Non-Adventures in Cuisine

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my trips. It’s really a shame, but I am so not adventurous when it comes to the palate. If left to my own devices, I will seek out the nearest McDonald’s or other chain fastfood outlet instead of trying something new.

It started with my family’s trip to Hong Kong. We got around by commuting on the MTR, went to the night markets, and even got lost in dark side alleys, but we never ate Hong Kong cuisine. No noodles, duck feet, dimsum, nothing. We were too scared to set foot inside those innumerable restaurants that supposedly offered huge discounts during the offpeak hours, simply because we couldn’t understand the language the menus were in. Instead, we lived on McDonald’s salads and Fish McDippers (nuggets, only made of fish). The only other restaurants we ate at were the Marco Polo Prince coffee shop because we had free breakfasts there, and the Star Cafe at a mall because we were too tired to hunt down a McDonald’s. Oy.

The embarrassing thing is the same thing almost happened during our trip to Macau. Our first meal at the Venetian Hotel was at the McDonald’s there. Our first meal at Senado Square (which is peppered with food stalls and restaurants) was at a McDonald’s.

McDonald’s: cuisine of the cautious

I’m glad though that we summoned up the courage to try the local cuisine there. Egg tarts from Cafe e Nata, noodle soup from Wong Chi Kei at Senado Square… It helped that Macau presented a more fusion-oriented cuisine and the restaurants that served Macanese food in the tourist areas had English menus.

One thing to be careful of is unknown ingredients, if you have food allergies. I had a beef brisket noodle soup at Wong Chi Kei and noticed that the soup was ladled out onto the other ingredients. It turns out that the soup is made separately, and that it was broth from shrimp (which I am allergic to).

In my experience it’s always better trying new food with both eyes open (meaning having enough knowledge about the food about to be sampled). If you have a friend or guide who is familiar with the territory, allow them to take you food-tripping. But still, be cautious what you eat; always ask if it’s from something poisonous or if people are prone to allergic reactions to it. Then weigh your risks, and take your chances only if you think it’s really going to be worth it. You’re far from home, so it always pays to be careful.

I experienced both the good and bad side of taking my chances with local cuisine when I traveled to Laoag with LAC, I ate some really delicious crispy dinuguan when the owner of Cromwell’s Grill (one of our food sponsors) decided to take us to breakfast at a small carinderia which was one of Laoag City’s hidden food gems. (Oh, damn, now I’m salivating.) Later that day I tried some ant eggs at Balay da Blas without heeding the warning that some people are allergic to it. I wound up in a hospital emergency room getting corticosteroid shots to fend off my massive reaction.

Looking back on Macau and Laoag, it was fun, but it was dangerous. That’s probably it, why I’m so wary of food I’m not familiar with. I mean, you can walk in a dark alley and you still have your hands, fists, pepper spray and what-have-you to defend yourself from marauders. But once you put food into your mouth, you have no defenses against what it can do to your body.

That’s why, if I’m traveling just to see the sights, I might take a packed lunch.

My English, Let Me Show You It

Someone landed on my website by searching for “why english necessary for filipino student”. I’ll let pictures paint the thousand words I need to explain why. (By the way, “Fugly Filipino English” is the result of that search.)

Under ConstructED

No Parking: Drainage Under CONSTRUCTED

Longwinded "Insert Bill" sign

You can use new bill and old bill. Please don’t use very old, wrinkled and torn bill. If you do, you may lose your bill and you can’t return your bill.

Beware of Falling Dibres [sic]

Beware of Falling DIBRES

Now, if you don’t understand why these photos show how problematic English usage is in this country, then clearly there IS a need for Filipino students to take English subjects.

Until the time comes when Mandarin is chosen as the new language for international business, English is still the language we Filipinos communicate with to the rest of the world. We might as well get good at it.

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Endings (and Beginnings)

We’re at the halfway point in this year, and it’s been strange how so much has happened in a lot of people’s lives. Relationships formed and dissolved, jobs taken and left, habits created and broken, births, weddings, and funerals… It’s a fact of our time-limited human existence that change happens. It’s just that it’s been going on a lot in my circle, or maybe I’m just not as oblivious as I used to be.

The best thing about endings is that they’re simply beginnings to new eras in our lives. They’re opportunities to take stock about the things that really, deeply matter. They can be opportunities to reinvent and improve oneself by ways of thinking or behavior or even the people one chooses to surround oneself with.

So if the past six months are any indication of where the rest of the year is going, I say “BRING IT.”

