Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Make Your Own Smencils with the Smencils Mini Kits!

Smencils are the world's only gourmet-scented pencils made entirely of recycled newspapers. These eco-friendly writing instruments allow its users to be more socially responsible earth citizens, preserving trees as they choose the less damaging alternative. Original Smencils come in many fun scents such as root beer, very berry, cotton candy, orange, grape, tropical blast, cinnamon, watermelon, and black cherry. If you would like to enhance your memory for a test or simply like to relax to the scent of peppermint, you may want to try Smart Smencils.  Stir up the Van Gogh in you and create a beautiful work of colored pencil art with Colored Smencils!

What if you wanted to create your own Smencils? Would that be possible? Yes! Smencils now has the Smencils Mini Kit which includes two unscented pencils and one scent applicator ready to squeeze and "paint" on the newspaper rod surface of the pencils. The Smencils Mini Kits come in four scents namely toasted marshmallow, bubble gum, strawberry, and pineapple. You may get your own mini kits from Hobbes and Landes as well as Fully Booked. Here's to a gourmet-smelling day for you! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Multifunctional Headwear: Great Christmas Ideas for 2010!

Halloween is finally over and in a few weeks, Thanksgiving. Once that turkey is served -- or "lechon manok," as we Filipinos prefer -- Christmas time is just around the corner. Malls are sprucing up their common areas with themed Yuletide decorations if only to wake up the sleepy shoppers from their crisis-slumber. 

My family enjoys giving and receiving gifts. Immensely. My daughter exerts tremendous effort at resisting the temptation to open her presents before December 25. All that energy should power a village, in my assessment :) There is no other time in the year when everyone is, to an exceptionally advanced degree, truly happy.

The most valuable gifts I have received during Christmas are the ones that are either highly functional, unique, or both. If you are thinking of Christmas gift ideas to fill up your Christmas list, may I suggest this product: a multifunctional headgear that can be twisted, folded, turned, and manipulated for use in a number of interesting ways namely, as a neck warmer, balaclava, headband, dust protector, pirate's hat or skull cap, beanie or bonnet, diadem, scrunchie, and many more. The original creator of the multifunctional headwear is a Spanish brand called BUFF. Each piece costs over a thousand pesos. I know, it is a lot of money for a Christmas gift.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Colored Smencils: The Fun-Smelling Pencil Revolution

Be part of the Pencil Revolution through Smencils. These ingenious pencils are constructed of 100% recycled newspapers utilizing a technology that allows the Smencils to sharpen like ordinary wooden pencils. As an added bonus, Smencils come fully charged with fun-smelling scents that bring you back to days when you had your school bag in hand. Some of the irresistible scents are Very Berry, Tropical Blast, Grape, Orange, Rootbeer, Bubble Gum, Cotton Candy, Watermelon, Black Cherry, and even Peppermint! Each Smencil brings you a special scent that lasts for two years, whether inside or out of its corn-based biodegradable container. At 69 pesos, Smencils make great Christmas gifts.

The most recent addition to the Smencil family is the Colored Smencil. There are 10 available colors in 10 different scents. Don't you just love the way it looks?

Create wonderful works of fine art using Colored Smencils and submit them to the Smencils Manila Gallery which will be up and running soon. Free Smencils will be given away to creations that make it to the website's art galleria. You can submit your scanned works to

My daughter has submitted her barn and farm creation using her Colored Smencils. She hopes that you will like it :)

Barn and Farm by Amber Andres. Media: Colored Smencils

The Fire Treatment: One of China's Fiery Massage Treats

The Fire Treatment Massage: Spa Near Guangzhou Hotel

The past decade of advances in clinical psychology has afforded men free access to information regarding what women want. A visit to your neighborhood bookstore will reveal hundreds of crazy books authored by crazy writers in an attempt to provide "useful" information to their willing male victims. Men's magazines are not only filled with filth (if women read it) but also tips on how to bag the next damsel in distress by setting up a bait. And what is that bait? What women want.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What is Married Life without a Wok? (Ten Years and Counting)

This moment is captured on photo by Jan van der Crabben

In two days, I will have completed a decade of marriage. And fortunately , with the same man. While most pious women will write (or think) about how trials and challenges have strengthened their love and commitment to their spouses, I choose to write about a wok. It may be a trivial matter to most, but I find the wok to be one of the most soulful elements in my relationship (and that means friendship and marriage, which are two separate components) with my husband.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Smart Smencils: It's the Peppermint That Makes You Smart!

Did you know that the scent of peppermint induces a significant amount of blood flow in the brain that enhances one's memory? It actually does! The use of peppermint dates back to centuries ago when it was used by people who lived near the Mediterranean Sea, where the peppermint plant species originated. Its benefits to the human body range from brain (memory) to tummy (digestion-related relief) and is fully backed up by clinical studies conducted by a variety of groups in the United States.

I am quite certain you have already heard of Smencils, the world's only gourmet-scented pencils made from 100% recycled newspapers. The same company has introduced an ingenious variety of gourmet-scented pencils called Smart Smencils. These writing instruments are applied with peppermint scent, perfect mates to improve your test scores!

