Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Philippine Airlines: Truly Shining Through


So I've already written about God of Carnage, the primary reason I flew to Manila for the weekend.  Now, allow me to talk about part of the experience that's usually skipped when people relate their stories.  Let's talk about airport time--specifically NAIA Centennial Terminal (otherwise known as Philippine Airlines Terminal or Terminal 2) and the short couple of minutes I spent there before ultimately boarding my flight back home.

The day after I had the pleasure of watching a play at the RCBC theatre, I was scheduled to return to Bohol.  It was a rainy Monday morning when I woke up and I really didn't want to get out of bed.  Sleep was a formidable challenge the previous night since my brain didn't seem to want to get over the play.

Alas, I had to get up.  My cousin, who had a retreat trip to go to that day, was creating an infernal racket in the room.  I took it as a sign.  I leaped out of bed and onto the dining table for some brunch.  Come 10 minutes past noon, I was all packed and ready to leave.  By that time, my cousin had already left and it was just me and the house help.  I bid her goodbye and exited the condo building to wait for a cab.  That's when the fun began.

It was already 12:25 the next time I checked my watch.  I was still standing there waiting for a cab.  By then, I had already started to perspire and the lotion applied to my arm made it gooey and slippery.  My happiness level dropped dramatically and it was almost as if I didn't get to see Lea Salonga and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in a play the previous night.

Thankfully, enough, a cab stopped right in front of me a minute later.  I must have been absorbed in deep thought because I only noticed it when the driver called my attention to ask me where I was headed.  I stared blankly at him for about ten seconds before saying "NAIA 2, Manong."  Inside the car, I thanked him for stopping in front of me despite not being flagged down.  He asked me what time my flight was and I responded saying it was at 2:40PM.  He replied with a worrisome tone and I started sweating again.  "Hindi mo ba alam na SONA ni PNoy ngayon?  Ang bigat ng traffic!"  (Didn't you know the president is to give the State of the Nation Address today?  Traffic is very heavy!)

I sat in the cab through San Juan City, through Mandaluyong City, through Quezon City which was where I began to panic after checking my watch and seeing that it was already 1:35.  I remarked, "Hala, Manong! Mga isang oras na lang, flight ko na.  Mahuhuli na po ako."  (Goodness, Mister! My departure's just an hour away.  I might arrive late.)  He responded saying he'd take me there before 2:00.

We entered Pasay City shortly after.  It was 1:55 when we finally made it to the airport compound but I knew Terminal 2 was a long way from there considering the traffic.  I restrained myself from making growling noises.  You know, that noise you make when you're frustrated or irritated.

It was 2:05 when we reached the terminal.  I rushed in after paying my fare.  I wanted to thank him for trying his best but, considering the time, every second from then on counted.  You can't blame a man for being afraid of missing his flight.  Inside, I ran from counter to counter looking for "Tagbilaran City" but I didn't find it.  Hopeful that my eyes might just have failed me, I checked for a second time until I finally realised it wasn't there anymore.  The check-in counter for my flight had been closed.  I felt like hell.

Worried, exhausted and frustrated, I dropped my bag on the floor, grabbed my hair, closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and uttered random French words to myself.  It was then that I noticed a member of the ground crew approach me.  He asked me where my destination was and upon learning that it was Tagbilaran, he led me to a random counter where a nice lady took about 10 seconds to print my boarding pass.  "That was quick," I said.  She responded, "Sir, your flight is now boarding passengers.  Do you mind just carrying your bags instead of checking them in?"  "As long as I'm allowed to board, that's perfectly fine," I replied.  She then told the guy who led me to her, "Make sure he gets to his gate fast."  Ladies behind other counters told me, "Good luck, Sir! Double time, okay?"  I was chaperoned through security check up to my boarding gate.  Then he said, "You're good to go now, sir," and left before I got the chance to thank him.

When I was finally seated inside one of Philippine Airlines' new A320 aircrafts, I said in my head, "Wow! That's what you call 'real service'!"  I've had the same pleasant experience with a different airline overseas but I didn't expect this kind of service back home.  I should really learn to have more faith in local companies.  I was very happy they went an extra mile to get me onboard and I commend them for their excellent service.

I guess you never really know how good a choice is until you find yourself in deep shit and they pull you out of it with ease.  Such an experience made me realise that PAL truly is shining through.

It isn't just because of the company's policies, though.  I believe PAL's greatness is also largely because they have employees who have proliferated among themselves a culture of honourable service that has only gotten better over the scores.  I just wish all the people who've helped give the airline its glimmering name be made happy for it.  You know what they say: "A company is only as good as its employees."

