Sweet Kiss from The Chocolate Kiss Café

23 Mar

Who would not enjoy a luscious chocolate cake coated with delightful melted marshmallow? How about a soft chiffon cake bursting with lime flavor? You? Of course, not you – unless you value counting calories over eating delectable cakes in The Chocolate Kiss Café.

Chicken Asparagus Sandwich

The Chocolate Kiss Café, or ChoKiss for its regular customers, has two branches at the Bahay ng Alumni inside the University of the Philippines- Diliman campus. They also have one branch outside the campus which is located A. Roces Avenue in Quezon City. They offer pastas, sandwiches, rice meals, and of course, desserts. The café is most popular because of its cakes and pastries which prices are very reasonable. The price starts at 70 Pesos per slice.

I go to ChoKiss to eat some sweets. This café is among my favorites inside the UP campus. Whenever I want to chill and relax, I go here to eat.

Among the bestsellers of the café is the Devil’s Food Cake. It is among the sweetest cakes one would taste in his lifetime– a rich chocolate cake filled with chocolate fudge coated in melted marshmallow frosting. It does not look as colorful as black forest cakes but it tastes so good that one would mistake it as a food of gods. This is a must try for the lovers of sweets.

Lovers of the traditional chocolate cake can also try the Classic Chocolate Cake. It is really basic—just two layers of chocolate moist caked coated with dark chocolate frosting.

Chocolate lovers and cheesecake fanatics need not to argue for ChoKiss offers both of their favorites in one cake. Chocolate Chip Cheesecake would be a perfect choice for cake lovers because its flavor is just the right amount—not too sweet but not bland.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

For those who do not like too much sweets, Kahlua Butter Cake is an option. It is made of coffee liqueur mocha butter cake with Kahlua fudge filling coated with coffee butter icing. Every bite of this cake would give you a strong bursting coffee flavor.

For health conscious people, the Carrot Cake is another choice. Made with real carrots, pineapple and cream cheese frosting, this cake would surely satisfy the cravings of food lovers.

Sansrival

Dayap Chiffon Cake is among the unique selection in the café. It is a Chiffon Cake flavored with grated dayap zest. It also has butter filling and marshmallow icing, topped with home-made candied dayap rind.

Sansrival would be the all-time favorite in ChoKiss. It is made of meringue-cashew nuts wafer coated with butter cream icing. It is also topped with cashew nuts.

After trying these cakes, one would surely want to return to ChoKiss. The place is really accessible plus the ambiance of the place is really comfy. It is also a perfect spot for meetings, barkada lunchouts, and even family dinner.

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BINONDO: Of lucky charms and unlucky kids

23 Mar

FEBRUARY is a busy month for Chinatown in Binondo, Manila. People who buy delicacies and lucky charms start to clog the busy streets of Binondo as the Chinese New Year was fast approaching. Just three days before the awaited occasion, I witnessed how people endure the heat and the excruciating traffic situation of the town. Everyone was busy. Most of them were carrying bags Tikoy, a famous Chinese delicacy made of glutinous rice, while some were busy asking discounts for lucky charms and other stuff sold along the sidewalks.

Prosperity. Food. Money. These are the things that could be related to Chinatown. Truly, majority of the people who visit this place look for the Chinese “feel” in the Metro. Even non-Chinese individuals visit Binondo to experience a bit of China: the tradition, food, and the like.

Among the famous streets in Binondo is Ongpin. A day would not be enough to browse and go through bakeshops and jewelry stores in the area. Fascinated, I walked along the narrow but endless pavements to see what’s in Ongpin that could amuse me more.

But my search for something different led me to a reality that I never thought of seeing in Chinatown. There were some children wearing dirty and worn-out clothes asking for coins or food. Beggars, so to speak.