Grab your own Smart Smencil now from the following outlets:
  • Hobbes and Landes Bonifacio High Street
  • Hobbes and Landes Power Plant Mall
  • Hobbes and Landes Greenbelt 5
  • Hobbes and Landes Greenhills Promenade
  • Hobbes and Landes Shangrila Plaza Mall
  • Hobbes and Landes Mall of Asia
  • Hobbes and Landes Trinoma 
  • Fullybooked Bonifacio High Street
  • Fullybooked Power Plant Mall, Rockwell
  • Fullybooked Greenhills Promenade
  • Fullybooked Shangri La Hotel
  • Fullybooked Cebu
  • Fullybooked SM North Edsa
  • Fullybooked Greenbelt 5
  • Petshop Trinoma

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fresh New Filipino Adobo Recipe Ideas from Cafe Juanita

A few weeks ago, I entered this quaint restaurant named Cafe Juanita in the Burgos Circle of the Global City in Fort Bonifacio. With much excitement and anticipation, I ordered what I believe were the house specialties namely, Two-Way Pork Adobo and Fried Lapu-Lapu with Tamarind Sauce. For obvious reasons, I resisted every temptation to order the Crispy Pata. It was a beautiful place, picture perfect for a romantic date in the heart of the busy metro. A sneak peek of this dining destination for duets is available below, taken from the archives of TopGear Philippines.

Cafe Juanita @ The Burgos Circle in Global City, Fort Bonifacio
I will NOT lie. The food reviews (raves) written about this restaurant is not all that reliable. It was not all THAT bad, but it was NOT all THAT good either. Fair enough, right? :) 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Asia Herb Association: Probably the Best Spa in Bangkok!

Barely a week from a fruitful Bangkok trip, my body continues to reap the benefits from a 90-minute herbal press body massage by Asia Herb Association. There is no doubt that among Bangkok's many spas-- to include those located in five-star hotels-- Asia Herb Association is one of the golden city's best!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: A Three-Day Saigon Itinerary Plus Dining Tips

Le Loi Street in a frenzy. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Taken from the photo archives of Virgin Media.
Saigon is the old (and I should say, romantic) name of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The country's population has swelled in this rather small urbanized city in the past decade. I asked a local why this is so. He said succinctly, "In Saigon, more jobs." Most of Vietnam's foreign guests choose hotel and backpacker accommodations within an area (street) called Pham Ngu Lao. I find it quite eccentric that the heart of Saigon's accommodation capital is severely lacking in good dining options.

I was prompted to create this post by earthjewels. She enlisted my help for her planned three-day Saigon getaway. I do not claim to have the best of suggestions, but I believe my travel guide will offer an unhurried way of relishing what this Asian Dragon has to offer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thai-Style Eggs with Shallots: A Great Way to Serve Hard-Boiled Eggs!

Have you ever tried serving eggs as a main dish? The photo you see above is one of our family's main dish favorites! My hope is that it will also be yours. :)

Inspired from Thai-flavored dishes with a twist that appeals to the Filipino palate, this hard-boiled egg dish is sure to delight you and your family. Surprise them with a twist to the regular breakfast ingredient!

8 to 10 hard-boiled eggs
oil for frying
bottled tamarind paste (or Knorr sinigang mix)
soy sauce

Philippine Passport Renewal and Application: Hell's Queue!

Queue on the First Floor of the DFA Office
It was the 6th of July 2010 when I made that trip to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) along Gloria Macapagal Avenue near SM Mall of Asia, husband and daughter in tow. Instead of having our passports renewed through an agency, we decided to do it ourselves. We spent a total of 6 hours and 45 minutes in the DFA spending nearly half of that time standing. Whether it was a good decision or not is for YOU to conclude :)

Nowadays, it no longer makes sense to course your Philippine passport renewal or passport application through agencies or third parties. Why? That is because the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) requires a personal appearance. Yes, that means you need to bring your children with you if you want them to renew their passports or apply for new ones. Interestingly though, the guards will NOT let any minor or adult enter the premises if they are just accompanying the person needing a passport renewal or application.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Storynory: A Rich Resource of Enchanting Audio Stories For Children & the Young Once!

Having been educated in an exclusive private school from nursery through high school, I have always held these institutions in high regard. When it was finally time for my own daughter's schooling requirements (as I had defined it), the only way of education I thought BEST was through a regular school. It was an exciting experience for my husband and I, seeing our little girl ride on that white school bus, school bag in tow. I even felt a tear drop down my left cheek as she waved me goodbye on her first school day.

A hectic business schedule led to three years of regular school for my daughter, from nursery through prep. I will always be grateful to her dedicated instructors who gave their best efforts at educating my child in a way they thought best. However, something changed during her last year in regular school. Although I did not expect perfection from her teachers, I DID expect my daughter to advance in her reading skills.

Monday, July 12, 2010

North Park's Shanghai Chicken with Prawn Crackers You Can Cook Yourself!

The most famous of restaurant chains in the Philippines and around the globe bend over backwards to ensure that their recipes remain best kept secrets. For instance, KFC's finger-licking eleven-spice chicken recipe is tucked securely within the company's secret food archives. Max's fried chicken takes pride in a recipe that has spanned three generations. One of my favorite affordable Chinese restaurants in the metropolis is North Park Noodle House. I love their serving sizes which offer so much value for money. Moreover, it takes them only a few minutes to whip up your order. Service can be summarized in a word, and that is, PRONTO!

My family loves to order either Shanghai Chicken or China Chicken from North Park Noodle House. The only thing lacking from the dish is a crunchy sensation enjoyed from a plate of complementary prawn crackers. The photo above is a Shanghai China Chicken dish which anybody can cook and enjoy. The recipe consists of only a few ingredients which you "recycle" for even more savory and better-tasting Chinese chicken days after your first try.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Woman's Cry For Help When Her Car Breaks Down

Women do not love cars the way men do. Cars are toys for the big boys. Conversely, for the population of women who own and drive their own vehicles, cars are nothing more than a helpmate in times of need. One of the most reliable cars in my opinion is the Chevrolet Silverado, which you see in the photo above, borrowed from the archives of

The recent global crisis has made purchasing brand new cars a challenging task. Banks and financial institutions have become stricter in their standards for approval of personal auto loans. While women appreciate second-hand cars beyond words, years of use bring a set of auto problems which make that which was reliable, a source of stress and worry.