Thank you, NAIA Terminal 2 ground crew!

Thanks to that guy who approached me!

Thanks to the nice lady who checked me in!

Thanks to the ladies behind the other check-in counters who wished me luck!

Thank you Philippine Airlines!  MABUHAY!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God of Carnage Manila: An Amateur's Review

So I just got home from a trip to Manila to see God of Carnage.

Yes, I flew to Manila just to see a play.  Got a problem with that?

Relax, it's just Manila.  It's not like I went to New York to chase a show.  Well, I'm probably going to do that one of these days.  Allegiance, anyone?  Anyway, that's beside the point.

A lot of people I know frown at my vice of flying to places to see shows only to fly back home immediately afterwards.  They especially accuse me of being an addict--in that I spend money on airfare and premium tickets just to see Lea Salonga.  Let me, however, respond that if one wants to witness refined art and expect to utter superlatives about it, money ceases to matter much.  It's not a luxury because art is something very important.

Back to the play.  God of Carnage revolves around a meeting between two sets of parents who make an effort to have a civil discussion about the well-being of their sons who had recently gotten themselves in a fight.  One boy hit the other with a stick resulting in the latter losing two teeth.  This single act play kicks off with a composed (even restrained) grown-up-like exchange of words where an obvious air of nicety pervades the room.  It progresses with the niceties gradually disappearing as they get comfortable with each other.

The pivotal point is when one of the characters vomits after getting an upset stomach from eating clafouti.  From there, the situation rolls fast downhill and the four adults act increasingly like big babies.  Alcohol comes into the picture and causes the doors of decency to get completely unhinged and the sparks of utter chaos to fly free.  They steer off the grid and it gets to a point where they almost abandon the issue at hand--their sons.  The conversation jumps around from topics like the perils of marriage to misogyny to hunger in the third world.  Each person in the play fights with every other in a round robin of abusive personal attacks, no-holds-barred profanity and pillow hitting.

There is no genuine denouement but I guess that's the point.  The play was basically about how grown-up lives go on and on and on restrained by compulsory niceties imposed by social mores.  It was crystal clear to me that the play was telling the audience how everyone has to put up with everyone else's bullshit on a day-to-day basis.

And just in case people are wondering, it was an R18 show so there were no children.  You may sigh in relief now.

The production I had the pleasure of seeing featured an all-star cast with four inimitable giant names of the stage: Lea SalongaMenchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Art Acuña and the British-Singaporean sensation, Adrian Pang.  It was absolutely epic in every sense of the word!  Running for over 80 minutes, the script written by French playwright, Yasmina Reza, was an explosive mixture of heart attack-inducing comedy, hard reality bitchslaps and gut-wrenching drama.  That standing ovation at the end was very well deserved, to say the least.

If the only version of the text you're familiar with is the 2011 film, Carnage, with Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet and John C. Reilly, you're missing out big time and you should feel largely short-changed!  I'm telling you, the differences are vast.  The film felt like nothing more than a contrived imitation.  I'm not only saying this because I'm a theatre junkie.  Don't get me wrong; I love good films!  It's just that the play mounted on a real stage in front of a live audience is 70 times better than the film adaptation even if you put the big Oscar-winning silver screen names into account.

Here are a few snapshots from the show to give you a hint of what I'm talking about.  And, no, I didn't take these photos myself because that would have been illegal.  I believe these are official press release shots.

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

Photo source: Broadway's Musician (A Tumblr Page)

Might I add that I sat in the theatre preparing myself to feel awkward that the actors on stage, having musical theatre backgrounds, weren't going to be singing.  The awkwardness never came, though.  They were such naturals that I got too absorbed in their characters to even remember they were just acting.

Menchu, who played Annette, is worth special mention here.  She played piss drunk incredibly well!  The drunk image of her in my head was so difficult to remove that while waiting for her to come out of the backstage door, I was half-expecting her to be walking groggily.

Anyway, here are some of my own photos taken after the show:

with Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo after God of Carnage
Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Annette Reille in the play)

with Lea Salonga after God of Carnage
with Lea Salonga and my cousin, Isa

with Lea Salonga after God of Carnage
Lea Salonga (Veronica Houllié in the play)

with Art Acuña after God of Carnage
Art Acuña (Alan Reille in the play)

God of Carnage
Behold! The Autographed Playbill!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Marinara Sauce

a vegan dish

I feel like I'm two entries away from turning my site into a food blog.  The last two stuff I posted were recipes and here I am about to post yet another recipe.  Sure, I say a little something before I begin listing ingredients but, other than talk about the dish I just cooked, I don't really talk say anything revealing about my current frame of mind.

