Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nothing Fancy, Just Real Coffee and Hearty Breakfast

I don’t do food blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love food, but writing about food is just not my strong suit. Nonetheless, since I was once very passionate about coffee (before I succumbed to the realization that it was responsible for my migraine attacks and for my becoming a bundle of nerves) I have decided to write about Real Coffee in Boracay. 
It’s a rustic, offbeat kind of coffee shop. Unpretentious, low-key, nothing fancy. It’s an open-air (with roof, no walls) bamboo and nipa structure tucked away in one of the obscure alleys of the famous island. The uneven ground (sand, stones) is its flooring. It is furnished with unassuming wooden tables, chairs and stools and the counter. (If you have read my other posts, you may now have an idea I have a thing for places like this.) By the way it looks, you cannot find an iota of commercialism in it, not even in the packaging of its famous kalamansi muffins and other delectable pastries. It’s like eating breakfast at home! 
Its handwritten signs and notices add to the charm. I remember that the poster of True Yoga may be the only one properly printed. It may have been printed by a pro printer but nothing compared to the commercialized glossies in other establishments. Speaking of glossies, the magazines they have may be the only trace of the glitz and glamour of the commercial world.

They serve the usual coffee selection: mocha, capuccino, latte, etc., but even their brewed coffee tastes great! A cursory glance at their menu will give you an idea that they want to serve you hearty, healthy breakfast all day long. They have yogurt, pancakes, brownies, cookies, fresh fruit bowls, bacon and egg, omelets, sandwiches and many more. Sorry, no tapsilog, tocilog, bangsilog, and the like because it is owned by a Caucasian mother and daughter team. On the few occasions I have been there, the Mom was always there, always friendly and warm to customers and making a point to make small talk to customers in every occupied table. I haven’t tasted everything, but they look and smell good. Yes, you can smell what’s baking because the baking happens right at the rear of the shop. 

So when in Boracay, try their coffee and breakfast selection and you will understand why it’s named “Real Coffee”. It’s located at the end of station 1 of the White Beach path, down a small alley. Although it may be quite a challenge to locate as it has no signage to point you to where it is except for the crude wooden signage they have right in front of the establishment, but make no mistake about it as a so-so place as it has become an institution in Boracay that has become a mini-destination for regular Boracay tourists and for first-timers who have heard about it.
(Jan. 23, 2012)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Olde-Worlde Breakfast at Cafe 1927 - My Second to the Last Breakfast in Roxas City

(Feb. 10, 2012)

It’s a gloomy morning. From the humongous windows of Cafe 1927, I see overcast skies hovering over the morning Roxas City traffic rush (predominated by tricycles) with the sun hiding somewhere. I believe I have right now the most romantic and quaint view of this laid-back place. The large window beside my table is as if a home theatre system showing me a vista of the heart of the city where the Cathedral, City Hall, Plaza, Ex-President Manual A. Roxas Monument, the Museum, flower stalls, The Chess Park with the picturesque river, bridge and city skyline are vividly visible. Where the inn is situated, I would say that it is my favorite street in the city. I am a sucker for non-busy, tree-lined shaded old-looking streets like that adjacent to Silliman University in Dumaguete City.

The only thing marring the landscape is the yellow billboard showing the smiling shameless faces of politicians... oops, stop and zip it! Sorry, the weather has infected me. And now it starts to drizzle but simple city life continues... This is my wake-up call that after here, hubby and I go on; we still have a long way to go to living a full life. This jolted me from my half-asleep-like stupor and got me moving on my feet. Got a handful of things to complete, such as disposing of our LPG tank (which is at the moment in the car) before I can leave this place.

I wish there’s wifi in Cafe 1926. But such a technology would be out of place in such an old-fashioned establishment. Judging from its name, you can tell, right? But the vista is just perfect to get words brewing in my mind. Maybe the non-existence of wifi points to the fact that this is not the right place to be doing online stuff, but to be writing my heart and soul out. An olde-worlde-themed Starbucks right in this location would just be perfect and would potentially be my favorite branch, if it were so. I guess there is just no viable market here for such coffee that is worth a third of the daily wage of minimum wage workers. But if I were to have a coffee shop of my own, this would be the location and I know that a coffee-lover friend would love the site too, even if it isn’t exactly a corner spot, as we have once dreamed of a quaint coffee shop with drive-thru facilities.
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sleepless in Park Central Inn - My Second to the Last Night in Roxas City

(Feb. 9, 2012)

“Turista ka ba?”, (Are you a tourist?)

asked a friendly young guy who smiled at me during my Cafe 1927 breakfast. I answered him with my usual riddling answers,

