Friday, July 22, 2011


It has been a weekend of departures. Sad or otherwise.

TRAVELTIP:That's my seat at the back. 9C. Business Class leg room at a budget price, away from any drooling seatmate !

HUNGRY. Halfway to Ormoc, I got hungry. So, I got this meal (P100) and Tropica (P50) from the Supercat food trolley.  

THE DRIVE. Two hours on the road (from Ormoc) and I found myself in Tacloban! Travel time would have been doubled (read: pain in the arse, butt-numbing long bus ride) if not for the warm hospitality of my best buddy and host that weekend, Amed. He was in the area for work and was scheduled to be in Tacloban that evening. Off we zoom in his car to the land of Pintados and binagul! Surprisingly, the road has been well-paved already, unlike many years ago. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zubuchon lechon

For the uninitiated, Cebu is best known for her lechon. Not that I am being patronizing but kapag lechon na ang pinag-uusapan gayud, wala nang tatalo pa sa lechon ng Cebu mga inday at dodong.  

my iba (kamias) shake while waiting for the meet-up to start. photography | RV ESCATRON

The location of Zubuchon is partly hidden from the street but the logo of a red, giddy and seemingly happy pig is hard to miss. By the front door, a friendly waitstaff greeted me and then accommodated my request to reserve two tables near the entrance. I arrived ahead of everyone, got seated by my lonesome and just observed how things were inside the restaurant. There was something about the sleek interior that I love. Maybe it's the Ikea design to it. The chairs look really cool! The lighting, ambient. The kitchen design, open-type so one sees what's going on. The menu (black) board looks artsy. I arrived at 6pm and noticed that most customers were getting the take-away. The other side of the room had had a group of eight people and a couple of tables to my right were occupied

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I've never tasted something as awesome as this food!

Yes, I've never tasted something this good.

the warning. I was forewarned that the taste is at its best when its older. I picked the oldest in the batch, shoved a slice inside my mouth. I waited for that moment when its rich flavor with a sweet, fatty kick melted in my tongue. The velvety smooth texture as it touches ones palate has been the stuff of legend in my clan (it dates back to the time when my great grandfather, the dakilang lolo Kikoy, was still alive). My pilyang mother when she was very young was severely punished several times by the (feared and revered) old man for having been caught sneaking into the kitchen when everyone was asleep just so she could have a bite of this food which-we-shall-not-name-for-now. Must be that tempting, ha!

family secret. The baker (okay, giveaway clue number one: it's a baked goody) must only be from a southern town in Cebu and great grandfather paid the services for a couple of days baking in a small and unknown town in Bohol, in the kitchen of a daku nga bay (big house) overlooking a pea-green river that cuts coconut and cacao plantations on one side and a vast rice field on the other.

The tradition started during the golden era of the old man (He had gold dentures din. Pun intended.). He was a hardworking farmer ("intense!" all my grandaunts would say) and had a strong devotion to San Isidro Labrador. For a couple of days in May, he would pull all stops to celebrate the feast day of his patron saint. And just because he had everything at his disposal, he could be decadent and get away with it. For the feast, cows from his ranch were roasted. For the morning guests, cacaos were grounded and whisked to form a rich, thick and frothy hot chocolate. What could go best with a cup of sinfully hot chocolate than a slice of a decadent local cake known as (drum rolls, please) torta!


The ingredients of this torta are deadly. It's a lethal combination of egg yolk and pork lard. Plus sugar, flour and leavened by tuba (coconut wine). 

Sa di inaasahang pangyayari, after decades of grand annual fiestas, the old man's health deteriorated and so everything was put on hold. His eventual passing signaled the end of an era. Later on, most of my grandaunts turned against each other. The colorful family saga is one good material for a soap opera, I tell you. With that being said, the tradition simply stopped. All that remained were stories of epic proportion, stories which are a treasure trove of family traditions but just written inside the head.

Nag-ala Indiana Jones ako for this project. Sabi ni ermats, the bakers were known to have come from Argao town, 68 kilometers southeast of Cebu.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

volunTOURISM in the boondocks (travel with a heart)

photography | RV ESCATRON

Bugoy in action!
I just got back from the mountains! Sweat, mud, blisters and all but with a joy in my heart and a smile painted on my face. It was three days in the work camp laying the foundations of an organic chicken coop which in the long run will transfer technology and alleviate an impoverished village tucked in the wilderness of Negros.

Hanep. Three days was a test of patience and endurance for me and my students. Mornings were spent in the work camp (concentration camp nga eh, sabi ni bossing) while the afternoons were spent working with the local elementary (multi-grade sila dito at hanggang grade four lang due to lack of teachers and facilities. multi-grade ibig sabihin combined ang grade I at II and grade III and IV) school students. And the fourth day's plan is to chill. Simply to lie down in a strip of white sandbar near Bais Bay.

Sanay na ako sa ganitong mga gawain. I grew up in the countryside as well. Nakapagtapos ako ng elementarya sa isang nayon. Iba ang feeling, parang bumabalik ang dati. Bittersweet, ika nga. Yong nagbubungkal kami ng lupa para sa hardin sa paaralan. Ang summer job ko nuon, nag-aararo nga eh, at nagtatanim pa ng palay at kamoteng kahoy. No regrets. I have a happy childhood. And probably the reason why I easily get adjusted dahil early on, exposed na ako sa samut-saring realities. I had classmates who barely had food to eat at lunchtime. Most of them had dried fish for lunch. Others only had salt and rice. There was a time when my lunch box was not a box but banana leaves. Looking back, it was a happy childhood.

During this trip, on day one, I saw three girls who look exactly the same. Magkakamukha talaga. I just shrugged the idea that they are triplets or sisters. But on our last day, while the girls were lining up for lunch (we prepared simpleng food for everyone), I finally asked one of them. The reply surprised me. I was not ready for it! Read on to find out.

photography| RV ESCATRON

Sunday, July 3, 2011

playing tourist in my (little Baguio of a) hometown

Mt. Talinis | photography: RV ESCATRON
moving places, restless feet

I have lived (at last count) in 18 houses 
in 13 different locations,
averaging 6 months each.

Each experience of a new town is a love affair, uniquely its own. What brought me to such wonderful places like Cebu, Malate, New Manila, Mandaue and then back to Cebu again is work. The kind of work that has become, sadly, lackluster and confined in the long haul, so I quit and throw caution to the wind.

As of this writing, I am in Valencia--a small town in the foothills of Cuernos de Negros mountains in Southern Philippines. Looking back, it's been 3 + wonderful years here! By end of this year, I will move to a bigger city for my big city fix. But before I leave this town, I'd like to share with you its little charm that has floored me all these years.

Known otherwise as the Little Baguio of Oriental Negros, this town boosts of dirt-priced fresh farm produce, cool mountain air and gardens in every square inch of the town.

my (new) hometown. Mine is a classic story: I arrived in Valencia one summer day three years ago. I fell in love with the town and decided to move mountains so I can live here. And I did!