Monday, November 26, 2012

Bon Chon - Cebu Invasion

Weeks before Bon Chon's scheduled opening, banners and streamers already hung around Ayala. There is something about its name that already sounds very marketable. It must be the rhyme or maybe because it sounds like a merging of two names "Bon" and "Chon". You say it aloud twice or thrice and it will surely stick in your memory like glue.

Their streamers were also effective, neatly and simplistically designed to captivate onlookers gaze to its name and the delectable fried chicken picture in it. Its background ---- White: clean and staightforward.

Because I work near Ayala Center, I can't help but grow anticipation for its grand opening day with excitement. When it finally did, I wasted no time and headed straight to its location.

Upon arrival, I was informed that they were still doing simulation activities to train their crew the drill. The staff was apologetic and instead of showing disappointment, I engaged her to a chat. It was in the conversation where I knew that Bon Chon is a Korean establishment and although they have fried chicken in their banner and ads, they actually offer also other dishes. I asked her when their next opening date for the public was and she said, 2 days after. I left informing her that I will be taking along some colleagues so we will be one of the first customers to try their offerings.

Faithful to my word, I brought along 4 more friends to join me at their promised opening day. Sadly, the staff said guiltily that they have not fully trained their crew yet. They had to extend yet another day. I had to brush the minor embarrassment and took my colleagues to Mesa instead.

These disappointments left me downcast for days but I moved on thinking that the series of unfortunate events didn't really speak of how their food tasted. It took me weeks until one afternoon at work, I and 2 other friends made our minds up to pay it one more visit. Finally, we got in.

It took us no less than 5 minutes to make the order:
  1 - Ko-Yo Mini (P35.00)
  1 - Small Spicy Thigh (small bucket of 3 pcs) - P185.00
  3 - Plain rice - P45.00
  2 - 7-Up cans - P56.00
  1 - Rootbeer - P28.00

At a total of 349 pesos, 3 of us already ate 1-pc fried Bon Chon chicken with sodas.

Ko-Yo (Korean Yoghurt) mini I would say is the best frozen yoghurt I have tasted in Cebu. Although I would have preferred the fresh yoghurt over it, but there is something about the texture of Ko-Yo that felt so smooth in the tongue and its sourness that was just right for my taste.

Bon Chon is also popular for putting in flavors of Korean and American cuisine together. If this is true, I would credit the sweet spicy honey marinade of their chicken as Korean contribution and the crisp to American influence. The mix of flavors make Bon Chon fried chicken the best variation for me so far. Nothing has come close to its tasty marinade-- not McDonalds' seasonal Buffalo chicken nor Greenwich's version.

 Despite the order arriving after close to half an hour, I can still say that their food is quite worth one's occasional visits. I'd be excited to sample their other food in the coming days.

Bon Chon is said to have about 28 branches in Metro Manila, 1 in Davao and 1 in Ayala Center, Cebu.

Visit Bon Chon's Facebook page and other blog sites for further details and reviews.
  Pinoy Cravings

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Noteworthy Wakamatsu Experience

It was payback time for me, Patrick, and Hermie. We decided to pig-out big time at the expense of our 4 other Team Gusla members' (Donna, Sittie, Kteil, and Charles) savings. Initially, we thought of hitting YUGO for lunch. Luckily, however, since most of us have already lunched at the place, we agreed to pay its closest competition, Wakamatsu Yakiniku, a visit.

Wakamatsu is one of the few Japanese restaurants in Cebu that offers an all-you-can-eat option. It has been around town for several years already, feared not to last long, but stayed anyhow. I remember visiting the place a couple of times in the past but only to check their menu out and for simple reasons of curiosity.

Four years back, F. Cabahug Street was only interesting because of a few landmarks: Jazz n Blues, Pacific Square, and Castle Peak Hotel. Pacific Square looks like a cozy hotel that fronts a unique architecture. It catches attention also because it sits on an elevation at the roadside, accessible only by patiently climbing its significantly long stairway. I would cuss (if it wasn't a bad thing to do) if I was to run an errand that will require me to climb those steps at midday. The street stretch provides no solace of shelter nor shade unless you actually enter in one of the shops at the street side which weren't too many then. To top that, jeepneys are quite scarce in that part of Cebu. Only Route #03A and 03B jeepneys pass through F. Cabahug Street and mind you, they do not travel around Lahug, Capitol, and Cebu Business Park. In other words, it is unlikely for townsmen to frequent the place unless there are reasons for one to really be there. And when you do get there, you can't help but wonder whether the Japanese restaurant adjacent the hotel can save you from thirst and hunger or not. But I did take a look once only to cower from the price of the menu, strangeness of its meals, and its dimly lit interior. I didn't go back since then.

Things changed, however, when an office mate argued with tremendous conviction that Wakamatsu remains the better Japanese restaurant against YUGO. That and some hard to find internet reviews, seem to awaken the curiosity I have so long tamed to silence. When Team Gusla sought my suggestion for a new resto trip, I cunningly brought them into it.

