Looking Back and Looking Forward

There is a reason why the first month of the year is named after the Greek god Janus. He is the only god that has two faces that enable him to look to the past and to the future. January is the month when we still remember the events of the past year. It is also the month that we have no choice but to move forward to rest of the year.


It is just few hours before 2011 gives way to 2012. This day is the perfect moment to look back to what happened to the topsy-turvy events of this year.

2011 is a memorable year for me. I have met a lot of people, either online or offline, and some of them became my good friends. This is also the year when I clashed with many people when it comes to controversial issues like the RH Bill. Clashing with other people online helped improve my debating skills. The divisive issue also helped me know where some of my friends and readers are coming from. Unlike the last year, I am not alone in these battles. I have met so many like-minded people who understand how destructive the proposed law is. This is also the year when God poured in so much of His grace for the sake my of my spiritual well-being. There were times when I see everything bleak and hopeless but my God is persistent in pulling me out of the hole I put myself into.

2011 is also the year when this blog grew to “epic” proportions. My blog only has less than a hundred visitors per day last year. The numbers of visitors grew to around 300 to 500 per day readers this year. The increase in number of visitors resulted to an increase of income for me. My income from Google Ads improved and I get more paid posts. Thanks to all the visitors who dropped by my blogs. I do hope that they got the information that they are looking for.

Thank You

More important to one-time visitors of this blog are my suking readers who constantly comments to my posts. Special mention should be given to:

Suitapui who is known for posts of yummy foods that usually makes my mouth water.
Anney who is the master in making art works our of foods.
The diligent student Steve.
The always-hiding-behind-the-panda-face Foong. :-)
Dear maarteh and makulit Tine Rojas.
The super-mother Mommy Einz.
Ate Faye of Hollands.
Caroline Ng May Ling who always gives me ideas on the latest beauty trends.
Kuya Diamond in deserts of Middle East.
My good friend Frumpy Mom.
Blogger extraordinaire Bluedreamer.
The not-so-average Tin, who I first knew as the Average Jane.
The food blogger Pinkcookies.
The super-pogi Sendo and Jag.
The poetic Arvin.

Thank you very much for constantly visiting. You all made my blog filled with comments. Of course there are constant readers who don't leave any comments. Well, thank you very much for constant visits. Hope to hear from you in 2012.

A special part of this post is to be given to my beloved, who not only accompanies me to my travel but also accompanies me in my life. She is made my 2011 so colorful (and a little bit topsy-turvy too).

Now, I have dealt with “looking back” face of Janus. Expect more colorful posts from me in the year 2012. May you continue in visiting my blogs and be with me to look forward to the future.

A blessed New Year to everyone! It is time for fireworks!


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Happy New Year to RH Bill Advocates

I know, I know. 2011 has been a bad year for all of you. The divisive bill that all of you are pushing for are still not passed. Such a sad Holiday Season for you. So, as a consolation, I will share this gift that is being tossed around by many people in Facebook.

Dancing Lights at Ayala Triangle

My beloved asked me to take her to the now-talked-about Christmas Light show at Ayala Triangle. I instantly answered “yes” to her request. Like her, I also wanted to see Ayala Christmas lights and snap mesmerizing photos like those in Lantaw's blog. What’s more interesting is that those Christmas lights “moves” with the music.
Entrance to Ayala Triangle.
The big "tunnel," fronting Ayala Avenue, is the entrance to Ayala Garden.

We reached Ayala Triangle at around 7 PM and we saw that the place is packed with people. Well, who wouldn’t be attracted to visit Ayala Triangle and see the Christmas lights show for free? The spectators of the “Symphony of Lights,” as the Christmas Lights show is called, are mostly composed of employees from Makati and families. Professional photographers abound too.
Ayala Lights blue

Kids enjoy the “Symphony of Lights,” especially when the lights started to “dance” and change into different colors.
Ayala Lights white Christmas
It is white Christmas after all.
Ayala Light inflatable star
Kids enjoy playing with this inflatable "star."

