Monday, July 28, 2014

Rising Middle Class

By 2006, the lower middle class (defined internationally as those families with daily income of $2-$20) in the Philippines has grew to comprise 54% of the population (this is far greater than 38% in India or 43% in Indonesia) as cited in a 2013 paper from NSCB.

I could extrapolate that the middle class (since the same paper noted the difficulty in generating statistics for upper middle class)has grown  in the eight years that lapsed. It is no longer statistically correct to say that "half of Filipinos live below poverty line".

The "rule of law" is a middle-class concept and I wonder if the burgeoning middle class, the resulting gentrification of values, has an impact on the heightened discourse on government policy.

The poor, my friends, no longer have critical mass. Historically, the rise of the middle class has always led to interesting times as traditional base of power shifts.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review: "She's Dating A Gangster"

You are in good hands with Cathy Garcia Molina. She knows how to tug your hearts. The plot is nostalgic, especially for those who lived through the '80s. 

I did feel that it was bogged down by the framing device best handled by Joel Lamangan in the notable "Blue Moon". It borrowed a lot from other films and it is cinematically literate enough to reference Gomez-Zulueta starrer "Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit".

There were too many sequences that echoed Molina's other films starring Sarah Geronimo. The ending was weak and anti-climatic to the penultimate scene. Dawn and Richard eclipsed the younger love team. Their eyes conveyed everything: nostalgia for a lost love found one last time. The ending was a compromise with the audience: Filipinos love happy endings. I'd seen better, even from Molina.

That is not to say the movie was un-entertaining. It has moments for laughter, it has moments for tears. It has a lot of heart, especially for the lead character Kenji. It's a movie of broken people whose humanity is somehow affirmed and saved by love.

You should watch it, if only for a dose of nostalgia, if only for remembrance of what it was like to be in love in a time long past.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tagaytay: What to Do, Where to Eat, and Where to Stay

Tagaytay is the closest destination getaway from the heat of Metro Manila. The climate in this mountain city is relatively cooler. I swear, during the dry season in April-May, the food court in Robinson’s Magnolia could be a lot cooler. Wear tanks and comfortable clothing because it could still get hot at noon. Opt to wear a light jacket if you go there during December up to February.

I like to go here because it sort of reminds you how small you are in the context of the grandeur of nature. You feel so tiny before the huge lake and majestic mountains. On a clear day, it seems the greenery extends far west.

You can either take the bus to Coastal Mall or opt for a taxi. There are no buses to Tagaytay behind McDonald’s in MRT-Taft anymore (but they do drop off passengers there from Tagaytay). Take the bus to Tagaytay and asked to be dropped off past the Rotunda (you can have lunch in Bag of Beans and hustle your way to a seat in the viewing deck. Kick those yuppies who only order coffee, out!).

1. Sky Ranch. You can go to SM’s SkyRanch to ride the ferris wheel. Do it for a quick fright because the compartments are so tiny and easily sways. It offers a good view of the lake. On a windy day, it’s extra scary. They should rebrand it as a horror attraction.

You can also do zip lines but I believe, the one in Picnic Grove is more fun.

There’s comfort room beside the entrance and another in the convention center.

2. Eat at Bag of Beans. They have a branch in Rotanda-Olivarez and the main branch is in Mendez, quite a walk from Mendez-Indang (landmark is Save More). The food is great. They have buffet. Eat salad and beef. I made the mistake of ordering bangus at a mountain restaurant, but it still turned out good.

I swear by their blueberry cheesecake (P150 per slice). The flavors aren’t strong but you’ll appreciate it. I believe they don’t use lemon on the cream cheese, used unsalted and unflavored butter for the crust, and used Smucker’s blueberry preserves (they sell some at P115 per container).

We had a salad overdose earlier, so we did not eat the salad we ordered for dinner. We had it take out and it spoiled.

We bought a loaf of raisin bread (this is a good buy at P173. Lots of raisins and just the right amount of cinnamon). We loved the atchara that they served as a side dish, so we bought one (P110 per container).

They also sell coffee beans and grounds, with an in house brand (and different flavors)  as well as those from other brand.

