Search and You Shall Find in My World

24 September 2015

Laksa Good

My first taste of the Singaporean laksa was at Jurong Bird Park. When we came in it was about lunch time so we went directly to the Hawk Cafe.

I was intrigued by the laksa on the menu so I ordered one. Good choice! Leni, our host and guide, made a thumbs up sign.

Laksa is a spicy noodle soup popular in Malaysia and Singapore and its origin can be traced back to the Chinese and Malays combining noodles and Asian spices. It has two varieties, the coconut milk-based and the tamarind-based. I usually go for the coconut-based varieties.

Since my first spoonful, laksa became my favorite Singaporean dish so that wherever I went during my Singapore trip, I would order one to see if there was one peculiar flavor for each restaurant.

Now that my Singapore trip has become a memory, my craving for laksa has become more of a want rather than a need.

I ordered a large bowl of that soup at Spice Fusion in SM City Cebu because they do not have individual servings. Despite its watery blandness I devoured the whole bowl.

My foodie friends told me to buy the best instant laksa in the market today- the Prima Taste Singapore Laksa La Mian. Indeed, their laksa is very near to the fresh laksa I have tasted in Singapore. The distinctive smell of the paste would bring me to outdoor restaurants in the streets of Singapore. The fusion of chili, dried shrimps, curry and other Asian spices kicking me in every dollop of this creamy soup. Incidentally, lamian in the Visayan language means delicious!

The Singapore Laksa La Mian I prepared

Another friend, Moni gave me Teh Tarik (milk tea) from Malaysia. Now that is a good complement to my laksa.

You can now call me Captain Hook.

07 September 2015

Disturbing Siquijor

I’ve been to this mystical island for the nth time and every time I come here, something amazing happens to me. 

When friends started planning for the visit, they told me to go with them, acting as their tour guide.

They had booked our stay in Salagdoong Beach without me knowing. They were sure of themselves on what to do, where to go. Of course, I will be the tour guide since they have laid out plans and didn’t know the way.

Okay. So be it.

We started late from Cebu. When you take a land trip to Dumaguete, the starting point for Siquijor island, you should consider the traveling time that usually takes almost four hours + ferry boat transfers. But there are princesses that need grand preparations and wanted grand entrances. In short, we were still in Cebu two hours late of our agreed time of travel and we sure were running very late.

We arrived in Dumaguete City almost ten in the evening with no hotel reservations and no dinner and someone was pissing us off because she was heartbroken and crying since we left from Cebu  and like we should all be concerned with issues between her and her love of a lifetime. In short, tempers were as thin as our egos.

The night was a disaster.

Rainy days are here to stay?

The next morning, everyone was late again. The gloomy morning did not only brought rains but also bad tempers.

Jinx must have followed us everywhere because we were greeted by long lines at the Dumaguete port. It was a Saturday, people came in droves, and some shipping company cancelled its trip for the day for religious reasons.

Long lines greeted us at Dumaguete port

When we arrived in Larena port, we waited for multicabs that seemed not available because we were there. So we opted for a tricycle that we found outside of the port premises because my friends wanted cheaper transportation without considering the distance between Larena and Maria where Salagdoong is located. The tricycle heaved its way to Salagdoong beach overloaded with tired, nasty, broken-hearted, irritating and irritated passengers.

The view at Salagdoong was extremely spectacular. Men and women guests were interestingly in different stages of undress. The sea was calm and blue. The wind blowing constantly.

We could not be accommodated at our reserved room because we were too many and they were full. We have to climb to Hotel Agripino so we can have rooms to stay.

We have to rest to extinguish the bad vibes we brought in with us.

Salagdoong was calm. Not like us.

We each went our ways to discover what Salagdoong could offer to the tired soul. The men drowned several Red Horses to forget the day. The women and halfs, sensing indifference amongst them, had their cliques huddled together ignoring past friendships.

We were appeased the next morning by the presence of a male macaque that the hotel staff claimed, had not visited the hotel for so many years. This is not a good sign, the staff woefully informed us. He further told us that this alpha male caused the destruction of their WiFi and cable TV connections, several of their aircon units and even attacked some guests. Surprisingly, the alpha monkey stayed, hopping between our terraces and the women’s, eyeing at our closed glass doors as if wanting to decipher us individually. He might have sensed we have done more damages than himself, so he went out silently unnoticed.

