The Power of Writing

Last Sunday Night, I got the chance to watch Boy Abunda’s TV programme in ABS-CBN called “The Bottomline” via video streaming in Pinoy Channel.TV. It was my first time to watch this episode and actually am not aware of such program till that night. The Bottomline is interesting, trending if not fearless. Boy is his usual self, a good TV Host. It goes to prove that he is not only a veteran show business entertainment host but can also tackle various controversial topics.

The guest that night is investigative journalist cum author, Marites Vitug. When you see Marites, she doesn’t look intimidating or outspoken compared to other Journalists/broadcaster like Jessica Soho, Che Che Lazaro, Maria Ressa, etc. She seems dimunitive, timid and unassuming. I guess the saying “Don’t judge the book by it’s cover” fits her to a T since she is now one of the best selling authors in the country what with her latest book “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court” becoming a critical and commercial success so to speak.

I have not read the controversial book yet so I can’t say much about it at this stage. However, what I like to point out in this blog post is the sheer power of writing.

History has proven that a writing can change the course of the future be it an individual, or even a nation. Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ National Hero used his various literary works to open the minds of the Filipinos and to fight for their rights during the Spanish era. These writings became the inspiration of the Katipuneros which eventually led to a full-blown revolution.

Anne Frank, the young girl originally from Frankfurt became a worldwide figure because of the publication of her diary (which was translated into many languages) detailing their life in hiding during World War II. Time Magazine eventually named her in 1999 as one of “The Most important People of the Century”.

And who would’ve think that J.K. Rowling who was literally an unknown figure before the year 1997 will gain international prominence and become a billionaire just by writing and publishing series of books about a young wizard named Harry Potter?

Nora Daza who has written and modified/ invented many Philippine recipes is considered an icon of Philippine cuisine and one of the respected cook book author.

I remembered working in a hotel group earlier- – part of their PR activity is inviting 2 or 3 well known blogger, house and dine them in the hotels for free and as an exchange, these bloggers have to write blog posts or articles about their travel experience and stay in the hotel. This goes to show how powerful their writings are in convincing would-be guests of these hotels.

Last year during the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy, there was one shoutout in Facebook made by a Filipina based in Dubai. The exact words were  “Buti na lang am here in Dubai! Maybe so many sinners back there! So yeah deserving what happened!”. This remark is very strong and really got through the nerves of many Facebook users the fact that the calamity brought vast devastation in many parts of Luzon and it was very unexpected and the country has yet to recover from the tragedy when the remark was made. The post spread in the net like wildfire and the succeeding comments and invectives hurled at her are really so bad that you can’t take it as person though I can’t blame them for doing so because her remark is truly inconsiderate and uncalled for.

Truly, writing is a very powerful tool and good way to communicate.  Writing is a common task as we do it almost everyday. Yet no matter how common it is, there is always something new to write.

The people I mentioned above has definitely caught our attention if not touched our lives in some ways and many of them has made writing their source of income.  Some people who earn a living out of writing don’t mind destroying one’s reputation if they feel it’s worth millions of bucks without considering if the person they are writing about will be terribly affected.

At the end, can they call themselves prolific writers? I guess the key to effective writing is to do it wisely, morally and objectively and try to communicate with your target audience.

I believe by right, I am a writer too (though I literally type it in my computer and post online) which I share through my blogs. With my posts, I am giving my views and opinions on certain topics or issues as well as just conveying my random thoughts and wisdom about life in general.

I am a sentimental person. I would keep letters, cards and notes from family, friends and loved ones. Maybe because I don’t receive too many so I still have the mood and time to keep it.

On the second thought, I just love reading them over and over again. I feel good after reading the personal message they’ve specially written for me.

One of the simplest yet most powerful and touching letter I received in my lifetime comes from my niece during my recent trip back home. She handed me the letter with drawing she personally did upon learning my short vacation. I am sharing to all of you.

Keep on inspiring through your writings… so others will enjoy reading…

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An intoxicating weekend…

This weekend has been great if not intoxicating so to speak. I used the word intoxicating but not meant on a negative way. Intoxicating in the sense that me and fellow Filipinos and some foreigner friends enjoyed good food, countless Karaoke songs, long and interesting stories and of course some hearty laugh.

It has been quite a long time that I joined some get-together in a friend’s house because many of us became quite busy and some of the people in our group either moved back home, went to other places or working in some provinces of Thailand.

We planned this party as a sort of house warming/despedida (Bon Voyage party) for one of our friends. Since they are a fan of my Kiko’s Kitchen food blog, they asked me to cook which I gladly obliged.

For the party, we decided to prepare favorite foods that we missed a lot. Later on, we realized all the foods that we selected are very complicated to prepare. We selected Pancit Palabok, Dinuguan and Lumpiang Shanghai. The easiest  dish in our menu is Kinilaw na Talaba (Oyster).