Women do not know engines and car parts the way men do. Men are naturals in terms of the anatomy of automobiles. Women find more hope in a SALE sign posted in a store’s front window display. When the car breaks down, women become damsels in much distress. If you live in Dallas, the only hope for a lady’s survival is a Dallas auto repair shop! is one such knight in shining armor in times of great need. is a reliable auto repair company that provides accurate estimates to any kind of specific car repair such as a brake job, A/C service, or other more complicated jobs. With, the princess can ride on her old faithful horse once again!

My New Vintage Art Discovery: Shephard Fairey Street Art

My love for vintage designs has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts. Shabby chic was my first love, one that I shall never forget. However, the past months have enhanced my “artistic” palate through an exposure to guerilla street art. If there was a hero in the streets who uses art for public propaganda, that would be none other than Shepard Fairey.

Featured in the photo above are two of my favorite Shephard Fairey art prints. The one on the left is entitled “These Parties Disgust Me” while the one on the right is interestingly labeled as “War by Numbers.”  However, it was Shephard Fairey’s Barack Obama “HOPE” poster design, which you see below, that catapulted him to artist fame.

It may be of interest to avid vintage collectors that genuine and OUT-OF-PRINT Shepard Fairey prints are still available for purchase from The online store highlights a treasure trove of amazing Shepard Fairey prints from the years 2001 through 2010. Be forewarned though. The price tags on each rare print may be more than you can handle in a lifetime! :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Visco's Strawberry Shortcake in Baguio: One of the Country's Best Desserts!

A recent visit to Baguio City has been one of the most eventful in my life. The last time my feet were on Baguio's cold pavement was more than two decades ago and although some friends have dissuaded me from revisiting the city because of its lack of improvement in infrastructure, two more-than-significant balikbayan girl friends have dragged my feet to what I would call "Hell's Queue" at Cubao's Victory Liner. There are deluxe buses To Baguio City you can ride that are non-stop which offer so much leg room you can actually position yourself as you would on a long beach resort bench. Yes, no kidding. I shall feature that on a future blog post for sure once I have all the numbers right.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Smencils: Gourmet Scented Pencils Now Available in the Philippines!

We do not have to be environmentalists to know that in order to preserve our planet, we must save and protect our trees. There is no urgent need to engage in large-scale environmental changes to contribute positively to the earth. We can protect and preserve our natural resources through simple ways such as reusing our printed documents as scratch paper, responsibly separating our garbage, limiting the use of plastic bags in our purchases by bringing our own reusable bags, and many more simple-to-do tasks.

The product featured in the photo above is called Smencils. The Smencil Company is a business from the USA that envisions to save the earth's trees one pencil at a time through its product - Smencils. Instead of wood that is used in commercial pencils, Smencils are made from 100% recycled newspapers. These newspapers are rolled to make Smencils and are sharpened just like you would your regular pencils. As a bonus, Smencils are dipped in the sweetest of scents that last up to two years inside or outside their corn-based biodegradable plastic tubes.

Smencils are now available in the Philippines and are open for distribution and reselling. The suggested retail price per Smencil is 69 pesos. They come in 10 different scents namely, bubble gum, cinnamon, watermelon, orange, black cherry, very berry, cotton candy, grape, tropical blast, and root beer. Currently, Smencils may be purchased from Hobbes and Landes in Fort Bonifacio High Street, Power Plant Mall Rockwell, Greenbelt 5, and Greenhills Promenade branches. The company that has authorized distributorship in the Philippines is Timbrel and Harp Marketing. Those who are interested in dealership or distribution may email . Wholesale buyers and resellers are also welcome. The official website of Smencils Manila may be found here.

Save the earth and its trees one pencil at a time! Smell great at the same time too! :D Buy your Smencil today :D

Smencils are now available from the following stores:

Hobbes and Landes Bonifacio High Street
Hobbes and Landes Power Plant Mall, Rockwell
Hobbes and Landes Greenbelt 5
Hobbes and Landes Greenhills Promenade
Hobbes and Landes Shangri La Plaza Mall
Hobbes and Landes SM Mall of Asia
Hobbes and Landes Trinoma

Fullybooked Bonifacio High Street
Fullybooked Greenbelt 5
Fullybooked Power Plant Mall, Rockwell
Fullybooked Greenhills Promenade
Fullybooked EDSA Shangri La Hotel
Fullybooked SM North Edsa
Fullybooked SM Mall of Asia
Fullybooked Gateway Mall Cubao
Fullybooked Trinoma
Fullybooked Eastwood Mall
Fullybooked Marquee Mall Angeles City
Fullybooked SM Clark Pampanga
Fullybooked Cebu 

Powerbooks Alabang Town Center
Powerbooks Greenbelt 4
Powerbooks Shangri La Plaza
Powerbooks SM Megamall
Powerbooks Festival Mall Alabang
Powerbooks Glorietta
Powerbooks SM Mall of Asia

A Different Bookstore Serendra

Bibliarch Glorietta 3
Bibliarch KCC Mall, General Santos City

Sketchbooks Greenbelt 3

DASH Store Eastwood City

Petshop Trinoma

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Apply for Reduced Philippine Travel Tax for Children from Manila and from Clark!

