COMO MAX BRENNER PARA CHOCOLATE

Previous: Every Exhibit Has A Story

After the Ayala Museum, we all proceeded to Max Brenner in Greenbelt 3 for pastry and some special hot chocolate. How special? Roland and Ma’am Odette had the Venezuela Dark, I had the Trinidad White, while Ricky and Ma’am Letty had this utterly luxurious and exotic Ecuador chocolate with orchid oil. Almond selected a restorative peppermint tea.

They have this white porcelain earless cup with a pointed lip from which you are encouraged to sip. All the chocolate drinks had these tiny globules of yummy fat floating on top like you’d see in chocolate eh. Ricky let me taste some of the Ecuador, which struck me as only faintly sweet upon first touching the tongue. The sweetness developed in the middle of your mouth, and later I detected the faint perfume of orchid oil (vanilla, identifies the Max Brenner website) which had a long finish in the back of the tongue. Not to everyone’s taste, but definitely to mine! (Note to self: order it next time.) My Trinidad White was yummy, but a bit too rich for me. It brought back all childhood Christmases past,with its dairy velvety-ness and buttery richness laving all over my tongue. I guess the best way to enjoy it would be to take a long sip, let it fill the mouth and senses, before swallowing slowly. And in between, sips of lifesaving water.

We also shared a fancy brownie. I have no idea what it was called since we promptly pounced on it, and in true Pinoy fashion, ping-ponged the last bite around the plate.


The first time I went to Max Brenner it was with the Justice League (the everyday heroines in my barkada) for the newly engaged Tim’s birthday two years ago. We’d had dinner somewhere else and decided to have dessert. Almond very cleverly arranged a surprise entry by Tim’s then-fiancee Eric, home early for Christmas via Hong Kong red-eye. We had a chocolate fondue, which I enjoyed but was not much impressed by. I think I was too busy laughing at Tim’s expression of incredulous joy when she saw Eric.

My estimation of the place has risen since then, after this visit. In my opinion this quality of hot chocolate shouldn’t be downed like it were Swiss Miss and you were in pajamas. First of all, it’s pricey (one could have a full meal for the price of one cup of gourmet hot choco), but I think what we’d ordered was well worth it. I’d been avoiding Max Brenner when it first opened precisely because I feared it would be the sort of place pretentious people like to casually brag about having been to (read: I can afford high-end chocolate! Also read: Been there, done that, now let’s haul my fashionable deconstructed jeans-clad ass off to the next hot new happening place!).

Now that the fashion panic has abated and the place has established itself, it’s actually attracting people in search of chocolate adventure. I think if I’m flush with a little cash and in need of some chocolate therapy, or just planning to celebrate with TDM, it’s a great place to go to. Once in a while.

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EVERY EXHIBIT HAS A STORY

We were all quite excited to see the Gold of Ancestors exhibit at the Ayala Museum, but there were other interesting exhibits on the other floors I hadn’t even gotten around to blogging about yet.

Southeast Asian Ceramics

On the fourth floor, along with the gold, was a fantastic collection of Southeast Asian trade ceramics from the Roberto T. Villanueva collection. Popular historian Ambeth Ocampo writes about it here. They were arranged according to style/country of origin. All celadons together, all iron glazed together, all Thai together, all Vietnamese together, all blue and white together. Every glass shelf tells the visitor about the pieces displayed, identifying the style, the estimated age, and the location where the item was found. In the middle of the collection there is a fascinating section telling the story of the Grau sisters whose lives were dedicated to this collection. Consuelo Grau was married to Roberto T. Villanueva, while her sister Remedios curated the collection. Both sisters were students of renowned anthropologist H. Otley Beyer in UP. Because they were known collectors, people would actually bring them their finds on a near daily basis! When I looked all around, it was likely that there were more pieces that weren’t on display.

The first time I visited, we were in such a hurry to get into the 30-minute interval when the bank-vault doors opened into the gold exhibit that I totally missed the inner room. This room had a sofa with a big video screen, and the video told the story of the development of ceramics in China, to the development of the trade route from southern China to the Philippines, to India, all the way to the Middle East. There is a map of Asia on one side of the screen which shows little lights all along the trade route, timed to match the video dialogue! (Ok, I love that sort of thing.) And every time a notable piece is used as an example, the actual piece is spotlighted. Timed as well. My favorite piece is a delicate white flower-shaped footed bowl (“Yung gulaman container!” we joked), one of the oldest in the collection. My next favorite was a painted elephant with a rider, a piece from Vietnam. My third favorite piece was of a little brown carabao. Almond and Roland both loved the blue and white ceramics.