All 7 of us readied for a feast. Armed with nothing but our hungry stomachs, we raided the place. Greeted then ushered into what looked like a quarter with a center table and missing chairs, we took our footwear off to dine the Japanese way. Just a few seconds after sitting, we were handed the menu. Unlike most all-you-can-eat restaurants, the food in Wakamatsu are not served in a ready-to-eat buffet. One has to order what he wants to eat from the menu but keeping in mind that any leftovers can likely be charged on him. Our orders consisted of:

- Beef strips
- Pork strips
- Steamed Shrimp
- Squid Sashimi
- Kimchi
- Ramen Noodles
- Japanese Chop Suey
- California Maki
- Tuna
- Rice, and Fried Rice
- Oolong, iced tea, green tea
- Ice cream for desert

If there were lessons to learn in this experience, it will be the following:
 1. The all-you-can-eat price entitles the diner one glass of any drinks from Oolong, regular iced tea, and green tea options. If uncertain of the taste of the other strange-sounding drinks, choose what is familiar.
 2. When grilling, avoid waving your food in forceps near the smoke suction pipe above the grilling pan. The pressure is a little strong that it can suction any object near its opening. I reached over to grill a shrimp and was surprised that nothing dropped on the pan. I thought that gravity shifted position all of a sudden.The pipe took my food away.
 3. Order lots of raw food early. Cooking time is fleeting and expensive when your doing lunch in between work hours.
 4. Learn to be in the rhythm of cooking and eating at the same time. You cannot wait for what you put on the pan to get cooked before you start eating. What you put on it can be gone in seconds especially if your friends dig in the same pan you dig on.
 5. If you are into maki or sushi, skip rice. They are mainly of the same ingredient with the former being more flavorful than the latter.
 6. Wear comfortable clothes. The place can get really warm when everybody's grilling.
 7. Make conversation fun while eating with friends. Just like you are on a picnic.
 8. Eat and care less whether you fumble using chop sticks or you smudge your face with sauce. Enjoy the unlimited supply or at least while it is available.

I personally had fun. It may have run short of variety in comparison with YUGO's but there is something good also about sitting and just identifying the food you want rather than taking the time away from the comfort of your table to keep coming back to the buffet minding what others might have to say about the frequency of your return. Besides, it was a treat and 3 of us only had to worry about taxi fare.

I left Wakamatsu with a changed notion. The stairs weren't actually too much to climb. The midday sun was not even that bad. These retrospect weren't quite as noteworthy as the Wakamatsu experience.

Budget Range: P400 - P500
Overall Experience: Recommended

Wakamatsu, Yakiniku
Pacific Square Bldg, 
F. Cabahug St Cebu City, Cebu  
Tel. No. (032) 232-5897


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Monday, November 19, 2012

Headache and Runny Nose

I say don't pour, but you would
I say stop, but you keep flowing
Like river passes through the canal
Your warm stream flows through my nasal.

I can't help but spray droplets in the air
Everytime my nose itches, oh I can't bear.
Your persistence is pestilence
Your stubbornness overpowers resistance.

I tried to just sleep the pain over
But my head seem to throb faster
The weather is not cooperating either
It's hot and I feel even sicker.

Oh God, where does my help come from?
It comes from You Lord,
Creator of all things,
Lord of everything.

And so I cry in despair
Hoping you would hear
God take me out from this misery.
Free me from the pain I feel physically.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Finding DFA - Cebu

I had the chance to pay the Department of Foreign Affairs a visit today at its new location as "chaperon" to my sister and my mom who were renewing their passport. Finding it required a great amount of patience due to the following reasons:
   - Firstly, at present, it is rare to find a Google match that actually details its new whereabouts. Most search results still post the old address near Plaza Independencia of Cebu City. Even Google maps still record the old site.
    - Secondly, it is now located at the 4th floor of Pacific Mall, formerly and more popularly known as Mandaue Metro Gaisano. Rebranding or totally renaming a business can be quite confusing for regular customers. Even the driver of the taxi we rode in either didn’t really know where Pacific Mall was or he faked his ignorance. And since I wasn’t sure myself about its exact location, he seemed happy to make detours until I blurt out Metro Gaisano with conviction.
     - Lastly, the place is really far for people living near the Cebu downtown area, therefore, getting to the new DFA office is also expensive as it is time consuming.

   But it wasn’t all bad. The new location is far bigger than the old. They seem to have occupied the entire 4th floor of the mall. The process is now quite straightforward and they appear to have applied a strategy. They have a specific point by which all applicants enter and they have an exit door at the other end of the office where all whose business and intentions got served go out. They kind of placed the departmental sections according to the sequence of the entire application process. Only applicants were allowed to enter in the office. Their respective companions were provided sufficient waiting benches. Space, obviously was one improvement DFA nailed in this transfer and it is very heartwarming and hope-stoking to see our government offices get some good administrative / management strategies implemented. In this connection, my congratulations go to the head officer of DFA, Secretary Albert F. del Rosario.
   Pictures below show glimpses of DFA’s current facility in Cebu:

Department of Foreign Affairs at Cebu's Pacific Mall in Mandaue.
Applicants at the Entrance of the Office in the 4th Floor of Pacific Mall.
Waiting area for non-applicants. Far right - applicant is filling out a form.
  Note for all passport applicants coming from local provinces especially those who are applying through third party agencies, buzzes lately say that travel agency passport processing services will be stopped as soon as DFA’s plan to get more of their offices moved into major malls in key provinces nationwide takes place. I am not quite sure how this plan can conveniently work out for all, though.

Passport requirements? Click here.
Complete list of DFA Office Locations in this page.

