Sunday, 24 January 2016

EXO's Chanyeol: from COEX to CIBO!

         (The Korea World Trade Center 
               is above the COEX Mall)

Although I always hear them singing on the alleyways of Myeongdong and see them dancing on TV, the first time I actually bumped into EXO was at Incheon International Airport. And they weren't singing or dancing. They were running away from their screaming fans!

And I thought that was the last time I saw them. 

  (Anna's EXO favorite member, Chanyeol)
Before I flew back home for Christmas, I dropped by what K-pop fans would call their 'playground', SMTown, which has a shop, a theater and other facilities that all constitute a version of a K-pop theme park of sorts. This place must be hallowed grounds for the fans of EXO, TVXQ, SHINee, Super Junior and other k-pop bands. 
              (Shinee's shiny things)

              (EXO members' shirts)

But I wasn't there to watch or listen to these bands, whose management surely knows how to tickle the fans into buying their music CDs and tickets to their concerts. 

I was there to get some presents for Anna, an EXO fan in Manila. Since she's a fan of EXO's Chanyeol, I got her a big photo of Chanyeol and EXO CD. But since CDs whose cover was Chanyeol were all sold out, I only was able to get her Sehun's CD.

At the shop, I noticed some Korean and Japanese fans who all seemed giddy and excited just for being in a place full of their favorite idol's souvenirs and memorabilia. They couldn't seem to decide which item to buy, or why k-pop band member to bring home!

And speaking of going home, when I was finally back in Manila, I met up with Anna at CIBO restaurant at Shangri-La Plaza. 

And over our favorite farfalle alla genovese and funghi trifolati pizza, Anna finally met EXO's Chanyeol who all came all the way from COEX and now, to CIBO.
             (SMTown at COEX in Seoul)

A few years back, Bae Yong-Joon of Winter Sonata korean drama came all the way from Seoul to Mary Grace café, this time, it's EXO's Chanyeol who travelled some 2,600 kilometers from Seoul to Manila.

        (EXO's Chanyeol sitting at CIBO)

Last night, EXO had a concert in Manila, and I'm sure, along with thousands of K-pop fans, Anna and her friends had fun singing and dancing while watching their favorite Korean boy band, not just on TV or on Youtube, but live on stage!

(By the way, congratulations to Cibo's Margarita Fores for being named 2016 Best Female Chef in Asia!)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Philippine Rice Cake: Bibingka!

       (A plastic container full of yumminess!)

As in any country, living in the province is more enjoyable and fun. Why? The air is cleaner, the streets less congested, and the best part, the food is yummier!
               (Freshly baked, warm bibingka 
           courtesy of the vendor and my mom!)

That's why when I went home, I always try to enjoy the native delicacies that are more closer to my tummy, than to my heart. Ha-ha-ha! And one of them is the bibingka, or in Ilonggo, we just call it 'bingka'.

Bingka is a Philippine rice cake made of rice flour, grated coconut, sugar, eggs and other ingredients. And there's one vendor in my hometown's market that makes them early in the morning. 

But what my mom does is to prepare grated coconuts the day before, and brings them the next morning to the vendor together with extra eggs. The vendor will then mix these on the remaining batter, and bake them. My mom then pays for all the bibingkas that are made from that mix. The vendor has a guaranteed sale, and the bibingkas my mom brings home are yummier because of the added coconut strips and extra eggs! The vendor is happy and so is my tummy! Ha-ha-ha!

But there is another type of bibingka that's even better! It's the bibingka baked 'Balasan' style sold in front of the Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo City, Iloilo Province. I always visit the kiosk next to the cathedral every time I am in Iloilo. 
    (Balasan bingka baked and sold in Iloilo City)

While a visitor can always say a little prayer inside the Cathedral, one also needs to remember that it's a sin to skip the bibingka part after. Ha-ha-ha! 

I know there are a lot of commercial bibingkas sold at cafes in Manila, and I have tasted them all. And none of them can match the bibingkas in the provinces.

Ang bibingka, bow

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A Pinoy @ The Movies: The Revenant

A 'revenant' is someone who came back from the dead, and boy, what a comeback from the dead that was!

I thought I was done seeing blood and body parts in movies this month. Last week, in Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight, in almost every other scene, there was spilling of blood from Type A to Z, and I was relieved when that movie was over. 

But I guess my quota for spilt blood wasn't reached yet. On the first few minutes of The Revenant, the Arikara Indians had their own version of a real killing spree of 'white' men, which made Tarantino's bloody scenes look like a high school reunion. Ha-ha-ha! And those Arikara Indians really knew their bow and arrows. Catniss Everdeen would have been relegated to a beginner, unless she could shoot while riding a galloping horse half-naked.