Travel still is considered by most to be a luxury, a status symbol of sorts. In the 1980s, the only way through which you can book a planned travel itinerary whether domestic or international was through a travel agency. Today, things are much different. With the onset of high-technology and the birth of budget airlines such as Air Asia and Cebu Pacific, travel has become relatively inexpensive and very convenient to "do-it-yourself."  Everything can be booked online, from the air ticket, to the accommodations, and to even day tours. There is no need to dole out cold cash. Everything is charged to a Visa or Mastercard credit card. If you do NOT have one, you can still enlist the help of a friend who has one to book it for you. Just make sure to pay them. :)

Traveling to another country involves the payment of Philippine travel tax. As of today, June 14, 2010, travel tax rates are pegged at 1,620 pesos per passenger. If you are traveling with children aged below 11 years, you may apply for a reduced travel tax certificate and pay only 810 pesos (a whopping 50% discount) per child. Applications involving travel tax exemptions and reduced rates may be coursed through two locations namely, Manila and Clark. All information will be provided below for your convenience.

How does one apply for Reduced Travel Tax in the Philippines for children aged below 11 years old?

Contrary to the bureaucratic red tape expected from government agency transactions, applying for reduced travel tax for children below 11 years of age from the DOT (Department of Tourism) or its ONE-STOP PROCESSING CENTER in Clark involves only a few steps and a few minutes. Enlisted below are a few preparation tips when planning to visit DOT.

1.  Bring the original passport of your child/children along with photocopies.

2.  Bring the travel itinerary receipt which was sent to your email address or the original printed air ticket with your child's/children's names on it. Make sure you also have photocopies with you for submission.

3. a.  If you are applying in MANILA, the DOT building's address is along T. M. Kalaw Avenue near Taft Avenue, Manila.  It is a yellowish building that is right across the Manila Doctor's Hospital. You are to go directly to Room 117, the Revenue or Travel Tax Department. Their office is open from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm Mondays through Fridays. Telephone numbers are 523-3029 and 524-7734.

3. b.  If you are applying in CLARK, the ONE-STOP processing center in Clark is located in Building No. 7256 (the building across Oriental Duty Free Shop) along C. M. Recto Highway, Clark Special Economic Zone. The Clark office is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Mondays through Fridays.

4. The queue is not long and the process will take only 15 minutes, maximum. The processing fee is 200 pesos per child. This amount corresponds to the processing fee for your child's Reduced Travel Tax Certificate, which entitles him or her to a 50% discount on Philippine Travel Tax. You will pay only 810 pesos plus the 200 pesos for a total of 1,010 pesos per child. The certificate is only good for one travel itinerary. Future travel plans require another application. The photo above shows the picture of the certificate on the bottom right portion, right beside the DOT logo.

5.  Since you are already going out of your way to the Travel Tax Department, I suggest you bring extra cash to pay for the other passengers' Philippine travel tax (the adults'). That way, you go straight to the check-in queue on the day of your departure, without need to settle the Philippine Travel Tax.

I have asked staff of the Department of Tourism if this certificate may be applied in the airport. They confirmed that it can be done in the airport when you leave but when the queue is long, they will not bother to process your request since it takes a considerable amount of time. I do not like taking risks and so I chose to go to the DOT instead. The only regret I have is the fact that I forgot to bring extra cash to pay for the travel tax fees of my husband and I. That only means I have to be in the airport an extra hour earlier to allot time for this. Bummer! :(

August 18, 2010. I just returned from a Hong Kong trip via Cebu Pacific. I asked the DFA staff in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 if applications for reduced travel tax for children can be applied on the spot. They said YES! This means that you no longer have to go to their T.M. Kalaw Avenue office for the reduced travel tax certificate. :)

September 15, 2012. You can now apply for reduced travel tax for your children in the airport. When you pay your travel taxes, kindly indicate to the DFA staff that you would like to avail of the reduced travel tax certificate.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jacob's Ladder Immunization Center: Mommy's Best Friend


As parents, we strive not only to provide the best education to our children. A big chunk of our efforts are also invested in their health care. From infancy to toddler to child and pre-teen stages, where our budgets permit, we ensure that our children are given their timely "shots". In the past years, vaccines and immunizations in the Philippines have become a luxury. Only the wealthy can afford to provide this added health support to their children.

I have resided near SM Southmall for at least nine years and in one of those cinema nights (I would say three years ago), I stumbled upon this immunization center called Jacob's Ladder. Since then, I have referred a lot of mommy friends as well as some adults to enlist the services of this establishment for their vaccination and immunization needs.

Jacob's Ladder Immunization Center is owned by Mr. Jaime Villafuerte. He has taken upon himself the responsibility of providing CHEAPER vaccines to the public. Why? Rumor has it that one or two of his relatives died from diseases that could have been avoided by immunization/vaccination. The vaccines are purchased in bulk from Zuellig, the largest distributor of pharmaceutical products in the country. This explains why the center can afford to offer vaccines that are priced at least 30% cheaper than regular rates from pediatricians. No offense to all pediatricians in our country but I believe they just charge an arm and a leg for an ordinary shot. I love my pediatrician and rely on him for help for my child's health care. However, where an alternative exists that will help me save big bucks, why not?

