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Archive for April, 2012

Quest for Laing part 2 (plus Haleyang Sampalok)

April 30, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places 3 Comments →

Our quest for the best laing continues with three recent samplings.

Cookie found Manay Isha’s Bicolano delicacies at one of the Power Plant Mall food fairs. Their laing is available in regular and spicy varieties, frozen and foil-wrapped.

This pack lasted a week—we would take out a small serving, steam and eat with rice. Very good, keeps well.

We were ravenous after the PHL-Chinese Taipei rugby match at Rizal Memorial so we proceeded to one of our all-time favorite joints, Aristocrat on Roxas Boulevard in Malate. Naturally we had the 3-piece chicken barbecue with java rice. We noticed they had laing on their extensive menu so we ordered it. It was all right, but we noticed that we ate most of it while The Chronicler of Boredom and Brewhuh23 just had a few bites. If you really need a laing fix, it’ll do. But the chicken barbecue with java rice—brilliant. And the adobo flying saucers.

Last Saturday we had lunch at Ige’s house in Cavite City. Ige’s niece-in-law Lotlot is from Bicol, and she prepared this excellent laing (and sinigang na hipon, plus barbecue chicken, grilled fish and grilled fresh clams).

Afterwards we went to Asiong’s, a Cavite dining institution since 1960. Proprietor Sonny Lua had prepared haleyang sampalok, which we’ve wanted to try since we read Ige Ramos’s essay, winner of the 2012 Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award.

Excerpt from Ige’s essay:

Cooking haleyang sampalok is not an easy task, and consequently is now a dying art. Starting early each morning, Aling Crisanta sets up a tungko, comprising of three adobe stones arranged in a tripod. On this improvised stove is placed a 36-inch diameter carajay, an over-sized steel wok, half-filled with water. The carajay is then primed by boiling some water in it. Once the water reaches boiling point it is cleaned with a brush fashioned from the petioles of coconut leaves. As soon the water in the carajay evaporates, the slurry mixture of tamarind pulp, grated panocha (palm sugar) and gata (coconut milk) is placed on it. More firewood is continuously added to ensure a constant, even, heat.

Once the slurry starts to boil, it is gently mixed with a short pole, known as a sagwan, and similar to a boat’s paddle, it has a broad blade at the end. When the haleya attains the desired thickness, the kakang gata (coconut cream) is added, along with additional panocha. At this point, the heat is reduced and the mixture paddled for several more hours until reaching the consistency of sticky caramel. As it thickens—lumalaban, the effort of paddling the haleya becomes more cumbersome, and Aling Crisanta requests the assistance of one of her daughters, since it is important not to allow the mixture to settle at the bottom of the pan for fear that it might burn and taste mapait or bitter.

By sheer folk alchemy or long-established belief, doubtless proof that the haleya is ready is when the paddle is stuck in the center of the carajay, and stands on its own. At this point, the haleyang sampalok will have achieved a glistening golden-brown color, with a silky, caramel texture.

You know an essay on food is successful if you can taste the dish described even if you’ve never eaten it. We tried it last Saturday and it is exactly as Ige said. Our haleyang sampalok was newly-cooked and hot; we ate it with fresh pan de sal from the bakery down the street. Delicious. As the haleya cooled it got thicker and easier to eat with a spoon. Although one tablespoon should satisfy your dessert craving. (Let’s sell this at a weekend market! And Sonny’s pancit pusit!)

Take bright kids, throw in autoclave

April 30, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Childhood, Science 1 Comment →


Photo of Bronx Science HS from the NY Daily News

While leafing through an old magazine we found this article about the Bronx Science High School. We didn’t attend the school, but the third thing we learned at Pisay (Philippine Science) was that it was modeled on that science high school in the Bronx, New York. Making us the children? wards? bastards? of Bronx Science. This article is about their principal, whose methods have been widely condemned but also praised in some quarters. Ayyy the obsession with test scores.

There was a time when working at the Bronx High School of Science seemed like the pinnacle of a teaching career in the New York public schools. Along with Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science is one of the city’s most storied high schools and among its most celebrated public institutions of any kind—part of a select fraternity that promises a free education of the highest quality to anyone with the intelligence to qualify. Together, the three schools reflect some of the city’s most prized values: achievement, brains, democracy. Founded in 1938, Bronx Science counts E.L. Doctorow and Stokely Carmichael among its alumni, as well as seven Nobel laureates and six Pulitzer Prize winners. It has spawned 135 Intel science-competition finalists—more than any other high school in America. Virtually every senior last year gained acceptance to one of the country’s top colleges. The faculty has long been known as among the best, most beloved anywhere. Teachers have traditionally held on to their jobs for decades; some have come to teach the children of their former students.

Read A Bronx Science Experiment in New York Magazine.

The Avengers’ fashion statements and James Reyes’s men in skirts

April 29, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, Movies 9 Comments →

We are judged by the way we look, which is grossly unfair, but so are most aspects of our existence. Stupid social climbers will search your outfit for designer labels and, finding none, will judge you unworthy of their attention. Good riddance to them; you don’t need their acceptance and fake friendship. However, until everyone perfects their telepathic abilities, attentive strangers will form impressions of you based on what you’re wearing. They have little else to go on. So give fashion a little thought.

Think about The Avengers. Note how superheroes begin their world-saving careers with big fashion statements. Captain America’s unitard and shield declares that he stands for the ideals enshrined in the Constitution of the U.S.A (which his strapping constitution emulates). Iron Man’s armor proclaims him as a representative of the jillion-dollar American military-industrial complex, while Tony Stark’s Black Sabbath T-shirt expresses his disdain for authority. (Iron Man is a conflicted man-child, as Robert Downey Jr reminds us.)