Just a few steps from the President Grand Palace Restaurant, around seven street children were busy asking for alms. Some of them were even dyeing their hair brown. I had a chance to talk to four of these kids. They were Randyboy, JC, Bernadette, and ‘Manok’. Both Randyboy and JC were quiet while Manok tried to be the source of distraction while I was talking to them. Bernadette, an eleven-year-old girl, was the most serious among the kids. Though they were not related by blood, they meet everyday and look for food and money as a group.

Bernadette’s parents work in front of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Minor Basilica. Every morning, they sweep the street in front of the church. At night, Bernadette goes back to the chapel where her family spends the rest of the night.

“Pangkain tsaka may sakit ‘yung kapatid ko. (For food. And because my sibling is sick),” was her answer when I asked her why she was out begging for alms. It was the usual answer of most street children even those who did not come from Binondo. But Bernadette was different. Her words might be little but her eyes seem to tell a lot of stories. She was just eleven but she thinks as if she was an adult who has to work hard in the world full of inequality.

For these kids, life is unfair. So much more that they are in a place where people go to shop and dine and experience a life of Chinese luxury. Side to side, restaurants and bakeshops along Ongpin would make first-time and frequent visitors crave for Chinese cuisines. But as for these street children, craving for some sympathy from people who are well-off is the only thing they can do.

After talking to them, I left Bernadette and her friends in the bridge connecting stores from Anson Emporium to Salazar Bakery. As I turned my back and walk away from them, JC, who was just quiet during the conversation, said “Ganun lang ‘yon kuya? Walang pagkain? (That’s it? No food?)” I was about three steps away from the kids but I can still hear his friends stopping him from talking, reminding him that what he did was rude.

I went on as if I did not hear them. But even before I was reminded by JC, I knew I should give them something. Not because they granted me an interview, but because we must share our blessings with those who are unfortunate especially that the Chinese New Year was just around.

After five minutes, I was back with a plastic bag from Salazar Bakery. Manok immediately took the bread I was holding and ran away quickly while some tried to catch him. Bernadette stayed and showed her appreciation repeatedly. “Kuya, thank you po talaga.”

As soon as Manok got back, the kids shared the bread with each other. It was as if they were celebrating a feast as their innocent eyes came to a celebrative mood. For a moment, the kids were not sitting along pavements and bridges asking for some mercy. It was almost picture perfect: the smiles, the eyes, their friendship. But if there is something that should be changed in the picture, it is the unjust inequality where these kids are the victims.

If lucky charms could remedy this situation of street children along Ongpin, Bernadette and her friends would have not been there when I went to Binondo. But this is the reality.  Chinatown is not always picture perfect.

Photos: Baluarte

22 Mar

Baluarte is a zoo owned by Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson. Here, animals are “free” from their cages. Deers, birds, ostriches, camels, and a lot more are just roaming around the 80-hectare land. Only dangerous animals are caged.

 

Vigan: A look at Spanish pavements and local food

22 Mar

Calle Crisologo

It is going to be a long night, I thought. The bus left Manila at around nine in the evening then the next day, we were hundreds of kilometers away from the Metro. It was a painful bus ride. The roads were bumpy plus the bus stopped twice for engine repairs. But as I stepped my feet on Vigan, I realized that it was all worth it.

Vigan is among the most preserved imprint of Chinese trading and Spanish colonization. The general design of the city was the usual Spanish colonial town wherein the heart of the City is the church. As history was conserved in this city, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization listed Vigan as one of the world’s heritage site. It was included in the list because of the unique mix of Asian building and design with the European colonial architecture and planning.

At noontime, we strolled around the famous Calle Crisologo. It was a long stretch of road which is famous for its architecture and different shops. As you go walk along the pavements, you will get the Spanish feel of it. Or better yet, the feeling of going back through time. It was as if you were traveling through history by witnessing the colonial era being preserved in Vigan.

Calle Crisologo was named after Ilocos Sur’s first civil governor, Don Mena Crisologo. It used to be the commercial district of the province during the Spanish colonization. It was formerly called Kasanglayan or place of the Chinese. Now, different shops occupy this historical place, offering dry goods and other delicacies popular in Vigan.