Department of Foreign Affairs- Cebu
  4th Level Pacific Mall-Metro Mandaue, 
  UN Ave. cor. MC Briones St., 
  Brgy. Estancia, Mandaue City
Telephone Nos:
  (032) 520-5898
  (032) 520-6193
  (032) 520-6550
Fax No.
  (032) 520-6551

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Pajeros" and "Trucks" for Lunch

The clock struck 11am and the office mood slowly shifted to serious. The 6th floor of the Pioneer Building is normally busy at this hour. You see, a lot of work gets done at 11am because everybody crams and for some reason most us really do. If it's not Filipino culture, I don't know what it is - probably love for last hour challenge or something else. It's not even the last hour of a working day, but, it was prior lunch break. We got excited and so we sweat out the last minutes just to feel productive before taking the so-called "well deserved" lunches.

Amidst intent pounding of keyboards, a pregnant colleague breaks into a loud invitation. "Mike, are you eating Pochero for lunch?" Seriously, that would probably be the last of my options for that mealtime. It wasn't too long ago since I ate at Marjo's Pochero. Nevertheless, commotion slowly built up.  A lot of our co-workers who heard the invitation took interest. Soon, friends of friends gathered outside Pioneer building's main entrance and we found ourselves hiring cabs to go to Ekits.

Fame for Ekit FoodHaus had spread for sometime already through word of mouth. It is known to be "barkadas" (a group of friends) food stop after a grueling basketball match or simply a destination for food trippers. Their specialty? Pochero.
Ekit Foodhaus' latest signage

Located behind Sarrosa International Hotel and accessible only through junctions, taxis make your most appropriate public transportation. However, if you have plenty of time to waste, it can be fun walking your way to the restaurant after stopping a 3B or 3A Mabolo-Cebu route jeepney at the junction before Sarrosa Hotel. Walk straight until you reach the first crossing to the right (Landmark: Cucinerah Restaurant). A few meters onward, you'll see the newest signage for Ekit nailed on a light yellow concrete wall. Turn just 3 or 4 meters to the left until you find the entrance of the food house.

The entrance to the dining area

The entrance was indeed nothing cozy. In fact, if the owner would remove the huge signage above it, you would think that it is just a little doorway leading towards the interior of a house. However, do not be dismayed. It may look uninteresting from the outside but you will be surprised to see how a lot lively and fun it is inside. We were greeted by the sight of hungry and noisy crowd of people from all walks of life and the smell of cooked food filled the air. The simple and the sophisticated few, acquaintances and strangers, flock together around long wooden tables that are narrow but engaging for close distance conversations.

The crowd
 After getting seated for about 10 mins, our Pocheros arrived. A bowl for each. I caught site of a plate of cooked corn grits and thought it best to match it with the hot tasty beef soup. The meat was cooked to tender and I was lucky to get the portion that looked fresh and inviting colored light pinkish red. The soup had just the right salty sweet taste and not sour like Marjo's. Pretty much like the way it is cooked in our hometown in Negros. Like most, I took the slice of corn for the finish.
The famed "Pajero" (pochero)

Each serve of pochero costs P50 pesos - a far cry from the ones you get from restaurants priced between 200-300 pesos. Admittedly, however, the beef cuts at Ekits are plain meat without the flavorful bone marrows stuck in the hollows of beef shanks. Nevertheless, if you prefer a less oily and likely healthier beef soup, you'd definitely hit Ekit's like I will a second, third, fourth and God knows how many times more
whenever I get the chance.

Nowadays, the food house is known for the funny names customers label their pocheros and coca-cola drink: "pajero" and "truck", respectively. As for the reason behind the labels, I, like a few others, do not know.

For more articles on Ekit Food House, take time to read blogs by DeadToeNails and Senyorita.

Ekits FoodHaus is located at Tandang Sora, Kasambagan, Mabolo, Cebu City.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sprockets "Raket"

Sprockets Coffee + Milk Tea Cafe is very hard to miss. It is brightly lit in J Block Building, Apitong Street in Cebu just alleys behind the Parklane Hotel. The street stretch is dim but as soon as you get near the block where it stood, you would notice bright lights coming from the inside of the restaurant passing through its glass walls. It has become the yuppies favorite night cafes since it is decorated with so many delightful camera artifacts and photographs. Although young professionals spread around and about the area, there are in fact, surprisingly, a few veterans around. One we caught sight of happened to be a church worker in one of Cebu's cathedrals and looked like she was doing an inventory or some sort of accounting work on her laptop while chilling over a glass of milk tea. I wondered what magnet the shop has that it seem to entice a lot of people from all walks of life.

When we requested a recommendation from the waiter regarding their specialty, he didn't hesitate offering the Ostrich Steak from their menu. And because he sounded like he bet his life on it, we took his advice. We also added Chili Con Carne Pizza to satisfy the craving of one of my food and travel friends.

Waiting for your order in the cafe is not much of a painful experience. If they tarried, you wouldn't notice it too much since there are a lot of things inside the shop that satisfies a little of every persons unique fancy. Those whose hobby is photography can get glued on a huge wall of Lomo pictures which I understand happens to be the owner's other favorite pastime. Then, there are the camera pillows all around that you could use to cushion a head or throw at a friend, and menu card boards designed in shapes of cameras and a drawing at the back. The atmosphere their interior set-up creates is playful which is why anyone can find himself getting comfortable not too long after sitting down on their cushioned chairs. The place fosters varieties and non-traditional styling. They have a display of Lomo cameras at one corner with new and used films. They also do not seem to be into uniformity or too much formality that even their chairs and tables are different. They have tables that are made for serious diners and there are the sofas that cater for casual chats and conversations with friends. WIFI internet connection is also available so people with pads, tabs, and smart phones won't miss Facebooking and internet surfing.