The Revenant is a real story of Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo diCaprio, who was a hunter, explorer and frontiersman in the 1800s, and who was left for dead by his companions in the wilderness. His torturous journey back to his outpost half-dead, full of broken bones and covered with Frankenstein's monster-like stitches in order to avenge the murder of his son makes up the core of the film. Yes, you will be cringing in your seat, too, but it will be worth the cringe because The Revenant is a must-watch movie. With all its 12 Oscar nominations, including best picture, best actor and best director, it will become one of the all-time best.

His journey back to the outpost over mountains, rivers and merciless Indians included crawling, swimming, walking, riding a horse and begging for food, which all made Reese Witherspoon's thousand-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail in the movie Wild look like a stroll along Rodeo Drive. 

In this film, Leonardo got mauled by a grizzly, got sown together without anesthesia, forced to swim in the freezing rapids and fell of a cliff. So, if this performance doesn't win him an Oscar, I don't know what role ever will.

He'll win; don't worry, together with Tom Hardy, the bad guy, for best supporting actor. 

So, if you have time to squeeze in a movie this freezing weekend, The Revenant it should be.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

A Pinoy @ The Movies: Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight

The poster of Hateful Eight shows a man wearing a black coat with a revolver on each hand treading on heavy snow. Well, since it also snowed in Seoul the other day, I decided to watch this movie.

And as the poster suggested (and as in any Quentin Tarantino film), there were very graphic scenes with heads blown off, and with liters of blood spilt and wasted that I think the nurses of the Red Cross blood donation center would cringe at. (I am a regular blood donor for the Korean Red Cross and the nurses there appreciate each drop of the blood donated, not wasted!)

Hateful Eight is a western movie about two groups of passengers who traveled on separate stage coaches through the snowy Wyoming. The movie opens with the music by the legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone, whose heavy melody made me feel like I was walking through the huge, dark halls of a haunted mansion with some unexpected specter waiting for me down the hall. But it wasn't a specter that waited at the end of the movie though; it was some different kind of ending where no one rides to a 'happily ever after' like Django Unchained.

In a typical Tarantino manner, he introduced each character one by one. Although I actually dozed off on a couple of occasions during the movie's slow start, it got more interesting as the chapters unfolded; the movie was told in 'chapters' just like Kill Bill was.

Even if you take away all its violence and gore, Hateful Eight is a superbly made film. But only Ennio Morricone and Jennifer Jason Leigh are nominated for an Academy Award; Morricone for his music, and Leigh for best supporting actress.

So, if you have an aversion to blood and body parts, this film's not for you. But if you're the violent type with a penchant for killing, you would probably be clapping from your seat each time you hear a punch or a gun going off. Ha-ha-ha! You will just hate to love Hateful Eight!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Negros Tourism: Silay City's San Diego Pro-Cathedral

I just passed by Silay City yesterday, and seeing their famous landmark of a cathedral reminded me to write a blog when I first visited it a few months back.

Silay City's huge cathedral is along the highway, and anyone passing through the city's main street won't miss it.

One of the biggest cities north of the Negros Occidental's capital, Bacolod City, Silay has been called the Paris of Negros because it was the center of the arts in the province during the early 20th  century.   

Its famous children included opera singers, architects, and artists, and it has a lot of well-preserved ancestral houses, whose architecture reminds us of how it was in the 1900s. About 30 houses have been declared by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines as part of the Silay National Historical Landmark, one of which is the famous Balay Negrense.

Going back to the Cathedral.

The San Diego Pro-Cathedral was actually just made of bamboos and local materials when it was built in 1776 when it was still a parish. Today, it is one of a few pro-cathedrals in the Philippines. A pro-cathedral is a parish church that functions as a cathedral.

And from its bamboo and wooden structure, the church got an upgrade. In 1925, a wealthy resident and sugar baron, Don Jose Ledesma, donated funds to built a bigger church worthy of being part of the city rich in heritage.

Don Jose Ledesma hired an Italian architect, Lucio Bernasconi, who took inspiration from the huge cathedrals in Italy. That's why, from afar, anyone can recognize the cathedral because of its copula, its huge dome that's seen from any plane landing or taking off from the Bacolod-Silay International Airport.

But during World War II, the war planes actually didn't recognize the dome. Why? The locals had the cathedral's dome painted black so as to avoid being seen from the air and getting bombed by the Japanese forces. 

I was in Alcala de Henares in Spain a few months ago, and I didn't know then that the Cathedral was named after a saint who died in Alcala de Henares.

San Diego de Alcala, also known as St. Didacus from his medieval Spanish name, was a Spanish missionary who was sent to the Canary Islands to spread the faith. He was born in the Kingdom of Seville in the 1400s, and died in Alcala de Henares on November 12, 1463.

And in 2016, I pay tribute to his sainthood and to the Cathedral named after him.

So, if you're visiting Negros Occidental, do make a visit to the city of Silay, its heritage houses and its catheral. 

Also make sure you drop by El Ideal Restaurant if you got hungry. :-)