A wish your heart makes

25 06 2013

“A DREAM is a wish your heart makes.”

I must’ve first heard it on that animated fairy tale.  But I’m sure it has gone on heavy rotation in my head when Michael Bolton lent his amazing pipes to those immortal words.

Last week, these same words had gained a deeper realization for me.  After over three weeks, MOMMY finally appeared to me in a vivid dream.  In my dream, I was asleep and she came to sit at the foot of my bed.  She nudged me gently to wake me up.  And the moment I did, she hugged me tight and told me to not be sad.  She smiled at me, and then she hugged me tight once more.

She held my hand and off we went to walk.  We were talking the whole time – just like how we would spend our times together.

Thank you, Mommy, for seeing me one more time.  I still do miss you terribly.  I hope you are alright.


Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Comfort notes

19 05 2013

OFTEN HERE in Singapore, I don’t need to move away from my desk to survive a hectic workday.  I can successfully keep the insatiable, unceasing hunger pangs at bay with munchies I pop in my mouth from time to time.  You probably think that I could very well have made a pantry of one of the three drawers on my MPD (mobile personal drawer).  To a certain extent, I did.  But I actually survive more through the “love and care for me that is in other people.”


One morning, I found this paper rose on my desk. I still don’t know who made it for me. Ok, cue the song… “Paper roses / paper roses / …” HAHA!

If only my cubicle walls could talk, I would be regaled with anecdotes of food and notes left on my desk by some of the most generous and it has to be said – lovable – people I’ve ever come across here.  The surprises would come in the morning, perfect for starting one’s day, and any other time in between.  Regardless, they’re perfect for adding a spring – no, make that chutzpah – to one’s step in yet another long day in the office.

The food may have long disappeared – believe me, they’ve had (haha!) – but I have the accompanying notes to go back to and read.  They’re like a warm blanket I can pull up to my chin when the cool breeze blows through my windows at night.

And even in the perennial tropic that is the Singaporean warm weather, there really are times when the cool wind blows.


I receive a lot of these from my Malaysian friends. But this one, its Chinese name translated to “Black Sugar Biscuit” has got to be one of the ultimate best!



I asked someone to translate for me what these lovely delicious balls of gooey goodness are called. “Black Sugar Biscuits,” he said.



Malaysian treats don’t have to exclusively come from Malaysians. I have a Singaporean friend who always remembers me too!



These biscuits had a (purple) yam filling. Quite scrumptious too! I liked it.



These treats are paper-thin wafers or crepes called “Love Letters,” made by hand by a colleague’s aunt. Each bears a very intricate pattern. They are so delicious.


From_MsLynda 05

These two boxes came all the way from Shanghai in China, from a beloved colleague I respectfully call “Ms. Lynda.”


From_MsLynda 00

One box contained these sesame seed finger biscuits that had the feel and taste of biscotti. Perfect with tea or coffee.


From_MsLynda 01

More cookies in the other box.



This is one amazing sandwich made by Betchie (or by her “Staff”). To this slice I sing, “Sana maulit muli…” Hahaha!



A variety of teas from Rhonee



My current “half-and-half” fixation, introduced to me by Cecille – Cadbury Brunch Bars! Every bar is half guilt, half “good-for-you” goodness.


Cupcakes from Ms. Sharon 00

Two muffins from Ms. Sharon



Chocolates galore! Godiva, no less. And there are so many others. Like that pack on the left. I’m not crazy about chocolates. But it’s nice to be thought of from time to time.



Two of the most heartwarming notes I’ve ever received came from my Bez’s (Glenda) two daughters, Kyla and Keisha!



The letter from Keisha opens up, literally, and actually has a story to it.



This one is from Kyla.



A collage of more recent notes that have been taking up real estate on my wall.



This came posted on a couple of morning treats from Ms. Madeline.



It’s soya!



Saw this on my notebook at the end of a workday.



Thanks again, Ms. Madeline!



Blast from the past – Some really memorable notes.



A lovely note from Trisha. Beside it is a card from Melissa and Sam.



