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Friday, October 12, 2012



Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III on Friday tapped the internet users and media practitioners in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) for their inputs to improve his newly-filed Senate Bill No 3033, otherwise known as “The Crowdsourcing Act of 2012.”

“Social media is one of the avenues that we can tap to strengthen the people’s participation in crafting laws. It bridges time and distance restrictions that constraint the citizens in forwarding their opinions,” Sen. Guingona said.

Members of the Cordillera Bloggers, media practitioners in CAR and other neighboring provinces, and students from the University of the Philippines-Baguio participated in the forum.

Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was also tackled during the forum, as the law threatens to suppress the Constitutional-guaranteed freedom of speech and expression of social media users.

Senator Guingona, the lone opposition of the law when it was being deliberated on the Senate floor, said that the cybercrime law is a step towards dark ages.

However, he told the CAR social media users that to avoid confusion, the country needs a Cybercrime Prevention Act to combat internet-related crimes.

“However, this law that was passed recently contains problematic provisions. Without these confusing and vague provisions, this law is necessary. That’s why it is unfortunate that the overly vague and oppressive provision on libel was inserted into the law at the last minute,” he said.

Sen. Guingona is one of the Supreme Court petitioners for a temporary restraining order for RA 10175 in which the justices ordered a 120-day TRO last Tuesday.
He, however, clarified that while the rest of the law is crafted to protect the citizens, the only remedy that he sees so far is to strike the void provisions.

Sen. Guingona has filed a petition before the Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order. On Tuesday, October 9, the High Tribunal issued a TRO for the said law.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let us join hands against the Cybercrime Bill

Cordillera Blogger says No to Cybercrime Bill

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Statement on the Freedom of Information Act of the 15th Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Fellows

We, fellows of the 15th Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Fellowship, reiterate that access to public information is a critical element in a vibrant democratic society. As community journalists, it is our role to inform the general public as best, as complete and as fair as possible so that we can enlighten them and enable them to arrive at intelligent decisions.

The access to public information is not only the concern of media but of the general public. It is our right to know how the people we elected into offices spend our hard-earned taxes as well as policies and decisions that affect our everyday lives.

As the proverbial saying goes, public office is public trust, and the Aquino administration's hesitance to let the public access information pertaining to policies, decisions and government spending is not helping the country achieve the President's campaign slogan, “Matuwid na daan.”

The Freedom of Information Act—which has conspicuously gathered dust in the shelves of both houses in Congress—will protect and uphold the public trust the Filipino people has bestowed upon government and protect the public interest especially against any forms of abuse by government authorities. Ergo, treading what is supposed to be the righteous-path-sound bite the President has repeatedly said his “bosses.”

The Freedom of Information Act—unlike the Anti Cybercrime Act of 2012—have undergone public consultations, debates and all the other democratic processes in order to come up with a legislation that will almost certainly advance the democratic ideals the Aquino administration professed to uphold. 

The swiftness in the passage of restrictive laws such as the Anti Cybercrime Act of 2012 (RA 10175) unmasks the real mindset of the Aquino administration. It professes to advance the causes of transparency, accountability and good governance but in practice is doing the opposite of such tenets of a democratic society.

Our memories are fine and we do remember your promise to support the bill when you took office after the 2010 National Elections. We have grown tired of your flimsy rhetoric and inane paranoia, Mr. President.

Until the Aquino administration puts a fire under it, your campaign slogan “Matuwid na daan,” for now, is FUBAR (Fucked up beyond all recognition) to us, Mr. President. Pardon our French.

Jesus Miguel Agreda
Sun.Star Baguio

Winnie Aguilar

Ferdinandh Cabrera

Cong B. Corrales

Ma. Cecilia de los Reyes

JB Deveza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
NUJP Mindanao Media Safety Office

Bobby Labalan
Media Solutions Bicol

Macky Macaspac
Pinoy Weekly

Ronalyn Olea

Kim Patria
UP College of Mass Communication

Ryan Rosauro
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lady Ann Salem
Tudla Productions

Ritche Salgado
The Freeman (Cebu)

Raymund Villanueva
Kodao Productions

Michelle Zoleta
Philippine Star

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Some things don't go out on print.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


BAGUIO CITY-The Summer Capital's yearly spectacle of flowers is now officially open. More than 1,000 participants that include school bands and street performers here paraded to the audience awe as opening salvo the 15th year of one of the most colorful festivals in the country. Grand street parade is slated February 27 and Grand Flower Float parade is slated on February 28.

Sandstorm in Baguio?

BAGUIO CITY-During the Panagbenga Opening parade, a PNP-PROCOR helicopter decided to land in dustbin Melvin Jones football field (sans the grass). It created a pseudo-sandstorm that distracted the performers and audience along Harrison Road here.

