Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Things We Do for Peace

I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week to attend the Annual Assembly of the Cooperation Circle leaders of the United Religions Initiative in South-East Asia and the Pacific Region (URI SEAPac).

If you don't know what URI is, visit our website at

I won't make a detailed write-up of what we did during the eight days we were there.  I don't intend to write a novel.  One thing I must say, though, is that the formal assembly wasn't perfect.  In fact, it was far from perfect.  Rest assured, however, it was a good learning experience for all of us.  What mattered was we were there and we got to share experiences and good practices in Peace building.  It was basically a gathering where we asked each other, "Hey, how are you?  What have you been doing for Peace this year?"  The awesome part was that we weren't only telling each other things; we were learning new useful ideas in the process.

Beyond sharing ideas and listening to inspiring stories, I must say the most important thing about the assembly was that we got to see good old friends and make awesome new ones.  The URI SEAPac has recently gone through major changes that have affected a lot of us.  People have parted from us and the goodbyes said were not necessarily happy.  For over a year, it has been an emotional roller coaster but, thankfully, we've been able to get through it without too many wounds.  The cuts and bruises in our hearts will heal in time.

Anyway, there were over 30 of us in the assembly, coming from five countries in the region (Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines) plus a guest from the URI Global Hub in the U.S.A.  We had different faith and spiritual backgrounds (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Universalism, Quakerism, Brahma Kumaris, Baha'i Faith) and we came together to build peace through dialogue, understanding and loving acceptance.  We went there with a cup of blessings to offer and left with so many cups more and hearts filled with immeasurable joy and love.

So, in a nutshell, during the assembly...

We discussed stuff.

We prayed together.

We ate.

We shared ideas.

We danced a Khmer dance in a circle.

We line danced.

We shared experiences.
That's me talking.

We sang a John Lennon song.

We played games.

We had serious circle forums.

We sang in a chorus.

We shared ideas over food and tea.

We shared smiles and made new good friends.

We went shopping at Siem Reap's old market.

We went shopping at the night markets.

We went to pubs and didn't drink but had fun anyway.

We rode tuktuks.

We visited Angkor Wat.

We visited the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom.

We visited the Preah Khan temple ruins.

We visited a Theravada Buddhist monastery.

We visited a Jesuit-run Roman Catholic Church.

We visited a Sunni Mosque.

We strengthened old bonds and forged new ones that will indubitably last forever!

Photo credits:
     - Brother Rem
     - Brother Samphors
     - Me

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Religion and Salvation

Salvation and God

Imagine an isolated community somewhere in a vast valley surrounded by lofty mountains fenced by a thick, hostile jungle.  To top it all off, the said valley sits on a hard-to-get-to island that Google Earth doesn't have a clear shot of.  In simple terms: very few people know about it and only a selected number of people know that humans actually live and thrive there.

The people in the community live peaceful lives.  They live by principles that always consider love to be a core value.  They do not have violent practises such as ritual killing like other known tribes do; they share their resources equally so that all may enjoy them and so that there is no notion of wealth or poverty; they do not ostracise people born under unfortunate mental or physical circumstances; and women and men are regarded as equals.

These people, isolated as they are, have never been exposed to the modern conveniences that most people have today.  They have their own way of doing things and they are content with their lives.  They seem like the perfect community, don't they?

Let me give you one more piece of information about them:  The closest thing they have to a deity is an entity they refer to using a word that we could roughly translate as "spirit."  Such is the same term they use to refer to Love and the concept of Selflessness.  They have never heard of Jesus or Buddha or Chaitanya or Muhammad or any of the great teachers and benevolent figures that we revere and try to emulate.  They don't even have any notion of an authoritative figure that watches over them; they simply live by the principle of Love and Selflessness.

Now, let me address something to people who profess exclusivist religious principles:
Can you, with all faith in your heart which you have for Jesus Christ or Yhwh or Allah or Jehovah, accept the idea that, just because such people have never come across your holy scriptures, they're automatically bound for hell even though they've lived Loving and Peaceful lives?

If your answer is yes, you should really be ashamed of yourself.

A Roman Catholic priest once told a story about a warlord who caused the deaths of over 50,000 people in his lifetime.  On his death bed, he asked to be baptised and he allegedly repented for his sins.  "He made peace with Jesus," the priest said and ended his tale with "That man is now in heaven with Him."

That story was one of the most appalling things I've ever heard in my life!  Come on!  You're not spreading the good news of Christ's teachings; you're spreading an utterly convenient way to fool people into thinking they won't go to hell if they accept Jesus through your principle of vicarious atonement.

[NOTE:  Not all Roman Catholics and Priests adhere to such a twisted principle.]

Remember the 50,000 people the warlord murdered?  What about their orphaned children who are likely to be driven to lives of crime because some fanatic nut job decided to murder their parents?  Won't the warlord be accountable for their miserable lives?  If his debts were suddenly wiped clean because of his possibly arbitrary decision to repent through a Catholic priest, what of those children?  What if they die never knowing Christ?  Will they go to hell?  Mind you, if we follow an exclusivist logic, they most definitely will.  And where's the justice in that?  Isn't it said in the same book you base your faith in that God is just and that God is infinitely good?

People with exclusivist principles should think about this very deeply.

You see, as far as I'm concerned, there is no hell.  I'm a Universalist Quaker and a student of Theosophy and I believe in the attainment of enlightenment and union with the Divine over the course of several incarnations.  I also believe that the Divine Spirit (that which is called God) is infinitely just and Loving and that Love itself is proof of this.  Selfless and Compassionate Love, to me, is Divine service that no creed can ever surpass.  Isn't this the teaching of every great religion?

