Sunday, 30 June 2013

Drumcat: A Show Of Big Drums, Sticks And A Lot Of Noise

I have seen their posters somewhere, but I really wasn't in the mood for a percussion show, unless it comes with majorettes in short skirts, twirling their batons and balancing them between their dainty, manicured fingers. 

Drumcat's poster showing ladies in black with drum sticks says it all:  a show with lots of drum and a lot of drumming. But I really can't judge a show by its poster, can I?  So, thanks to Korea Tourism Organization, the K-Performance Supporters group got free tickets to watch Drumcat one hot summer afternoon. 
Well, one thing the poster didn't say was that, if there were lots of drums, there would be lots of noise. And gosh, my ear drums got a lot of earful from all the drumming.

There were six lady drummers, all in black tight shorts and pants, and one lady in red short dress with a violin. Yes, a violin! Which made me wonder, if this was supposed to be a percussion show, what was a string instrument doing here? I would have appreciated it if it were a Stradivarius violin though. But it wasn't; it was just an electronic violin. Oh, well.
Yes, it was an 'oh, well' show. Drumcat was a show with a lot of noise, but no creativity. Their brochure doesn't even say about the concept, except that it 'can get rid of your worries and troubles and stresses'. (Note: nobody even spell-checked their brochure. The word 'rid' was spelled 'ride'.).  How can you get rid of your worries when it's all noisy around you?

The brochure also says the program was subdivided into Asia, Europe, America and Festival, but I couldn't even able to tell which part was which, as it was all drumming backed up by a loud pre-recorded rythmic music, which, if taken away, would have left just 70 minutes of noisy drumming interrupted by the sound of an electronic violin.

While I was impressed with two sections, wherein six ladies played each other's drums with precision performance just like those in military parades, the rest of the show was boring. Those glow-in-dark drum sticks were for kids, and the sections of the lady in violin was just another show-off part. She was in a way asking everyone, who of you can play Concierto de Aranjuez on the violin while prancing around the stage in high heels and short dress with long brown-dyed hair swaying and not missing a note?

And one of the most irritating effects was the flashing lights at the stage that was blinding to the eyes of the audience. I had to close my eyes when they flashed.

And as expected, there was a section for audience participation where audience members were only allowed to blow a whistle, which I think is a wind instrument, and were not picked to play a drum. Unlike another non-verbal show JUMP! where audience participation was funnier, this show's audience participation section merely lets a couple of audience members run around the hall while blowing whistles, which I'm not sure were actually washed from the saliva of the previous day's users. Eeew!
It would have been fun if that section taught audience members how to use a percussion instrument.

Understandably, a few shouts of 'bee-yoo-tee-pool!' that I heard during the show came from a couple of male audience members of a certain age. I guess they liked those head tosses that went along with the beat. 
Was watching Drumcat worth it? Nah. This show needs more creativity. But I guess this show is lucky that some tour operators have decided to bring their international tourists to watch Drumcat as its captive audience. 

But for me, I should have gone to Namsangol, which was just about ten minutes away by foot (Exit 3 of Chungmuro Station), to watch the free performances of a Korean fan dance and a jaw-dropping (and not ear-drum breaking!) demonstration of Taekwondo.

Now, I need some quiet time. My abused ear drums need to rest.

(Drumcat is performed at MyungBo Art Hall, which is about 200 meters from Exit 8 of Euljiro 3-ga Station).

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Pinoy in Binondo: Salazar's Hopia!

Its crust is flaky and soft; its filling has a real ube taste with its sweetness just enough to flood my palate with memories of one of my favorite snacks.... hopia!

All these years, even as I am away from home, thoughtful friends visiting Korea always brought me hopia as pasalubong. From the Seoul drama queens who brought me these, to my friend Remy who also brought me a box which I shared with the Admiral at Gwanghwamun, to Agnes, and to JM and Jasmin, who also got me a box!

All these years, I have enjoyed the Eng Bee Tin and Polland hopia brands, but on my visit to Manila's Chinatown in Binondo, I was introduced to Salazar's hopia by friends Diana and Marlu!

I think a long time ago, another friend Dia, who used to work in the Binondo area, told me about this brand, but I guess I forgot about it. And today, on our visit to Salazar Bakery in Binondo, I wondered why it was called Salazar Bakery when this was obviously owned by a Chinese-Filipino family. According to Diana, the original location of their bakery was on Salazar Street. Now, it's on Ongpin Street.

But no matter where it's located, or what its bakery name is, this hopia is definitely the best! I just love, love, love it! And it's reasonably cheap, too!

How, I wish I would be able to bring all these goodies back to Seoul, so I can enjoy them every time my tummy grumbles. But I need not worry as Salazar's Bakery isn't going away and I know my way around Manila's Chinatown. This bakery is definitely in my list next time I fly home.

                     (A happy bunch of Salazar Bakery fans!)

So, in the meantime, let me just enjoy my hopia, one bite at a time.

The Philippine Pearl Market: The Real Perlas Ng Silanganan!

Whenever I fly home, I usually stay in the provinces. I just stay in Manila for a few days when I have to. Its traffic gets even more irritating every time I am there. And when I'm in Manila, I make the most of my day (and night) to optimize my vacation. 

