is lost. The loss hour has many impacts on the kids.

> A loss hour of sleep is equivalent to the loss of two years of cognitive maturation and development affecting the kid's IQ and academic performance.
> The lack of sleep weakens a child capacity to learn during the day.

> Recognizing the impact of the lack of sleep in kids, some schools in the US moved the school time start from 7:25 AM to 8:30 AM and found positive changes especially the brightest kids.

> School here in the Manila (e.g. Ateneo Grade School) starts at 7:30 AM. Kids have to wake up as early as 5:00 AM to be able to come to school on time because of the traffic during rush hours. To have at least 8 hours of sleep, kids should sleep at 9:00 PM. After reading this book, I ordered my son, Geof to sleep at 9:00 PM, but often this is not followed because he got used to waiting for us who sleep late (usually 10:30 PM). So parents must sleep early also to make their kids sleep early.

Why kids lie:
> Kids lie to avoid punishment and to get praise.
> Kids lie to increase their social power and sense of control.
> Kids lie as a coping mechanism – to get attention from peers.
> Kids learn to lie from us, adults also..
> Parents need to teach kids the worth of honesty just as much as they need to say lying is wrong. The more kids hear the message, the more quickly they will take this lesson to heart.

Other interesting topics in the book:
The Sibling Effect – Why siblings fight
The Science of Teen Rebellion – Why arguing with adults is a sign of respect and constructive.
Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't – What's the right way to accomplish the goal of jump-starting infant's language skills.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tools for the Digitally Creative

Apple and I are educators and we need to improve our teaching and learning skills by using advanced technology. With the advance digital tools available - some are free and some commercially available at reasonable price - we can create creative presentations and materials that can enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. Through the blog painless technology, I found this slide presentation - 70 Tools 70 Minutes - which is about various digital tools that you may use in creating digital outputs - images, audio, movies, blogs, etc. I have used some of the tools already and found them useful and simple to use. Try the links to these useful resources and explore what you can do with the various digital resources that are available in the internet - most of them are free!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thai Cereals Cookies

Whenever our friend Jerry visits Manila, he brings Thai cereals cookies. Julia loves them. Like the Japanese, the Thais have also mastered the art of packaging simple food like cereals. I think the Filipinos are better in food preparation but they have to learn the art of packaging to make their food products appealing and enticing to buy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Good Time at Tagaytay's ZOOs by Geof

View of Taal volcano and lake
We had a nice time in Residence Inn and paradiZOO at Tagaytay City last March 14, 2010. First, we went to Residence Inn, a mini-zoo of wild animals. I was able to interact with a baby tiger. There, I was also able to touch a python. It was AWESOME! We discovered more animals like monkeys, birds, lions, tigers, owls and lots more snakes.

Bee kingdom

We also went to paradiZOO, another attraction managed by the Residence Inn. A shuttle bus brought us there. It was a fifteen minute ride. There, I learned about farm animals, butterflies and bees. We even saw a bee hive! Mommy brought two bottles of honey. There was even a pet cemetery... spooky!!! Then finally before leaving the zoo, I bought a yummy strawberry milkshake which I shared with my sister Julia. We had a very good time. I wish I could go there again!

Blog written by Geof - 31 March 2010

Geof: "Look at bee hive...zzzzzzzzz!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Remembering Dad

Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” is both a book and a movie (This can be viewed at YouTube) which celebrates the dreams of his childhood that he has realized. “The Last Lecture” is Randy’s farewell lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 before he died of cancer in 2008. He delivered this lecture specifically for his three little children – the oldest then was Dylan at five years old – so when they get older they will know who their father was and hopefully they will learn lessons from Randy's life as a son, father, teacher and computer science professor.

After reading the book and watching the movie, I reflected about my past and my own father. My Dad also died very early at only 43 years old, when I was just only nine years old. What do I remember about him? Not so much now, but there are still images of him that really stick in my memories. Let me share a list of ten memories about him..

  • He is strict and a disciplinarian. He keeps a narra wood which we were afraid he may use whenever he gets angry at us. But he never used it on us – not because we were behaved but because he loved us.