For the fundamentalist Christians and other hell believers who are reading this, let me direct your attention to 1 John 4:7-8 of the Bible.  There, it says:  "Dear friends, let us Love one another, for Love comes from God.  Everyone who Loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not Love does not know God, because God is Love."

Do you find any resonance in this or is this one of the many Bible verses you choose to simply ignore in favour of the more violent parts that condone killing your enemies, harassing the LGBT community, subjugating women, segregating races and selling your children to slavery?  Oh, are you appalled?  Let me tell you that if you read the Bible meticulously enough, you will find that such things are really sanctioned by so-called Divine Authority.

I'm not telling you to leave your religion.  I'm making an appeal for you to be intelligent about life.  If you believe in the concept of God, you probably accept the idea that God gave you a thinking mind for very good reasons so use it wisely.

If this article has offended you, then it may be for the best.

Take five minutes of your precious time to ponder on all this.

May Peace Prevail on Earth.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why Fear Death?

silver cord of life
The Silver Cord  that which represents the soul's connection to the physical body

Why do most people fear death?

Is it because of the pain that usually comes before it?  Is it because of concern for those they're leaving behind?  Or is it because of the uncertainty of what's to follow after humans leave their physical bodies?

Death is a form of liberation, if we think about it.  Death is not the opposite of Life.  Death is a part of Life.  Therefore, it is never really possible for any Earthly force to take Life away.  Death simply means another page is turned.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

LifestyleBohol * World Meatless Lunch is Tomorrow

This article is exactly as you will see it on the September 30th, 2012 issue of LifestyleBohol.  I'm posting this here as a public service effort to reach out to those who aren't subscribed to the Bohol Chronicle.

meatless monday
webpage heading of

Granting that you’re reading this on the very last day of September 2012, tomorrow would be Monday, October 1st.  To majority of Bol-anons, it is the beginning of the Month of the Holy Rosary.  To the more socially aware lot, it marks the first of 31 days of wearing pink ribbons, clothing, and accessories to point to the fact that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Yes, you read it right.  A whole month dedicated to the color pink.  Soothing, isn’t it?

Every shade of pink will be proudly displayed throughout October by Bohol’s hippies and social advocates in an effort to promote awareness on research endeavors and developments on the very long still-under-construction road to curing breast cancer.  More than that, it’s also a symbolic extension of hands to those presently living with the disease.  I’m urging everyone reading this article to join the movement.  You can wear a pink ribbon on your chest, a pink baller band, a pink sticker on your I.D. card, or maybe a couple of pink stripes on your lanyard made using a marker.  Anything, really.  You can get creative with pink.  A simple positive gesture makes a huge difference.

Anyway, let’s move on to my primary reason for writing this entry.  Another thing happening tomorrow is something called the World Meatless Lunch.  It’s an awareness initiative created by Filipino environmentalists headed by Dr. Custer C. Deocaris, a molecular biologist who cares deeply for the planet.  This idea was inspired by Meatless Monday, an international campaign run by the Bloomberg Public Health School of Johns Hopkins University, one of the most prominent and advanced medical research institutions in the world, promoting a vegetarian diet every Monday for the improvement of personal health and the health of the planet.  The latter has a Filipino version called Luntiang Lunes, for which a bill to proliferate the campaign and institutionalize the concept in schools is already in its early development stage.  It will mark every single Monday as a day to rejoice for veggie lovers and a day to dread for professed carnivores.

Tomorrow’s event, the World Meatless Lunch, however, isn’t quite Meatless Monday yet.  It’s simply a call for everyone to forego meat for just one meal—lunch.  It encourages solidarity where, at lunch hour, we imagine ourselves on one enormous dining table munching on vegetables and fruits with the rest of the world.

Some of you may be wondering how this meat “mayhem” relates to the environment since this is, as I said, a movement initiated by environmentalists.  No worries, I’m getting there.  Most of you have probably heard secular vegetarians and vegans cite health as a reason.  On the other hand, those whose basis for their special diet is religion or spiritual study would tell you that compassion and kindness to all sentient beings is their primary motivation.  However, an inexplicably large beneficiary of a vegetarian diet is our very own Planet Earth.  Why, you ask?  I’ll give you a number of reasons.

FACT:  45% of the Earth’s habitable land area has been cleared for raising livestock and growing crops to feed them.  To cite a rather extreme example, 70% of the Amazon forest’s original tree-rich terrain has been flattened for this purpose.  Several wildlife species endemic to it are at risk of extinction because of our perceived need to produce so much meat.

ANOTHER FACT:  In November 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), for which Filipino artist Lea Salonga has been recently selected as a Goodwill Ambassador, released an official report as a result of several scientific studies stating that conventional livestock farms produce more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s conceived forms of transportation combined.

Read the above statements over and over again until they manage to get drilled in your head.  Industrial meat production is the #1 culprit of climate change.  That means if the beef steak on your plate was produced inorganically, whoever owns the farm that grew it should, in part, be blamed for the unusually frequent flooding or excruciatingly long drought periods.  Don’t blame legislative propositions!  You should even point a finger or two at yourself for not being conscious about whether or not the production method for your meat was humane.

It’s not that I’m waging a war against meat consumption altogether; I’m merely giving you a few very good reasons to lessen your hunger for flesh.  If you care enough to translate thoughts into actions, you can start by joining the rest of the nation’s caring citizens in turning tomorrow’s World Meatless Lunch into an impactful statement both to others and to yourself.  Make it a test run to see if you can manage a meal without flesh obtained by killing a previously living, breathing creature.  That means you should have lunch with no pork, no beef, no chevon (kanding), no chicken, no fish, no shrimps, not even bivalve shells—just dairy, eggs, and vegetables.  You will find it very light on your tummy afterwards.  You might even decide to forego meat for the rest of the day.

