Have A Happy foodpanda Holiday Season!

image.jpegChristmas season in the Philippines, in case you haven’t noticed, starts once October hits because the first “’ber” month is when it starts to get cold… and when it gets cold, you shiver and make a “brrrr” sound. I just actually made that up, because I don’t have a better explanation. For the the well-adjusted person, the Yuletide season means getting all merry and full of holiday cheer, but for others like myself, it reminds us of how one’s age is inversely proportional to the number of gifts to be received. However, out of the generosity of my heart, I’ve come to realize that giving is far more fulfilling than receiving (which doesn’t mean that I would choose to refuse presents, mind you). Because of said generosity, and while we’re at it, let’s just add kindness, sweetness, and sincerity in there, too, I’ve spent quite some time in malls looking for gifts mainly for godchildren, and I’ve noticed how crowded all these shopping establishments have become. Parking spots are impossible to find, bank transaction lines are a hundred feet long, restaurant seats are hopeless to come by, and I tend to exaggerate… but only a bit.

The one about restaurants being full gets me the most, as there is nothing more painful than looking forward to eating at your favorite place and being told to wait long, long minutes for a table. This is where foodpanda, #YourFoodieApp, comes in, which has been available in the Philippines since 2014. Continue reading

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One Pan Pork Chops in Mushroom Sauce

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I enjoy cooking, but I absolutely detest (wow “absolutely” jud? “detest” jud?) doing the dishes. With that philosophy in mind, I made these One Pan Pork Chops in Mushroom Sauce para less na ang hugasan. maka save pa jud ka’g tubig ug dishwashing soap. O diba?

For the beef broth I used in this recipe, I used 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in 2 cups of water, which is why I didn’t add any salt to the gravy as my broth was quite concentrated. Mura siya’g ga review para board exam, nag concentrate siya’g maayo. Ingana ug level. If you’d like your sauce to be a bit runnier, I’d advise using 3 cups of water, and to season your gravy with some salt. Continue reading

Chorizo & Mushroom Pasta

Processed with Snapseed.

Due to the countless requests I’ve received for this recipe (actually, 4 ra jud bitaw), I’ve finally found the time to type this. Pasta is one of my favorite things to make as there are so many possible end dishes. You’ll most likely be able to cook something using whatever ingredients you have at home, which is exactly how this Chorizo & Mushroom Spaghetti came to be. Pero char lang. Ga grocery gihapon ko para’s parsley kay lain sad kaayo’g dahon sa santan akong e garnish… Continue reading

Catch Asia’s Songbird, Regine Velasquez, In Cebu!

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Last year, PLDT brought Heather Morris (Brittany S. Pierce the hit show “Glee”) to Manila for the launch of iflix. As some of you may remember – wait, who am I kidding? Of course none of you remember, so to remind you, this is what happened:

iflix was launched at the Green Sun in Makati last June 24, 2015, with Heather Morris (Brittany S. Pierce of “Glee”) as special guest. I was hoping to challenge Heather to a dance showdown, but she declined. “Haha maybe not today,” she said, although I swear I saw fear in her eyes and a bead of sweat running down her forehead.

This year, PLDT is bringing Asia’s Songbird, with special guest Christian Bautista, to the Queen City of the South. Catch Regine Velasquez live as she belts out her all-time favorite hits in the Cebu leg of the nationwide Regine Series on July 30, 3 PM at the SM City Cebu Northwing. How unfortunate that I should be out of the country for this event, and because I am prone to making audacious presumptions, I have led myself to believe that they’re holding this exciting occasion during my absence because…….

I might challenge her to a singing showdown. I mean, seriously, I can see it in neon lights – “Battle of the Birds: Asia’s Songbird vs. Paolo BERDin”, but since that’s something that isn’t going to happen in the near future (or ever, actually, as I sound like a dying cow when I sing), let’s watch one of my earliest Regine Velasquez memories – her performance of “Cry” with Mandy Moore during the 2002 MTV Asia Music Awards, which I saw live…. live on TV! Hahaha (kamo jud noh? React sad jud mo dayon):

No English, No English

I normally clock out from work, on average, at 1 in the morning, so I take the Night Owl to get back to my apartment. The people I work with usually ask us vehicle-less ones if we have a ride home, so when I first told them that I would just take the night bus, partly for the reason of simply knowing how to commute, the reactions this elicited made me quite a bit nervous.

