Month: October 2014

Parlor Game During My Youth Lives On

4-Way Sungka?

4-Way Sungka?

About three months ago, I happened to see a sungka in Silay used as an appetizer tray. Cute idea I thought. I made a blog about it coz I haven’t seen sungka since I was in grade school which was over 30 years ago.

Cute idea

Innovative idea

Then I went on an Ilocano Roadtrip and saw in Calle Crisologo Vigan sungka sets for sale. I was happy. In the advent of the electronics age, the games of my youth have long been forgotten. No more Tex, Marbles, Trumpo or Shato, the last of which is a game of sticks too difficult to explain. Spider fighting is long gone since there are no more open fields to catch them. All good things come to an end…someday.

But in Cebu, I chanced upon a piece of furniture I have never seen before! I call it 4-way sungka. Make your own rules! At best 4 bored tourists can play or keep themselves busy as they wait for their pick up. It was beautifully made, showing the quality of Filipino craftsmanship. I found it so “aliw“, I just had to take a picture.

To many, this may be no big thing, but somehow it’s big to me! Maybe I just yearn for the good old days where the open fields were plentiful and life was simpler. No responsibilities then. Life was good. Ok I’m getting nostalgic…blame it on the beer! On second thought…Waiter, get me another beer!


My Preferred Places To Stay In Tokyo

Sunroute Plaza  Shinjuku

View From Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku

Recently, my wife and I helped a family of five look for a place to stay in Tokyo. We checked AirBnB, Trivago, Agoda, Expedia and Too many options in such a big, cosmopolitan city so we narrowed down the possibilities by agreeing that Shinjuku and it’s environs is the place to be and the hotel/apartment hotel/BnB must be relatively near a train station. After three hours of browsing the internet and discussing the many possibilities, I came up with my 5 places to stay in the Shinjuku area.

1. Sunroute Plaza – our family’s choice hands down. Near the Shinjuku JR station, Takashimaya and Shinjuku Park. Just walk around the area and you will see all sorts of shops and restaurants. Hotel price is reasonable for Tokyo averaging $150 a night. As an added convenience, the Airport Limousine Bus picks up and drops tourists by the hotel doorstep every 3 hours for Haneda and 2 hours for Narita.

2. Citadines – The selling point of this apartment hotel is the kitchenette. If you like to cook, this place is for you. Marusho supermarket and convenience stores are nearby. Train station is about 400 meters away. A bit far if one travels with small kids. During the wintertime. I can imagine the hassle.

3. Hotel Wing Premium Yotsuya – website says this is the first Premium hotel of the Wing Group. This new hotel looks nice in the pictures and it’s location is very near the Yotsuya Sanchome train station.

4. Tokyu Stay Yotsuya – I believe one must stay at least a week in this apartment hotel. Room is cheapest compared to the four others mentioned in this blog. And they even serve breakfast! All reviews from the travel website are favorable. This one I want to try coz of the price but it is farthest from my relatives. Tho it’s next door to Sophia University, my son’s school.

5. Shinjuku City N.U.T.S. Tokyo. The hotel with the funny-sounding name is the wildcard. This used to be a love motel converted into a hotel so it has big bathrooms. Each room looks different tho so choose well. I take this place into consideration coz it’s two blocks from my mother-in-law’s apartment.

These places are normally under $200 a night. Other hotels or apartments can be cheaper but check the location. It may be cheap but if it’s far from a train station, a cab will be needed and that costs. Cleanliness is a virtue in Japan so it’s safe to assume that any place to stay is clean. When booking a room, pls check the room size. Space is a premium especially in Tokyo and rooms can be pretty claustrophobic for some.

My wife and I also recommend Shibuya and Harajuku areas as other places to stay. These areas are bustling and full of fun things to do. Just check the location and amenities. Book a vacation soon!

Tsuji Culinary Institute


For the month of October, CNN International Travel Asia is featuring the Tsuji Culinary Institute. Every time CNN plugs the show, I can’t help but smile and remember my late father-in-law. I wasn’t even in the picture yet but in preparing his daughter for marriage, he sent her to this most prestigious cooking school. As a backgrounder, my mother-in-law had to learn how to manage her home but she didn’t go to cooking school. So my wife should consider herself lucky to enroll in this school.