  • He loves to tease people as a sign of his fondness (“lambing”) for them. He calls his closest friends and relatives names like “Kotat”, “Bulugan”, “Kukang”.

  • He loves watching movies – only English movies, no Tagalog movies. I remember our regular trips at the movie houses in Cubao (Odeon, Remar, New Frontier) and Avenida (Dynasty, Galaxy, Cinerama, Ideal, Podmon).

  • He loves to cook and eat. I remember that he loves to grill a specific type of fish similar to the Sanma in Japan and cooks adobo of a certain type of bird which he always buy whenever we come from Pampanga. He likes roasting chestnuts during Christmas.

  • He loves San Miguel Beer. Every night he drinks one bottle of beer.

  • He loves dogs – specifically the German Shepherds. Our dogs then were named Laika and Brutus. We have cages at the back of our house built for these dogs.

  • He loves taking photos of his family and friends. We have family photo albums and in most of the pictures he is not there coz he’s the one taking them.

  • He loves going outing with relatives usually swimming at Los Banos’ hot spring pools.

  • He wants his kids to enjoy life with various activities and toys. He taught me how to play chess. He brought us to swimming lessons at San Beda College. I remember when in a toy store he asked me and my Kuya to choose the toy we want for Christmas. I chose a plastic military Jeep (similar to the Rat Patrol) and my brother got a wooden train.

  • He was proud of his children. I remember occasions where he wants his friends to see my brother and I to show-off in a gun draw.

I wonder how will I be remembered by my two kids as a father. Geof, in the recent “Father and Son Day” at Ateneo, wrote me a letter and thanked me for teaching him in his Math lessons. I hope Geof becomes good in Math. That will be my legacy to him.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Father and Son Day

February 26, 2010 was the Father and Son Day at the Ateneo Grade School (AGS) for Grade 4. It was a day that Geof has been excited about. The day started with Geof and I pitching the tent at the AGS grounds at about 4:00 PM. Then at 5:30 PM , we proceeded to the AGS Covered Courts to watch group praictice their Michael Jackson dance for the evening program. The Grade 4 kids and fathers were divided into four groups - each group performing an MJ dance. Our group - the Yellow Group had MJ's songs of "They don't really care about us" and "Smooth Criminal" as the backgorund music. The evening program started at 8:00 PM. The program was fun - the kids and parents enjoyed the games and performances - it was really funny to see the aging fathers dance. Before the program ended, the fathers and sons exchanged letters - containing personal messages of :
> Thank you Son/Dad for ...
> I am proud of you for ...
> I am sorry for ...
> I hope that ...
> I love you, Son/Dad.

I kept the letters at the files of Geof for him to read when he grows up.

It was a touching moment for both of us - Geof and I - sharing our thoughts between ourselves. After the program, we had our midnight snacks and then proceeded at the tent to rest and sleep. The next day at 7:00 AM, it was a new day for the fathers and sons to continue to share and live a fruitful life together.

The lesson in this activity is : "Enjoy one's company everyday."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sagip Batis sa QC

Ondoy comes to my mind, whenever I see the pile of garbage dumped on the creeks and rivers. We have a creek near our subdivision at Carmell II in Quezon City. I always pass the bridge whenever I bring my daughter to school and recently I noticed the mess - plastic, paper, styro - dumped on the creek. It was an awful site and a smelly creek. Although our subdivision was not flooded by Ondoy, I feel that something needs to be done.

I  sent the photo to my former DLSU student, Onyx Crisologo, son of our congressman, Bingbong Crisologo and asked him to forward this to his father for possible action. I also plan to send a letter to our baranggay captain at Bahay Toro about the condition of the creek. I know our barangay can be relied on as I reported one case about a damaged manhole, and our barangay responded immediately. About two weeks passed and still no action. On the third week, I noticed workers cleaning the creek and garbage men collecting the sacks of garbage. The workers came from Quezon City Hall under the Oplan: Sagip Batis sa QC or Project Save the Stream. Cleaning the creek was so tedious and it took them about a week to completely remove the garbage.
After the clean-up! Wow!
Congratulations to the QC Environmental Protection Waste Management Department (EPWMD) for responding immediately to the problem. Thanks Onyx. I believe you will become a good councilor in our district.
POSTSCRIPT: Two weeks had past since this post and I noticed that the garbage is starting to pile up again. Di na ba tayo matututo?
To the residents of our subdivision and nearby areas, please protect our rivers and creeks. Keep them clean. HUWAG MAGTAPON NG BASURA SA ILOG!
Let us be responsible citizens. Be pro-active.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Fisherman's Grill: Sisig, Buro at iba pa