“Are you sure?” our sous chef said.

“Do you have a number yet? Here’s mine. Let me know when you get home,” said another as he gave me his number.

“I’ll be fine,” I replied, before timidly adding, “I think”

How strange, I thought, I said I was taking the night bus, not walking through a field of landmines.

I made it to the bus stop safe and sound, without being harassed, and with all my body parts still intact. I was having a cigarette while waiting for the Night Owl to arrive, when I hear a woman’s voice shout

“Hey, do you have another cigarette?” the voice said.

When I turned to look, I saw that she was talking to me. Being new and all to the city, and still being almost painfully innocent, I gave her one (also because I was afraid of what would have happened if I said no).

The woman, who I then noticed had an unwashed-for-several-days look and an ankle cast, sat down beside me, tore off the cigarette’s filter in half, and lit that side up. This was when I knew that I had just acquainted myself with a, ummmm, peculiar person. In between coughing sounds that reminded me of a cat spitting up fur balls, she started talking to me, telling me about how they pushed her on the street, how they took her wallet, and how she didn’t have any money and a place to live in anymore.

Did they take it, too? I wanted to ask. Who are, well, they? Or is They a person’s name, your ex-boyfriend perhaps? And if They IS a person, I can understand him stealing your wallet, but how could They take away your house by pushing you and breaking your ankle? Can you tell me how, because that skill might come handy in time?

I stopped myself, of course, as no matter how hard I tried to make light of the whole situation in my head, I was scared. Aside from that one Holy Week in Bantayan when I put my hand in my pocket to check my phone only to find that it wasn’t there anymore, I had never been more afraid. I could definitely outrun her, of course, as the ankle cast she had on was sure to alter the use of her legs if ever there was to be any chasing involved, so just as the woman was telling me about how she would never go to the Salvation Army because, in her words, “that’s for crazy people”, I stood up to walk away.

As I turned, though, she actually had 2 male, er, friends/companions/cronies with her who were behind us the whole time! One was rather large, and the other rather skinny (Harry Potter reference). The small one started talking to me, too, asking me if I had any food and money to spare. “I’m not from here,” I said, and that seemed like a valid argument at that moment, but now that I think of it, so what? The small one must have thought the same, because he said, “Neither am I. I’m from New York”. Even though I wanted to ask him if the Big Apple really is as amazing Taylor Swift’s “Welcome To New York” song says it is, I bit my tongue, and hurriedly went on the bus, which arrived just in time.

The three characters that I had the misfortune of crossing paths with thankfully didn’t get on the bus, which led me to a bit of self-reflection on the ride home. Isn’t it unfortunate that even though you just want to be nice and friendly and honest, you can’t because others might not be? You end up keeping to yourself not because you’re a cold-hearted devil child, but because you want to keep away from harm. What bothered me even more, though, was when I wondered if those three really were genies in disguise. If I had given them food and money, would all of my wishes have come true? Or could they have been angels in disguise? But what if they were just who they really were, “atypical” people panhandling others for cigarettes, money, and food?

All my pseudo-intellectual thoughts were put to a halt as I got of my stop, where there was a man carrying a number of bags with him. “Excuse me, kind sir,” he calls out, “can you put these in my backpack?”

Fighting my desire to go and help, I said, “No English, No English” in the most foreign-sounding accent I could muster, and literally ran across the street to get to my apartment while wondering if “unlimited wishes” would have been a valid wish had one of the characters I came across been a enie.

First Month Realizations

Hi! As many of you may know (ahhhh many jud? Assuming ra? Di pwede “few” lang sah?), I went through all that Stages of Grief drama after being refused a Visa. I reapplied (even though what I initially wanted to do was stay in my bed and watch all seasons of “Friends” on iFlix [dala pa man ug plugging] kay ka relate kunohay ko’s ilang adult problems), and to keep the story short, I was fortunately granted one.