I'll try to do that before posting the recipe.  Bear with me here: this is a personal blog; not a cookbook.

Anyway, Mama and I did some grocery shopping last night.  Yeah, it's 12 in the morning now so I guess the expression "last night" is in order.  I didn't buy anything particularly notable--just the usual fruits, veggies, spices and condiments--except I bagged like, a kilo of tomatoes.  At home, I ended up with a storage predicament.  I didn't know where to put them since my vegetable compartment had already been stuffed with heads of broccoli and cauliflower, potatoes, basil stalks, carrots, cucumbers, oranges, limes and bulbs of garlic.  As a solution, I decided to cook marinara sauce.  Yeah, baby!

So, here's recipe #3!


Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is an Italian style tomato-based sauce best consumed with spaghetti, spaghettini, cheese sticks, bread sticks, and flat breads like chapati, pita and naan.

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

- 5 to 7 people if you use it as a dip for finger food like bread sticks and cheese sticks, or
- 3 to 5 people if you use it for pasta or for flat bread

You will need:

- 3 normal sized western tomatoes (or 5 medium sized Roma/Bangalore tomatoes), peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 normal sized western tomatoes (or 3 medium sized Roma/Bangalore tomatoes), blended into a paste
- 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley (1/2 if dried)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh marjoram/oregano (1 teaspoon if dried)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil (1 teaspoon if dried but it makes a huge difference because you will really want fresh basil for this recipe)
- 1/3 cup finely diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 7 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of water

To make it:

1. Pour two tablespoons of olive oil onto a pan over medium heat.
2. Sauté the diced onion for about a minute to sweat it but make sure it doesn't burn.  Remove the onion from the pan afterwards and set it aside.
3. Pour the rest of the olive oil onto the pan, followed by the garlic which you need to sauté for 3 minutes as well.
4. Drop the chopped tomatoes in and agitate them around the pan for about 3 minutes.
5. Add in the parsley, marjoram and basil, and mix in.
6. Bring the heat to low and cover for 5 minutes with occasional stirring.
7. Stir in the tomato paste, water, and salt.
8. Cover for five minutes and stir in the salt afterwards.
9. Simmer gently with occasional stirring for 10 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated and the sauce is thick enough to qualify as a pasta sauce.  You be the judge.

NOTE: If you're going to use this sauce for pasta, use it as it is.  However, if you're going to use it as a dip for bread sticks and cheese sticks or if you want to put it on your flat bread, you may want to add in a teaspoon of flour to thicken it a little and to give it a paste-like consistency which would help it stick to bread.  Of course, dissolve the flour in a little cold water before stirring in.  The best time to do this is after simmering.  You may use less than a teaspoon of flour but never more than that.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stir-Fried Broccoli and Cauliflower

vegan dish

I actually blogged about eating this dish a couple of weeks ago but I've never really gotten around to posting the recipe until now.  So, yeah, here's recipe #2.

stir fried broccoli and cauliflower

Stir-Fried Broccoli and Cauliflower

It's broccoli, cauliflower and a bunch of other things hungover from partying in a cast iron wok.

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

- 1 hungry person who really wants to eat, or
- 2 people on a diet

You will need:

- 1 cup of broken broccoli flowers
- 1 cup of broken cauliflower heads
- 1 medium tomato, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon of dill leaves (only a pinch if dried)
- 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley (only 1/2 if dried)
- 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (or you can use whatever type of vinegar you have if you don't have Balsamic vinegar; but trust me, this minute amount makes all the difference in the world)
- 1 tablespoon of corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil (preferably extra virgin)

Let's make it:

1. First, boil the broccoli and cauliflower until readily edible and a little bit tender but not too soft.  Set it aside.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on a wok or skillet over ridiculously high heat.  Make sure your pan has a firm handle.
3. Drop the onion and garlic onto the oil.  You must then quickly grab the handle to toss and turn it around.  It is quite possible that the inside of the wok/skillet will catch fire.  Don't be frightened; it's completely normal.  Only allow 5-7 seconds for the spices to dance around without adding anything else.  As much as possible, do not allow the spices to burn.
4. After 5-7 seconds, when the smell becomes considerably strong, drop the tomato in and toss it around for some 10 seconds.
5. Introduce about 1/4 cup of water so you don't end up with a burnt dish.  Toss around for 20 seconds more.
6. Add the boiled broccoli and cauliflower.
7. With a 5-second interval, one after the other, add the vinegar, soy sauce and one more tablespoon of olive oil.  Continuously move the pan to agitate the ingredients for about 40 seconds.
8. Flick in the parsley and dill and make sure they get fully integrated into the dish by mixing them in properly.
9. Add the corn syrup.