Embroidered Multiples

Ricky later led us to his personal favorite exhibit, embroidered national costumes from the period of Damian Domingo. These consisted of baro’t saya, kerchiefs/fichus and men’s costumes, all beautifully embroidered. Fabrics were in abaca, pina, jusi, silk and cotton. I believe Ricky was involved in making sure the items were displayed to best effect, yet adequately protected in a temperature controlled environment. The items were beautiful, the embroidery exceedingly fine. These items are the best and only examples of their kind, and the irony is that we are only enjoying them because of a five-year loan to the Ayala Museum by the Leiden National Museum of Ethnology (Netherlands), which acquired them from a French diplomat in the late 1800s. Some items on loan include heirloom garments from the Pardo de Tavera collection now owned by collector Rina Ortiz.

Looking at the items, I realized that Filipinos were very small and dainty then. The blouses were so sheer that some included modesty panels. If you look at the Damian Domingo paintings you’d realize women probably wore fichus in those days to cover up their chests. The fichus eventually developed into panuelos. I wanted to buy the book for my mom at the Museum Shop (3rd floor), but it was PhP 1,500 and I didn’t have the cash on me.

The Juan Luna BPI Collection

My mom attended Ambeth Ocampo’s lecture telling the story of this collection when it first opened. Most items in the collection are small works, mostly studies in preparation for bigger paintings. The first time we went to see it I was wondering why the frames were so thick. It was only on my second visit that Ricky explained that some items were reversible. The photo facsimile displayed next to the work showed its other side. On my own I wouldn’t have guessed that, since I didn’t have a brochure of the collection on hand.

Juan Luna is best remembered for two things: his award-winning painting “The Spoliarium” (famously) and for the murder of his wife Paz Pardo de Tavera and his mother-in-law in Paris (infamously). Ricky filled me in with the juicy details: when Juan Luna’s son Andres Jr. died, he left the paintings to his American wife, Grace, who later tried to sell this collection to the Philippine government so she could return to the US. However, the cash-strapped government didn’t bite, and for some decades no more was heard of these paintings. Eventually Grace Luna died in an American old-age home. When the paintings resurfaced for sale, buyers were confused about the provenance of the collection because Grace Luna had left them to her caregiver in her will. They ended up in the collection of Far East Bank and Trust Company, an acquisition hounded by controversy as the FEBTC was the agency that originally determined the collection’s value in the first place. This collection was later acquired by the Bank of the Philippine Islands with its buyout of the FEBTC.

The major Lunas on display were from the collections of Don Jaime and Beatriz Zobel de Ayala, and from Don Jaime’s aunt Dona Mercedes Zobel de McMicking. You would recognize some of them from books, particularly “La Marquesa de Monte Olivar“. The accompanying plaques note that Juan Luna signed his paintings in old Filipino script BU+LA (for “bulan” or moon, ie., “Luna”). I didn’t notice that the first time I went, but Ricky pointed it out. He also noted that the Zobel-owned paintings had been gifted to the Ayala Museum since he last worked there.

Fernando Zobel, Artist

My generation knows Fernando Zobel de Ayala as the brother of Jaime Augusto, and the husband of Catherine “KitKat” Silverio. The original Fernando Zobel was their uncle the artist. His work, modern and abstract, in different media, occupies the space next to the Amorsolos. His sketchbooks were also on display, as well as letters. There was also an interactive website visitors could access. I didn’t know much of him since his works are not part of general study, but as I google I find that he is alternately considered a Spanish artist and a Filipino one. Here are some works in an online auction. His charming dachshund and horse doodles (from travel sketchbooks) are on notebooks and mugs for sale in the Museum Shop.

The Dioramas

It is rare for a child to grow up in Metro Manila and not experience the Ayala Museum dioramas. They illustrate Filipino history in detailed 3d miniature. Ricky however, made our trip as adults more entertaining with the ff. trivia:

1) Each figure, made by hand in Paete, costs at least P2,000!
2) There are realistic details, such as: urinating men, a rat under Rizal’s tocador, tiny torn-up buntal hats, a gay Katipunero, a lesbian one, a dwarf, a giant, faces of the artists/museum staff in cameo appearances, folded merchandise in an Escolta store window, others.
3) Imelda complained that there was no Marcos figure in the Death March diorama! A figure was hurriedly made! Later on (post-Edsa Revolution), because it could not be concretely proved that Marcos was actually there, it was decided that the figure be removed! Now no one knows where it went!

