the thursday group

Monday, February 28, 2005

Not only men have Hernia

Contrary to what most people think, Hernia, the organ or fatty tissue, which protrudes through a weak point or tear in the muscles or tissues surrounding it, can happen to anyone regardless of age or sex. Yes, I'm a 26 year old woman and I had hernia. For some people, it can be genetic and have it when they are still babies, some much older and some from an accident or injury. Unfortunately, mine is hereditary so no matter how careful I was, a mere cough can trigger it.

This is how it all started... I was brushing my teeth one day when I sensed a little pain in my groin area while leaning on the sink. I felt a small lump on my right groin area and it hurts when I touched it. It scared the hell out of me thinking, it might be an enlarged vein, cyst or what??? I was clueless 'til I remembered what happened to my sister years ago. She had Hernia from playing volleyball during high school and there's a possibility, I might have it too.

The first thing I did the next day was to visit my Gynecologist for an ultra sound and over- all check up. It was the usual procedure to lie down for a pap smear and when I did, the lump on my right groin mysteriously disappeared. Back then, I was beginning to think that I was imagining all these symptoms especially, when the doctor gave me a clean bill of health, gynecologically speaking. I began to describe the bulge I found on my groin area and its symptoms. The doctor diagnosed me with Inguinal Hernia and referred me to a general surgeon for a second opinion. Apparently, I had the Reducible type of Hernia wherein my tissues and intestines went in when I lied down and out when I stood up. Once again, the lump did not appear when I visited the surgeon eventhough, I tried jogging and even bouncing around before seeing him that day. It was frustrating, thinking of ways to make the bulge appear! Luckily, he found a thickness on my right groin area after making me cough several times in the clinic. Finally, I had an appointment with my doctor for a right and left traditional hernia surgery or herniorrhaphy to lessen its recurrence.

Now, I'm sitting here in front of my PC, trying not to mind the persistent pain, after a week from surgery. Having wounds of 2 inches each on my left and right groin, It's like I had a Cesarean operation minus the baby. Ouch, it's still PAINFUL!!!

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Just tried out this new resto called Lumiere. Nice harbor views; huge place, perfect for corporate functions but not intimate enough for a date. Great for group dates though. The food (a blend of Sichuanese and South American -- yes, I know it sounds weird) was surprisingly very good! Just make sure to specify the number of "chillies" (1 to 3) so they'll know how spicy (or not) you'd want your Sichuanese dishes to be. We didn't order any South American dishes since we were in the mood for Chinese. For the mains -- the crab claw was the best; followed by the mutton; then the kung pao chicken and lastly, the ma po tofu. We only ordered one appetizer which was the crispy eel. Excellent. We specified "2 chillies" for each dish and man, it was BURNING!!! Especially the ma po to fu!! Definitely not for the faint-hearted. Can't imagine what "3 chillies" will feel like.

What's nice about this resto is that the waiters will serve you sugar cubes (both brown and white) and a glass of cooling Sichuanese herb juice to help numb your tongue during the middle of your dinner. Service was also very prompt and pleasant. The only thing we didn't appreciate was that they only served San Pellegrino and Evian in -- get this -- small bottles!!! No big bottles for sharing and absolutely no tap water can be served so in that sense, it was a rip off. (They're very smart knowing that people will be ordering tons of water after burning their tongues off their food!) Speaking of which, I feel that the food was reasonably priced as each dish set us back about HKD 150. And when I say reasonable, I mean by HK standards -- which is quite high. At least this time I didn't feel I was wasting my money on overpriced but mediocre cuisine (and you and I know that there are just too many of these places in HK). If you want to order a bottle of wine to go with your meal, their Dr. Loosen Riesling '03 (Spatlese) is an excellent choice -- its high sugar content will help offset the spicy dishes.

There is a Cantonese restaurant adjacent to Lumiere called Cuisine Cuisine. It was fully booked. In contrast, Lumiere was only about 40% occupied but more people started coming when we left at 9:30 pm.

