So small

24 03 2009

SOMETIMES THAT mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand.

What you’ve been out there searching for forever is in your hands.

And when you figure out love is all that matters after all,

it sure makes everything else

seem so small.”

from the songSo Smallby Carrie Underwood




SONGS ARE there for a reason.  I’ve proven this time and again.  Sometimes, no matter how articulate you are – no matter how adept you consider yourself to be in creative writing (I have such lofty ideas of myself, remember?) – the time will come when you will literally be at a loss for words.  I’ve been for about half a week now.  And this is one of the very few instances I feel so thankful for songs.


And for that matter, for one in particular.


I really feel my spirit crushed.  It’s as if someone pulled my heart from right out of my chest and squeezed it lifeless in their hands.  I think the news that made me bleed last week is just the tip of the iceberg – the “20%” that i see above the surface, so to speak.


What it is doing is shaking me up and making me examine the things that I really give a damn about.  And I’m telling you, it’s a hell of a lot more.  I never realized that there really is such a thing that can strike fear in you.  I mean, make you fear losing certain things.


So how am I getting by?  I’ve been listening to Carrie Underwood’s “So Small,” a single she released in 2007, which, fortunately, I found now.  Just when I needed a song to help me make sense of everything.


Or at least see me through each passing day.




A tribute to Jedis (by “Anonymous”)

20 03 2009

I’VE ALWAYS viewed them as The Jedi Order.  When I joined the group, I was a padawan, learning the ways of the force from the few true Jedi Masters until I became a Jedi Knight… until I parted with the team.


I have always had high regard for the team’s dedication to contribute to the success and peace of the Star Wars Galaxy…  and to pursue further learning for each of the Jedis in the team.


They have always been my model group.


It’s sad that Order 66 has been issued – the termination of The Jedi Order.”



An homage to Superman

20 03 2009



I CAME to work with Five For Fighting’s song “Superman” playing on heavy rotation on my player.  It was just fitting as I intend to end this (work)week with a post about one of my favorite superheroes – yesSuperman.


If you’ve been reading my blog, you shall know by now that I refer to at least three of my best friends as superheroes.  As to why, the reasons are as personal as they are varied.  And at least one of my other friends would tease me every now and then that she wish she were one too.  Well, she could very well be as – for the life of me – I love her dearly.  But she is more of a Disney princess.


Earlier this week, midway through a one-on-one discussion with one of our senior engineers, someone snapped this shot of me.  And what do you know, I have here a Superman shirt on, quite fitting for this post.  I didn’t buy this shirt.  It came from someone who regularly reads my blog, and thought I’d be delighted to get a Superman shirt.  Well, he thought well.  This shirt is proof positive that the price tags on things are not the be-all and end-all of their worth.


Superman could very well be the best superhero there is.  But what exactly is a superhero?  I’ll start with what a hero is.  For me, a hero is someone who is distinguishable through his exceptional courage, daring, and strength.  Whenever needed, we celebrate the boldness of a hero’s exploits.  And to be a “super”hero, someone has got to be more than that – enough for us to confine this notion (of a superhero) to fictional characters.  And they abound.


But what I’m really thankful for – and what I have gained deeper realization on – is that when we get the chance to see the real lives of people around us, not only shall we see sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility…  but we shall also see that in every man’s life, he is surrounded by his own superheroes.


And they do not even have to possess any of those superhuman powers.  God, no!  The thought of them having X-Ray vision or the ability to read my mind scares the living hell out of me.  Hahaha!  Just the very thought that they are around and very very reachable through all electronic means at my disposal, is comfort, security, and happiness enough.


Appropriately, I came across something that actually sums up best how I see Superman.  As Batman himself said in the Superman/Batman comic series, “It is a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then…he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him.”



Amen to that!  My friend Superman is exactly this way.




Make me bleed

19 03 2009

THIS IS not about food.  This is not about wristwatches.  I couldn’t give a damn about them right now.


This is about people who matter to me.  People I care about.


