End of the Month Roundup - April 2013

The month of April finally came to its end. My blog series about our 18-kilometer pilgrimage from Monumento to Baclaran Church also came to its end. I enjoyed reminiscing our exhausting but unique experience. I do hope that many of you enjoyed reading about it too.

I know that some of you are expecting to read about my adventures in Thailand. I'm happy to announce that I will resume talking about my Siamese adventures in the month of May. My topic for that month is the shopping places in Bangkok. I'm sure that shopaholics out there will enjoy this blog series.

April can be considered a stressful month for me. I felt the shock of the sudden change of environment. My life is easy and workload-free in Thailand, which is very different from my life in the Philippines. I returned to our office to deal with 6-month pending workloads and other requests. There is so much activities that I don't know how to fit my time.

I'm also back to commuting between our house and the office, which means that I'm back in competing with hundreds of commuters every day in getting good seats inside the bus. The Summer season is unhelpful too because of the stroke inducing heat. The Election Season, with the irritating campaign jingles, disgusting political posters, and the more disgusting promises (a.k.a. lies), also made my April less than savory.

Fortunately, April is not all gloomy. There are many things to enjoy especially the things that I missed while in Thailand. These are my family, the warm embrace of my Beloved, the daily visit to the Adoration Chapel and the present-everywhere Catholic churches. Even commuting is fun when I see amusing scenes like this:

Barker in Metro Manila in Naruto costume
A Naruto character appeared.

Really, there's no other place like home. :-)

Me and my Beloved went to a movie for the first time since I returned to Thailand. We watched “It Takes a Man and a Woman” starring John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo.

Poster of It Takes a Man and a Woman
(Source: Starmometer)

The movie is OK but it paled in comparison to other local movies that we watched last year.

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you that I got another chance to visit Lucban this month. I saw the Kamay ni Hesus Shrine again and it is now more beautiful than the first time I visited it about 3 years ago.

Going up the Kamay ni Hesus Shrine, Lucban

I will talk about our visit to Lucban maybe before this year ends.

Now. Let me give you the summary of post that I posted in the month of April. This month is dominated by my posts about our pilgrimage from Monumento to Baclaran Church. I also talked about my cooking like the fish sausage and the tortang talong. I also talked about the delicious Chinese dishes at Lan Zhou La Mien and the noodles I had eaten at Victory Monument, Bangkok.

I divided my narrative about our pilgrimage into four parts. The first part is the beginning of our pilgrimage, the second is the walk from Monumento to Blumentritt, the third part is the walk from Blumentritt to Binondo Church and the last part is the walk from Binondo to Baclaran Church.

Pilgrims from Filipinos for Life
Filipinos for Life pilgrims.

A positive note about this pilgrimage is that some people became interested with what we did. Some people, including Ma'am Maritel Ledesma, said that they want to have their own Lenten pilgrimage. I do hope that many people will join or make their own pilgrimage in the next Lenten Season. I'm sure that our Lord will be glad to see many Christians doing acts of penance and sacrifices.

These are the things that happened to me and my blog for the month of April. Hope that you also enjoyed this month. May we all have a blessed month of May. God bless you all.

End of the Month Roundup is the monthly segment of this blog that summarizes all the adventures that I featured for the month.

My First Try of Tortang Talong Recipe

One of the things that I miss in Thailand is my cooking. I know that I’m a failure when it comes to cookery but I enjoy risking my life to create an edible-but-sometimes-not dish.

There is one vegetable that I played around during my 6-month stay in Thailand. I cooked two types of dishes for this veggie. One dish is adobo, which a failure. Another dish is the torta and you’ll be the judge if what I cooked is also a failure.

The veggie that I’m talking about is the talong (eggplant).

Now let me show you how I cooked the tortang talong recipe.

Step 1: Peeling of the Talong Skin

The first thing that I did is that I place the talong over the fire of my stove. The purpose of this is to burn the eggplant’s skin so as to make it easy to peel.

Tortang talong recipe - burnt and peeled eggplant

The grocery where I bought the talong only had the unripe green ones. I’ve been searching for the violet-colored talong to no avail.