Lumiere and Cuisine Cuisine are located on the 3rd Floor of the IFC Mall, adjacent to Pure Fitness. Tel no. 23 933 933 Websites: and

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Happy Woman's Guide to a Two-Day Silent Retreat

Whenever someone asks me why I've been looking glum over the past few weeks, I would immediately respond with one of the usual lines: "Too many things going on." What could that response possibly mean? I would, perhaps, be as honest as I could be by telling the whole truth, but most people--especially those whom one would bump into at the Mid-level escalators, or at Park 'N' Shop--really DON'T want to know. I know of one busy person whose customary greeting goes, "Hi! Good!" because he automatically presumes that an acquaintance would say--and at lightning speed--"Hello! How are You?" So when, during one gloomy morning, I merely mustered a "Hello," he laughed at himself for having said "Good!" straightaway, without my asking the question.

These greetings happen in seconds. Before you know it, the person you've been talking to for a short time has passed you by, and has forgotten about having this exchange because it happens every day, the same exchange with different people.

So much for Eeyore's little introduction there.

There comes a period in a woman's life when, indeed, too many things are going on. She forgets appointments set in advance, which--because they've already been set--need no confirmation nor email. She misplaces her date-book. She forgets to make deadlines, especially self-imposed ones. She begins to lose her balance.

One day, she resolves to quit. Oh, not that she was going to relieve herself of all her responsibilities altogether. It's not like that at all. All she needed were two days away from everything and everybody. Just two days to heal her weakened body and her wearied soul.

So she spent some time here and had an exceptionally great time here. Now, she's thoroughly recharged.

The following books helped her during her silent retreat:

a. The Rule of St. Benedict for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily Life - an introduction to monastic life, as experienced by the Benedictine monks
b. The Little Book of Hours - a guide to allotting time for God and one's spiritual nourishment during specific times of the day
c. Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day - the order of the hours and their symbolism
d. A Retreat with St. Therese of Lisieux - a one-week retreat consisting of passages from the writings of Therese Martin and self-examination exercises.

Happy is the woman who can pace herself accordingly in this frenzied paradise called Hong Kong!

A postscript: I decided to go on a retreat quite suddenly. It happened the evening I bought The Beatles' Let it Be. . . Naked and listened to it. It's funny how one can find wisdom through the most unexpected sources, like a rock song. Three cheers for serendipity!

The true way goes over a rope which is not stretched at any great height but just above the ground. It seems more designed to make men stumble than to be walked upon. - Franz Kafka

Friday, February 25, 2005

First South African film to win the Golden Bear for best film at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival

Khayelitsha "New Town" -- the black African township Jay and I had the priviledge to visit in Cape Town -- is the setting of the South African movie "U-Carmen eKhayelitsha" (Carmen in Khayelitsha). This movie just won the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin International Film Festival -- a first of many coups for the South African film industry. The Berlinale is the world's largest film festival in terms of ticket sales and press participation.

"U Carmen" based on Bizet's classic opera (and my personal favorite), Carmen. It is sung and spoken in isiXhosa -- a pleasant South African dialect characterized by tones and clicks. It is also Nelson Mandela's mother tongue.

Click on if you want to know more about this film!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Of Postcards and Screensavers

Read all about your travels with grumpus, Maya (Check out Maya's comment to my Out of Africa blog); savored it, more like. Enjoyed it as much as Shy's honeymoon diary, with its rich narration, witty asides, colorful descriptions (though colorful doesn't quite cut it). Guess Africa epitomizes what it means when travelers say "to see is to believe". The pictures (oh, such wonderful pictures) look like postcards or screensavers sent to me by religious websites. They look ethereal, surreal? sometimes, disturbing, even digitally enhanced; mostly they look like nothing I've seen yet everything I've imagined "creation" to be. They literally take my breath away. Cliche-ish, but who cares? It's true. I used to say to anyone who'd listen that I would die happy after witnessing the splendor of an aurora borealis in Finland; lying on some craggy cliff or grassy knoll in Scotland, looking up at the impossibly stormy sky and imagining the bloodshed on those war-torn grounds; now I'm changing my plans a bit. Africa is definitely on my must-see and must-experience list. Thank you for introducing me to this oft-maligned, yet incredibly moving country.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Bushwalks and the Wonders of Dung

July 2004, Djuma Bush Camp, Sabi Sand Reserve, South Africa:

"Pluck those leaves" said our tracker, Abel, as we dutifully did what we were told. "Now add some water" Placing just a few drops from our bottled water, we immediately saw the miracle unfolding before our very eyes -- soap suds!!!