Ostrich Steak

Chili con Carne Pizza

Finally, the orders arrived and we were beaming with excitement to see the nicely-plated steak. It came with garlic rice accented with a green herb on top and small bowl of sauce. It was picturesque, so we kept our phone cameras busy. The Ostrich meat cooked at medium-well as requested, tasted delightfully delicious. The meat was cooked hard on the outside but tender inside. Cutting it through will show you the pinkish red color of the meat. To add to its flavor, a splash of special mustard sauce was poured on it. For diners like us who chance on steaks and ostriches occasionally, we only had good things to say about the palate treat. As if starved for more of what Sprocket has to offer, we reached for a slice of the Chili con Carne flavored pizZza. It was itself a welcome for our hungry stomachs as well. The crust was neither thick nor thin. Although the dough may have tasted a little stale and dry, the chili con carne toppings definitely made up for it.

Sprockets Milk Tea
For our drinks, we opted for a milk tea and a passion fruit iced tea.

Lately, the shop management has infused fun in dining through occasional trivia and other activities inside the cafe making hanging out more interesting.

Other good reads on Sprockets:
Babe for Food

Visit Sprockets Coffee + Milk Tea Cafe at Apitong, Street. For inquiries, contact them at 234-3304 or write a comment in their Facebook page.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hardly Ever There

Therefore whosoever heareth these saying of Mine,and doeth them, I will liken him
unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the
rivers came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it
was founded upon a rock.  (Matt. 7:24-25)

   I call it blind certainties. The times when one feels he is certain of his whereabouts but unsure of where his mind is wandering. Sometimes I feel so sure about what I want to do on a particular day yet ends up going back home with just as much "to dos" as I had envisioned at daybreak. In the matter of emotional disposition, one can be experiencing a state of happiness  and yet not finding where it is sourced from. Life sometimes takes me to moments seemingly serene, however, inexplicably internally noisy. It is an awkward feeling. A major contrast. Subtle opposites. Inconspicuously deceitful and a make believe. Pretty much like hiding fears behind beer bottles or bloating egos over cowardliness. Or puffing smoke from cigarettes to hide a weary face. Even sporting huge fake smiles or blurting big matter-of-factly Yeses to mime the "i don't knows". It is unreal. All of it are.
   When times like this happens, it's easy to be gullible. One can be an easy prey for lurking predators, people who take advantage at the slightest hint of weakness in others. I have seen people yield to not too reasonable requests simply because he/she couldn't keep his ground. He knows he ought to say "No" to a "treat me for lunch" request for the sake of building some savings fund, but, he nonetheless, say "Yes" to please another. Women muster their edge at coercing men to say "Okay" at requests that are in fact insignificant just so they get what they want. We, on the other hand, quickly raise arms in surrender at the power of their slightest hip sway, hair toss, tempting grin, a meaningless touch, childish murmur, and inviting glance. Ahh women! They always seem to have our egos by the neck. But, humans as we are, everybody ought to know that most things do not come for free all the time. Everybody has motives. The predator-prey-predator cycle is as real as wake-work-sleep routine. Be careful not to fall too deep into it that you could end up scarred for life or challenge the odds too aggressively that consequences could blow hard back on you sourly.
    This is why people with a sense of purpose and a seasoned self-control is admirable. Others are just gifted to have it so naturally that they seem to breeze through life's hustle and bustle effortlessly. They are quick to organize and come up with a plan. Keen in prioritizing and recognizing the importance of an excellent decision. And strong in keeping the stand, willing to sacrifice temporary lusts and short-lived pleasures for a more rewarding end. Still, in reality, a big fraction of the world's population are challenged in this aspect which is why even if you may not have been born and raised valuing purpose and self-control, for as long as you give it a conscious effort to find and master it, you will be alright. It will become part of your habit in no time. Men and women who found it knew when to say "Yes" and what to say "Yes" to. They fearlessly and shamelessly say "No" when they have to. Pride, ego and emotions do not dictate their decisions.
    I am one of the many who struggle through mastering self-control and keeping the purpose in mind. Focus evades me and I find it very elusive. It is volatile too in the sense that when I do find it at own effort, I tend to lose it at the slightest noise. And the only circumstances I seem to have it are the times when my relationship with the Lord is okay. When it is broken, I kind of lose it and these are the times when I say "Yes" and "No" so aimlessly. So adrift that I tend to be blown so easily from side to side. People, society, norms take turns in making the decisions for me. And when these elements go crazy and wild, I am caught in a limbo, and walk the world mindlessly and heartlessly. Such a pitiful disposition to be in.
    God is my direction. Without Him, everything is a question. If you take him away from life's formula, it would seem like you are part of a big community, but, hardly ever there.
    Live life with meaning and purpose.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"I" and "Us" of Growing

“Two's company, three's a crowd” - an American Proverb.

We hear about this statement a lot mostly referring to chaos, trouble, misunderstanding, disorganization, and division when in a group. And for most times in my life, I kinda believed the notion. Although, I can get along, just fine in a group, but I noticed, how interaction in this setup can also become much of a trouble. Decisions seem to take longer to make especially when you have more ideas and feelings to consider at a given time. Divisions in the group can also take place when certain members feel like they need to side with one who has established a certain level of dominance, while the more logical few takes as much courage they can muster to support a more rational member in the team. This is the reason why leaders are born but what if the desire to lead is inborn? And to further the thought, what if that is intrinsic to all? There are cowards, insecure, and timid types who would rather sulk in the corner and become content spectating but timidity is mostly a product of several failed leadership attempts. And although their submission and surrender seem to work in keeping the group appear united, there exists an even deeper conflict: "I, too, want to lead, but I will just be embarrassed trying." These and many more are reasons why people would rather spend doing things by themselves: "I'll travel alone.", "I'll decide by myself. Besides, I am more productive when I do not have to consult others." Keeping things in this perspective is indeed proving that the statement typed early on is true.