Poor school children. Ano naman kaya comment ng parents nila this time?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Baguio Nightlife

Nevada Square

Since Panagbenga Festival officially opens tomorrow, I will write something about Baguio's Nightlife. Most tourists who would often flock to witness the yearly spectacle of flowers would surely want to experience Baguio city's late night offerings.
Rubix and Tangerine in Nevada Square

Baguio's late night parties is at its peak every February because of the activities lined-up for the coming Panagbenga festival. There will be cocktail and rave parties, stage plays, live band concerts etc. for everyone to enjoy. Here's the list of places I would certainly suggest for you to visit (in no particular order).

1. Nevada Square (Fridays, Tangerine, Rubix, Acid, Latino, Bedroom).
2. Gilligan's, Cafe Will, Cactus lounge and other bars along Legarda

3. North Drive, Top Gear, Miguel's, Kanem and Hidemi bar strip
4. Ala Carte, Singgles, Rumours along Session Road

5. Kamalig Comedy Bar
6. Country Club and Manor lounges (if you have the budget, as in budget!)
7. Leonard Wood Road bars dungeon, chill-out safari etc.

Kamalig Comedy Bar

But of course, it doesn't mean that these are the only bars in town. Baguio is certainly the drinking capital in Northern Luzon. Your own backyard can instantly become a drinking pub.
Baguio you have other party places to suggest?


Saturday, January 30, 2010


As the city celebrates the end of its centennial year, three notable books came out of the press to give different glimpses of Baguio.

Poignant revelations and new facts have been uncovered by dedicated individuals who all fell in

love, lived and eventually stayed in the city.nd with three books that they’ve eventually written, as a result of their collaboration with a myriad of painters, photographers and graphic artists, these three books stood out among the rest who braved the hardships of publication –The Baguio We Know, Baguio Centennial Coffeetable book and, although not a book, the centennial issue of the Baguio City Yearbook.

A product of hard work by dedicated individuals composed of the Baguio Writers Group, Baguioites and respected writers in the media profession, all if not at least one of these books should be in the hands of every Baguio lover, after all, because its Christmas and that these books only come out once every 100 years.

The Baguio We Know

As acclaimed writer Cirilo Bautista, one of the founding members of the Baguio Writers Group puts it, Baguio has been tendering a beneficent haven for creative writers, as the anthology The Baguio We Know shows.

A haven for Manila-based literary writers who yearly troop here every summer, the city, because of its writer-friendly environment has endeared the late National Artist Nick Joaquin and even Bautista himself who once took up his post graduate studies and taught in one of the universities here.

But this book of the Baguio Writers Group (BWG) has captured the real soul of Baguio writing. It included real Baguio denizens and those who may not be from the summer capital – but left their hearts broken (or unbroken as the case may apply) in the City of Pines.

As the editor, seasoned writer UP Professor Grace Celeste Subido says in the introduction of her book, Baguio bears the burden of cliché as many books in the previous years has come out to talk about the pine-scented city.

Together with her co-editors in the companion book to be released next year Butch Macansantos and Luchie Maranan, artist Rishab and then BWG president Babeth Lolarga, they battled the dilemma of coming up with an anthology that would best describe the theory of emplacement -- that concept of “Baguio-ness” and “ Baguio writing.”

The book launched at the SM Baguio National Bookstore branch last September 2, encapsulates all that every Baguio-lover would want to describe. And for that, the city endures because, as Subido writes in the book, it is continually remembered or re-membered, re-conjured, and re-invented by many more for whom this city is, or has truly become, home.

The writers for this first installment of the Baguio Writers Group Anthology includes renowned writer Bautista, artist Dinggot Conde – Prieto, Ateneo professor Karla Delgado, Philippine Star columnist Enrico Subido, historical researcher Arnold Azurin, UP Mass Com Dean Roland Tolentino, De La Salle professor Pia Arboleda and Davao-based writer Tita Lacambra – Ayala.

And not to be outdone are the roster of Baguio-based writers that include current BWG president Padma Perez, Baguio Historical Society head Nonette Bennett, UP Baguio Chancellor Priscilla Macansantos, UP Baguio professors Ana Christine Torres, Merci Dulawan, Scott Magkachi Saboy and Grace Subido, production designer and director Martin Masadao, columnist Baboo Modonedo and the grandmother of Baguio media Cecile Afable.

Lastly, as the editor Subido responded to an interview, “this is also in keeping with
the idea that the notion of place is not simply to be construed in
terms of physical geography.”

“Anthologies on Baguio usually contain the
usual essays that show the person in the place. This volume attempts
something different. All essays explore the varying ways of how the
place is in the person,” Subido added.

The next volume from the BWG coming out first quarter of 2010, is the companion volume of The Baguio We Know, entitled Baguio Calligraphy. It is an anthology of poetry and
fiction composed of works by members of Baguio Writers Group, Ubbog Cordillera Young Writers and Manila-based literary denizens.