NOTE: If your taste buds somehow find the flavour inadequate, you may increase one or more of the liquid condiments.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Garlic Chapati and Guacamole

vegan dish

I've been cooking quite a lot these days and posting a couple of food photos on my Facebook wall and on Twitter.

I thought to myself, "hey, why don't I just share my recipe on my blog so they'd learn how to make it themselves?"  So here's recipe #1.

chapati guacamole


A Mexican dip best paired with tortilla crisps and flat bread like tortillas, roti, chapati, naan, or pita.

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

- 4 pieces of chapati

You will need:

- 2 ripe avocados
- 3 tablespoons of lime or kalamansi juice
- 2 medium sized tomatoes (or one large western tomato) peeled, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped/diced onion
- 1 tablespoon of coriander (also known in some places as cilantro)
- Your choice of hot pepper (jalapeño, bird's eye, tabasco, espada) de-seeded and very finely chopped (add according to heat tolerance with a minimum of one teaspoon)
- 1/3 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon of cumin powder (optional)

To make it:

1. Put the lime/kalamansi juice in a bowl.
2. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados and chop coarsely.
3. Add the avocado to the lime/kalamansi juice in the bowl.
4. Coarsely mash the avocado using a fork or a potato masher until it becomes a bit smooth and creamy.  It's okay to have little lumps here and there.  NEVER EVER BLEND IT.
5. If you don't like the onions to crunch in your mouth, you could crush it using a mortar and pestle.  If you're okay with crunchy onions, skip this step.
6. Add all other ingredients into the bowl with the avocado and mix well.
7. If you think it lacks salt, add a little more to taste and mix it in.
8. Chill in the fridge for one hour before serving.

Garlic Chapati

Chapati is a type of flat unleavened bread that traces its culinary origins from the Indian Subcontinent.  It's commonly made using only flour, water and a bit of salt but, in this case, I'm going to add garlic so we'll call it Garlic Chapati to avoid confusion.  It is best eaten with sauces like curry and marinara, or dips such as guacamole.

For every four (4) pieces, you will need:

- 1 cup (150 grams) of plain flour
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/3 cup (80 millilitres) of water
- 2 teaspoons of garlic paste

To make chapati:

1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and make some sort of well or hole in the middle.
2. Stir the garlic paste into the water.  You will notice it form a suspension.
3. Pour the garlic and water mix onto the well in the bowl.
4. Mix the flour and the water to form some sort of ball.  Do not add any more water.  Just keep rolling the ball around until it collects the rest of the remaining flour and you are able to form a compact dough that is slightly sticky but soft.
5. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover it with cling wrap or a plate and leave it in room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.
6. After resting your dough, divide it into four equal pieces.  Using your hand, form each piece into a small round flat disc about half an inch thick.
7. Drop the disc onto a lightly floured surface and, using a floured rolling pin, gently roll the disc out into a very thin and flat circle about 7 or 8 inches in diameter.  Don't worry; it doesn't need to be perfect.
8. If you have a roti pan or flat pan, use it.  Otherwise, you will have to settle for a frying pan with a flat base.  Put it over a stove on medium heat.  You don't want it too hot or you'll end up burning the chapati.
9. Drop on one chapati at a time.  Yes, in case you're wondering, you have to cook it individually unless you have a freakishly large pan lying around your kitchen cabinet.
10. After 30 seconds, you will notice the chapati begin to puff up.  Flip it over using a cooking spatula--preferably perforated.  On the flip side, use the spatula to push the puffed bubbles down without breaking or puncturing the bread.  Do this for about 10 seconds then flip the chapati over again.
11. Press the bubbles gently with the spatula.  Your aim is not to have no bubbles (because if we wanted to do that, we could easily just poke a hole on it but that's not what we want to do).  We want to have just one large puff like a balloon and not individual bubbles.
12. After another 10 seconds, flip it over again and press gently for 15 more seconds before putting it on a plate.  It's not necessary to achieve the balloon effect but it is necessary to keep gently pressing the chapati down as you cook it.
13. Repeat the process for every piece of chapati you cook.