Aside from Calle Crisologo, another famous place in this city is the pagburnayan or the pottery. Vigan is known for its well crafted pots and jars. People who visit pagburnayan can also try to make their own pots and experience handcrafting their own designs.

There are still natives who preserved the art of weaving in the province. Hand-woven textiles made by locals show not only how good Biguenos are when it comes to weaving but it also reflect their culture. Sadly, the number of locals who do the weaving are already waning. Thus, this is among the things that the local government should watch and make sure they preserve.

 

Calesa

Sinigang

Vigan offers a lot of destination for tourists. Indeed, it can be considered that tourism is among the main sources of income it the city. But Vigan does not just take pride of its attractions but also their local food. Vigan is also a place for food explorers who love rice delicacies such as biko-biko, tinumbong, calamay, and a lot more. Visitors can also try the local empanada available along the street of Calle Crisologo and even outside churches. It is a place for meat lovers who are willing to anything— even solidified animal blood, bile, and beef innards. These ingredients can only be found in Vigan’s famous Sinanglao. There are a lot of food specialties in Vigan aside from what was mentioned above. Bagnet and Vigan Longganisa are among the most popular food that can be found in the city.

Overrated as it sounds, but Vigan is really among the places that our country can boasts. For a city to preserve the Chinese trading to the Spanish colonization and American rule, good governance is essential. Truly, Biguenos must have worked hard to maintain the imprints of history.

Smile. You’re in Baguio.

22 Mar

It was around four in the afternoon when fog started to cover the streets of Baguio City. I was walking along the pavements of Barangay Engineer’s Hill when visibility turned zero, making it difficult for me to see where I was heading to. This is an enchanted paradise, I thought.

Baguio City is among the top travel destinations in the country. It has established itself as the Summer Capital of the Philippines for it offers a cold temperature compared to Metro Manila. People also come to Baguio to experience the culture of the North – from the native food and tapuey (rice wine) to the betel nut chewing which is done by Igorots to keep their teeth strong. Sadly, Baguio is not as green as it used to be. Trees were cut so buildings can be built.

Truly, Baguio offers a lot of things to visitors—the ambiance, the climate, the people. Even a week would not be enough for one to experience what the City of Pines has to offer to visitors. First-timers may even be overwhelmed by the number of places that they can find in their guidebooks and travel leaflets. However, for one to experience the life in Baguio, there is nothing better but to go with the flow and immerse yourself with people who actually live there just like what I did. I lived in Baguio for a year as a college freshman and I really learned a lot about the place more than its face value.

Session road is the busiest place in the cold city. It is the main street in Baguio. Here, you can find restaurants such as Gecko’s Café, Zola, Oh! My Gulay, Don Henrico’s and Jack’s Diner. There are also vendors of Japanese moon cakes and other pastries along the streets. The place is fully developed, so to speak. Even fast food restaurants were visible in the area. As a matter of fact, there were more than three 7-Eleven convenient stores along the street.

I savored every step I took with a thought that it would take me several months to be here again. The shops and restaurants that I used to ignore in Session Road suddenly caught my attention. I even noticed the number of Koreans who were walking along the street. They have grown in number so fast that you can see them in almost every corner of the City of Pines. Most of them were in Baguio to learn how to speak in English—a proof that Baguio is not just a place for vacation but also a place for learning.

I finished the long stretch of sidewalk in Session Road and ended up in Burnham Park, a place popular for its lake where people can ride a boat. The park also has a cycling area where visitors can rent a bicycle.  It is a perfect place for people who just want to chill out, relax, and feel the climate of Baguio. For food lovers who visit Burnham, binatog or corn mixed with milk and sugar is a good way to experience the taste of highlanders. Adventurous street food lovers can also try the one-day old chick sold along the sidewalks.