Soooo I’m now in Austin, Texas and am training at – well, the place I train at has a pretty watchful eye on social media posts relating to them, so di na lang sah nato hisgotan. E message lang ko kung gusto mo mangutana hahaha – and I’ve officially been out of my beloved island of Cebu for a month! To everyone who said, “Basin one month ra sad ka’s America” and thought that that was the funniest thing they had ever said, well, eat shit and die, guys.

I’ve been assigned to a 400-seater restaurant that’s pretty full most of the time, and one that people actually line up for. I’m currently working the salad station, which isn’t as simple as it sounds. Kung sa Pilipinas siguro, hayahay, pero ganahan biya kaayo mangaon ug sagbot ang mga tao diri, so haleeee ma ti-urok sad ko hapit usahay sa ka wild. Hahaha. And sa tinuod lang, actually, well, to be honest, na kugang ko nga daghan kaayo’g mangaon nga hotel guests sad. Mu order jud dayon ug salad nga tag $20 sa walay pag duha duha! Kung ako’y mag hotel, mangita lagi ko’g kan-anan sa kilid kilid para maka barato? Kung mu puyo ko’g resort sa Mactan, mu lakaw man ko para mu kaon ug barbecue sa atbang. Di jud diay ko soshal. Abi ra diay nako…. Hahahahahaha.

30 days may seem like a short while, but I’ve already had a few realizations in life, which I guess sort of happens when you get out of your comfort zone, no? Ma feeling learned, feeling experienced, feeling kama-o, feeling strong. Patukar jud dayon anang “This is my fight song” nga kanta while maligo kay feeling kaayo gi kaya na ang tanan, pero ang na buhat kay naka limpyo lang diay ug toilet bowl. Ana lang noh!

First of all, I’ve realized that when you’re living with other people, you can’t expect them to be as respectful for others’ privacy as you are. By “privacy”, I mean peace and quiet, which are both important to me (ka sense ko naay mu angal ani nga statement dah). Others will listen to music that you cannot stand, watch shows on their laptops with the volume on full blast, and close doors without turning the knobs so that they don’t make as much noise. The right thing to do would be to tell your roommates in a civil and adult-like manner nga angay sila mag hilom, but since you are not as civil and adult-like as you’d like to think, aw mu balos jud dayon! Magpatukar sad jud ka’g imo, unya ig lakaw sa gawas kay e bundak jud ang tiil. Hahahahahahaha. DILI BETAW! Maninguha man gani ko nga di mag saba saba, and ganahan ko mu balos, but di nako kaya….. charot.

Second, I think that being older has played such a big contrast into my spending habits here compared to a few years ago. I’m still converting all US prices into Philippine Pesos, and I know I shouldn’t, kay halos na lang jud di mag grocery kay maka ingon man ug, “Ngeee tag tulo dos ra man ni’s Cebu”. Matulog na lang jud diay nga way kaon unya ang tiyan kay mura na’g ga concert sag a gutom? Lain sad kaayo. But you see, during my time in South Dakota, sige ra ko’g palit ug bisa’g unsa, pero diri kay halaaaa kung unsa’y pinaka barato nga ma palit, maoy paliton. Bisa’g 20 cents ra’y difference, adto juds mas maka tipid. My younger self didn’t really give much thought about the future, but now it’s all I can think about. I’m already 25, and I almost feel like I should have my own house already…… AHHHH! Over ra sad noh? Hahhaha but you get what I mean… right?

