Negros, beyond the City of Smiles

Bacolod, known as the “City of Smiles” is the capital of Negros Occidental. Tourists would normally go on a food trip as part of their itinerary to sample the namit (delicious in Ilonggo) dishes the place offers.

You can have dinner at Aboy’s Restaurant, a turo-turo style resto famous for their grilled seafood; have chicken inasal at Chicken House for lunch; and have desert at Calea Pastries and Coffee.

“The Ruins” tagged as “Taj Mahal of Negros” is a must-see tourist spot in Talisay. You can sip your coffee while gazing at the lit structure providing a mesmerizing view at night. Don’t forget to take the obligatory table top reflected shot of this once great mansion, burned down during the World War II (to prevent the Japanese from using it), the fate of a lot of the mansions all over Negros.

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Just 30 minutes away from Bacolod is Victorias City where you can find Peñalosa Farm. At the farm, you can learn about organic farming and eat organic meat and vegetables.

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Travel back to the past as you visit Hacienda Santa Rosalia, a sugar plantation located in Manapla owned by the Gaston family. Built in the 1930s, the Gaston Mansion survived the forces of war and nature. The Chapel of the Cartwheels is situated near the ancestral home. This non-traditional church is made from cartwheels, plows, mortar and pestle, and broken pieces of glass. The church aims to make the Catholic faith more local and more accessible. The Hacienda Crafts Factory is also in the area, where world-class craft and woven products are made, providing livelihood for the locals.

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Bacolod is the usual travel destination in Negros but explore the rest of the island and you’ll be happy to see that there is more beyond the City of Smiles.

 

 

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Minimalist Me: Food

Buying groceries can be challenging for me because I have this mental checklist, a criteria that I base my decision on, before buying something. Ideally, it should be organic or natural, environment-friendly, locally produced, and has less packaging.

I always check the ingredients list. If I recognize most of the contents, none of those words you can barely read, then I’ll buy it. I used to eat a lot of junkfood but now, I mostly eat fruits and nuts for snacks! Occasionally, I buy sweets and pastries but I’m also trying to lessen my sugar intake (and the same goes with salt).

I remember a chef saying that you should train your tongue to eat real food. Kids hate veggies because early on, they get used to artificial food bathed in too much salt or sugar or flavoring. Once your tongue gets used to natural flavors, you’ll realize how, most of the time, the food being served is too salty or too sweet.

For me, minimalism in terms of food could also mean lesser meat and more plant-based diet. It is ranked as number four among climate change solutions. Reduced food waste is third in the list so no to food waste, please.

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Minimalism is about mindfulness. Being mindful about the food we put in our bodies is something we should strive for. We should change the mindset that eating healthy is a punishment or is a way of robbing yourself of the good stuff because it’s not.

Minimalist Me: Books

I collect Stephen King books. I used to collect those of Dean Koontz, too but I decided I’m more of a Stephen King guy (sorry, Dean).

In my previous post on minimalism, I’ve made it quite clear how I’m not a big shopper. But buying books is a different story. That’s something I wouldn’t mind spending money on. For the record though, stingy as I am, I buy from secondhand bookstores. It’s an awesome feeling when you discover a really nice book at a very cheap price. But after reading them, I’ve decided to give these books away.

I’ve kept a few for myself (can’t let go of Stephen King just yet) especially those that I would want to re-read but we have to be honest here, most of the time, they remain in the bookshelves collecting dust.

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I have bookworm friends who have book collections and that’s totally fine. If keeping these books add value to your life, then by all means, collect all the books you can get your hands on.

As for me, finally deciding to be part of the horde, buying my first smartphone, had a perk in terms of allowing me to read e-books. I still prefer holding an actual book, turning the pages and smelling the book paper, and all, but with free e-books available online, I save a lot. Plus, fewer stuff. But borrowing books from friends (hello, friends) and the library (if there’s still one) could be an option.

So yeah, I have minimized buying books. But I genuinely feel happy when I see people going gaga over books fairs and book sales. And in case you’re wondering, I still accept books as presents.

War on Plastic

Summer is almost over but in a country where we have really nice beaches, it might as well be summer all year round. But our oceans are now choking in plastic. Heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s an accumulation of ocean plastic and garbage, which to date, is three times the size of France, and it’s getting bigger!

Why don’t we just clean it up? Not as easy as it sounds. There’s the issue of cost, distance, and effects of photodegradation (sunlight reducing plastic to smaller bits making them even more difficult to clean up).

Plastic is deemed evil for a reason (i.e. toxicity, pollution, etc.) but its usefulness in terms of food safety and food preservation is undeniable. A Quartz article explains that “Plastic is the symptom. Our centralized food system is the disease.” And a systemic issue will take time to be resolved.

One thing we can already do, however, is to start getting rid of unnecessary plastic. The good thing is more and more people are becoming aware of this. A lot of efforts are now being done to tackle the challenge.

There’s the ban of single-use plastic in some cities and municipalities, even among corporations. People are refusing straws and are opting for better alternatives – paper straws, bamboo straws, metal straws, and glass straws. There’s even a collapsible and seaweed-based edible straw. Speaking of edible, an alternative plastic bag made from cassava can be eaten or is compostable (as opposed to the oxo-degradable bags which just break down into micro plastics).

A growing group of individuals are starting to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle bringing re-usable bags, and jars, and containers when they go shopping; and re-filling their re-usable water drinking bottles instead of buying bottled water.

We have all these better options and it’s such a simple decision to make. It’s a matter of saying yes to the simple solution with big impact and letting go of the attraction of convenience.

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Halo-halo in the mountains with a re-usable container.