The book The Baguio We Know is available in all National Bookstore branches nationwide released by Anvil Publishing for less than 300 pesos.

Centennial Coffeetable book

With the support of the Baguio Centecom, the Baguio Centennial Coffeetable book written by Bona Elisa Resurrecion, although hefty when it comes to price, is packed with new revelations in the city’s history.

Among those stories that Resurreccion tackled were George Malcolm’s letters and correspondence that provided significant information by uncovering early happenings during the early years of the Philippine Commission.

Moreover, aside from historical facts and insights about Baguio discussed in the book , photos of seasoned photojournalists Noli Gabilo, Art Tibaldo and Toots Soberano showed the other side of Baguio captured in stills.

The book encompasses the history of the city, even before it became a city itself – from its days as a rancheria of Mateo Cariño to the first blueprint of the city designed by Daniel Burnham one hundred years ago.

Bona Resurreccion, the author of the book, was also involved in previous coffeetable books all over the country including one about the Panagbenga festival.

The Baguio Centennial Coffeetable book was edited by Alice Buenviaje-Wilder and produced by Visual Prose Creative Consultants Company.

The book is available at the Baguio Centennial Commission office at the Baguio Convention Center for P1,500.

One Mic: Embracing the Hip-Hop Life

When international hip-hop hits like Flo Rida’s In The Ayer, Chris Brown’s Forever and Usher’s Moving Mountains were lording over the airwaves July last year, a locally produced song, although sounding akin to hip-hop music produced by major labels abroad brought the local music industry to a standstill.

Me and My Turf from a local hip-hop group One Mic Productionz notched to the number two spot in Baguio’s local FM station 96.7 K-lite’s weekly charts for the next two weeks beating national hits from the likes of Hale, Urbandub and Cueshe.

Their first hit suddenly became part of local hip-hop music history. It became the first local hip-hop single to conquer the FM hit charts not only in Baguio but in nearby provinces.

This, among other accomplishments made One Mic Productionz brave the odds to produce what they call as a proudly Pinoy hip-hop music. Soon, jam packed club gigs, with crowds of students and hip-hop aficionados of the summer capital, were already jamming, raving and thumping to the danceable hits of One Mic.

Invitations to perform in local television shows followed as the group collaborated with hip-hop artists all over the country and the rest of the world.

Core Group

Back in October 2007, a group of teenagers, stepped out of the norms of college life to come up with hip-hop music that would best express what they really feel – some thoughts angst driven, some thoughts conveying just about anything they want to talk about – like the dilemmas of single fatherhood, bouts with local gangs and articulating ethnic identity.

Barely in their twenties, college students Ceelo, Kaydee, Gambino, Yo!L and Edz came up with an album entitled Louder Than You Expect It to bring their hip-hop music to the mainstream.

With a crisp grungy funk sound, the group composed songs that they would call out of the box hip-hop compared to rap releases by local Pinoy artists.

More than a year later since the group was formed, Kray Etnik, Bskribz and Diño joined the group as they collaborated with the original members with the album entitled Poetry Exemplified.

A mixture of slam poetry inspired by Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Mistah Blaze and Eminem, the group mixed eclectic genres of music composed of OPM hits, R&B and Hip-hop to come up with Me and My Turf and Baguio to Tondo songs.

And a few years later, the young teenagers became college students, office workers and single fathers, all with a message to impart to their listeners.

Now, they have already collaborated with Manila-based and international artists including Mistahblaze, Francis M, Mike Kosa and Mike Swift through the internationally released documentary entitled Konektado.

Music Genre

“Our music is eclectic because we have different inspirations,” Kray Etnik said.

Inside their own music studio with recording equipment coming from each member’s own pocket, they came up with hit tracks that were raved by local hip-hop music lovers and rap groups from Tondo, Valenzuela and Cavite as well as fans listening through the group’s Facebook and Youtube accounts as well as in their official website

Hip hop is a musical genre which developed alongside hip hop culture, and is commonly based on concepts of looping, rapping, freestyling, DJing, scratching, sampling and beat-boxing. The music is used to express concerns of political, social, and personal issues.

Former gang member Yo!L said that the way he makes his music was inspired by his life in the streets.

“Before, most of my compositions were angst driven but now, I realized that I can also educate people through music,” Yo!L said.

“We eat, drink and sleep hip-hop and we show it through our music,” Kray Etnik said.

“Before I just copy what I see on the streets, that hip-hop was another fad but I realized that it isn’t, and that it is really a way of life,” Ceelo added.

Ceelo moreover said that he wants their music to be different from other hip-hop and rap artists as he wants to make old songs new again by remixing old hits with new loops to create a funkier sound.

Way of Life

“Hip-hop can’t feed you but we just love doing it, it is already part of our system,” Ceelo said.