My hand, as a vegetarian, is permanently glued to the cause of compassion, health, and environmental healing through meatless meals for the rest of my life.  It’s a conscious choice I’ve made which I happen to be very, very happy about.  I know this is extremely difficult for most people but I’m glad to say there is a growing number of vegetarians in Bohol.  We are not aiming to proselytize the rest of the province into taking the same path.  We are merely appealing to your good nature to count yourselves in along with the thousands of people observing World Meatless Lunch tomorrow.  Come hand-in-hand with us even if it’s just for one meal.  Surely, you could bear it.  Command yourself to muster the willpower.  If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for our Mother, the Earth.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why Vegetarian?

Broccoli - My Favourite Vegetable

I don't have anything against people who eat meat.  I'm perfectly fine around meat eaters as long as they don't coerce me into consuming animal flesh or relentlessly question my food choices.  In such a scenario, I'd usually end up saying "because I've realised I actually don't like dead animals anywhere near my mouth—let alone in my body."  That's the raw truth and I try my best to avoid saying it around meat eaters.  However, I might be forced to say it if I exhaust my bank of euphemisms.

I don't want to have to kill sentient beings to live because, as far as I'm concerned, I can maintain a perfectly healthy existence without relying on the death of living, breathing beings.  Animals can have a fruitful existence and serve an ecological purpose for the Earth without me killing and eating them.

Some people argue that animals exist primarily as food for us humans.  Nothing could be more human-centric than that.  With that kind of premise, it also means that if we allow animals to thrive freely and live fully, their lives would be useless.  I can't accept such a statement.  I don't think animals' lives would go to waste if we don't kill them.  If a mother sow could speak, she wouldn't agree with you if you tell her that her piglets' lives would be wasted if we don't kill them just so we could serve lechon de leche for Christmas dinner.

While I don't deny that humans are omnivorous by nature, choosing to live a path free from animal flesh doesn't make my existence any less fulfilled than that of people who eat meat.  Additionally, it has been proven time and again that we don't need meat to survive unless we live on ice.  It's not like we have to forage for vegetables and fruits like our early ancestors did.  We have, as intelligent species, mastered the science of crop agriculture.

There are certain living circumstances where I recognise vegetarianism to be impractical for humans.  Alaska, the Arctic Region and the places close to the Himalayas are perfect examples.  They need meat to fuel the generation of heat in their bodies because they live in such cold, cold places.  In addition, the crops that grow in those areas (if any) would hardly suffice for their nutritional needs.  I wouldn't condone going to those parts of the world and speaking about the benefits of vegetarianism.  They are meat eaters and hunters out of necessity and I bear complete consideration for their choices of food and even give thumbs up if their livestock is self-raised.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is primarily to point out publicly that I have reasons for being a vegetarian beyond the boxed perception of so-called healthy eating.  It's more ethical and environmental than it is for health.  I'm a vegetarian because I know I will live a healthy and fruitful life without having to put myself at the end of a chain of animal murder.  I live in a part of the world where meat eating is not a physical necessity.  Therefore, I will not eat meat.  Moreover, I don't want to take part in wrecking the environment with large-scale industrial meat production.  It's very disheartening to think that climate change is worsening everyday and conventional livestock farming is one of its primary contributors.  If you don't bear the same principle, that's entirely up to you.

I must also point out that the cruelty and dire conditions that animals are forced to experience in large conventional farms is unfathomable.  In large poultries, chickens' beaks are cut off and some of them are unable to heal properly so they end up bleeding to death.  In cattle farms, cows and bulls are painfully de-horned as calves and beaten senselessly if their behaviours prove frustrating to the workers.  In hog farms, mother sows are put in very tight cages and cannot even turn around or stand up.  They are raised for food but they aren't given respect in the process.  If you're going to raise an animal so you could eat it, you should at least respect it and let it live properly.  At least most indigenous tribal communities, despite being meat eaters, recognise such a need.

If you're a meat eater, you don't have to justify your diet of choice to me or anyone else.  I'm not imposing vegetarianism on anyone reading this, I'm simply presenting my reasons in the process of making a not-so-subliminal suggestion.  I'm advocating it because, to me, it's an ethical way of living.  It's a choice I've made in order to adhere to my principle of compassion for all sentient beings no matter what phylum they belong to and as long as they don't threaten my life.

Vegetarianism is my way of expressing respect and love for the Earth and all her children.  What's yours?


O, hidden life, vibrant in every atom.
O, hidden light, shining in every creature.
O, hidden love, embracing all in oneness.

May all who feel themselves as one with thee,
Know that they are therefore one with every other.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

LifestyleBohol * Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen

Ang Tawag:
A Drama Collage on the Soul Journey of Seminarians in their Calling for Priesthood
- A Theatrical Review -

Over a week ago, on the 22nd of August, I had the pleasure of being invited to the celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary’s 62nd foundation day.  Fr. Ramon Oncog, the school’s rector, belongs to my circle of grown-up friends called the Albasiyan Family that has a culture of having each other over during our lives’ significant days.  In his words we were there just as they, “priests, would be at yours and your children’s birthday parties.”  He loves the school very much and considers it to be his own child.  We, of course, came over very gladly to show our support.

The highlight of the evening was a theatrical presentation called Ang Tawag, which translates to English as “The Call.”  Upon reading the title on the program flyer, I was immediately reminded of a song of the same title performed by the Irish singing group, Celtic Woman, written by composer David Downes.  I can’t help but notice the parallels of the song to the calling being referred to when a man decides to tell himself, “I am becoming a priest.”

