Friday, December 14, 2007

Resigning well

These days the topic in family discussions is my sister's resignation from her high profile bank job. My sister told us that she's tired, she's been working since she graduated from college, and she just wants to not work and rest.

Throughout her stellar career, she only changed companies once. And she rose up the ranks from loan clerk to vice president.

Now at 51, she wants to say bye to all the stress and the meetings and the quotas.

My parents can't believe she really wants to do this. She has been working all her life. It is simply unfathomable to picture her lounging around at home for days on end or checking out the malls during weekdays when she could have been calling the shots in her office in Makati.

"Let her resign," I said. "She's burning out." I also told my mom that it's really that way: If you're sick and tired of your job, it's time to move on. Take it from me, whose resume is peppered with short stints here and there. I've been known to resign from jobs that don't fulfill me even if I don't have a new job to take on. Yes, I've had months of not working, of lounging around at home watching reruns on TV, of checking out the malls even during weekdays just because I wanted to be busy.

But you see, I know how it is to be in a job that seems more like a chore. Since I had an accounting background and even passed the CPA board exams, I scouted around for accounting and auditing jobs right after the Board exams. I worked for about three months for an auditing firm, tracing clients' transactions via official receipts, vouchers and all. Then I worked for a small bank recording expense entries. I think I lasted two months. Next I labored as junior auditor in a multinational company, and I lasted for a year. But toward the end of that year, I knew this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Working then became a chore. Five o' clock meant freedom. I was just chugging along.

From then on, I've pursued what I wanted: writing. But even then I jumped from one job to another, writing for a PR agency, writing for a magazine, writing for a newspaper.

I've worked full time, part time, and at home on a consultancy basis. I have resigned from jobs and taken on new ones.

When I would come to a decision to resign, it was for different reasons: the job is not fulfilling anymore, I needed a pay raise, I had to spend time with the family, I had to go abroad.

Early on in my career, I botched up the resigning process. Blame it on youth, I guess. There was a time I just walked out. As in. There was another time I just called my boss and sent my resignation letter over. But as I became more mature, I realized if I were to resign, I had to think it over 1,000 times, and if I still want to resign, I had to do it well.

So, here's what I learned about resigning -- when to know it's time to move on, and how to break the news gently.

1. Think and pray about it. If you're not really at peace staying on in the job anymore, why last another year at it?
2. Ask advice from wise people. They will see your situation from afar and give you an objective assessment of what's going on.
3. Find out if you just need to take a break. Take a one- or two-week vacation. If you come back refreshed and ready to work again, then it's not yet time to leave the company.
4. Ask yourself if you're still an asset to the company. If all you care about is punching in on time and punching out as soon as the workday ends, you may be doing the company a disservice.
5. If you wake up in the morning and dread going to work for the nth time, let go.
6. After you've decided to resign, observe company rules and give your boss the required notice.
7. Talk to your boss. Sit down with him/her and explain why and how you came to this decision.
8. Help find a replacement. It's hard to look for someone who will be qualified to take on your job.
9. Do a proper turnover. Once your replacement is there, train him/her and do a proper turnover.
10. Speak well of your company even after you have left your job.

God has given each one of us gifts and talents which we are to use to help other people and to glorify Him. Find a job where you can honor God and work meaningfully.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23

BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Peacemaker by Ken Sande discusses the way people respond to conflict. We either escape or attack. A biblical and better way is to make peace, which includes overlooking faults, reconciling, negotiating, and if need be, seeking mediation, arbitration and accountability. This is a great book.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Here's to more bloggin' days

Awww, ain't that sweet? My friend Anna/Menchie/Coca of Anna's Tasa awarded me with an I Love Your Blog award. I'm as speechless as a surprise Oscar winner (is there one?). :-)

Anyway, I wish I had time to blog more. I'll try to blog more. But sometimes I do so much writing and editing every day that my mind refuses to churn out more text at the end of a deadline-filled day. And all I want to do then is be quiet.

But I do enjoy blogging. It was my son who started me in on this (as well as on Friendster) a couple of years ago. Since he started his own blog, I wanted to have one too. That was when he was 9 and not yet taller than me.

