December 30, 2010

The SISIG of Intramuros, Manila

Manila, I miss the city during this Christmas vacation so I was bored inside my house. I needed to see the city because I miss the fast Jeepneys, the different and lively sounds of their horns! A kind of symphony no other city can imitate! I live an hour and thirty minutes away from Manila so while I travel, I observe a lot things. I like "People Watching" as to what celebrity Bianca Gonzales would call it, watching other souls without disturbing them.

Last December 28, I found out that a couple of my Advertising major friends (I am a Journalism major) were re-shooting a commercial for their upcoming annual event for Advertising enthusiasts called the "AdSpeak". I contacted them and said that I will go whether they like it or not because I miss Manila and I want to bug their trip. So they had no choice but to accommodate me! The meeting was 1PM and yes I was the first one to arrive at 12:50PM.

Then poof! everyone was there and so they quickly set up and started to shoot the scenes while I go around bug them, piss them off or something to delay things.

Here's the group inside Letran College on a Christmas vacation. So quiet and spooky.
Here's a Talent being video shot by a Nikon D90 DSLR, the first DSLR to have HD video.
They only shot 2 scenes but because of their passion to make the best out of those scenes, the shoot took 2 hours. After that everybody was hungry! Even me! I almost lost my appetite because it was already 3PM! What else was on our mind? To eat the best Sisig the walls of Intramuros has to offer!

Introducing "Alyssa's Sisig" (Clap!Clap!Clap!)

Origin of name: Pampanga
Description from Wikipedia: a Filipino dish made from parts of pig’s head and liver, usually seasoned with kalamansi and chili peppers.

Alyssa's Sizzling Sisig has been a favorite to the residents of Intramuros, college students flock to this small place which can handle up to 30 persons at a time. A lot, let me repeat that, a lot of customers would wait for their turns to eat because they would want to eat the best in town!

I discovered this place back in 2008, I was and still am studying inside the fortified city when a classmate of mine brought us here and said freshmen were talking about this place, so we went there and ate and from that day on; Whew! I listed Alyssa's Sisig as the number one sisig I've tasted.

Here are my friends waiting for our Sisig.
Going back to December 28, 2010 - We were there and luckily! There were a lot of seats to accommodate all 15 hungry students! 13 of which ordered the Sizzling Sisig! It's also advisable to eat here with your friends! Because waiting for your order could bore you, it takes quite a while to prepare the food because they make your Sisig at its best quality.

Sizzling Pork Sisig with Egg
What puts Alyssa's Sisig on top among others is that the meat is crispy, I know the pork is fresh (I have this weird ability to taste and know if a Pork and Chicken meat is too old to be cooked) and affordable. So the next time you get hungry around Intramuros, just ask where the Wallem building is and from there ask where Alyssa's Sisig is located. 

Oh and one more thing, I'll make you a bet, go here when you're really hungry and order this one. I bet you $5 you'll get at least 2 cups of rice and there's still Sisig left on the plate. Cheers!

December 26, 2010

Italian holy dish for hungry Filipinos - Amici Di Don Bosco

From a small space and humble beginnings inside a canteen to support themselves, an Italian Salesian missionary; Fr. Gianluigi Colombo established in 2001 what would be known as "AMICI DI DON BOSCO" or in english translation "FRIENDS OF DON BOSCO". Amici's first wave of success was their home-made Italian gelato which became popular around town. In 2003, pastas and wood fire oven-cooked pizzas were added to the line-up of their menu. Soon enough it became a popular choice of the general public around the Makati area.

Realizing that "Amici di Don Bosco" was not in its full competitive level, the salesians agreed to sell the franchise to Mr. Danny Moran and Mr. Iboy Pinga. In 2007, the entity was relaunched as simply "Amici".