Directed by renowned Boholano director and composer, Maestro Lutgardo L. Labad, Ang Tawag was neither a straight play nor a musical, as I was initially inclined to think.  It was a devised theatre collage which explored the hardships and joys of aspiring priests from the time the calling is received to the structured and isolated life lived within the walls of the seminary.  Its aim, as I interpreted it, was to convey to the public a message that would tear down collective misconceptions about seminarians and men’s individual journeys towards priesthood.

I have a number of personal friends who get emotional when relating stories of how their fathers left them in the seminary right when they entered adolescence.  Ang Tawag tells us that such things don’t happen anymore and the decision to choose a priestly vocation is now always based on a Divine call received inwardly rather than an imposition by other people.

The collage was not your typical theatrical show where a third party writer would lend his material to a production company and actors would interpret it with as much artistic juice as they can muster.  It was different because the stories came from the seminarians themselves.  They were real experiences recounted by the school’s third year Humanities class as short scenes depicting family life, friendship, community spirit, difficulty, and the immense challenge of self-restraint as the young men train themselves to dedicate their entire existence to serving the Divine Purpose the Roman Catholic way.

In a conversation with three of the boys, Daryl, Lopfer, and Colin, I was told that there was very little difficulty in achieving the production because they did not need to pretend to function in unfamiliar situations as an actor would in a normal play.  Daryl, one of four writers who came up with poems and sonnets featured in the collage, said that all they had to do was channel their consciousness as though they were dealing with their family, peers, or classmates in a normal scenario and not much acting would be required except for those who were assigned to take on female roles.  It was basically 29 seminarians telling people, “this is our life,” as Lopfer put it.  Maestro Labad’s role in it was primarily to train them to drop their inhibitions and allow themselves to be as sharing and open as possible—to remove any propensity to hold back when relating their lives to other people.  When that happened, all there was to do was piece the jigsaw pieces together to form a beautiful picture.

Maestro Gardy, as we fondly call him, was not alone in making it all happen.  He sought the help of Bohol’s trusty local theatre group, Teatro Bol-anon, where the expert production staff was handpicked from.  Assisting Gardy in directing was Mr. Tertuliano Camacho, Jr.  Mr. Jay Banquil handled Choreography; Ms. Evelyn C. Silva managed the sound; Ms. Charo Mae Apipe for lights; Mr. Jerameel Decasa was technical director; and Mr. Rodolfo Cuhit was their acting coach.  It was a blessing for the boys to have had the opportunity to work with such talented people and, likewise, for the staff for the joy of getting to know the inside tales first hand.

I also had the privilege of speaking with Fr.Val Pinlac, the academic dean and vice rector of the seminary, who, along with Fr. Oncog, was co-producer and co-initiator of the endeavor.  He expressed how happy he was of the turnout and audience response.  “It would have been harder for the boys because they had very little time to work on it,” he said.  “But they did it!”

Ang Tawag was awesome as far as I’m concerned.  It began with the smooth sound of a choir and transitioned from chorale singing to individual scenes through a series of sonnets.  The first part portrayed the young men’s different social backgrounds and scenes depicting the elements that led them to answer to the call.  It mostly showcased the heavily Catholic setting of typical Boholano families known for producing a huge number of the nation’s priests.  I paused for a moment and told myself, “that looks like a scene pulled right out of my grandparents’ living room in Dimiao.”  The familiarity of it made me chuckle.

The second part showed specific challenges encountered within the seminary.  Like I said earlier, I saw a whole lot of self-restraint and head pounding for the boys.  From the dilemma of whether or not to have girlfriends, to issues on taking the vocation seriously, to the subject of vices like drinking and smoking, most of the bases were covered, leading to a conclusive dance drama which occurred to Maestro Gardy to include.  The boys sang and did an interpretative dance to Basil Valdez’s Lead Me Lord.  “Napaiyak ako sa sarili ko,” the Maestro said when he related how the lightbulb moment came to him while listening to the song.  It was a deeply moving scene that rendered the audience speechless.  I was left in awe and I could hardly move my hands to clap.

However, it was not just pure melodrama as one would expect from a life lived away from family while trying to build a strong bond with a new family and deepening relationships with God.  There was a lot of humor in it, too.  Most of the seminarians were naturally comical in the way they portrayed their lives, which goes to show how happy they were to begin with.  Other than that, because there were no women in the seminary, it was also a laugh gag to see the young men portray their mothers and grandmothers.  With heads draped in colorful veils, they tried to act as campily as they could without breaking into laughter themselves.  They were very effective and I believe that owes itself to the fact that they bear great respect for the women in their lives and they keep them constantly in their hearts.

I now urge the key people in the seminary to restage the production for a wider audience to experience the same joy my friends and I had.  It is important that people get to know the things seminarians go through in their journey—not just when they emerge as priests.  Like the boys themselves said, “Mga tao ra usab kami.”  (We’re only just people.)  It is important that the lay community is given the opportunity to know them that way.

Bishop Leonardo Medroso and Gov. Edgar M. Chatto stood up at the end of it with praises calling the performance a “very rare and moving” one where the young men took their own lives as substance for a drama.  It’s about time others are given the chance to say the same.

The author of this review is not himself Roman Catholic though most of his family is.
He greatly respects all faith traditions and religions.


Seen on Print:

Blue Moon

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ferdinand Marcos on an Office Desk

You know how you forget last night's dreams at the beginning of the day?  You shower, you eat breakfast, you eat lunch, you work and work and work, and, all of a sudden, at 3PM in the afternoon, POOF!  You remember it clearly.