Taking Center Stage

Les Mills Quarterly Workshop June 2008
Fitness First Group Exercise held our first quarterly workshop of the year (we have two) at Fitness First Megamall last Saturday. It’s my third quarterly since I began instructing back in second quarter 2007. While I’ve had to cut back on participating in master classes of other programs (I used to attend BODYCOMBAT), that doesn’t mean I was less excited about the whole thing. It just means that instructing eight classes a week takes its toll on my body and I didn’t want to push myself too hard. I just wanted to kick around with my fellow instructors and experience the upcoming releases as a participant.

BODYBALANCE 41 BODYBALANCE is once again innovating, and while I don’t want to go too much into detail, we have a lot of emphasis on spinal mobility and moving with the breath. The mat’s also horizontal for the entire class, so at least for this release no more messy mat transitions and people can simply focus on body part, direction, and intensity. Presenters Ben Tang, Jacqueline Wong, and our very own Peewee Sanchez led the BODYBALANCE team through the class, and though we’ve all been teaching for a year or more, we still felt strongly challenged. Watch out! Ü

Jammers !
Jammers with Clark Amaba, international presenter for BODYJAM

BODYJAM instructors: aren’t we stylin’?

The weekend’s highlight was, however, the BODYJAM master class. Jam is one of our flagship programs at Fitness First and it’s eye-catching, so instead of the class being held inside the club, we Jammers were herded into a cordoned-off space at the Megamall Central Atrium.

Jammin' at the Megamall Central Atrium
Basically, it was a massive demo for Fitness First, with over 50 instructors seeing release 45 for the first time. Presented by Clark Amaba and Tania Sibon, the musical and dance genres in this release are as varied as the styles of clothing we all wore to class. (That’s me in the front row, by the way.) It felt like a massive dance party all throughout, and that Butterfly Jump is going to torture me all through our practice sessions leading up to the launches in July.

We all returned to the club, and some of us were signed up to do BODYVIVE. It’s a very new program from Les Mills and Fitness First Philippines is projected to launch it sometime in the last quarter of the year, so we got a taste of it. Combining cardio fitness, resistance training (with ball and band), and groovy retro music, it’s a light and fun workout. But after Balance and Jam, it left me pretty much knackered.

Now comes the hard part — learning the choreography!

To learn more about BODYJAM and BODYBALANCE, check out the official Les Mills website.

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Workin’ It

These days, dancing is a major part of my life, and in the absence of any assignments from LAC, it is my life. But how far back do we go, dancing and I?

As Light as Air
My first formal training in dance came one summer at the Halili-Cruz School of Ballet in Quezon City. I was five years old and my mom enrolled me in ballet classes to rid me of my pigeon toes and general lack of body awareness. She succeeded on the first count, but I continued to be awkward and gangly through my teens. (Maybe if I’d been able to continue with ballet, I might still be able to touch my feet to the top of my head — that was my favorite floor exercise in ballet school.) Due to finances, I didn’t continue with ballet.

I always participated in school dance numbers, but I felt like I was too old to get better at dance even though I desperately wanted to. Still, watching tapes of Flashdance and Footloose inspired me to go leaping through our bungalow back in Paranaque doing pirouettes and grand jetes. (It’s also why I have a weak left ankle because I sprained it on a bad landing.)

Interesting how similar their poster art is.

When I entered college, people were raving about the Street Dance and Social Dance P.E. classes, which were notoriously hard to get enrolled in due to lack of slots. I never got into the Street Dance classes, but one summer I took up Social Dance and learned four dance styles — cha-cha, waltz, tango, and swing. Unfortunately for me, my partner didn’t know how to lead so I never learned how to follow. It was I who would remember the choreography and walk us through it.

MTV Grind Hip-Hop AerobicsP.E. was only required for four semesters in college, so I got increasingly less physical activity and ate more and more junk food. By the time I was in my last year something had to be done about my weight. My mom discovered that Music One was selling MTV The Grind Workouts, so she snapped up a copy of the first of the series, and we bought the next three as well. I simply followed along, dancing along with (not-really-a-dancer) host Eric Nies through oldskool hip-hop, Latin-flavored cardio, and whatever else the screen presented. Yes, laugh all you want if you thought the choreography wasn’t all that, but having actual choreography to dance was preferable to endless squats in a Buns of Steel video. It didn’t feel like work. And at least it was more up-to-date than ballroom dancing!

HoneyThen, of course, I saw Honey on video. I absolutely loved the movie, even though critics and dance aficionados hated it. It reminded me of Flashdance, of my old yearning to dance better. Opportunities presented themselves slowly, but I took them — from attending freestyle hip-hop, BodyJam, and Nike Rockstar classes, to competing, to training with the Stylettos, who helped me sharpen my technique and showed me even more how to dance with emotion and soul.

I’m glad I get to teach BodyJam classes every day, and I’m working hard to get better. I may not have the technique of someone who’s been dancing since Day 1, but I think I’ve got the heart of one.