Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Downtown Underground

Where do you buy your books? was my question to a friend a few years back. He, with the brilliant young mind with an interest in science fiction and human psychology, had always been the type of friend who was profound and discerning beyond his age. I consider myself lucky to have such a friend and luckier to have three more who have always been real and good to me. It is not everyday we meet people with prodigious abilities and I have always been partial to persons who are indeed effortlessly artistic or intellectual but unassuming or resigned in behavior for in my opinion these characters are a sign of prudence and sensibility in a person.

This particular friend shared to me a goldmine. A treasure of a place where he (and another friend of ours) had been buying his books for unbelievably low prices. The name of the store may ring a bell to some. If you have ever been downtown, you were most likely to have passed by the area and saw this store.

Located in an old building right across the street from the back doors of Gaisano Main and Colonnade Mall where the place is teeming with little shops and businesses old and new, a few steps from that infamous Chinese Ngohiong house.

True to its name, Cebu Thrift House is a place for chronic cheapskates, dirt-poor bibliophiles, second-hand bargain addicts who have lost faith and love for the shiny, gleaming, sparkling newness of things in the market. Think Ukay-Ukay but books, furniture and kitchenware. Sounds pretty random but so is wearing second-hand boxer shorts previously owned by someone who's possibly dead already. Well some people's junk are other people's gold and the family behind Cebu Thrift must definitely recognize the value of that statement and made a fortune out of it.

(I can browse in here for hours and hurt my eyes with delight.)

They say the best things in life are free. I say it also come in cheap! With a price as low as 8 to 15 pesos per book, it's worth spending all afternoon hunting for great reads. They have a wide selection of paperback novels ranging from fiction to non-fiction, classic to modern, literary to objet d'art (I have found a few school textbooks and hardbound condensed novels too). If you are patient and persistent enough, you will most likely stumble upon collector's items like my friend who snagged an autographed hardbound copy of Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut (one of his favorite authors).

Aside from books, the store sells back issues of international magazines (Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, etc) and (my mother's favorite) local rags like Zee Quarterly and Metro. Perfect for students who continuously need stuff to cut out for their projects and teachers looking for interesting and informative references.

(Earlier in my visit, I took photos secretly.)

For people interested in furniture or electronics and whatever bric-a-brac, they have cabinets, pianos, sewing machines, typewriters, dinnerware, tea sets and china, chafing dishes, electric fans, television sets, oven toasters, sofas, vacuum cleaners, electric mixers, computer tables, side tables, center tables, swivel chairs, etc etc all on bargain. I'm really not sure if the prices are fixed on these things but I feel you have to hone your bargaining skills to get what you want.

They also buy these things. I saw a chart of how much they buy books according to the price tag. On furniture and other stuff, I'm not really sure how it works but you can always ask the nice people in there.

(I wonder who owned these things and why it's here.)

So I finally got the courage to ask the shop girl if I can take some photos for my mother to see and she was nice and easily said yes.

(After magazine shopping. I felt stupid for lurking around privately taking photos. Pfft.)

The first time I've ever been there (a few years ago), I was surprised to see all that stuff crammed into a smallish store. It was quite dingy to me then, with dimmed fluorescent lights and storeroom-like interiors yet it had this smell of wood, paper and iron altogether which made it really cozy to someone like me who grew up in a very urbanized area. The store smelled like home.

People, in general, love to shop. We all love to acquire things. And I don't know about you but it really feels so good whenever I buy something of quality for a very low price especially when the product is a way better version of the more expensive one I saw at the department stores.

I haven't seen anything like Cebu Thrift House. If you ever find or know a place within Cebu City that is similar to it, please share. I'd love to check it out and feature it here. I do know another place that sells books for a bargain price and that's BOOKSALE located at SM, Robinson's (is it still there?) and Elizabeth Mall (which I frequent). Great selections, better quality (because of the airconditioning) ,a lot more expensive than Cebu Thrift (because it's within the malls) but still a lot more affordable than buying new ones. If you do want new ones, there's always National Bookstore, Fully Booked and Powerbooks (if you can afford it).