So here goes:

Last night I had a dream that President Marcos was an office worker.  I don't know what office that was or where it was located.  All I remember is that he was almost buried in paperwork and he had no time to talk to me because he had so much to do.  I tried to strike a conversation but all I got from him was a remark saying he was too busy for conversations.  It was like he was subordinate to someone but he was not suffering.  He was neither happy nor sad.  It didn't seem permanent, though.  It was like he was trying to work as fast as he could because he was after a deadline.
I also remember from the same dream that there was some sort of commotion behind an old glass door adjacent to where Marcos' desk was but he did not so much as fidget.  He just carried on with his work at the same pace.  I don't know what caused the commotion either.  What I remember is seeing shadows of people from behind the glass door. 
In a panic, I went outside the office and reported to a calm-natured superior figure.  I told him something was going on behind the door near the "president."  He proceeded to check it out... And that's all I could remember.

The strange thing:

I didn't have any reason to dream of President Marcos.  I neither talked nor thought about him any time in the recent past.

Brand New Vegetarian Food Blog

I've been cooking a lot lately and I've been going crazy with recipe posts, too.  It seemed like this blog was four inches away from becoming a food portal and I was concerned that readers who visit this page just to check out vegetarian recipes might be disappointed whenever I decide to post normal blog entries.

I saw only one solution to that problem: create a new blog just for vegetarian food.

So I did!  All my recipes from this blog have been transferred there and any new ones will be posted there.  No more recipes here from this day onwards.  This is a blog for musings, not food p*rn, as some of my friends call it! Hahaha!

Go ahead and check out my new food blog!  It's called The Kitchen of an Eccentric Male Specimen.

Click on the link below.

You may also click on the sixth tab above that says VEGETARIAN KITCHEN.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Heavenly Roast Potatoes

a lacto vegetarian dish

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Heavenly Roast Potatoes

This recipe is a variation of Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Potatoes, which I've seen on TLC and YouTube a couple of times.

If you follow the recipe strictly, you'll come up with a boat that would serve:

- 2 to 4 people
And, yes, you read that right.  It says "boat" up there.  A boat that looks just like the one in the picture.

You will need:

- 4 medium sized potatoes
- 3 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 & 1/2 cup of grated Emmental Swiss cheese
- 1/4 cup of grated Edam cheese
- 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves (1 teaspoon if dried)
- 7 pieces of fresh marjoram leaves (1 teaspoon if dried)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of either apple cider vinegar, red/white wine vinegar, or sugar cane vinegar
- 5 cloves of garlic, pressed and broken
- sea salt for seasoning
- black pepper for seasoning

To make this dish suitable for vegans, use the following alternatives:

- margarine instead of butter
- soy cheese instead of Edam & Emmental (or you may omit cheese completely)

NOTE: You will need both a stove and an oven to cook this dish.  A real oven, NEVER a microwave oven.

Let's get roastin':

1. Peel the potatoes and halve them crosswise.
2. Wash the starch off with some cold water..
3. Drop the potatoes in a sauce pan with cold water just enough to cover all individual pieces.
4. Season the water well with salt and bring to the boil.
5. When it comes to the boil, parboil covered over medium heat for 10 full minutes.
6. After parboiling, drain the water out.
7. Grease the base of a heatproof boat or a small casserole pan.  Let the potatoes sit on it cut-side-down and then baste them with the rest of the butter.
8. Season with a little sea salt and black pepper.
9. Pop the boat or casserole pan in an oven for 30 minutes at 190°C or 375°F.
10. Remove the dish from the oven and lightly press the potatoes down using a potato masher or a big spoon. You want to see the sides break a little and make juices come out but you don't want to press too hard.  You are not doing this to mash it, only to agitate the insides.
11. Put your thyme leaves, marjoram leaves and garlic in a bowl.  Pour in your vinegar and olive oil until everything is coated.
12. Use your hands to thoroughly sprinkle it over the dish.  Make sure the garlic cloves sit on top of the potatoes.
13. Pop it back in the oven for another 25-30 minutes at the same temperature.
14. Take it out of the oven, drop the garlic cloves to the sides and sprinkle your cheese evenly all over the dish.
15. Pop it back in for a final time and allow the cheese to melt for about 5 minutes.  You may use a the grill feature if you have it to let the cheese burn a little.
16. Take it out of the oven and ENJOY HEAVEN!

WARNING:  Do not make this dish every day or you'll grow really, really fat!

Asparagus and Broccoli Curry

a vegan dish

You will find that the procedure in this recipe is quite cumbersome.  Processes such as boiling and simmering are repeated over and over again to ensure that the proper sauce consistency is achieved.

You must keep in mind that this is a type of stew and stewing always takes time even if it only involves vegetables.


Asparagus and Broccoli Curry

It's a curry that involves asparagus and broccoli.  Best eaten with rice or soft potatoes.

If you follow the recipe strictly, you'll come up with a bowl that would serve:

- 3 people who really like curry
- 5 people who like curry but don't want to eat too much, or
- 7 to 10 people who don't like curry but are really hungry and have no choice but to eat it

You will need:

- 1 large potato, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium sized carrot, halved lengthwise (leave one half intact & chop the other half)
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium sized onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon of curry powder
- 1 teaspoon of fresh dill leaves (1/4 teaspoon if dried)
- 1 teaspoon of ginger paste or crushed ginger
- 2 tablespoons of oil/butter/ghee
- 1 tablespoon of plain flour dissolved in half a cup of water
- 1 cup of asparagus
- 1 cup of broccoli
- 1 regular sized western tomato (or 2 medium sized Roma/Bangalore tomatoes), soaked in very hot water for five minutes and peeled
- salt to taste
- muscovado sugar or molasses to balance the flavour
- chilli for an additional kick (optional)

Let's get cookin':