Only a true kolehiyala has monogrammed stationery. Hahaha!



From Dearest Daphne Tatiana!



Of course there is a note from Batman!


ZhouBin Note 00

A farewell note from my Chinese best friend, Bin!


Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

#18 Risa Hontiveros

8 05 2013
Departure - Risa Hontiveros Baraquel 00

That’s me and Ms. Risa Hontiveros, candidate for Philippine Senate in Monday’s national elections. This was taken at the NAIA, on the day of my departure for Singapore in 2011. Ms. Hontiveros was on her way to the States for a speaking engagement, if I remember it correctly. We shared the waiting area and a hearty conversation. She was so nice!

THOUGH THEY do have it on recorded history, the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Nor do they have exclusive rights on how these rights are secured – the governments instituted among men derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed.”  This is why we have elections.

In a world that has long stood as witness to people’s rights being trampled upon, I’m quite proud of those moments – yes, they may be far between – when my country has breathed life to a democracy that is alive, well and kicking.  The 2010 elections was the last testament to this.

On Monday, my countrymen will again go to the polls to elect leaders to national posts.  Politics has always been a topic for healthy discussion at home.  We’ve never been a “more divided” household than in the 2010 elections – though everybody’s opinions were heard and respected – but this year, we’ve come to agree on one name.  (“Agree” is the operative word.  And it is relative.)

Risa Hontiveros deserves to be in the Philippine Senate.  She is principled and independent with her thoughts, her words buoyed by the characteristic gentleness and affectedly modest demeanor of a true Ilongga.  But to me she is more.  She is Roosevelt’s words incarnate – she speaks softly but she carries a big stick.  Oh, make that her magic purplealampay” (scarf).

The power of the people is on the ballots.  May the force be with her on Election Day.

Risa Hontiveros is #18 on the ballot.  Let’s take her all the way to the Magic 12.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Plain and less

8 05 2013

I’VE SUDDENLY become virtuous in satiating my cravings.  While I’ve run back to the familiar loving embrace of former flames – bagel and cream cheese – I’ve become exacting with their provenance.  Bagel should be plain and from NYC Bagel Factory.  Cream cheese?  The ubiquitous Philadelphia, conspicuously unavailable now in my favorite “whipped” variant but equally satisfying as “spreadable.”  And yes, the one with 80% less fat.


Plain and Less. But amazingly satisfying.



80% less fat (than butter or margarine). This thought comes in handy as I shove down my throat all the Danish streaky bacon I could handle. Hahaha!


Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved


5 05 2013
SQ - Solo Shot 01

“I ❤ MY MOM”… I wear this for my Mama, Mommy, and Lola, the Women in my life.

I GREW up in a loving home, and it helped a lot that I had my maternal grandmother as a constant fixture in my formative years.

She has been there from when I was a 5-lb baby in the ICU, watching over me everyday after work.  She would always comment how happy she was that I made it past my 10th day and grew up to be this tall, when doctors had said I wouldn’t make it.

All my summers were spent with her as she would bring me along to all her vacations.  I would look forward to all those summers.

I love it that she used to tease me as her “second” favorite because frankly, she never made me feel next to anybody.  She applauds my talents and always genuinely wants me to sing for her.

At 87, when she went for hip replacement surgery after an accident, she asked me to be with her in the Operating Room.  I didn’t know a better place to be in to celebrate my birthday that year.

On my last visit home, she asked when I would come back.  She would joke that she might be gone and that I would be away when that happens.  She’s 91 now – pushing to 92 this year – and was admitted in the ER yesterday morning before being immediately transferred to the ICU.

I’ve been praying that she makes it.  I love her very very very much.

Mommy - Hospital ID Bracelet 00

Mommy’s hospital ID bracelet from three years ago. Yes, I keep stuff like this.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

An American breakfast in the Lion City

22 04 2013

Good morning, Singapore!