Anyway, there are many great blogs out there but I'm giving an I Love Your Blog award to ... (drumroll) Lala Rimando of Lala Rimando Diaries (see blog roll on your left). She's a profile of courage in the midst of whatever storm (libel suits from rich politicians included). A real journalist. Great work, Lala!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Today Counts: 365 Guidelines for a Meaningful Life by Harold J. Sala. This is one of the devotionals I've been reading every day this year. It's easy reading, yet full of wise advice for day-to-day living.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Friday, November 09, 2007

Of putting your records on and letting your hair down

If people just knew, I chuckled to myself as I drove from Diliman to Makati last Tuesday morning at the height of the morning rush hour. If people just knew what I do in the car when I'm driving alone... :-)

Well, nothing that scandalous anyway. Among other things I do (aside from reading, drinking coffee, praying, thinking, planning, etc.) is singing. I sing at the the top of my voice with the CD player blasting loudly -- it makes the 5-10km crawl along EDSA more fun that way.

Last Tuesday, I found the CD that my friend Dwight gave me last year. It's a CD of Corinne Bailey Rae. And the only song I played maybe 50 times going from Quezon City to Makati and back is "Put Your Records On."

So imagine me with my hair down holding a coffee cup on my left hand and the steering wheel on my right, singing, "Girl put your records on! Tell me your favorite song..." at the top of my voice along EDSA. The song is catchy and positive, and thanks to the constant replay, it's still on my head now -- and it's Friday night already.

So, here's to the last song syndrome. Sing with me!

Put Your Records On

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading Passages by Gail Sheehy. It's interesting to read how she has identified the typical crises in adult life, although I'm not taking it all in as is. I still believe that God has a unique plan for each one of us.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 2-4

Friday, October 26, 2007

Going Nigerian

Problem 1

"Help! Where can I get Nigerian food? My son's country for UN Day is Nigeria." This was the urgent text message I sent out to friends last week. It was already Tuesday and the program was on Thursday, and I was leaving for a business trip that Thursday. Where o where can I get Nigerian food in Manila?

When I say I'm looking for Nigerian food, my friends know I'm actually looking for a restaurant that serves Nigerian food, or a store that sells Nigerian snacks or something. That's because I'm not really a good cook, and they know that. Meg knew that, so when her husband Dennis's Nigerian classmate said there isn't a place in Manila that serves Nigerian food, she didn't think of suggesting I cook a recipe from the Internet.

"Parang curry curry na lamb lamb daw siya," said my friend Jing. Great. I cannot cook lamb.

"Nyar! I'll ask around," said Yummy editor-in-chief Becky.

"How about you ask the Nigerian Embassy?" said my friend Germaine. Nice idea. I did. But office hours were only up to 4 pm and it was already past 4:30 pm.

"You want to call my tita? She worked as a missionary in Nigeria for five years. She can teach you something simple to cook," said my friend Ruth. I told her I'll keep that in mind and will resort to that if I come up with nothing.

My friend Kytin e-mailed her former classmate Fonma who's a Nigerian consul. Fonma confirmed what I dreaded: Nigerian food is not sold in Manila. He suggested preparing rice and stew with chicken and goat meat, fried beans cake called akara, and pepper soup cooked with goat meat, thyme, and curry. I will not attempt to do them because the kids in school may not like my cooking and it will reflect on Nigeria the country.

Sherry saved the day. She directed me to the website And there was a simple recipe called Chin Chin she said I can easily do. "Fried flour with sugar lang, Ate," she said. Hmmm. My niece, seeing my dilemma, volunteered to cook it for me. She can have it done by 10 am on Thursday so we can bring it to the program venue at 10:30 am before I dash to the airport.

And so ChinChin it was. It's just...doughnuts without the hole.

Problem 2

My other problem then was how to find the agbada costume that my son will wear. It's a long flowing tunic with long sleeves, often embroidered. Since I'm a no-fuss mom, I was wondering how I can pull this off. I can't do the costume -- I'm not one of those moms who labor over making costumes. (I have nothing against that. I'm just not gifted in crafts making or anything to do with hands.) I couldn't find Camp Suki's number (they're into costume rentals). My niece suggested I just take a blanket and wrap it around my son. We tried it but it didn't look good. He looked like a mummy struggling to be free.

So my son suggested he just be a Nigerian dictator. He went to the UN Day program wearing a coat and tie and declared to the audience, "I'm from the land of oil and dictatorship -- NIGERIA!"

Problem solved.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers is a classic devotional that stands the test of time. The insights are still relevant today even if the book was published more than 75 years ago. I read somewhere that actor Piolo Pascual reads this. It's a gem.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. Psalm 146:9

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Making kuwento

"O ano, kumusta ka na? Hindi ka na nagkukuwento," my dad told me the other day just as I was hurrying out to bring my son to school.