Being at the Ayala Triangle Garden for the “Symphony of Lights” is way better than looking at the photos of it. Photos can capture the lights but it can never capture the sounds and ambiance of the place. I almost danced with lights when “Winter Wonderland” was played. What kept me from dancing is my beloved who is too shy to dance.

Each performance last about 30 minutes with 30 minutes gap between performances. Ayala Christmas lights show is open from 6 PM to 9 PM. We used the gap time to take photos. The problem is that it's hard to get good shots because of the crowd.

Ayala's Christmas light show is on its second year. The show is a good respite for employees in Makati Business District. The dancing lights brings to the mind the good things that Christmas brings.


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Boiled Beef Meat is Not Bulalo

I have different expectations when I go to a restaurant. The more expensive the restaurant, the more I expect to taste delicious food. I will not complain to eat a so-so meal if I'm at a turo-turo (economy class restaurant). Expect me to grumble if I'm at a relatively expensive restaurant eating a so-so meal. So, here I am to grumble.

We had our first family outing at Tagaytay City. Lunch time came while we are strolling at Olivarez so we searched the area for a place to eat. Olivarez serves as the junction of roads that from Nasugbu, Dasmarinas City, Talisay and People's Park Tagaytay. Located at Olivarez are the usual restaurants like Mang Inasal and Jollibee. We were looking for a restaurant that could not be found in Metro Manila. What we found is Eli's Barbecue.
Eli's Barbecue, Tagaytay City

Eli's Barbecue is popular, according to the cashier/waitress, for its barbecue. The waitress said that Eli's Barbecue uses real Angus Beef. There are no other customer at Eli's Barbecue during that day. The cashier/waitress said they had been busy during that week because they had busloads of customers that are in Tagaytay for a gathering of sorts.

We are very hungry so we ordered Eli's unlimited meal that costs around 2,000+ pesos. This meal doesn't only have unlimited rice but also unlimited viand. The only thing that is not unlimited is the drinks, which I think is a sly way getting even with a glutton customer. Cooking Eli's unlimited meal takes time so we just enjoyed the view of Taal Lake.

What I like with Eli's Barbecue is its rooftop that gave us a good view of Taal Lake. The cashier/waitress allowed us to climb to the rooftop to take photos of the world-famous lake and its volcano.
Taal Lake as viewed from Eli's Barbecue rooftop.

Eli's unlimited meal is composed of Java rice, barbecue, pork ribs, pancit canton, and fried chicken. A cup of macaroni salad served as our dessert. Our sabaw (soup) is bulalo.
Eli's Barbecue smorgasbord

The food on our table are mostly OK. We noticed that the barbecue and pork ribs were rushed. Some parts of the fried chicken is not well-cooked. I have no complaint with pancit canton and I think that it is the best of the food on our table. What got the ire of the family is the “bulalo”.

Eli's Barbecue bulalo, sort of
This is Eli's "bulalo".

The real bulalo is stewed bone marrow with vegetables. What we got is just boiled beef meat without the bones. The meat is stone hard and the flavoring used is Magic Sarap. In short, even their boiled beef meat is not good.

All in all our lunch at Eli's Barbecue is not satisfying. The food is rushed and the lowdown is the bulalo. The cashier/waitress asked us to eat again at their restaurant when we return to Tagaytay City. I think that we will not grant her wish.


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A Greater Gift than Legos

I remember my childhood days when I always ask my father, day in and day out, to buy me a set of Lego. I vaguely remember the scene but it always happen every time my father prepares for work. I always tell him, “Papa, papa, ibili mo ako ng Lego” (Papa, papa, buy me a Lego). He always reply, “Ano? Gusto mo ng ligo” (What? Do you want to bathe?). In short, my father never bought me a set of Lego. I had no choice but to play with toys that I got free from cheap chichiria (snacks). I have used my imagination to play war, fight a dragon, or build a kingdom.

I suddenly remembered this episode of my childhood when I passed by a Lego store while I was walking around Trinoma Mall. It made me recall that my father failed to give the things that I wanted, even if I asked for it earnestly.

My thoughts wandered from my childhood memory to God. In my prayers, I always ask God for many things. I ask Him,  not only for material things, but also the things concerning my Faith. I get so impatient for many times that I think that God is so slow to act. It is as if that He acts like my earthly father who only responded with jokes to avoid giving in to the request of His child.

