Saturday, 17 June 2017

Philippine Snacks: Pilit Nga Turon!

The Philippine delicacy 'turon' is a popular snack among pinoys. Thinly sliced bananas sprinkled with brown sugar are placed inside the spring roll wrapper à la The Mummy, and then deep fried with more brown sugar. During the jackfruit season, slices of jackfruit, or langka, are wrapped with the bananas to add flavor.

But one morning, as I craved for some turon for merienda, I was surprised that the vendor had another turon variety, other than the usual banana turon

She offered me pilit nga turon

'Pilit' means sticky rice in Hiligaynon, and instead of the sweet banana inside the turon, she put in sticky rice! How creative!

On each bite, the bland taste and sticky texture of the filling complimented the sweet, crunchy wrap of the fried turon!

                   (Bananacue on one tray and 
                       pilit turon on the other)

So, does your neighborhood turon vendor have the turon nga pilit, too?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

A Pinoy @ The Movies: Wonder Woman

In the closing credits of Wonder Woman, the film thanks Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman of the 1970s. 

Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the TV series, had the most beautiful face that ever graced the 70's television. She also probably had the tiniest waist line, too. Here's Lynda Carter's official Facebook page where you can see how gorgeous the 1970's Wonder Woman was. 

But this time, in 2017, Wonder Woman twirls out from television and into the theaters, and along with its millions of fans, I was impressed as well!

The movie began by telling the story on how Themyscira, or Paradise Island, Wonder Woman's home, and the amazon population came about. And as it turned out, just like Perseus from Clash of the Titans, Diana is also Zeus' kid from a human mother, which made me ask, 'Are there other demigods living among us who resulted from Zeus' habit of sleeping around?' Hmm.

Going back to Wonder Woman.

She's now played by Gal Gadot, who's tall and got black hair as well. But compared to Lynda Carter's Diana who was charming and was relegated to secretary work, Gal Gadot's seemed more aggressive and outspoken, a very 21st century woman who wasn't going to be pushed around by Chris Pine or any other male chauvinist. 

But the big difference this time is the action scenes, stunts and effects. This was more enjoyable compared to the TV series, as this one is made during the time when we have better technology to create the fantasy, and a bigger budget to realize the imaginary!

And wasn't there any other actor who could play Steve Trevor? Was Chris Pine the only one who auditioned? I was expecting a fresher face.

And as to the final battle between Wonder Woman and Ares, I was a bit disappointed. I have seen those laser-like beams of fire power before. It would have been more exciting if Wonder Woman just wrestled with Ares in a hand-to-hand combat: a battle of the sexes of sorts! 

In Man of Steel movie, Superman and General Zod practically destroyed the whole downtown Metropolis by slamming each other into buildings. But if DC Comics was into body slamming, why not raise the level and had the whole final battle on that German airport à la WWE?

Just like most moviegoers this week, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is more entertaining and more fun than Tom Cruise's The Mummy

And if you're a Lynda Carter fan, you'll also like Gal Gadot, her new costume, her stand against gender discrimination, and her family of highly skilled amazons and their home, Themyscira, which could probably use a resort with all of its white sand beaches!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

A Pinoy @ The Movies: The Mummy (2017)

The trailer was interesting with superb special effects and CGIs. It was action-packed as well! After all, it is a Tom Cruise movie.

At first, I wondered why would The Mummy series have another remake with Tom Cruise this time?

I thought it was, until the trailer showed that it wasn't certainly set in the 1920's just like Brendan Fraser's The Mummy was. Brendan's original was fun, entertaining, and had all the fascinating details of ancient Egypt: the costumes, make-up, pharoahs, and Old World supernatural powers.

This time, in the present day 21st century, Tom Cruise gets awkward trying to be the lover boy of Ahmanet, a Egyptian princess who, three thousand years before, killed her father the pharoah, his heir, and then sold her soul to Set, the Egyptian god of death. Well, that all made sense during the first 25 minutes. The film's stupidity started when Tom Cruise and his posse discovered Ahmanet's sarcophagus in Iraq.

Fantasy films play on our unbounded imagination, which we all enjoy, but I wished the writers and directors would have thrown in some sense into their fantasy. After the first 25 minutes, things went a little bit silly.