Branches of Jacob's Ladder Immunization Center may be found in the following:
SM Southmall (3rd Level) Telephone #801-5453 - see update below for new location
Robinsons Mall Dasmarinas Cavite (Lower Ground Floor) Telephone #046-4163791
Puso ng Maynila Arcade, UN Avenue Telephone #404-1189
Port Area Manila Telephone #4043796
Baliwag Bulacan 

Here is a list of the vaccines and their price list as of June 8, 2010:
Hepa B Pedia (single)     500 pesos
Hepa B Adult (single)     700 pesos
Hepa A Pedia (single)     1,200 pesos
Hepa A Adult (single)     2,300 pesos
Flu Adult or Pedia         800 pesos (includes the H1N1 strain already)
Haemophilus Influenza Type B (HIB)     850 pesos
Diptheria + Pertussis + Tetanus Booster     1,200 pesos
DPT + HIB + Hepa B + Polio (6-in-1)      2,400 pesos
Measles + Mumps + Rubella (MMR)        750 pesos
DPT + Hepa B     900 pesos
DPT + HIB + Polio (5-in-1)     2,000 pesos
DPT + Polio (Tetraxim)     1,250 pesos
DPT + HIB (Tetracthib)     1,200 pesos
Combined Hepa A & B Pedia     1,200 pesos
Combined Hepa A & B Adult     2,100 pesos
Typhoid Fever     800 pesos
Chicken Pox (Varicella)     1,600 pesos
Cholera (Dulcoral)     1,450 pesos
Pneumococcal (Pneumo 23)     1,400 pesos
Measles     450 pesos
Tetanus Toxoid     200 pesos
Rabies     1,600 pesos
BCG     500 pesos
Meningococcal     1,600 pesos
PCV 7 (Prevenar)     4,200 pesos
PCV 10 (Synflorix)     2,500 pesos
Rotavirus (Rotarix)     2,400 pesos

Human Papilloma Virus - HPV (Cervical Cancer Vaccine):
Gardasil     4,000 pesos
Cervarix     2,000 pesos

Typhoid vaccines have a validity of three years for every single shot.
Pneumo vaccines have a validity of five years for every single shot. 

UPDATE (October 28, 2011) :

Jacob's Ladder SM Southmall is already closed.  The good news is, they have relocated to a new building in Las Pinas with details below:

Second Floor
It is an orange building near Citimotors (Times) and SM Super Center
Landline:  478-4707

Updates on vaccine prices:
Typhoid Fever - 900.00
Pneumo - 1,400.00
Polio - 500.00

New vaccine:
Combination MMR and Chickenpox - 2,500.00
PVC #13 - 4,200.00
DPT for Adults - Adacel 1,400.00
DPT for Adults - Boostrix 1,200.00

Monday, May 31, 2010

Penong's Barbecue & Seafood Grill: One of Davao's Best and Cheapest Restaurants

 Penong's Chicken Barbecue Value Meal at 65 pesos only with unlimited rice!!!

I left my heart in Davao City a few weeks ago. Most Filipinos include Boracay and Palawan in their vacation getaways and it is very seldom for a Manileño to even consider a visit to this beautiful city in the Southern Philippines. This blog post (although food related) is hoped to encourage you to include Davao city in your future travel itinerary plans. I am definitely returning!

Penong's Barbecue and Seafood Grill is one of the best restaurants in Davao. It is a multi-awarded establishment in Davao and has remained a favorite among locals. Penong's skyrocketed to fame with its unlimited rice concept. Clap twice and the servers are ready to scoop out hot rice from their containers straight to your platter. Their value meals cost only 65 pesos AND BELOW! The highly-acclaimed chicken barbecue meal featured in the photo above, with your choice of either "pecho" (breast and wing, as in the photo) or "pa-a" (leg and thigh) is only at an affordable price of 65 pesos.

Penong's Pork Barbecue Value Meal  at 58 pesos only with unlimited rice!!!

For people who just love the flavor of pork (that's me!), with your 58 pesos, you can have the pork barbecue value meal pictured above. Yes, all three char-broiled sticks of juicy smoking sensation that bring delight to each bite! Enough said!

Other viands to try are the grilled squid (cooked to perfection), the Okra salad, the Lokot-lokot (seaweed) salad, and their fish kilawin.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich Cooked In A Pan!

A Filipino breakfast is not complete without bread. With a confusing variety of bread assortments that fill grocery aisles today, the LOAF remains as a pantry mainstay. In my (undying but slightly failing) pursuit to serve healthier food options to my family, I have recently made the switch from white bread to whole wheat bread. The wiser man in me headed for a reliable bread brand, Gardenia, instead of experimenting on less known brands. Those wheat bread trials are reserved for another day and of course, another blog post.

The grilled cheese sandwich is a classic American delight often using cheddar cheese singles. To take the grilled cheese sandwich closer to the Filipino home, it is best used with Kraft Eden Singles cheese (currently 43 to 45 pesos for 6 slices) and very good butter. As the French say, good food is butter, butter, and butter.

A non-stick pan is essential in preparing this sandwich. The instructions are simple.
1.  Heat your pan.
2.  Add some butter (you decide how much).
3.  Let the melted butter spread across the pan by shaking the pan.
4.  Add your sandwich (that is, a piece of cheese singles in between two slices of bread).
5.  Turn heat to low to allow cheese to melt.
6.  Lift out the sandwich when the bottom is brown (like the photo you see above).
7.  Add butter to pan and allow to melt.
8.  Turn the sandwich over and brown the other side.
9.  Serve hot.

This sandwich is PERFECT with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. A simple yet enjoyable dish for every home. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Better Than Razon's Bulalo Steak Recipe You Can Cook Yourself!

Carnivorous to the core, it was I who most enjoyed the dish you see on the photo which I prepared a few dinner nights ago. Pinoy recipes often use the beef shank or "bulalo" for soup. I think that "bulalo" is best served as a steak, whether served on a plate or a sizzling platter. Just like Gusteau said in Ratatouille, "Anyone can cook this Bulalo Steak Recipe". It is simple, easy, and delicious!