Just like that Lego episode, I asked God specific things and expected Him to respond the way I want Him to. My father did not give me the Lego set that I wanted but he gave me better things. He worked hard and provided the things that I truly need, which are the things that enabled me to continue my childhood imaginations that do not require Legos. God listens to my requests and He responds by giving me things that are better than what I expected.

Giving us the best things is what God is good at. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we human beings are waiting for our redemption from Death. We are burdened by our sinfulness but we have an inkling that God is working to save us. It is just that we didn't know how He will do it. The Jews, during the time of the Gospels, believed that God will redeem His people through political power. They are wrong, however, because God gave them a better way of redemption that save Jews and Gentiles alike.

Jesus Christ is God and people expected Him to be clothed in kingly apparel like King David. Yet God chose the better, nay the best, route and that is by showing His humility by being born on the manger. This humility is the one we celebrate this Christmas Day.

We always ask God for “Legos” but God always give us things that are better than Legos. This is the lesson that I learned when I saw that Lego store. I believe that this is also the lesson that we should learn this Christmas.

Our Kababayans in CDO, Iligan and Negros Need Our Help

Typhoon Sendong victim - Father crying for his child.

This photo of a father crying for his child sums up all the emotions that the victims of Typhoon Sendong are feeling right now. As of this moment, citizens of Northern Mindanao and Negros are still reeling from the effect of the typhoon. Houses were destroyed by the raging waters of the Cagayan de Oro River. Many people are still missing and their families are either hoping that they are still alive or afraid that they are already one of the dead. The livelihood of citizens of Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City are gone or covered in mud. Dead bodies are still being pulled out of the debris of the catastrophe. Amidst of all the chaos, many people are wondering if everything will return to normal.

Help from the private sector and private individuals are pouring continuously. Many of the victims already received some of the relief goods but there are still more victims who still need our help. I am here to appeal to you, dear readers, to help us in this trying time. I ask for your prayers for my kababayans struck by Typhoon Sendong.
Caritas Manila logo

You can send cash donations Caritas Manila. Here are the details for depositing cash donations:

BPI Savings Account: 3063-5357-01
Metrobank Savings Account: 175-3-17506954-3
BDO Savings Account: 5600-45905
PNB Current Account: 10-856-660001-7

For Dollar cash donations please deposit to:

BPI Savings Account: 3064-0033-55
PNB Account: 10-856-660002-5


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What to Do During Karoling Season

Sa maybahay ang aming bati, “merry Krismas na malwalhati.”
Ang pag-ibig ang siyang naghari, sana araw-araw ay magiging Pasko lagi.
Ang sanhi po ng pagparito, hihingi po ng aginaldo.
Kung sakaling kami’y perwisyo, pasensya na kayo kami'y namamasko.

I bet that many of you (if you are in the Philippines) already heard that popular Christmas song this time of the year. Well, it is Christmas Season, which is the perfect time for enterprising kids to brandish their tambourines made of tansan (bottle caps). It is also the perfect time for them to visit your house to croak their angelic voices for some coins.
Improvised tambourine for karoling.
Improvised tambourine. (Source: Think!)

Karoling is Christmas tradition in the Philippines. Karoling is the Filipinized rendition of the word caroling. Karoling is not just being done by the children as there are adult carolers who use real musical instruments like guitar, tambourines, etc. Children carolers are much simpler because their musical instruments are tambourines made from bottle caps and tin cans that serve as drums.
Children karoling.
(Source: Life's Memoirs Online)

People have many reactions when it comes to karoling. Majority of these reactions, I believe, is that of annoyance. This kind of reaction is understandable because these kids has the habit of returning to your house night after night until Christmas Eve if they discovered that you are generous in handing out coins.