Ok let’s get two things straight. One, my wife went to a branch of the culinary school coz she didn’t go to Osaka to learn cooking. And two, she took a short course only, short as in less than two months. I would like to state that my wife isn’t aggressive. The only time she was aggressive was when she was courting me! Hehe. So my wife really didn’t care much about cooking time. As she said, she didn’t enroll to be a chef! She didn’t mind her classmates doing the cooking. Anyway she got to eat their end-product. When it was time to clean up, she was first to volunteer. Boy, can she clean! 🙂

So what did my wife learn from going to cooking school? Well, she knows the terms and can follow a recipe. And most of all she can clean! I just love it. So why doesn’t my wife cook for me? Before she starts cooking, she wants her own kitchen and buys all the ingredients and spices. I believe it’s cheaper to hire a cook! But in all fairness, she has cooked for me and the family when we were in dire straits and food tasted great! I love it when she does this for me. But my wife will be less stressed if she didn’t have to think about cooking so be it. Maybe when she is officially retired I will ask her to cook something. Worth the wait!

Is Masskara Worth Going To?


I have been observing the Masskara festival since the early 1990s. I say observing coz I never participated in the events, I look forward to the eating, drinking and socializing. It’s be Sem Break so the students would be back. Negrenses take time out to bring over and entertain non-Negrense friends and make sure they have a good time.

I recall only once did I watch the street dancing in the heat. I had to park far then walked to the street dancing area. Luckily I’m tall so I can see no problem. Others had to stand atop their pickups to get a good view. During that time, the only mask one could buy was that of the Power Rangers. Your choices were red, yellow or green. Seeing the street dancing once is enough. Listening to “La Bamba” about 20 times as each baranggay danced to the same tune, was enough to make me say, “No mas, no mas! Yo no soy marinero, soy Capitan, soy Capitan!”

Oftentimes I would just hang out along Lacson St., have some dinner, drinks, walk the strip and say hi to friends hanging out in other Lacson St restos., have more drinks. As the night wore on, the merriment became rowdier. Drinking 8 San Mig Lights a night was the norm.

About ten years ago, someone had the bright idea of closing Lacson St starting 4pm til the wee hours of the morning. Negrenses loved the idea of walking along Lacson sans vehicular traffic. Then someone decided to have an Electrical Parade at night that added to the festivities. Frankly, I found the Electrical Parade overrated but I’m sure as the years go by, the creativity of the Negrense would improve the design of the participating electrical floats.

Two years ago, it was still fun to walk along Lacson St. It was tight in some areas where there were stages then a bit of open space in between. I missed last year’s and this year’s Masskara. For this year, I heard part of the Masskara venue near Bacolod Town Plaza was transferred to Lacson. Hence, Lacson St became one big can of sardines. Stall owners were cooking inasal on both sides of the street making the venue hotter and smellier. The four-lane road became two-lanes as more kiosks occupied the outer lanes. If it’s tight, thieves will have a heyday. One of my friends was pickpocketed but that is no surprise anymore. Every time there is a Masskara, Atiatihan, Sinulog or Dinagyang, thieves from all over the country congregate and prey on the unsuspecting.

So is Masskara worth going to? If one is a Masskara first-timer, photographer, eater or drinker, it’s an overwhelming YES! But after that, it becomes a case of “been there, done that.” If one has friends who can entertain them by all means go again. Negros and Bacolod are more than just Masskara. There are many restaurants to try and places to visit. I can proudly say Negros is definitely a good example of…”It’s More Fun In The Philippines!”

Ilocano Road Trip

Someone asked me to write about my Ilocano Road Trip and whether it’s worth it. Before leaving Manila, another friend already told me that the proposed road trip would be too taxing for the senior citizens. Better if the seniors flew to Laoag then the car picked them up there. Ok, my problem is my father and his Ilocano friends planned the trip and they are responsible for everything. I just had to provide the van and driver and the rest is up to them. To make the trip more comfortable, someone provided another car. Ilocanos and my father in one car, Cumaguns in another.


We left Makati after 9am coz one car was color-coded. After picking up our Ilocano host in QC, we stopped for lunch in Kenny Rogers along the highway. After one pit stop in the last gasoline station before the fork going to Baguio or la Union, we ended up in our host’s beach house in San Juan, la Union.



At the break of dawn, we all went out to check the beach and were amazed at the rustic beauty of the place. In ten years this place will be full of resorts, is what we thought. We all packed up as breakfast was to be on the road. And we thought the nearest Jollibee would be at most a half hour away. Boy, were we wrong! The nearest Jollibee was two hours away in Candon City. In the province, everything is thirty minutes even if it’s not. Remember that!


After breakfast and one pit stop along the way, we arrived in Vigan in time for lunch. We ate Ilocano food in a hot pot type of resto then we took a calesa ride around Vigan. Instead of sleeping in Vigan whose hotels are actually converted ancestral homes, we drove on to Laoag which was two hours away. Personally, I was hesitant to sleep overnight in Vigan coz I feared my wife may feel something, if you know what I mean.