As for us who can't afford it, here's a thought I want to leave you with:

"The mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground."
-Frank Zappa

Monday, November 24, 2008

CBS Link Love

I got to give some love to CBS :D

Cebu Bloggers Society | CBS Forums | CBS Mailing List
| Art and Science of Teaching Law | atenean101 @ Blogspot | B.R.I.G.H.T. Art Class | Cebu Elections | Cebu in the World | Ethelbert's Transcripts | I Am Downloader | in indie | Mar Roxas for President in 2010 | miong+marquee | mugna sa badlis | Third Wave | Velez Times | webslave's portal

Thanks for welcoming me to your family.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Malapascua Island: A little piece of heaven on earth

I am a psychocentric. This, I learned in our Tourism I class a few months ago. We discussed that the types of tourists are broken down into three groups. The allocentric, the midcentric, and the psychocentric tourists.

Psychocentrics are the type who are more likely to go to areas that are heavy tourist attractions such as the park, the zoo, the museum or the nearby beach. They prefer travels with less physical activity. On the other hand, Allocentrics are the more adventurous type. They get fulfillment from the thrill of new experiences and prefer to visit spots before other people do. As for the Midcentrics, they are neutral.

So I am a self-proclaimed psychocentric. Never the type to backpack. I especially am not interested in places where I don't know what's already there. Maybe it's about to change because of this place.

(around 5pm taken right after we got off the outrigger boat)

A few days before we got there, I already searched some sites and Flickr, for some info about Malapascua Island. I've heard of it before but I've heard of it from people who's only heard of it so it was kind of vague and mysterious what's there. I found out that it lies in the heart of the Philippines. According to Wikipedia, It is a tiny island of only about 2.5 kilometers long and 1km wide, located across a shallow strait from the northernmost tip of mainland Cebu, which is Daanbantayan.

(on our way to the island)

I've seen pictures of Malapascua and it looked too good to be true. When we got there, the place did justice to every photo I saw beforehand. Natural white sand and pebbles, the bluest daytime skies, white fluffy clouds, beautiful rock formations, a modest string of accommodations, and what made me happy was that there were very few people the time we were there. We had that paradise all to ourselves

For someone who is a penniless, parent-dependent student living in the city (like me), it never landed in my mind that I will ever be able to experience such a bounty as Malapascua. I thought a dreamy place like this is only possible if you have relatives to welcome you there or if some generous friend couldn't make the trip without you. I totally freaked out when my friend Nix told me I only have to bring 500 pesos (about $11) and that would be enough to cover everything. Good thing that he invited me a couple of weeks before the trip because that gave me enough time to save up.

(camwhoring on the outrigger boat)

(the sea excites me any time)

I made up a little informative list to break my trip down, and this is for everybody but most especially the Cebuanos and Filipinos, because I'm trying to convince everybody to travel locally first before you embark on a journey farther than our islands. One, to give back to the local economy especially to our island brothers and sisters and two, so we won't be strangers to our own homeland.

(there were so many starfish we couldn't count 'em)

What we did on Saturday...

11:30 am
------- Our group took the MAYA bus at the North Bus Terminal (across Makro).
5 hours
--------- To get to the port. We wished we traveled early.
80 pesos -------- Bus ticket.
40 pesos -------- Outrigger boat (baroto) ticket.
20 minutes ----- Travel from port to island. We arrived in Juan Juana resort around 5-ish.