Other members of the group concurred as they all agreed that hip-hop is not just about baggy pants and wearing bling-blings that rappers and hip-hop stars abroad would influence the youth through their music videos and shows.

“Through our music our way of life are shown through the lyrics of our songs like hustling for money by doing odd jobs,” Ceelo confessed.

In addition, Kray Etnik said that being a hip-hop artist really is just a matter of balancing one’s musical career and studies or work.

As one of the pioneering member organization of Baguio Brotherhood for Peace, the group wants to stop discrimination among youth groups because of most notions of hip-hoppers to the public that often equate them to gangs, lewd acts and brawls.

“We are a peace loving group that only aims to show a culture of hip-hop to those who want to embrace it,” Ceelo said.

Yo!L advised young kids especially those interested in hip-hop to delve and immerse themselves to the real hip-hop life by studying it through books and in the internet.

Future Plans

As of now, the group through their independent albums wants to penetrate the national and international music industry by making recording labels realize that there are really talented groups in Baguio.

The problem that the group pointed out was that major labels censor their compositions too much and that gives limitations to their artistic expression.

In the end, the group said that because of this trend, they decided to come up with an indie album that they can market through word of mouth, local gigs and through the internet.

The group is also planning to collaborate with local alternative rock bands to come up with a new sounding album to be released next year.

Paalam, J.D. Salinger

Thanks for inspiring me to write and write and write.
And inspiring me to read, read and read more than 10 years ago.
J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose "The Catcher in the Rye" shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91. Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author's son said in a statement... (AP)

Small Businesses are ‘in’ for the New Year

Dream big, start small.

This is the guiding principle that motivated a full time call center agent to come up with a doll making business – even if he’s a guy.

Oliver Ocampo braved the odds with his passion for the arts to come up with Oliver Makes Dolls, a plush toy making small enterprise, that has reached markets from as far as Canada and the United States – simply by word-of-mouth and internet marketing.

The idea of coming up with a doll making business started when Ocampo, then a call center trainer in one of the call centers in the city, was walking in the streets with her sister during last year’s Session Road in Bloom.

They saw machine-sewn voodoo dolls made of cheap fabric being sold at steep prices.

And with his mother and grandmother being dressmakers, his skill of sewing was reinvigorated and the rest as they call it was history.

He started designing and sewing dolls.

“I said to my sister that I could do better,” Ocampo proudly said.

Creative Ideas

He tried on different texture, experimented on different sewing techniques to make his ideas come into fruition.

And when he saw the potential of his doll creations after posting some pictures of finished products online, he continued checking out some ideas and techniques for future projects to improve the quality of his dolls.

“I researched and did sketches. I drew the designs first in sketch pads then experiment on different fabrics, textures, and materials. Sometimes I browse the internet for new doll designs that may sell,“he said.

Then the dilemma of coming up with a name for the dolls came, he wanted it to be out of the box, without the common cutesy feel and pretensions, so he decided to name it as straightforward as possible – Oliver Makes Dolls.

“I want it straight to the point plus there's a certain charm about a guy who makes dolls, I guess, so I named the business that way,” he said smilingly.

Some of the dolls he design and produce through sheer love for creating cartoons and caricatures as a kid.

Among his popular creations include My Voodoo Dolls, Ninja Boys, and Angel Pig designs and coming soon are The Schmunsters the curious monster dolls series, MyVoodoo Extreme, and Pride Dolls, his tribute to the LGBT community.

Materials and Marketing

“When I posted the photos in my Facebook account and people started inquiring about them, that's when I thought that it could be a money-making venture,” Ocampo said.

And so, he started with only his guts and creativity hunting for fabrics in Manila. “Divisoria is still the best source of quality fabric and other materials for my Dolls,” he suggested.

But he also confessed that he also experiments with different fabric from ukay-ukay that has made the city popular in the recent years.

Ocampo said that some day, he dreams to produce more dolls without sacrificing the quality of his dolls since he believes that the international market loves dolls even if digital toys veer away most children from traditional toys such as dolls.

“I would love to see my dolls proliferate in the international market,” Oliver said.

He added that the foreign market goes crazy over handmade products and that the reason why until now he continues to sew the dolls himself.

“I can't really compete with big time local doll makers when it comes to bulk and cost. I'm a small producer and all my dolls are handmade so I can only make as much, “he laments.

Since he purchases materials by retail, it's also more costly on his part to produce the dolls. In order for him to make a profit, they come at a much higher price compared to mass-produced dolls.

Currently his dolls are on the net and customers buy through his website or through his Facebook account.

“I can deliver nationwide via local and international couriers whichever the customer prefers,” Ocampo added.

Small and Medium Enterprise

Just like Oliver, small and medium enterprises like Olive Makes Dolls are the “in” thing in the city right now. According to Department of Trade and Industry - CAR Assistant Regional Director Carmelita Usman said that it has been a trend that many Filipinos are deciding to come up with small businesses.