"Wala naman akong kuwento. Ayun, ganun pa rin. Nag-e-edit. Nagsusulat. Nagshu-shoot," I said, then proceeded to the garage.

That got me thinking. The conversation seemed weird, considering we all live in the same house. I must have been so busy with work the past few weeks that I just tune out at home.

When I pick up my son from school, I always ask him, "How's school?" When he just replies, "Fine," I probe more: what did you learn, did you have a quiz, did you eat your baon, what fun thing did you do today? I guess my parents must be that interested to know what's going on in my life too. Even now that I'm 30 (the new 40, hehe).

And you being my friends, you must be interested to know what's up with me too.

So here goes:

1. Love life: I met up again with one of my fave makeup artists Barbi this week, and as she was doing my makeup for my editor's photo shoot, she asked me about my love life. I said, "Ten years ago, I prayed to God that if the next one will just be a problem, wag na lang. And since then, wala."

A few Sundays ago, Pastor Peter said something like this, that God will not give us a snake knowing it won't be good for us.

2. My new entertainment find: DZMM on the AM band in the morning. I don't normally tune in to the radio but recent political events just made me hungrier for talk radio. The recent circus brought on by the ZTE broadband hearings was really fun.

Consider this sound bite: "Pinag-aawayan niyo lang ang mga kickback niyo! I resent being made party to this squabble!" I love Miriam Defensor-Santiago for all the quotable quotes she has given us all these years.

3. New place to de-stress: When I got back from the US, my former officemate Elvie invited me to try out the spa services at Footloose in front of ABS-CBN. It's owned by our former boss. I finally got to try the place today, and found the place very calming. I got a foot and back massage, Thai style for P530 for 60 minutes. The foot massage was marvelous! Heard that artistas are regular clients here.

4. New restaurants I've tried: I Have Two Eggs is a classy tapsilog place along Tomas Morato Extension, beside Alex III. I had the adobo rice topping with omelet (every dish on the menu has 2 eggs, your choice of luto) and it was superb. Also tried the choco bibingcrepe at its sister restaurant Half Moon. Yummy!

5. Work: I'm swamped. My friend Erli texted me this recently: "When honoring God is at the top of your to-do list, the rest of your day falls more easily into order. God is the author of organization." That's a nice reminder for all of us.

And that's my kuwento today. What's yours?

BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Manila We Knew, a collection of essays edited by Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio. Women writers share with us their recollections of old Manila before the war (peace time), during the war, and after--the 60s. I love reading this book.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4: 2

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back home

Yes, I'm back in the land where I was born, in the city I love, and in the home where I grew up. Just when I thought I could fashion my own American dream, reality bit me...hard.

Today is September 4 and classes start today in the California university I got accepted in for graduate school. And here I am in my home office (more like a corner in my dad's home office) somewhere in Metro Manila, typing away while the noonday heat oppresses the people passing by on our street.

Well, things don't always work out the way we want them to. I believe that God has a plan for all of us. His plan may not include my studying now, but I trust that His plan is best. After all, He made me. And like a car manufacturer who knows the ins and outs of a car, God knows me inside out and knows what's best for me.

And so, I've gone on with my life in Manila for the past month and a half. My son is now in sixth grade in a school he loves. I've gone to the malls in town, and in fact checked out Trinoma the day after we arrived. I've gone food tripping again with my friend Erli, and I've scheduled coffee dates with dear friends. I've been driving almost every day (and reacquainted myself with the traffic, the potholes, and the hay naku drivers). I've linked up with my home church. And I'm raring to get back to work. Life is good.

Some things I love about being here in Manila:
1. good home massages at cheap prices
2. kapeng barako at Figaro
3. bibingka (try Bibingkinita at Glorietta 4's Food Choices)
4. coffee and lemon squares at Cafe Mary Grace (Trinoma and Serendra)
5. Nova and Chippy with Coke sakto while working on the computer
6. Jollibee Chickenjoy (believe me, we missed this since the Chickenjoy in Jollibee Carson in LA didn't taste like the real thing)
7. book sales in Powerbooks and National Bookstore
8. two hours of me time reading a book at Starbucks Metrowalk without anyone bothering me
9. texting -- yup, I've rejoined civilization and got a cellphone
10. just hanging out with my family and friends over yummy food

Yes, this is home.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Travel Writing by Don George with Charlotte Hindle, published by Lonely Planet. Here's a look at what travel writing is all about, with advice from travel writers, editors, and agents from the US, UK and Australia. In travel writing, the rewards do not come in monetary terms but in rich experiences.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thessalonians 4:-12

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Is it just me or has English changed?