1. Heat two tablespoons of oil/butter/ghee in a sauce pan and drop in the onion and garlic together.
2. Add in the carrot (both chopped and intact) and toss for about a minute.
3. Pour in a cup of water, mix in your tablespoon of curry powder along with the ginger paste and bring to the boil.
4. When it comes to the boil, add in the flour dissolved in a cup of water and stir to thicken.
If you want to add in chilli, this would be the perfect time to do it.
5. Drop in your chopped potatoes and bring again to the boil.
6. When boiling, simmer gently for 30 minutes with occasional stirring.
7. Remove the intact half of the carrot and blend it to purée.  Add the purée to the saucepan right after.
8. Using your bare hands, squeeze the peeled tomato over the saucepan so that its juices fall onto your cooking.  Mince it using your hand, dropping each peace you pull right onto the saucepan.
9. Drop in the dill along with your asparagus and broccoli and stir everything.
10. Add salt and muscovado/molasses to your palate's delight.
11. Bring to the boil and simmer for another 5-7 minutes before serving.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Popeye the Sailor Man is NOT FOR KIDS

Popeye seen tossing the tin of spinach away after taking its contents

I used to enjoy watching Popeye cartoons as a child.  Back when I was eight, I used to steal the remote control from my grandpa each time I visited his house.  My next move would then be to tune in to Cartoon Network to see if they had either of my two favourite shows on.  It was either the Tom and Jerry Show or Popeye the Sailor.  Otherwise, I'd give the remote back to him and leave him to watch the news in peace.

Tom and Jerry gave me cheap laughs and taught me two primary lessons: Not to be a bully and to never allow myself to be bullied.  Popeye, on the other hand, made me love spinach betting on the idea that it would help me become strong and overcome oppressive people.  I would begin punching air and imitating his actions the moment he ate his spinach and started beating the crap out of Bluto--all in the effort to save the love of his life, Olive Oyl.

FUN FACT: I used to walk around my village hiding a small plastic container full of water spinach as a precautionary measure in case someone tried to bully me like Bluto did to Popeye.  And, yes, I used water spinach because no real spinach was sold in any grocery store in my city during those days.

Having grown up and become more socially aware, I recently went to YouTube to revisit a slice of my childhood.  I opted to watch an episode of Popeye and noticed how it was no longer a treat to see the violence he inflicted on Bluto.  Sure, the fat man just gets flung to a nearby hill when Popeye punches him.  However, I have personally experienced delivering an uppercut to a bully and it was not pretty.  His mouth bled and it didn't please me at all.  He didn't fly and land on a tree like I comically imagined he would.  Sad, I know, but I was only 12 then.

Popeye cartoons don't exemplify good values and children should not idolise him!

True, he eats spinach (which is indubitable healthy)!  However, if you watch a few episodes again, you may notice that in some of them, he recklessly and irresponsibly disposes of his rubbish!  After he eats the spinach, he is sometimes shown to just toss tins anywhere without thinking about it.

Another photo showing Popeye tossing the tin away after eating the spinach

While I'm aware that it's not the show's intent to popularise littering, such image is subconsciously embedded in children's minds, leading them to do the same thing without giving it a thought.  Subliminal messaging wasn't given attention in the 1930's when the Popeye character was conceived but we have now learned, from modern discoveries in the field of psychology, that they do matter and play a significant role in character development.

If you argue that littering has been minimised over the years of the cartoon series' existence, there are other themes that are worth attention:

- Smoking:  If you haven't noticed Popeye smoking a pipe, you'd have to be blind.
- Destructive Behaviour:  The fact that he tends to destroy a lot of things that come his way without thinking of his actions' consequences!
- Animal Cruelty:  He has been shown in a number of episodes abusing cattle in bull fighting scenes.
- Racism:  In one episode, Popeye and Pappy are shown subduing an island tribe whose population appears to have a dark complexion.  The tribe members are later stacked by the father-son tandem on a rack and labelled "Cheaper by the dozen."  Now you tell me what message that conveys to children!

Popeye the Sailor
Popeye hurting a bull in a bullfight scene
(Self-defence? Why participate in such activities in the first place?)

Popeye the Sailor
Pappy labelling the dark-skinned natives "Cheaper by the dozen."
(I can't understand why you need to add insult to injury after defeating your attackers.)

While I appreciate some themes like the encouragement of eating vegetables and the protection of weaker people and helpless small animals (like that young calf he saved from being killed by Bluto; although he killed a bigger bull in the same episode), I do not recommend the show for young children who are in their formative years.

Popeye the Sailor Man is a cartoon classic but should just not be watched by our youngsters who are in the process of formulating values for themselves.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Arrogant Pricks Who Just Don't Know When to Stop

Dear You,

Please put a lid on your destructively patronising attitude.  It's not helping anyone and it's unnecessarily offending a lot of people.

You live in a free country so you have the liberty to express your opinions as frequently as you want to.  However, do employ common sense to determine where and when a statement is appropriate or not.

Are you trying to call attention to yourself?  Are you trying to make people fall in awe of your deliberate nonconformity to social ethics?  I don't know if you are purposely trying to be ostentatious about your indecency or if your sense of judgement is just way too weak to be able to see where the line between "strongly opinionated citizen" and "pompous, insensitive prick" is drawn.  If it's the former, then it's definitely working.  If it's the latter, go seek psychiatric help because you direly need it.

Your arrogance is way too much.  The fact that you're hurting people isn't the issue here.  What's bothering me is that the pain you're causing isn't the type that amounts to anything constructive.  Sure, you can rant about sensible legislation and political crimes.  News articles about such things are meant to trigger waves of opinion so, by all means, bring yours to the fore.  However, when you use your hammers to merely destroy without the intent to rebuild, it's a different story.  You cannot keep doing it.  You need to stop!  It's one thing to enjoy expressing your points of view; it's another thing to bash and bask in the blood you've drawn out.