"We call it Bush Shampoo!" Abel exclaimed as were were all struck dumb with wonder. The leaves somehow reacted with the water and out came a fresh, clean smelling substance which left our hands so soft and smooth. Apparently, the women use these leaves to clean their clothes and wash their bodies.

"What is that?" Abel asked the group, pointing to something that suspiciously resembled dung pellets. When nobody could give a specific answer, Abel told us that it was zebra dung and that his people (the Utah tribe who lived along the periphery of Kruger National Park), would gather all the zebra dung they could find and light a fire with it. The fumes from the smoke would instantly stop a nose bleed. He also told us that elephant dung could cure a very bad headache. Their children also play with impala dung -- they stick them in their mouths (and are apparently very clean) and spit them out. Whoever spits with the longest distance wins!

Ahhh...the wonders of dung! In Clinton Palanca's yet-to-be published book about his African safari with A to A, he tells of his guide extolling the vitues of elephant dung. Smoking it will get you really high -- similar to smoking marijuana -- but it's all perfectly legal. His travel companion found all the elephant dung she could find and brought them back home to Manila as "pasalubong" to her pot head buddies -- funny!!!

Africa vs. the Philippines - The Great Paradox

July of 2004...Jay and I had driven more than 2,000 kms up and down the highways and dirt roads of Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces of South Africa -- home to the famous Kruger National Park and Joburg (Jozi to the locals) respectively. Being a member of A to A Safaris, one of the perks of my job is to pose as a client for a few days, check out 5 - 10 new camps per year and write very detailed (and sometimes even scathing) reviews about them. So when our real clients ask me questions, I will be able to answer everything from first hand experience. Knowing how Jay wanted so badly to escape from the daily drudgery of management consulting, he was more than willing to be dragged along for the ride. (Too bad he still can't quit his day job or we'll definitely starve -- my job sure is a lot of fun, but if I don't have enough clients, my annual salary won't even pay for a a couple of months' grocery bill).

Being a small, financially conservative company, A to A opted to rent us a car instead of flying us from camp to camp which effectively saved us thousands of dollars. We figured that it was also a great way to see a slice of the "real" Africa; how people commuted from town to town; how the roads and general infrastructure were; how dangerous was it really to ask directions from strangers; how dirty/clean were the bathrooms were in the gas stations and pit stops -- you know, mundane things like that. We absolutely had no idea of what to expect and little did we know that we were in for a big surprise! First of all, the main roads and highways were all perfect! There were modern flyovers; big signages all in English and very good road directions. If not for the fact that 99% of the people were black, you would think that you were somewhere in the US or Canada. Drivers were very courteous and followed speed limits; were gracious about letting you in their lane and signaled whenever they turned. There was also the concept of "right of way" which, in Asia, is almost foreign (I am now convinced that Asians are the worst drivers in the world, I almost felt like a barbarian in SA with my own Asian driving skills, or lack thereof). Naturally, all that driving made us tired, hungry and in need of several bathroom breaks and shuddered at the thought of entering dingy, stinky gas stations and being mugged or worse, raped (this bias was based on several media news reports about car jackings, shootings and rapes in the city). How wrong we were! The locals we asked always gave us the correct directions to our destination. And, even if they weren't smiling or warm, were always unfailingly polite. There were several gas stations along the way (every x number of kilometers at regular intervals) and almost every one had convenience stores; ATM's; and fast food restaurants. And how clean they all were! Even the small ones along the dirt roads had relatively clean floors and all stalls had toilet paper despite the fact that we were surrounded by very poor people. Almost immediately, I felt ashamed about my own country where Filipinos cannot seem to keep the public bathrooms in half decent condition; people don't even know how to "aim" properly when taking a leak and that there seems to be almost always no toilet paper in the stalls! Sure, I am very aware that SA and some of the countries in Africa for that matter, were slightly richer (in GDP figures) vs the Philippines; but poverty is NOT an excuse to live like a pig.

