September 28, 2014 | In: Family, Leisure

Crazy Katsu + The Sweet Spot

20 September 2014. After the three-hour research writeshop, which I facilitated for teachers held at Ateneo de Manila University, we met Ciel and Owie, two of my Manila-based pamangkins, at UP Diliman campus. The intention was to make a random visit of the Diliman Republic and nearby Teachers’ Village, where hole-in-the-wall eateries may be found.

IMG_2596Bookayukay. Before eating and discovering the foods Maginhawa St. at UP Village offers, we dropped by Bookayukay, a book-sale shop, which, despite its small space, is frequented by students and book enthusiasts alike. When we were there, there were like eight persons, trying to fit in themselves in the limited space there was. But that was the joy of locating books amid the heaps, when bodies almost hit one another, all in the name of finding that one golden treasure, reminiscent of Coelho’s “The Alchemist” (maybe it was just there).

Mine was found  through Ciel: Paulo Coelho’s “Authorized Biography.” Two types were available–the real price and that one discounted, half the price. Of course, I went for the discounted, obviously. That was the only treasure I got because we were really hungry, we crossed the street and found Crazy Katsu.

Crazy Katsu. The place, true to its being a hole-in-the-wall, is small. Its specialty is that of katsu (literally means “shout” in Japanese) cuisine, marked by shredded cabbage and carrots with special soy-sauce condiment and fresh chili bits. Crazy Katsu has variations of this cuisine: with chicken and the other as salad. We ordered both, with individual orders of rice as partner. We enjoyed the servings washed down by lemon drinks. At affordable prices, you can have an oriental meal, a little hot or with a certain amount of kick to make you lose or shed off that stress of a busy week.IMG_2599

The Sweet Spot. In search of some desserts, we found The Sweet Spot, also along Maginhawa St. The place was filled with students and some families wrapping up the day, having some sips of coffee or conservative slice of sweets or pasta servings. Most were just there to enjoy a cool nook and wi-fi perks. We ordered three servings of their special cakes: ube cheesecake, strawberry cheese cake, and chocolate cheesecake, just to do away with that chili taste of the katsu cuisine we just had. We enjoyed the quick Internet connect that enabled us to communicate with Aussie-based Che. Overall, the experience was indeed sweet; we could go back here again.

IMG_2607More. There are many more we could have visited, like the Burger Project, which could be our next in the list. Maginhawa St. is a haven for budget-conscious eaters, but who are in search of foods and pastries that leave much memories, enough to create stories and fill in a blog space like this.

Like Dr. Jack Sheppard of the famous mystery TV series, Lost, we will certainly go back.

We must go back.

When we do, we will eat more and explore more and spend time more knowing the place well.

September 8, 2014 | In: Family, Reading Life, The Writing Life, Work

Back!

I haven’t written anything for the last two months here! That’s unusual for moi who would usually spend the weekend reading and blogging and writing much (any given writing project occupies my weekend, at the very least).

Where have all the words gone??? Or, where did my muse hibernate?!

Checking Papers. I am almost teaching full time this semester/tri-mester. I was originally given 9 units of undergrad courses, but an exigency assignment, that eventually stays with me, was added to me at the start of the semester. Plus, I have 6 units of graduate classes. So the weekend is usually spent reading and rating and recording papers. That virtually eats up most of my time, with back aching and head almost bursting as after effects.

Sending off Che and Kids. August, the whole of it, was spent preparing for Che and kids’ trip to Aussie, where they would hopefully be staying for good with Chito. Preparing meant accompanying them to malls and other places such as Tagaytay and Alabang and Cabuyao to do important businesses. Visiting the Pink Sisters and Padre Pio again and saying goodbye to her in-laws. Then we had a series of despedida for them that culminated in our senti send-off at Terminal 2 of NAIA. We hope to visit them there soon!