Third (third ra ni kutob, ay’g kabalaka kung gi kapoy na mo’g binasa), it’s nice to feel happy, which was something I couldn’t say during my South Dakota and cruise ship stints. It’s nice to get up for work without thinking, “Pisti oi trabaho na sad”. It’s nice to ACTUALLY have places to see, and to be able to get on a bus and go downtown or wherever you feel like going (but oh myyyy, the characters you meet! And the homeless people who approach you!). It’s nice to take pictures because you JUST want to show them to your family, and not because you want thtoreassure them that you’re having fun, that you’re all right, even though that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Most importantly, it’s nice to have met new friends who you can relate to, especially since they’re going through the exact same things as you are, and that makes all the difference. I lost weight drastically right away during my previous times out of the country, but now the huge belly I’ve managed to create from all the beer I drank in Cebu is still existent, and I believe that’s because here, I’m okay 🙂

 

 

Stages of Grief: Post-Visa Refusal, Part 3

ACCEPTANCE

Ahhh, Acceptance – the last stage, the one that seems impossible reach, but trust me, it’s something that you eventually get to.

You don’t know when it exactly happens, but maybe it starts when all the motivational quotes you had so desperately searched for become your life mantras (not just temporarily, you hope), and “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, which you’ve never really liked, becomes one of the most profoundly truthful songs you’ve ever heard. “Mao jud, Miley, you’re so right!” you exclaim as she goes on to sing about how sometimes, we’re gonna have to lose.

You start thinking that you must be on the right track when all the social media posts that used to cause you so much agony don’t affect you anymore, because you realize that, of course, people only post the good stuff. Everybody’s going through something – some situations may seem worse than yours, while others may not even be classified as “misfortune” in your book, but you remind yourself that everything is relative.

We create the image we want others to see, and go through so much to impress those that we don’t even have substantial relationships with, and you laugh at all of that, somehow feeling better.

You appreciate the clichés you once rolled your eyes at – “Life is not a race”, “Your only competition is yourself”, and all those other quotes that belong on posters with photographs of nature on the background. They wouldn’t be so overused if they didn’t hold so much truth.

You find so much solace in prayer, and it makes you happy when you pray not to ask for a favor, but to thank your chosen god for all the blessings that you still have.

Your family and friends are even MORE amazing, which was something you didn’t think was possible. They make you see how stupid you were for feeling embarrassed when you told them your unfortunate news, thinking that they might be disappointed, or angry, or regretful of all the support they’ve given you Instead, they show you that they’re on your side, and will always be there, and you’ll always be thankful for that.

The most definitive sign you know you’re over everything when you used to wake up in the morning with a heavy heart, but what once was weighty is now light and hopeful, because you may have felt helpless for a while, but there was always that little ray of hope… and it’s gotten bigger and bigger throughout the whole process of grief, and now it’s completely illuminating you.

*When I was told that I could reapply for the same Visa, I had initially wanted not to push through, completely forgetting the words our high school CLF teacher made us repeat over and over again before we graduated – “Never make a decision when you’re high with joy or down with sadness”. After taking a few days to think it over (kay di sad raba lalim di ma hatagan ug Visa after sa tanang efforts in life), I decided to apply again, because you don’t give up on your dreams so easily, do you? Unya kung sa atoa pa, na basa na man jud ko, so gi langoy na lang nako lahos. Pahk! I reapplied for the same Visa, and I’m glad I did, because otherwise, I would probably spend the rest of my life wondering what would’ve happened if I had not quit… and what do you know, my Visa application was approved 🙂

Stages of Grief: Post-Visa Refusal, Part 2

According to the Kubler-Ross model (just had to throw that in to sound impressive….. Hahaha), the next three stages of grief are Anger, Bargaining, and Depression. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel those in that specific order, but I don’t. Instead, these 3 get mixed up, and, at times, occur at the same moment.

ANGER, BARGAINING, & DEPRESSION

Once you’ve gotten over the Denial stage, you’re prone to minor outbursts that include, but are not limited to, “P*ste tong taohana”, “Maayo unta’g mag kalibanga toh siya’s usa ka tu-ig”, and, “Bantay lang toh siya kung ako tong makit-an”. What you’ll do if you really do see the consul (who we will now refer to as “Dreamkiller”), though, you don’t know, but it just makes you feel better to say so.