And if there was an Egyptian god of common sense, I wished it was there to enlighten me on my questions:

1. After Tom Cruise shot and cut the wire that held Ahmanet's sarcophagus down deep in mercury and came face-to-face with the coffin, he became 'the chosen' because he was the one who brought it up. How on the dessert sands could Ahmanet tell that it was a white American boy who shot the wire when she was down there trapped down in mercury with all her evil powers? 

2. How could a US military cargo train fly from Iraq to England, and crash land in the middle of Surrey without having been intercepted by the Royal Air Force? 

3. How did Tom Cruise survive the crash without any bruise, cuts, or even scratches? Even if he was 'the chosen one', how did he become one?

4. And Tom Cruise could see ghosts?

5. Russel Crowe shows up as Dr. Jekyll, but forgot to sing 'This is the moment' when he turned into Mr. Hyde.

6. If Ahmanet was resurrected as the evil pharoah and wreaked havoc in London, how could she have held court in England when we all know Queen Elizabeth II and Buckingham Palace would have never allowed it?

7. As Ahmanet, with her evil powers, turned the dead knights into her zombies, how could they have learned how to gracefully swim underwater with all their bandages and rotten limbs?

8. And for crying out loud, Ahmanet, from the start only spoke an old Egyptian language, but in the end, she was already speaking American English and was even using contractions! Impressive!

9. I still have a few more silly questions, and I'm worried they are planning a sequel as Tom Cruise becomes immortal as the Egyptian god of death, although he's American! Ha-ha-ha!

A few plots were obviously borrowed from the 1999 The Mummy, but if they knew they couldn't match the first, they should not have made this film with all the corny jokes. Tom Cruise trying to be cute wasn't funny at all.

I think the real mummies in Egypt are now turning in their sarcophagi. :-)

So save your money and time, and just watch Wonder Woman!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

From The South Pacific To My Plate: Sweetened Breadfruit!

At the local fruit market, I stumbled upon this ten-peso kolo, and I remember eating this fruit after being candied. I had to buy two!
Our neighbor, who is very good in turning simple recipes into yummy delights, volunteered to cook this kolo, or known in English as breadfruit.

She boiled the fruit, cut it into small pieces, and cooked it in coconut milk mixed with white and brown sugar. Each bite is rough, but sweet and has a creamy flavor because of the coconut milk.
(Very cheap fruits and root crops at the local market)

Kolo, or breadfruit, originated in the South Pacific, and its seeds spread around the tropics by the navigators of the 18th century.  
              (Boiled, cooked and sweetened!

I was just happy (and thankful!) and they helped bring it to the Philippine islands because after 200 years, it reached my plate!
Now, for one more bite!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A Pinoy @ The Movies: Pirates of the Carribean - Dead Men Tell No Tales

Javier Bardem is one of the best actors out there. If you saw James Bond's Skyfall, he was so good as the bad guy they gave him the honor to kill 'M' (Judi Dench) as a reward.

Here, in Dead Men Tell No Tales, the latest installment of the Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Bardem is Capitan Salazar, a ghostly Spanish-speaking captain who, after educating the audience on how to properly pronounce his name in Spanish: 'sa-la-thár' (si, the 'z' has the 'th' sound in Espańol), would destroy an enemy pirate ship and kill all, except one, on board. He would spare the life of one pirate so he could to tell whatever happened to the ship, because, he says, "dead men tell no tales".

Other than the Dead Men Tell No Tales title, it's also known as Salazar's Revenge, which immediately reminded me of the best hopia in the Philippines: Salazar hopia! Ha-ha-ha! So, you can just imagine me sitting at the movie house eating my cheesy hotdog with upsized Coke, while thinking I was biting the yummy Salazar hopia every time Capitan Salazar showed up on screen.

Although Geoffrey Rush, an Oscar winner, and Johnny Depp, an Oscar-nominee, are very good actors, in this installment, however, Javier Bardem, with his floating hair, Edward Scissorhands-ish make-up, and deep Spanish accent, carried the movie.