In life I have realized that I have been used to things changing.  I have been used to starting over.  But what and how I feel right now just tells me I spoke those words too much too soon.  Not even my own mantra of “This too shall pass” is making any sense.  And I feel so miserable I can snap the head of anybody who will utter to my face my own by-word as of late: “recessionista.”


I am in so much pain that I believe I need to cut myself open and make myself bleed just so I could actualize this kind of pain that has been eating me up since this morning.  I’m still whole, I don’t see blood dripping from me that could at least tell me I will eventually heal from this.  I have never felt how bad anything or anybody could hurt me.   Not until something hurt the people I care about.  Finally, I’m learning a lesson in pain.


What tears me apart and makes me even more miserable is that I feel so helpless as I see these people deal with the blow.  And I won’t even assume that I know how they feel.  Because to assume that is to be disrespectful to them.  Only they know how they feel.  Only they know how it feels.  And all I can do right now is to pray to God.  And ask Him to give these people the strength and the openness of mind.


I’m not writing this because I think I can make them feel good.  I won’t even attempt to pull them out of this situation.  All I want them to know is that they have friends.  And that I am one of them.


That they do not stand alone.


That they have my utmost respect and admiration for being the best in their field.


That they are in the thoughts and prayers of the many others who care about them.



The bounty of the cupboard, the bounty of the garden

17 03 2009

SOMETIMES, ASIDE from making the time to cook for someone, there’s nothing like getting the sudden rush of inspiration – yes, to cook for someone.  Last Sunday, while doing my own “special” grocery shopping, I saw Millel shaved parmesan cheese.  Not everybody carries this – the shaved variant – that even when all I had made were just a couple of steps into the expanse that was the sprawling supermarket, my radar locked onto the short pile on the refrigerator shelves.  I made a mad dash towards its direction, ready to tackle anybody who would attempt to beat me to the stack.


I picked a couple of the 125-gram resealable plastic packs.  I just so love the packaging – resealable.  Though at home, never has a 125-gram pack seen the light of the next day the moment it gets opened.  Hahaha!  To my cart already aching from the weight, I threw in a couple of packs of basil – one repacked with saran wrap and generic labelling, and one in a cute white-and-green “re-usable” (at least to me) tub; a one-pound pack of San Remo Angel Hair; a small bottle of Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil; lots of fresh roma tomatoes; and a can each of Hunt’s Stewed Tomatoes and Diced Tomatoes (the label says “Basil Oregano Garlic”).


I stared at my slowly-getting-filled cart and I knew that my brother would be very happy when I got home.


Thrown in for good measure, I grabbed a couple of sacks of SaladTime’s “Arugula & Mixed Greens” and a bottle each of Dizon Farms’ Honey Mustard, Oriental, and Pineapple-Basil dressings.  Yum!


I’m all for making my vinaigrette from scratch (having learned at home and from the school of “From Martha’s Kitchen”), but I would never raise an eyebrow at really good commercially available stuff.  And I do swear by Dizon Farms’ bottled dressings!


So here, let me share with you the fruits of my labor – my Angel Hair Pomodoro, and my Salad of Arugula and Mixed Delicate Greens in a Pineapple-Basil Dressing.  I just love how this pasta turned out.  The shaved parmesan just really looks oh so elegant compared to its grated kin.  The pineapple-basil dressing lovingly stained the arugula leaves.  And its arresting tanginess was the perfect foil to the light peppery bitterness of the arugula.




At least half of my sauce is always made from fresh roma tomatoes I blanch and peel myself.



Fresh basil! With the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, I could very well have caprese salad!



Angel Hair Pomodoro. Doesn't the shaved parmesan cheese make this simple dish such a beauty?



The sight of an arugula leaf, lightly stained with the vinaigrette, tempts me to no end.


Ongpin is where the heart is

16 03 2009



THERE REALLY are just days when you feel like your warm blanket has been soaking wet.  You throw it in the dryer.  And it has been taking long for it to really dry up and shrivel from the complete loss of moisture.  Which is the perfect time for you to take it out, and cozy up in the couch – covered with its warm fluffiness.


