Archive for December, 2007

manila, philippines: the penultimate seven days

It’s Christmas week and this week had been a flurry of activities – from last-minute gift shopping and get-together dinner with friends and past colleagues to getting some poolside tan and celebrating two Christmas family parties.

In the three weeks that I’ve been here in Manila, I’ve developed a certain liking to this one particular restaurant called Cyma Greek Taverna that serves food inspired by the flavors of well, Greece. This week, I’ve tried their filet mignon which was a tad rubbery, an appetizer of anchovies, the best salad I’ve ever had in my life (I swear!) – greens with walnuts, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing, chicken kabob, and moussaka. I’ve yet to try their dish that gets engulfed in flames while the waiters shout “Opa!”

Skipping a sidetrip to the island of Boracay, famous for its powder-fine white sand beaches, I went for the next best thing in getting that tropical tan – an afternoon at the poolside of my brother’s residential complex. Bea and Bianca were there, too, in their floater swimsuits and killer smiles.

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We celebrated Christmas Eve at my brother’s place where we played games, exchanged gifts, and had a feast of food. Present at the table were the obligatory lechon or roasted pig, spaghetti bolognese, beef rolls, barbequed pork, chicken lollipops, chili crab, and fruit salad. For the exchange gift, I got this green sweater from Bench which I specifically requested. Nice, no? And finally, I opened Knut’s Christmas present – a Gucci belt! I loooooooove it! Tusen takk, min skatt!

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Christmas Day, my mom, dad and I went to Batangas, my dad’s hometown to spend Christmas with my grandmother and other relatives. Needless to say, there were more food to eat and gifts to give and receive. I swear I gained so much holiday weight and I need some serious calorie-burning when I get back to Oslo. Good luck to that! But before we drove for over an hour down south, we stopped by Market! Market! to buy fruits for my grandma. Philippine mangoes are still the best and the sweetest in the world!

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Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

manila, philippines: the next seven days

Thanks for dropping by and for all your comments in my previous entry. The weather here in Manila has been completely fine, with sparse cloudy and sunny days. The last week has been a whirlwind of activities, what with three of my friends from Norway swinging by Manila from their holidays in Pattaya and Cebu.

Tuesday, I coerced (haha!) Liz to join me for dinner at Bebang’s new house in Marikina, and we were expecting several others to come but everyone seemed to have fallen off the gutter one by one. Anyway, it was so sweet of Bebang to prepare food for the night, carbonara and chicken lollipops with salsa. Liz and I brought with us sticks of barbequed pork, so we were all stuffed at the end of the day.

Thursday night my friends Keng and Stein arrived from Thailand and my brother and I picked them up at the airport. Call it the famous Filipino hospitality. :) They brought with them Knut’s Christmas gift from Oslo, and I just can’t wait until Christmas to open it. Haha! Friday saw the three of us meeting at their hotel in bohemian Malate and heading to Mall of Asia, where we had lunch at Bangus (milkfish) – Keng got the Bangus Bistek (fish belly in soya sauce and onion rings), Stein got the spring chicken (haha! he’s the seafood skeptic), and I got Bangus Sisig (flakes of fish served on a sizzling platter with chili, seasoned with soya sauce and lime).

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Boys, boys, boys. We’re looking for a good time.

My other friend from Norway, Neil, joined us later that day for dinner and a nightout in the gay streets of Malate. We had a table at Cafe Adriatico, a dining institution in Malate, that serves Spanish and Filipino delicacies. I ordered Salpicao (tenderloin chunks in olive oil on a bed of garlic rice), Keng had tiger prawns, while Neil and Stein both ordered Adobo, probably known as the national dish of the Philippines. Afterwards, we headed to the O Bar on Orosa Street for some outdoor drinking. Just a warning, ask your waiter what’s available before you order because they don’t have most of the items on their menu. We ended up drinking beer, tequila and vodka cocktails, and glasses of margarita. My friend from Manila, Dict, joined us there too.

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Before…

Afterwards, we headed to the club Bed, where half-naked men gyrate on the stage and people dance to the lights and sounds and get lost in a sea of smoke. It’s better than Oslo’s gay clubs London and Elsker, with its mezzanine, tank-topped servers, and nicer toilets. We all had fun. We all danced on the stage beside those sexy, sweaty boys. We all had coke rum for drinks. And we partied in Manila Central that night.

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… and after.

With only a few hours of sleep, I picked up Keng and Stein at their hotel Saturday and headed to Makati for some shopping at Greenbelt and Glorietta. Keng wanted to take the local mode of transportation in the roads of Manila – the jeepney – so we took one along Taft Avenue, before transferring to the cool confines of a taxi for the final mile to our destination.

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We had late lunch at Recipes in Greenbelt, where I had a hurried chance encounter with Dats. Afterwards, we stormed Glorietta and the two just started buying clothes and shoes. There were so many nice shoes everywhere! And they cost only the third of the price in Oslo. I’m thinking of buying myself another pair, I’m eyeing a tweed Puma slip-on in light brown. I left them at 5 pm, when I met another friend Nickko and the two of us headed to meet my brother at Market! Market!, and later my family at the Duty Free Fiesta Mall.

