PUT TO THE TEST

I saw several posts that B made on Facebook, full of anger, contempt and vitriol. It’s been a couple of years or so since he moved to Canada with his family. It looks like his life there is good, he has a good job and his kids are in a good school. But I see his anger is still directed at the imperfect country he left behind. He probably doesn’t think much of us who remain here through choice, or lack of choice. There are times his arrogance makes me want to unfollow him, but then I think of our shared past, and the reasons why we are still friends. I am surprised by his bitterness and negativity when the changes he has made to his life have resulted in what should be positive things.

The Dalai Lama says, “It is possible to develop a… forceful but far more controlled energy with which to handle difficult situations. This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger. Unfortunately, many people misjudge these qualities as signs of weakness. I believe the opposite to be true: that they are the true signs of inner strength. Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful and soft, but it is very powerful. It is those who easily lose their patience who are insecure and unstable. Thus, to me, the arousal of anger is a direct sign of weakness.”

I ask myself if the ties that bind B and myself have faded. Time and distance have necessarily contributed to that. But time and distance afford me the conscious decision to try to be compassionate. I do not know exactly why he is an angry person, but I can only understand that he IS angry, and that there must be a good reason. I cannot stop him from dripping with contempt, I can only feel that it is one of his coping mechanisms. This does not make him a bad person, only different from how I am. I am not necessarily in a better place than he is, to think this way. I can only acknowledge that he is how he is now. And I can acknowledge my momentary distress with his behavior. I wish him good things, things everyone deserves. He makes it difficult, but friendship takes work. He still considers me a good friend, for what it’s worth.

The Dalai Lama continues: “For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential… Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people.”

Of course people also say not to surround yourself with toxic people. It’s not too bad; he’s half a world away. I love myself enough to be able to occasionally mute him. There will be times when things will be better and won’t be this way. We continue to grow.

Daily Prompt: Faded

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COFFEE SAFARI

Today I went with friends on a coffee safari.  No, we didn’t hop from one coffee shop to another!  We were invited to a coffee-tasting at a friend’s home.  The coffees, however, came from exotic locales – where the best coffees grow.

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I had no idea my friend Dante was a member of a local coffee club.  As you can guess, he doesn’t have coffee at coffee shops because he enjoys making his own at home.  He has a collection of coffee gadgets, ranging from grinders, to roasters, to French presses and espresso machines!  He buys international single-origin coffee beans from a trusted source, and only roasts 250g of beans at a time.  He grinds his beans just before making his coffee, in order to take advantage of the beans’ freshly-released flavor and aroma.

We had, in order:  Peruvian, Ethiopian dry-process (where the coffee berries dry in the sun naturally, as opposed to wet-process where the berries are hulled and the beans are dried separately), Jamaican Blue Mountain, Panama La Esmeralda Gesha and Ethiopian Harar coffees.  Plus an Ethiopian dry-process Americano (1:1 espresso and water).

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Dante used the hand drip coffee method.  I was wondering if the ceramic dripper was available locally, and found out it was being sold at Craft Coffee Workshop along Broadway Ave. in New Manila, Quezon City.  It’s also available in different sizes , along with other coffee accessories, on Amazon.com.

The coffees all had a wonderful aroma, each different from the other.  The aroma of the ground coffee was much stronger than that of the whole roasted beans.  I wish I had taken tasting notes, but I don’t know the terms.  Dante arranged the progression of flavors in terms of complexity and body.  I guess it would be like how a sommelier arranges wines to complement a dinner.  We tried each coffee black, then with some muscovado sugar, then with non-dairy creamer.  All the coffees were very good, but the Jamaican Blue Mountain and Panama La Esmeralda Gesha were particularly delicious.  Sublime.  (Jude, to me:  “So, did you hear the choir of angels yet?” With my mouth full of coffee, all I could do was nod and smile.)

Yes, we had a LOT of coffee, in small cups, not the big American-size mugs.  We were served pan de sal (soft breakfast buns), with our choice of filling – butter, strawberry jam, peanut butter and Spanish-style sardines.  We also had a lot of water on the side, to cleanse our palates.  You would think that all that caffeine would render me into a quivering mess, but I checked my hands and they didn’t shake.  Dante explains that when coffee has been made properly, you get the flavor of the coffee without too much of the caffeine.  To prove his point, he served me and Christine an Americano each, made of the Ethiopian dry-process beans.    My sixth coffee, but in a tiny double espresso cup.  I felt extraordinarily alert, but I felt great!  No palpitations.

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Of course, this isn’t something I’d do on a daily basis.  I don’t think I’d ever get to experience that in a commercial coffee shop, or even in a hotel.  It was such a treat (thank you so much, Dante)!  I learned so much about coffee that I never knew before.

I like to support Philippine coffee bean producers.  My usual coffee at home is Arabica from the Cordilleras or Liberica from Batangas (“barako”), so Dante suggested I try the local coffee brand Monks’ Blend.   It’s produced by Benedictine monks from the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.  We have an active Philippine Coffee Board, so maybe one day I’ll work my way through the different local coffees, which I see being sold in organic weekend markets, food trade fairs and sustainable lifestyle stores like Echo Store.

WHY IS THIS GIRL LAUGHING?

People have their pictures taken with celebrities.  One night, tipsy at a friend’s mom’s bienvenida party near Don Antonio, I met Boggart.  I couldn’t resist having my picture taken with him.