Lately, however, I have been hearing teachings about how community is important for people to grow into maturity. Apparently, Ecclesiastes 4:12, supports it clearly - "... A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." A group can make you stronger and it can accomplish greater things too that no man by himself can do. It can get things done faster, given that all members of the team understand the same vision and know the same purpose. Lessons to learn can come from many which could lead to accelerated growth. Proverbs 27:17 has this to say about being in the company of other people, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." It means to say that we get to develop characters that can build us up wiser and smarter.

As good as all that information may seem, a question popped suddenly. Is this really true all the time? Why is it that in the context of our present society, implementation of proposed constitutional amendments take so much time? Why is it that street dwellers are all around the metropolis and you see the kids breathing in lung-damaging substances while they scatter to ask for alms only to hand it over to syndicate leaders? How about deterioration of self-image amidst a bullying crowd? What have we to say about Juan whose addiction to cigarettes and other vices started from peer pressure? Or Ana, the single mom who decided she'll have a baby from anyone, even without marriage, because friends, norms and research tell her that she'll have cervical cancer if she doesn't bear a child at late twenties? They weren't alone. That was community forming them too.

While searching to understand how a community with its apparent benefits really live up to rearing people to maturity, here is a scripture I stumbled on before bedtime. "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20) I see this verse in the light of the phrase "...come together in my name". It signifies agreement and indicates unity among the community of three acknowledging Jesus' name as the reason of their convergence. Although far-fetched to some, I draw two important theories from this reading.

    1.) A community is effective when they work for a common vision, purpose, or objective.
    2.) A community, despite differences as individuals, must have a common identity.

In the case above, the three is a community of Christians united for a single purpose. Hence, the Lord confirms habitation.

Applying all these lessons to the early assumptions, I objectively look at community as a make or break approach towards maturity. Encamping among people of good manners develop the appropriate breeding and achieves the kind of growth you expect for yourself. On the other hand, choice of bad companions can likely corrupt good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). I do not discredit, however, the 10% possibility that it can happen otherwise where you make others change at your influence instead. It happens, not frequently though. Either way, there has to be a guiding objective or mission for it to work.

And on whether it is "I" or "us", I would say that both aren't bad ideas. To swear that growth strictly happens only in a community is quite a generalization. There are things you learn by personal study, and there are those you learn better from other people. On rate of growth, lessons learned in a community is speedy - Maybe. Like in the idea of algae competing for oxygen in a body of water, too many can also mean limited growth. Some even die so the rest can thrive. Jesus took time to pray in a quiet place by himself without disruption from others. We cannot bring community with us or let others meddle on personal matters about ourselves all the time. In the same way, we cannot always keep our happiness or sadness all by ourselves. We also have the need for sympathy, affirmation, and companionship of others.

In closing, a crowd of three, four, nor five,  isn't really bad if each member identifies to a common niche and functions for the same objective. And doing things by and for yourself at times is not sin at all. If all's done for the glory of the One who befriended us at our worst, none can go wrong.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beef Shank at Marjos

When you've been at a place twice or thrice, a slight difference in the area is not difficult to notice. I pass by Gorordo Avenue frequently when I ride the taxi on the way to work and Marjos Pochero have lately been a tease since it opened sometime August, this year. So one lunch time, I and a colleague, being slaves to a restotour (restaurant hopping) challenge, decided to pay the place a visit.

Marjos Pochero is a restaurant which specialty is just exactly what its name parades - POCHERO. This type of dish takes its origin from Spanish cooking and is served then for the elites since the Spaniards wanted nothing less than "de primera calidad". It is beef stew made from choice ingredients of fresh vegetables, some fruits, and beef shank cooked under regulated heat and pressure.

Without hesitation we entered the gate of what looked like a wooden fence and stepped on a shaded cement platform. The restaurant has no wall coverings, except for their kitchen where cooking is done. Right in front of the kitchen is a glass shelf displaying all other dishes one can order a la carte - lechon kawali, chicharon bulaklak and many more. The wall behind the attendants holds what looks like a gigantic menu listing all other food they have available for sale. This type of setup is quite telling of the type of patrons they intend to cater - the middle income earners which make up most of the Filipino population.

Service in the restaurant is quite fast. Not long after 10 to 15 minutes have elapsed, the simmering beef stew was already served in a white porcelain bowl. We were told not to drink the soup directly mouth to cup because it is hotter than we think we can handle. And true as we were told, even the spoon scoop burnt a little our tender tongues. Warm soup in the stomach to me is always the most satisfying in an eating routine. I wouldn't mind perspiring. Their version of pochero soup is a little too tangy (or sour) and salty too. I find this flavor a little dominant in most pochero houses in Cebu. I could be wrong to say that it is Cebu trademark but the ones I have tasted in Negros was not as sour as it tasted. It was the kind of mix that would be perfect when poured over a plate of bland plain rice rather than sipped from the cup. In my opinion, the sourness may have been due to too much dabong (bamboo shoots) in the ingredients. But its just me. Others probably find that a plus especially for those whose palate loves that particular item in the dish. Despite that, I would commend their pochero for its fresh beef, nicely tendered, and served in huge size. The one we ate was enough to accommodate for 4 persons. The cabbage was cooked enough to still have its crunch and the corn was sweet. Our lunch which included the pochero, rice, and softdrinks cost us a total of P400. Not bad if shared by three or four.