I've always thought I've had English down pat since I've been reading in English since I was little, and have been writing articles in English professionally for about 20 years now. My TOEFL scores which I received last Saturday showed that I scored high in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

So it baffles me that I sometimes encounter communication problems here in LA.

As I was washing the dishes one time, my 17-year-old nephew said, "Hello." And I replied, "Oh hi, Johnny!" But then he looked at me quizzically and again said, "Hello." Then he shaked the popcorn bag in his hand. Only then did I realize that he said, "How long" instead of "Hello." So I said, "Two and a half minutes." Then he popped the bag in the microwave and disappeared after it was done.

There was also the time when the vet clinic called and left a message for my sister about her Sharpei puppy named Sasha. "Please tell her the tickle test is negative." The tickle test? Sasha was tickled to test her for what? I asked the girl, "Um, what's that again?" "The tickle test." "Uh, can you please spell that out for me?" "Ok it's f-e-c-a-l o-c-c-u-l-t..." "Oh yeah ok, I get it." So what I thought was a tickle test was really a fecal occult stool test.

Just a week ago, my 19-year-old nephew Patrick rattled off a lot of words in English, complaining about something and speaking a mile a minute, like he used to when he was little. I thought he said, among other things, that the Mark II is not working. And so I said, "Oh that's ok, we can take the Cadillac." And he said, "No I said the microwave is not working." Oh dear. Is it just me or has English changed? It's like words just roll off Americans' tongues differently.

But it's not just the accent that's the problem. Sometimes it's the terms they use too.

I went to a small pharmacy last month. I was looking for sanitary napkins but couldn't find them. And so I asked the cashier, "Hi. Do you have sanitary napkins?" She frowned, then said, "We have tissues." "No I need sanitary napkins." "What are they for?" "For one's period." "OH, YOU MEAN TAMPONS!" (yeah right. Now everyone in the pharmacy knows I need them or something like them.) "Well, not quite. I need something like this (I drew sanitary napkins in the air)." "OH, PADS! Yes, we have them right here."

My friend Malou in New Jersey has this American English down pat. She told me her husband is a "mortgage beynker." I'll surely remember her whenever I have to ask for directions to the nearest beynk. And I should remind myself that my name here is Keren not Karen so the barista at Starbucks won't have to ask me to spell my name.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Book 3 now of the Countdown to the Rapture series. It's The Rapture. Exciting! Have you ever wondered what this is about? The Bible says believers will one day meet the Lord in the air in the twinkling of an eye. E-mail me for more info.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Psalm 95:7

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Anna's Tasa's five questions

This is a tag. My friend coffeefreak (Anna's Tasa on the blog roll on your left) sent me five questions to answer in my blog. If you want to be interviewed, let me know and I'll send you five questions too, which you have to answer in your blog.

Anna's Tasa's five questions:

1. What was the first thing you did today?

I thanked God for a good night's sleep. Really had a peaceful long sleep, from 10 p.m. to 7:40 a.m. The headache that bothered me yesterday was gone.

2. What's your greatest fear?

Getting lost in LA. That is why I never leave home without a bus map, a bus schedule, a Google map, and if we're driving, directions from here to there from Oh, and enough change for the bus ride.

3. If you could star in one big movie, what movie would that be?

hahaha! Me, a movie star?! Ok, let's play along. I want to be Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile, inspiring other women to explore new worlds.

Oh, while we're at it, can I share which TV show I'd like to be in? I'd like to be in Samantha Brown: Passport to Europe (Travel Channel) and be Samantha Brown walking on cobblestoned roads, sipping cappuccino, sleeping in delightful little inns...

4. Five things that are in your mind right now...

a. Breakfast: what can I eat? Bagel or rice and ulam?
b. My brewed coffee's getting cold.
c. Where can we go today?
d. Grad school in US: should I or shouldn't I?
e. I miss Manila, my parents, my friends.

5. Your personality in three words...

Quiet, shy, curious

Ok, here are the interview rules:
1. Post a comment here saying you want to be interviewed.
2. I will go to your blog and email you five questions.
3. Answer the questions in your blog.
4. Explain in your blog what this tag is all about.
5. Offer to interview someone else in the same post.
6. Send five questions to those interested.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm so into the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. It's Christian fiction about the earth's last days. Interesting scenario. Now they've done a prequel series, the Countdown to the Rapture: Before They Were Left Behind series. I've read Book 1, The Rising, a chilly book about what the Antichrist's beginnings could be like. Now I'm reading Book 2, The Regime, and here, the Antichrist is establishing himself in business and government.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Trust in the LORD and do good. Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:3-4

Thursday, June 14, 2007

License to drive

Passed my driver's license test today in LA! Yipee!