Naughty monkey
We checked out tired from Salagdoong and purchased an expensive ticket for a fastcraft so we could get home fast. Like the macaque, we silently went our separate ways.

A group travel is not always an assurance that you could have an enjoyable experience.

Lessons learned from this travel:
  1. If you travel by group, always inform everyone joining of the plans and itineraries involving the journey.
  2. Know the schedules of your bus, boats, ferries, fastcrafts, etc. and the locations of your hotel and resort before embarking on a journey.
  3. Always confer with your hotel if they can accommodate extra persons especially if extra means three more persons. 
  4. Be sensitive to the group. If you do not want to join the trip at the last minute, DON’T! Do not expect the group to sympathize with your whining and tantrums.
  5. Bamboos don’t break because they bend with the wind.
  6. The next time your group goes on an adventure trip without them informing you- it’s obvious. You are the problem.

05 September 2015

Designing from Experience

I was commissioned to design a box for a local chocolate company with specifics including it should appeal to the international and local AB market.

And, of course, there’s the product I should try. Yes, some companies do let you taste their products so you can have the feel, the inspiration to do whatever they wanted you to do for their packaging. For free! While munching on their chocolate, my mind wandered around- time traveling- 34 years way back. 

When I was younger, I used to spend my school breaks in a forested area way out of civilization in Batuan, Bohol. The place was called Tanod, literally, to watch, maybe because you go there to watch over your plants, ala plantation style. This was where my grandparents of my mother’s side lived, their old age no longer allowed them to go back and forth from their original house to watch their kaingin, so they made a house there. The total population? Except for the macaques that were abundant at that time, there were only four adults living in two houses there. Four old adults.

At eight, I never felt out of place in Tanod.

I became one with the cliffs, one of the sources of inspiration. I would go there to look for fossils. I used to hang from one of the sharp promontories that protruded from the steep cliffs. I would imagine Da Vinci or Wilbur Wright and their visions of flying while hanging from the promontory; but felt extremely afraid I would fall off to death. I also imagine dying and death there in Tanod.

The trees were also my friends. In fair weather or on rainy afternoons, I have a special nook in one of the biggest trees where I seek shelter by the lush foliage. No one can find me there. Amazingly, the trees were abundant in the area despite some patches of kaingin. The old folks were slashing and burning for rootcrops and corn, their main staple. Might also be the reason why the macaques, not native to the area, would do occasional raids for food. The old folks would fought back by putting up dangerous traps or shooting them macaques with slingshots. In retaliation, the wise macaques would come up to their houses and made their abode like a tornado just happened inside them. A vicious circle almost always never ending. 

This might be why the macaques would bully small children who came in their way, running after them until they were in some safe place. Can you imagine? I was the only kid in that place.

Why am I telling you these?

Because during those times, having a piece of chocolate bar or a hot cup of chocolate means you have an American friend or one of your relatives is in America. In short- you are rich, because you only have chocolates imported from America.

But not for me. Or us.

My grandparents had a considerable number of cacao and coffee trees around Tanod. During harvests, my taga lungsod eyes (a derogatory term for the much more civilized people from the town center) would pop out due to the war of reds, yellows, oranges and greens everywhere I turned.

Tatay Pastor, my lolo, would then ask me to suck and eat all the meaty parts of the cacao pods and coffee beans. This has a double purpose even if nowadays, sucking cacao seeds is discouraged because it would cause bacteria to thrive in the seeds, hence, affecting the quality and taste of chocolate. But it did not matter back then.

For one- the nutritious seed coating (called testa) is good for children to eat, a better alternative to candies.

Secondly, out of poverty, sucking on the seeds would give temporary relief of hunger pangs and parents would not worry about the need to buy food.

But while the rich had their imported chocolate, ours came fresh and direct from source.

After roasting, the browned cocoa beans would then be crushed using a big shell called melo-melo (Indian Volute). During grinding, my lolo would put muscovado in some portions and feed them to me.