The latest addition to that display was a Corridor of Infamy into the Marcos Years, with an interactive presentation narrated by Cheche Lazaro. Oddly enough, the door at the end led to… the stairs leading down to the toilet. No, I joke, it leads down to the ground floor, where there is an artist’s space occupied during our visit by painter Nestor Vinluan, who is now less obsessed by the diaphanous now as he is with color on color. With its high ceiling, that space (next to the counter) shows big canvases to great effect.

By this time, we got hungry again…

Next: Como Max Brenner Para Chocolate

RECHERCHEZ LES TEMPS HANOI

Last Sunday Ricky and Almond organized a museum date-cum-reunion for all of us whom Ricky first met in Hanoi in 2006. Ricky had read my review of the Ayala Museum Gold of Ancestors exhibit, and suggested it would be a good reason to meet up.

Two years ago, Almond, Ma’am Odette and Ma’am Letty were all invited to present papers at an academic conference at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi. I tagged along, sort of masquerading as a fellow UP faculty member (“You are also from the University of the Philippines?” “Yes, but I’m not presenting a paper.” “You must attend the dinner and the water puppet show!” “Uh, ok, thank you!”). While they were busy practicing their presentations and networking with other participants, I quickly rebooked us from the first sorry-assed hotel we checked into, to the very comfortable but forbiddingly named Army Hotel. It was nearer the conference venue, and at USD35/night for a twin share, it was irresistible. I also planned some of our itinerary, as it was my job to negotiate with/harass taxi drivers and tour operators.

Ricky happened to be billeted at the Army Hotel as well. Almond and I first noticed him during the buffet breakfast, at which we already noted his hair and his fashion sense. It was Ma’am Odette and Ma’am Letty who confirmed the happy fact of his Pinoy-ness. Ricky turned out to be the visiting consultant at the museum near the university. Later on, at the steps of the VNU, we met Roland and the other Singapore-based Pinoy grad students who were attending the same conference. Roland also presented a paper.

We had lunch at Greenbelt 5, at Fely J’s (another LJC restaurant) on the second floor. It was a good thing we arrived early, as the place was soon fully packed. The menu is Filipino and Asian dishes served family style, with very reasonable prices. Check out the pork adobo with whole cloves of roasted garlic (yum!):

(I must apologize for the lack of focus in that pic. It smells and tastes more appetizing than the photo suggests.)

The other big winner of the day was the fried tilapia in sweet plum sauce shown here ready to swim off the plate and into our stomachs:

To accompany those we also had bangus belly sinigang (sampalok), ensalada ni nanay (red eggs, assorted vegetables and bagoong), ginataang gulay (squash, string beans, other vegetables and shrimps in coconut milk), and for dessert, “Claude’s Dream” (a generous scrape of soft, fresh buko meat on top of creamy macapuno ice cream surrounded by pandan flavored jelly):

All in all, a very satisfying meal (despite the slow – but friendly! – service).

We then proceeded to the Ayala Museum, where Ricky was able to get us discounted entrance rates (thank you!).

Next: Every Exhibit Has A Story

LIFE IN A PAIR OF BABY SOCKS

This sock and its twin make the first successful pair of baby socks I’ve made since my informal apprenticeship to Ines J. of the Dreams Tuesday/Saturday Knitting Group. It’s made of locally available gradient colorway crochet cotton thread, using 2.75mm circular knitting needles in the Magic Loop Method. The pattern is from Tita Ting, a former member of the knitting group who is now based in the US.

How ADORABLE is that! These are for Etienne.

I’m also making socks for his brother Ethan, my cousin Ellen’s baby Jianna, my godson Inigo, my niece Lilo, my goddaughter Meg, and my friend Red’s baby boy whose name I can’t remember at the moment.

I started one sock from the beginning of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony (8pm-11pm) and continued the next morning for another hour. The second sock I started Sunday afternoon and finished before dinner. Roughly four hours per sock: instant gratification!

At this point I must comment on something that struck me as really funny. Last Saturday I attended a high school alumni meeting at a mall cafe. When I showed the guys that first sock, their reaction was, “You MADE this? How?” The girls, upon seeing the sock, teased me, “Ano na namang ka-manang-an yan! (What, more old maid stuff?)” Upon which, they marched off and went shopping for clothes in Mango. Jopet and I looked each other in the eye and laughed.

Men, it seems, are interested in the HOW. As in “How on earth are you able to do it by hand without going nuts?” and “How can you make money from this?”. Women with children, it seems, are focused on maintaining the image of looking younger longer without making it appear they are doing a lot of work. Ergo as much as possible they would rather not do the work of making the sock if they can buy it with a brand. Makes life so much simpler, neh?