Usman said, just like Ocampo, one may just visit their office at DTI-CAR to apply for a business name for only P150 and then process business permit and BIR registration so that their agency will be able to assist small businesses to come up with branding ideas, skills training, branding, pricing and other aids that will help small businesses become successful.

The DTI-CAR together with the Technical Educational and Skills Development Agency (TESDA) also helps improve production of small businesses to make their products export quality.

Design consultants were also hired by the DTI to help entrepreneurs make their product uniwue and top of the line.

Usman added that once products of entrepreneurs become competitive and of high quality, their agency would recommend them to join local and national trade fairs for product exhibition.

With the current success of Impakabsat ’09 held recently at the SM Megamall Megatrade halls in Mandaluyong, with over 94 entrepreneurs exhibiting high quality products from furniture, woodcrafts, gifts and holiday decor, loom-woven products, silvercraft, processed food and other organic and natural products, Usman said that Small and Medium Enterprises are economic boosters to the region.

Aside from technical and marketing help, the Department of Trade and Industry also helps entrepreneurs finance their projects and products by linking them up with microfinancing institutions and government banks.

In the Cordillera region alone, the most popular industry is the food sector catering to pasalubong shops and other tourism-related establishments.

However, manufacture and production of novelty items like Oliver’s dolls are starting to become a trend with the city’s small and medium industry players.

Dedication and Customer Satisfaction

When asked how he manages his regular job and his new business. He said that it’s just a matter of prioritizing things.

“Whenever I get orders, I set expectations to my buyers and we agree on a deadline especially for custom-made dolls. I stick to the deadline and deliver on time. I also make it a point to make a certain number of dolls at a given period so it won't interfere with my work.

He said that he works double time on weekends and holidays to compensate for the time when he’s doing his regular job.

He also added that, “if it's something you enjoy doing you really don't mind the time and the effort you're putting in your creations.”

And his message to those who want to start their small businesses this year: Do not be afraid to take the risk.

“Make sure to provide not just quality products but also excellent customer service. They're like free advertising. They will tell their friends about your products and your service. You should always exceed their expectations,” he advised those who want to try their luck in businesses.

Ocampo believes that a happy customer will always return and most of the time they have somebody with them to give you more business ideas.

Moreover, he also conducts plush toy making workshops for kids in one of the cafés in the city to encourage more kids to be more creative.

With all this in mind, Ocampo’s new year will be full of happy expectations that he soon wants to fulfill one day at a time.

Kwentong Chicken Inasal

Wala na sigurong may pinakasikat na specialty ang Bacolod kundi ang Chicken Inasal. Ito yung parte ng manok na karaniwan ay pecho, pakpak o hita na binabad ng magdamag sa espesyal na marinade, na sa pagkakaalam ko sa aming kapitbahay sa Bacolod na may-ari ng isang sikat na Chicken Inasal chain, ay may sangkap na toyo, asin, suka, kalamansi, asukal at astwete at saka tinuhog ng barbecue stick.

Pagkatapos nito’y iniihaw sa nagbabagang uling ang manok (o kung sosyal ka naman ay sa electric grill para walang sunog na parte) habang pinapahiran ito ng mantikang may atswete, bawang at paminta hanggang sa maluto ang laman ng manok hanggang sa mga buto-buto nito.
Subalit sa panahon ngayon, kahit na siguro mga katulad kong lumaki at nagkaisip sa lungsod ng Bacolod ay hindi na alam kung saan nga ba nagsimula ang tanyag na chicken inasal. Hindi nila siguro alam na nagsimula lamang ito sa mga karitong may ihawan sa mga kalye at labas ng mga pamilihang bayan.

Ayon sa aking pananaliksik at pagtatanong sa mga nakakatanda sa Bacolod nitong nakaraang summer, habang ako’y nasa bakasyon, ay marami akong mga paghahambing na napagtanto sa chicken inasal at sa buhay ng tao. At ano naman kaya itong koneksyon ng Bacolod Chicken Inasal at ng buhay ng Pilipino?

Ang kwentong chicken inasal ay nagsimula sa mga kalye at labas ng mga pamilihang bayan ng lungsod ng Bacolod tulad rin kung paano nagsisimula ang isang komunidad, pamayanan at lungsod. Sa mga sidewalk at labas ng pamilihang bayan kasi unang natikman ng mga taga-Bacolod ang unang chicken inasal. Tulad ng kwek-kwek, odoks, betamax, isaw at iba pang mga pagkain sa kalye ang chicken inasal ay ang jologs na bersyon ng fried chicken ng mga mayayaman sa Bacolod noon.
Subalit ng di-kalaunan ay nadiskubre na rin ng mga marunong mag-negosyo, kapitalista at mga mayayaman ang sarap at kakaibang lasa ng inasal sa mga kalye kaya gumawa na rin sila ng kanilang mga sariling inasal chain sa tulad ng sikat na Mang Inasal, Chicken House at Chicken Deli subalit ang tinatawag na Manokan Country malapit sa reclamation area ng Bacolod ang talagang tagapagsimula ng Chicken Inasal Revolution.