Do you expect emotional injuries to simply disappear in the void of oblivion?  For your information: that just doesn't happen.  While some people are evolved enough to let your offences pass, most do not bear such an ability.  For the majority of people you hurt, the pain builds up and causes unspeakable damage to their being.

My advice is for you to now embark on a long journey of self-discovery to examine the aspects of your existence that are worth a ton of not-so-pleasant adjectives.  I couldn't care less if you do it or not, though.  What's important is you come to terms with the fact that you have an attitude that needs adjustment--not to mention a mouth and set of typing fingers that need to undergo intensive rehabilitation.

You need to know when to zip it!

Ludwig Bon Migriño Quirog

P.S.  Another piece of advice: Please work on your grammar if you wish to continue using the English language in expressing yourself on the internet.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

LifestyleBohol * At the End of the Day: A Review of Les Misérables (in Bohol)

This review article's text is exactly as it appears on the August 5th, 2012 issue of LifestyleBohol.  Of course, since this is a webpage, I went crazy with the photos.  I hope they don't end up making this entry confusing for anyone.

Enjoy reading!

I was in Manila on a trip to see the French play, God of Carnage, when my Aunt Bing told me she was giving me a ticket to see Les Misérables at the Bohol Cultural Centre.  I leaped with joy!  “Two French stage shows on the same week?”  I said to myself, “It’s not even Christmas yet.  What did I do to deserve this awesomeness?”

Over a month before that day, I had known about it.  DreamBig Productions and Cre8tive Thespians Circle Inc, the Cebuano companies that brought the musical to Bohol, had created a lot of noise on Facebook about a supposed Les Miz production but I didn’t take them seriously.  I couldn’t help it; I hadn’t heard about them before and I wasn’t sure if they could deliver.  I was obviously wrong to have doubted them and my aunt’s enthusiasm for art proved to be an enormous blessing!

The Show

July 27th, opening night, came before I knew it.  It was to be the night of “ultimate Misery,” as West End and Broadway producer Cameron Mackintosh would put it.  The ticket said the show would start at 7:00PM but we had to sit through half an hour of dead air before they actually turned the lights off and pulled the curtains up.  It wasn’t the production team’s fault, though.  The place didn’t properly fill up until 7:20.  I guess we’ve gotten used to events starting an hour behind schedule that we tend to take time for granted.

I watched the show again on the second night, where a large part of this review will be based on since I was seated nearer to the stage.  Before I go about it, however, let me make it clear that I won’t be telling the story or talking about character backstories or enumerating every single musical number in this article.  This is a review, not a summary.  If you want to know about Les Misérables, Google it or read the novel.

The show began with the familiar overture and Work Song and I was pleased when I noticed the lapel microphones sticking out of the actors’ ears, knowing the singing was live.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to endure a medley of pre-recorded tracks like I did with a few local productions in the past.  What I had to endure, though, was the very bad audio system.  While the choruses were really good, the solo lines sounded irreconcilably hollow, which was very irritating.  Add to the list of flaws the fact that some of the lapels also had problems, which rendered some songs practically inaudible to people beyond the fifth row.

Jean Valjean with the Male Ensemble in Work Song following the Overture
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Jean Valjean

I noticed that, Sonny Alquizola, the actor playing Jean Valjean had a vocal quality comparable to that of Colm Wilkinson, the Canadian tenor who originated the role in the West End and on Broadway.  When he ages considerably, there’s a good chance he might even achieve the same timbre.  My companions and I were certainly bowled over with his performance of Bring Him Home, a song written specifically for the Canadian Tenor.

Alquizola had a few difficulties here and there, but who didn’t?  His most notable predicament was in achieving a solid grip of the very lofty final note of the song Who Am I, a high B which is normally held for seven seconds.  He was also a good actor—his stage behavior changed as he supposedly got old throughout the musical.  He even added more huskiness to his voice in the latter part, which gave an extra tinge of realism to his characterization.

Jean Valjean with Marius and the Ensemble in Bring Him Home
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Inspector Javert

The main antagonist of the musical, Inspector Javert, was played by Andrew Vincent Esplanada.  His rendition of Stars was classic—punctuated with the eyes of an angry Roman god about to smite the unrighteous.  While Esplanada wasn’t quite the despicable pious prick that Javert was meant to be, he knew how to stare at Valjean and the rest of the cast with such hatred and disdain, which helped him make it perfectly clear that his character meant business.  His abuse directed towards Fantine as a prostitute made me want to throw a can of soda at him—which meant he did it right.

Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in the duet part of Work Song
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot


Gayle Marie Sinadjan, portraying Fantine, had a smooth voice with a beautiful vibrato—a cross between Joanna Ampil and Ruthie Henshall but definitely neither.  She took my heart away during The Confrontation when she sang of the character’s daughter, Cosette, as though she had a real child to sing about.  Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was vocally impressive but I have to say she moved way too much.  Her voice would have been enough to reduce me to a teary pulp but her physical activity while singing proved too distracting to elicit genuine sympathy.  Overall, she was very good.  Her appearance in Valjean’s Death sent chills down my spine.  It was the same experience I had when I first saw the show several years ago.

Fantine and the Foreman with the Ensemble in At the End of the Day
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Valjean and Fantine in Fantine's Death
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

The Thénardiers

Playing Monsieur and Madame Thénardier were Warren Clyde Tompong and April Anne Moncada respectively.  Oh what a comic relief those two were after a series of miserable scenes depicting death and anguish!  Tompong sang Master of the House like a pro—prancing with a naughty tiptoe all over the stage—singing about how he rips his customers off and steals from them.  He even had a faux 18th century peasant Londoner accent.