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We ended late that night and got home around 3 am, after having late dinner at TGI Friday’s in Bonifacio High Street. Sunday, shopping at Trinoma. Monday, wrapping Christmas gifts at home. And today… Today! My sister-in-law gave birth to her and my brother’s third daughter. Welcome to the world Bernice Phoebe! I saw you from a distance today, you were so cute when you were stretching your arms and legs. You might grow up to be quite as active and restless as your uncle. Gee, I sound so old. Haha!

manila, philippines: the first seven days

After a delay-free 23-hour journey from Oslo thru Amsterdam and Singapore to Manila, I found myself in the old grounds of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and a few steps further, among the familiar faces of my mom, dad, and my brother, who all greeted me with that filial embrace, preceded by some trace of nonrecognition of their son and brother who was away for quite some time.

This first week felt like I never went away at all, despite the new mega-malls and open-space shopping complexes built across the city. It’s the same old traffic snaking through familiar avenues. It’s the same air quality that arrests your nose and chokes your lungs. It’s the same humidity that makes you sticky just by stepping out of your front door.

Also, it’s the same good feeling you get when you’re with family and friends. It’s the same big appetite you get for food and conversations. Conversations over food. Food in conversations. Food’s everywhere every time that in a span of one week, I’m on my way to gaining what weight I lost during my time away. It’s the same weekend I spend with my family scouring shopping spaces and staking at food places. Same is good.

The Eats

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From the welcome cum dad’s birthday dinner at Shangri-la Makati’s Circles buffet restaurant to a Greek version of the Philippine adobo at a Greenbelt 2 restaurant. From Jollibee’s (the Filipino McDonald’s) crispylicious Chickenjoy to my parents’ fare of fried tilapia (fish), sinigang na buto-buto (tender ribs in a tamarind soup base), inihaw na liempo (grilled porkchops) and kalabasa at sitaw combo (pumpkin and stringbean dish). From CPK’s grilled calamari, white pesto pasta with shrimp, and pizza to Max’s kare-kare (oxtail and tripe in peanut sauce and blanched vegetables) and sinigang na hipon (shrimp in a tamarind soup base). My family had brunch at the Salcedo Saturday Market and we gorged on pork barbecue (pictured above) and laing (taro root in coconut cream).

The Buys

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Shopping is more exciting, more varied, and definitely cheaper in Manila than in most cities I’ve been to. With a stunted shopping spree for the last months I was in Oslo, I set out to buy everything I was planning to. White sneakers, check, thanks to a cool pair of Nike with silver and black details (pictured above). A pair of jeans, check, thanks to made-to-order designer Viktor jeans, with wicked bronze leather signature belt loops and custom-tailored cut (hello, booty!) which I’m picking up next week. Collared shirts, check, thanks to Bench and their range of slim tees (pictured above). Underwear, check, thanks to Calvin Klein and its Steel trunk brief, Bench’s ever playful take on boxers, and Speedo’s swimming trunks. Facial products, check, thanks to Dermalogica’s Face Mapping and its slew of cleanser, toner, moisturizer and sunblock.

The Tours

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Aside from the side trip to Intramuros, Manila’s old walled city, where I took my Vietnamese friend from Oslo last Friday, most of the touring I’ve done this first week is to the city’s newest malls. There is something with Asians and big shopping centers. I met college buddy Cres at Trinoma (Triangle North of Manila). I met my aunt Mely for lunch at Greenbelt 2. I took Brian to lunch and Liz and Dict to dinner at Mall of Asia. I went with my family to Bonifacio High Street. The common denominators with these four malls are the open-space planning, the grand entrances, the Zen elements of water and pebbles, and installation of art in public spaces. And oh, full blast airconditioning, thank God!

The Snaps

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Here’s to the next seven days!

in transit: manila, philippines

My last night for 2007 in Norway turned out to be cultural.

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First, I made Knut a Japanese dinner called Oyakodon. My Japanese colleague handed me down the recipe, which at first looked intimidating. It turned out that Oyakodon is such an easy dinner to make, with the right ingredients on hand and ready. I gave a little more Japanese pizzazz to the dinner by serving miso soup for starters. Afterwards, we saw the debauchery, disillusions, and dreams in Sally Bowles’ (Liza Minnelli) Cabaret during pre-Hitler Berlin. It’s an early Moulin Rouge, which staccatoed to the rise and chants of German Nazism. Divine, as what Sally would put it.

Okay, I’m off to Manila in six hours. Gotta get some sleep now. See you from the other side of the world!

P.S. Jeg kommer til å savne deg min kjære!

in between the place i’ve been and where i’m going

After 13 months, those long and heavy Mondays, those fun working hours in between, those lessons learned and skills acquired, I’ve finally said goodbye to my life at the flower shop. I felt that it was time for me to lay rest from all those weary days, to move on and find my dream job that I know is just out there.

As tradition in the shop, I baked a carrotcake for everyone (with Knut’s help). The shop has given me sweet, wonderful memories, so it was time for me to give back something sweet, too.

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My Japanese colleague and friend, Yasuko, made me lunch – an obento like how her mom used to prepare it for her – chicken, nori, rice with soya sauce and dried bonito, tofu, tuna omelette with spring onion, cherry tomatoes, and spinach with sesame seed. It tasted so good and she served me Japanese green tea, too.

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At the end of the day, I got hugs and gifts from my colleagues. Nice packaging, eh? What’s inside is even nicer – a set of three pillar glass vases in green!

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Here’s one final look at the place that took me in 13 months ago. Thank you guys, and I’ll see you all again!

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