Food/Taste                   - 3
Value for Money         - 4
Presentation/Class       - 3
Crew Service               - 4
Ambiance                    - 2

Overall experience: Just Ok!

For more pictures, visit their Facebook page. See related reviews by Market Manila here or find a sample Pochero recipe in this site.

Marjo's Pochero
Location: beside QC Pavillon
Gorordo Ave., 6000 Cebu City
Contact Nos: 09228328502 / 09334547454

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Feasting at One Claypot House

It started when I read Mustachio's blog. I was just watching a google image that showed a thumbnail of a very familiar picture I suspected was of Sumaguing cave in Sagada. I clicked it only to be directed to a familiar blogsite. When the header populated, I knew it was Khonie's. Amused to find out that she credited me for having taken the picture she posted in her site, I scanned to her other entries. Alas, I chanced on an interesting mustachio article about One Claypot restaurant.

One Claypot is located just a few steps away from one of the newest 7 Eleven branches in Cebu. It's just across the Capitol (NOTE: The shop has since changed to a new location. See address at the bottom of this post.) and along the road at the back of La Fortuna. Its signage isn't that huge, so if you are walking along that road and expecting to see humongous banners of the shop, you will sadly walk past it without seeing any. And if that happens at brisk strides, how much more if one went to locate it using a car or a motorcycle?

 At broad daylight, its exterior is just ordinary. The more colorful laundry shop beside it catches even more attention than its plain white painting. At night, however, and talking about it at present, it happens to be the brightest and liveliest spot in that area. In terms of size, it is best described as cute: 2 family-sized tables and a table for two, a small kitchen behind a partially glassed wall, small hanging chandeliers, wall decors, and tiny decoratives lined at the kitchen wall. As if not content with the light from the ceiling, tables are also accented with tiny candles in clear glasses. Given that description, the place can be pop for romantic dining (if it ain't crowded), or appropriate for small group get-togethers where friends are up for light conversations. It is not a good place to be loud and noisy especially when other diners are eating at nearby tables. A loud laughter easily reverberates inside.

There are at least two waitresses who are alert at taking orders. For dinner, we took the interstingly-named specialty of the house,  Lah-lah-lah Claypot (Large), Matsya, and a platter of Chicken Wings.

Lah-lah-Lah Claypot is said to be of Cantonese heritage. They say that cooking using this method requires more time than when using metal wares. Rice is put inside the claypot with sufficient amount of water before it is heated. When about 70% cooked, the rest of the ingredients are added until all the flavor coming from the mix blends and spreads. It is a preferred style of cooking for most that are familiar with it because the moisture is retained inside the pot while steam circulates the smell and flavor of the different ingredients until it unites making that distinct taste. In this version, I and my friends enjoyed the taste of rice rich with sweet, spicy syrup, flavored pork cutlets, and slices of hard-boiled egg and chorizo bilbao. The latter turns out to be the most prevailing ingredient of the dish both in scent and taste. As if to add contrast to the color of the dish, a leaf or two of a vegetable were added.

Matsya is a pita bread dish that comes with a slice of parrot fish mixed with yoghurt, chunks of fresh cucumber and  cilantro/coriander (wansoy) toppings. The dominant flavor in this dish is "wansoy". Its tang or mint is hot in the taste bud which immediately became my friend's disappointment. I on the other hand, find its degree of saltiness a "pull back". I think the salt came from both the bread and sour yoghurt mixture. For vegetarians, this could be a typical pick at quick scan on the menu.

The last dish we ordered was a platter of chicken wings. Chicken was cooked appropriately, not dry, nor undercooked. Although the menu did not spell the secret ingredient that made its coating unique, we suspect that it was usual batter with shrimp paste for an additive. It is not crispy fried chicken but tender and juicy.

Since the food in the pot left us beaming we decided to maximize gratification by ordering an additional medium pot. We ate until we were full and stuffed. The entire meal for us 4 cost a total of P1,210 inclusive of the 10% service charge and 2 canned sodas.

Our average rating based on dishes tasted and our actual experience resulted to the following:

Food/Taste             - 4
Value for Money     - 3
Presentation/Class   - 3
Crew Service          - 4
Ambiance                - 4

Overall experience: Recommended

Old Location
One Claypot House
68 Don Gil Garcia St. Capitol Site,
6000 Cebu City, Philippines,
Contact Number: 0908 279 1498

Current Location:

18-CS Rosal St., Kamputhaw,
Cebu City

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Pasta, Hot in Pizza Hut

Who says Pizza Hut only makes pizza? They make good pastas too.

People go to food shops to scout for the cheapest meal set. Probably not everyone, but most people do. Wise buying, they say. is purchasing goods that have value for money. Only millionaires hit a shop and browses a menu based on appealing graphics or classy sounding names then snaps the finger to place the order. The common and rather wiser customers hit the shops and scout for the options that suit the budget, look at the picture if it is appealing, ask recommendation or common feedback about the selection from the waitress, pause... then finalize the order.

I happen to be one of the thinking customers (a common).