Monsieur Thénardier with the Ensemble in Master of the House
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Moncada, on the other hand, really needs to be lauded for her amazing vocal timbre.  She would have very easily stolen the show if her part were longer.  She reminded me so much of Anne Harada, the actress who played the role on Broadway in 2006, with her amazing vocals and wily disposition.  She had the eyebrows of a typical evil villainess and she knew how to use them.  The audience cracked up in laughter when she pulled a tiny banana out while singing the line “thinks he’s quite a lover but there’s not much there.”  That’s something I haven’t seen in any other production of Les Miz.  She’s a bloody wonder!

Madame Thénardier and Young Cosette
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

It’s such a shame the producers decided to cut Beggars at the Feast, the couple’s second big song.  It would have been nice to see them back in their own number.

Marius and Cosette

I was instantly drawn by the vocal prowess of John Michael Fulgencio, who took on the role of Marius.  The moment he first opened his mouth to sing, his voice immediately reminded me of a young Michael Ball, the English tenor who originated the role in the West End.  His notes were smooth and cool—with a stupendous quality showcased when he sang Empty Chairs at Empty Tables on the second night.  On the verge of tears, I remember my cousin, Isa, saying, “He’s way better than Nick Jonas” and she was right to say so.

Marius with the Male Ensemble in Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Cosette was played by Pauline Anne Rosales, a lyric soprano.  I’m glad the production brought back the song, I Saw Him Once, which hasn’t been performed in the musical’s context since the Original West End production in 1985.  It showcased Rosales’ amazing vocal range.  Let me stress, however, that although she and Marius made a cute couple on stage, the strongest chemistry was between the latter and Eponine.

Cosette in I Saw Him Once
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot


Played by Joanna Jane Ang, Eponine was a feisty female waif with a heart-rending sentiment.  Her performance of On My Own was so soul-piercing that I even heard a couple of people clearing their nostrils and throats right before the loud applause.  That could only have meant they were crying.  She portrayed her quiet pain so masterfully that it was agonizing to watch.  A Little Fall of Rain, her duet with Marius right before she dies, drove me to tears on the second night.  With everything that she did before her death, she set the right mood for the audience to weep like they lost their own friend.

Eponine in A Heart Full of Love
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot 

Marius and Eponine (centre) with the Ensemble in A Little Fall of Rain
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot


Junrey Alayacyac, the young man cast as Enjolras had a remarkable set of pipes which reminded me a lot of David Thaxton, who played the role in 2008 in the West End.  It takes a strong voice to play a leader of the June Rebellion and Alayacyac fit the description perfectly.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood when he began to sing Do You Hear the People Sing to the beat of marching drums.  It was as though he was calling on the audience to join him in battle.  He was as passionate as a real revolutionary and it was clear he was singing with heart.  Perhaps he was singing for a modern kind of revolution.

Javert (left; kneeling), Enjolras (centre) and Gavroche (extreme right) with the Ensemble in Little People
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Young Cosette and Gavroche

Of course, we have to give special mention to these two little people—children with such music-filled futures ahead of them.  It’s clear that it could only get brighter from there on.  Portrayed by Raven Chan, a treble, Young Cosette only appears twice in the entire show—first when she sings Castle on a Cloud and second when she is “bought” by Valjean from the Thenardiers where she is mostly silent.  Little Miss Chan had a memorable angelic voice, which, to this day, still rings in my head like I just heard it an hour ago.

Young Cosette in her iconic pose with the broom
To this day, this pose represents Les Misérables.
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Gavroche, the smart little urchin, was another precious character.  Actor Arjay Chan, who played the role, sang Little People bringing an adorable pause of relief for those who found the preceding events to be too heavy on the heart.  In the end, though, he dies by the guns of the enemy.  Rummaging dead bodies for bullets, Little Mister Chan made our hearts sink when he sang his final solo as his character was being shot repeatedly by the French National Guard, writhing in agony until his last note.

Gavroche in Stars
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot


I have to laud the ensemble members for their vocal abilities.  With every single number from the Work Song to the reprise of Do You Hear the People Sing, they showed how much of a formidable bunch they all were.  They must have had a very good choir master because they left me in awe every single time.  Being really close to the stage on the second night, I recognized their faces each time they assumed a different character from their last.  From singing prostitutes to mendicants in the streets of Paris to armed rebels, they took on them with all they had and nailed it with pure awesomeness.

The second night concluded with a reprise of One Day More after the curtain call—this time with members of the crew singing alongside the performers.  Everyone had genuine smiles on their faces—no longer adherent to the miserable theme of the musical—singing their hearts out, knowing they did great.  That standing ovation at the end was very well deserved, to say the least.

The Entire Cast in the Finale (Reprise of Do You Hear the People Sing)
by Karen Lara Migriño Libot

Other Matters

This show was not, in any way, sanctioned by Music Theatre International but it doesn’t matter much.  MTI is known to be very lenient with real art lovers.  What’s important is Cre8tive Thespians Circle Inc, through DreamBig Productions, came to Bohol and made us theatre junkies very happy.

For years and years, I’ve been hoping and praying for the musical theatre scene in the province to come alive and take flight again.  I hope Les Misérables’ staging would usher in more productions—even from local art groups—because having a constant urge to fly to other places just to get my fill isn’t a good feeling.  There are many who love theatre here—enough, perhaps, to give a local production company a lucrative source of income.  Who knows?

Bohol has an open door for art.  Do come in, won’t you?


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