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Sometimes, Reading. Like today when I spent practically the whole day reading Paulo Coelho’s latest. Finished it almost in one sitting. I love this novel: breezy, easy read. This is the first time I have read Coelho with a uni-linear plot or a readable, easy- to-follow story line. Of course I am referring to “Adultery.” Now talk of the town. Its mature, adult theme reinvents Coelho, who would usually talk about esoteric, abstract concerns in his philosophical-cerebral-nebular novels. Here his characters are, quite unusual in his style, named. It pursued a timeless concern: happiness — among characters who are depressed, stressed, alone, lonely, and sad (Linda and Jacob). I wouldn’t dwell on the details. But one thing is certain: this is one of Coelho’s best!

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On the side, I am also reading Haruki Murakami’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.”  A beautiful novel about finding the self lost among the others. There are sub-themes too of depression, death, and making oneself acceptable for others, at least to their very limited and conventional standards. Murakami is a personal favorite since I have read his dream-like, Kafka-like, magical realist short stories (a particular favorite is “Sleep”). More on him and his latest novel in a future blog entry.

Meantime …

Let me go back to work and with fingers crossed, I hope I’ll be able to write more often here. Maybe on a weekly basis. I will force myself to write. For words to crop up and surface and be triggered when the time gets tough checking papers or preparing things that matter so I could live and travel and be human. Carpe diem!!!

One Sunday, engrossed with the movie we had just seen, I accidentally put a bottle of mineral water inside my favorite bag. I positioned it there the wrong way, enough for it to leak and make my things wet. It was too late before I had discovered it: my valuables drenched in water. Passport. Student driver’s ID and permit. Business card. Etc.

Once home, I took out each thing from the bag and dried each of them meticulously under the electric fan and aircon. Glad the passport wasn’t damaged much. My iPhone charger too. In one careless instant I can easily put my valuables in danger. When you are too preoccupied by grownup matters, you tend to forget to take care of things that matter much. I couldn’t blame myself more.

*  *  *

Sometimes, I was telling my friends in the office, you just want to stay longer in bed and forget about work. That is to do things that you really want to do in life. In my case, reading and writing. But this work is a commitment. I need it, for one, to live and survive. I need it as much as it needs me. There are things in life you must take and bear and endure, difficulties included, but at the end of the day, these enrich you, without you noticing it.

That’s how I see my work that keeps me whole and alive.

*  *  *

There is a kind of routine I follow every day. In the morning, if time permits, I’ll check on my social network account to look for updates. The entire morning will be spent at work. Lunch time I’ll go home to be with my loved ones; it will end up again checking on my FB account, for latest updates (you see how life revolves around social media, whether you are a Millenial or not).

IMG_2080If office work allows me to go home early that would mean reading a few more pages from a book or books I am presently reading, then taking a precious nap. Dinner, then tele-novela, then PBB. These TV shows make me more human and vulnerable, despite what others will tell that they are not intellectually healthy or something. They keep me grounded and real.

Then I will work more: syllabus, instructional material, letters, plans, exams, etc. Then I will FB more posting photos, reacting on comments, commenting on posts I like, writing blog entries like this, etc. Things begin and end through the social media. There is no moment of boredom or loneliness. Always you find yourself hooked into somebody else’s world. Even if I don’t go home in our hometown every weekend, I can see how the folks are doing and faring. I can pm (private message) them and I’ll get updates. This social media thing makes our world smaller, our distances nearer.

It is a welcome boon. At least for me.

IMG_2062Much of what I do now, if I am not in the office or attending meetings or writing or editing something, is reading.

I hop from one book to another, then to another. Lately I have discovered Lydia Davis, an American storyteller, whose flair for brevity in short stories makes her popular; in fact she has short stories in a sentence or paragraph length only. Her stories are works of poetry. She is a Man Booker International Prize winner last year (May 2013). Her Collected Stories (2009) enables me to go through her style and nuances as a writer. I am now reading  her short story “Five Signs of Disturbance.”

Another book I am now reading is Divergent  by Veronica Roth (2011), which was turned into a movie last March 2014. This is a material, that reminds me so much of Hunger Games (also turned into film), that I am reading while [re]reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (now a movie, too).