I WOKE up to an overcast Sunday sky morning.  When clouds hover overhead this way, I long to be gastronomically comforted.  When this mood hits me, I prefer to have the flavors of the familiar for breakfast.  Being deeply committed to a romance with places I call home, I decided on old-fashioned freshly baked bagel with a good schmear of cream cheese.

For a year and a half in Folsom, California, this was exactly my breakfast.  Clearly, my choice of the first meal of the day today is in honor of the States, which in the past few days has shown the world stories of courage, heroism, and hope.

Here in Singapore, I get my bagel and cream cheese fix from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  I would ask that the bagel be cut across, then thrown to the toaster to just brown ever so lightly.  Onto the fluffy, chewy center, I smear a generous amount of cream cheese, the more it slides down to the sides, the better.  While most approach it like they would a sandwich, I actually deal with each slice separately.  Unless I find myself within the walls of my office cubicle, I see no need to rush the pleasure.


Breakfast is served! Old-fashioned sesame seed bagel and cream cheese, with hot chocolate topped with marshmallows.



This is a surprisingly affordable plate! The bagel costs only S$ 3.50 and the cream cheese, S$ 0.80. The butter and the jam are complimentary!



The perfect bagel has a shiny crusty exterior and dense chewy interior. I asked for it to be cut across then lightly toasted. Just how I would do it at the office cafereria in Folsom for a year and a half!



I’m always all the more so excited the moment I peel off the top of the cream cheese mini-tub.



I reckon that this small-ish tub is always never enough. Hahaha!



Nothing like hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold morning.

I take a bite through the crusty outside all the way to the dense, doughy interior, unperturbed by the cream cheese moustache that would form with each bite.  I lick this tasty smear around my lips, take a sip of my hot chocolate topped with marshmallows, look outside the window and see that the sun is slowly breaking free from the clouds.

Indeed, there is still more good in this world.


I just love this photo of the Merlion from my archives. I took it during one of the many breakfasts I’ve had here.



The Singapore skyline in the early morning.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Of bees and Leo

9 04 2013

Now always in my wallet. Whenever I will need “bee tea”, all I do is go to the nearest Traditional Chinese Medicine Hall and whip out this handwritten “order slip” courtesy of one of my “new” friends at work.

YOU LOSE your voice and suddenly you see that the words attributed to no less than Russian writer Leo Tolstoy take form.

And all people live, not by reason of any care they have for themselves, but by the love for them that is in other people.”

I completely – literally – lost my speaking voice these past weeks.  There was a time I would get it back, only to lose it after speaking in length at a meeting.  For someone like me who likes to talk – and talks a lot – not to mention, sings a lot too, to lose my voice is simply the most painful thing there is.

Fortunately for me, even in the midst of the daily grind that is the fast–paced life in the Lion City – trust me, nowhere else does life spin faster in dizzying speed – there exist people whose random acts of kindness, without them knowing, breathe life to the very words of the renowned Russian novelist.

Coming back from lunch break one day, they handed me a packet of what is called “bee tea”, which when steeped in almost boiling water, purportedly becomes a potent elixir guaranteed to bring my voice back.  I offered to pay, only to be told by one that he didn’t remember how much exactly it cost because it was the other who handled the payment.  I turned to her, the “other”, only to be responded to with a smile.

I was overwhelmed by the gesture that I must’ve appeared so dumb as to understand their instructions on how to prepare it that they graciously made it for me on the spot.

I loved the tea.  I’ve got my voice back (it was almost “instantly” back).  And now more than ever, my faith in the goodness of people has been renewed.

Sometimes, it takes bees.  Or simply, the love for us that is in other people.


The ingredients of the “bee tea”. Image courtesy of my friend.



I decided to keep the bees as souvenir. Here they are, comfortable on a mos appropriate page from my current notebook. It says, “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”



Bzzzzz… A tight shot of the bees.



The bee tea is ready! By the time I finished this 900-mL bottle, my voice was all coming back to me. By the end of the day, I had four! I liked it that much.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

A stopover in Hokkaido on the way to the flat

3 04 2013

YOU NEVER ever forget your first.