Sa Manokan Country kasi nagsimulang mas lalong naging tanyag ang Bacolod Chicken Inasal. Mga inasal karinderya ang bumubuo sa Manokan Country chain na ito na may mga pangalan na Aida’s, Nena’s, Nena’s Beth, Rose atbp. Sila ang nagpauso ng pagkain ng chicken inasal ng kamayan o al fresco style. Lumaki ako na ganito ang pagkain ng chicken inasal sa mga karinderyang ito. Hindi gaya ng pagkain nito sa mga malls ngayon sa Maynila at iba pang lugar sa bansa na gumagamit na ng kutsara’t tinidor, para sa akin ang orihinal na pagkain ng chicken inasal (at malalaman na taga-Bacolod ka talaga) ay kung ikaw ay kumakain ng nagkakamay. Mahirap man o mayaman sa Bacolod ay nagkakamay tuwing kumakain ng Chicken Inasal. Sinisimulan ang ritwal ng pagkain ng chicken inasal sa paghuhugas ng kamay sa isang banga na hindi naubusan ng tubig. Marahil nagtataka na kayo kung bakit hindi nauubusan ang tapayan ng tubig dahil ito talaga ay isang gripo na tinatago sa isang banga para magmukhang overflowing ang suplay ng tubig nito. Pagkatapos magsabon at magbanlaw ng kamay sa lababong may banga ay sisimulan na ng kumakain ng chicken inasal ang giyera sa lamesa.

Magsisimula ang giyera sa paghahanda ng sawsawan na gawa sa kalamansi, sukang maanghang o sinamak at toyo. Pagkatapos nito ay kukuha ng mantika o chicken drippings ang kumakain nito at ilalagay ito sa kanin para mas lalong maging malinamnam ang kanin (at makolesterol din) at para huwag na rin dumikit ng masyado ang kanin sa kamay habang kumakain. At dito na isa-isang papapakin ng totoong mangangain ng chicken inasal ng simot na simot hanggang sa buto mapa-hita, pecho o pakpak man ito ng manok.
At kung magtatanong kayo bakit Inasal ang tawag sa inihaw na manok, ito ay dahil sa wikang Hiligaynon ng mga taga-Bacolod, ang asal ay nangangahulugang ang pagtuhog ng parte ng manok o baboy sa barbecue stick. Kung sa wikang Filipino naman ang salitang asal ay nangangahulugang gawi o pamamaraan ng isang tao ito naman ay simpleng barbecued chicken sa amin.
Ngunit kahit anumang kahulugan ang gamitin natin ay makikita natin na sa pagkain ng Bacolod Chicken inasal, hindi lamang ang gawi at pamamaraan ng tao ang naipapakita kundi pati na rin ang kultura at kaugalian ng mga ito. Ngayon, ang Bacolod chicken inasal ay pagkain na ng kapwa mahirap at mayaman. Tulad ng Bacolod Chicken Inasal, ganoon din ang buhay ng tao. May kaya ka man sa buhay o naghihikahos.
Iba’t-iba man ang pagkain ng chicken inasal, nagkakamay ka man o de-kutsara’t tinidor, dapat ay sagarin pa rin natin ang pagkain nito hanggang sa buto dahil ito’y isang simbolo ng buhay ng tao na dapat sulitin hanggang sa kauhuli-hulihang laman ng manok. Ang Bacolod Chicken Inasal, malinamnam, malasa at masarap parang buhay ng tao -- minsan hilaw, may dugu-dugo, minsan sunog at minsan tamang-tama lang ang pagkakaluto at pagkakahango sa apoy.

Fireflies and Legends in a Cordillera Town

If I ever become a god or some sort of a forest deity – which seems likely if I am living in a different dimension – it will be at least partly because of the beauty of fireflies sparkling in the trees at night in Kabayan.

My visit to Kabayan was in October two years ago, but the memories of seeing fireflies swarming in bushes and trees along the mountain trail near the lodge where I spent my solitary travel were still as vivid as my childhood memory of seeing different shapes and colors through a kaleidoscope. And as always, although I was alone, the company of fireflies while walking along rocky trails gave me that euphoric sense of peace and tranquility that I always expect from my travels.