6 to 7 pieces beef shanks (choose bones that are small with more meat around the marrow)
Water for boiling
Half cup of very good salted butter (I use Magnolia Gold or Anchor)
Knorr liquid seasoning to taste
Some white sugar
Some calamansi juice (or cane vinegar)
Freshly cracked black pepper (you can use the mortar and pestle to do this in the absence of a pepper mill)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of all purpose floor dissolved in 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups of water
Lots of minced garlic

Clean beef shanks with water. Place beef shanks in a pot. Fill with water until all the meat is submerged. Put under high heat on stove until a rolling boil. Clean out the scum. Lower the heat to low-medium to tenderize the meat. Check your pot every 15 minutes just to make sure it does not run dry. Add water if necessary. Make sure it is not overly tender. Test with a fork.

Once tender, remove the beef shanks and set aside. Strain the broth and set aside. In a wok, melt the butter. Add the beef shanks and sear them. Add the cracked black pepper to your liking and stir. Pour in broth (as much as you like). Turn up the heat. Add Knorr liquid seasoning and sugar to taste Add just a few drops of calamansi juice (or vinegar). In a separate bowl, dissolve the all purpose floor in water. Pour this flour mixture into the beef dish in the wok while continuously stirring to avoid lumps from forming. Pour Knorr if it needs more saltiness.

In a separate pan, heat oil on high. Once smoking, turn the heat off and pour the minced garlic. Stir until light brown and crispy. Strain and set aside.

In a serving dish, take pieces of beef shanks and arrange beautifully. Spoon generously with sauce or gravy. Top by sprinkling with roasted crispy garlic.

Enjoy your bulalo steak and do not forget to invite me over!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shanghai Siopao: A Binondo Delight

Decades and relocation transfers later, Binondo remains as one of those places I consider HOME. My mind is filled with vivid memories of my mother dragging us on weekly trips to Chinatown to shop for the freshest greens and of course, other strange food delights such as black chicken, which caused so much confusion and argument even as a child since the only chicken in view were stout white ones with bright red rubbery wattles and combs. Years later, I discovered that it was the chicken's meat and skin that was black through an unfortunate witness of an actual fowl slaughter (or butchering, whichever you choose to feel less guilt).

I love walking the streets of Ongpin, Salazar, Soler, and Alonzo. There still is nothing like it in the world. One of my favorite snack foods in the vicinity of Binondo is the Shanghai Siopao featured in the photo above. These are steamed buns cooked in a unique "contraption" that steams the buns as the bottoms are fried brown simultaneously. This method of cooking allows all the juices of the meat to be retained. Each bite from this bun brings sheer gastronomic pleasure! It is a much bigger version of the famous xiao long bao in China and Hong Kong but much better since it gives you more bang for the buck. It is a juicy steamed bun filled with ground pork, fat (yes, that HAS to be there), scallions, water chestnuts (as filler/extender), soy sauce, and sesame oil. Someday, I will attempt to make my own version of this yummy treat. For now, I'm happy to purchase these Shanghai buns for only 18 pesos a piece from Binondo.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Balikbayan Accommodation Option: Go Hotels at 388 pesos per night!

With wise leading from Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific has proven itself to be a major player in the airline industry, nearly kicking the ailing Philippine Airlines off the edge. True to its promise, the budget airline has truly made every Juan fly. The marketing strategies, although patterned with Air Asia (world leader in budget airlines), have been very effective.

The good news has just begun. The Gokongwei family has included hotel accommodations in their line of businesses. Months ago, they have spread an e-newsletter launch of their new site,, which offers rooms for as low as 388 Philippine pesos per night only. The location of their first structure is in the prime area of EDSA corner Pioneer Street in Mandaluyong City. The property is called Robinsons Cybergate Plaza. A mall is adjacent to the hotel and the Boni Station of the MRT is only a few minutes walk. Since the property is along EDSA, buses and taxis are in abundance. Near Makati and Ortigas, this hotel is nested perfectly.

Bookings made ahead of time are awarded lower rates. Expect sales and discounts to be thrown as the same strategy will be used as Cebu Pacific's. is a place for every Juan, and is especially convenient for Balikbayans who wish to stay for an extended period of time. Their doors open this July 2010. You can book your reservation here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Philippine Elections (May 10, 2010) - Who Did You Vote As President Today?

JOIN THE POLL ON THE RIGHT PANEL and tick who you voted for as the next President of the Philippines.

Our lovely daughter in tow, my husband and I parked our vehicle in SM Southmall's parking lot and walked under the intense heat of the sun towards the Almanza Elementary School of Las Pinas to cast our votes.

This year's voting experience is the most strenuous and exhausting to date with long queues that required more than two hours. People in charge of precincts have expressed empathy to frustrated voters, explaining that since machines are installed, each classroom handled 1,000 voters instead of the normal 200. At 2:00pm, only 300+ ballots have been submitted. The heat of this year's summer is not providing any comfort either.

It was our daughter's first time to witness how a Filipino citizen votes. Yes, that trip to the public school was a field trip of sorts. I took THIS opportunity to explain to her the significance of EACH vote - that it was worth waiting in line for hours.

To date, there is still a huge number of Filipinos who remain unregistered. If there is any hope I have left for our country, it is for every Filipino to engage themselves in this privilege as part and parcel of their Filipino citizenry.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

mother's day 2010 animated greeting

There are two days when (telephone) communication "giants" in the Philippines rake in the most profit. One is New Year's Day and the other, Mother's Day. Believe it or not, an overwhelming amount of calls and SMS flood our communication lines and temporarily overload the regular capacity.