Photo: From Simi Valley to Downtown LA with the LA skyline in the background.

Gotta go. Dinner time!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

2.5 months sans cellphone

After more than 10 years with Globe, I had my postpaid cellphone service cut last March. I was going on a long trip overseas and did not want my parents to be bothered about making sure my monthly phone bills got paid on time. Besides, my not-top-of-the-line cellphone would not work in Tokyo where they only accept J-phones, and neither would it work in LA since it was not triband. Secretly, I also wanted to know how long I can survive without a cellphone.

"'Di mo kayang walang cellphone," said my high school friend A. And so she offered me a triband mobile phone on Globe postpaid plan that will just cost me P500 a month. "$10 dollars lang yun no," she said. She'll even take care of paying Globe; I'll just have to leave postdated checks with her. I said I'll think about it.

But before I knew it, I had 10,000 things to do before leaving Manila last March 16. So there was not even time to think about it.

It's now June 4 (and--gasp--I'm 40 years old and 5 months old today! Well, no one can tell as long as my grey hair doesn't show and I'm in my sneakers, hehe). That means it's been almost 2.5 months since I gave up my cellphone. And... I survived.

Sure, I miss the forwarded jokes and inspirational text messages, as well as the hoax warnings of bomb threats in the malls. Also the funny "Can u b my txtm8" messages from people I don't know (and don't bother to respond to). I miss the "wer r u" urgent messages when I'm 5 minutes late for appointments just as I'm parking in a crowded mall, and the kilometric chika from my girl friends. I also miss the prayer requests that come in via text, as well as the coffee invites from my closest friends.

Yeah, I miss them all, but I discovered many things by being cellphone-less.

1. It's good to wait. In fact, I can wait. And yes, people can wait for me. And one can wait creatively: read a book, write a note, go people-watching and check out the latest fashion, study the menu four times and learn the many different toppings that can go on a pizza.

2. The pay phone works. Just drop the coins, dial, and voila! You can be the one to ask people, "where are you?" when they're not on time. Plus, this is a great way to use up all the coins in your purse so your wallet will not be as heavy.

3. Not everything is urgent. If a message can wait, I can send it by e-mail. Back in Manila, I could launch 30-50 text messages a day, some of them not urgent (example: Hi! Are you going to X's party next Friday?).

4. Talk is better. Instead of texting and asking if someone is free to meet up later today, just pick up the phone for immediate feedback. Oo nga naman.

I'm not saying that I'll never have a cellphone again. But being without one certainly opens up one's eyes to other possibilities. :-)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Turn by Max Lucado is a small thin book I picked up at the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble. This is a must-read for all people who want to see their countries go forward. God will bless their land if His people humble themselves and pray.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why I like Tokyo

There are many things I like about Tokyo. Here's one:

The cherry blossoms are amazing.

Everyone awaits the first bud.

Pretty soon, whole trees are awash in pink.

For two weeks in spring, cherry blossoms are a sight to behold in parks and street corners. How awesome our God is for making them.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander. A young kitchen boy in the household of Nicholas II, last Tsar of Russia, recounts the last days of the Romanov family leading to their execution. This is historical fiction but the author incorporated actual notes and letters written by the Romanovs. An interesting tale.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:11-12

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tokyo: Land of Tempura and Shabu-Shabu

Ah, Tokyo... It's been more than 10 years since I last went to this bustling metropolis, and I have forgotten how wonderful it is. The people are so polite and nice, the air so crisp and cool, the food so appetizing and delicious.

Let me just run through a list of restaurants I've been to in Tokyo then post another blog entry in a few days about the interesting sights to see in that city.

Meiji-Jingu Park
Inside the grounds of the Meiji-Jingu shrine is the Yoyogi Restaurant, just a few steps away from the gift shop. I had Fish and Vegetable Tempura bento which tasted quite different from the usual tempura back in Manila. This is authentic Japanese cuisine! Busog!

This place has been famous since 1930 for its hamburger steaks, and now I know why. They're really good. The juicy burgers are cooked in foil and placed on sizzling plates. They come with baked potatoes as well. One burger plate costs 1,260 yen. Quite pricey when you convert it to pesos (100 yen is about 50 pesos), but reasonable when you convert it to US dollars (about $12).