“Just for today.”
The Inn's Cafe 1927 where complimentary breakfast is served

And it’s true! Yesterday and two years and a month ago, I was officially a resident of Roxas City. But today, after a Herculean day of cleaning and a week of packing and throwing and selling away stuff, I surrendered the keys to our beloved Roxas home to the owner (actually, to our neighbor, as suggested by our kind landlord for my convenience). So I spent last night at Park Central Inn, the place I wanted to be in because of its charming location. It is nestled right at the heart of the city just a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral, the City Hall, the romantic bridge and river I’ve been babbling about in my previous post. Errr, ok, so I thought that that original post was enough to say goodbye to Roxas, but it wasn’t enough I figured. I did not plan this, but I’m afraid, it has become a Goodbye, Roxas !series. Blame it on the Cafe 1927 windows that pumped my writing juices.
The Inn's facade with the monument of former President Manuel Roxas

Today, however, I look at the city with a tourist’s perspective. So after breakfast I wandered off the streets to snap pictures of the part of the city where I believe the government and entrepreneurs can improve on to make it more attractive, romantic and a tourist magnet. As it started to drizzle, I had to go back to my room and go back in time. Yes, I feel nostalgic over my departure from this city, but what I mean by “going back in time” when I went back to my room is that the room is old, well at least, the setting right outside my room is eerily vintage. Inside the room, however, it was bearable, but it wasn’t exactly a posh place to stay in but at least, it did not raise goosebumps and my dust and allergen sensors did not set off, save for some bearable itch on my legs when I lay on the small bed and a short bout of sneezes when I woke up. These are minor compared to a place we stayed in Bacolod.

The eerie corridor to my room with its wooden floors

The inn is an old-fashioned wooden structure. The sound of wood floor enduring heavy footsteps jolted me awake from the elusive sleep I managed to catch. I had a terrible time getting some sleep, thanks to the place, my wild imagination, and my paranoia that no other guests seem to be checked in. If not for the back-breaking cleaning and packing up I did yesterday, I may have been awake all night. I actually checked the room before checking in and I even backed out. However, the regular rooms at the Midtown Hotel were all booked as there were only four of them. Thank goodness, I endured the night at the old inn and I was relieved to find out at breakfast in the morning that there were several guests, a Caucasian couple, some sales reps and even a Med Rep acquaintance. That made me decide to stay another night in the inn and give up the reservation I made at the Midtown. This means I can take pictures of this part of the city at night as it looks romantic when the night has fallen and the lights are on. But when I used the bathroom again and noticed the rusty pipes, I changed my mind again and decided to give Midtown a try. Let’s see if my writing fever continues there.

The reception area with the friendly receptionist
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Roxas

(Feb. 6, 2012)

I was in the dumps after driving hubby to the airport. I realized it was his last day in Roxas City, and the sentimental mushy guy that he is, he forgot to emote, feel nostalgic and be dewey-eyed because we were so busy packing up things, doing some last-minute stuff and he was just on time for his flight. I took his photo, probably the last, with Dachi (his beloved company car) and another one with the Roxas Airport as backdrop.
View from our windows: my flying friends
I came home with only a melancholic silence and the chaos of packing up greeting me. The gloomy weather did not help uplift the mood, while the beautiful chirruping of the birds made me realize I’ll be missing this place. Argh! My heart is breaking and tears are threatening to fall as I write now. Never thought I could get this attached to this unassuming city.
The Plaza

Roxas City morning traffic

Roxas is a quaint, rustic, romantic place. If I remember it right, this was how I described it to a friend when hubby and I together first arrived here, although it was his first time, it was not for me. As a small laid-back, not-so-developed city, it has its shortcomings. Customer service, not even the courtesy of a smile, is still unheard of in some establishments (especially among the staff in Gaisano Mall - the only “mall” with 2 branches in the city), but there are also quite a number of businesses with people, such as the staffs in the two beauty salons (Rudy’s and Fixzone) where I have my foot spa, pedicure and manicure, who sincerely and warmly interact with you like you would expect from people in rural areas. We also sometimes feel frustrated not being able to buy stuff we need without going to Iloilo. Heck, we even have to take that 2-hour drive to watch a movie. But this can be compensated on the fact that you can greatly save since you don’t get tempted with the offerings in the market. Speaking of market, the Lipunan public market sell fresh catches of the sea from bangus, crabs, shrimps, squids, and various fish. I just don’t have culinary skills yet hence we rarely buy these.
Seafoods in Baybay
The chaos of a sea of tricycles can also bug you. It’s just a small place with really few vehicles, except for these 3-wheeled rides that often dominate the road. To be fair, we admire the high visibility of traffic enforcers in this city with or without an event or VIPs around. Hubby was also impressed by the smart efficiency of its police station when he requested for a police blotter when he had a minor car accident.
The weak points of this place are little things we have gotten used to and learned to live with. These are compensated by the pluses of the place, such as a generally peaceful and quiet environment. At 9 PM, I often feel that I am the only one awake in our subdivision. And when I look up to the sky from our veranda on a cloudless night, I can clearly see the stars shimmering since there are no tall buildings to block them or other artificial lights to pale them. Every morning, I hear the wonderful chirping of birds and I see them pay me a visit on our window sill or along electric wires. Sometimes though, they share the airwaves with the cacophony of barrio fiesta music. The lousy sound system and the badly mixed music murdered by the ‘DJ” did not help to please our ears. And this usually drags on the whole day until the wee hours of the morning and will repeat the following day until the days-long celebration ends.
But right now I hear my flying friends again, and the sun is already showing up, but I’m still feeling sad to be leaving this place. It’s not that I am not looking forward to moving to Davao, of course, I do, because we miss big city living, true malls, and burrito and taco that are not sweet because they have no condensed milk in them.