100 pesos ------- Per tent. It was supposed to be per head but we sweetly asked our guide for a discount and since there were 16 of us (two friends got a room for 500 pesos and we had 6 tents), he agreed.
100 pesos ------- Worth of chips, bread and water that I bought in the city for the trip.
0 pesos ---------- Canned goods courtesy of mom. (yay)
30 pesos --------- Per person. 3 meals' worth of rice cooked by Nanay, the nice lady who lives right beside the rented rooms. The gantang of rice (which is a little more than a kilo) costs 56 pesos. When asked how much she charges for the cooking, she just smiled and said it's up to us.
0 pesos ---------- Flat water from the well for bathing or washing.
0 pesos ---------- Comfort rooms.

0 pesos ----------- Dips in the long stretch of beach. They don't charge even if it's right across another resort. This is the part we enjoyed the most. We took a dip in 4 different spots in the morning free of charge. Free doesn't happen much in the beaches of Mactan Island, cheap though, but rarely free.

On Sunday...
2 pm ------------- Boating around the island.
60 pesos --------- Per head. The boat ride around the island and straight back to MAYA port.
4 pm
------------- Took the bus back to the city.
70 pesos --------- Bus ticket.
8:30pm ---------- I'm home.

Since we didn't have much time (afraid to tread the waters in the dark), we were only able to get around the island and took a quick stop in Bantigue Cove where Campbell get to have their band photos taken.

(it was super duper hot)


All in all, I spent 480 pesos. I mused that if I bought a thousand I'd be able to double the fun. Everything was just so incredibly cheap and so worth the stress of land travel. Here are some things I could have enjoyed if I brought some extra money.

Freshly caught seafood at 120 pesos per kilo
Snorkeling @ 150 pesos (including the equipment and boat ride not just for an hour but for the whole afternoon)
Overnight room charges for as low as 500 pesos (but tents are a lot more fun!)

I forgot to mention that Malapascua is a great diving spot with dive centers such as sea-explorers.com and exotic island dive.

(there were no people in sight so I'm super happy!)

There also are countless boats there with ride charges @ 40 pesos per person anywhere in the island. I've never seen a place where you could just ask someone to take you around for that cheap. Boat rides in Mactan beach resorts would cost you at least 1,500 pesos per hour. With that money, you can enjoy Malapascua island for two nights already! *sigh*

(walking along the stretch of sand, we came across this huge purple jellyfish!)

There were lush corals and starfish too.. at night we had a quick bonfire that lasted for about a few minutes coz we couldn't find wood that works for bonfires. LOL
We looked at the starry night sky and talked and laughed and they eventually got drunk by the seaside. As we went into our tents, Mimie and I delayed our slumber for a few laughs and inside jokes.

(view from below)

(we slept like babies under the sun)

It's been almost a year since I last spent time with my best friend and that trip was the best way to celebrate ten years of our friendship. I couldn't help but thank God for the wonderful blessing. 2008 had been a travel year for me and I'm excited for what else is in store.

(Mimie enjoying the water)

We made a pact that we are going to go back to that island. We made some little friends too and we made a little promise of candy and biscuits when we get back.

(our new found friends. people in the island are super duper nice!)

I wish somehow, this blog post will stir the wanderlust in you.
The photos may look real enticing but I'm testament that the real thing is so much more incredible.

(We are all testament to that fact)

Till the next swim! :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Extended vacation.

Two weeks ago, my friends from the band Campbell invited me to join them seal the summer and since I haven't really "summered" because of school, my parents agreed that I go to that much-needed break before school officially starts.

So tomorrow I pack my sunscreen and a few pieces of swimwear for this place...

isn't it?
Something definitely to blog about when I get back! ^_~


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I know what I did last summer.

For a couple of years and a half, I had been sleeping off my summer. In between are trips to the mall, weekend church, going online, family events (the necessary birthdays and my sister's wedding), drinking with friends and most importantly, attending to the rock shows that I took part in organizing. I say this is most important because it has been a huge part of my life for almost three years. The music scene took a lot from me or I gave a lot, sacrificing college and employment, I know I wasn't wise.