The dancing lights in Ayala

I was in Makati for a Christmas night out, with my family we watched the "Dancing Lights" in a garden in Ayala. After watching lights go on and off they decided to eat dinner there. My brother suggested "Amici" and quickly in my mind popped something and I said to myself "oh, this was the place someone told me about". We went inside and the place was full! We were 7 and a table of 5 was the only one available but that didn't stop us, Dad told us to get a table for 2 so that me and my brother can eat in a separate table.

We found one at last, awkward as it looks like to the other people, a table for two in a Christmas night in Makati. Since my brother ate in the establishment before, I let him decide which to order.

As an appetizer, he ordered Mozarella Fritto. Golden fried sticks served with tangy pomorodo sauce.

Mozarella Fritto
The Fritto was crispy outside and soft inside because of the Mozarella inside it. If you have eaten the "Cheesy Crust" of Pizza Hut, this is comparable to that one except that this one was fully dedicated to be a cheese stick.

Spaghetti ala Carbonara
For my main dish, "Spaghetti ala Carbonara"! It's my favorite pasta, so it has become my tradition that whenever I'm in a restaurant that fronts its pastas in the menu, I order Carbonara. When it arrived, I was like "woah" because the serving was good enough for two. The bread wasn't toasted nicely and the sauce wasn't really tasty so I still rate the best Carbonara to "The Hobbit House" in Boracay. Then again, this is only my perception.

Me with the "Al Quattro Formaggi"
At last! Time for the pizza, to finally seal the deal and for me to find out if the rumors are true. Brother ordered the "Al Quattro Formaggi" which is a mix of 4 kinds of cheese. The first bite I took I said to myself "hmmmm...the rumors are true", Amici pizzas have made their mark on the pizza industry in the country.

Mozarella Frito - P170 ($4)
Spaghetti ala Carbonara - P198 ($4)
Al Quattro Formaggi - P400 ($8)
Bottomless Mug Rootbeer - P80 ($2)
+ 12 VAT(Value Added Tax)

=PHP949.76 ($20)

All in all if I was to rate Amici according to categories:

Ambiance: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Budget Value: 10/10
Food: 8/10

So if you're looking for authentic Italian food that looks fancy but on the budget and would really satisfy your hunger and value the money you spend, go out and eat at "Amici's". Till next time! Now I'll try to finish the pasta we took out because we were so full!

December 21, 2010

Sanctuary in the heart of a city.

Today, in this fast paced World where time is ultimately precious and being late in a meeting could cost you a fortune, people are forgetting the simplest ways to relax. They either go out eat in fancy restaurants, go shopping or just watch with their wide screen LCD TVs. Yes I do agree material things do make you happy, but once your gadget's outdated; You're not contented and satisfied once again! Agree? I know you do.

Stressed out, too many school works and a ton of personal issues can really drag yourself to the ground. Working all day and it's just not worth it? Yes I do feel the same way too sometimes but hey, I know what makes me happy. I know how to rejuvenated my body and unwind myself by only spending a few hours in a sanctuary without even going away from the city, because the sanctuary is in the heart of the city!

Last December 11, I was in a middle of two travel choices. One was Tagaytay which was a 2-3 hour drive from Manila and the other one was the Parks and Wildlife center in Quezon City which was like 30 minutes away if I ride the train. Tagaytay would be an awesome trip but I was lacking budget for the expenses going there and I also went there a couple of times when I was younger so I wasn't really considering it, so I said yes to the center in Quezon City.

In the morning of the 11th of December, there I was, inside a Taxi with 3 others going to the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife center. I kept on saying "this better be good" because I don't really like waking up early in the morning to see crap. We got in and since it was a Government owned park, payment was less than $1 (PHP8.00) . 

Once you entered the gates, it takes you to a different world which I called that time as a "Shire" referring to the village of the Hobbits. A sea of greenery swallows you and gives a feeling of being in a concrete forest. Balete trees welcome you, it's a bunch of creepy trees but what gives beauty to it are the rays of the sun that hits the holes of the tree.

A pen for a kind of Deer.
Around the park are pens of some animals that they are taking care of. Based on my research prior to going here, I thought that the place was a rescue center and so I thought why would they keep animals captive? When the animal heals they should return it to the wildlife but I was wrong, the place was a park.

