Wednesday, March 17, 2010


We drag a lot of family and friends out here to visit us. When people come from abroad, there are always a few places we are sure to visit.

The first, and most obvious, is Intramuros. We almost always go there with visitors. It is gorgeous and there is a lot of history there. The most recent time we (for the first time) took a calesa which was fun. Horse's name was Rambo which was awesome, especially for a kinda scrawny looking horse. We also went to Casa Manila which we had not done before and is now my favorite place there. It was a house set up to look like a 19th century home and was just awesome. The guides they had inside were able to answer all of our weird questions.

Second place we always stop by is Tondo. This is where we have family, so it is the neighborhood we go to for a more "authentic" Manila feel. Visitors have commented that inside our village, you could almost be anywhere in the world. There is nothing about it that screams Manila (well except for the occasional taho seller). We always spend an afternoon there, eating lunch and then walking around a bit.Our old neighborhood store in Tondo. Little stores like this do not really exist in the states, so it is always a cool thing to see. When I first moved here, I was impressed that is most neighborhoods, one only needs to walk 30 seconds to find some sort of store.

We always make sure to stop at least one Palengke. This is one of my mother's favorite things to do here. All of our visitors get a kick out of it. When we go to Tagaytay, the market there is a favorite. If we don't make it to Tagaytay, Suki Market is our go to market in the metro. The above picture was actually taken at the market in Tondo.

We always feed our visitors some of the local specialties. Bibingka was a big hit. My sister wanted to bring one back to France with her. One this she pointed out was that she never really saw lumpia many places here which is the opposite of San Francisco. When you go to a party there, lumpia is served at every Filipino party you go to. It is as ubiquitous as rice. It is not served nearly as much here. We finally fed her some from Aristocrat which was very blah.

Since summer has started, tons of halo-halo stands were set up. I am actually not sure if we have ever actually bought any to feed our visitors.

We always try to hit at least one beach destination. We have done Boracay, Bohol, and Subic. We have actually been to Boracay three times in the past six months so I don't think we will be there again anytime soon. Boracay is awesome though. Loved Puka Beach, loved sailing, loved lying around playing cards on the beach. We ate some good Mexican food there. Word to the wise--do not break anything. At lunch, I broke a glass and at the end was promptly presented with a receipt for P200 for one glass. Mind you, the glass broke by accident--we were not drinking alcohol or inebriated or anything. Took a bit of arguing and a call to the owner to get the cost of the class removed. Pretty annoying because this is the first time I have ever encountered this ANYWHERE, here or abroad. While I have not broken a lot of restaurant dishware in my life, I was still stunned that they wanted the glass paid for. Unfortunately to a certain extent, that is the cost of doing business. A good friend of mine owns a small restaurant in San Francisco and he built into his costs breakage, pilferage (people were constantly stealing the Peugeot pepper grinders which is psycho), returned food, etc. Alls well that ends well. The owner told us via the phone to get out of her restaurant and we complied. Still yummy food though.
Greenhills is always a stop for souvenirs and the like. It is nice because it is not as crazy as Divisoria and also it is really close to our house. Greenhills is nice because it does not look like a mall one is used to seeing overseas and it is a GREAT place to get items to bring back to people. With one group of friends visiting, we went five or six times during their three week visit.

We also tend to always hit a lot of the same restaurants with guests. Bacolod Chicken Parilla is one of our neighborhood places that we eat at all the time and also always bring visitor to at least once. Best chicken inasal in the metro by far. Love, love, love it. It is really good, and if you haven't been, you MUST GO NOW. I am getting hungry just thinking about how good it is. We also usually make sure to go to Legend for shabu-shabu, Aristocrat for chicken barbeque, and Circles at Sofitel.

It is only March and we have already had visitors for three weeks in January, all of February, and the first week of March. We are (hopefully) getting good at hosting people in the Philippines.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Think I Finally Figured Out the Food

One can generally categorize foreigners living here into three categories in regards to their food. Firstly the rarest are the people that eat only foods familiar to them from home. This is not limited to ingredients and recipes only but even brands. The second group are people who eat exclusively local. Never will they buy an imported item, eat at some place like McDo when there is Jollibee, and will be the first to give you a dirty look when buying a 60-pack of frozen jalapeno poppers (blech--never again--no one else likes them but me so it took me MONTHS to finish them all). The third and obviously more common group are the ones that eat from both. Appreciate the familiarity of some items from home, but buy local whenever it is better or less expensive.

I, like most, fall into the third, but probably even less than many. I do tend to lean towards imported when it comes to most dairy as well as snack food. Once I moved here, certain foods from home turned into major comfort foods. My mother's macaroni and cheese was a favorite when I first moved here although I realized quickly that the price of cheese made an inexpensive meal in San Francisco turn quite pricey here. And like many things, I was the only one who thought it was delicious.

My biggest food thing for me is still milk. I drink it. A lot. If I had it my way, I would drink it with almost every meal. While many claim the UHT milk tastes the same, as a beverage it does not. I have started to stockpile the California Sunshine milk from S&R. While it is still psycho pasteurized (I think the shelf life is something like two months) there is none of the funny aftertaste. Plus, it goes well with cereal. While cereal is not the most popular food here, I can eat it almost any time of the day. Also, randomly, Grape Nuts are sold here. Best cereal in the world and kinda random to be sold here. Corn Flakes and Cheerios, I understand. But who knew there was a market here for Grape Nuts? My sister & her husband visited a couple of weeks ago and they even brought a box back with them (they cannot buy Grape Nuts in France). Best cereal ever.

We do not ever buy meat in the supermarket. This is some weird issue of Ado's. She thinks the meat is not fresh in a grocery. Same for most produce. And on the subject of produce, it is almost avocado season!! Starting about May there will be tons! I can make guacamole! Burritos! Off season, one can find the occasional Haas, but if one avocado is the same price as a dinner out for two, I am not buying it. Same with off season strawberries. And cherries.

I can find bagels now. Either at the bakery inside Mickey's or French Bakery does a surprisingly good prepackaged bagel. Not gross mushy like most prepackaged but has a bit of a chewy crust. It is not the best bagel in the world but a really, really, really good substitute.

Blech. According to Meralco, we have rolling blackouts starting again this evening in our neighborhood for an hour. At least it will still be light out. Maybe a good time to go for a swim.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Foreign has become Normal

I rarely post anymore and it is namely because what used to be so different to me, now seems somewhat normal. The oddest thing that happened today is we saw a naked man walking down E. Rodriguez. I am not sure why he was naked, and while it is the first time I have seen this, it didn't seem to stand out as much as it might once have.

I noticed this more when I had family visiting here last month. We did Manila, Boracay, and then a few more days in Manila. They seemed to appreciate some things that I no longer notice. It is like when I lived in SF. Going over the Golden Gate Bridge, while beautiful, was not really appreciated, just a means to get to Marin. When I go back to visit, I notice the view there a lot more. I have gotten a little like that here.

There is still TONS here I do not know. I still cannot figure out how a FX (shared taxi) works, where 99.9% of jeepneys go, the names of many local vegetables, why U-turn slots were invented, what the platforms are of most of the presidential candidates, how to find out about summer courses for teens, why no one here seems to notice the lack of sour cream available, or where all the toilet seats in public restrooms went. But I think I am doing better.

I can still be surprised though. The picture above I took last week. It is a stuffed baboon wearing a Santa Cap and a life tied to a light post in some neighborhood in Makati . That I definitely took notice of.