You also start to bargain and haggle with the forces of the universe. You realize that you’re willing to do so much to get that Visa, like twerking down the whole length of EDSA. Although the chances of what you want coming true aren’t very likely, you still convince yourself that it won’t hurt to try. You pray to God and tell Him that you’ll never miss Sunday mass ever again if you miraculously get a call from the Embassy. You imagine that Dreamkiller will apologize for the silly mistake that he committed and tell you that yes, you do deserve a Visa. In addition, because he’s so sorry for all the inconvenience he has caused you, you’re going to be made an honorary American citizen.

Worst of all is the overwhelming feeling of sadness, which is magnified by your recurring thoughts of how unfair this whole interview process is. “Some of us actually have honest intentions about going to the States,” you repeatedly say, “and it isn’t fair that someone can deny me of my dream in just under 2 minutes. If I had wanted to NOT come back, I would’ve done so 2 years ago when I could’ve stepped out of LAX, or last year in Heathrow”.

Since the judgment brought upon you was based on your “socio-economic ties”, shouldn’t they have taken a look at the supporting documents that you brought? Bank statements, business permits, and notarized return guarantee agreements – you had all of those in the long brown envelope you so carefully carried from Cebu to Manila.

You go on Facebook and Instagram not to post a sad update, because these days, you can never tell if some of your “friends” take pleasure from your misfortune, and you don’t want to give them that satisfaction, but because – oh my God, you can hardly believe it yourself – you’re actually looking for motivational quotes. Instead, you see people your age who are in countries that you dream of visiting, you see your classmates from college buying themselves presents for all their hard work, you see the hashtags #blessed and #ilovemyjob thrown about. How satisfied everyone seems with their lives, like they’ve figured everything out, and that only leaves you feeling even more miserable.

You think of all the money you’ve shelled out (how many shirts you’ve had to sell! How many articles you’ve had to write!) into this whole thing, and that makes you want to tear your hair out, but that almost doesn’t matter because what hurts even more is when you think of all the time you spent on it, and all the opportunities you declined because this was your main goal, your plan A…

Stages of Grief: Post-Visa Refusal, Part 1

I’ve had a long affair with the US Embassy in Manila – as of this writing, I’ve been granted a Visa twice (once as a culinary intern, the other as a seafarer), and refused thrice (the first 2 as a tourist, and the most recent one as a culinary trainee). My being a nursing student was the reason I was refused on my first 2 attempts, with the second one being especially painful as I applied with my younger siblings, and both of them were granted 10-year Visas.

Five years after becoming a nurse, two years after returning from the States and a year after flying back from London, I was refused a Visa for the 3rd time. I was accepted to train with the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas, but my official documents weren’t even looked at, and it was concluded that I did not have “sufficient socio-economic ties” to prove that I would come back home after my supposedly 1-year training program.

It is with these notions that I write this piece, as what I felt afterwards was nothing short of grief – the whole process, as in DABDA na kung DABDA (which is something I learned from being a nursing student, ironically), so for everyone that’s ever been denied a US Visa, you might agree that the first stage in the process towards moving on is….

DENIAL

“We’re sorry, but we’re going to have to deny you your US Visa,” you hear the consul say. Your initial reaction is shock, and then a sense of numbness comes over you. “This can’t be happening,” you want to tell the interviewer, but you can’t because, I don’t know, the moment just leaves you feeling helpless, or you’re afraid that pleading might get you into trouble – you think you might get banned from entering the US Embassy ever again, perhaps, or the interviewer might call security to escort a crying & screaming version of yourself out of the vicinity.

“This can’t be happening,” you still tell yourself while you walk towards the exit, after you’ve hurriedly hidden your unaccepted passport inside one of the many envelopes you carry. You try to keep it together because you know all the other waiting applicants’ eyes are on you, and it’s embarrassing to put on a sad face and hear people say, “Ayyy kawawa naman siya, na deny” or “Bitbit pa ba niya passport niya?”.