And as I sat gazing at the fireflies from a distance, in the terrace of the mountain lodge where I was staying, I would recall my mother’s stories two decades ago, when my sisters and I were still imaginative kids listening attentively and sitting cross-legged in the sala of our house along Doña Juliana street. Back then, before we went to sleep, mother would often narrate magical and mystical stories of Negros, and let us imagine of fireflies, once swarming atop ipil-ipil trees, near the waterfalls of Mambukal, in her hometown of Murcia near the foot of Mt. Kanlaon. She said that when fireflies swarm near the waterfalls at dusk, it was because they were lighting the place where diwatas of the forest were taking a bath. There, the diwatas would bathe and enjoy the cool and crystal clear spring water gushing down the waterfalls.

While nostalgic moments of my childhood came flashing by like snapshots in a slideshow, I decided to read what the local historian and the town’s former mayor Florentino Merino gave me when I visited his house for an interview. His welcome gift for me was a special signed copy (with dedication note of course) of his book entitled “The Kabayan Mummies and the Bendiyan Cañao.” And as I scanned the book, I caught upon a legend that made worthwhile reading before I went to sleep on my last night in the Benguet town. The legend goes this way:

Long time ago, Gadate met a giant snake near Apesang cave while on his way to Asokong sitio for a cañao. Though he was shocked to see a giant snake, he got even more surprised when it suddenly spoke to him and said, “Please don’t scare me with the chosol (a poisonous vine). Instead, bring me some food and someone would braid for you a rattan belt around your torso to ensure a long life for you.” This Gadate did, and then the snake also fulfilled his end of the bargain. The giant snake added “ Tomorrow at sunrise, you will see me climbing up the Champeg mountain and I am leaving this place as you wish.” Then, as the giant snake would have promised, Gadate would reach a ripe old age with a woven rattan around his torso that made him stand erect despite his age and his descendants occupying the area where the snake used to live. And true enough, the snake moved away from Kabayan and its people. It went to reside in a cave in Kapangan town. There it would victimize people of the town until Galgalon, a mambunong from Kabayan and the warrior Baglao of Pacso would rid the misfortune of Kapangan through a ritual called sagosao. This ritual will cast a spell on the giant snake and make it fall asleep. Thus, the triumph of the two brave warriors happened.

I capped my last night in Kabayan imagining this legend with memories of the place I visited the day before – of the gigantic rock where the giant snake, the legend says, used to live – still lingering in my mind. The following morning, with much sadness, I have to leave the mountain town where I fell in love with its people, its legends and the fireflies of my imaginings. With a bagful of pasalubongs, consisting of mountain Arabica coffee, lemon grass oil, kintoman rice, assorted woven products and a handful of memories, I bid farewell to Kabayan town with the vista of towering Mt. Pulag and the memories of its enchanted lakes and mummy caves. While looking through the window of the A-Liner bus, I whispered to the winds of yore to the kaapuan with the highest respect and promised that I will visit again, soon.

A Sweet, Sweet, Sugary Story

MY LONGING for Sugarlandia always starts in my tongue, or as my aching tooth says-it is that missing pinch of sugar in every single dish I eat when I started settling here in Baguio five years ago. And this is my sweet, sweet, sugary story:

As a pure-breed Negrense, I am very sure to have that diabetic gene hidden somewhere in my genetics or DNA. And I am not exaggerating it either. I am just not used to any variant of adobo without that pinch (or as for me a cupful) of sugar, nor bistek, pochero, escabeche, barbecue, dinuguan and any other dish without that pinch of sugar added to it, surely, I mean hyperbolically speaking, I am already imagining myself sending my butt off to some mental asylum and locking myself up for all of eternity without that hint of sweetness in my food.

"It just tastes awkward!" I would complain to myself.

I mean, without sounding like a braggadocio, if you put yourselves in my shoes, having your abuela, your mama or your kitchen helper always racing to the cupboard for that spoonful of brown, washed, blocked, refined or muscovado sugar kept in colorful jars to add to your favourite dish, I'm a hundred percent sure, that by the end of the year, you would complain of rising blood sugar levels or an insomnia-driving toothache just like me.

But who would complain? Not me. Why? Well, because it's the sugar in my hometown Bacolod's cuisine that makes it known the world over. Who wouldn't know Bacolod's famous pastries and sweets like piaya, barquillos, dulce gatas and napoleones? Surely, every food connoisseur in the country would not ignore the sweet delights offered by the genteel people of my sock-shaped island.

And segue to flashback mode: I would remember during my grader years not so long ago, I would spend a few weekends in my Tita Inday's bakery in Silay helping, or shall I say tormenting, her workers by making them teach me how to make piaya. Yes, piaya, that flat-shaped-sweet-tasting sugar filled pastry.

"Well, it's easy!" my aunt's fat baker Dondon with that distinct Bisaya accent would brag.