Thor’s costume announces that he is a mythological deity, which he must be because ordinary mortals cannot get away with an outfit like that. Black Widow’s outfit, though, is generic hot girl, and Hawkeye’s costume seems to have been obtained from a Village People tribute band.


He still looks like Mark Ruffalo!

The Hulk’s fashion statement is the most dramatic. But he’s naked, you point out. Precisely: whenever The Hulk emerges he rips out of Dr. Banner’s clothes—a huge green mass of rage that no outward calm can conceal. Dr. Banner’s regular shirts and pants ARE the costume in which he hides his true self.

Read our column today in the Philippine Star.

The 300 pit bulls and the measure of our humanity

April 28, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 1 Comment →


InterAksyon photo by Bernard Testa

Almost a month ago police rescued about 300 pit bulls from an online dogfighting racket. The dogs were kept on a farm in San Pablo, Laguna, chained to rusty drums that served as their only shelter from the elements. (Imagine how hot it gets inside a steel drum in high summer. They didn’t have water, and their heavy chains wouldn’t let them.) Many of them were badly injured from being made to fight each other to the death for the entertainment of spectators watching in other countries. These were the survivors.

Read our column today in the Philippine Star.

A pirate and a hero

April 28, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Movies No Comments →

Hyman Strachman, 92, has sent hundreds of thousands of illicitly copied movies to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read it in the NYT.

Auntie Janey’s Old-Fashioned Agony Column #53: Feeling discriminated against

April 27, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Re-lay-shun-ships 4 Comments →

Dear Auntie Janey,

I really can’t help but feel offended when my officemates make some comments on how i pronounce certain words and how strong my Filipino accent is. I’ve been working in Singapore for over a year now. I admit I’m really not very fluent (like MTV VJ fluent) in speaking English. I have to think of the right words to use, I have to construct sentences and phrases on my mind before i speak them out. I feel discriminated. I have so much respect for them but I really have no plans of adapting the Singlish grammar and accent. You probably know someone who does work here, you may want to hear from them. I want to be fair and neutral. I want to try to learn to remove the Filipino accent too. I want to speak the English language correctly. How can I learn to speak with the proper tone auntie? In general, how can I speak English better? And how can I stop feeling discriminated?

Love,
Overseas Gay

Dear Overseas Gay,

I remember a time when I was on holiday in Singapore a few years ago. My cousin took me to a place where Singaporeans ate their breakfast before going to work. We had the “traditional” Singaporean breakfast consisting of two poached eggs, coffee, roti, and whatnot. I have this habit of standing in places and spots that cause great inconvenience to other people. At that time, I was inadvertently standing behind a line to the counter. A pretty well-dressed Singaporean girl addressed me in a nasally-sort-of-British accent “Are you in the queue?” My brain froze. “Cue? As in barbecue?” I thought stupidly. The girl was smiling at me brightly and politely. Theme song of Jeopardy started playing in my head. After five seconds “Ah Q-U-E-U-E! Queue as in line!” my brain screamed triumphantly. After my epiphany, I said in my best Emma Thompson impression “No. I’m not in the queue”. I smiled sweetly and moved the hell out of the way.

Speaking English with a good accent is a skill. It is a result of training. The kids nowadays have better facility in speaking English because they have been exposed to Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network since they were a year old or earlier. They hear how it is spoken every day and the whole day, that’s why they speak like little Americans.

We, on the other hand, who were raised on Tagalog-dubbed Cedie, Princess Sarah ang Munting Prinsesa, Ghost Fighter, Sailormoon, Slayers, and even Magic Knight Rayearth need to undergo formal training. I was fortunate enough to have gone to schools which put great emphasis on speaking English correctly( it’s not “eygsheyls” it’s “eggshells”!). We had drills and regular exercises and it was coupled with my interest in numerous American TV shows. Because of that, I can almost perfectly approximate an American accent despite the fact that I have never set foot in that country. But, I only use it occasionally(pang-porma or whenever I find myself holding a microphone) and I employ my average Pinoy accent in my daily life. It would be ridiculous if I make porma at the carenderia.

I suggest you enroll in a formal speech class. Yes, you have to spend on this because it is an important skill in your workplace. When it comes to acquiring skills, we should get trained by the best or if not at least by those who are very good at it. The quality of our skills largely depend on those who trained us. We should not scrimp on this for the skills we acquire, we carry forever.

Once you have trained in speaking proper English, you should look for venues where you can employ your skill regularly. Knowing how to speak English properly does not mean you are also adept in conversing with it. Musicians practice everyday with their instruments. Constant practice is the only way one can maintain, hone, and sharpen one’s skill. So as a speaker, you should talk. A lot. There are public-speaking clubs out there(some of them non-profit) whose sole purpose is the improvement of the public-speaking skills of its members. In order to speak properly, you should be around people who love to speak.

I used to be a member of one such organization and I have seen many people who were very inept at speaking at the beginning gradually blossom into competent and very talkative speakers. They gained confidence and expertise by constantly employing the speaking skills that they’ve learned.

But the most important thing in knowing how to speak a language is by reading works written in that language. By reading in a certain language, you will learn how to think in that language. You will understand the different connotations and nuances of the words. People seem to forget that thinking and speaking are intricately related.

Truly Yours,
Auntie Janey
agoniesforauntiejaney@gmail.com

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