What was abundant were the species of birds and I guess this is the main attraction aside from the exotic and weird looking species of fishes they had. I wasn't able to take photos of the Birds because first of all, the cage was huge and all of them were so high the lens of my camera just couldn't reach them.

Happy family taking a walk around the park, follow the leader!
I love nature, what more can I say? I love how trees grow, how flowers bloom, how animals live in abundance with Earth's resources. It takes away the stress when I see nature at its best, when it thrives and nourishes others depending on it.

My friend Joshua, taking a picture of the "Lagoon" which I prefer calling as a "Swamp"
In the Heart of the park lies a swamp called as a "Lagoon". There was also a sign of "No Fishing" which I really didn't think of going Fishing on a body of water that doesn't move. The place is really quiet and you wouldn't notice that you were still in a city.

This is my favorite spot, I call it "Kanlungan"
I like this place where a big tree is beside the lagoon and there's a small lover's table where one couple can really have a private spot for talking or just admiring each other. Reminds me of the song "Kanlungan" by Noel Cabangon.

Shhh. Be Quiet, they're in the middle of a love discussion
Many couples really flock this place, that really amazed me because I didn't know that the park could be a romantic venue for some.

Overall, I find the park really relaxing except for the itching I suffered but it was a cool place. If you plan a safe urban picnic or a photo walk or a photo-shoot, it's one of the best places to set up and practice shots.

December 18, 2010

A day within the walls

Manila, the Pearl of the Orient back in the days of prosperity of the beautiful country. The Pre-World War II city was a favorite destination of the western countries, it was the Queen City of the East. The Philippines was put into the map of destinations for the westerners.

Conquered by the Spaniards in the 1571 until 1898, Spain introduces Christianity to the Filipinos who were were worshiping idols. 1899, the Americans came and introduced the western culture to the country. This was the period when the Philippines prospered and was a famous place. Under the Commonwealth period, The US Government and the Philippine Republic was preparing for its freedom.

December 8, 1941. Planes hover above the aerial space of the Archipelago. Bombs fell out of the sky, explosions and panic amongst the Filipinos. The men of the Rising Sun has arrived! The Japanese Imperial Army had invaded the country.

Today, much of the history of the invasions remained and has become part of the Filipino culture. One of which is Intramuros or "The walled city". Built by the Spaniards in the 16th Century and it would be one of the bloodiest urban warfare of WW2 during the battle of Manila where civilians were targeted by the Japanese and 100,000 other Filipino Civilians died during the retaking of Manila in 1945.

Intramuros, it was the little Vatican of the East. It had more than 7 Churches inside its walls, it is where I study now. The school I'm attending to was established in 1620 and is the oldest institution still on its original location.

Street Children are rampant around the walls
The once beautiful Intramuros has been a shelter for informal Settlers, the cobbled stone roads are few and ruins have been victims of defacing and vandalism. Although some of the important ruins are being taken care of, I still get frustrated of what Intramuros looks like today.

The Manila Cathedral

Last December 8, me and my classmates were tasked to take photos of historical places around especially the past and present places of the Churches (Because the project was for Theology course) and we, have been studying inside the walls for 3 years already hasn't really walked around much. So we did!

Jairus here looking at the historical landmark of the old Ateneo
What's really funny about the trip was that we were holding a past and present map of Intramuros because the legends were different. We were comparing a 2010 map to a 16th century sketch of Intramuros. Tour guides and Kalesa coaches were quite convinced that we were tourists.

The old Ateneo de Manila Municipal.
Walking around town doesn't tire you out, as long as you wear socks. Intramuros is only less than a kilometer       

A beggar sleeping at the sidewalk.
Poverty is seen around. Beggars, children and sometimes people who talk to themselves. I get really sad when I see them because I don't know what to do, I want to help but how? I just refuse to look at them because it really hurts me.