I believe that there is one key difference between Africans and the Filipinos, and that is the concept of self worth. We noticed from the among myriad of locals (blacks, whites, coloureds -- which is politically correct term to use in SA, by the way) we saw during our long road trip that there heads were almost always held high, they walked so tall (and most literally are) and had the air of so much confidence about them. I fel that they truly had a sense of being one with the land; who are proud of it and really owned their culture. (Sidebar: One thing that was quite amusing to see is that the black women were mostly Rubenesque in proportion to the males who were almost stick thin and when I inquired about this to a local, she told me that men liked their women "meaty" because "it kept them warm at night, esp. during winter.") In the Philippines, true, the people are smiling, warm, and chatty but I don't get a sense that the they are confident and truly happy. For me, this really shows in the way Pinoys take care of public property (mostly filled with garbage; defaced with graffiti) or even in their own homes when there's really no "pride of place". During my honeymoon in Cape Town, SA, last Jan 2004, Jay and I had visited a shanty town (yes, a real squatter area) and I immediately sensed the pride of place the people had. In the midst of all the corrugated iron; tires and tiny dirt roads, they had built their own simple but very functional pre-schools and high schools; bars and restaurants; a center to learn life skills; and even the world's smallest B&B where tourists can spend the night in a real black African township. Vicky's B&B was extremely clean, inviting and it was easy for me to consider spend a night or two there. Contrast this to some of the squallor found right in the maids' or drivers' quarters in some of my friends' huge homes in Manila's most prestigious subdivisions, I think I'd rather spend the night at an African shantytown, thank you very much.

For a continent whose 50% of its adult population is ravaged by AIDS, and so many people living below the poverty line, the countries I had visited had some of the best tourism infrastructure that I have ever seen outside of the US. Seamless travel between airport to hotel; or camp to camp is commonplace. They make you avoid long transit periods in airports and try to make the route between locations as direct as possible. Service is impeccable. Contrast this to Boracay where you have to first take a plane - then take a van - then a tricycle - then finally, a boat to reach the beach, where you have to wade through the shin deep waters just to get to your hotel! Couldn't they have just built a proper dock? (They say that's part of the charm of Boracay, but I don't buy it). My last visit was in Dec 2003 and it was a nightmare! Almost all the food in every restaurant was out of stock by 7:30pm; the only coffee machine at the beach's only coffee shop broke; there was no hot water and electricty in my bedroom for one night (never, ever stay at Pearl of the Pacific, sorry, that's Hurl of the Pacific); service was horrendous and worse, a storm hit us! And this is the Philippines' most well-known beach! Even if I had stayed at Fridays, the situation wouldn't have been a lot better. The thing is, whether you're a 5 star or a 2 star traveler, I believe that you should always deserve what you pay for and our wonderful experiences in SA and Botswana did indeed prove this; but that fiasco in Boracay did little to convince me in further promoting our country to my foreign friends. It's sad that even if you pay more (and therefore expect more in terms of service and facilities), you end up with less than what is perceived as "acceptable". (I don't think expecting to have hot water, electricity and hot meals is too much of a stretch).

The Great Paradox is this -- both are poverty stricken places; but one has refused to allow this to shape its destiny and bow its pride; while the other one allows this to be used as an excuse for everything that goes wrong.