Before reaching Laoag, we made a short stop in the Marcos Ancestral home in Batac. We saw Ferdinand Marcos’ body but unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures. We arrived in Laoag after 6pm and it was dark already. Luckily for us, our Ilocano host just opened recently an 11 room place called, Ziur Inn along Jose Rizal Ave. Place was comfy and located very near the markets and department stores. If we needed supplies, no problem getting them.



After breakfast, we took a road trip to the light house, Bangui wind mills and Pagudpud beach for lunch and a little swimming. Pagudpud is 127 Kms from Laoag. I didn’t realize it was that far coz the last time I was in this area was in 1985 for work. The beach was excellent in Pagudpud. If one can stay overnight there, that would be a good idea. But we went back after swimming then on the way back to Laoag, I realized there was still time to visit Fort Ilocandia and the Malacanang of the North. By the time we got back to our hotel it was getting dark. Dinner was again in our hotel as our hosts cooked more Ilocano food. This time they served the Imelda fish and I understand it’s like cod and quite expansive. It was tasty for me but the others didn’t seem to like it as much. Oh well, not everyone likes Imelda! 🙂



Good morning! It was the dreaded going home day from Laoag to Manila. I estimated our trip would take 13 hours and that would be the longest I will have ever taken. My longest before was 12 hours when my Uncle Joe drove from Las Vegas to San Francisco and I found it tiring. And I didn’t even drive at all! I volunteered to drive part of the way so the driver can get some rest but he refused. Maybe he was just Dyahe.


So after a quick stop to load gas we had breakfast in Marsha’s Delicacies somewhere after Vigan. The bibingka here is highly recommended and it’s a pasalubong place. After one more pit stop, we had lunch in an authentic Ilocano Lutong Bahay resto in la Union. Kilawin cows balls and brain, dinuguan paste with liempo, soup number 5…my wife could eat only the fried fish!


One more pit stop before the long highway and we decided to have dinner in the highway coz if we didn’t, we would arrive in Manila past 9pm onwards depending on traffic. The second gas station in the highway had the most number of dining choices and we chose KFC. Traffic was relatively light along EDSA as the rush hour traffic already waned. We arrived in our Makati home at 10pm and trip took us 15 hours. 15 HOURS! No joke!

Trip was fun and didn’t seem that long coz I was with relatives. Would I do it again? No more na. Been there, done that! I would have preferred tho we sleep somewhere nearer like Curimao or Bauang, la Union on the last night to make the trip back to Manila shorter. But I’m glad we did it. And I’m glad my wife came with me so she can see the Philippine countryside. Looked the same everywhere actually! But one thing is for sure, I’m not going to have Ilocano food for the foreseeable future! 🙂

Dinuguan Paste Anyone?


On our way home from the Ilocano Road Trip, we passed by an authentic Ilocano Lutong Bahay Resto named Joanna’s in San Fernando, la Union. Resto had other Ilocano delicacies like Kilawin and Soup Number 5 which I have mentioned in an earlier blog. Then I tried something different- Dinuguan Paste! It’s pure or true blood and one is supposed to swipe the pork liempo on it and it becomes dinuguan. It was quite tasty! Since I like dinuguan, I tried it on liempo and as you can see on the pictures, I tried it on clams! In fact, as is, it was already good. Won’t mind trying it again together with Kilawin cow balls and brain! 🙂

Five Things To Remember When Going On A Road Trip With Senior Citizens

Seniors enjoying the sites

Seniors enjoying the sites

For the last couple of years, my folks want to travel while they still can. But such travel is getting harder for them so they bring my sister to handle arrangements and me to do the driving and carrying of stuff. Ok, so we get to go places for free. That’s a nice perk. For them, I will work for food. Hehe

Recently we did a road trip to the Ilocos region with two Ilocano family friends who served as guides and interpreters. It was a fun and entertaining trip and with that, I compiled my five things to remember when traveling with senior citizens:

1. Bring a driver and alalay. There will be a lot of carrying and gophering to do.
2. Expect a pit stop every two hours, three hours tops.
3. They can’t hear too well so expect quite a bit of shouting. I could hear them talking in the hallway of the hotel and I was inside my room already!
4. They are short on patience and expect things to be done ASAP and their way.
5. They are proud of their senior citizens rights and will use it to the fullest. Be ready for some arguments especially when paying for the food bill!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to travel with seniors. Although at times it may be stressful or frustrating, just be patient and deal with it. If one knows what to expect, one can just accommodate then maybe later on laugh about it. But if something really can’t be done, one has to let them know! These trips are really for them and going to their twilight years, such trips and bonding time should be cherished. I’m lucky I get to go and if they invite I will do my best to make it. And of course try to make it as fun as I can.

So here’s to the senior citizens…enjoy the rest of your lives and count your blessings!