Like today, in a practice where you kind of use your craving as a compass to point the direction towards your food destination and your mind like a recorder where you rewind in search of shops that offer a match to your craving, I decided to stop at Ayala's Pizza Hut. I was tight on budget and resolved to spend lightheartedly no more than a hundred.

Pizza Hut, does not only sell pizzas in a box at a price range between P200-P400. They run occasional promos and they have the steady budget meal offer at 99 pesos. The latter entitles you to a 2-course meal of your choice and a refreshment. The image below shows the available options:

Crediting the dependability of my compass and recorder, I wasted no time ordering my usual set: 1) Ceasar's salad, 2) Spaghetti Bolognese, and 3) iced tea. As I have mentioned earlier, the store's not just about pizza, it's about everything else too like the aforementioned items.

PH's Ceasar salad is a plate of fresh green leafy lettuce (the non-typical type), croutons, fried bacon cutlets, and that sour-sweet, salty dressing combined to make that mouth watering entree. A dash of pepper and "who knows what else" leaves a spicy taste in the tongue. You know the leafy vegetable in a salad is fresh when it is crunchy and succulent.

The second entree was pasta, not pizza. Spaghetti bolognese is pasta in a stylish baking bowl with rich spaghetti sauce on top baked under sufficient temperature enough for cheese to melt evenly with the meat sauce. It's served with regular precautionary statement from serving staff "Be careful. The food is hot." It is best to have buddies around or play games on a smart phone when it is served so you do not stare funny at it until it's cooldown. It does take a good 3-5 minutes before it becomes ready for digging.

Drink the cold glass of iced tea prepared with just the right sweetness for finish.

Leaving the store after eating the same set of entrees oftentimes make me forget that they make good pizzas too. Oddly true.

Personal Assessment based on experience at the Ayala branch:

    Flavor/Taste            - 4
    Value for Money      - 5
    Presentation/Class  - 4
    Crew Service           - 3
    Ambiance                - 3

   Overall experience: Recommended

Pizza Hut 

2nd Level, Ayala Cebu, 
Cebu Business Park Shopping Center, 
Cebu City

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

We Got Ribbed

I thought food blogging passed by me already until a long list of restaurants paraded before my eyes on my computer screen. It was a page referred by my colleague one Tuesday morning at work (see what lazy days can do to diligent employees?!). I browsed through it and noticed that some of the names seemed familiar but haven't been seen nowadays. When we checked on the posting date, it showed 2005. It's amazing how time quickly flies and some things run out of circulation too fast. Regardless, it was still a challenge hit on me hard at the time most unexpected.

Just today, while my confrere kept blabbering about food and restaurants, my ego hit on me again and I decided to give in. My hungry cells traveled straight to my brains in great speed, automatically scanning the perimeter like a satellite looking a kilometer radius away from Pioneer Building (my location). Like as if search is over and the target's located, I said "Surfin Ribs" excitedly aloud. With appetites rising at quarter to 12 noon, Surfin' Ribs got us ribbed.

So off we went to the station just a few blocks away.

Surfin' Ribs took over the place vacated by Flame It at N. Escario Street, alongside Golden Peak Hotel. From outside, one will notice their huge store sign and the wooden tables with benches inside. You can walk into the store directly since there are no built-in swing/slide doors. Classy diners made for 5-Star hotels may cower seeing that dining is exposed to the exhausts and dusts from passing vehicles along the highway. To us, however, it was just the right ambiance for a restaurant offering grilled ribs for a specialty. Besides, grilling food sinks in mostly as an outdoor activity, doesn't it?

Once inside, you will notice huge graphics illustrating their menu and food offerings. The brick wall interior adds a lot to its rowdy rodeo look and cleanliness is well maintained. Service crew are quick to attend to new customers and willingly waits 'til the orders are final. Since the servings were good for 2 to 3 persons we settled for a platter of the house specialty Spicy back ribs and a Shrimp Platter. In just a quarter of an hour, the food was served in neat presentations on big plates. The back ribs looked well done and came with corn and carrots sidings. The shrimps smelled so good sauteed in generous amount of garlic. The ingredient was so prevalent that you can't help but enjoy the bursting flavor of shrimp juice, butter and fried garlic in the mouth. The saltiness level, however, can be improved a little bit as it tasted just a little too much in my palate. On freshness, one can tell that the shrimps were freshly picked early that day.

The Spicy ribs didn't register as conventional. To most Filipinos, when something is labeled spicy, we associate it to being hot in the mouth due to chili. Their version was simply spicy (flavor of herbs) without a hint of hotness. A drop of hot sauce can definitely make the difference, if preferred. The mix of spicy ingredients plus sweet flavorful sauce, cooked to caramel texture is appetite gratifying.

That sumptuous lunch cost us only a total of P158.00 each.

     Shrimps Platter     - 149
     Spicy Ribs            - 159
     Extra Rice (4)       -  60
     Coke in can (3)     - 105

I asked fellow critics to rate the food and overall experience. Here's our result in average (5 being the highest):

    Flavor/Taste            - 4
    Value for Money     - 4
    Presentation/Class   - 3
    Crew Service           - 4
    Ambiance                - 3

   Overall experience: Just Ok

After that meal, we decided to walk our way to our office in the hope of doing away with some of the fats gained.