The talong is so hot so I used fork to peel away the skin.

Step 2: Preparing the Egg Mix

Tortang talong recipe - egg and breading mix

I beat two pieces of egg. I had a chicken breading sitting in the cupboard for so many months so I mixed it with the egg. I felt that I already messed up when I mixed the breading.

Step 3: Talong + Beaten Egg

Tortang talong recipe - eggplant in the egg and breading mix

I then placed the talong in the egg mix. I made sure that the mix covered the whole talong.

Step 4: Fry Time

I placed the talong with egg mix to the pan with hot oil. I cooked both sides of the torta. Cooking this tortang talong recipe is very quick. It is just like cooking an egg omelette.

And voila, here is the tortang talong:

Final product of my tortang talong recipe

I know it is not a perfect tortang talong and it looks terrible. The breading got burnt too. Maybe I’ll not add chicken breading to my next tortang talong. The tortang talong tasted OK because it tasted like fried chicken because of the breading.

How about you, dear Reader, what can you say about my tortang talong?

18 Kilometers - Binondo to Baclaran Church

I'm finally at the last stretch of my narrative for our pilgrimage from Monumento to Baclaran Church. The members of the Filipinos for Life, the pilgrims for this journey, was exhausted becuase of the long walk that we made the whole morning. Our lunch break in Lan Zhou La Mien refreshed us but not it is not enough.

The energy that we recharged during lunch was gone almost immediately when we stepped under the burning sun.

We left Binondo, passed by Escolta and Lacson Plaza. The intense heat made me lazy to pick up my camera so I had no photos for these places. It is good though that I have posts about Kalye Escolta and Lacson Plaza that you can read about.

Our group crossed the Pasig River using the MacArthur Bridge. Our crossing allowed me to once again see the Manila Central Post Office.
Manila Central Office along Pasig River
Manila Central Post Office.

Across the post office are the towering buildings of Escolta.
Buildings of Escolta, Manila
Escolta buildings.

The bridge we were walking on was named in honor of General Douglas MacArthur. He is the so-called “liberator of Manila” during the Second World War. I read somewhere that MacArthur is held in high esteem by Filipinos. That's why many believed in him when he said his famous promise, “I shall return,” before he ran away to Australia while the Philippines is falling to the Japanese Imperial Army.

Statue of General Douglas MacArthur, Manila

The statue of the general marks the bridge. The statue commemorates MacArthur's landing at Leyte, where he fulfilled his promise. A blogger friend named Stef, who owns the blog And These Thy Gifts, commented that the soldiers look like they're standing on a bed of tulips. I agreed with a big hearty laugh. A thought suddenly popped in my mind showing the manly MacArthur and his soldiers skipping and dancing a la “Sound of Music”.

Sound of Music for Douglas MacArthur

Hundred steps later and we reached Mehan Garden. The statue of Alexander Pushkin caught my attention because I never heard of him being involved in any part of the Philippine history.

Statue of Alexander Pushkin, Manila

Pushkin's monument was erected to celebrate the friendship between the Filipino and Russian people. I found it weird that I passed by this statue few minutes after I passed by the statue of MacArthur, who is the enemy of communist Russia.

Few more steps later and we finally saw the clock tower of Manila City Hall:

Clock tower of the Manila City Hall

And another monument of Andres Bonifacio:

Monument of Andres Bonifacio near Manila City Hall

I felt that my whole body is burning while we walked. My sweat was flowing like waterfall. The bottled water that I brought was near its boiling point. Every step was agonizing and every shade is a welcome respite. Maybe all that we need that afternoon is to be poured with sarsa (sauce) so we can become lechon.

The sun is throwing all of its radiation towards us but we walked on. We raised our fists against the sun. Mere sunlight will never deter us in doing penance for the sake of this country and the hundreds of unborn children being threatened by an unjust law and the hard hearts of many people.

Slowly we walked along Taft Avenue and pass by Luneta Park and a few steps more we saw the naked statue of the Oblation in front of UP – Manila.

Oblation statue in University of the Philippines - Manila campus

Few more kilometers and we found ourselves along Quirino Avenue and saw the entrance to Manila Zoo.