Walk the walls with your friends, it never hurts to have some company unless you wanna be alone.

After 4 hours of solid walking, map comparing, mistakes in navigation and lots of shared laughter. We ate at our favorite place. "Allysa's Sisig" which is definitely a must try!

This is called the "Kantunan Alley" or "Alley of Canton Noodles" because all the stalls there serve 1 main dish, the Instant Pancit Canton
I hope the preservation of Intramuros strengthens and gets support from the Government. This place is historical foot by foot and a symbol of the mixed culture of the Filipinos.

December 8, 2010

Boracay Part 5: The Last Day: Island's Black out and the race to Manila

6:30PM - I was in my cottage at Boracay Dream Resort relaxing on the bed, just staring up at the celing fan while it moves in the same way as others before me had stared at it. This was my last night in Boracay and I've planned myself to go Bar Hopping on my own. I've set my eyes on at least 4 bars around station 2, order a couple of beers at each stop just to get the feeling of each Bar. 

Then the dark clouds got together and formed a threat that made other tourists outside looked up and at the horizon. The sky was getting dark and oh my golly I haven't seen a setting Sun so big before, I literally blinked and wiped my eyes if what I was seeing was true. It was true! The Sun was as large as a basketball inches away from your face.

Sorry for the blurred picture, the orange color at the horizon is the big setting sun but was blocked by the dark clouds.
7:30PM - First on my list was the famous "HOBBIT HOUSE" which was a shocker when I got to Boracay because the Hobbit House in Malate, Manila was my long dream place to go to but I never had the time because of my busy schedule as a student in Manila. So when I saw this place I quickly noted that it is a "Must" place to go. 

They are the "Hobbits" and they are the wait staff AND SUPERSTARS of the restaurant. 
Around that time while I was eating my Carbonara when the sky opened its eyes and release massive amounts of rainfall in the island! I texted my brother to check the weather and they said it was alright, but in my case with a few thousands left in my pocket, I started worrying because the coconut trees started dancing like oompa lumpas!

I have a panic syndrome where when something's not right I think of the worst case scenario, in this setting that I might be stuck for a few days, I took out and calculated my budget and I remembered how I can skip meals and eat every 12 hours when I'm in school and this might be the moment where it will be most useful. 

Boracay might be a paradise but it gets rough too, it's scary especially if you are alone like me! I'm thinking of a lot of survival plans but this is the point where I wished to be just at home. It took me an hour to finish my plate!

I went back to my hotel, I tried to outrun the rain but it was too strong, I got wet and it was really cold. I stayed at my cottage and watched for the news and there was nothing in it! I waited and waited, constantly checking the weather outside.

9:30PM - The rain stopped and I rejoiced! grabbed my jacket and went outside to drink at Pat's Bar. I didn't go bar hopping anymore because I was still watching my budget in case something bad happens. 

Pat's Bar's French Fries with one of the best Filipino beers "Red Horse"
10:00PM - ....whooo! Oh yeah! Party!party!party! I laaaaabbbb Buuuurrraaaaakkaaaayyy!!! - Those were some of the best reactions I heard around the bar when the Island went totally dark! Yes, my last night was turning into some kind of a misadventure! There was a power outrage in around Boracay and Pat's Bar doesn't have a generator, too bad! I wanted to spend the last night with the bar and it's live Reggae jives!

What to do? What to do! I billed out and went back to check out The Hobbit House and eureka! It has a generator, I went inside again and the 3 Hobbits were surprised to see me and I said to them "I told you I'll be back!" So I ordered Red Horse again and started chatting with the Hobbits and even I was surprised with their life stories. They all hail from the capital of the Philippines, Manila! They were hired and brought to the paradise. One said that it was "Boring", the other one said it was "Lonely" but the other one said that it was "Awesome" - We now can guess who the guy Hobbit was.

I was touched by how they handled themselves and their confidence made me think that I'm a smaller man than they are. I liked them and they were friendly and it made me feel that I wasn't alone. Then I ended the conversation and went straight back to my cottage, good thing my cottage have generators too.