‘Sa Wakas’ – about wasak na pag-ibig

Sa wakas, napanood ko na rin ang musical play na ito, with the same name. Inspired by the music of Sugarfree, inilahad ng “Sa Wakas” ang phases of a break up nang pabaliktad. Reverse chronology ang peg ng show which I thought gave a unique twist, at sa umpisa palang, ipapamukha na sa iyo na walang forever.

Surprisingly, for a non-romantic like me na ayaw sa drama, natuwa naman ako sa dula. Bittersweet ang feels kasi you root for the relationship to work but you know that it won’t. Saklap! The play explored this pain part of love with struggles of finding one’s self as a backdrop, na very contemporary at relatable sa mga millenials.

For me, what stood out in the play is the music. I mean Ebe Dancel is such a poet. “Sa pagkumpas ng iyong kamay / Aking landas ginagabay / Nag-iisang tiyak sa isang libong duda / Silong sa iyak at pagluluksa…” Wow, di ba?!

Ang cool lang ng pagkakahabi ng mga awitin sa kuwento. Ang galing din ng live band with the violin and piano. Swak na swak iyong chuwariwap. At ang linis at effortless ng pagkanta nina Vic Robinson, Cara Barredo, at Justine Peña.

Hanggang next week nalang ang Farewell Run kaya nood na mga bes. “Ayoko nang mag-isa,” sabi ng kanta pero okay lang manood mag-isa tulad ng ginawa ko na walk-in lang. Kung mahilig ka sa love story, o hugot, o music, okay ito para sa iyo plus you’re supporting local artists which is always a good thing! 🙂

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Credit: Sa Wakas, A Pinoy Rock Musical

Anyeong, Korea!

 

 

Back in 2005, as part of a cultural exchange program, I was able to set foot on Korea for the first time. Since then, I’ve been wanting to go back to the land of oppas and k-pop.

The problem is, for most if not all of my travels, they’re organized by someone else. I don’t initiate it myself. They plan everything, book the flight tickets and all, and I simply tag along. Imagine my surprise when out of nowhere, I got invited to participate in the Organic Foundation Course. And the venue was in Korea! I mean how awesome, right? Talk about the universe conspiring to give you what you earnestly hope for.

If not for this opportunity, I wouldn’t have had the chance to go to the countryside, to the beautiful Goesan County, and experience its fresh air, catch a glimpse of cherry blossoms, and eat tasty organic food.

Of course, I was able to explore a bit more of the capital, Seoul. I went to the usual touristy places – Insadong, Namdaemun Market, Gyeongbukgung Palace, and Cheonggyecheon Stream. It’s so convenient to go around with the city’s efficient transport system.

I climbed 291 steps to marvel at the nightscape of Seoul from Haneul Park located on top of a hill which used to be a landfill.

I also went to a jimjilbang or a bathhouse. It was very relaxing. You have to know that in jimjilbangs, you must be completely naked, but this didn’t faze me at all. To be honest, it actually felt liberating, no pun intended.

Kamsamnida to my Korean friends who were the best babysitters, kkk (hahaha in Korean). Thank you for touring me around and stuffing me with all these amazing Korean dishes which you should try – bulgogi, haejangguk (amusingly, known as a hangover soup), kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), mul naengmyeon (noodles in ice soup), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), and dak galbi (spicy chicken stir fry).

Now I should decide where to go next and hope for the universe to once again conspire to bring me there.

Musings on the ALGOA Organic Foundation Course

With people becoming more concerned of the state of the environment, who are also clamoring for safe and healthy food, the organic movement is slowly gaining attraction worldwide.

I got to learn more about the movement when I participated in the 2018 Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) Organic Foundation Course. ALGOA is a project initiated by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)- Asia.

This year, there were 27 participants from 12 countries namely Korea, India, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bhutan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

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The course participants with the LGU officials of Goesan  County (Photo from IFOAM-Asia).
Goesan County in Chungbuk Province, Korea was the perfect place to have the training program with its natural and beautiful environment. It is one of the birthplaces of organic farming in Korea. It is almost isolated that not so many Koreans themselves know of the place but it turns out that this could be an advantage for the preservation of nature and for organic agriculture to thrive.

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Goesan County, Chungbuk Province, Korea
During the Welcome Ceremony, the Mayor of Goesan said that he had three presents for us – the fresh air, organic food, and sticky corn. We, the participants gladly enjoyed these three.

Organic agriculture, as defined by IFOAM, is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. In its core are the principles of health, ecology, fairness, and care. These principles were evident when we talked to local farmers, visited farms, and went to Hansalim, a cooperative established by both producers and consumers. One farmer we talked to said that they provide safe and healthy food for consumers and in turn, the consumers ensure that the producers can continue to make a living through farming. It was truly inspiring to see this sense of community built on mutual trust. It was also equally inspiring to meet young farmers. Young people would not normally choose to go into farming and prefer to work in offices in the city but it’s amazing how these individuals chose a road less traveled, so to speak.

During the training, we learned about JADAM organic farming (low cost agriculture); biodynamic farming (farming that follows the rhythms and cycles of nature); Organic Guarantee Systems; value chain; innovations; and marketing methods among others. Our minds were fed and our bodies, too – with organic produce that is local, fresh, and diverse.

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Local, fresh, and diverse organic food.
To cap off the course, we attended the 4th ALGOA Summit, which brought together local governments and the private sector to discuss policies and ways to promote organic agriculture.

David Gould of IFOAM Organics International said that all of the Sustainable Development Goals can be linked to food. We must then realize the connections between healthy people, healthy food, and healthy farms. It’s still a long way to go for the organic movement to be truly embraced but through our collective efforts, we can work together towards a more sustainable future.