So, how should you deal with these children? Here are the things that you can do when they are karoling at your house:

1. Hide and Ignore – This is highly recommended for ninongs and ninangs who have the habit of hiding from their inaanaks (godchildren) every Christmas. You should always keep in mind that carolers are attracted to Christmas lights like the way moths are attracted to the flame. Don’t decorate your house with Christmas lights to avoid being noticed by these kids.  If you’re uncharitable enough to not want carolers to visit your house, I suggest that you turn off all the lights inside and outside of your house and pretend that you are asleep.

2. Give them Coins or Scold them – Another way to deal with carolers is to follow a sort of “merit system.” You give the carolers a reward (a.k.a. coins) if they sang their Christmas carol well. Avoid giving them any coin if they continue croaking like frogs instead of singing. This is a good way motivating carolers to improve their karoling. Bad-singing carolers will avoid your house because they think that you demand so much just for a few coins.

3. Give them treats – Give the carolers candies or food if you don't want to give them money. This alternative is similar to the Halloween “trick or treat.” If you don't like their karoling then you trick 'em but I guess that is not in accord with the Christmas spirit.

4. Let the dogs out – Do this if you idolize old Scrooge but be prepared to be hacked with jungle bolo of the children's angry fathers.

There was a time when karoling is taken seriously. That was the time when kids put an effort to sing well. Nowadays, the children carolers don't care if their singing is out of tune or no one understands what they are saying. This is the reason why many people think that karoling is annoying.
Children karoling on the streets.
(Photo by Rowell Ang)

I also noticed that these children took karoling to the streets. They climb jeepneys and buses to ask for coins after they sang their Christmas carol. What they are doing is very dangerous. I will not be surprised if there will be a road accident that involves them.

- - -

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Christmas Shopping at Divisoria

The only thing that I can never forget in my first visit to Divisoria is the stench. Recto Avenue, within the Divisoria, is one of the smelliest areas that I ever visited in my whole life. I believe that the smell emanates from the decades-long accumulation of odor that was never removed because Recto Avenue never got the chance to be cleaned by street sweepers of Manila. But don’t let the stench of Divisoria turn you off because this is still the best place to go to for affordable Christmas items.

I recently visited Divisoria to look items that I can buy for my godchildren. Fortunately, it was not my first time to visit Divisoria so I know what to experience in that place. An American visitor of our office commented that Divisoria is worse than the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. He had a hard time navigating Divisoria because the streets are too crowded. He had no choice but to give up his comfort zone and walk side by side with buyers and vendors in Divisoria.
Crowded street of Divisoria
Vendors hogging the streets of Divisoria.

My first stop is Divisoria Mall, which is located at the corner of Commercio and Tabora Streets. The mall is just an oversized Raon or the common palengke. The corridors are too crowded and some of the vendors placed their merchandise outside their booths. It is in this mall where I discovered that Divisoria is the place where tons of the cheap toys from China are delivered. The toys will then be bought and brought by retailers to different markets all around the Philippines. Now I know where to go if I want to buy toys for my godchildren.
168 Mall, Divisoria, Manila

The next mall that I visited is the 168 Mall, which is the most popular mall in Divisoria. This mall is less crowded that Divisoria Mall. Near this mall are the 999 Mall and other malls that are named after lucky numbers. I went to 168 Mall to look for an affordable DVD player with TV.

Divisoria is one chaotic place. I always get lost whenever I visit the place. One time, I reached Andres Bonifacio’s monument in Tutuban while I was looking for a way out of Divisoria. This time, I reached Ongpin Street while I was looking for a way out of Divisoria. Well, getting lost is the reward for those people, like me, who doesn’t ask for directions.


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Who is the Real Santa Claus?

Last Tuesday (December 6) the Church celebrated the feast of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra. The Gospel for that day (Matthew 18:12) is about the good shepherd who left his 99 sheep just to look for one stray sheep. The priest said that the Gospel reading suits the story of Saint Nicholas because he acted as a good shepherd during his stint as a bishop. Saint Nicholas is a good shepherd because he knew the needs of his flock, or the people in his Diocese. The saint is widely known for his charity and generosity to poor.

There is one story where Saint Nicholas discovered that a poor widower, unable to support his three maiden daughters, decided to make his daughters work as prostitutes. The saint placed the church's gold in three bags and secretly threw them through the window of the widower's house. The gold served as the dowry for widower's daughters. Saint Nicholas was also involved in other stories wherein he is shown as the helper of the poor and the needy.