Friday, February 18, 2005

From a "mere" housewife

I have a confession to make, I used to be one of those people who looked down on "mere" housewives --now talk about karma! The problem with me was that I had always equated money (or being the breadwinner) with power; thanks in no small part to my upbringing. My mother used to (and still does) nag us about "earning our own money" and never to "depend on any man" so I always thought that I would be one of those dragon ladies who were CEO's of conglomerates that you see being interviewed and featured on CNN or read about in the papers (nevermind if I was still single at 40 at least I had millions in the bank!) Well, surprisingly all I can say is that I have absolutely no regrets about the choice that I have made to become a housewife. And coming from a corporate background, this has been a most humbling experience for me. When I first moved to HK, I immediately fell into a deep depression as my "self worth" and "reason for being" (e.g. my job - pathetic isn't it?) had just been taken away from me. Not one multinational company in HK wanted me or were impressed with my credentials since I had no local experience and couldn't speak Cantonese even if I had 5 and a half years of Marketing experience in the mainland! The only ones that accepted me were companies which I thought were beneath me. (Very conceited, indeed, but I was highly conscious of my self worth and my ability to truly be an asset to a company of my choice, given the chance). Admittedly, my job search had been ill-timed with the economic crisis and SARS still looming. And you know what -- because of my depression (and stupidity) I had almost taken for granted the only person who accepts me for me and not for the money nor the prestige nor the power I bring to the table -- my husband! I just had all these blinders on and just felt sorry for myself the entire time. Can I tell you that I am terribly lucky to have met and married such a wonderful and dependable person who never uses his status as breadwinner to "power trip" and use this as a license to become a senorito around the house or worse, to fool around with other women just because I don't dare leave him? No way, Jose! (that's Jay's real name by the way). (Sadly, I do have titas who turn a blind eye to their philandering husbands because he "puts food on the table anyway" or "I get him to buy me whatever I want all the time" or my favorite, "it's just sex"). And, I never thought that I'd say this, but being a "mere" housewife has given me so much more freedom than I have ever experienced in my entire life! Compared to the days when I was a worker drone (bo-ring!!!), I didn't have any free time to do my own thing like pursue my yoga practice; cultivate new friendships (hello thursday group!); be a part time employee of an African safari company (uber cool job! won't ever trade it for FMCG* companies again); and even learn how to cook! Bottomline is, I didn't have the time to become the more well-rounded person that I am today (which is quite contrary to the view I had about housewives doing nothing all day!) Sure, I was earning a good living before but in retrospect, I didn't really appreciate it or fully take advantage of it. I was surely psyched about financing my 2 week trip to Europe all on my own for the very first time in '99; or spending my own money on exotic vacations with Jay back when were both dating each other. But most of the time I was spending it on all sorts of useless things just to fill in the void that was within me. (When I was doing my spring cleaning last CNY, I was appalled to see how much junk I had accumulated thoughout the years!) Now that Jay and I have a joint account (and therefore a tighter budget because of his single salary), it has actually "freed" me to make the right (or better) purchasing choices that we BOTH enjoy, things like dining at good restaurants; art; real estate; furniture; wine; and our perennial favorite, African safaris. I must admit that the only thing that I miss about working full time is the salary, but if I had to give up my current life (and all its perks) just for the chance to earn a monthly wage, it ain't worth it. (now, if someone offered to pay me a hundred grand HKD a month, maybe I'll think about it!) :)

*FMCG - Fast Moving Consumer Goods

Out of Africa... Edited

I've finished the book, and now that I know the ending I just have to change this blog.

Every chance I get, I try to finish a few pages of Anita Shreve's "The Last Time They Met" (thanks, Shy). The critics have been effusive in their praise of Shreve-and rightly so. When I read the final page, it sent shivers through me. After the initial tingling came awe; it was as if someone knocked the wind out of me. Not really because of the underlying suspense, or the surprise ending. Mostly I just marvelled at a love so strong, a memory so intense, it literally stands the test of time. I mourned the hearbreaking loss and the iron will that attaches every event to a single, beloved moment.

But what I love best is the way Africa (Kenya in particular) is cast, like a place no one can ever imagine exists, God's playground in this vast world of artifice. Suddenly, living in HK with its skyscrapers, efficient modes of transportation, shopping malls, urbanites dressed to the nines seems so... for lack of a better word, fake. After gasping over the raw landscape of Rhodesia in "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight" (thanks Maya) and longing for the ascetic beauty of Bhutan in "Beyond the Earth and the Sky" (recommended reading!) -- the dull gray skies overhead, uncertain whether to let the sun peep out or tickle the earth with the slightest of drizzles -- gets me beyond depressed. The perpetual mist/haze? doesn't help any.