8:00AM - I woke up and you know what that is. It's breakfast at "REAL COFFEE" once again! I went there and ordered "Jack's Omelette" I waited patiently for Nadine because I wanna say goodbye before I leave her lovely place. I waited...and waited....and waited... I thought she wasn't coming so I asked the cook to give me a pen and paper and I wrote a note in case I couldn't wait for her any longer. It said in the letter how great the food was and how I was excited to eat breakfast ( I don't eat breakfast in Manila ) 

Presenting: Jack's Omellete!

9:30AM - She finally showed up, she looked a little stressed but it was rinsed away quickly by the barrage of good mornings from her regular customers. We had a little chat and I gave her the letter because sometimes I just can't say things because I'm too shy to admit that I'm such a fan of her place so I gave her the note I wrote earlier. 

Just one more picture as souvenir!
REAL COFFEE was the best breakfast I had in my life hands down, it was the place I missed the most.

*********THE RACE TO MANILA*********

1:45PM - Inside the restaurant across Caticlan Airport, I ordered Tapsilog (Beef Jerky strips, Fried Rice and Egg) worth $4. I was the only one in the restaurant, hearing the roar of the planes taking off and landing at the small airstrip. I haven't even touched my food when I heard on the speaker that my flight was cancelled. I paid the bill and I said that I'll be back for my food.

I ran across the street and inside the airport to settle things, they moved me to a 4:55PM flight instead of my original 5:15PM. After things were put to place I went back to the restaurant to feast on the food I ordered, my order was good but it leans on the expensive side.

3:00PM - Looking at the field of Caticlan airport, I remember the good times I've had, Pat's bar and the Reggae beats, the Hobbit House with their great life stories both the boring and interesting ones and of course, Real Coffee Cafe and their fleet of breakfast meals!

3:17PM - I heard my name over the speaker to present myself at the ticketing counter. The first thing that came in my mind was that "Shit! I didn't pack illegal things inside my bag, or did I?!" So I hurried and got there in no time, well that's because it's only 10 steps away from where I was seated. They told me that my flight's plane can't touch down at the airport due to the strong winds and so they have to transfer my flight to Kalibo airport which was 2 hours away from where I was!

I mean what the hell?! They moved my flight 2 times! Even if they'll be bringing us there by their service van along with some foreigners, I was pissed off with the Airline. But I can't do anything about it because of course, "SAFETY FIRST" policy always comes up!


5:37PM - It's a rainy flight, the plane's wings are shaking. The sky, painted with midnight blue and the blinking lights. What a bumpy ride! It's rough! The plane goes up, down, up, down, left, down, right, down!

5:53PM - I took a shaky piss inside the lavatory, the mood and ambiance of the passengers are quite obvious! Eerie quiet, everyone was just not comfortable and the crew were also seated but tried their best to smile. That's one thing you should know, if the crew is seated; it's going to be a tough flight!

5:57PM - Turbulence again. The crew threw a contest, guess the title of the movie line.

6:02PM - Now in the middle of the ocean, I'm looking at a fire red horizon! Magnificent!

6:10PM - I'm seeing thunder and lightning just across the left wing, I bet it's about at least a kilometer away.

6:14PM - At last! I saw land! It's the might island of Corregidor if I'm not mistaken.

6:35PM - Finally! We landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, we took a 10 minute aerial tour of Manila.

Forgive me for the Blurry picture once again, that's the plane I took.
I was so happy to step on land once again! The flight was fast but I felt it was the longest day!

Boracay was "A beautiful ride"

At first I didn't think that the Boracay trip wouldn't be good but the Paradise proved me wrong. It's not the beach that I'm missing, not the white milky sand although it was really impressive. What I miss about the island is not the island, but the people who are in the island. The culture, the nightlife, the feeling of "Hakuna Matata" and the experience made me want to stay just one more night. But fantasies are only short lived, well for now.