So much to read, so little time for reading.

May 24, 2014 | In: Leisure, Work

The Perks of Traveling

This summer enabled me to travel for fun or as my work required, with good friends and nice people.

I revisited HK with Letran Calamba friends and had a side trip to Macau. One thing about traveling, you bring home the memories captured by photos. Images of friendship, bonding, happy times. Forever, they are etched where they could be retrieved later: when the moments run out of inspirations, you want to go back to good times and relive the experience. The photos summon the spirits, transporting you back, back where colors get back to life, scenes make you laugh and remember.

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Early this month we had the opportunity to participate in the World Research Festival 2014, co-hosted by the Colegio with IAMURE. The event was held at Cebu City. In between sessions, we had photo ops at Radisson Blu Hotel, the festival site. At Radisson, we got thrilled by the showcase of talents. We were awed by the warmth of people we just met there. We realized research could be fun and alive. It does not have to be a bore or a way to boast or even threaten people. It is an engagement that has to be kept within the happy repository of our memories. It must also be remembered and relived and shared.

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A thing about photos, they are more expressive than words. If that is the case, they are good storytellers. They don’t keep secrets. They tell all.

April 19, 2014 | In: Leisure

Foreign-sounding resto

There is this foreign-sounding restaurant along 6 Rizal Avenue, Poblacion, San Pablo City, just outside the cathedral. Si Christina Gateau Sans Rival. My eldest sister, who often visits San Pablo, had been here many times over with her good friend who resides in the area.

IMG_1530We visited the place after our 12th station of the cross last Maundy Thursday. It was an early lunch. The place has nice staff, young enough to be my college students. They were warm, all smiles to customers. At the outset, we loved the place because of its Mediterranean aura: walls made up of bricks, lamps plastered on walls or hanging as chandeliers, seats are cushioned red while tables and parts of the wall are just right in yellow, paintings adorn the walls as well.

It took less than 15 minutes for our order to be delivered. We ordered their IMG_1532austere vegetable salad with vinaigrette dressing and pumpkin soup as prelude to main course baby back ribs with brown rice and steamed mixed veggies. We found them okay, matching our food standards; but it was the main course that wowed us more:  the ribs were so tender and tasted so sweet, we could ask for another serving if only it wasn’t a day for moderation.

We also tried their cold coffee latte and freshly brewed iced tea, which I loved much with its prudent bits mixing with the cold drink. We capped the meal by trying their version of sans rival, which, when given a rating, was measly 6 for us (in a 10-point scale, with 1 as the lowest). It wasn’t comparable with Goldilocks’s or even Pantoja’s. My niece Anne also tried their red velvety cup cake; verdict: not good enough.

IMG_1542Short of saying, this resto thrives for its main course, not for its dessert. But it’s worth another visit. We’ll go back for its yummy baby back ribs!

The place’s well kept despite its limited space. It has an intimate and personal appeal.

[A complete photo album describing this resto may be found in my FB account, uploaded as Visita Iglesia around Laguna.]

April 9, 2014 | In: Family

Summer

It’s summer and during lunchtime and on my way back to work, the heat is unbearable; you can feel the dust and dirt mixing with the hot afternoon air. You want to stay longer inside the office, where the air is much cooler; but you can’t stay long because you’re the only one there. A cool moment deserves a company. Just like anything in life. You need someone with whom to share your happiness. You need a support group or a family or a circle of friends.

* * *

March had been a tough month. It was my birthday month. We have been going home often lately. By home I mean our hometown. March was the birthday month of most of us in the family: Anne, myself, Kuya Lito, Biboy. Whenever we go back home, things revolve around family, food, and fun. There is always a moment for talk and laughs. I always love going back home. I must do this often this summer.