Surfin’ Ribs
Address: G&A Arcade, N. Escario St., corner Tojong St., Cebu City
Contact No.: 09179371495

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More blogs and reviews here:
Everything Cebu

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Weekend and a Holiday

 August was every employee’s most awaited month this year. It wasn’t Christmas, nor was it New Year. It just happened to have the most number of holidays following weekends compared to other months in the Philippines. For some, it meant “double pay”, if they had to work on a holiday. Others find it a bonus breather after long tiring work weeks. For me and many more like myself, it meant – travel. 

 What was originally a group of 9 downsized to 5 after four of my friends had last minute decisions to forego the trip. I was already set for it and I thought nothing could change it. So, I packed a bag and left to meet my friends at the South Bus Terminal that Saturday morning. We were off for a Moalboal-Pescador-Terra Manna ride of our lives. 

 I have been in Cebu for almost 5 years now and not once had I set foot on Moalboal white sands. It was more of the fulfillment of a plan than the idea of a new adventure that got me excited in creating the itinerary for the travel.

The bus from the terminal left at around 7:30am and took us on a ride for over 2 hours before finally arriving at the Moalboal bus stop. We hired a cab at the price of P150 to take us to the church ruins, then to the public market, and lastly to Esther Escabas’ rooms for rent. We were greeted with Manang Esther’s smile and hospitality as she led us to her home. The perishable buys we brought were put in the freezer while the rest were hung in a plastic at the cottage ceiling. We unpacked, rested a little bit, and then headed off to the shore a few meters from the site. While the sun was up at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we decided to take snapshots of the scenic ocean and lively shores. At quick inspection, you would know from where we stood that Basdaku (the beach area) had certain spots guests favored over other locations due to longer and cleaner stretches of sand. The best thing about beaches is the fact that the shorelines in most cases remain a public place regardless of a fronting private resort, therefore, any visitor is free to walk along the beach lines.  We headed back home when the night drew near and started cooking our dinner.

The following morning, we woke up early to ready our food for our trip to Island Pescador.  Although the islet was visible from our location, it took us close or a little over an hour to finally arrive at the foot of the island through a motor boat. The islet was a big rock in the middle of the sea, hence, there was no sand to set foot on. The boat had to be tied to what seemed like a crevice or a protrusion to keep it from moving away. Mind you, the rocks hurt virgin feet, therefore, it is recommended that you put on a pair of slippers to keep you from getting wounded when jumping or leaping from the boat to the rocky man-made stairs. When on the top of Island Pescador, one will likely be welcomed with the strong, relaxing sea breeze, a distant beach front view on one side, and a seemingly unending water expanse on the other.  Two tamed cats will also greet guests as they get near in the hope of getting food rewards. The motorboat owner mentioned that they were city cats put on exile because they have become too numerous in their vicinity and instead of annihilating them, they had to be sent away to dwell in Pescador. Their daily ration depended on the constancy and frequency of townsmen’s visits. 

 Exploring the islet will take you to the lighthouse, an old, worn-out shanty full of graffiti, and some unfinished structures. The other side of the islet is another stairway down to the foot of the island where corals abound. The effort to develop the area was noticeable, but the difficulty to make it happen was even eminent. Island Pescador remains a lonely place on top but very alive at the bottom with teeming corals and abundant underwater creatures. It was like heaven down there. A bright cast of light from the sun creates the glitter of crystal clear waters and the school of fishes swimming near is a revelation of life below it. If you are not a diver, you will get your fair share of this bounty even by snorkeling on shallow waters. The divers get the bonus of exploring the cave underneath the coral-adorned rock. The trip to and fro was just right for all five of us at the price of P2000. Three or four hours of awesome experience were worth the dime.

Terra Manna
Right after lunch, we got ourselves ready for our trip to Terra Manna Resort in Badian. We contacted the cab driver that brought us to Manang Esther’s house to take us back to Moalboal town for the same price. Once at the town, we had to walk a few meters to the jeepney terminal that travels to Badian. We negotiated for another P150 fare with the driver to take us directly to the resort.

Upon arrival, we were offered a thirst-quenching calamansi drink. At P600 per person, we were able to choose a family-size camping tent. While the staff set it up, we partially scouted the area and settled to sit by what looked like the usual brick walls in boulevards while we watched and waited the full setting of the sun. Of course, the trigger-happy photographers played with their DSLR and “Dili-SLR” cameras to their heart’s content.

Dinner was served by their restaurant crew at Lantawan, a dainty table of 4 chairs under  a ceiling of vines with draped shell curtains at the sides. The spot was situated right at the edge of the rocky camping hill overlooking the greeneries far below and vastness of the ocean reflecting the night sky and the moonlight. After dinner, we laughed hard as we dug at the pictures we took since the beginning of our weekend getaway beside the burning bonfire.  Then we retired at the sound of crickets and my loud snore. Haha.

A little past 5am, I woke up to get a glimpse of Terra Manna at day break. True as I hoped it would be, the fresh air, the gentle sunlight on your skin, the green home-grown vegetation, the bluish ocean near the horizon, the early morning dew on plants, the smell of coffee near the restaurant, the cold breeze, the feel of green grasses under the feet, the Lomboy (Duhat) tree which fruit I kept on picking, the quietness and serenity, were all reasons why Terra Manna was like paradise on earth for me.  Further down, behind the cliff, spreads quietly a wide white sandy beach. We resolved to take a dip. Not contented with just dipping, we swam for about an hour notwithstanding the growing heat of sunlight. 

 After eating the breakfast, an inclusion of the P600 overnight stay price, we headed back 
to Cebu town. It was Monday when we got back—a holiday.

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