I thought that the priest's homily about Saint Nicholas end there until he said that that saint is the popular Santa Claus. Devotion to Saint Nicholas became popular years even after his death. Many people were inspired by his story of charity. Even the oil, known as Manna di S. Nicola, flowing from the relic of Saint Nicholas is highly valued for its medicinal powers.

So, how Saint Nicholas of Myra, who looks like this:
Saint Nicholas of Myra

came to look like this:
Jolly old Santa Claus.
(Source: Web Design Hot)

The transformation of Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus came about when Dutch Protestants brought the distorted story of Saint Nicholas to America. The Dutch portrayed Saint Nicholas as a Nordic magician who helps the needy. Santa Claus is now a jolly, fat, white-bearded old man who enters chimney just to give gifts to “nice” kids.

I always lament that Santa Claus replaced the baby Jesus during the Christmas Season. Instead of anticipating the birth of Christ, people are waiting for their gifts under the Christmas tree courtesy of Santa Claus. Well, it seems like it is not only Jesus who was replaced by the commercialized Santa Claus. The first victim is Saint Nicholas.

Santa Claus has a shallow kind of generosity. If you are a nice person, then you can expect a gift from Santa. In this case, the gift became a bribe to make the child behave well. It teaches a child to expect an instant gift whenever do good things.

Saint Nicholas' generosity is much deeper. Being “nice” is not a requirement for him whenever he helps someone. The widower in the story is not a nice person because he wanted his daughter to become prostitutes. Saint Nicholas did not turn his back to the widower and his daughters. On the contrary, he gave them three bags of gold!

Jesus Christ told us to love our neighbors, including those who are not nice to us. Our Lord said “for if you love those that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even publicans do that? And if you salute your brethren only, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do that?” (Matthew 5:46-47).We Christians are expected to love and aid anyone like Saint Nicholas did because if we love and aid just those who are nice, like what Santa Claus is doing, then are we doing more than the others?


I encountered an amusing story about Saint Nicholas. A heretic named Arius is teaching that Jesus Christ is not Divine but merely created by the Father. Saint Nicholas can’t stand the lies of Arius so he punched Arius on the face. Here is the painting that immortalized the smack down of Arius:
Saint Nicholas punched Arius.

Because of Saint Nicholas violent action, he was stripped off of his rank as a bishop and was sent to prison. Nicholas’ personal copy of the Gospel and the Episcopal pallium, symbols of being a bishop, was taken away. Jesus Christ and Mama Mary visited Saint Nicholas in his cell and asked him what he is doing inside the prison. Saint Nicholas answered: “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”

Jesus then gave Nicholas his copy of the Gospel and Mama Mary vested her of his pallium, thus returning to his rank as bishop.

No one can ever imagine the commercialized Santa Claus to pull a punch to the naughty boys and girls. All he can do is laugh “ho ho ho” all the way. Well, the real Santa Claus knows how to use his fist for the sake of his love to God.

I am not telling you to punch those who blaspheme the Lord. What I am saying is that we should not hesitate to the hard things to make other people realize the Truth.


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Hail Mary! Immaculate and Blessed

Today, the whole Church is celebrating the Feast of Immaculate Conception.

In this Feast, the Catholic Church affirms her teaching that Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, was born without original sin.

Years ago, I don't believe in Mama Mary. I had a belief, back then, that the Church exaggerated the role of a woman who wasn't featured much in the Bible. How wrong I was! Mama Mary has a large role in salvation of humankind. Her obedience to God paved the way for the Word to be made flesh. Mama Mary asked Jesus to turn water into wine in wedding in Cana. This incident shows how intimately Mary knows her son because she knows that Jesus can do miracles even before He conducted His public ministry. Mama Mary suffered greatly in seeing her only son flogged and nailed to the cross. Her heart might have been broken to million pieces when Jesus gave His last breath.

Mama Mary may not always be present on the Bible but surely she is in the background. She is with the Apostles waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Mama Mary fulfilled her role as the mother of the early Church. She continues to fulfill that role unto this day for she intercede for us in front of our God.