* * *

IMG_1420Food binds us together. Ate Len loves to cook our favorite okoy.  That’s a good appetizer or side dish. I would often request it. Che, my youngest sis, would often assume the role of making the table look good. She could be the family’s own chef. There is something about food and family gatherings. I want to believe that we want to make a reason to be together by sitting down as a family and partaking the same foods we love to prepare and eat.

What we eat reflects the kind of family we have. We have favorite foods in the family that were passed on to us by generations past. Whenever we eat our loved foods, we remember Lola, Tiya Bure, and Nanay. We remember the summers of our childhood when fiestas were the highlights of school vacation. We remember the utmost care they had exerted to prepare morcon and other fiesta staples.

We remember the summer break waiting for fiesta ng santacruzan, when the entire barangay would all go out into the streets to end the lutrina and eat and join the revelry.

I miss those summers, when I was not working and was simply someone taking part in the fun with nothing to worry and nothing to lose. I miss being laidback and carefree.

I miss our old way of celebrating fiestas and santacruzan. I miss those days when summer was something I anticipate because there was nothing to do. Those were the days.

March 2, 2014 | In: Angst, Life Essays

Now!

The week had been tiring and, to an extent, draining but enriching.

It started with me renewing my passport as a preparation for an institutional trip this coming April. But despite this stressful life, I would often find time to visit my favorite spa to release all the tensions away.

My morning classes during weekdays and graduate class on Saturdays make a perfect balance. Office works would mean dealing with papers and attending meetings. One cluster meeting we had just attended took us to Manila. We plotted out what to do the coming months. So planning is integral to work the way I plan for my personal life.

My personal project is coming to life more and more. Yesterday I found time practicing how to drive in a nearby vacant lot. This afternoon I will have my fourth session in the driving school. This happens while my undergrad and graduate students prepare for their research proposal. What an apt metaphor! While I set my mind to finally drive on my own, there they are also laboring on their class project, with the same difficulty I know.

In between, I still read, despite the many papers I must still check and other small and big works on the side. Right now I continue to read Ceres Doyo’s Human Face, a compilation of her PDI columns and Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which is an easy-read memoir. The latter relates to my recent drive to drive. Reason why I enjoy reading it.

Murakami would say: often we get tired and we do not want to go on with our goal or pursuit of a dream. But when we think about how lucky we are to have a dream and have the opportunity to pursue it, it is still better to pursue it than to drag on and stop. That is my inspiration. And so go I will pursue that dream. I must drive. Now!

February 23, 2014 | In: Angst, Family

The Most Important Things

Life has been going on well lately.

Save for the pressures of work and the challenge of understanding people, life has been generally kind and exciting. I wake up early Monday to Thursday to attend to my early classes in the morning. The whole day would be spent doing all the work in the office. I enjoy going home during lunch time as a way to break the difficulty of attending meetings and dealing with queries.

IMG_1369I would usually spend late afternoon up to early evening staying alone on my desk, reading my students’ papers or planning what to do next. Life is not too leisurely but when I think about going home every night peacefully to the comforts of my family, I would feel I am too blessed: far from what others are doing or saying or thinking, far from the unreal meaning of being friends or being concerned.

Home is one of such important things. The evening would end  up me watching with my loved ones our favorite tele-novelas. They soothe the mind, relaxing me from a day’s hard work. Lately I have been sleeping early, except when I have an important thing to finish. Weekends allow me to stay up late. Grad class comes late on Saturdays.

Sunday is spent attending driving school. It is never too late learning a new trick. All this time I have been avoiding the need to drive. The last time I had attempted to learn driving was like two years ago. It takes humility and patience to be able to learn something I should have learned a long time ago. Now I know that I should be patient too teaching my students how to write or do research. The skill does not come easy. Sometimes I want to think that driving is also a gift. The skill to do it is like a talent you nurture, the same manner I nurture my flair for writing or my passion for research.

The passion to do things is another important value, add to it the fire to keep the interest burning. A few weeks from now, on time for my birthday, I hope I can drive on my own. It is a sense of independence. It is an accomplishment for this person who would always avoid courting dangers.

