26 October 2008

Holy Threads

Chichiria in Binondo, Manila.

The Santo NiƱo has many incarnations and "looks". Neighborhood tailors tend to go with cutesy things like basketball jerseys, while the more mainstream fancy, embroidered, shiny, and quite regal-garish selections are found in major trading spots all over the country:

The ceremonial wear on display in Old Manila.

25 October 2008

All Over the Place

To all the readers of this blog and Gardencore: I apologize for the recent lapses. Been running around the place. Plus, my laptop is acting funny (but not haha funny).

22 October 2008

Famous To Me

The very appearance of someone in a publicly placed photo makes them persons of curiosity to the easily amused. And his cookies were really good.

21 October 2008

Champurrado and Champorado

On a cold, damp day in San Francisco, I was sitting in a bus, hardcore fiending for some Philippine cacao. Thick, dark, not instant stuff, not scrimping on the bean. It was pretty understandable that I frantically jumped up and yanked the stop cord as I saw a sign outside a cafe that said "Champurrado! It's back!".

I had previously read that Mexicans made their champurrado with corn, instead of rice. I was a bit disheartened, therefore, to receive a cup filled with what is basically hot chocolate with masa harina (corn flour) and cinnamon mixed in. Or, from a corn-centric view, it is an atole or corn-flour beverage with chocolate mixed in.


Of course, I grew up with Filipino champorado-- whole pieces of sticky rice, floating (suspended) in a goop of thick, dark, chocolate. More like, the best porridge in the world. I was expecting whole corn bits for texture. This is not to say that it wasn't good-- frothy and at least more dense than most Western cacao drinks-- but the name can mislead poor homesick Filipinos.

Street champorado.

Yesterday, I was walking the streets of Manila and came across a man pushing a cart with large vats of champorado and pansit. Many people congregated. I was interested in the chocolate stuff, as I always am!

Most folks opt for evaporated milk on.

Drowning in milk for this fellow.

Curiously enough, the co-existence of champurrado and champorado brings historical interactions alive. While champurrado had no doubt previously existed as atole de chocolate, the Philippines only obtained cacao during the galleon trade. Our own version may have been a Spanish-time invention, but who gave it the name?

Apparently, champurrar, vernacular Latin American for "mixing drinks", came from the Malay word tchampur or campur, meaning the same thing, or simply, "to add". Consider this a word that migrated into the Americas from Southeast Asia, and has gone as far as French Algeria (champoraux, a coffee and alcohol mixture).

This puzzle of great variations, but same names (and an additional factor of possible renaming from an atole to something specific), makes me think about galleon snippets. Boholano slaves in Acapulco and the current abundance of chocolate in Bohol. Our shared tool, the chocolate frother, there called molinillo, here, batirol, batidor, or chocolatera. And so on, and so forth.

What a species advantage it is-- to be delicious! The cacao needed only to hit a taste bud for humans to carry it across oceans and make it a part of their lives and desires.

20 October 2008

Fried Tofu

1/3 inch slices of tofu, served by an arroz caldo vendor.

A simple, 5 peso street snack in Old Manila for vegetarians like moi. Fried slices of tofu, with toasted garlic. You can pour on soy sauce with chopped onions floating in it, as well as vinegar.

Slicing the tofu into small, bite-sized bits.

17 October 2008

Naughty Cat Night

Same night, different places, lookalike cats, mischief.

Knocking basurahan over and eating some muffins.

Parking lot chilling. Pawmarks on windshield.

16 October 2008

This Is My Route

Jeepney route signs made of stickers.

I love looking at fonts in public, especially bus, jeepney signs, etc.

Certainly they are free of much of the stylish trendy BS in graphic design. Sign-makers have to prioritize getting a message out there, whilst moving. Through the use of color, font size, and even an occasional establishment's logo, with the constraint of medium (cheap paint or cut-out stickers), they get it done.

The signs are usually sold to drivers at some improvised stand along the route, or by word-of mouth among route-mates.

This one come in neon.

They come on some kind of thin plywood (recently, plastic). Mostly, they come with a suction for the glass, with a little hook, so once a driver is going the opposite way on his route, he will unhook the sign and usually flip it around.

Waving golden Chinese cat says, get on now.

15 October 2008

Hot Monay (with Palaman)


I was standing by the fishball stall in UP feeling hungry, waiting for the lumpia vendor to walk by. The heavens parted and the monay guy biked up.