Although I feed on the energy and verve of HK, and, like all expats, appreciate its modernity, efficiency, choice of restaurants (heaven for a chowhound like me!), fresh grocery displays, lavish parties, clean restrooms and paved streets; sometimes my bare feet longs for a muddy field or grassy patch, my eyes ache to see just trees and sky. A bare expanse of heaven, dotted not with city lights or building towers but a multitude of glinting stars. The way the sun shines in Africa is ferocious, books say, and when it rains, it pours. Is this true, Shy? Maya? The purity and mystery of everything there fascinates me, from the color of the landscape, caprices of nature, personality of the people, cruelty of animals. It all makes me feel tinier than a grain of sand, but not as insignificant. It's a conundrum why, in the continent where God shows Himself the most, there can be so much suffering. But that's another story.

Can I live in a hut? Can I walk miles to the nearest dry goods store? Can I sleep soundly at night, knowing there are no gates, guard dogs or security guards around? Can I stand getting sick when the hospital is ages down the road and filled to capacity with people more in need of their services and attention than I do? Can I do my thing in a hole in the ground? Maybe for a month. Certainly not for years. Provincial life I can manage (gentlewoman farmer sounds good), living with the birds and the beasts with no hot water and a non-existent bookstore I cannot. Yet something in me makes me want to live in Africa (not the modern-day cities but the wilder outskirts) for a while. To experience and feel daily miracles and masterpeices. Am I in love with an idea? Authors just make these remote, untouched places sound so bare, so real, so filled with spirit and soul.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Valentine's, El Cheapo style

Not wanting to brave the crush of people, couples and singles alike, who were sure to be out partying on February 14; my hubby and I decided to celebrate at home in our usual quiet and simple way (i.e. listening to a screaming Joaquin insist on his fave video, which frustrated Derrick to the max because he was so looking forward to the Grammy's; listening to Joaquin singing along 'off-key, naturally' with Norah Jones and Joss Stone when he finally allowed us to watch the Grammy's; listening to Joaquin insist on his fave bedtime story when all we wanted was to sleep and dream of a romantic, splendid dinner followed by a luxurious massage ). Ah! The joys of parenthood, indeed. Maybe the crowds would have been soothing compared to the ruckus at home. Needless to say, we had ourselves an unromantic, noisy Valentine's with our baby boy. To console ourselves, we took to reminiscing about our past Valentine's dates. One in particular we remember well was spent in Vieux Chalet in Antipolo (anyone ever been there?). You need a 4x4 to navigate the potholes or else you'll end up cursing the Mayor of Antipolo and the owner of the chalet. The panoramic view of Manila, as well as the cool weather and sumptuous dinner, was worth all the cursing, though.

Speaking of dinner, ours (last Monday) was el cheapo compared to the astronomic prices quoted by top HK restos. It even came with free rock n' roll music and head-banging courtesy of Joaquin. I made a lamb stew and served it with creamed cauliflower (tastes better than mashed potatoes and perfect for the SBdieter!), garlic-sauteed broccoli and triangles of bread to soak up the sauce. For the appetizer, I fried some Lokal-style chicken fingers (cornflakes instead of breadcrumbs make it more crispy and tasty). Dessert was a simple low-sugar faux tiramisu with crushed oreos. Derrick loved it, so it made my numerous grocery trips worthwhile.

Next year, we might book a table at an ultra romantic and uber chic place. And be haunted the rest of the night by the forlorn look on our son's face when we leave the house. Then again, we could eat in and spend five minutes making goo goo eyes at each other, then the rest of the night running after our terrible yet oh-so-lovable two and a half.

Happy V day! Do share your own romantic and kakakilig stories, sexual misadventures and the like (wink, wink). Don't forget to describe what you ate and where you partook of it! For my future reference, hahaha!

Monday, February 14, 2005

katrina's birthday

everybody knows that babies are better-looking than grown-ups. so despite the fact that parents and their friends outnumbered babies by at least 3 to 1 at katrina's first birthday party last saturday, no one took any pictures of the grown-ups. here is what the next generation looks like though. yes, "awwwwwwwwwwwww" is an acceptable reaction.




