Happiness in a Cream Cheese Salmon Maki

A layer of vinegar-infused white rice. A sheet of nori. A fresh slice of salmon sashimi. These are some of my favorite things in my favorite cuisine. And when they’re all rolled together with an important addition of cream cheese, it becomes a mouthful of happiness called a Cream Cheese Salmon Maki.

I get giddy just thinking about it.

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The Triple Dark Chocolate Brownies from Annipie are perfect

Everybody loves a brownie. I have literally never met someone who didn’t love a brownie unless they were allergic. The way we like our brownies differ, though.

Some like them sweet or dark; with nuts or without. There are light ones, dense ones, and biscuity ones.

We all have our own definition of a perfect brownie. I, for one, love the rich, chocolate-y, melt-in-your-mouth kind, preferably with no nuts. Unless it’s soft walnut mixed in the brownie, or maybe almond slivers on top, just to add a little crunch, in case there aren’t any chocolate chips on it. It’s one or the other. I don’t want no nuts distracting me from my chocolate.

Because of our different preferences, it’s easy to find a brownie that everyone will like, but it’s a little harder to find a one that everyone will love and enjoy and smile like an idiot about.

I found one such brownie in Davao when I went there in May.

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Three cities in three hours

Once a year, our church holds a Discipleship conference.

It’s a big thing: it was to empower leaders to raise up leaders.
It’s a big thing: over 10,000 people all over Metro Manila were to be in attendance.
It’s a big thing: it was held simultaneously across 16 locations.

Our team’s involvement was in the preparations. My (non-)conversation with a colleague captured it:

“Is it so hard? I mean, don’t your department just have to prepare everything and so that all the other locations can execute it?”

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Waiting for chug-chug-chugging

Before October 2014, I had never ridden a train.

I’m not talking about city subways or bullet trains (although, before October 2014, I had never ridden a bullet train, either). I’m talking about cross-country ones that you ride for hours, where you stay in little cabins with your luggage tucked beside you; ones that seem to make you say “locomotive” instead of “train” in your head.
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7,107 Islands

When a friend visited the Philippines recently, there was a question that people asked him quite a few times.

“Of the 7,107 islands in the Philippines, how many have you visited?”

He just smiled and said: “Two. The island where Manila is, and the island where Davao is.”

During a conversation with him later, he swung the question back at me.

“Definitely more than two,” was my easy answer.
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The Bakit List of Your Bucket List

One of my best friends, Loraine, is a traveller. (She’s also an accountant, which is really helpful when it’s time to do budgeting and accounting before, during, and after a trip.) Like a lot of people, she has a bucket list–most of it being places to travel to–but, unlike a lot of people, she’s actually plowing through her list at an impressive pace. When I asked her how she’s able to do this, she said:

Protect the integrity of your bucket list.

The thing about bucket lists is that people usually put a lot of stuff there just to put stuff there. Just because. YOLO and whatever. It’s all up to you, really, but Loraine says that if you want to actually do the stuff in your bucket list, make sure you know WHY you’re listing down what you’re listing down.

Want to backpack every single province in the Philippines? Want to visit every single country in South East Asia? Want to set foot in every continent in the world?

First ask the question: WHY? Bakit?

(I, for one, travel to eat, because I love food.)

There should be a good reason–or reasons–why you’re putting things in your bucket list. That reason should make sense to you, and it should be important to you. If you protect the Bakit, the why, of your Bucket List, then you’re all set and good to go.

Loraine can say a lot about planning, financing, surviving, and enjoying a trip. Read more in her (mostly) travel blog, Adventure Accounting.

Not Just Durian

Almost everyone knows that when you go to Davao, you eat durian. But Davao is a land of good food. Really, really, really good food that people who usually take photos of their food before eating might just put their camera aside so they can dig in. I know I did. As evidenced in this post’s photo, I was so excited to eat at Mam Beb’s that I just stuffed my plate—who cares about presentation?