Kamishakujii Train Station, Nerima-ku
Coming off the train, you'll see this inviting little coffee shop with delicious-looking soft breads. It's no French Baker (Manila) at all. Cheap but yummy.

Marunouchi Building near the Tokyo Station
This is a famous ramen house, and there are several outlets in Japan. This one in Marunouchi Building is just a few floors down my nephew's office in Bloomberg. We had gyoza, which was just perfect, and Hakata ramen. I've never had ramen this good before. No wonder foodies have been blogging about Akanoren. Read these: and

We were curious: would the gyudon taste any different in Yoshinoya Japan than in Yoshinoya Manila? Surprise! It tastes the same. Still yummy. My brother said I should try the sukiyaki. Next time then.

Disney Sea Resort
I had turkey ciabatta while Alec had salmon sandwich. Good New York style sandwiches.

Skylark would be like Pancake House back in Manila. It's a good old family restaurant. There are several set menus with calorie count (cool, says my son). We went there just for snacks though, so I was only able to try the maple chiffon cake. It was just right; not so sweet. Goes well with the whipped cream it came with. Bottomless drinks available at the drink bar.

My sister-in-law's family took us out to dinner here one night. The sirloin steak is tops! But what is memorable for me here is the salmon breakfast plate. This is a traditional Japanese breakfast with rice and miso soup that's filling and delicious! Bottomless drinks available too at the drink bar.

2F Tokyo Culture Hall, Ueno Park
In between museum-hopping, we had lunch at this popular restaurant. There's a queue at lunchtime. I had fillet of pork cutlet (tonkatsu, I guess) for 1,050 yen, while my son had beef curry. Good food!

Shinagawa Aquarium
After viewing marine life in the aquarium, we were famished. This child-friendly restaurant sits overlooking a pond. I had something like chicken a la king, while my son had the Dolphin Special -- not dolphin meat, but tonkatsu if I remember right. Food's great. :-)

Lalaport Toyosu Mall
This is the food court in this spanking new mall. You can take your pick from a number of international stations: Japanese, American, Singaporean, Indian, Chinese, and Italian. I got Braised Soy Sauce Chicken on Rice from Imperial Treasure (Chinese; 850 yen) while my son had Beef Sandwich with Fries from the Oregon Bar & Grill (American; 750 yen). My sister-in-law got something from the Thai section but she couldn't eat it because it was too spicy. When in doubt, go safe and pick the food familiar to you.

near Tokyo Bay
We couldn't leave Tokyo without going to a real sushi bar, and this was it. I'm not really a fan of sushi and sashimi but I can eat them. I'm glad I could, because the sushi and sashimi we ate here were superb, especially the salmon and the amaebi (sweet shrimp). I also liked the kappamaki (cucumber roll) and the maguro (tuna). My son was more adventurous and devoured the unagi (eel) and the anago (sea water eel). Great with the miso soup with clams and piping hot green tea.

You think all McDonald's are the same? Well, maybe, if you're talking about the Big Mac and the Cheeseburger. But there's something new with every country's McDonald's. Japan's McDo, for instance, has creamy corn soup, tomato chicken fillet and choco pie. The Philippines' McDo has spaghetti and fried chicken. The American one has burrito. More reasons to visit McDonald's everywhere.

This is Japan's answer to Starbucks. The latte is good, and so are the pastries. Ambience is cozy. My brother craves for Doutor coffee.

* Takoyaki: Octopus cooked in gooey stuff eaten from a stick a la barbeque. The Ueno Park stand looked so inviting, so we tried it. Quite good, actually.
* Chocolate banana: Good old banana dipped in chocolate with candy sprinkles. For 100 yen, you can have fruit and chocolate too! Got one at Ueno Park and it tasted really good.
* Crepes: A number of crepe stations in little Volkswagen vans can be seen around Tokyo. We tried one in Harajuku which had a line of young people waiting to place their order. The strawberry crepe with vanilla ice cream was really good. I also saw one at Kamishakujii station and another one just outside the supermarket in Nerima-ku.

After all that yummy food outside, though, nothing beats real Japanese cooking done lutong bahay style. I am so blessed to have a true blue Japanese sister-in-law who cooks sooooo well. From tempura, nabe and teppanyaki to shabu-shabu, tonkatsu and miso soup, she can do them all by scratch. And her salads are so yummy too! I told her she could open a restaurant already; she's that good. So after a long tiring day walking and doing some sightseeing, we would gladly wait for her outside the small supermarket on the way home as she would pick up the freshest vegetables and meats so she can lovingly cook dinner for us at home. Bon appetit!