Desert Safari in Dubai

Last February 8, 2005, the day before Chinese New Year, Winston, Jay, Rhea and I booked for the popular Desert Safari Tour by African Adventures in Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel. We were picked up by our professional driver, Sajad in his spick- and- span Landcruiser towards the desert reserve which was about 40 minutes from the hotel. The fun started when we, and a dozen more Landcruisers finally reached the beautiful sandbanks in the desert and rode the sand dunes one by one. We were breathtakingly ecstatic going up and down the soft sandy ridges of the sandbanks, dune bashing. It's quite daunting and exhilarating at the same time with the thought that we can get stuck anytime from these steep hills of sand. Out of a dozen cars dune bashing, some get intentionally stuck, which gives us a chance to photograph a picture perfect scene.

At last, we finally reached the campsite at sunset. We were welcomed with a homey decorated campground, which gave us the local atmosphere of old Dubai. It was fascinating photographing the herds of camels with the native's homes nearby. We also had the chance to ride the domesticated camels in a small circle while listening to the soft Arabic music in the background. Henna painting, Arabic coffee tasting, "Shisa" or the traditional Arabic way of smoking and picture-taking with their trained native hawk were also part of the welcome treat.

The night continues on in a large Bedouin Tent with a buffet of a variety of Barbequed Arabian dishes on the side with unlimited drinks and an enchanting Belly Dancing performance for entertainment. It is a unique experience, one worth going to.

Rating ****

*Five stars means excellent

What About Pinoy Food?

1. Filipino food should be on the map!
2. Visit Cendrillion in New York if you get the chance (I haven't). Heard they serve kare-kare to unsuspecting Caucasians, but who cares about tripe and oxtail when it doesn't look like it, right? 3. There's a new Pinoy resto in Spain called Ulan. Funny thing is, the chef's Thai.
4. Spices Resto in Repulse Bay features one, just one Pinoy specialty and it's lumpiang prito! A mutant chinese dish! Whatever happened to adobo, palabok, kare-kare, pinakbet, kinilaw na isda or kambing (the best!), balut, sisig, kakanin? All are variations too, but at least they're special!
5. Someone should come up with a Pinoy cookbook with all the yucky, mushy stuff styled to look like 5-star offerings. Pinoy food is tops on taste, but lacking in appearance. And maybe the sauce could be served on the side? We tend to smother our dishes with sauce and let all the overcooked veggies swim in it.
6. There's a gourmet Flipino cooking competition back in Manila and the entries are superb! Neither oily nor saucy, very colorful, veggies and noodles cooked al dente, starches shaped into architectural masterpeices... the result a mastery of geometry, balance, flavor and aroma.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pinoy Cuisine -- what's that?

On Saturday night, I walked up-hill to the Angusses. It was Martin's birthday, and Sherry--iso-Dabaw that she is--served Pinoy food. No one worried about Martin's stomach, because he enjoyed Pancit Bihon, Menudo, Spicy Tuyo with Rigatoni and Leche Flan just like all the Asian guests present.

It took a while, however, to whet the appetites of Martin's mates.

"What's that?" and pairs of googly eyes would greet the table as one immediately introduced each dish with much care:

a. Menudo - "It's beef stew, but it's made of pork (which is the interesting bit), but it contains potatoes and carrots just like ye ol' beef stew." Had Sherry made kaldereta, I would've plainly said, "It's beef stew." Many takers there.

b. Pancit Bihon - "It's vermicelli with shredded chicken." Ah!, went the approving all-male populace, in full broad "A" fashion, but some had trouble cutting the noodles. Too long to bother.

c. Spicy Tuyo with Rigatoni - "Peppered herring in olive oil. You do eat herring, right?" And the birthday celebrant goes, "Is that the same as BANG-GUSS?" Another Pinay replied "Milkfish" while I said, "It tastes like tuna macaroni salad, except that it's spicy."

Introductions were finally over. Two hours passed. Then, Martin's friend John approached dessert with much trepidation, while scrutinising the leche flan very carefully. This should prove to be the sure winner.

"It's creme brulee, but thicker and richer."

John returned to the table thrice that night.

Luckily, Sherry was prepared with poppadums, tandoori chicken, chili con carne and nachos for the more delicate bellies around.

Pizza, Pasta... Magnifico!