At times, waiting for comfort – or at least the feeling of getting awashed in it – can be the bane of my existence.  Only that as an independent-minded person, I am wont to take charge and look for it.  Yes I know, moments when you wait for comfort tend to be those when you’re on the edge.  But fortunately for me, I have always been on the good side of the edge, enough for me to tip toe my way back to comfort.  And once away from the edge, I run towards it – mostly,  to food.


But I don’t really binge.  Let me just be clear with that.  I just go to a place where food can remind me of the good ol’ days.  Where I don’t really care about the ambience and just eat.  And you have to know, in moderation!


One such place is Ongpin in Manila.  And its backyard, so to speak.


Growing up, Fridays were usually spent hearing mass at Quiapo Church.  And right after, we’d grab something to bite at the many restaurants dotting the area, some of them favorites through the years.  These were places where I felt at home – I was almost like a star – as the wait staff would always greet me the very moment I stepped in to their establishments.  I didn’t know if I was just a cute kid (which, believe me, is a claim that has no relation to reality!)…  or if I was just, even as a kid, already a “difficult” customer.  Yes, I would complain about the seasoning, the saltiness, the tenderness of the brisket.  Everything!  But the waitresses loved me just the same!


Right across Quiapo Church, there used to stand Wa Pac Panciteria.  Everytime we’d go there, I would joke that we should seat ourselves near the door so that we could make a mad dash outside just in case the building collapsed.  Yes, the building was that unsound structurally that the façade looked like a face with a smirk on it.  But the pancit guisado (stir-fried rice noodles with meat and vegetables) was worth risking life and limb for.  Unfortunately, Wa Pac Panciteria had closed since.  On Quezon Boulevard was (and still is) R. Ma Mon Luk Restaurant.  The place hasn’t changed and the crown on its signage only rightfully signifies the fact that it has remained to be the king of mami (Hongkong- or Chinese-style egg noodles in a piping hot broth with meat and vegetables).  We’ve been contemplating visiting this landmark again but parking could really be a problem.  But their food could be worth all the hassle.  As the worn-out plastic menu board – on which you can slide blocks for numbers for the prices (though scratch paper has taken their places) – proudly claims, “Ang mami dito ay unang imbento.  Una sa lasa.  Una sa sarap.”  (“We invented the mami.  We’re first in flavor.  First in deliciousness.”)


On Ronquillo Street, there was La Perla Restaurant.  That for me was the home of the best beef mami of my childhood, as well as the best “diniguan” (Blood Stew with Pork Innards) and the best “lumpiang sariwa” (fresh crepe of stir-fried vegetables with a thick peanut-garlice sauce).  I miss La Perla so much.  We never missed a week without eating there!  My mother would even send me off to campings or a night at the Planetarium with a lunch box filled with their goodies!  Along the same street was Automat, famous for their pancit guisado.


On the street parallel to Ronquillo, there was (and still is) Delicious Restaurant.  We patronize them for their saucy pancit guisado.  And further down the road (I forgot which one) was (and still is) Sun Wah.  It has been renamed Wah Sun but their bestsellers haven’t changed a bit.  My maternal grandmother (Mommy!) love their “camaron rebosado” and green peas with shrimps.


But on my own, now that I’m all grown up – and because a lot of the places of my childhood gastronomical adventures had already closed shop – my idea of comfort food in Ongpin has been confined within the walls of only one place – Kim Hiong Food Garden, right on Ongpin Street.  I continue to go there when all I want is to EAT and not care about the ambience.  But by Ongpin standards, their place is not bad at all.  And it’s all about the food, remember?









When I’m with family or a huge group, we order a lot of dishes and eat family style (I love their Yang Chow, Beef with Brocolli, etc.).  But when it’s just me, I ask for my usual – steamed tofu (lots of fresh onion leeks, please!), “beef mami hiwalay ang sabaw” (toast mami, soup on the side), plain noodles (like extra rice!), beef sauce (really strong beef broth… and this is complimentary), and lemon iced tea.  Straightforward and no fuss.


I love the firmness of the tofu that is rendered almost silken by the steam.  It is perfumed with the strong flavor of star anise, among many other aromatics.  The mami, on the other hand, is tops for me (I’ve had a lot since a child!) because of the texture and the flavor of the noodles themselves.  And I like it that they make their own noodles, upstairs (where a lot of the cooking also happens).