Me, the host and another friend troop to the local market to buy fresh ingredients. I am not a fan of the local markets here because I am worried that since I don’t speak really good Thai, I might find it hard to buy. But actually it’s not because you don’t need to talk much..just point at what you want to buy and ask how much is it (Tao rai krub?) Basically I already know the numbers in Thai so I can easily know the price of the item and also it helps that many of the products have their “price tags’ displayed.

We went to the market in the afternoon so naturally there was no pig’s blood available. We actually had our plan B menu just in case we are unable to buy the pig’s blood.

In the market, we saw fresh squids and since all of us love Adobong Pusit, we bought some extra (Squid is also part of the Pancit Palabok ingredients) for our dinner. We headed back home and eat dinner.

We started preparing the ingredients like cutting, marinading, boiling, etc around 9pm. There were only 2 stoves running and with lots of things to do, we finished our Mis en place at around 2:30 am and went to sleep.

The alarm clock rang around 7 am. We had to wake up early so we can buy the Pig’s blood in the market. Without having breakfast or coffee yet, we headed to our destination. Fortunately, we were able to find our “precious” ingredient– the pig’s blood.

As soon as we arrived home, the 3 of us busied ourselves in the preparation. I started cooking the Pancit Palabok sauce, while the other two are busy wrapping Lumpiang Shanghai. After cooking the Palabok sauce, I then prepared the Dinuguan.

I’ve never tried cooking this dish before though it is one of my favorite dish. I would see my mom cooking it and since I know how it tastes, I just copied her procedure and cooked it. Fortunately, it tastes like Dinuguan and not something else..  🙂

Since we advertised in Facebook that it was a lunch party, guests arrived on time. Luckily we had just finished cooking all the dishes and already starting to prepare the table when they arrived.

It was a small and intimate party among friends totaling to just 8 guests (including 3 foreigners). The foreigners were brave enough to try the Dinuguan even though many would find it quite disgusting from the color of the dish alone (looks like mud) and more so if they learned that it is made of Pig’s blood. Surprisingly however, they enjoyed Filipino foods.

It is very nice to hear your friends enjoying the food and giving praises on how delicious it is. Many of them had 2-3 servings which is actually a feast!

We plan to make our get-together cum pot luck  a regular habit (at least once a month). As early as now, we are looking forward to it and are already thinking what foods to prepare next time. Hope it is the easy ones. 😛

Another drinking night in Bangkok with exotic food on the side…

The other night I posted my trip to Route 66 in Ratchadapisek/Rama 9 area of Bangkok which is the happening place for teenagers and young professionals. Last night, I headed back to Khaosarn Road for another partying session..seems i’m in a party mood these days, ayt? Well actually I had no plans of drinking and partying for 3 consecutive nights but I had some friends visiting Bangkok so might as well take the opportunity. Besides, I already had my mind set to go out on Saturday Night because me and my friends were supposed to have dinner to celebrate the 7th Birthday of JM, the son of my friends here but last minutely it was decided they will go to Dreamworld, a local theme park at the outskirts of Bangkok. Since it is a kid’s birthday we’re talking about, all of us agreed it is best the party will just be held there. Unfortunately, I am not available in the morning so I am unable to join them in Dreamworld.

After dinner at home last night, I decided I don’t want to just kill time in my room while my other friends are mostly outside. I called one of my friend who is in Khaosarn area and unable to join Dreamworld as well. I asked where they were and what are their plans for the night. They said they are about to have dinner so I decided I will follow them there and we can have a couple of drinks. I dressed  up and went to Khaosarn immediately after.

I met them in a small Mexican Restaurant and they are almost about to finish dinner. After dinner, 3 of them are unable to join any further activities for the night so only 3 of us are left to roam around the area. We decided to go first in Rooftop bar. It is located in the 3rd floor of a guest house and the bar played acoustic music. The singer was quite good and we thought he is a Filipino because of his singing style and his accent cannot be that of a Thai. After one round of Leo Beer and hanging out few more minutes enjoying the music and the crowd, we decided to “start” our drinking session. We decided we can just sit at some bars along the street wherein their bar area is actually the sidewalk and you are just seated in some plastic chairs. Naturally, the drink here is cheap because they don’t have to rent a big space since their bar area/sidewalk is free anyway. Most of the western people love to hangout in these type of bar and enjoy lengthy chit-chat..We ordered a bucket of strong whiskey cocktail mixed with coke. As what they advertised, the drinks are really super strong and they did not check our ID cards too even if we looked minors..LOL.

I dared my friends to eat some insects being sold on the street like in a Fear Factor challenge. Since the 2 of them are ladies, I thought they will not be up to my challenge. Apparently, one of them is brave enough to take it up (personally I think she enjoyed eating those exotic insects. LOL). We bought 20 Baht worth of insects. You can see the picture above. It is actually a mix of cricket and another one i’m not too sure if locust or something else. Some other insects being sold are silkworm, ants and scorpion. I think I will not be valiant enough to eat the scorpion in any occasion in the future. Actually in some carts, there are even more insect selections like cockroach. Mostly these insects are crispy fried and the sauce is soy-based. I’ve tried eating worms in Palawan locally known as Tamilok. It tastes like oyster. I’ve also tried fried frog legs which is super tasty and similar to chicken, so eating exotic food is not new to me.