Will Turner's son, Henry, played by Brenton Thwaites, and Kaya Scodelario, a scientist accused as a witch, had the most fun with the action scenes. Do watch out for scenes on Jack Sparrow and Kaya's execution. The stunt choreography was very creative and entertaining.

This is what I like with this franchise. It's always an all-star cast, where there is hardly a weak link among the actors. Each is allowed to shine, but some just naturally outperform others.

Orlando Bloom, after having been trapped under the ocean, resurfaced after ten years to reunite with Keira Knightley at the end of the movie. Thankfully, she wasn't allowed to deliver long lines, or Capitan Salazar would have killed her himself. Ha-ha-ha!

Do catch Dead Men Tell No Tales, and perhaps, you can probably bring along the real Salazar hopia to munch while you watch. 

Just don't forget how it's properly pronounced. Ja-ja-ja!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Tawag ng Tanghalan Champion: Noven Belleza's Homecoming Parade

Last January 28, 2017, thousands welcomed him at the Victorias City plaza upon his return before the grand finals of the national singing competition.

       (Noven's January 28, 2017 homecoming)

This time, on March 20 and 21, he returned as the champion.

Noven Belleza, a farm boy who helped in his family's livelihood, once said that, when he was working in the fields, he'd sing to the carabaos. Now, his audience was no longer limited to four-footed animals.

Noven arrived late from Manila on March 20, but his fans and fellow Victoriahanons swarmed the Victorias City plaza until he showed up to sing a few songs that night.
                                  (It didn't rain on Noven's parade)
                   (Parading under the sun)

The next day, amidst the noon-time sun, the City held a welcome parade for him by including his float in the parade for students from local schools who were holding a cheering competition that afternoon. 

Everyone went out to welcome and greet the first champion of a national TV variety show's singing competition. Noven rode a float prepared just for him, and was standing, looking out towards the crowds along national highway, whose north-bound lane was closed to accommodate the students, teachers, and Noven's float.

And by the roadside, along the fences of the Victorias Plaza, a huge tarpaulin hang declaring him as the city's pride. (The greeting actually contained a glaring grammatical error, and whoever authored it must have missed his or her English 101 lessons).
      (The audience included teachers, parents, and                   students who were holding a cheering 
            competition after Noven's performance)
(Noven being whisked away in a van)

Noven sang again onstage but with a lesser audience this time compared to the one the night before. The audience was actually prevented from crowding the center of the plaza because of the cheering competition after. And onstage, Noven was seen being reunited with his former high school teachers. 


A small incident happened, though. There was a public lambasting of someone who earned the ire of a public official after Noven was quickly dragged back to his waiting van after singing only one song. I heard that his handler was later declared persona non-grata by the city council of Victorias because of some not-so-pleasing reasons, one of which was that Noven was allegedly prevented from taking selfies with his former high school teachers.

After Noven got inside his waiting van that day, the van stayed put and the public official took to the microphone to do his lambasting. After a minute or so, Noven got out and went up stage again and sang another song, much to the delight of his fellow Victoriahanons.

Well, it was almost a perfect homecoming, but a homecoming nonetheless. 
A month later, Noven graced the fiesta celebration of Victorias City on April 26, and I was able to have photo with him before he took to the stage that night.
Congratulations again, Noven!

And good luck to your singing career!
 (The huge Noven tarpaulin with grammatical error)

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Philippine Television: Ang Pinoy Drama Nga Naman...

A few years back, I expressed my misunderstanding of Korea's first TV drama that was so huge the stars became the first Korean superstars with millions of fans overseas. 

Winter Sonata, the drama, singlehandedly created the Korean Wave, known in Korea as hallyu, that drove Japanese women 'of a certain age' into Korea to visit Nami Island and other locations where the drama was filmed.

Now that I was able to spend time at home in the Philippines and had time to watch the local Philippine dramas on TV, it was time to write what I understood, or misunderstood, about the Filipino telenovelas. 

Sa totoo lang, yung Nanay ko kasi yung mahilig manood. Ako, nakikinood na rin. Ha-ha-ha! At tuwing may hindi ako maintindihan, siyempre, nagtatanong na lang ako. Heto yung mga tanong ko; sana merong makatulong sa pagsagot ng mga ito.