Every year since 2008, the Davao bloggers organize the Davao Food Appreciation Tour so they can, as the event name suggests, tour bloggers around Davao and sample the city’s best food. I joined DFAT 2010, where I learned that Davao eats and eats well in the wide variety of restaurants that they have—I don’t think I ate in two similar restaurants while I was there. I also got to try snacks and desserts in Davao and love, love, loved it! My mouth still waters just thinking about them. Good Davao food isn’t just durian. There’s salad and steak and ribs and pasta and tapsilog and pancit and mango squares and, okay, durian coffee and durian cheesecake.

The Davao Food Appreciation Tour 2014 is happening on May 16-19. If you’re planning to go to Davao someday soon (which you should), or if you’re already in the city and looking for new good food to eat,  take notes from the official DFAT FAcebook Page or follow the tumblog.

Don’t touch the walls

We were starting our tour of Angkor Wat when our guide, Khemra, points out the cordon that forces tourists to walk a foot away from the temple walls carved with the history and legends of Cambodia. He says that we cannot touch the walls in order to preserve it for the future generations.

“They are our heritage. Because of our heritage, tourists come. When tourists come, there is money for the country. When there is money for the country, we can take care of our heritage. When we take care of our heritage…tourists come.”

Khemra didn’t just ask us to take care of the ruins — he told us WHY we should take care of them. That’s something that stuck out to me. Sure, he told us of Cambodia’s rich history and culture almost as if he lived through it since the ancient times, and he told us of little trivia and tidbits while walking from one temple to the next. But, that — that little speech right there about  something that should be common sense, but it’s also something that everyone needs to be reminded of constantly — was one of the things that stood out.

Em Khemra, Licensed English Speaking Tour Guide
http://www.angkorunitedtour.com
E-Mail: emkhemra@hotmail.com
Phone: (855) 12 863 271
Also, try searching Tripadvisor for him. You’ll get good reviews like this one.

“I’m walkin’ ‘ere!” says the starfish

Unless you’re a marine biologist, or a diving enthusiast like my friend Jayvee Fernandez, or you live in an island full of them, you don’t get to see starfish all that often. I, for one, have only seen live starfish on the beach a handful of times, and usually, I see them hanging out unmoving in the sand.

Except for this one time in Dumaluan Beach in Bohol, when I watched two starfish almost making a head-on collision with each other.

I first noticed the big one, and, being a lover of anything star-shaped, I rushed to take a photo of it… Until I noticed the other one. And then I noticed the tracks they had behind them. And then I noticed that they were moving. They were moving at a slow pace, of course, but it was much faster than I expected.

I have a video of this somewhere…

The Hats of Pahiyas

When people visit the Pahiyas festival in Lucban, Quezon, they always look at the decorated houses. And they should, because that’s really the main attraction of the festival. And of course, there’s the food. I have to talk about the food more at another time.

But aside from enjoying the food and the houses and the festivities, when in the Pahiyas festival, I pay attention to the hats. We’ve seen hats before, but it’s always fun to check out the ones in Pahiyas.

They’re all colorful, but they’ve chosen the colors usually used in the festival decoration. It’s as if there’s an official Pahiyas palette. (Is there? I don’t know.) If you crane your neck enough, or if you climb up one of the houses and look down to the street, it’s nice to see that sea of color below.

There are beach hats, bonnets, cowboy hats (I bought one before!), and fedoras (also bought one on another year), among other things.

Business-minded folks will think that it’s a no-brainer decision to sell hats during a festival that requires you to walk through the streets for a good half a day. What I see, however, is an encouragement to stay under the sun and enjoy the festivities, and not think about holding up a parasol while combing through a crowd.

One last thing I love about the hats: the people who sell them. They don’t pressure you to buy them. They let you sift through them, and take your pick. And they’ll even tell you which one suits you better.

The Department of Tourism has a small page on Pahiyas. There’s a pahiyasfestival.com that isn’t an official website, I think, but has lots of helpful stuff on it.