VERSE OF THE DAY: But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. Psalm 33:18

BOOKS OF THE WEEK: Myself, Elsewhere by Carmen Guerrero Nakpil is an engaging memoir about her life in prewar Ermita. This was Ermita during peace time, long before it has become the chaotic, shoddy area it is now. She eloquently describes the customs, manners and way of life of the Ermita elite up until World War II when many passed away. A good read.

The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. During World War II, ten thousand Jewish children from Austria and Germany were allowed to board the Kindertransport, a rescue train. The kids became refugees in England. 243 Willesden Lane in London was the hostel some of them lived in. This book is the story of one of those refugees, Lisa Jura, a 14-year-old gifted pianist from Vienna. A poignant and moving story of music, love and survival during a very difficult time.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let's Eat! Restos to try in Manila

I haven't stepped on the weighing scale lately, but I know I've put on a few pounds when I couldn't get into my denim pants this month. March is so far a month of eating and eating for me, what with all the celebrations and reunions with family and friends in Manila and Tokyo. I couldn't complain, though, since eating is always fun, especially when done in new restaurants with people I love.

Here are places I've been to recently in Manila:

March 1: Lunch buffet was at Sulo Hotel on Matalino Road, Diliman, Quezon City. It's my parents' 57th wedding anniversary, and my dad treated me, my sister, and a visiting balikbayan couple from California, Virgil and his wife, to a filling buffet. It's not the greatest buffet in the world, but it's ok. Don't make the mistake of gesturing to the waiter to refill your iced tea glass; it isn't bottomless. Still, it's a convenient place to meet guests if you're in the area.

March 3: After a general assembly of Turn volunteers, I saw Arlyn and Sherry at The Podium in Ortigas Center. I had time to spare so I joined them for lunch at Pinoydon on the 5th floor. I love this little restaurant serving Filipino and Japanese rice bowls (donburi) at affordable prices. I had the grilled chicken bowl. During a previous visit (lunch with my longtime friend Jing), I think I had katsudon. Yummy. Boysie Villavicencio wrote about it in the Manila Bulletin some time ago:

There's still room for dessert so I met up with my Bible study group (D-group or discipleship group) at old favorite Dulcinea on Tomas Morato for some hot churros with thick hot chocolate. Definitely worth the trip.

March 4 : Had lutong bahay lunch with Turn co-workers Vic and his wife Nenet, Sherry, Agnes, and my son at Lasa on the ground floor of The Podium. We had pancit palabok, sinigang sa miso, beef tapa, and grilled liempo, if I'm not mistaken. The sinigang is really good. We capped off the meal with palitaw for dessert. Read on more about Lasa here:

My second lunch for the day (no wonder I'm gaining weight) is at Greek restaurant Cyma on the sixth floor of Shangri-La Plaza for my nephew Davi's birthday. It was already way past 2pm when I got there but we still had to wait in line for a table. The salad was pretty good (starts with R; I forgot the name); it had feta cheese, candied walnuts, and healthy greens. We also had lamb chops, osso buco, pasta with clams, ribs, and spinach rice--all yummy! For dessert, make sure to get the flaming mango with vanilla ice cream concoction which the waiters serve with a loud "Opa!" which is Greek for "Cheers!" Read more about it here:

March 6: Snacks at Figaro Congressional Avenue, Quezon City with my grad school classmates Meg and Nancy. I always go to Figaro for the barako blend coffee, which I prefer over Starbucks anytime. Love your own. :-) I also had pudding with vanilla sauce, something artist Stella Rojas introduced me to many years ago. Great with kapeng barako.

March 8: I first ate at Kimono Ken in Tomas Morato, Quezon City with my Varsi friend Erli sometime last year. This time we headed for its new branch at The Block, SM City North EDSA, where we met Jun, also from our Varsi days. The crispy kani maki is very good! I also had a beef bowl, like gyudon I think, but it was just so-so. I would go back here for the maki. Gourmet chef Gene Gonzalez wrote about it more here:

March 9: After dropping off my son in school, my mom and I headed to Chowking for breakfast. Boneless bangus, fried rice, and brewed coffee go well together.

March 11: Sugarnot at the fifth floor of The Podium is a great venue to hold meetings. It's quiet and not too crowded. Our Turn core group met there for a meeting. I just wish their low-sugar snacks were tastier -- I had a muffin which tasted two, maybe three days old.

Service is slow and there's a queue, but Guava at Serendra in Fort Bonifacio is worth going to for Pinoy comfort food. Try the kare-kare and the sinigang which you can have cooked either with bayabas (guava) or sampaloc. We also had laing and pochero. A hearty yummy lunch!