3. Eat Bulalao at Mohogany Market. From Olivarez, you can ride a jeep to Mendez/Indang or Nasugbu (the ones with NBI on their signage). It will not pass through Skyranch, but make a right turn after Robinson’s Summit Ridge Promenade.

The market is near LTO Tagaytay, a few minutes from NBI. You need to walk from the highway down to the market. The signage says it’s home to Tagaytay’s best beef (Bulalo Point is near and I suspect they sourced their beef here. So go directly to the source!).
The bulalo we had tasted freshly butchered. One problem I had when eating out in the open are the flies. They’re big and fat and they’s onto your bulalo! I saw some restaurant in Bulalo Point with a good view of Taal.

You can buy pineapples all year long in Tagaytay. This dry season, the pineapples look small. Don’t believe the free taste, They let you taste the sweet stuff, but then sold you unripe ones.

Don’t buy manggoes here because the one they sell here are from Pangasinan. Opt perhaps for papaya or langka. These are mountain fruits and they are really big, so chances are they locally produced.

For some reason, I didn’t find cabbage still planted on the soil sold here. We got some in Holy Spirit, near the Pink Sisters church down in Olivarez.

Buy dried tawilis or dangit-tawilis here at P25 per pack of 2 for P100.

4. Take in the view of Summit Ridge. The place has the best view of Taal Lake. You could drink coffee at Starbucks (we didn’t) or you can opt to drink Amadeo coffee in a nearby restaurant with dried rattan up in the ceiling, at P90 per cup.

It could go windy here, so make sure to hug your partner tight. And if you’re skinny, you better do that, or the wind will fly you like a kite.

5. Eat at Mile’s Diner. This is in Summit Ridge. The other restaurant there are either commercialized or for drinking, except Carlo’s Pizza and Mile’s Diner. The 50’s diner has good ambiance and good music. Their Mile Lite salad is a must. We enjoyed their Baguio longganisa, too. I like that their water have either orange or lemon in it.

6. Go to Caleruega Church. Take the bus to Nasugbu. Minimum fare is P25. Tell the conductor to let you off Caleruega. It’s a few minutes past the border between Nasugbu and Tagatay (they drop passengers there). The trike cots P50. Make sure to have load on your cellphone and get the driver’s number. It’s quite far from the highway and the trike’s wont take you back unless they are also the one who took you to the church.

There is an entrance fee of P30. Take in the sights and the quiet. Come here early in the morning to avoid the pack of tourists who go here. Chances are you will encounter mountain climbers on the way or back from Mt Batulao.  Explore the property up to Chapel on the Hill. The place is so picturesque. There were areas previously accessible that are now closed to non-retreatants.

You can also go through the Koi ponds, through the hanging bridge and climb up to Transformation Church. Buy a souvenir sculpture of the Chapel on the Hill for P100. You can also buy flowers.

If you are Catholic, take time to pray and to give thanks.

7. Eat at Breakfast at Chef Antonio’s. The ambiance is simple and elegant. I like how the waiters seem well fed and happy. So I know where their high margin goes. The place is expensive with specialty of pancakes, Roeti’s (P350) and Beef Sinegeng (P400). We had roasted half chicken (P350) and home made longganisa (P220). The fries was good, too. They serve TWG iced tea at (P145) and plain rice (P50 per serving).

We bought mango jam (P200) for take out. They have an array of fresh produce and other processed and baked products in their mini mart near the maitre’d (yes, the place is fancy).

We laughed at the fact that we were the only diners who didn’t come by car. We came by jeep and went by bus! Bring a lot of cash! I only had P1, 000 with me, and that wasn’t enough so I have to pay by card!

8. Hear Mass at Pink Sisters. This is in Olivarez (Holy Spirit). Make sure to go here wearing proper a tire. It could get jampacked during Sunday’s. Offer prayers.