So, on one hectic day I was in Manila, I met a friend for lunch, met friends for merienda, went shopping for South Sea pearls (for my Mom!), and lastly, had a reunion with friends, who all used to live in Seoul, later that night. 

Well, of the four things I scheduled that day, I am sure one was not like the other. Would the words friends, reunion and pearls go together? Ha-ha-ha!
                                     (A light lunch at Italiannis)

I actually asked my friends to meet me at the Greenhills Shopping Center (in San Juan City, Metro Manila) as the pearl market is in there. And after having a light lunch with Alfa at an Italian restaurant, we roamed around the shopping complex before I met up with Nancy and her daughter Anna by merienda time. 

             (Puto bumbong merienda at Via Mare)

I know little about pearls and I would need all the help I could get when it came to quality and price range. That's why I had to meet up with Nancy. Having purchased pearls on several occasions from a favored vendor, Nancy would be able to tell me what was a good buy (or a good price!)

Still full from our merienda, we made our way to the famous pearl market to locate Mrs. Nawal's stall, her suki (favored vendor). The pearl market is actually rows and rows of stalls along tight alleyways owned by vendors selling pearls, gemstones and other jewelry. But the primary (and most popular) merchandise they sell is pearls. Most vendors are from Mindanao, where the best and most expensive pearls come from. I was told the most expensive ones are from the really deep seas, the South Sea pearls.

      (Pearl necklaces to choke for! Ha-ha-ha!)

We told Mrs. Nawal what we wanted, and as I stood there being overwhelmed by these pearls of different sizes and colors (and of course, prices), I wondered whether a short visit and a purchase at the pearl market would make me now a pearl expert. Ha-ha-ha!   


Just like most stalls, Mrs. Nawal  had her pearls hanging from the ceiling, on small and big boxes, or just laid out. I told her I read somewhere that Queen Sofia of Spain visited this pearl market during her visit to the Philippines. Mrs. Nawal said that it was from her stall the Queen bought her pearls from. Hmm. I wonder whether Mrs. Nawal's pearls now form part of the Spanish royal family's jewels. A jeweler for royalty!

                   (How deep is your pearl?)

After zeroing in on what I wanted to buy with the help of Nancy and a lot of haggling (Thanks, Nancy!), I was able to buy South Sea pearl earrings and pearl necklaces for my Mom and sister, which would now form part of our own royal family jewels. Ha-ha-ha! 
            (Mrs. Nawal is a jeweler for royalty!)

The Philippines is known as Perlas ng Silanganan, or Pearl of the Orient, for its natural beauty. But at these times, it's not only the country's beautiful landscape and hideaways most international visitors come for. And based on stories of the Queen's visit, and international visitors and balikbayans search for a variety of fine (and comparably less expensive!) jewelry, it's the real perlas of the silanganan they come for, and most of them shop here at the pearl market of the Greenhills Shopping Center, where most pearl vendors (with the best quality pearls!) are gathered. 
So, now that I am a pearl expert, I have to ask: how deep is your pearl?  :-)

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Serenity And The Colors Of The Jogyesa Temple

After walking through the cobblestone steps of Insa-dong, I meandered through a small alley leading to the other side of Jongno towards the Jogyesa Temple. 

Even though I have been to this very popular temple on several occasions, I didn't know much about its history. But listening through the audio files about the Jogyesa Temple on the Seoul Walking Tour app, I learned that it was built in 1910 by Buddhist monks.
                   (The Seoul Walking Tour app at work!)

                           (The ten-story octagonal stupa)

Although many people visit this temple everyday, this place comes alive during the festivities, including the lotus lantern parade, held to celebrate Buddha's birthday in May.  But since this is a temple, it is a quiet place, where most visitors come to pray and meditate.

      (The smiling Buddha welcomes everyone to the temple)
The first time I visited Jogyesa Temple in the autumn of 2004 with Professor Jimmy Licauco and our KTO Goodwill Guide, Veronica, I was surprised to find such a serene corner in a very noisy and fast city. (I was new to Seoul then, and yes, I needed a tour guide! Ha-ha-ha!) I have been coming back to this place ever since. This place is peaceful and very colorful.

The lanterns hanging overhead around the temple grounds also add a different character to the temple. This place must be one of the most colorful in Seoul.

From the moment you pass through the iljumun, or the One Pillar Gate, and walking past the smiling stone Buddha before reaching the Daeungjeon, or the Daeungjeon Hall, you can immediately feel Jogyesa Temple's cool and laid-back atmosphere.

And at the other end of the grounds, the ten-story octagonal stupa is usually surrounded by people praying. This was just built in 2009.  But the huge tree standing between the Daeungjeon and the stupa is also one imposing natural presence.
After spending some time around the Jogyesa Temple while listening to the Seoul Walking Tour app, I made my way towards the other exit of the temple grounds, and headed to the serviced apartments nearby to visit my friend Ruth and her family. 

          (The Jogyesa Temple from Ruth's 14th floor window)
And from her 14th floor window, I gazed down at the Jogyesa Temple with its hanging lanterns still showing off its colors as if inviting me to visit it again some day.

I think I will.

                    (Jongno, where part of the old Seoul still lives)