Filipinos for Life Pilgrims along Quirino Avenue
F4L pilgrims along Quirino Ave.

Our walk along Roxas Boulevard was the hardest part of our pilgrimage. Exhaustion already set in and only our will pushed us to move forward.

I gave a sigh of relief when I finally saw the Heritage Hotel.

The Heritage Hotel located along EDSA, Pasay

We finally reached EDSA! We are very near Baclaran Church! This realization gave us new energy. We can finish this 18-kilometer walk.

Filipinos for Life pilgrims crossing EDSA
Crossing EDSA

Street vendors, parked vehicles and the chaos of this place is blocking our path but we passed through them. After walking 18 kilometers, I say that Baclaran Church is the most beautiful church that I had ever seen.

Baclaran Church
Baclaran Church!

We said our final prayer and there we ended our Lenten Pilgrimage.

Filipinos for Life pilgrims
Filipinos for Life

Our walk from Monumento to Baclaran is very exhausting but a one-of-a-kind experience. Aside from praying for our fight against the RH Law and the unborn, the pilgrimage was an opportunity for me to see Metro Manila more closely. There is chaos in our streets but I also saw beauty that is hiding beneath the chaos and dirt. Our 18 kilometers also proved that we can do difficult things as long as our will is strong to do it.


This is the fourth part of my narrative about the Filipinos for Lenten pilgrimage. Read the first part, second part and the third part of this blog series.

Lunch Break at Lan Zhou La Mien

Lunch time found our group in Manila's land of yummy Chinese food. AJ, our group leader, wanted to reach Binondo at lunch time not only because of Binondo Church but also because he wanted us to try his highly recommended Chinese restaurant. That restaurant is the Lan Zhou La Mien located along San Fernando Street.

Lan Zhou La Mien restaurant in Binondo Chinatown

I was surprised that the Chinese restaurant that AJ recommended is just a stone throw away from Hou Kui Tea House, which is the restaurant highly recommended by my Boss.

Lan Zhou La Mien is a cozy place. The space is quite small to fit many tables and chairs and even customers. Despite of that, AJ said that this restaurant is popular and many people still go to eat at this place. I think that cozyness is typical for the restaurants in Binondo Chinatown.

Fortunately, Lan Zhou La Mien has a second floor. Each pilgrim had a table for himself.

AJ guaranteed that the noodles at this place is delicious so I ordered the Kan Pan Lamien. Our group also ordered the steamed dumplings. We waited 15 to 30 minutes for our orders to come.

The first to reach our tables are the water and the tea.

Water and tea of Lan Zhou La Mien

The long walk from Monumento made us very hungry. I could eat a whole cow just to satisfy my hunger.

Kan Pan Lamien of Lan Zhou La Mien
Kan Pan Lamien

The serving of the Kan Pan Lamien is big. I think that two people can share one plate of this noodles. Fortunately, my appetite during that day is for two people. I finished Kan Pan Lamien in no time.

I understood now why AJ recommended this restaurant. The Kan Pan Lamien tasted good. It is one of the few best-tasting noodles of all the noodles that I tried.

The steamed dumplings that followed also tasted good.

Steamed dumplings of Lan Zhou La Mien

I think that Lan Zhou La Mien's dumpling is way beyond that typical dumplings offered by the stalls of Master Siomai or even by Chowking. The dumplings have meat and leafy veggies inside.

Yummy dumpling from Lan Zhou La Mien
Yum yum yum yum.

If you want to try wating at Lan Zhou La Mien, I suggest that you prepare enough money because the dishes in this place is not that cheap. The Kan Pan Lamien costs 130 pesos while the twelve pieces of steamed dumplings cost 160 pesos. Refer to the image below to see the costs of the dishes from Lan Zhou La Mien.

Menu of Lan Zhou La Mien restaurant in Binondo Chinatown

The food at this restaurant may not be cheap but the taste of the food will not make you feel that you are robbed. The food at this place tastes really good.

We, the pilgrims, were energized again after eating at Lan Zhou La Mien. We left the restaurant to finish the final stretch of our pilgrimage to Baclaran Church under the hot afternoon sun.