The first time I was out of the Philippines, my destination was Japan.  I went there to speak at a United Nations international conference for students.  I carried with me a speech – the original draft of which I still have – with the most appropriate and beautiful opening paragraph courtesy of my eldest brother.

I was 16 years old at the time.  I still vividly remember walking up to the rostrum, faced the crowd and saw that everybody had their headsets on (for real-time translation) to listen to me.  “Just like in the movies (when heads of state would meet just before a disaster strikes),” I told my surprisingly calm self.  I was confident enough not to bring with me the printout of my speech.  Back then, I had unwavering faith in my memory serving me right.  And for the five days leading to the speech, I had had sufficient practice delivering impromptu talks at all the primary schools, secondary schools and the Ministry of Education office that we visited.

I think I got thunderous applause.  But nothing was louder than the one I got after singing a capella before the program closed.  Mine was the only musical number they allowed in what was a strictly formal event.  It was a last-minute addition too.  The organizers asked me to sing after hearing me do so at one of the schools we had gone to.  I was later approached by an Austrian violinist who wanted to offer me a music scholarship in Europe.

Why am I suddenly waxing nostalgic?  And of Japan of all places?  I blame it on Cold Storage.  I blame it on them for setting up this “Hokkaido” gastronomic festival of sorts at the open area of the mall nearest my flat.

I didn’t go to Hokkaido during that trip to Japan.  I went to Tokyo and Yokohama.  But if what I remember of all the gustatory delights I had in those two cities could at least be a faint figment of what the country’s biggest island offers, then I am all for shopping to my heart’s content.

I scoured all the racks radar-locking at anything that resembled my favorite Japanese cookie, the Fujiya Chocochip Cookie Cocoa Country Ma’am.  Apparently, it doesn’t trace its roots to the island.

But it wasn’t any reason to fret.  I love Japanese curry (Hello, Coco Ichibanya!) and there were a lot of choices on offer – scallop, salmon, clam, and octopus.  I equally heart ramen, so this I got in all its broth variations – shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) and my all-time favorite miso (fermented soybean paste).  The closest I got to the chocolate chip cookie of my dreams was a box of sweet choco soft rusk.  And to top everything off – and to best end a day of nostalgia – was a tub of Hokkaido Ice Cream in Premium Vanilla.

This promotion runs until Friday this week.  And I can’t wait to go back tomorrow and stock up.


Scallop Curry



Salmon Curry



Clam Curry



Octopus Curry



These are squid stuffed with rice.



Sweet Choco Soft Rusk



I got sold the instant I saw the tag line: “Only Hokkaido Taste”! This is the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen.



Miso Ramen



Shio (salt) Ramen and that cute Kid’s Ramen!



There was only one freezer for the frozen delights. The tubs of ice cream each sells for S$ 9.30, and comes in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.



They were quite proud of the fact that only “Hokkaido milk” goes into the ice cream.



Why settle for vanilla when there is PREMIUM vanilla?! This was the one I got!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Postcard from Bavaria by way of Norden

25 03 2013

IN THIS day and age of split–second communication – wall posts, “instagramming” and 140–character tweets – to receive a correspondence written in cursive and on to which is stuck that adhesive label to indicate that postal fees had been paid at the place of origin, is quite a refreshing surprise.  See, someone could still be old-fashioned as to be willing to lick a stamp.  I happen to be one of those.


Postcard from (almost) the edge (of the world)



Post from Bremen

Last week, I found this in the mail, beneath piles of flyers and bills.  The postage stamp says “SOUMI Finland” and I knew from only whom it could come.

Thanks a lot, my little brother Steven!  All the best on your studies.  See you again once you’re back, ok?


Before his last day of internship (“industry atteachment”) at the office, Steven gifted me with this very nice T-Shirt.



This elaborate detail is embroidered both on the front and at the back.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

The New Builder

19 03 2013

This is where I earned my degree – the Mapúa Institute of Technology inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila!


WHERE THE hell is Mapúa?”