After that filling lunch, we just had to have coffee, and Cafe Mary Grace, also at Serendra, is the perfect place to go to. We got an outdoor table and watched people and their dogs with shirts pass by. Although we got pastries here, we also munched on delicious cupcakes my nieces bought from Cupcakes by Sonja a few steps away. This little cupcake store is always full; you have to fall in line to buy the P60+ apiece cupcakes. Read more here:

March 12, 14 and 15: Breakfast on these three days is at UCC Coffee on Connecticut Street, Greenhills, and at The Podium, with my son and his dad. I had boneless bangus one time, then waffles with frankfurters another time. The coffee, brewed via siphon method, is always good. I also love the Japanese salad and its yummy dressing. My son had Veal Bratwurst on the 12th, English Bangers on the 14th, and Frankfurters on the 15th.

March 13: I met up with some of the gorgeous moms of my son's prep class in Ateneo for breakfast. We originally chose Pancake House, but when Tina learned that their coffee machine was broken, we had to find a place with decent coffee on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, or she would die. We ended up in Cravings, which turned out to be a better choice. I had ham and mushroom omelette with freshly brewed delicious coffee. The fresh fruit platter and the other breakfast items looked good too.

Lunch this day was at Tramway on Scout Alcaraz Street near Banawe Street, Quezon City. My Fil-Chinese friends Ivy and Ana brought me here for the eat-all-you-can lunch buffet for under P200. The dishes are more than the usual lauriat fare. You have to have the steamed egg cooked like taho! Then there are the usual dishes: sweet and sour pork, yang chow fried rice, tempura, maki, etc. Eat and be filled.

And this is just half of the month! No wonder my pants don't fit. Next entry: Places to eat in Tokyo.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm on Book 11 of the Left Behind: The Kids series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. Young kids Judd, Vicki, Lionel and Ryan form the Young Trib Force and face challenges to their faith in the earth's last days. My son loves this series, and so do I.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Genesis 18:14

Friday, March 02, 2007


Exactly two weeks from now, my son and I will go on a long trip overseas. This is what happens when members of your family choose to settle in other countries. Every reunion is a major production and requires much planning.

Everytime I talk to a friend or a sibling, I get asked: "So, did you pack already?" Pack? My four-page To Do list shows "Pack" at the bottom. Above it are stuff I have to write, edit, follow up, and errands and other stuff to do like make a dental appointment, get flu shots, file ITR, pay my SSS loan, and so on. And I've got two weeks. Oh, I forgot that I need to dye my hair and get a massage before I leave next next Friday. And meet up with friends. And have business meetings.

I look around my room and I'm overwhelmed at the clutter I've accumulated over the years. I have probably close to 60 handbags, but I only use 5 regularly. The electronic junk (can't be repaired or donated) sit on top of the overhead cabinets: a broken fax, a jurassic CPU, a nonworking AVR, etc. I have boxes of papers labeled "Sort." And a load of magazines that can fill up a car trunk; this after disposing an equal number of old magazines last year.

I've got to simplify my life after this. After all, am I not a simple person?

And so, I have resolved to:

1. Pass on magazines I've read to friends. (As a magazine journalist, I have to read, read, read, thus the monthly stash.)
2. Give away books I've read or sell them on e-bay. I realized that I don't like rereading books I've read before. I'll only keep what's dear to me.
3. Keep my portfolio of works up to date, so I don't have to keep volumes of magazines around.
4. Give away gifts I have received but cannot use.
5. Make regular visits to the junk shop to dispose of paper clutter, electronic junk, etc.
6. Find a place for things, so that paintings go on walls and not get stashed in cabinets.
7. Have photo CDs printed as soon as possible. And organize photos.

And lastly, start packing a month before a trip. :-)

BOOKS OF THE WEEK: I'm reading two books this week, and I'm both halfway through them (yes, in spite of my things to do). One is Ladies' Lunch by Gilda Cordero-Fernando and Mariel Francisco. It's a nice collection of warm personal essays about womanhood, motherhood, growing up, etc. The illustrations by E. Aguilar Cruz go well with the wonderful essays. There are recipes too, long before Frances Mayes thought of including them in Under The Tuscan Sun.

The second book I'm reading is Philip Yancey's Reaching for the Invisible God. It delves on man's quest to understand God. It brings to fore man's usual questions: Where is God? Why does He seem unavailable sometimes? Deep insights but Yancey writes in an engaging personal way.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14