18 Kilometers - Blumentritt to Binondo

Around two hours left before 12 noon but we were still not halfway through our pilgrimage to Baclaran Church. Our group just crossed the train tracks of the Philippines National Railways (PNR) at Blumentritt but we still have miles to go.

Filipinos for Life Pilgrimage Route from Blumentritt to Binondo
F4L pilgrimage route from Blumentritt to Binondo.

Our next stop was the Shrine of the Holy Spirit (Dambana ng Espiritu Santo) located in Manila’s Santa Cruz District. I'm glad that I managed to enter this church but the crowd prevented me from taking good photos.

Interior of the Shrine of the Holy Spirit
The interior of the Shrine of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that it is a beautiful church. The painting at the altar depicts the descent of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. The scene depicted by the painting is very apt for the shrine because it is the event when the Holy Spirit emboldened the first Christians.

The crowd prevented us to pray a decade of the Holy Rosary so we just chose a spot in front of Mama Mary's image outside of the church.

We used the LRT stations to mark our progress. We even stopped at each station to pose for photos.

AJ posing at LRT - Tayuman Station
Boss AJ at Tayuman Station.

My experiences in Manila taught me to expect street children on the streets. There are plenty of them in Manila and I saw some of them during the pilgrimage.

Street kids at Rizal Avenue, Manila
Manila street kids

It would be wrong to lump these kids as “children” of the poor people of Manila. I know that each street kid has a unique story. Some might even be a son or daughter of a well-to-do family. Nonetheless, it is not good for them to stay away from their families. Where are their parents?

Another common scenery on Manila's streets is the perpetually under renovation streets.

A portion of Rizal Avenue under construction

AJ commented that this portion of Rizal Avenue was also under renovation during their pilgrimage last year. Does that mean that they renovate this portion of the avenue every year? What a waste of taxpayers' money.

Members of Filipinos for Life walking along Rizal Avenue

We quicken our steps. We knew that noon is near and we want to reach Binondo by that time. Our next stop would be Quiapo Church.

F4L pilgrims at LRT - Bambang Station
LRT - Bambang Station

Our group finally reached Recto Avenue around 11 AM. I was glad to finally reach a familiar place.

Intersection of Recto Avenue of Rizal Avenue
Intersection of Rizal and Recto avenues.

Recto Avenue was once a busy commercial hub. The place has theaters, malls and bustling commercial center. Its golden age occurred during the time when Escolta and Binondo were the commercial center of the country. Recto Avenue fell to disrepute and this place is now known as the place where people can get fake Ids, fake diplomas, fake birth certificates and other fake documents.

Quiapo Church is just a short walk from Recto Avenue. Unfortunately, the church is very crowded but that is not surprising. Quiapo Church houses the image of the Black Nazarene, which has millions of devotees. It is no wonder that this church is crowded to the max.

Quiapo Church

With no place to stop for praying, our group decided to go to the nearby Santa Cruz Church.

It was my first time to see Santa Cruz again since the day I went back from Thailand. The white paint of the church's exterior was now replaced by brown (or orange) tiles. Santa Cruz Church is still under renovation during our visit.

Santa Cruz Church in Manila

After our prayers, we entered Binondo Chinatown and walked along Ongpin Street to reach Binondo Church.

Horse-drawn or kalesa at Ongpin Street
You'll know you're in Chinatown once you see these kalesa.

Ongpin Street is the main street of Binondo Chinatown. Many people go here for the food (Chinese restaurants here have excellent dishes), or for history (this Chinatown is the oldest in the world) or just for taking photos.

Golden Cross of Binondo Chinatown at Ongpin Street
The golden cross along Ongpin Street.

Binondo Chinatown is the place where Christianity and Chinese cultures meet. A golden cross along this street is a testament this “clash of cultures”. People light up joss sticks at this cross instead of candles, which are the usually found in regular Christian spots.

Binondo Church, Manila
Binondo Church

We finally reached Binondo Church and said our prayers. Noon had just passed and our belly is rumbling. We are in the right time to visit a Chinese restaurant highly recommended by our group leader.