I am not one of those who possess close ties with their mothers and I say that with regret. If I could turn back the hands of time and make the necessary tweaks and edits, this will be top one on the list.

Having been blessed with an opportunity to be a mother myself, I have invested all energies into building a close and living bond with my daughter. My efforts have not ceased until this day. And I pray it pays off in the years to come.

Above is an animated greeting for mother's day which I made and dedicate to my mother, Helen, though she may not understand it any longer. Happy Mother's Day Mommy. I love you.

If you want the direct link to the animation, you will find it here.

Kinamatisan: A New Way To Serve Your Noodles

Many years ago (okay I admit, decades ago), I learned about colonialism and imperialism from a hardcore nationalistic Social Studies instructor. It is funny that I forget her name but not her facial features. At that point in my life, I could not care less about freedom or independence for I was ever-so willing to be enslaved for a bag of chips or a stick of fish balls from the sidewalk vendor. Yes, such is life.

The Chinese may not have colonized our country but you need only see their immense influence in our culture by simply taking a glimpse of the food that we love to eat. Siomai and siopao have already become Filipino food even though the origins are not.

Featured in this photo is a dish I prepared yesterday on a whim. It only took a few minutes for it to disappear. That good? I cannot really tell. I just think that it caught everyone's attention in this house since it is an interesting and new way to serve mung bean noodles (sotanghon). This dish is called "Kinamatisan" with the secret ingredient being our common tomato (kamatis). It is inspired from an ancient way of preparing noodles in a little town called Biñan Laguna.

400 grams Mung bean noodles (more commonly known as sotanghon)
ground beef (preferably ground round with less fat content)
2 cups of chopped tomatoes (seeded)
4 to 5 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 small white onion (sliced fine)
2 tbsps cooking oil
juice of 6 to 8 calamansi
fish sauce to taste (preferably Thai or Vietnamese so it is less salty)
ground black pepper
brown sugar to taste
some water (around 1 cup)

Soak the noodles in water for about 5 minutes and drain well. Heat a wok on high until it smokes. Pour the oil. Lower the heat to medium and throw in your garlic and onion.  Let them sweat for about 2 minutes on relatively low heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Add the ground beef, making sure to cook until done with constant stirring. Sprinkle with ground black pepper to taste, sugar, calamansi juice, and fish sauce. Add some water and adjust the ingredients to your liking. Toss in your noodles and mix well (I suggest using two forks). You should expect the liquid to evaporate slowly as you continuously mix the ingredients together. It will have a sticky consistency once the liquid dries. Remove from pan and serve.

I hope this recipe inspires you to serve the common noodle dish in a new way. :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jack 'n Jill Chippy: People's Choice Winner

In my recent post entitled Manila's Best Chips: Clover Chips Cheese Flavor, a poll was available to the public for voting their choice of the country's best chips.

I must (sadly) report that the people's choice (with an overwhelming 70% winning votes) is Jack 'n Jill's CHIPPY!

Chippy has been in the junk food/chips industry for more than two decades and continues to be the bread and butter of Universal Robina Corporation. The original barbecue flavor corn chips are as tasty today as they were in their "yester-years". New flavors of the Chippy have been introduced in the past years but old habits die hard.

Have a crunchy CHIPPY day to everyone! :D

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

High Hopes!

I would like to be ...
...but for the life of me, I can only HOPE to be one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Memories Fade Not for Tears for Fears!

Much remains to be said about the sardine-packed one-night Tears for Fears concert in the Araneta Coliseum last night! This most recent "tweet" from Curt Smith himself will give everyone an idea of what actually transpired there.
"Doesn't happen very often but.......I'm speechless. Manila, what a night! Thank you so much, we've now officially peaked :)
During the concert, Curt himself took a quick shot of his Manila audience from his iphone which you can view here. A much better (and I must say, picture-perfect) shot was taken from a "tweeting" fan. You can check that photo here.

As I write the words of this blog post, "Pale Shelter" is playing loudly on my speakers and I am proud to say my seven-year old daughter enjoys MY music! The story of how we got to be seated at the rear corner of the stage is a long and sorry one. However, it actually turned out to be a great spot as Curt, Roland, and their fabulous lead guitarist (apologies, I forgot his name and I am ashamed!) invested much effort looking and waving our way. Our spot also allowed us to see them walk in and out of their private rooms at the backstage.

I do not know what words to use to describe my experience last night as a die-hard new wave Tears For Fears fan. I hope this will suffice:
I can still shout, shout, and let it all out at my age! Memories fade NOT after last night's performance. I have now become a woman unchained! And my advice for the young at heart: we shall always be children waiting for the day they feel good again when Tears For Fears returns!!!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Manila's BEST Chips: CLOVER CHIPS Cheese Flavor!

Each one of us is a unique creation. Even our tastes and passion differ from one individual to another. However, I must say that beneath all these differences lies a common thread - the love for JUNK FOOD! Apologies to all of you who may be health conscious. I too painstakingly invest efforts in my food choices not just for myself but for my family's benefit as well. However, the delight and sheer enjoyment that each crrrunch! brings is too irresistible to remove from my grocery list. As my husband and daughter would say, "Mom is a chip monster!" And THAT is an understatement!

If you frequent grocery stores, you will notice these crunchy wonders occupying as wide as one whole aisle! You can just imagine how much money this industry rakes in, to think that it is considered junk. Through the years, there have been many innovations in the chips industry. You have old players as well as new ones entering into the highly competitive business. The novelty of the new varieties are really amazing. Oishi has recently launched its Gourmet Potato Chips with two interesting flavors, namely, Nori Wasabi and Kimchi! Both are worthy to be called "gourmet".