Now you think I'm a bum. I'm a bum. I am! Indeed, I am a self-confessed low-life wasting my years keeping thoughts about the future as far away as possible. I was so proud of it I even wrote an article about it in a local zine. It was hilarious. The comedy that was my life. I was practicing the worst kind of Hedonism. It was the guilt-free kind.

Last April, I took a giant step against that life.
I went back to school. In my own free will I told my mom, "Ma, I want to go back to school. Would you still consider?" She hugged me and told me it's a great decision. Then she remembered that I'm the one talking to her and asked, "Are you sure?"

I said 100% yes, that is if they would still believe I would do it and support me financially for it. She told my dad and that night, we had a great bountiful dinner. The prodigal daughter is back on track. So turning 25 has its ups. It also has its downs but I must be totally positive because right now, I just couldn't think of the downs part. All I could think of right now is that summer is almost over and I just couldn't help but smile about what I did last summer.

(The big part of summer)

I couldn't get over the fact that my school (Southwestern University) has a smoking area. I do not approve of it (now that I quit smoking) but I'd like to give credit to the administration's take on being considerate and being non-hypocritical... he he).

I love that we have trees and plants all over the place (unlike most schools in the city) but I hate that there are caged bunny rabbits and birds in there as well. As a form of entertainment, the white yellow/green-beaked parrot was trained to call out "PANGET" (meaning UGLY) to anyone who hangs out in the smoking area. I wait for the day the uglies would free them animals.

Because I am taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management, we are required to complete units in Tourism. I so loved it. Last month, we had this fun tour around the South of Cebu. It was mainly a heritage and spiritual journey. I was able to see and feel the centuries old structures and churches as well as the natural resources. It was breath-taking.

(From top: Coconut trees in Dalaguet; war-torn ruins in Oslob; 400-year-old St. Catherine church in Carcar)

There is so much beauty in Cebu and my mind can not have peace until I could go back and re-discover it again and discover more. (Our tour lasted 12 hours. It was sweet but too short.)

(From top left: huge Mama Mary statue in Theotokos Shrine, Perelos; Mama Mary's Site and Castle in Simala, Sibonga; the coastal highway to Boljoon; painted ceiling and gold altar in St. Michael's, Argao; hollow St. Joseph's church in Oslob)

In our day trip, I've learned a lot about appreciating the man-made wonders and how the local people took care in preserving these for a long long time. I have lived all my life in this part of the island but I am an infant to the rest of the place. I passionately want to grow. I saw simplicity in the lives of the people there and it is amazing how educated people like us who were on that tour could learn so much from primitiveness in just half a day.

Here's my favorite part of the trip:

The cool waters of Kawasan Falls. (my 2nd time to experience but it still has the same WHOA! effect to me)

I truly appreciate our teacher's effort to take us out of the four walls of the classroom and into an unforgettable summer.

Meanwhile the rest of the summer could be summed up with this...

Aside from going back to college, I am heavier with these mental notes:

*Going Flexitarian
*Going GREEN
*Giving back to the world in my own little way.

As for now, I'm getting serious with my blogs. ^_~

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Will you come over for dinner?

Above is one of my favorite questions.

I guess inviting people to have dinner in their homes is a common tradition all over the world. The difference lies not much on the reason of the invitation but more on the food served.

Growing up, both my parents cooked.

I am lucky because they are the type of grownups who let us hang around and watch the whole process and even appoint us the simple task of chopping onions. *tear*
As I got older, they slowly gave the responsibility to us kids. Yes, even the hard decision of planning the menu. I've always been interested in cooking just like my older sister who turned out to be magnificent in the kitchen. I was also given praise. As they say, it runs in the family.

The Pinoy (who's not on a diet) staple consists of rice, viand and drink. Depending of course on the social and economic status, those three mentioned are the least. You might ask if we ever have soup. Well, we have our ways. When times are hard, our viand is in soup form. Do we have dessert? Most Pinoys consider colas and carbonated drinks as "sira gana" which means "appetite enders". Since there is currently a shortage of rice in the Philippines, some might lessen their daily consumption but I doubt that Cebuanos adhere to this because I know that the families here would rather sacrifice other things than food on the table. My family does.