18 Kilometers - Monumento to Blumentritt

1 kilometer, 2 kilometers, 3 kilometers...the distance from the starting point of our pilgrimage is growing but our group didn't seem to mind it. We were not daunted by the 18 kilometers of distance that we had to walk from Monumento to Baclaran Church.

There were few people on the street that morning despite it being Palm Sunday. The weather is still cool. It is the perfect time for walking.

F4L Pilgrimage Route from Monumento to Blumentritt
Our route for the pilgrimage and some of the churches that we visited.

We followed Rizal Avenue and our plan is to visit the churches along the way. It was my first time to walk the whole length of Rizal Avenue. The truth is that I rarely go to any part of Rizal Avenue located north of its intersection with Recto Avenue. The road that we walked is simply out of my way.

Somewhere along Rizal Avenue
Somewhere along Rizal Avenue.

AJ, the group’s leader, said that our next stop would be a church inside La Loma Cemetery. I got excited because I hear about La Loma but I haven't visited it yet. I heard that La Loma Cemetery has a beautiful old church inside.

Street to La Loma Cemetery
The street to La Loma Cemetery.

St. Pancratius Church

The guard freaked out when he saw the SLR camera of my companion. He almost stopped us from entering the cemetery until we promised that we will not take photos of the church interior.

We didn't go to La Loma Church but stopped at St. Pancratius Church instead.

St. Pancratius Church in La Loma Cemetery
St. Pancratius Church in La Loma Cemetery.

I never heard of St. Pancratius and I found it unusual to see a church in the Philippines dedicated to a less known saint.

Statue of St. Pancratius
St. Pancratius

Saint Pancratius, who is also known as St. Pancras, was martyred on AD 304 at the age of 14 years.  He is the patron saint of the jobless, the sick and the youth.

We left La Loma Cemetery after praying a decade of the Holy Rosary. Our next stop would be the San Roque de Manila Church.

Walking to San Roque de Manila Church
Off to San Roque we go.

There are a lot of things to see along Rizal Avenue. Our pilgrimage was a perfect time for me to try street photography. I was hesitant to take photos because of the fear that people will be angry with me when they saw me photographing them. But this is a rare opportunity so I took a shot at street photography.

PM posing with a jeepney
Not angry? I guess PM is happy to have his photo taken.

San Roque de Manila Church

It was Palm Sunday so most of the churches that we visited were crowded. San Roque de Manila Church wasn't an exception so we had no choice but to pray at the candle area.

AJ and PM lighting candles

AJ said that the interior of the San Roque de Manila Church is also beautiful. Unfortunately, it was too crowded for me to enter and gaze its beauty.

Stairs of San Roque de Manila Church
How I wish that I climbed these stairs!

The sidewalks became crowded at San Roque de Manila Church. Vendors are everywhere! I suddenly felt like I was in Divisoria.

Sidewalk at Blumentritt
This is not Recto. This is Blumentritt.

Seems like this area is another market hub where products from Divisoria are being sold. People can buy anything here. Bags, fake shoes, pirated DVD movies, clothes, and even these:

Pigeons for sale at Blumentritt
Who wants to buy pigeons?

Few steps from San Roque de Manila Church is the PNR railway and the PNR – Blumentritt Station. I made another first at this place. Yes, it was my first time to cross a railway on foot.

Railway of Philippine National Railways at Blumentritt

Some of you may be wondering who or what is this Blumentritt. Well, Blumentritt is the German friend of the Philippine national hero and ultimate idol Jose Rizal. The street of Blumentritt and the stations of LRT and PNR in the area were named in his honor.

Almost two hours had passed when we reached Blumentritt. We were already sweaty and starting to get exhausted because of the long walk. But we didn't surrender. We continued our pilgrimage because it is a test of our will.


Read the first part of this blog series. Up next is the third part, which narrates things that we saw from Blumentritt to Quiapo and our walk to the historical church of Binondo Chinatown. You can also jump to the last part (Binondo to Baclaran Church).

Information about St. Pancratius came from Catholic Online.