Where to Stay in Tagaytay
There are cheap accommodations in Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road that could go as low as P800. The trade off is that it is far from the good spots in Tagaytay. Of course, there are myriad of expensive hotels in Tagaytay. Aribnb is in Tagaytay, too, but from the listing I saw, it’s still quite expensive. I booked once via

1. Sierra Traveller’s Inn. They have two branches. One in Holy Spirit, Olivarez, and another in Mendez (near Total gas station, just a few minutes past the Bulalo Point. Don’t rely on Google Maps. It’s not accurate). If you booked via Agoda, the cheapest room is the one for $35 or P1, 500. It’s actually good for 3. No free breakfast (if you don’t book via Agoda, you can get the same room at same price point with free breakfast. Text 09175161866). Not a bad deal, and it’s a few minutes away from Rotunda. It’s near Pink Sisters (and another chapel) so if you are Catholic and religious, this might be a good place to stay. Their Mendez branch is near Bag of Beans, Bulalo Point, Mohogany Market, and SkyRanch.

2. Tagaytay Haven Hotel. At the back of Jollibee Mendez a few minutes walk from Mendez-Indang crossing. The standard room costs P1, 980. The room is really big. You can pay P300 for an extra bed. It comes with a breakfast buffet for two (2). The selection was acceptable. Bring swimming attire as they have a jacuzzi and two small pool at the base ment. The receptionist allowed us to deposit our bags past our check out time for free so we can pick it up later.

Wish List
Pick Pineapples. I would love to be able to do this. You can do strawberry picking in Baguio or wine grapes picking in La Union, so why not allow us tourist to do pineapple picking in Tagaytay?

Coffee Picking at Amadeo’s. Like above. I think you need to get off at Silang and catch a jeep to Amadeo.

Sonja’s Garden at Alfonso. This is near the border of Nasugbu, so quite away from Tagaytay City proper. They have buffet. I hope to go here on our next visit!

Bawai’s Vietnamese. This is in Silang, near the border with Tagaytay. It makes sense to make Vietnamese cuisine happen in Silang/Tagaytay where the food and herbs can be freshly sourced.

Ilog ni Maria. This is in Silang, too. They sell premium bee products. Particularly curious about the bee wax-based products.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

'One More Try' Tests How Far a Mother Could Go

I thought the characters were well developed (except for Zanjoe's. I really didn't get what his beef was.) 

The story is neatly tied. It's one of those well plotted (and at the same time had a big emphasis on character development) movies you see in the Philippines from time to time. The plot and progression wasn't absurd. 

Although some supporting characters I felt were stereotypical, like the liberated OB-GYNE that Carmina Villaroel played, it still possessed a sense of possibility. It must be noted that the plot device reminds me of "My Sister's Keeper" a film based on the novel by Jodie Picoult.

I'm not sure if Dingdong Dantes deserve an acting nomination. I felt he lacked subtlety. 

Angel Locsin's turn was superb.  Angel Locsin's isn't your typical heroine here. She makes tough choices. At the end of the film, her character is transformed. You feel her desperation. You condemn her for the choices she makes. And yet, you would want her to succeed anyway. 

Angelica Panganiban's character was not one dimensional. She portrays it quite sympathetically. You find her unreasonable and at the same time reasonable.

The treatment of male characters is a little flat: Why does Dingdong's character want to have a son so bad? Why does Zanjoe stuck with Angel Locsin even after what she had done? 

Love is deux ex machina here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ken Liu's 'Paper Menagerie' Leaves Readers Crying

I like this short story for its simplicity in language, tackling an emotionally complex relationship. If you survey Asian-American literature, this one strikes a balance between being an expository of the cultural nuances of Asian culture, and its "exoticism" or "otherwordliness". 

Murakami and Amy Tan are two authors in the extreme. Ken Liu hits a sweet spot. His short story, "Paper Menagerie" is the first work of fiction to win the Nebula, the Hugo, and World Fantasy. At its core, it tells of a somewhat (and yet at the same time, it seems timeless) contemporary dynamics among offspring of inter-racial marriages and their parents.

"Paper Menagerie"

by Ken Liu
One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.
Dad gave up and left the bedroom, but Mom took me into the kitchen and sat me down at the breakfast table.
"Kan, kan," she said, as she pulled a sheet of wrapping paper from on top of the fridge. For years, Mom carefully sliced open the wrappings around Christmas gifts and saved them on top of the fridge in a thick stack.
She set the paper down, plain side facing up, and began to fold it. I stopped crying and watched her, curious.
She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.
"Kan," she said. "Laohu." She put her hands down on the table and let go.
A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees... 

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    Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo`ole