Last week, my dad came home tired from a seminar. My sister and I were in the bedroom watching Family Guy online so engrossed that we forgot it's almost 6pm. He then slipped his head through the door and said that he's hungry and disappointed. I ran out to kiss him hello and promised that dinner would be served in less than an hour.

I ran to the kitchen and rummaged through the contents of the fridge. All i saw was a package of pork (thank God it wasn't frozen!), some string beans, some eggplants and some calabaza that looked like it's almost too ripe. What to do with these in less than an hour?

Here's what I did. (My favorite part)

Pork Pakbet


pork (it's up to you how much), sliced into bite-sized cubes separating the skin and fat from the lean
calabaza (i used half a kilo), sliced into bite-sized rectangular pieces
string beans (a handful), 2-inch cuts
eggplants (3 medium-sized), sliced into thin bite-sized rectangular pieces
garlic (it's up to you how garlicky you want it to be)
1 onion
1 small green/red bell pepper
a dash of ground black pepper
some soy sauce
some oyster sauce (i used this to replace the bagoong element)
a dash of brown sugar
some oil

Turn the heat up to a high and throw in the cubes of skin and fat into the iron skillet. This way, the oil will sizzle out of the pork and when it turns brown sautee the garlic, onion and bell peppers in the oil. (If there isn't enough oil from the pork, feel free to put some more maybe 2-3 tablespoons depending on how much vegetables you've prepared). Next, sautee the lean pork cubes and while doing this, add a little soy sauce in there. Avoid using salt since it makes the meat go hard. Of course you want your meat tender and chewy. Do this for a couple of minutes.

Then, add the squash and stir for another two minutes. Add some soy sauce while doing this. This way you are slowly adding flavor to the meat as well. Add the eggplants and the string beans. The trick is, the thinner you slice the vegetables, the quicker it gets cooked. So if you are in a bit of hurry, take this tip.

Add some more soy sauce (depending on your taste), about 1 or 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, a dash of brown sugar (instead of MSG), and a dash of ground black pepper. Stir it for a couple of minutes. Turn your heat into low, cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Check from time to time if it burns, add a little more oil and stir.

It would most likely turn out like this:

(the result of hurrying)

Serve hot. This should be good for 4 people.

Less than an hour, and we were having dinner. My dad wasn't upset anymore and he enjoyed the meal sparing us the trouble of having to hear his sermon about responsibilities. I was super glad (and full that night). As for my little sister, she did the dishes. ^_~

Friday, May 30, 2008

What is this?

Hello. Welcome to your blog.

Yes, you read it right. This is your blog. Mainly because the ultimate purpose of this site is for you to see Cebu City in a more personal light through a girl who has spent all 25 years of her life in this island.

You can know Cebu through here, or even more interestingly, here, and in over a hundred
websites and blogs that promises you how it is one of the most beautiful (and livable) cities in the world. This modest blog will try to join the fold because I believe that there will never be enough words and pictures and feelings to describe this magnificent place.

Never enough.

As Cebu progresses with time, the people here come and go. I am blessed to be one of those who had the chance to remain. My sister who is now living in Switzerland always affirms me that the Cebuanos (local people) are lucky.

I wholeheartedly agree.

With this luck and blessing, a question came to mind.
If I would make another blog, what would it be about? Who would it be for?

Immediately then came the answers:

It would be about the place that I knew best, for the people who love it and to those who are about to fall in love with it. It would be about everything that makes Cebu City the Queen City of the South. The streets, the waters, the modes of getting to these points, the simplicity and non-complexity of the lifestyle, the days and the nights and yes! The people! And how could I possible forget.. . the food!

This is your vehicle. Hop in for a ride!