Inside ACC Crepes and Coffee

Besides the place that we are renting here, some of my favorite haunts in this unassuming city include ACC Coffee and Crepes and El Pueblo where Ramboys (where we love its liempo and sizzling liver) and Festa restaurants are located. I don’t like though their very tiny crammed 5-seater, 2-table coffee shop, which is just really an extension of Festa. You can also take your coffee alfresco but on the few occasions that I was there, the stifling weather did not make it practical to spend time outside. Hubby and I also consider ourselves “regular” customers of Coco Veranda and we even have a “pet waiter” there whom we tip ridiculously, he ends up running after us when we leave the restaurant just to thank us.
Potential "Lovers' Place"

I also like the romantic, rustic feel or the vicinity in the plaza, museum, cathedral, river, especially at night when the lights are on. I especially like the almost live-sized chess pieces/set on the plaza and enjoy people enjoying their “big” games their. How I wish some city official or developer will come up with the idea of developing this place further into the “city of lovers” or the “honeymoon city” or something like that by harnessing the river and bridge and offer gondola rides just like in Venice. They can also put up bistros and cafes with alfresco dining under the big trees somewhere around or near the park and use cobble stones for their street there.

Never been inside.

Perhaps they can relocate the public market away from the scene so that vendor will not have the tendency to pollute the river and mar the scenery. Then maybe they can introduce some kalesas to take the tourist couples or groups around the city or around places of attraction. Maybe they can invite artists or if they have their local brew to do painting in the plaza, or hold photography contests. For sure, the idea will also make a great backdrop for a wedding photography, so making the city a wedding destination would also be an opportunity. These are some of the ideas of the romantic in me.

Wish I had played a game or two with the locals.

Another thing I like about Roxas City is Saboroso, their local version of Sbarro, also serving pizza, pasta and salads. It’s very affordable but delectable although the taste is Filipino. Its flavors will not really make you forget your name, but it can give Greenwich Pizza (with its branch just ride beside it) would give them a run for their money. It would be a great establishment to be situated around the romantic plaza I’ve been babbling about. It’s a pity it is right now inside Gaisano Mall. Maybe because it’s the foot traffic that they’re after. The city has several brands of pizza: Yellow Box, Pizza Junction, (Italian resto ), but so far none impressed me and I find them very expensive. Maybe the inexpensive Alberto’s Pizza of Cebu will be a hit in this city.

Cheaper and Filipino version of Sbarro

When it comes to food, there are a couple of inexpensive places that hubby loves coming back for more: Inday Norbing’s specializing in lechon kawali and Pancit Malabon where he loves its kare-kare, Bicol express and a wide variety of Tagalog viands. Sadly we are not big fans of their pancit malabon. Hubby has become a suki to these places.
The stadium is another place hubby and I frequent because it is where we run when we have time. I used to run around our subdivision (St. Francis) but tall grasses (which I may be allergic to) and barking dogs deter me from doing so. The setback when running in the stadium is that there is an access road for vehicles to pass by right outside the track and as you try to catch your breath after a few rounds, you can also inhale the distinct smell of tricycle emissions. Heck, there is even a “legal” section near the gym for smoking. Whaat? a sports center with a smoking area? Beats me!

Despite these foibles, the city has become endeared to me and hubby. Most of the people are also very warm, sincere and hospitable, such as our landlord and landlady, and my gynecologist. Our landlord/lady even readily offered their own home for me to stay when we mentioned that I’ll be spending the last night in a pension house since all our things would be shipped out already, and they’d even offered to drive me to the airport when I leave the place. Ah, such, warm and generous people!
For all these reasons, we will surely miss this place. Goodbye and thank you very much, Roxas City!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Yoga in Boracay