Saturday, lunchtime. Ordered a pasta and pizza. Loved the foccacia and dipped it in olive oil artfully blended with balsamico. Pasta was freshly made; and though a little too thick and heavy in texture for my taste, the sauce, composed of San Daniele ham (they only make 1000 of these a year in Italy), porcini and cream, was heavenly. Generous quantities of sliced porcini gave off buttery bursts of flavor; the ham was slightly smoky. Ordered a quattro formaggi (gorgonzola, fontina, mozarella and parmesan) on the thinnest thin crust this side of HK. Washed it all down with a baduy glass of fresh oj (should've had a glass of chianti). Ended the meal with a lovely dessert platter which costs all of 60 and had, on the huge and artistically designed plate, five, yes, five kinds of desserts. Pretty little things like apple pie with a home-made vanilla ice cream (soaked vanilla pods give off a special taste and aroma not found in commercial ice cream, but I could be wrong), chocolate mousse (my personal favorite), tiramisu, raspberry panna cotta with orange caramel sauce and espresso creme brulee (Derrick's fave). All these for 500. Not bad, not bad at all. Baci at Lan Kwai Fong. When I enjoy a meal, I capture the moment and relish the memory. Buon appetito!

All Focked Up

I got FOCKED last weekend, and, like most people I know, I enjoyed the first version much more than the second (it's always exciting the first time, don't ya think? ;p) --- could it be because the woman behind me was laughing her brains out at even the most un-funny scenes? Slapstick antics and the ubiquitous name-dropping aside, it was a pretty entertaining flick; I loved the part where the baby learns to say ass-hole, tried it with Joaquin but he's too corny and wouldn't repeat after his demented mama.

Chater Garden Art Gig

The Home Affairs Bureau of the HK Government is sponsoring a one-day Philippine Arts Festival to showcase the work of HK-based Pinoy artists.

When: 20 February 2005 - 10 am-6 pm
Where: Chater Garden, Central

Featured guests include painters Joel Ferraris, Noel de Guzman, Arnel Agawin, Bobit Segismundo and Justo Cascante; photographer S. Canete; and opera diva Teresa Carpio.

Should this event be a success, the Philippine Consulate General shall plan for a Philippine Arts Month in June 2006. Email Anjhie Aguilar for details.

Monday, February 07, 2005

more on the great chow sing-chi

So if the TV trailer tickled your funnybone enough, you probably trooped down to your local multiplex to go see Kung Fu Hustle (if not, God help your incurious soul). I did just that one cold January afternoon, and with four other viewers scattered across the theater, enjoyed the discounted 2:30 show. I guess all normal people were at school, at work, or at home feeding children.

So here I was, expecting nothing more than 99 minutes of lunacy. Instead I got my mind blown away, much like everyone else who's seen it. My brain reeled, my eyes popped, and yes, I gasped for breath in between fits of laughter. They went nuts for it across Asia, and in previews, they went nuts at Sundance. Go see this movie. And thank me later for the recommendation.

how the other half lives

Apropos of whatever issues we have about being the non-breadwinning half of a modern, urban, cosmopolitan couple, with careers on hold (by choice or circumstance), I thought that this article in the Journal was interesting.

This part especially: "Today, it sometimes seems as though, after a long and painful bout of feminism, women are returning to their traditional roles as protectors of families, morals and the status quo ... But to read "Mrs. Bridge," is to understand that there is no going back. Even women who make their families their life's work now understand they have choices unavailable to their mothers and grandmothers"

Yes, we do this by choice; no it isn't a step back into the Dark Ages. Maybe we've come full circle; but this time it's a partnership of equals.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Winner, DVD Blurb Award

The award goes to the Kung Fu Hustle "Early Edition" DVD:

"The story takes place China in the 40's of 20 centuries, a star plays a per matter has results not to show, the burglar is small to touch of seduce into wrong doing the, a
mbition affiliation that at that time influence is biggest, the means is cruel and black
to help "the axe helps". The star tries at a calls "pig cageCity""

Hey, it was a valiant effort... but do any two words together actually make sense? I'm guessing this was churned out by a computer translation program. Funny though.