I enjoy all these with the dipping sauce I make with lots of calamansi, soy sauce, and Kim Hiong’s very own chili-garlic.  That to me remains to be unrivaled.  I haven’t enjoyed any bottled supermarket-bought chili-garlic as much as I have enjoyed Kim Hiong’s.


Brothers’ birthdays

16 03 2009

BIRTHDAYS ARE magical.  So a lot of people say.  Why so?  It’s because on our birthdays, the energy that the universe invested in us sort of gets renewed.  Does it make sense?  Okay, I’m not so sure.  It just sounds so profound to me.  Hahaha!


But seriously, I think that birthdays are quite special in the sense that it is on those dates (okay, days…) that special people in our lives came forth to this world.  I for one am very thankful for the people in my life.  I am so grateful for them that I try really hard not to miss out on remembering them on their special days.


They have blessed my life so much that I feel the least I could do is greet them on their birthdays.  For the five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes they have made me feel that I matter, I thank them.  We may not get to see each other – or even hang out with each other all the time – but there is nothing like the thought of them “being there,” at the back of my head, that gets me through some of life’s toughest moments.


March 13th, Friday, marked Brother’s (Edu) birthday.  And this is one person with whom I really go way back.  I count them as 13 years.  And he would always snap back to declare: “Ten lang.  Ayaw mo pa akong friend nung simula!” (“Ten only.  You didn’t like me at the start!”)  Hahaha!  And that sense of humor is actually what has anchored our friendship through all these years.  He even has a running joke that he has always stayed on the No.2 slot of my friendship “hierarchy,” with the No.1 reserved for whomever is my favorite.  It’s not really true, but that kind of humor sort of sums up the kind of brotherhood we have.


Very few people get me – really get me, and Brother has proven time and again that he is one of these very few.  He is one of those who can finish my sentences.  And with the way I look at things or people, he could very well read my mind…  So much so that I can only liken it to him snatching the contents of my thought bubble even right before they could finish forming on top of my head.  And if there is one more thing that I can really thank Brother for, it is his genuine generosity.  Yes, a lot of people think I am generous.  But for the life of me, I haven’t met anybody as generous as Brother.  With him, I fight as to who foots the dinner bill (yes, I do!).  And there have been a lot of times that he would ask me what I want for my birthday.  Hahaha!


But more than anything else, I admire Brother’s being a good son and a good sibling.  Not too many people may know but he has stood firm amidst a lot of things that have come his way recently.  And his family is all the much better because of him and his goodness.  I hope for him more success at work!  And I believe that there is no other way but up for him.  He is intelligent, and really smart.  And nobody can do his job but him.  Trust me.




March 15th, Sunday, marked the birthday of yet another good friend of mine – Kuya (Jay).  Yes, I know Kuya, you don’t like me calling you that because of the connotation that you are years older.  So I’m going on record here to say that our age difference is just a year.  (Remember, we’ve settled this the last time I saw you.)


I guess the best way to describe Kuya is to say that he is the kind of guy every gentleman should aspire to be.  A well-educated young man…  A good son…  A responsible son…  An accomplished achiever in his chosen field(s) of specialization…  I will go out on a limb and say that NOTHING in life seems to faze him.  Everytime I see him – whether it’s the best of times, or the worst of times – he has always remained unruffled.  Now, if only I could be even just a tenth of that…  I’d be contented.


And for someone who may have grown up with a little more privilege than most, Kuya is so endearingly simple.  He is not one to flaunt the finer things in life.  And he is never one to restrict his mingling with only those of the – ehem – the privilege few.  This to me speaks so much about just how well he was brought up.  And even what he wants in life are really simple.  As a matter of fact, he spent his birthday by having dinner with his family…  and…  playing basketball!  See, just basketball, which to me, seems to be the only thing he really cares about.  Hahaha!


Of course, I have to say I am very thankful to him.  For all the confidence he has had in my abilities.  For giving me the avenues to further improve my skills and my self in general.


And of course, for just being my friend.