Since ABS-CBN ang palagi niyang pinapanood, heto yung mga drama: Better Half, Wildflower, Ang Probinsyano, Dear Heart, at Love To Last.

Simulan na natin mula sa hapon hanggang gabihan:

                           *   *   *   *   *


1. Bakit yung lead actor na nakasalamin parang hindi marunong umarte? Siya ay kinasal, na-aksidente, nagka-amnesia, at kinasal uli, pero iisa lang yata yung kanyang expression sa buong maghapon? Naka-amnesia rin yata yung kanyang acting skills.

2. Bakit ang sexy at young-looking pa rin si Carmi Martin?

3. Actually, tulad ng Nanay ko, hindi ko rin maintindihan ang kuwento nito. May lukaret, may martyr na asawa, may nagka-amnesia, may Ingleserang mother-in-law, at may Carmi Martin. Yung role lang yata ni Carmi yung naintindihan ko - at least na gets ko yung mayor na ambisyosa - yan ang marami tayo. 

                            *   *   *   *   *


1. Bakit malakas pa rin si Julio Ardiente, samantalang na-stroke siya pero palagi siyang umiinom ng alak gabi-gabi?  At hindi naman nakikitang umiinom ng gamot?

2. Bakit ang puti pa rin ni Diego (Joseph Marco) samantalang lumaki raw siya sa bukid?

3. Bakit nagpahuli si Jepoy/Madrigal sa opisina ni Julio Ardiente samantalang alam niyang may CCTV?

4. Bakit kailangan mag-suot ng designer clothes gabi-gabi si Emilia samantalang nasa bayan ng Ardiente lamang siya umiikot, at hindi napapadpad sa BGC or Greenbelt?  

5. Bakit naka-americana araw-araw si Mayor at Julio Ardiente samantala ang mayor namin dito naka-t-shirt lang?

6. Saan ba talaga ang Poblacion Ardiente? Gusto ko mag-check-in sa resort ni Ivy Aguas.

7. Si Tirso Cruz ay si Julio Ardiente sa Wildflower; siya rin ang tatay ni Ian Veneracion sa A Love To Last. Ang tanong: nasaan si Nora Aunor?

8. Bakit minsan puti yung buhok ni Tirso, minsan itim?

                          *   *   *   *   *


1. Bakit naka-jacket palagi si Cardo? Malamig ba sa kanyang probinsya? O, baka palagi lang siya may lagnat?

2. Halos gabi-gabi na lang pinapa-iyak si Susan Roces. Hindi ba sila naawa sa kanya?

3. Bakit pinatay nila si Agot Isidro?

4. Bakit ganon na lang kahirap hanapin si Joaquin? Hindi ba sila humingi ng tulong sa Globe ó Smart para ma-triangulate ang signal tuwing tumatawag siya?  Baka puedeng humingi sila ng tulong sa CIA para mahanap si Joaquin.

5. At bakit din palaging naka-jacket si Joaquin? May lagnat din ba siya gabi-gabi?

6. En grande ang kasal ni Cardo at espesyal ang reception. Magkano nga ba talaga ang suweldo niya?

                         *   *   *   *   *


1. Pinadala raw si Doctora Guia sa London para mag-aral at magpakadalubhasa ng maraming taon. Bakit wala siyang British accent nang bumalik siya?

2. Tanong ng Nanay ko: saan bumibili ng perlas si Doctora Margaret?

3. Nauna pa yatang nalaman ni Eric Quizon kaysa kay Doctora Guia na anak niya si Heart. Akala ko ba matalino siya kasi doctor siya?

4. Saan yung hospital na Camilos na yan? Ayokong ma-admit diyan at baka lasunin din ako ni Eric Quizon.
        (Best supporting actress si Susan Africa)                           *   *   *   *   *


1. Bakit hindi si Joe Mari Chan ang pinakanta ng theme song?

2. Bakit ang ganda-ganda ni Iza Calzado?

3. Sa lahat ng drama, ito lang yata yung may common sense ang mga writers nito. Kaya wala akong ibang tanong kung hindi CONGRATS! sa mga sumusulat nito.

                          *   *   *   *   *

Hayan. Siguro, kung patuloy pa rin ako manonood, mas marami pa akong katanungan. 

Samantala, hanggang dito na hayaan ko na la-ang mag-enjoy ang Nanay ko sa panonood ng kanyang mga telenovela.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

RENFE: The Train in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain

           (Estacíon de Santiago de Compostela)

Before I flew to Spain, I was worried on how to move around from city to city. As I was doing my research, I realized, instead of flying between Madrid and Santiago de Compostela, or between Santiago and Barcelona, I could just take the RENFE trains and make those trips part of my tour. 

Even as I was preparing for my trip, I was already daydreaming of sitting on the train and watching the Spanish countryside go by while a guitar was playing Spanish Romance. Riding the train and watching the countryside would be part of my itinerary.

            (My seat on the train from Santiago to A                              Coruńa has a charger!)

                   (Ticket vending machines)

RENFE stands for Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles  Espańoles, or National Network of Spanish Railways. And for me, it is the best way to see Spain if you're visiting several cities. No need to go through airports and squeezing oneself into domestic flights. Just hop into a cab and go straight to a train station.

Before I left for Spain, I tried to buy RENFE tickets through its website. Unfortunately, even after several tries, the website wouldn't let me. Even 'Irene', the RENFE online customer service assistant, wasn't able to help.

So what I did was to print a hardcopy of the train trips I needed to take with specific dates and target cities. I thought I could just present this when I queued at the RENFE ticket office when I got to Madrid. 

But as I was looking for the pre-paid airport transfer stand after landing at Madrid-Barajas Airport, I chanced upon a RENFE stand with one señor manning it. I immediately thought, perhaps, I should buy my tickets here already! So I went up to him and asked, "¡Buenas tardes! ¿Puedo yo comprar billetes aqui?

"¡Si!", he replied.

                 (My snacks on board the train. 
           I just bought Coke from the seńorita)

I whipped out from my handcarry bag the printout of my itinerary and just gave it to him. He asked me if I wanted 'Turista' seats or 'Preferente' seats. Of course, I was a turista! 

After he booked my tickets, I just paid with my credit card. This way, I saved on my Euros.

I was glad I bought my train tickets even before I left Madrid-Barajas Airport. I didn't have to spend time queuing at RENFE ticket office at Chamartin Station, which I later saw had a long queue.

          (The train has monitors showing the route 
            and the current location of your train)

On the day I left Madrid for Santiago de Compostela, I just took a cab from my hotel to Chamartin Station and my talkative cab driver talked to me about Pacquiao and Isabel Preysler after I told him I was from the Philippines. I think I ran out of Spanish during our 25-minute ride. Ja-ja-ja!

All in all, I had nine train rides during my vacación espańol, seven of which were short rides taking less than an hour. My ride from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela took about six hours, while the ride from Santiago to Barcelona took about 12 hours. 

My other short rides were from Madrid to Álcala de Henarés and back, from Ourense to Santiago de Compostela, from Santiago de Compostela to Á Coruńa and back, and from Barcelona to Monserrat and back.

 (I left Santiago de Compostela at around 8:30AM; I   arrived in Barcelona Sants Station at around 9PM)

When I bought the tickets, I asked for window seats because I wanted to see all the pueblos and open fields from my seat.

And as I sat there trying to figure out from my Spanish map the names of the cities, towns, and regions I was passing through, I remembered that, a few months back, I was only daydreaming about that moment, the moment of watching the Spanish countryside while Spanish Romance was ringing in my head. 

    (Tip: Put your suitcase on the next car if your          car's luggage corner is full. I put my ube maleta 
in the next car, and it was easy for me 
to retrieve when I got to my destination.)

It turned out, that sleepy song could never play in my head because sitting there watching the old cities, farms, rivers, and pueblos was interesting and fascinating. 

Well, though my trains in Spain really stayed in the plain, my rides offered me not just transports: they were part of my vacación, my travels, and my adventure!

¡Hasta la vista, Espańa!

Friday, 12 May 2017

A Pinoy @ The Movies: Gifted

It was a bit strange watching Chris Evans without his Captain America costume, and it was even stranger nobody addressed him as Captain Rogers.

Here, in Gifted, he's a hunk of an uncle to a super-genius niece, whose mother killed herself after proving the Navier-Stokes existence and smoothness, a super-difficult problem, the solving of which was an achievement that could have won her a Nobel prize.

Mckenna Grace, playing the genius and gifted niece, became the subject of a custody battle between Evans and his own mother, who wanted to send her granddaughter to a school for smart kids, while Evans wanted her to grow up a normal child.

Although thirty minutes before the end, I sort of knew already the outcome of the custody battle and the ending because movies like this always made sure that everyone went home happy.

But mid-way, Gifted reminded me of Changeling, which starred Angelina Jolie. In Changeling, Angelina was a single mom who lost her son to a kidnapper. In Gifted, Chris Evans became a single dad to his niece but lost her, although temporarily (oops!).

Maybe this film's primary audience would be single parents, who could learn a thing or two on how to raise a child, and on how to keep off meddling grandparents. 

Octavia Spencer, the Oscar best supporting actress for The Help, was the good neighbor who helped babysit Mckenna when Evans was away. 

You can skip this film, unless you're a big Chris Evans fan, or into difficult math problems.  You could probably help Mckenna Grace help solve one of the Millennium Prize Problems after watching the movie.

Me? I hate math.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Pinoy @ The Movies: The Circle

I wonder if The Circle's original title was Facebook-slash-Google-slash-Apple reality TV.

Because all I saw during the movie was a gargantuan of a company based in sunny California, run by two guys resembling the likes of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (founders of Apple), and was about to control the virtual and real lives of everyone on Earth.

Emma Watson, as a new employee at The Circle, and even without her magic wand, magically became a star employee and a reality Internet star without having to disrobe like one Kardashian and without having to dress up like one Hilton.

Although we are all familiar with those apps and programs that have made our lives easier, these things have also taken away our privacy, especially with those cameras that follow us everywhere, even when we pee. The film also reminds everyone that we are all under surveillance by what we do online or in reality, which in turn reminded me of the George Orwell's novel, 1984, that talks about Big Brother watching over us all the time.

And even if they threw in Watson's family's sad episode and her near-drowning kayaking, the scene where her friend, Mercer, flew off a bridge was probably the lesson everyone with a smartphone should always keep in mind: technology can kill.

And this made me ask: what is the movie's message anyways?

No more privacy for all of us? We know that already.

More transparency? Hmm. There's Wikileaks for you.

That computers and apps will rule the world?  'Skynet' did that in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

And you'd also be wondering what convinced Tom Hanks and Emma Watson to do this film? Huge talent fees, perhaps?

Did I like this film? To some extent, I did because it's reality.

Should you watch this film? Nah, you can pass. Just go back to your social media. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Night Boating @ Seoul's Banpo-Hangang Park

Yes, it's probably cool and relaxing to ride those boats near the Floating Island at Banpo Park in Seoul.

Firstly, the changing colors of the man-made Floating Island make it an enchanting background while your boat is making its way around the calm waters of the Han River.

Secondly, whether you're with your family, your friends, or with your current girlfriend or boyfriend, riding a smaller boat and just floating around the vicinity with plans of having dinner or coffee on the Floating Island are a more convenient alternative to riding the bigger boat of the Han River cruise, whose main attraction at night is mainly the Banpo Fountain Bridge.

I once road at the Han River cruise. The ride is actually interesting if you do it during daytime when you can see the apartments on both sides of the Han River, the bridges over the river, and the Floating Island. Though you won't be able to see the colors of the Banpo Fountain Bridge during the day, at least you'll get your money's worth of seeing Seoul's riverscape under the spring sun.

At night, it's just the lights of apartments and the Banpo Fountain Bridge, which I think has lost most of its colors. It used to be really colorful - with fascinating rainbow colors. But over the years, it seemed to have lost most its colors.

That's why it's probably more fun, especially for kids, to get on these small boats and just laze around the calm, quiet waters of the Han River near the Banpo Park. The kids won't get bored as the ride isn't that long. I think they'd probably even want to stay on the boat longer.

So, one of these cool nights, you know where to boat, float and relax!