First, he says, is that you mix altogether flour, butter and sugar for the dough. Second, he mixes muscovado sugar, margarine and ube for the filling. Then, he creates little balls with holes from the dough and stuffs it with the muscovado filling. Afterwards, Dondon flatten the dough filled with muscovado filling into circular flat discs and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of it. Toast them over a hot plate and Voila! You have that sweet hot piaya melting in your mouth.

Then, Tita Inday's workers would start packing the piaya in polyurethane bags and have them delivered to groceries all over the city. As for my Tita Inday's piaya, it would reach as far as Manila and Mindanao because it is being supplied to Negros Navigation passenger ships more than a decade ago. Sadly, her business didn't last that long as she ventured into other more profitable food businesses.

Going back to sugar (azucar in Spanish and asukal in Filipino) or as we Negrenses would call it - kalamay, sugar comes from the Sanskrit word sarkhara, which means "food of the kings". And I wouldn't argue with that. It's because sugar releases endorphins that makes a person happy and cheerful. And surely, kings or any type of royalty during the olden times with all their wealth and riches and concubines and you-know-what would all certainly be happy sprinkling sugar in their food and beverages like pixie dusts creating magic moods and smiles on their faces.

So the next time you want to feel happy all the time, just add that dash of sugar to your dish, and not too much or you'll be singing "All I Want for Christmas are my Two Front Teeth" all year round with a toothache making your life miserable just like me. And you'll end up writing a sweet, sweet sugary story to escape from the horror of meeting the dentist tomorrow.

A special 'trapo' recipe

FOR every season, there's always that signature dish to look forward. Favorites like roasted Turkey with cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, Special Tikoy on Chinese New Year and Sweet Ham every Christmas are always anticipated by every gastronome.

But nothing compares to the preparation of this winning dish served by some deceiving Filipino politicians-because it takes years, months and even decades to prepare. There are many variations of this dish-as per region-in the country where it is served or wherever these politicians trace their roots.

Ilocanos add saluyot as pampadulas or grease money, Bicolanos add siling labuyo as pampaanghang for added heat as in any traditional Filipino election, Ilonggos add sugar as pampatamis for that extra sweetness with their celebrity wife to overpower their makunat (stiff) image and Tagalogs add sampalok or kamias as pampaasim to their so-so educational backgrounds and leadership skills.

As a food connoisseur, I am inventing a special recipe just for the quintessential Filipino dirty politician. After all, it's just a matter of voter's taste that guarantees a person's victory. Moreover, it is always up for the Filipino exercising his right to suffrage if he wants to suffer from food poisoning due to dirty politics. Here's the recipe:
Special Trapo's Casserole

1 kilo - Any type of meat (Congressmen prefer pork)
1/2 kilo - Potatoes ( The more eyes for better cheating)
1/2 kilo - Pechay (Itanim ang Pechay!) or Cabbage (Heads cut-off Maguindanao style)
1 can - Tomato sauce (the bloody red, the better)
1/2 cup - Oil ( as grease money)
1 clove - Garlic (For privilege speech accessory) and Onion
1 bouillon cube (Congressmen prefer pork cubes instant sarap)
1 teaspoon food color (Yellow in Tarlac, Orange in Las Piñas etc.)
3 cups water (Cool enough to project a good image to the youth)
1 teaspoon- Sugar (Refined mestiza or brown ex-boldstar type)
1 teaspoon MSG (Money, Sex and Goons)
Salt and pepper (To show that the "trapo" has taste too)

Heat oil in a casserole and wait until it is hot enough just like any other sala sa init-sala sa lamig politician waiting for that clamor from the masses or grease money (campaign contributions) from their padrinos. Then, when the oil is hot enough to fool the masses, add garlic to the pan and sauté until golden brown akin to a golden finish in the elections.

Add onion for extra flavor and to conceal or hide the rotten smell of one's political image. Add slices of pork or beef cut into cubes and let it simmer into the oil for a few minutes and sprinkle sugar, salt and pepper for added taste.

Then add water to the meat and boil for a few minutes until the meat becomes
tender. Afterwards, add potatoes and simmer for three minutes until it boils. Add tomato sauce and food coloring to give tint and color to the broth similar to the political colors of today's politician (yellow for Noynoy Aquino and orange for Manny Villar, Green for Gibo).

Add bouillon cube (Congressmen prefer pork cubes sometimes in attaché cases o envelopes) to add more umami flavor to the rich broth. Lastly, add the pechay or cabbage leaves for that delicious casserole.

Serve hot in a palayok for presentation purposes or in first-class china. Count one, two, and three and the special trapo dish is cooked. Politicians love numbers. They count number 1, number 2 and number 3 just the way they look for their real number 1, number 2 and number 3.

Almost every dirty politician has their own version of this special hot dish. But let's see if they will follow this to ensure victory in 2010 or add another twist to this recipe.

This is best served with steamed rice - if there's no shortage next year due to the typhoons. Bon Apetit!

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on November 27, 2009.


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