Why do I do this? Because I can. How do I do this? By making a lot of mistakes first. What’s in it for me? Creation. Women with children have one up on me there, but I have the the inclination and make the time for this. Will I make money from this? Who knows. Nevertheless, Etienne and all the children in line for socks have my love along with it.

PHILIPPINE PRE-COLONIAL GOLD

Photo: “Kinnari” (mystical half-bird, half-woman) gold vessel, Gold of Ancestors exhibit, Ayala Museum.

This is the reason why Spaniards went out to expand the limits of the known world in the 16th century. We all know the story from school, but it’s a totally different experience when the gold is literally in your face. This is breathtaking.

The 4th floor of the The Ayala Museum permanently houses a mind-boggling exhibit of just over 1,000 pre-colonial gold artifacts that show our historical and cultural links to neighboring Southeast Asian cultures. Items on display range from jewelry, decorative detailing for clothing and weapons to badges of rank, ceremonial vessels, as well as funerary and religious accessories. Quietly collected for 25 years by the family of National Artist Leandro Locsin, the items are considered part of national patrimony and had been kept under wraps until the creation of a secure and appropriate exhibit location. The collection was finally exhibited publicly upon the construction of the new Ayala Museum in 2004. The exhibit is curated by premier art historian Dr. Florina H. Capistrano-Baker.

Jessica Zafra tells us more in Newsweek here. My favorite blogger Marketman, who was invited to the opening, has some lovely pictures and more food for thought (pun intended) here.

We went to see the exhibit last July 23 with my mother’s friends UP Balik-Scientist Raul Suarez and his wife Pining. I was pleased to see a lot of students around; on their own, like most people, I don’t think it would occur to them to drop by the Ayala Museum just for fun. This isn’t something you hear about all the time on tv or the radio (I do however think it’s a great date place for myself and TDM. I want him to see it with me.)

The entrance to the exhibit is designed to look like a temple door but it’s outfitted like a bank vault security gate that opens every 30 minutes. When you see the gate slide down you get the feeling you’ve entered a time-travelling space ship. Some tourists tried to get out the way they came, but apparently the security is such that you can’t get out the way you came in. You have to go where the end of the exhibit leads you, and there are sensors that slide another gate upwards to let you out from there. You can’t get in from the outside that way, either. Which is great, because a collection this stunning and awe-inspiring can teach us a lot of things about who we are as a people. To lose that would be a tragedy.

We sat ourselves in front of a curved cinema screen where a well-produced video told the story of Philippine gold from the geological formation of the archipelago up to just before Spanish colonization. The photos from the Boxer Codex of Filipinos in native garb sporting gold earrings and other displays of wealth and rank were familiar from school readings. You could tell who the rich individuals were from their distended earlobes — only those who could afford it wore earrings, and gold was naturally heavy. Walking around I could actually see a number of items I would love to wear, if only I didn’t need a motorized wheelchair to transport myself around with while wearing them! (In the first place I don’t know a lot of people who could even afford the motorized wheelchair.)

The crowning glory of this exhibit was a magnificent chain link halter for some chieftain that I think once held a ceremonial scabbard (the missing bit that connected to some torn-off gold wire where the halter ends at the hip). FOUR kilos of gold chain link. Four KILOS of fine, fine, FINE work.

The amount of detail in such artifacts reflects superb, painstaking craftsmanship of incredible sophistication. You’d appreciate this in the varied styles and techniques used — gold foil, filigree, chain-linking, others. The jeweller-historian Ramon Villegas’s Ginto: History Wrought in Gold could enlighten us further (we own a copy of his 1983 book Kayamanan: Philippine Jewelry Tradition). Wish I could afford one. New York-based Filipiniana blogger Pu-pu Platter shares beautiful photos on Flickr. I would dearly love for regular folks to enjoy the photographs of the collection on top of the intriguing story of the discovery, how the Locsins funded the archaeological dig and how they decided for it to be accessible to the ordinary Filipino in this way. It deserves its own National Geographic cover story.

Luckily for us folks with internet access, The Probe Team covered “The Surigao Treasure” and aired it just last June 8, 2008. There’s a good (but short) article accompanying the documentary. They showed it a day later as ABS-CBN’s Independence Day Special “Gintong Pamana” which I’m pleased to find it on YouTube. I missed both showings, but thanks to online links, I got intrigued again and want to return to the Ayala Museum. Or read the bibliography suggested by Pu-pu Platter in his May 4th comment to Marketman’s post. (Funny how, when you’re not required to read something, finally reading it becomes so delicious because you’re just plain CURIOUS.)