What I award as Manila's Best Chips is CLOVER CHIPS Cheese Flavor, from a trusted old brand - Leslie's.  It has been in the industry for more than 20 years and is no where near falling out of the chart toppers. A bag is waiting for me right now in the cupboard. I bid your farewell. Have a crrrunchy day!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Korean Bulgogi Simplified

I grew up in a home where the clan's fundamental creed sounded a bit like this:  "The clothes you wear or the car you own does not really matter (much) in life. The only important element in life is the food you serve on the table. It MUST be good."

An exposure to great "wild" cooks (not chefs) and secret recipes handed down from a span of over four to five generations has fostered a tongue that appreciated epicurean pleasures of many kinds. Learning the different flavors of herbs and spices was simultaneous to discovering the relation between addition and subtraction. Food and cooking was a MAJOR subject in my family. The wet market was just as fundamental as the classroom.

One of the skills I have since acquired is the ability to create my own "secret" recipes. It is my hope that these concoctions will delight the palates of those that will follow me, along with their house guests.

The photo above is what my family had for lunch today. Korean Bulgogi is simplified to mean barbecue Korean style. I used pork sukiyaki cuts for my bulgogi since that was the only meat I had left in my freezer. However, this dish will be FANTASTIC with beef!

Korean Bulgogi Recipe

500 grams cold sukiyaki cut beef or pork
1/4 cup premium light soy sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin (Japanese sweet sake, available in local grocery stores)
1 tsp chili bean paste (featured in photo as the secret ingredient)
1 head crushed garlic
4 tbsp sugar or honey (I prefer a combination as the latter gives a better glaze)
a few tsps of oil for sauteing
some chopped green onions
some sesame seeds

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, chili bean paste, garlic, sugar/honey in a bowl. Mix well. Add beef or pork and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes. Heat a wok until hot. Add oil and spread all around wok. Put the desired amount of bulgogi to the wok and stir constantly until you brown it to the color you see in the photo above. Do NOT overcook or else you will burn the dish and make the meat tough. Top with some chopped onions and sesame seeds. Serve with freshly steamed white rice.

Any uncooked meat can be kept in the refrigerator for future cooking. Just ensure that it is covered to avoid meat drying.

Enjoy your barbecue! Invite me over when you decide to try this recipe out :D

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Aquazorb: Towels of the 21st Century!

If you live in Manila, you may have already heard about Aquazorb Towels. It is a premium Philippine towel brand which has colorfully served the sweating public for more than four years already, with its humble beginnings at the St. James the Great Bazaar.
Aquazorb towels use a densely-knitted microfiber fabric resulting in not only super-soft feel but also ultra high absorbency. The product is guaranteed to absorb water (or sweat or other things we do not wish to discuss here) from skin, hair or any other surface INSTANTLY. The term they use for this technology is "hydrophyllic capillary action". As a bonus, these "muscled" towels are lightweight and rapid-drying, making it an ideal companion in travel.

A good friend of mine is part owner of the company who owns the brand and I was able to distribute (and sell) the towels in the past. However, with some changes in business direction in the past year, they have decided to open mall outlets to serve an ever expanding clientele.

Aquazorb towels come in these forms: bath or body towel, hand towel, fingertip towel, face towel, turban, yoga towel, bath robe, bath slippers.  They also come in a myriad of "delicious" colors from the boring to the bold. Each season brings a new set of colors to suit every taste.

You can purchase your Aquazorb towels through the following outlets:
Aquazorb Kiosks - Power Plant Mall (2nd level, Rockwell), Shangrila Plaza (5th level), Megamall (3rd level Atrium), and Greenhills (location changes per quarter)
Landmark - Makati and Trinoma
Planet Sports - All branches
R.O.X. - Bonifacio High Street

If you are from the Philippines/Manila or overseas and would like to be a distributor/dealer, you may contact

It's Aquazorbency with these super towels! :D

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Truly Opa!-licious At CYMA Greek Taverna

The past decade has transformed many a Filipino gourmet-richer in terms of the assortment of cuisines available in Manila. The city of Makati, for one, can now be considered a "food belt" with its restaurant-fringed mall avenues.

Among the least popular cuisines in the metropolis include Greek food. Having its first roots in D'Mall of Boracay is a restaurant called CYMA Greek Taverna. Since then, it has created big "waves," which just happens to be the literal translation of the word "cyma" in the Greek language.

Cyma Greek Taverna has branches in the following malls: D'Mall Boracay Island (telephone # 036-288-4283) Shangri La Plaza (Level 6, telephone # 637-3090), Greenbelt 2 (Ground floor, telephone # 729-4837), Trinoma (Level 4, telephone # 915-2859),  Eastwood Mall (Level 2, telephone #709-1955), Alabang Town Center (Upper Ground Level Corte de las Palmas, telephone # 836-2432), Ayala Mall Cebu (Garden Level, The Terraces, telephone # 032-417-1351).

To whet your appetite for healthy (yes, you read that right!) Greek food, check out their menu here. For first time guests, I suggest the following dishes:

Appetizer - Spinach and Artichoke Fondue
Salad - Tonnos Salata
Pasta - Baby Clams Angel Hair or Garides Mi Fetta Spaghetti
Entree - Paidakia and Hirine Brizola

I am fortunate to have met Chef Robby Goco up close and personal a few years back when Cyma was just beginning to create some noise. Expect a lot of new items in his menu list as he truly is passionate about Greek food and continually works on his new creations. Three of these are seen in the photo I have attached. I can't wait to try the Lamb Stuffed With Spinach! So, see you at Cyma Greek Taverna and -- Opa!