I much prefer salty or herby bread to the sweet type, but this monay vendor was just so personable. He pitched some homemade peanut butter too, which was quite close to perfection.

14 October 2008

Bus Conductor Tools of the Trade

A specially-made side pouch for money and little receipt pads (this one is made of denim).

Rubber around the thumb, to enable for silent and speedy tearing off of little bus tickets (or receipts) from little pads.

Bus tickets with denominations on them. When the trip is far, you can get a combination of five tickets, all differently colored with various amounts. A bitch for recording expenses.

13 October 2008

Big-Budget Cheese

Something to write home about. A busy store called "Cheapy" along a Hong Kong shopping street showcases a video of a very expensive-looking pop concert. Everyone was in modified, metallic bird costumes and doing arching motions whilst dancing. Incredible!

11 October 2008


Regular eggs, fermented eggs.

The Chinese like stacking, stacking, stacking. Everything is stacked. Repetition makes mixing storage with display a bit more acceptable. Small stores have boxes beside the counter, along their walls.

It also makes refuse less of an eyesore.

Styrofoam coolers along the road.

07 October 2008

Milk Tea Bars

Chocolate milkshake with mint syrup on the bottom.

Pearl shakes and milk tea joints are all over Macau and Hong Kong. We trawled a couple. I'm not sure if these are mushrooming recently now, just as Manila is seeing a frozen-yogurt construct-your-own-dessert wave.

I would never drink this sort of stuff in the Philippines, but the lure of novelty is a lure indeed.

Tapping some ice cream into the milkshake.

Robot bartender shakes milk tea.

Separating the ice.

Robot sealer seales with plastic film.

06 October 2008

Improvised Dining Area

Later, dismantle and perhaps use the coolers again for ingredients?

Overturned styrofoam coolers served as tables for one of my meals along a Macau sidestreet.

They eat fast!

You need to grab a small stool and make yourself at home, perhaps rubbing elbows with workers on a quick break. Not too much talking here.

Lotus and stringbeans with rice. 16 patakas or less than 100 pesos. No plates here-- styro is all they got.

Marginalized vegetarian I am not.

05 October 2008

Saliva Soup

"Quality A" little bunches of bird spit.

In China (and Chinatowns and Chinese territories), you will find, in health shops, expensive packets of birds' nests being sold. They are used to make soup that apparently balances the body's constitution.

Ronnie, our caretaker. Also a busyador (nest gatherer).

Seeing these in Macau and Hong Kong made me think of my recent trip to one major nest source, the El Nido group of islands in Palawan. The place had been visited by Chinese traders as early as the Sung Dynasty (mentioned in books more than one century BC!) owing to the abundance of resources such as the small bowl-like formations of hardened swiftlet spit found in the caves.

This paradise was called Pa-Lao-Yu or "Land of Beautiful Harbors" by the Chinese, and named El Nido or "the nest" by the Spanish.

El Nido cliffs.

Among these jagged and beautiful limestone cliffs and mountains of El Nido are caves where bats and swiftlets or balinsasayaw abound. There are views that nest collection is endangering the birds. People often to collect beyond the prescribed period. as the thing commands exorbitant prices on the market. Creating any kind of shelter or useful thing out of bodily excretions is indeed a talent, which we shouldn't ever lose to commerce.

Here are some, on a spinning plate. That really cracked me up.

04 October 2008

Better Living Through Soup

Muscles? Allergic reaction? I can't read this Macau restaurant spread but it's funny.

I was watching some Chinese programming in my room and saw a (subtitled) news segment about the resurgence of medicinal soup. For any affliction you have-- too much heat, a sluggish liver, qi stagnation, lackluster hair-- there exists a corresponding soup. Many are cooked over a few hours and double as some kind of therapeutic tea.

With offerings going way beyond just bovine balls for virility, this is the savory soup version of the ancient adage: "Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way."

Furthermore, office people are taking up arms and demanding for healthier food despite their stuckness in their buildings. In Hong Kong, where the LOHAS segment is expanding just as it is worldwide, good money is being made on pre-ordered medicinal soup, delivered to offices everyday.

Reminds me of the Goolai phenomenon in Manila, except it's food made using traditional and native ingredients.

03 October 2008

Carinderias, Macau-Style

Macau side-street eats.

Back from a short trip to Macau. I've officially expanded my intestines beyond tolerable levels, gaining 3 pounds in the process. Amazed at how similar our carinderia layouts are to theirs.

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