I was quite happy that when I looked up I immediately saw “The Bayleaf” all lit up in the Intramuros sky.  Though I was running late for my meeting with Ms. Ann of Beautiful Weddings for the final run-through of the Zildzic–Nuda reception program, realizing that I didn’t have to really worry where “Muralla corner Victoria Streets” is took care of whatever cares I initially had.

However, being still cognizant of the Intramuros skyline of 17 years ago, I knew that a part of The Bayleaf’s wall (or firewall) had passed beyond where I used to enter and exit as a college student proud to brandish my ID that said I was a Mapúan.  So right after my official business was through, I had to run next door to pay my Alma Mater a much delayed visit.

I don’t know what it is about “coming back home” to one’s school that instantly put an ear-to-ear smile on my face.  Even the possibility of being rejected entry at past 8:00 PM didn’t faze me a bit.  I immediately noticed that while the small security guard office of my youth had remained intact, the school had built a more spacious receiving area to welcome students and visitors alike.

Faced by the guard on duty, I blabbered about being an alumnus and how thrilled I was to be back within my Alma Mater’s hallowed halls, how I had just come back to the country after being away for quite a while, and how they should let me in just to allow me “a journey to the past”.  I guess I still had whatever iota of charm other people had attributed to me because before long, the security guard himself was smiling ear-to-ear at me, a reaction dittoed by a few students standing nearby.

“Sir, do you still know your student number?  And what degree?”

Like the muscle memory that makes you never lose your knowledge of riding a bicycle, the part of my brain that stored my college student number could only be too happy to finally retrieve the information from deep within my cerebellum convolutions.  Before I knew it, the numbers were just firing off.  “It’s 9–x–x–x–x–x–x–x!”

“Sir, here you are.”

“Really?  Does it say I graduated at the top of my class and that I was the Editor–In–Chief of the school paper?”  It has to be said that my reaction was part excitement at the thought of being granted entry and – yes, it has to be admitted – part (little) braggadocio.  It just felt like a very safe environment to just be myself.  After all, I was among “my people”.  My fellow Mapúans.

They made me note my entry down on the visitors’ logbook, demanded a valid ID, and on to my right wrist stamped, “MIT:  VERIFIED MAPUAN”.  I kept staring at this stamp, wanting to preserve it for as long as I could – which meant up until the time I took my next shower.  Hahaha!


This way to my school! It’s the one on the third floor.



It’s been almost a couple of decades since I last took this flight of stairs!



The School of ECE–EE–CoE is still at the exact same location. The office just had a facelift.



That flight of stairs was where my small circle of friends would gather daily before class. I’d pass by here on my way to the office of the school paper. I can’t remember if the circular bench was the one that was already there during my time but I do remember sitting here everytime it was my turn to distribute the latest issue of the paper.



The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Office. I used to hang out here almost daily. It was already closed when I stopped by.



The ATM machine is still located in the same small room across the Registrar’s Office. It’s RCBC now. But during my time it was a PCIB terminal. PCIB was later acquired by Equitable Bank, to become Equitable PCI Bank. This in turn was acquired by, I think, Metrobank.



The Gymnasium. Still exactly as it was when I was a student. This was where I delivered my Valedictory Address during my High School graduation.

Aside from all the rooms being air–conditioned, I don’t think much has changed.  The stairs landings where I would meet up with my classmates to check up on assignments or group projects are still there.  The NW (North West) room where I aced (read: got 100%) all of my Statistics exams – arriving 15 minutes late yet finishing first in about 15 minutes every time – is still there.  The laboratories where I played Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier now hold not only the history of those who had come before me, but also my own.

I went to the School of ECE–EE–CoE and asked the lone remaining faculty member and his four students all sorts of questions like who the dean now is and if there is anybody from my batch who has stayed to teach.  I heard some familiar names and left word for them to get in touch.

I left the faculty room all set to pay one final place a visit.  Clearly, I saved the best for last.