boracay beachboracay beach (Photo credit: Dave Borghuis)
Of all the exercises and physical activities that I have tried, it is yoga (besides running or walking) that I am mad about. Don’t get me wrong, my body is not yet as pliant and toned as the other body twisting fanatics out there but I just get the kick out of attempting to transform my body into a pretzel. It lifts my mood, tightens my flabs, tones my muscles, helps me release toxins from my body (via sweat, burps and gas), and just gives me this great sense of well-being. Whenever I find my spirit down in the dumps, or when I need to calm my nerves or focus on something, or when I feel my waist starting to grow love handles, I roll out my mat and try to recreate as best I can the postures that my yoga teacher taught us in beginner class in Cebu.
Kripa Diva was my first Ananda Marga yoga teacher. Ananda Marga yoga involves gentle postures created to transport the energy up to the brain and brace the body for meditation. This relaxed type of yoga also concentrates on correct body alignment and controlled breathing. Kripa told us that we do not have to feel various body aches after performing the asanas or postures. True enough, I don’t suffer from muscle aches and cramps after mirroring her poses.
Then I went to a yoga class in Boracay...
One fine morning in January of 2012 (when hubby and I are about to move from Roxas to Davao) I went to a class in True Yoga in Station 2 with two energy bars as breakfast. Most, if not all, of the other students were foreigners, mostly Caucasians and a couple of Asians. The youngest was a Caucasian little girl, between the age of 5 to 8 years old with her mom. The oldest probably was the Caucasian bloke beside me, but I can’t guesstimate how old he was.
Anyways, the kind of yoga taught by Louise, the Boracay yoga teacher, was Vinyasa, a very physically active yoga unlike the gentle Ananda. It involves continuous execution of poses while the student coordinates his breath and movement. It was my first time to do this kind of yoga. And boy, challenging was an understatement. Sometimes I caught my arms or legs shaking as my muscles try to put up with my weight and the ridiculous contortions and I just smile, recalling Ketut's (Eat, Pray , Love) advice about making the liver smile during meditation. Louise called my attention a couple of times for wrong poses that were straining my wrists and assisted me in slowly coming down from the plough pose one vertebra at a time.
To cut the long story short, it was one grueling but fulfilling final morning in Boracay. Unlike my previous visits in the beautiful island, I did not swim or indulge in the array of food offerings. But still this visit had a special place in my heart because I did what I always wanted to try there. I left Boracay with a few aches here and there, but very gratifying aches. In just one session I felt my flabs tighten and my mood lifted. Too bad I did not have the chance to capture the experience with my camera. I hope though that that wouldn’t be the last.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

War, War Is Stupid

While on our way to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City, Vietnam, I was mentally arguing with myself on the official soundtrack for the trip. I was about to borrow Tour of Duty's OST, Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones, but thought it was too testosteronic. So I settled with Miss Saigon's The Heat is On in Saigon, Last Night of the World and Sun and Moon. (Listening to them now while writing this post). It was Superfriends' (several others absent) first time to go on an out-of-the country trip together. They are my girly super girl friends and I was wondering how our first trip ended up in a tour oozing with testosterone. Hush! Actually, it was my suggestion to go there thinking of the exquisite Vietnamese cuisine. Ooops! I didn't know that the footprints of war are still heavily lodged in the place.


Girly girl

Girly "mess hall"

Girly barracks

So when the guided tour started, I can't help but mentally play Culture Club's War Song:

"War, war is stupid
And people are stupid
And love means nothing
In some strange quarters
War, war is stupid
And people are stupid
And I heard them banging
On hearts and fingers, war!"

Part of our city tour on the first day was a visit at The War Remnants Museum. The exhibit there is proof that what Boy George is whining about is all true. Part of the exhibit showed the savagery of war. Of course, this is one-sided. After snapping a few pictures, we did not linger much because we did not want to absorb the gruesome mood. (But how come we were late in showing up at the bus? hehehe)


Toy solider, not a boy-toy

Although the Vietnamese claim that they "won" the war, but the casualties show that no one really wins in any war. Be it between nations or among neighbors, colleagues, friends, families and clans.

Perhaps (just my hypothesis) to make up for the grim traces of war, a favorite pastime in Saigon is wedding pictorials. Young couples pose in front of the camera all geared up for this sport even though no actual exchange of vows was to take place. Too bad we were not able to take a shot at one of these exhibitions of love. Yes, make love, love, love, not war...

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Elusive Path to Happiness

Have you ever experienced frantically looking for your pair of eyeglasses, turning everything upside down to locate it but to no avail, only to find out that the seemingly elusive specs had been sitting right on top of your head all along? Well, people who simply cannot find happiness and think that seeking happiness is a wild-goose chase may be sharing this ridiculous situation. Many attempt to pursue happiness, but they look in the wrong places. They rummage through material possessions, people and relationships, addictions and experiences, turning their world upside down like a cluttered handbag, not knowing that happiness has just been patiently sitting on top of their heads all along, waiting for its presence to be recognized. For happiness is just a decision you can make in your mind. You bet, the path to happiness is elusive if you look elsewhere but within.