Yes, the name matched this huge dog but only in appearance.  The demon-incarnate-looking Boggart stuck next to me like a KITTEN all night, of all things.  When my friends and I first met Boggart, we were wary.  “Boggart likes to run.  So don’t run,” Harold’s mom said.  Beside me Ana and Jopet sort of laughed nervously.

She should have said, “Boggart likes to run outside if he finds the front gate is open.”

She should have added, “Boggart the 3-year-old Doberman thinks he’s a Labrador puppy.”  Dober-marshmallow is more like it.  Boggart was overjoyed to meet new friends!  Good thing he wasn’t the sort who jumped on you and murdered your clothes with muddy paws.  He actually went to obedience school.  And graduated.

Boggart wasn’t actually Harold’s mom’s dog.  Let’s say the house came with the dog when they bought it.  Alas, I must say Boggart is useless as a guard dog.  He loves being petted and having his ears scratched and back stroked.  I like that he doesn’t sneak food from your plate when you’re not looking, because his head already comes up to the height of the table.  He does beg and put his paws on your knees.  And look at you with meaningfully while the following thought runs through his head:  *barbecue! o dearest master’s friend! be kind and generous to your little Boggart!*

Harold was amazed that Boggart and I got along so well.  I’ve always loved dogs, although it depended on their personality.  Boggart is quite… affectionate.  Ana and Jopet were quite happy to sit on the far side of the gazebo.

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

BORACAY: SUNNY DAYS SWEEPING THE CLOUDS AWAY


There’s nothing like being with your closest friends at the best of times and the worst of times.

This June 16th I joined my friends Jopet, Ryan, Chinne, Jovic, their son Raffi on our 4th trip to Boracay since October 2006. Long ago we made a pact that we deserved a vacation in a beautiful place for more than three whole days that 1) didn’t have to involve us doing every possible touristy action, 2) had a wide selection of cuisine choices, and 3) would satisfy our need for R&R and make us think fondly of home. Why did we wait for June 16? That’s when the off-peak season begins — rates go down, rooms are more available, there’s still lots of sunny days to go around despite the occasional monsoon showers.

We left Manila on the earliest Cebu Pacific flight, arriving in Kalibo at 0915am. Our suki van driver Ralph was there to meet us. He’s driven us on almost all our Kalibo-Caticlan trips since 2006. [For those who’ve never visited Boracay before, the 1.5-hr trip is a scenic drive, with newly planted rice fields giving way to the mountains and a view of the sea. Drivers like Ralph are DOT-accredited, and meet passengers directly at Kalibo airport. Single passengers may join any airconditioned van leaving earliest, paying about P200 per head for the one-way trip. The destination is Caticlan jetty, and the P200 includes the ferry ride to Boracay. Visitors to Boracay pay a one-time fee of P50 worth of local environmental taxes before boarding. The ferry ride is short, about 10 minutes in fair weather. Upon disembarking, we usually take a P100 tricycle ride to Budget Mart which is near the resort where we usually book. OR you may take the slightly pricier Manila-Caticlan direct flights on either Cebu Pacific, PAL, Seair, or Air Philippines to save vacation time.]

We were greeted by a sunny day, then a bit of sunshiny shower as we checked into Crystal Sand resort. And also by Jerry, the Bora-cat. He hangs out with the security guard on a white plastic chair on the entrance to D’Mall, and is a sort of mascot to the employees of Cafe del Sol and Aria restaurant. Dig the white shell necklace and laid-back attitude! That’s the precise vacation mood we wanted for ourselves on this trip. It developed with the sunny days, and we had FOUR straight sunny days.


Between the lot of us we had 2 video cameras, 1 digital camera, 1 Nokia N95, and 2 other camera phones. Needless to say, it was a photo-fest. At the airport, at the beach, at the restaurants, at the karaoke, at D’Mall.

I’m writing separately about the food and entertainment, since the side stories there are pretty funny.

The gang is planning to return in October. I’m not so sure I’ll be with them, since I have to be in Boracay Dec. 19 for my kinakapatid Jun’s wedding to the lovely Heidi.

If, like me, you love the sea, the sun and the sand, Boracay is Paradise. There are budget, comfort and luxury options of enjoying this trip, and if you can afford to declare to the Universe that you deserve it, it’s one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. But go with someone you love, or go with friends who love you. You need someone to make sure you’re evenly applied with spf 50 sunblock. As in all things, love is in the details.

Up next — Boracay: Food Tripping; Boracay: Lemon Cheesecake, Crispy Pata and Karaoke Overload; and Boracay: Surviving Frankenstorm.

REUNION AT THE WAKE

My airsoft friend DM’s dad recently passed away, from cancer. Last night Almond and I went to the wake at Don Bosco to pay our respects, and met up with old friends of mine from Recon 1st Battalion. It’s been five years since I saw some of the guys there, and it felt good to reconnect. They asked me if I still played, and I told them I’d retired in 2003. I sold my souped-up MP5-PDW with the extended barrel and modified spring, including the hi-cap mags, to my old Wyvern teammate Dondi, but still had my uniforms (woodlands, olive drab air force jumpsuit, black SWAT jumpsuit), vest, boots, gloves, balaclava, sniper veils. Enough left over for Halloween.

All the reminiscing made everybody laugh, the atmosphere was almost festive. Yes, we were at a wake, but the group’s sense of humor is generally hard to suppress. I realized I missed them a lot. Team Wyvern used to play with R1B every weekend for several years, and after each game we’d all conquer some nearby eatery and eat long table-style. I enjoyed that sort of camaraderie. Wyvern is no more, most of the members having prioritized their relationships, families or careers. I just see the foodie core group of Dondi, Kathy & Mike most often.