At the corner of the NW Building on the fourth floor is a place that was my home for four years.  As the “traditional” honor student in college, I shunned any involvement in extra–curricular activities except for three things – as a guest tutor at IECEP or any ad hoc remedial classes, as officer of the Honor Society (Hey, I wouldn’t miss my annual acoustic solo of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” during the Christmas Caroling!), and as a writer for the school paper.  That corner happens to still be the official address of The New Builder (TNB), “the official school organ of the Mapúa Institute of Technology”.

I felt my heart beat grew quicker and quicker as I inched closer to the office door.  It was as if the most important muscle of my body had lost regard for my existence and was threatening to break free from flesh and bones, wanting to beat me to making it to my intended destination.  I didn’t know what to expect and what to say to whoever I would chance upon at the office.

The only other time I was that nervous going to the TNB Office was when I went to report on my first day as Staff Writer.  It has to be said, I topped the Qualifying Exams of my batch of over a hundred aspirants.  Haha!  They took in the Top Four.  I guess that of the many things I wrote, it was my essay on how to handle criticism that was the clincher to my favor.  They handed us back our work and that essay was the one with the most glowing (handwritten) reviews.  Looking back, I was also nervous because I didn’t want to disappoint my eldest brother who was in the staff at the time and later became Editor–In–Chief himself.  In High School, we were in the same situation – he was Editor–In–Chief a couple of years before I assumed the post myself.  Insert cliché here – “history repeats itself.”  Haha!

I noticed that it was the still the same wooden door.  It was the same glass window.  The familiar comforted me and stilled my beating heart.

I knocked.

The door was opened and I broke into yet one of my unbridled introductions.  All that Staff Writer Ruben “Ruru” A. Mercado, Jr. could do was smile.

And I guess silently pray that I wasn’t some psycho.  Hahaha!

It really felt great to be home.  I couldn’t wait to go back.


My office of four years as part of the school paper. Hmmm… Memories light the corners of my mind… Hahaha!



eNTeNG, Editor-In-Chief (School Year 1994-1995) and Ruru, Staff Writer (SY 2012-2013). I started as a Staff Writer myself, SY 1991-1992.



It’s my turn to smile now.



This is Ruru, in action as drummer in the TNB Band (yes they have a band!), captured in a sketch by his girlfriend who is taking up Multimedia Arts and Sciences (MAS) and is on the Staff as well. Apparently, a lot of the writers in the school paper are taking up MAS.



There are at least twice as many people on the school paper Staff this time than during mine. To maximize the space, they built cabinets and desks all around the walls. Each staff member has his or her own space.



I think it was still a blackboard during my time. Hahaha! I like concept “brainstorming” or development that is on it.



It’s time to go. I will always love this place.



Of course I asked from Ruru a copy of the latest issue. As well as a copy of the latest Qualifying Exam questionnaire. During my time, we didn’t have this questionnaire. Instead, we were made to “anonymously” write a number of pieces under time pressure (a couple of hours) – an editorial, a personality profile, an interview feature, a couple of essays, poems, etc. I say “anonymously” because our works were only identified by control numbers, no names.



The Masthead. So now it is officially called “The Official Student Publication of Mapúa Institute of Technology”.



So we’re still lording it over Quiz Shows. I’ve had my fair share during my time. Hahaha!



I find this Editorial to be quite powerful and very “now”.



Meet The New Builder Staff! One thing that immediately leapt off of the page to me was the line “The New Builder is a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)”. We weren’t yet when I was Editor-In-Chief.



The TNB Staff… Putting faces to the names.



I totally agree!



Okay, I will say it… Guilty! Hahaha! Hopefully not all of the time. I have to say this, this is my favorite column name! “The Coffee Bean”… Nice noh?






The center spread is a very colorful feature on “Mapúa in Christmas Apocalypse”.



This is me! Hahaha!



I’m so tempted to answer this Qualifying Exam questionnaire!



The questions are part serious, part fun. I’m curious to read actual responses to such tricky, witty questions! But to start, I want to try answering them myself!



This marker commemorates our founder, Don Tomas Mapúa.



Proud to have a copy of the latest issue of The New Builder! The writers are really talented!



Parting shot. Till next time, MIT! And TNB!


Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved