Entertainment, Field Work, Geography, Music, Sociology, Travel, Urban Ethnomusicology

Friendly Tips for Urban Ethnomusicologists (Field Researchers)

Mabuhay! My apologies for not blogging lately for I have been focused on doing my undergraduate thesis on the Ethnography of Live Professional Musicians in Metro Manila. In my thesis, I have been doing immersion trips in various live music scenes in Metro Manila, such as bars, TV studios, campus concerts, and even private events. Nevertheless, I’m having fun in the process. ūüôā

Without further ado, here are some of a few tips to rock (en-roll) your urban ethnomusicological research.

  1. Reserve for your slot early in the TV studio.¬†Nowadays, ABS-CBN is offering studio tour packages in order to watch either It’s Showtime (Php 205) or ASAP (Php 250) as a studio audience, without the need to go to the ABS-CBN Audience Entrance during dawn. However, the reservation should be done around two months before your desired date. Always check the KTX (Kapamilya Tickets) website (https://ktx.abs-cbn.com/) for available slots. Tickets for ASAP get sold out easily though ūüė¶ For special cases, a letter of request (which should state your principal purpose) may be forwarded to the producers.
  2. If you would desire to watch a concert which involves performers with wide fan bases, buy your ticket as soon as the selling period starts. During the Cosmos UP Fair, a lot of people were not able to enter the Sunken Garden for the tickets have already been sold out, hours before the show. Since I went to the UP Fair solely for my thesis, I bought the ticket once the selling period has already started. Some concerts easily sell out like pancakes, such as the recently-concluded concert of Moira dela Torre at the Kia Theater. Even bar concert tickets get sold out easily!
  3. The PUVs and TNVs are your besties!¬†Some venues may not have enough parking space so it’s best to take either the public utility vehicles or transport network vehicles (e.g. Uber, Grab) to bring you to the venue. However, exercise extra caution when traveling late at night. Safety is still your top priority.
  4. Always bring a small notebook and a camera.¬†Unless the venue restricts video and photo documentation of performances, it is best to do documentation of the event by yourself to be able to note more details which you weren’t able to note during documentation. Videos are¬† “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” field records. In case there are video and photo documentation restrictions, feel free to request for videos from the company’s archives.
  5. Think about your questions carefully before conducting an interview. It is best to observe the event first before inviting someone for an interview. Doing such process may enable you to discuss your observations with him/her in which he/she will be able to interpret your observations better, as well as to refer you to more appropriate sources.
  6. Don’t just focus on observing the performance itself.¬†It is best to interview both casual audiences and regular audiences (more of fans) to get their opinion towards the performance, as well as audience demographics. If allowed to do so, feel free to interview some of the production staff, as well as the performers themselves. For the case of mediated musicians or showbiz personalities, focus more on their performance practice, rather than the staple showbiz talkshow topics. Ask permission from their manager, as well. (Making a separate appointment is more recommended for interviewing showbiz personalities.)
  7. Dress accordingly.¬†Some bars would strictly enforce the “smart-casual” dress code, especially in bars located in hotels. As for weddings, it is best to ask your contact person for the event’s theme and dress code. Decent casual (top and jeans) attire is recommended in most bars (e.g. 19 East) and TV studios so as not to upstage the hosts and performers.
  8. Enjoy, but always keep a keen eye and ear on important details. This is the number one rule for field researchers in general.
Food, Travel


I first asked my dad if he has already been to To Ho. Fortunately, neither in my family has been there yet. So I was with my dad upon visiting this restaurant since the servings might be big for one person. I usually eat in small portions only, similar as the ones served in fastfood chains and Japanese restaurants.


Since I was not really familiar with the place, I first searched for the restaurant via Google Maps. I decided to simply draw the map on my notebook so that my mobile phone will not be at risk.


From our place in Sta. Mesa, we decided to take a jeepney bound to Divisoria. Why a jeepney bound to Divisoria? Because it passes through Claro M. Recto Avenue, one of the gateways to Manila Chinatown. We also found it more challenging to either ride a taxi or book an Uber/Grab Car on our way to Binondo since most of the streets there were one-way traffic. It was likewise challenging to bring our family car since the parking was not the only issue. It would be too far from most of the Divisoria malls, even from the Lucky Chinatown Mall in Reina Regente. The jeepney took our usual route to Downtown Manila which was Legarda St. The traffic was quite heavy since we went there on a Saturday. Apparently, upon reaching the area near San Beda College, it turned out that Mendiola Street (alternative route to Downtown Manila for most private cars) was closed due to an ongoing protest. The traffic was quite light near the University Belt but it was again heavy upon crossing Rizal Avenue. We originally decided to take off the jeepney near Benavidez St., but we decided to take off near Teodora Alonzo St. since the traffic was too heavy.

From Alonzo, we took a long walk to Soler and another long walk to Sabino Padilla (formerly Gandara). It was likewise a challenge for us to walk along the said streets since there were too many cars parked along them. The traffic was likewise heavy there. I tried remembering what I have drawn in my map. Trusting my memory, we walked towards the right side of Tomas Pinpin.

Unfortunately, we realized that it was already Ongpin St. at the end. We decided to ask a random storekeeper where the restaurant was located. It turned out that my memory was contrary to what I have drawn in my map! We were supposed to walk towards the left side of Sabino Padilla.


We have already found the New To Ho Food Center in Tomas Pinpin. It was located near several furniture shops, mostly selling Uratex goods. Since the airconditioned dining area was still closed, we decide to take a seat at the innermost part of the non-airconditioned area. Despite not being equipped with airconditioning units, the six ceiling fans were able to combat the heat inside. The area was quite old, which reminded me of the Ramon Lee restaurant in Ronquillo. The furniture likewise looked old, albeit manageable for dining. It reminded me much of the carinderias (budget eateries) I have seen in Xiamen, China and Phuket Town in Thailand, in terms of ambiance. Most of the diners we have seen were pure Filipinos and only a few Chinese. While the waitstaffs were Filipinos, the headcook was a Chinese since she looked a bit white. The waitstaffs were all wearing blue collared shirts. While most of the restaurants we have dined have specifically designated tasks (i.e. taking orders, issuing the bills, washing the dishes), the waitstaffs here were all multitaskers. They changed from one task to another every time, which gave me the impression that they were a bit undermanned


I asked one of their waitstaffs first for their recommended dishes. These were the top three recommended dishes: Pork Asado, Lechon, and Pancit Canton. We decided to order Lechon. In order to have a balanced diet, we ordered Nido Soup, Pancit Miki Bihon, Calamares, and Lo Han Chai. We unanimously decided not to order rice anymore since the soup and pancit were filling (nakakabusog) enough. We ordered everything in their smallest sizes. I likewise ordered a can of Sprite to balance the taste. Sprite is my usual drink whenever iced tea is not available in a particular restaurant. My dad ordered his usual bottle of SMB Pale Pilsen for only Php 43, much cheaper than in most restaurants in major dining hubs like Malate and Greenbelt areas.

The Lechon was the first food item served since it was categorized as one of the Cold Cuts. The Cold Cuts were treated similarly to the Spanish Tapas, which were eaten as an appetizer. The serving of the Lechon was quite generous. It was quite similar to the Filipino Lechon Kawali, in terms of the skin’s crispness and the meat’s texture. No trace of MSG (Ajinomoto). We were able to finish this.

The next food item served was the Nido Soup. It was well seasoned for the flavor was not overpowered by the egg. Usually, when my family orders Chinese soup, the egg tends to overpower the soup’s flavor. But not for Toho. Again, no trace of MSG. We decided not to consume all of the soup to give way for the other dishes.

The Pancit Miki Bihon and Calamares were served simultaneously. The serving was likewise generous so it was a good decision for us not to order rice anymore. Toho’s version of Pancit Miki Bihon was one of the most decent versions of pancit in the budget category. As for the Calamares, the serving was also plentiful and delicious. The challenge for us was how we can consume everything? What more if we ordered everything in medium sizes?

The last food item served was the Lo Han Chai. I remembered my parents who brought home Lo Han Chai from MXT in SM Sta. Mesa where they dined a few days ago. I likewiseordered this dish with my family when we dined in Luk Foo in Quezon City. Toho’s version was quite different since it had a lot of green peas, Chinese pechay, and a lot of young corn. However, the reason why Toho’s Lo Han Chai was inexpensive was that it did not have Shiitake Mushrooms and Taingang Daga. It only had button mushrooms as the edible fungus. It still tasted well though.


I asked one of their waitstaffs if they have an idea regarding the history of the New To Ho Food Center. They requested me instead to wait for their boss at 1pm. At 1pm, I was able to ask a few information from Ms. Kathleen Wong, one of the descendants of the restaurant‚Äôs founder. She mentioned that the present area was still the same since 1888. However, it got razed by fire in 1983 and it was renovated in 1986. The original name of the restaurant was Antigua Panciteria and was later changed to To Ho Antigua, with To Ho meaning ‚ÄúGood Enough‚ÄĚ. Year-wise, it was actually older than most restaurants like Ma Mon Luk, Savory, Max‚Äôs, and even The Aristocrat. It truly withstood several historical events like the 1896 Philippine Revolution, World War II, and even various typhoons that hit and flooded the metro.


Staying true to its brand, my dad and I both appreciated the food. Area-wise, it was quite neat, despite the rustic look. I would have suggested to have more waitstaffs to ease the working environment. If we were to return to To Ho soon, we realized that it was easier to go there by going to Quiapo first, then to Plaza Sta. Cruz, and ride a jeepney from Dasmari√Īas St. to Tomas Pinpin.


EDITOR’S NOTE: I originally wrote this for my Field Methods class. I posted this with slight revisions.


Music in the Transportation in the Philippines

I started commuting to and from school since 2015, due to the continuously increasing traffic volume in the Metro. It takes two jeepney rides and an LRT ride to school everyday. I rarely take the taxi for it already composed of a huge chunk of my weekly allowance. I only do so in extreme cases (i.e. LRT broke down so I needed to be in school for an hour).

Usually, when I am with my dad, we listen to either Retro 105.9 or Wish 107.5. Both my dad and I loved listening to songs of the yesteryears, from the 1960s up to around the 1980s, as well as few of the songs from the contemporary. However, most of the public transportation drivers here in the Philippines do not just prefer listening to the top hits of the present. They likewise loved listening to power ballads and so-called “jukebox” hits. I asked my dad why such drivers loved listening to these types of music. He mentioned that they needed to listen to something that keeps them awake while on transit, especially if the trip would last for at least eight hours.

Yesterday, a new song entitled, “Tumahan Ka Na” by Tawag ng Tanghalan Grand Champion Noven Belleza was launched on the airwaves. It reminded me of the songs I usually hear on the taxi’s radio, not only because of Noven’s distinctly high and rockstar-ish tenor voice. The song’s melody, as well as Noven’s vocal timbre, reminded me of the Rockstar band’s hit songs, such as “Mahal Pa Rin Kita” and “Ika’y Mahal Pa Rin“, as well as April Boy Regino’s “Esperanza“. It likewise reminded me of Firehouse’s “I Live My Life” and ¬†“Love of A Lifetime”. I actually liked the song’s lyrical content for it reminded me that in every struggle, there is always an opportunity to move on and start anew.

Here’s Noven’s “Tumahan Ka Na”:

Okay, going back to my discussion, in my bus trips to the northern part of Luzon, such as Cagayan and Baguio City, aside from the songs of Firehouse, I usually heard songs from other power ballad bands such as White Lion (“Till Death Do Us Part” and “You’re All I Need), Steve Perry-led Journey (“Open Arms” and “Faithfully”), and Aegis (“Halik“,¬†“Basang-Basa Sa Ulan“, and¬†“Luha”). Sometimes, I heard a few songs from Renz Verano and Imelda Papin.

I have been reading the¬†Mabuhay¬†magazine, the international inflight magazine of Philippine Airlines, where the playlist was provided at the end of the page. What I saw were mostly songs from Filipino singers like Gary Valenciano, Martin Nievera, Erik Santos, Jed Madela, among others, as well as songs from the American Top 40 and even Kenny G’s songs. PAL’s playlists were almost the same as Cathay Pacific’s and Dragonair’s.

Depending on the mode of transportation, the playlist (sometimes, but not necessarily) defines its target audience, as well as the overall feel during transit.

Food, Geography, Globalization, Travel

The Microcosm of Foreign Cultures in the Metro


The Chinatown in downtown Manila has been dubbed as the oldest Chinatown in the world, due to the long trading history between the pre-colonial Filipinos and the Chinese. During my choral tour in Xiamen two years ago, we were told by the people from the Philippine Embassy that most of the Filipino-Chinese community in the Philippines had Fujian blood since the Fujian province is the nearest area to the Philippines, Northwestern part, to be specific.

Okay, enough of historical talk. Nowadays, the Manila Chinatown is frequently visited not only during the Chinese New Year. Netizens, specifically v-loggers (YouTubers who mostly do videos in reality TV show style), would troop there to do the so-called “Binondo Food Crawl” where they explore and review every restaurant in the area. Some of the frequently visited restaurants are Wai Ying (known for budget-friendly meals), New Toho Food Center (oldest restaurant in the Philippines, since the late 1800s), Sincerity (known for its fried chicken), Ongpin Ma√Īosa, Estero (literally located near the creek), and many more. Hopia from either Eng Bee Tin or Ho-Land is one of the delicacies available in the area. For those wanting to try cooking one of the Chinese dishes at home, Arranque market at the corner of Recto and Teodora Alonzo St. has everything in store, from Sea Cucumbers to Chinese Cabbage to even various types of mushrooms such as Shiitake and Black Mushrooms.


While Japanese restaurants are widely located across the Metro, the most authentic ones are located in Little Tokyo, a small restaurant hub located in Makati. It has likewise became the main setting for the music video of Soapdish band’s 2006 song, “Tensionado”.

While Kikufuji and Seryna remain as the most popular restaurants in the complex, the Yamazaki grocery is known for its budget-friendly meals. Seikyo (formerly Choto Stop) is known for its budget-friendly grocery items with an average price of 88 pesos per item.


In the early to mid-2000s, Tagalog-dubbed Korean dramas such as “Endless Love” (starred by Choi Ji Woo žĶúžßÄžöį), “Lovers in Paris” (starred by Kim Jung Eun ÍĻÄž†ēžĚĬ†and Lee Dong Gun žĚīŽŹôÍĪī), “Save The Last Dance for Me” (starred by Eugene žú†žßĄ), and “Jewel in the Palace” started to be broadcast on Philippine television which later topped the TV ratings. Former 2NE1 member Sandara Park ŽįēžāįŽč§ŽĚľ likewise dominated the Filipino talent search, “Star Circle Quest”. However, it was only in the late 2000s when Filipinos got to have a dose of Korean culture in Koreatowns established around the metro.

I first encountered Korean expatriates back in high school at St. Scholastica’s College. I noticed that they consistently excel in Math and Science. They likewise have stellar skills in piano playing which I have likewise encountered as a student in the UP College of Music.

Going back to Metro Manila’s Koreatowns, the one in Makati, specifically in the Barangay Poblacion area near Rockwell, is the most popular since most of the Korean restaurants are located there, such as Min Sok and Dong Won. Malate, which used to be the hub for Manila’s nightlife scene, has become another microcosm of Korean culture not only because of the existence of numerous restaurants (i.e. Chosun, Korean Village, Korean Palace, Makchang) and grocery stores. Most of the Korean expatriates are also studying in the nearby schools, especially in the De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines Manila. ¬†Don Antonio Heights in Quezon City has likewise became a partially Korean community, due to the number of Korean residents. Some of my Korean classmates from the UP College of Music live there.

Food, Travel



The Mines View Park Observatory Deck (2017)

My first Baguio trip was in the year 2003, together with my family. What I remembered was that we left Pasay in the afternoon and arrived in Baguio late in the evening. My dad and I went back to Baguio the second time around during the Holy Week and I went there again for my Field Methods class.

Here are a few tips to conquer the summer capital of the Philippines!

TRANSPORTATION –¬†There are a lot of bus companies which cater trips from Manila to Baguio and/or vice-versa. However, when planning to go to the Summer Capital, I would suggest reserving them online during Peak Seasons (April through May; Christmas Season) for they easily get jam-packed. While Victory Liner is the top choice, there are also other buses plying to Baguio, such as Genesis.

Most trips to Baguio via Victory Liner have at least one stopover, with the Sison stopover in Pangasinan as the largest. There are a lot of food items to choose from, such as Alaminos Longganisa rice meal, Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdog, Pork Barbecue, and even Benguet Coffee.

Upon arrival in Baguio, there are a lot of taxis and jeepneys which can bring you to any point of the city. Minimum fare for taxis costs around Php 40-60, depending on the distance.

As for the jeepneys, here are some of the routes:

BAGUIO PLAZA-TRANCOVILE (from Session Road to Slaughterhouse Area)

BAGUIO PLAZA-DREAMLAND (from Session Road Area to Dreamland Subdivision)


BAGUIO PLAZA-MINES VIEW PARK (to Luneta Hill and Loakan-Gibraltar Area)

The Slaughterhouse Area was originally a slaughterhouse, as per namesake. However, it later became a transport terminal for vehicles plying to the rest of Benguet like the town of Kabayan which is a favorite destination of mountaineers, thanks to the famous Mt. Pulag. Some vehicles are also bound to the rest of the Cordillera Administrative Region, such as the provinces of Kalinga, Ifugao, and Mountain Province.

LODGING –¬†There are a lot of options to choose from. While some hotels, such as Microtel (near Victory Liner Terminal and SM City Baguio), Hotel Veniz (near Abanao Square), Venus Parkview (right across Burnham Park), and Casa Vallejo (also near the Victory Liner Terminal) are located in the city’s commercial district, there are also transient houses that charge less, albeit far from the metropolis. One of the most luxurious lodging areas in Baguio is The Manor at the Camp John Hay which charge around Php 5000 per night.

FOOD –¬†While fastfood chains, such as Jollibee and McDonald’s are located at the Session Road area, homegrown restaurants are also found in the Summer Capital. For cakes, pizza, and pasta , Vizco’s is one of the favorites, especially for its Strawberry Shortcake. There are also caf√©s in the Gibraltar Area which overlook the mountain view. Casa Vallejo’s Hill Station serves some of the finest food dishes. Other dining options may be found in Baguio Technohub and SM Baguio. Strawberry¬†taho¬†is likewise available around the city, especially in Mines View Park, Luneta Hill (near Victory Liner), and Burnham Park.

TOURIST SPOTS –¬†While Mines View Park, The Mansion, Wright Park, Burnham Park, and the La Trinidad Strawberry Farm remain as the top tourist destinations, the BenCab museum in Tuba is likewise a must-visit. While it displayed the works of National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, it likewise showcased the art culture of the Ibalois in a nutshell.

SHOPPING –¬†Baguio City is known for the¬†ukay-ukay¬†(thrift shops) which sold pre-loved branded clothing (for instance, Gucci, Balenciaga), shoes, and bags which are sold for as low as 30 pesos. While there are several¬†ukay-ukay¬†shops along Session Road, the night market is one of the recent tourist destinations. While the city’s public market sells a wide range of delicacies for¬†pasalubong,¬†knitted crafts may be bought here, such as cardigans and bonnets.

Food, Globalization, Travel

Going Global with Food

A dish is always created differently, depending on the region or country. Not all dishes are created with the same set of ingredients. It depends on the availability of the ingredients in a particular region or country. In other words, cultural particularity is always present.

For instance, not all¬†lechons¬†are created equally here in the Philippines. Here in the metro, especially in La Loma, a district in Quezon City that comprised of various¬†lechon¬†sellers,¬†lechon¬†is always served with pork liver sauce¬†(also known as¬†sarsa. The brands available in supermarkets are Mang Tomas, Andok’s and Mother’s Best). However, the Negrenses and Cebuanos treat lechon differently. Instead of serving¬†lechon¬†with¬†sarsa,¬†they rather stuff the pig¬†with herbs and spices, particularly lemongrass, onion chives, as well as Camel Soy Sauce, before roasting it. As for the Chinese, they season it with five-spice powder and other spices. Sometimes, there is a dish called¬†lechon kawali¬†which is prepared by either deep-frying the pork belly in a pan or using a turbo broiler. It is usually served with a concoction of soy sauce, vinegar, calamansi,¬†crushed garlic, and chopped onions. Sometimes, chopped coriander or¬†wansuy is added.

While most of the Western cultures cook steak in quite the same way like pan-frying and grilling, the Tagalogs treat it differently as bistek. Bistek Tagalog is prepared by slow-cooking the sirloin beef in a mixture of soy sauce and calamansi. It is usually topped with white onion rings.

Growing up in the Philippines, I often ate spaghetti, comprised of banana ketchup (plus points if UFC or Papa is used for the sauce), sweet-style spaghetti sauce (could be Clara Ol√© or Del Monte), Pure Foods hotdog slices, and ground pork. The dish is topped with processed cheese (could be Eden, Che-Vital or Ques-O). Up until now, I often have my Filipino spaghetti fix in Jollibee since they serve the best one so far. As for the Italian pasta dishes, I only got to appreciate them when I already reached college. Compared to the sweet spaghetti of the Filipinos, the Italian red sauce variety is more on¬†tomatoes and herbs. The difference is also evident on carbonara. While the Filipino carbonara is comprised of all-purpose cream, evaporated milk, mushrooms, and bacon strips (similar to King Sue and Purefoods), the Italian carbonara is more on egg yolk emulsions and pancetta (pork belly bacon). One of the most popular Italian restaurants in the Philippines to taste these Italian pasta dishes is Bellini’s (owned by a pure Italian, Signor Roberto Bellini), located in Cubao X.

As for the instant noodles, it likewise depends on the culture. While the Korean Nong Shim’s Shin Ramyun is peppery in terms of spiciness, the Filipino Lucky Me! is more on the local flavors (i.e. La Paz Batchoy – needless to say, a childhood favorite with garlicky broth; Bulalo – similar to¬†nilagang baka, with a hint of beef shank broth taste). As for the Japanese variety, it borders more on the rich,¬†umami¬†taste.

Not all McDonald’s outlets worldwide have totally the same menu, probably excluding worldwide favorites like Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets, Fillet-O-Fish and a lot more. Only the Philippine McDonald’s (aka McDo) franchise serves Chicken McDo, a fried chicken cut (not fillet) served with gravy and rice. I misconceived that the branches in China (aka Mai Tang Lao,¬†ťļ¶ŚĹďŚä≥)¬†and Hong Kong likewise sell Chicken McDo since the Chinese people’s staple food is likewise rice.¬†Yes, the China francise has chicken rice meal but the chicken is boneless, served on top of a bowl of rice. McDonald’s Hong Kong serves corn cups as side dish. ¬†KFC in China is likewise different from the one here in the Philippines.¬†The KFC I have dined in Chongqing served soup and egg custard tart as part of the chicken value meal while the KFC here in the Philippines offers a Fully Loaded meal comprised of signature chicken with rice, brownies, mushroom soup, macaroni salad, coleslaw, and mashed potato with gravy.

I have been eating cheesecake since I was a kid. As far as I remember, the first slice of cheesecake I have ever tasted was the Blueberry Cheesecake from Red Ribbon (the time before it was turned over to fastfood giant, Jollibee). The texture was a mix of crushed grahams and yogurt-like feel of the cream cheese. These were the same characteristics¬†of the other cheesecakes I have tried like Conti’s, Banapple (the king of cheesecakes in the Philippines), Cheesecake Melliza, etc. However, this proved that not all cheesecakes are created equally:


A cheesecake-making routine in the newly-opened branch of Pablo Cheesecake in Robinsons Place Manila.

While the Americans prefer their cheesecakes to be sweet and solid, the Japanese cheesecake is more on the creamy side. My family ordered Pablo’s Premium Cheesecake two weeks ago and the texture was quite similar to¬†leche flan. The burnt sugar neutralized the cheesecake’s sweetness. Hmm… what could be the taste of the Filipino cheesecake (no, not just the chiffon cake topped with Eden Cheese) made from¬†kesong puti?¬†Dayap¬†(local lime) could probably be one of the ideal flavors of¬†kesong puti¬†cheesecake.

These are just some of the examples that food is culturally particular. It depends on not just the ingredients available in a particular province or state, but also on the acquired taste.

Food, Travel

I Eat to Live, I Live to Eat

I have been living a life full of food for several reasons: travels, school, work and other reasons. It even reached the point that I got to secure a Looloo (a nationwide restaurant database created in the Philippines) account and make reviews on the restaurants I have been to. Several restaurants made my cut. However, I have a handful of food preferences, the most loved ones and the not-so-loved ones.

‚ÄúAng estudyanteng nagigipit, sa siomai rice kumakapit.‚ÄĚ I came across this statement when I read about the favorite food spots of UST students. This applied to me, even if I am a UP student (who usually reached for Lucky Me Pancit Canton when finances are quite low). Sometimes, I reach for siomai when I do not feel like spending too much on lunch. Some of my favorite siomai spots are Hen Lin (since I was a kid), Siomai House and Luk Yuen (a bit more expensive but more fulfilling).

Chicken Inasal is likewise my comfort food. I would always crave for this, especially when the chicken is authentically prepared. During my early teens, my mom introduced me to Ilonggo cuisine, via Marina, a restaurant that used to have a branch near the CCP Complex. Since then, I loved the ginger-y flavor of the chicken which reduced the fishy tone of the chicken. During a choral tour in Bacolod, I became more ecstatic when our hosts brought us to Bacolod Chicken House where I tasted the authentic Chicken Inasal. I am now looking forward to try Chicken Deli, another inasal joint from Bacolod (endorsed by Ilonggo comedian Allan K) that recently opened a branch in Landmark Makati. Speaking of Ilonggo food, I also loved the authentic Kadios, Baboy, Langka (an Ilonggo soup dish that used kadios beans as souring ingredient) from Bascon Cafe. Wish I could go back to Bacolod soon to try their other delectable dishes, as well as Calea’s famous cakes. I might try to tour around Iloilo next time, when finances and schedule allow me to do so.

When it comes to vegetables, I would always ask my mom, a pure Ilocana (from Cagayan Valley but my late maternal grandfather hailed from Ilocos Sur), to cook Braised Saluyot with Bamboo Shoots for me. I liked how the sweetness of the bamboo shoots blend with the slight bitterness of saluyot and the saltiness of fish bagoong.

I also love seafood pasta (preferably without the cream; The best one I have tasted so far was in Roxas City, during a wedding reception performance.), Sans Rival cake and Adobo. I initially hated the Sans Rival cake since I found it too sweet. I only got to appreciate it when our host in Dumaguete served us Sans Rival cake from Sans Rival, the cake shop in Dumaguete that popularized the dish. I eventually yearned for that cake every time a cake is offered in a particular restaurant/cake shop. Aside from Sans Rival cake shop, my other favorites are served in The Chocolate Kiss Cafe and Conti’s. Since I was a kid, I liked my parents’ garlicky adobo, just enough balance of Coconut Brand Soy Sauce’s saltiness, Apple Cider Vinegar’s (or could be Sukang Tuba’s) sourness and garlic flavor.


Sans Rival Dumaguete’s Silvanas in Chocolate and Original flavors.

Going to my not-so-loved dishes, not that much since I am not that picky with food. However, I don’t like to eat pork liver because of its taste and texture. I am likewise not a fan of fast food style burger because they use extenders in their beef patties. I prefer food which are either cooked at home or prepared in specialty restaurants.

Aside from wanting to go back to Bacolod soon, I would want to visit Cebu soon and try their delectable dishes. I guess I have this hidden Anthony Bourdain in me since I do not just eat to sustain myself, but also to go places. ūüôā


*- This essay was slightly edited from the original work I submitted for my Anthro 1 class in UP Diliman.

Travel, Uncategorized

The Filipino Malling Culture

Shopping malls here in the Philippines are not just limited for buying all the things you want and need. Most of them already provide entertainment (either via cinemas, video game centers or even live shows) and even government services for almost all the legal documents you need.

I have¬†already been to almost all of the shopping malls found in Metro Manila due to ease of parking space and commuters’ convenience. They have also been my “waiting areas” before every event I need to attend.

Without further ado, here are some of the most-visited malls in Metro Manila.

  1. SM North EDSA and TriNoma– These malls never get empty, even during weekdays, due to the influx of people from almost all walks of life: CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) residents, Northern Quezon City residents, Bulacan residents and students from nearby schools (mostly from Quezon City Science, Philippine Science and even UP Diliman which is a jeepney ride away). They have got almost everything you need, all in one go.
  2.  SM Megamall РAnother SM mall that almost had everything under the sun. Like SM North, this is also one of the most-visited malls due influx of people from nearby areas like Mandaluyong, Pasig, San Juan and even Rizal (Taytay, Angono, Binangonan), as well as employees from nearby Ortigas Center. This mall attracts more people during Three-Day Sales and weeks before Christmas.
  3. SM Mall of Asia¬†– Colloquiallly known as SM MOA (read as “MO-wah”), this is the only mall by the bayside. ¬†Most people who visit this mall do not just enjoy the vast selections of merchandise sold inside the mall, but also the view of Manila Bay. Not to mention, most restaurants here are facing the bayside. Don’t forget to catch the fireworks display every Friday and Saturday nights!
  4. Glorietta¬†– My dad told me that this used to be known as the “Quad”, since it had four cinemas placed in “quadrants”, and it used to have a branch of Makati Supermart (which has a lone branch in Alabang). The present activity center used to be a park with aviary. Now, this mall is quite similar to SM Megamall, in terms of boutique repertoire. Most of the shoppers here are Makati and Eastern Manila (Sta. Ana) residents, as well as employess from the nearby business district. This mall is likewise visited by Makati expats nearby.The first branch of TGI Fridays is located here. International record chain Tower Records used to have a branch here.
  5. Robinsons Galleria РAnother hub for EDSA commuters, as well as students from nearby schools (Poveda, La Salle Greenhills).
  6. Robinsons Place Manila – This area used to be the Ateneo De Manila campus before it transferred to its present site in Loyola Heights. This mall serves mostly Manila residents and students from nearby schools (mostly from UP Manila, St. Paul University, Philippine Christian University and Philippine Women’s University; some from farther Taft schools like De La Salle University, De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and St. Scholastica’s College). It is also visited by local and foreign tourists staying in the¬†nearby hotels.
  7. The Araneta Trio: Gateway, Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza – These are also some of¬†the most-visited malls due to the influx of LRT, MRT, bus and jeepney commuters. While Gateway contains¬†mostly international brands (i.e. H&M, Mango, Promod, Marks & Spencer), Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza offer merchandise which are easy on the budget. These malls also provide dining options for audiences waiting for the events held¬†at the nearby Araneta Coliseum and Kia Theater. Don’t forget to see the giant Christmas tree installed annually!
  8. The Divisoria Complex: 168, 999, Tutuban, New Divisoria MallРThe ultimate stop for cheapskates. They sell almost everything here, at ROCK BOTTOM prices. The 168 mall now has more dining options. The nearby Lucky Chinatown Mall used to be upscale but it already has a mini-tiangge for shoppers on a budget.
  9. Greenhills Shopping Center РIf Manila has Divisoria, San Juan has Greenhills. Almost similar to Divisoria, it offers tiangge merchandise, only sold in a little higher price. It also houses Unimart, a supermarket that offers grocery items at equally lower prices.
  10. SM City Manila РSimilar to Robinsons Place Manila, only a tad smaller and more influx of customers. This mall transforms into a secondary student canteen during lunchtime (including Sundays since it is the NSTP day for most of the schools nearby), due to the large number of schools nearby (Adamson University, Santa Isabel College, Philippine Normal University, Technological University of the Philippines, Technological Institute of the Philippines, San Sebastian College; also Intramuros schools like Lyceum, PLM and Letran). It also provides needs for people transacting business at the nearby government offices (This mall has a DFA Passport Center, as well as an LTO License Renewal Center.).
Food, Travel

Why do I love dining out?

Happy New Year guys! It’s been two weeks since the Yuletide Season has passed by. Where did you spend your¬†Noche Buena¬†and¬†Media Noche¬†dinners, as well as Christmas and New Year meals?

My family and I would often eat at various restaurants for several reasons: victory lunches/dinners, birthdays, Christmas, NAME IT! But sometimes, we eat out, just because. Wala lang. There were a lot of times that we tried to do a particular dish from a certain restaurant in our home kitchen. Most of the time, that dish would turn out successfully delicious.

Why do I love dining out?

 Restaurants teach me how to make such dishes. There were a lot of times wherein I scrutinize each dish in terms of the ingredients used, as well as how it was prepared. Was it fried? Baked? Grilled? Did the kitchen personnel use herbs? Specialty cheeses? Truffle oil? Olive oil?

It makes me want to visit a certain place soon. Japanese restaurants and even a Japanese convenience store chain have sprouted here in Metro Manila, left and right. There are times where I can tell whether a sushi is authentically prepared or not. However, I just end up getting confused, unless I get to go to Japan in the flesh. For the case of the Korean restaurants, it was a bit easier to compare authentic ones from non-authentic ones since most of them are operated by Korean expats, just like how the Filipino carinderias are operated. Yet, I would want to get a taste of Seoul soon in Seoul. For the case of the Philippines, I often end up dining in Filipino restaurants serving Visayan food (i.e. Diwal, Chicken Inasal, Lechon Cebu) which make me want to visit the rest of the Visayan area soon (i.e. Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu).