Life has been going on well. It is moving on light when I think about what really matters to me. No distractions could ever make me get out of focus.

It was my niece Cielo,  who introduced me to John Green. I could remember I was that time talking about the Millenials in my Organizational Communication classes, both in the undergrad and graduate school. Cielo said John Green is an author for the Millenials. So there, without much hesitation, I grabbed my first Green. And I didn’t look back since then!

Probably most of us have already read his “The Fault in Our Stars.” It will, in fact, be shown as a movie this June. Readers of this blog site may have already known by now his larger-than-life characters Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters (Gus), two cancer patients who have fallen in love with each other at a time of pain and uncertainty. This may be too late a review of that book. This is post-John Green syndrome!

cdo j greenI could remember as well bringing that book while attending a research conference at CDO sometime July of last year. In between listening to paper presentations I was there reading about Hazel and Gus and their heartbreaking story. That addiction saw me up until we were there in the local airport waiting for our flight out of that province. The following weekend I was done reading this popular Green novel. It was, true to another Millenial term, unputdownable!

Back in the office I had the chance to share with an office mate the merits and beauty of the book. By the way, that office mate was also with me during the CDO conference. I was able to recruit her to go and jump onto the bandwagon. Reading, as you see, just like research, is something we can rub to the other. [LOL!] That time I was done with the book, she did a marathon too, so that moment we were exchanging views about the book, she was through with it also.

I could remember sharing these points about the book to her. To an extent, the book would always go philosophical, intentionally. Like, the mention of the universe as something that would always want to be noticed. Isn’t that the premise of pain? To keep us alert? So we could notice the universe?

For me, the last few chapters when Augustus died, was where Green was at his utmost best as a writer. He described pain through Hazel’s words.  That was too angst-y. Hazel thanked Gus for that “forever given at a very short time” or to that effect. ‘Forever’ is constructed here as a patch or an episode from one’s life. So it could be short-lived. It is described here as a moment of bliss with someone we care so much about. Enough for me to recall one favorite singer’s definition of forever as a place. Even then, forever is a personal, subjective construct, as all constructs are.  For Hazel, that moment with Gus, although short and quick, was her forever!

What makes Green great is his contemporary writing style. Not stiff. Raw. Staccato style at its finest! Truly Millenial.

The book would always mention about [in]finities and temporality/ies, faithful to its attempt to [re]define our concept of ‘forever.’ And it is consistent with its thrust to be philosophical despite its being obviously a commercial genre intended for young [Millenial] readers [or those acting and thinking like this generational cohort, such as moi]. Personally, despite its being popularized, I find the book intelligent. Like, by way of  illustration, that conversation on scrambled egg as stereo-typically a breakfast food. [That it must be eaten, customs would dictate, during breakfast only!] That is both fun and cute. Or, that premise on cancer cells as stubborn or pesky parts of us, often begging to be noticed. Or, another exemplar, that reference to existential blues as side effect of dying and not of cancer. [What's the diff?]

Finally, there’s that Venn diagram about virgins and one-legged cancer patient that I couldn’t understand. Gus was explaining this to Hazel one time after they had given in to that need or temptation to be too intimate. Maybe the textual person in me couldn’t decipher what that visual representations is trying to express. As always!

The last time I searched through Google images I saw the actor, who would play Gus, holding a cigarette, which is his metaphor for smoking or not smoking. Now it could picture out the texts well! Fanatics couldn’t wait more for the movie. This a film I would watch after I have fully read its book version. The more I would be critical, like most of us, to check the movie’s faithfulness with (or creative break-away from) the print counterpart. The excitement wouldn’t die down.

We’ll see the moving and real Hazel and Gus then. Finally! Alive.

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On My Own

This is the first blog site I can call my own. Here's where I could find the individual Self on top of his being a social being. It talks about a multitude. Books. Events. Inanities. Foods. Family. Writing. Rhetorics. Travel. Places. Philosophy. Practically Everything under the sun. Or more aptly, Anything built around my World of Words: Texts.