Little details that people forget when they visit Baguio are actually the things that make this place special. Mines View Park, Botanical Garden, Camp John Hay, and The Mansion are classic tourist spots in the city. You go to that places yet you still feel that there is something more about Baguio than just horseback riding and public market shopping. There is something more profound than these things like the very simple yet sweet smiles of the natives who sell fresh vegetables in the market, the warmness of the people you meet in famous ukay-ukay or hand-me-down shops, and even the way you try to speak Ilocano with the locals when all you can really say is wen (yes) and naimbag nga bigat (good morning!).

And among those simple things that I appreciate the most is walking along the pavements of Session Road in the cold afternoon while holding a cone of ice cream. Simple yet the fact that I get to fall in line with a lot of people for the 25-peso Double Dutch ice cream and get to see people pass by me with a smile, it is self-fulfilling. It was as if I am not a visitor but part of their community.

As I head my way back to Manila, there was only one thing in my mind – I will be back in this place that I used to call home.

 

Through the binoculars: Bataan and the migratory birds

22 Mar


“What would be more boring than looking through binoculars, searching and waiting for some ‘interesting’ flying creatures in the sky to pass by the lens,” I thought. That was my mindset before going to Bataan for a bird watching activity.

Thank God I was wrong.

As we stepped our feet in the sandy grounds from the four hours trip from Manila to Bataan, I immediately noticed the difference between the two places—not a sound of raging buses and jeepneys and not a hint of polluted emissions. The place was peaceful. Calm, so to speak. The waves of the beach were moving slowly as if it was inviting people to swim and bathe in the sun. But there was no one wearing colorful two-piece swimsuits nor board shorts. There was only one thing common among people who go in the deck near the sea— all of them were carrying binoculars. Maybe that is why birds chose to be along the shores and horizon of the province. The place is not too developed making it more enticing for birds to stay in the area.

Slowly, Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park is making an impact in maintaining what nature has given to us. Here, only a few establishments are built along the shore, just enough for people who would stay for a while to look for rarely seen migratory birds. Migratory birds from different countries come to Bataan to escape from cold season. The provincial government supports the park which is located at Barangay Tortugas in Bataan through funding and publicity.

So we went to the deck together with our binoculars to see the beauty of the birds. It was hot yet the air and the waves of the sea gave us a refreshing morning. Experienced bird watchers were already gathered, looking for rare species of birds. Photographers also brought their gigantic lenses just to have snapshots of the birds.

As I fixed my eyes on the binoculars, picture perfect scenery of the sky showed up. A distant blue sky and cottony clouds registered the lenses. I quickly looked for my life bird or the first bird that you will see in your first bird watching activity. As I pan it down, a group of white birds where flying sidewards. I turned my head to their direction and there were more birds. More white birds. The bird watcher beside me told me that they are whiskered terns, my life birds.

It was relaxing. The more birds you see, the better you feel. It was as if you were having a de-stressing activity only that it was natural. It was not as adventurous as climbing a mountain or as exhausting as kayaking in the sea. All you have to do is to look for a place where you can sit or stand, then that’s it! Just use binoculars or a telescope then you will enjoy a scenery that you only see in pictures.

Unconsciously, our group consumed more than an hour. A trip that I thought was going to be waste of time suddenly became an experience I wanted to do again. Surely, even first time visitors would love to see the migratory birds in Bataan.

Bird watching is not just a simple activity. It is also a way of knowing the exten

t of the harm we caused to the environment. Before, birds just fly everywhere. Pigeons and maya birds used to freely spread their wings in the sky even in Manila. But as the landscape in the city changed and skyscrapers started to be built, it seemed that birds found no reason to see it as a home.

Birds are important to the ecosystem. Nectar-feeding birds help spread pollens and seeds. These birds help in spreading plants which are also essential for other animals. Some of them also feed on insects which can ruin plants.  The decline of bird species affects biodiversity and the vital ecosystem processes.

The activity is simple yet the effect of it cannot be measured. By simply being informed that birds still do exist and that we are continually ruining their habitat, we are slowly making a change. The only thing left for us to do is to materialize what we have learned during the trip by saving the environment and saving these wonderful creatures.