Forty five minutes to an hour. That's the duration of the road trip (from the Balintawak toll plaza) to San Fernando, Pampanga. Every time we find an excuse, we hit the road and travel this route. After-all, I am married to a Kapampangan.

The common view that Kapampangans are good cooks is an understatement. Maybe when the gods distributed rewards, they handed the gift of taste to this region. They are great cooks and can whip magic in the kitchen!

Recently, we've discovered a restaurant that offers various Pampanga dishes at very, very (and I mean very) reasonable price. It's called Fisherman's Grill. It's just on the side of the road so you won't miss it.

Outside, it doesn't look too fancy, but it doesn't also look like the side-road 'carinderia.' It has that 'dignified-but-not-sosyal' look. Inside, it is clean and welcoming.

When you are ready to order, the waitress would lead you to the counter where all the available food/ dishes are on display. This is very helpful especially for an outsider who is not familiar with the names of the dishes on the menu (like moi). Once you've made your choice, your ordered dish is reheated/ re-sauteed/ re-fried to get that fresh-newly-cooked feel.

We had the pleasure of trying out the following dishes (on separate occasions, mind you): fried hito (catfish), fried lapu-lapu, fish sinigang (bittersoup), sauteed mixed-seafood, chopsuey, (mixed vegetable with pork meat and liver), pork sisig, and boiled (fresh) veggies with buro (fermented rice). All of these are really tasty, but I'd like to give a special ode-to-joy to two dishes that I've only learned to appreciate and enjoy after I married a Kapampangan: buro and sisig.

Buro is cooked rice mixed with 'flavoring' - either cooked fish or shrimp - placed in a tight container and left to ferment for days. When 'done,' the fermented-flavored rice is sauteed with generous amount of garlic (fried to golden brown), and seasoned with salt. In the past, just thinking about this food makes my stomach churn (I call it "panis" na kanin). But, there's always a first time. And, just like other 'first times,' I enjoyed the experience.

But I also learned to be very particular with the 'buro' I eat - after all, it's still 'panis na kanin' (fermented rice) and hence, if the preparation is not good or clean, it can actually make your stomach upset. Needless to say, I only eat 'buro' prepared by someone I know, or restaurants with good reputation.

Fisherman's Grill, to my delight, prepares their buro to my standard - clean, tasty, well-cooked. It goes very well with fresh-boiled vegetables (ampalaya, talong, okra) and fried fish.

The other dish worth mentioning here is the 'sisig.' Given my parents' aversion to pig-fat (taba), I grew up avoiding it in my food (meticulously removing it in my dish). Naturally, sisig - a dish that brings together the pig's ear, liver, pork meat and taba - is something that I don't go ga-ga with. This dish is usually served in a hot plate (thus, all the pork-fat sizzles). The sisig preparation at Fisherman's Grill is worth coming back for. It is simple, no-frills, sauteed pig-innards, meat, fat and all - allowing the natural taste of the meat to come out. Just be careful not to eat too much, lest your blood pressure and cholesterol shoots up.

How reasonable is 'reasonable'?For four main dishes plus four cups of rice, two glasses of buko juice and one C2 iced tea, our total bill was only less than P600.00. At Fisherman's Grill, you can really say "mura na, manyaman pa (masarap pa)."

Exotic foods we dare you to try (I'm also daring myself to try:) Adobong Camaru (crickets) and Sizzling Puga (fish eggs).
To go to Fisherman's Grill: Take the flyover (McDo) and go straight until you reach the next intersection, then turn right. You will find the resto at the left side.