No kid at that time exactly knew how it felt to be intoxicated. But at eight, I already knew. I would glow after several doleouts, my head felt like swimming in an unbeknownst stupor. The sugar-infused fresh chocolate and the hot choco would knock me sweetly down and woke me up famished.

I haven’t been to Tanod anymore. I haven’t been to that place since 1981. All the four people who loved me there gone. The place abandoned. I heard the place is now thick with trees and shrubs and already, the macaques taking hold like heirs of my grandparents. 

I want to go back to see if the cacaos and coffee trees are still there, my hauntings are still there.

So while I am thinking of how should I make this chocolate box appetizing to the international market, my mind wandered off and I became sentimental. Nostalgic. I cried remembering the people and the place.

This is the only product packaging that had me crying. I should bill them more.

My first study for Mint, Coconut, Chili, Dark and Coffee chocolate boxes

My second study for Mint, Coconut, Chili, Dark and Coffee chocolate boxes

Can you guess which of the two studies was approved by my client?

23 July 2015

Sandugo Trade Expo 2015 opens with a bang

DTI 7 director Caberte introducing the Keynote Speaker
Mayor John Geesnell Yap welcoming the people to the Sandugo Trade Expo
Gov. Ed Chatto with his inspiring message, my ideal speaker
DTI Usec Zenaida Maglaya praising Bohol for its expanding trade expo

The Sandugo Trade Expo opened yesterday, July 22 at the ICM with the presence of Usec Zenaida Maglaya of DTI, DTI Regional director Aster Caberte and Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddel along with other regional directors, local officials, buyers and exhibitors from Regions 6, 7, 8 and the Caraga region.

The Trade Expo, now on its 10th year with the leadership of Ms. Nannette Arbon, DTI-Bohol's provincial director, showcased an eclectic mix of furnishings, fixtures, wearables, food and other novelty items.

With the theme- Fun. Fabulous. Finds.- the show is an excellent venue for our SMEs to brag their products.

So excited for Bohol for the launching of BHLi2i!

Also launch during the opening is Bohol Ideas Innovation Challenge (BHLi2i) where FabLab and students are given their chance to showcase their inventions.

Visit the trade expo until July 26.

Australian Ambassador Tweddel visiting the booths at the Bohol Trade Expo

22 July 2015

Come to Bohol for the 2015 Sandugo Festival!

Last year's winner of the Sandugo Street Dancing (Photo grabbed from Sandugo FB)

This week, Bohol is in a celebratory mood.

First, July is the Sandugo month around Bohol. But most of the activities are focused on Tagbilaran, the province’s capital.

Sandugo, literally translated as blood compact, celebrates the treaty of friendship between Datu Si Katuna and Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1565. Boholanos often brag about this event since Spain was literally welcomed in Bohol while Magellan was killed when he and his men went to the nearby island of Cebu.

Sandugo Festival since then is scheduled every July despite the fact that the blood compact happened in March. Sandugo has become a filler because there are no big events in July and Filipinos all over the world are coming in for their yearly summer vacations.

TBTK is the gathering of Boholanos from around the world. It is a biennial activity. It was first celebrated in Bohol and various places abroad since then. Boholanos are welcomed with cultural activities in the pageantry of Boholano fiesta.

So July is actually a month of merrymaking in Bohol.

How to get to Tagbilaran

There are several flights coming in from Manila to Tagbilaran served by major airlines like Cebu Pacific, Philipine Airlines and Air Asia. The flights usually take an hour.

There are also fastcrafts coming in from Cebu, a major destination in the Philippines. OceanJet, Weesam Express and SuperCat 2Go have more than 2 daily trips from Cebu to Tagbilaran.

There are also boats coming from Mindanao and nearby islands.

When in Tagbilaran, the major transport is the tricycle. A word of caution though, tricycles have their own ghost tariff rates. They can dictate the fare as they please. Don’t mind if there are religious quotes on them. Some are rude. So a note of advice before riding in- HAGGLE. 

Important links

My friend, Chris Ramasola's winning Sandugo logo