Restaurant-related apps give me that feeling of curiosity. 4.5 out of 5, 5 out of 5, 3 out of 5. Why such ratings? Service? Taste? Must eat in that resto next time. It often reaches the point that I search for the best restaurants outside Metro Manila and even outside Luzon.



Everybody loves to travel, whether inside or outside the country. A person gets an opportunity to travel for several reasons: conference pertaining to a particular field (i.e. Medicine, Computer Programming, Education, etc.), concert with a choir (like I do), field work, a date with family or someone special, and “Just because.” We learn a lot from traveling like culture, time management and most importantly, packing smart. Yes, not just right but smart.

Without further ado, I would like to share some of my suggested tips when traveling, whether nationwide or abroad.


You have already decided to go on a journey. The only problems are, where and when? Here are some of the tips on planning your trip for personal reasons.
1. To spend less, scour through deals online. You can purchase coupons from websites like Ensogo and Groupon. Some airline companies also advertise discount fares on selected dates.
2. Early morning flights (between 4am-8am) are more recommended since there is less traffic on the way to the airport.
3. Search for hotels online which are cheap and at the same time, accessible to public transportation. Also go for those with bed-and-breakfast offers.
4. When traveling by bus, reserve the best bus seat (two rows away from the driver) as early as possible.
5. As much as possible, avoid traveling during peak seasons (i.e. Holy Week, Christmas) because both buses and planes get jam packed during these seasons.

REHEARSAL (Preparation)

Now, your electronic ticket, passport (for international trips) and visa (if needed) are ready. All you need is to prepare your stuff.
1. Better bring two trolleys when traveling by plane: one to be checked in and another to be placed on top of your plane seat. Avoid ones with excessive metal details since these add unnecessary weight in your luggage. I recommend you to use those made of nylon since they are lighter and more durable. Suggested brands: Delsey, Echolac
2. When traveling by bus, a backpack and/or duffle bag will suffice for two to three days.
3. In relation to number 1, be conscious of the weight limit of your chosen airline to avoid fees for excess baggage. Luggage scales are available at The Travel Club (located in malls like Glorietta, TriNoma, Shangri-La and SM Mall of Asia) and some SM Department Stores.
4. Attach a bag tag (with your name, address and contact number) for proper identification.
5. Speaking of baggage weight, go easy on bringing clothes made of heavier fabrics like denim and corduroy. Pack more clothes made of lighter fabrics like cotton. However, pack your clothes depending on the climate of your destination.
6. Bring a maximum of two to three sets of footwear: a pair of slippers when going to the beach/hotel and a set of formal shoes.
7. Pack your toiletries (including perfume) in your check-in luggage, as well as your makeup (especially liquid foundation). Cosmetics made of cream and powder can be put inside your hand-carry luggage.
8. Pack sharp objects (i.e. Swiss Knife, tweezers) inside your check-in luggage.
9. For the case of long bus trips, bring snacks. Also bring your lunch/dinner. You would never know when and where the bus will have a stopover.

SOUNDCHECK (Pre-journey)
This is now your big day. What’s next?
1. Arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight to avoid long queues at both the check-in and immigration counters.
2. By arriving early, you can still have time to eat at the airport’s concessionaires (NAIA Terminal 3 has a lot of dining choices like Jollibee, McDonald’s, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Mini Stop and many more.) and shop for some items. Also, you can still enjoy using the airport’s lounge (for Business Class passengers and Miles cardholders).
3. While waiting for your flight, keep an eye on your luggage.
4. When going for a long bus trip, arrive at the bus terminal at least an hour before your trip.

FRONT ACT (Transportation)
This is it!
1. Upon entering the plane’s cabin, show your boarding pass to the flight attendant and he/she will escort you to the seat indicated on your boarding pass.
2. For your safety, listen carefully to the safety measures demonstrated.
3. Lastly, enjoy your trip!

MAIN EVENT (Trip Proper)
Now you have arrived. You are now ready to conquer your dream destination.
1. Upon arrival at your destination, go straight to your lodging area so you can leave your stuff for the meantime. Don’t forget to bring your valuables!
2. When dining, try to explore the cuisine of the place you are visiting. Authentic cuisine is at its finest when visiting the place per s√®. 
It was only during our tour in China when I was able to taste the other types of Chinese Food. Chinese food is not just about those I have encountered in Binondo, Manila.
3. When traveling around, try to use other types of transportation aside from the cab. There are lots of them to choose from, especially abroad like trams, double decked buses and trains. In the Philippine provinces, bigger tricycles are available.
4. Don’t forget to buy souvenirs which make the place’s identity (i.e. Teas proudly made in China.). Nothing beats the original! Just make sure that your luggage will still meet the weight limit of the airline you chose for your trip back home.
5. Most importantly, don’t forget to visit the tourist spots. This is the best time to do your selfies! ūüôā

So, there. Here are some of my suggested tips when going out-of-town and/or out-of-the-country. Bon voyage! ūüôā