“This can’t be happening” – the same thought still plays over and over in your head as you step out of the Embassy doors. You look for the cab driver whose services you hired for the day. You left your phone with him (“No electronics inside”), but can’t find him, so you start wondering if he drove off with your stuff, and you become desperate because you want to call your mother so much, who has also lost sleep from the anxiety of the whole interview process.

You ask the street vendors if there’s a place where you can make a call, and what do you know, of course there is! Everything’s a moneymaking opportunity, so why not take advantage of the fact that all interviewees coming out of the Embassy are phoneless? That’ll be 50 bucks for a same network call, 100 for landline. Beggars can’t be choosers, you’ve realized that now more than ever, so you make the most expensive 30 second local call of your life, quickly telling your mother that you’ve been denied and to please call Lola to have her call the driver’s wife so she, in turn, can call the driver.

You pray that your message, with all the networks it has to pass through, gets to the correct receiver, and what a relief it is to see the familiar red taxi rolling down Roxas Avenue.

“This can’t be happening,” you keep telling yourself on the ride home, the whole afternoon, and up until you finally get to sleep. You wake up the next day, thinking that everything was just a bad dream, until you see that damned blue piece of paper reminding you of your “insufficient socio-economic ties”. No matter how much you deny it, though, you end up realizing that, well, the “this” in “this can’t be happening” really did happen, and no amount of telling yourself otherwise will ever alter reality.

Sweet Incantations Confectionery & What Else Their Cupcakes Are For

There are many adjectives one may use to describe me – cute, kind, innocent, angelic, and, of course, sweet, so it is only natural that the name “Sweet Incantations Confectionery” should appeal to my, well, sweetness. What used to be the cupcake shop located along Escario has now found a new home in Ayala, which is especially convenient for someone like me who likes to spend my free time shopping………. Hahahahaha. Jowk.
At first glance, the Sweet Incantations kiosk may seem like it only sells cupcakes, but as the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” (wayuk haha). If you take a closer look – and you should, because, as another saying goes, “You’ll never know unless you try” – it actually offers a number of other products, as well. They’ve got gelato (I swear by the Esprassemel), blended beverages (the Strawberry Cheesecake is my personal favorite), coffee, and dishes such as Bicol Express, lechon kawali, and ginaling.
The last part of that sentence isn’t true, obviously, so I’ll now be serious and say that yes, Sweet Incantations is best known for their cupcakes and that yes, they’re all actually very good and have got very interesting names. I don’t want to bore you with comments about how the consistency of the cream cheese frosting is or what the perfect balance between coffee and chocolate reminds me of because, para mubo ang sturya, ganahan ko’s tanan…. but what many people don’t know is that their cupcakes can actually be used for a number of other things. You not only can eat them, but you can actually incorporate them into a number of usual and not-so-usual life activities. Because I’m so sweet (gi ingnan bitaw tamo), I’ve painstakingly come up with this list:

1.`Pandaggo Sa Ilaw Prop
IMG_1630Pandaggo sa Ilaw is one of the most famous Filipino traditional dances, and it involves balancing oil lamps on your hands and head. Fire is a very dangerous thing to play with, as we are all taught when we were still children, and to balance a jar of it on your head?! That’s just insane (char)! If you’re afraid of burning yourself, why don’t you use cupcakes instead? Lisod na magka paso paso kay mahal na kaayo ang tambal…

2. Running Motivator

When you’re completely satisfied with your body and want to maintain it like I do (HAHAHA rrright), one of the most effective ways to do so is to eat while working out. To do so, my advice would be to put cupcakes spaced a kilometer apart along your running path. Reward yourself with a Sweet Incantations for every thousand meter distance that you make!

3. Instant Katy Perry costume
IMG_1643Halloween is just a stone’s throw away – aw, actually, layo layo pa bitaw. Naa pa kay pila ka buwan para mag andam, but according to a recent study called “Mugna mugna”, there is a 79.3% chance that you’ll be too busy to prepare your costume. You’ll most likely have to think of something quick and easy, and Sweet Incantations’ cupcakes are the best ones to use to get the Katy Perry look. Be a literally sweet teenage dream!