Mama Mary, thank you for the love and the care. Happy Feast of Immaculate Conception!
Immaculate Conception

Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honour to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.

Scant Christmas Decorations in Shopping Malls

Christmas is definitely in the air. Santa Claus is already present in many TV commercials. The streets are being lightened up by Christmas lights and lanterns. Christmas carols are blaring in the local FM radios. Christmas bazaars are everywhere. And, of course, shopping malls are all decorated for the Christmas Season. However, it seems like the shopping malls are still feeling the brunt of the economic recession. Gone are the pomp Christmas decorations of the previous years. Christmas decorations are now simple as I had seen during my visit to some of the shopping malls in Metro Manila and the nearby cities.

The best Christmas decorations I have seen so far is the one in Ayala Trinoma Mall:
Christmas decorations in Trinoma Mall.
Snowflake parols in Trinoma Mall.
Here are the decorations from other two shopping malls that I have visited recently:
Christmas decorations in 168 Mall.
Lights and garlands in 168 Mall, Divisoria.

Christmas decorations in SM Santa Rosa.
Toy train at SM Santa Rosa, Laguna.
The worst Christmas decoration that I have seen, so far, is the one in Robinson's Target Mall:
Christmas decorations in Target Mall, Balibago
Christmas lights in Robinsons Target Mall, Santa Rosa, Laguna.
Robinson's Target Mall only have Christmas lights dangling from the ceiling as the decoration for the Christmas Season. Is it because Target Mall is just a low-end mall that's why it doesn't have creative decorations?

The shopping malls that I visited are too few. So, the ones that I posted here may not be the best (or the worst) Christmas decorations that can be seen in the shopping malls around Metro Manila and the nearby provinces.

Christmas is really in the air but it is not the decorations that counts. What counts is our willingness to open our hearts and welcome the coming of our Lord. Advance Merry Christmas everyone.


Finally! It is the month of December. In anticipation of the coming Christmas and New Year, I will feature blog posts that are suitable for this holy season of love and gift-giving. A merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

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Mommy's Pride at Congressional Avenue

My mother craves for sapin – sapin from Mommy's. So one time, when she requested that I bring home one sapin – sapin, I did not hesitate and I visited Mommy's located along Congressional Avenue, Quezon City.

Mommy's Pride is a food shop that makes the Dolor's Kakanin that includes the popular sapin – sapin. I already talked about Dolor's sapin – sapin in the two previous blog posts. Kakanin is the Tagalog word for desserts that are made from rice. Dolor's sapin – sapin is a special kind of kakanin because it is composed of different kinds kakanin arranged on a bilao (bamboo tray).
Dolor's Sapin-Sapin
Dolor's sapin-sapin.
Dolor's sapin -sapin is very popular that the demand for it is very high, especially during the Christmas Season. I called Mommy's Pride to reserve for one bilao of 17-inch diameter sapin – sapin. Reservation can be made the day before the sapin – sapin is to be picked up.
Dolor's Sapin-Sapin - Mommy's Pride Congressional Avenue

The guard asked me what I was doing outside of Mommy's Pride. The guard saw me taking the photo above. I just told him that I am taking the photo of the food shop as a remembrance. Is the guard or Mommy's Pride owners very nervous from being photographed?

If you are coming from EDSA, you can reach Mommy's by riding a jeepney that has placard that says “Quirino.” These jeepneys can be found at Mindanao Avenue corner North Avenue, across the Trinoma Mall. Just pay the minimum fare. Go down the Congressional Avenue, which is marked by a KFC restaurant. Mommy's is just few meters away from KFC.

Mommy's Pride Congressional branch is just small restaurant. They also sell other kakanin like puto and kutsinta. They also offer rice meals and pancit Malabon.

Dolor's sapin -sapin is the favorite kakanin in our home. It is possible that I will visit Mommy's again before Christmas Day or New Year's Day.


Read my other posts about Dolor's sapin - sapin. Please read "Another Taste of Sapin-Sapin" and "Dolor's Sapin-Sapin."

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