Then there’s that gold foil document inscribed with ancient Tagalog/Sanskrit whose significance (at least to us) would approach that of the Rosetta Stone or the Dead Sea Scrolls. It tells of a wealthy man who owed a debt of 900gms worth of gold and thus became a slave because he couldn’t repay his debt. What a great story — that could be made into either a novel or a movie.

But my favorite piece of all is that golden vessel shaped into a Kinnari, a mystical bird-woman that Hindu-Southeast Asian culture refers to as the epitome of grace and beauty. Graceful and beautiful the artifact was, indeed. You can see the very delicate facial expression in the photo above, and the exquisite feather detailing around the vessel, which I imagine held perfumed oil. It is displayed as found, slightly squashed (gold being very soft it couldn’t have kept its shape under soil), but that doesn’t diminish its very fabulousness.

I’m going back. (You can come along, and see it for only Php 225 for the entrance ticket. Bring an id, because they ask for one. I know, it’s the price of a restaurant entree. But it’s a special, special exhibit. It’s worth it. Make it a date. Impress your significant someone. Or teach yourself something new. Today’s a great day to consider it.)

YET ANOTHER TXT SCAM

I would like to warn you all about this scam text I received from +639278173011 with the ff. message:

——–

CONGRTLTIONS!!! You Have Won 300th\HONDA JAZZ Last May 27,2008 ur Cell # as Home Partner Winner. Call ds # for details ds is Jobert Lapuz of Phil,Com,Center….

——-

Kailangan pa bang i-memorize yan? (evil Korina Sanchez laughter)

Marami pa sana akong gustong sabihin, but the evil Korina Sanchez laughter will have to suffice. I would just like to point out that

1) I did not join any raffle of that sort.
2) There is no DTI Permit number.
3) Hindi ba condemned na ang PhilComCen building along Ortigas? Ni walang landline for return call.
4) Strange how the sender abbreviates important words and yet wastes sms space with extraneous punctuation marks at odd points.

Aga aga nagkakalat na ng lagim. I tried to report this on the DTI website but there’s this frakkin form which requires you to have a respondent. I think that’s for complaints against legitimate DTI-registered companies. I thought they had a fraud unit somewhere. They don’t even have a “contact us” for emailed complaints re fraud warnings. Or maybe you report this to City Hall.

Of course I will also report this to Marietta Giron over at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. But by then the perpetrator will have changed his number. You guys know what to do.

SAMSUNG 19″ LCD MONITOR


Would you believe, I’ve never changed my Sampo 17″ CRT monitor ever since I got back from Australia in 2000? Initially I wanted to wait till it actually died before replacing it with an lcd monitor. However, given my green concerns, limited personal living space plus the sudden rise in the cost of living, I just decided to wait until lcd monitors of a certain size became more affordable.

I don’t have a tv in my room. I bought one a long time ago, after which I discovered that the cable guy couldn’t find a tv port or cable connection provision anywhere in my room. (My room has no provision for telephone connection either.) However, my parents’ room and my sister’s room both have them. That tv ended up replacing the old one in my parents’ room. Now every time I want to watch cable I have to make sure my dad’s busy elsewhere (you know daddies and their need to control the remote). I only watch marathon tv on Saturdays and Sundays anyway, for shows like CSI and other series. I end up watching episodes from internet downloads on demand. I got tired of watching a smaller screen (am nearsighted), so I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I had a 17″ lcd monitor! At the time I thought I was setting a budget for that size, until I saw Jay’s 19″ LG monitor. Widescreen! I wanted one.

When I started canvassing (from Trinoma to Greenhills to Megamall), I narrowed down the look and price that I wanted, and both LG and Samsung were at the top of my list. I waited a month or so more till funds came in, until one day I saw that Villman offered the Samsung 920NW at PhP 9,990 0% for 6 months. The LG was more expensive. Actually, the very friendly people at the Complink next door offered the same unit for PhP 9,000 cash or credit straight payment. Next door to that other friendly people offered a similar sized AOC at around PhP 8,500. When I asked TDM, he said, “Get the Samsung. I can tell it’s what you really want. The price is reasonable. Matte black. Besides, they make their own monitors.” Considering I have to live with the monitor daily, I might as well get exactly what I want, at the terms I agreed with.

So after a very yummy lunch yesterday at Kaya Express with TDM, we went over to Villman Megamall and got me my monitor, plus some inexpensive black matte Genius 2.0 speakers (Php 395 at Octagon). I figured since my room was quite small, the speakers would suffice. True enough, they were fine. My bedroom is so small that more expensive speaker systems would turn action movie dvds into a sensurround experience and would wake up the neighbors.

Last night I was able to watch Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica without eyestrain! This made the long wait so, so worth it.