I took my first bite, eyes closed. I think the taste is not disgusting as it seems. It is crispy with no pungent smell or bitter taste whatsoever. It is like a plain crispy skin of pork or chicken. The best part is that it is not juicy. If there are some juice oozing or there are some bitter taste in it, I will definitely vomit.

Next, we moved to one of our fave hangout in Khaosarn- Shamrock Bar. Last night the band was good and played popular songs. We really enjoyed dancing and ordered another bucket of strong cocktail. While we were dancing, we met some group of Thais who are also enjoying the night. They were super cool and danced with us and even shared some drinks as well.

It was almost 3 AM and we were drunk and wasted. I had to call my other friend to help us get out of the bar. HA HA! So disgusting of me to use a helpline right?

We walked outside and bought some hot siopao which is very tasty especially after all those drinking and dancing.

Actually, only me had to travel far to get home because my friends just had to walk few meters and their guest house is there alread. Fortunately, I was able to go back home almost 4 AM.

It was such a great g-mik night day and hope soon my gang will be complete the next time we go bar hopping so it will be more fun.

Merry Christmas to all!

Yesterday, the world celebrated Christmas Day- Christiamdom’s biggest and happiest celebration of all. Filipinos traditionally celebrate it the longest, generally starting when the calendar announced the coming of the BER month (September, October, November then finally December).  Many houses starts putting decor like Christmas Tree, Lanterns and Christmas lights as early as September. Kids starts singing Christmas carols in the street when December comes. Truly, it is such a joyous season.

It is just too bad that I am unable to attend the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day mass here in Bangkok because the English mass is too limited and the timing doesn’t match. You see, I had to work on Christmas Day because it is not considered a holiday in Thailand.

Last Christmas Eve, we trooped to one of my friends’ Condo to celebrate the day and have Noche Buena with friends. We decided to do pot-luck instead of just one or two persons cooking the food. I think it is better since we are able to taste the specialty recipe of each. I decided to share Spaghetti and Beef steak. We prepared our favorite foods like Kare-Kare, Adobo, Grilled Pork, Grilled Squid, Fried Chicken, Macaroni Salad and a secret recipe of spicy squid from one of them.

We started dinner early, around 8:30 PM then we had Karaoke and sang to our heart’s content while sharing a glass of liquor.

It was a truly enjoyable night….

When the clock ticked midnight, we greeted each other Merry Christmas and exchanged gifts then continued eating, singing, drinking and chatting..the party lasted till the wee hours of the morning.

Finally, I arrived home quarter before 6AM. After 2 hours of sleep, rushed to work. What a memorable day it really was! Surely, I missed home cos this is the 2nd year I am celebrating Christmas and New Year away from them but I was able to call them early on before the network gets busy that day so it’s good enough for now.

We haven’t finalized our New Year’s Eve plans as there are many propositions. Hopefully soon we are able to decide the right venue and activity for that day.

I am sharing the pictures of our food taken during Christmas Eve. Sorry, I had to skip our own face pictures cos it will be very evident that we eat a lot! Ha ha ha! I think I am able to post our latest pictures after the holidays when the big eating is over..LOL.

A Blessed Christmas and bountiful New Year to all. May the season bring us peace, good health and contentment. Let us not forget the reason for the season..our Lord Almighty!

Simbang Gabi, a unique Philippine Christmas Tradition.

Today, December 16 marks the start of Simbang Gabi or Mass at Dawn. This is the longest and arguably most popular Philippine tradition and held nationwide and in other places worldwide wherein a good number of Filipinos are living or working. This unique Philippine tradition traces its roots in Mexico in 1587 when the Pope granted the petition of Fray Diego de Soria to hold Christmas mass outdoors because the Church could not accommodate the huge number of people attending the evening mass. What makes Simbang Gabi a very significant tradition for Catholics is that it not only builds stronger bonds between family members because in most cases every member of the family go to mass altogether to experience the Dawn mass. Moreover, the faithful feels the presence of the Lord even stronger because it is our preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas carols are sang before, during and after the mass to celebrate this season. Everyone is in a jolly mood even though they have to wake up early so as not to be late for the mass. Many people believe that if you are able to complete the 9 days of Simbang Gabi, your wish no matter how difficult- will come true.

After mass, most of the church goer will partake various local delicacies like Puto Bumbong, Bibingka, Salabat and many others. This is a most enjoyable activity because these foods are usually served or sold during the Christmas season and very rare to be found during a normal day.

It is so fortunate for me to be able to experience Simbang Gabi even when I’m overseas. Filipinos in Bangkok are not as many as other countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Saudi or even the US but luckily the tradition of Simbang Gabi remains. What made me even luckier is that the Holy Redeemer Church which is one of the biggest Catholic Church in Bangkok (and there are not too many Catholic Churches here being a predominantly Buddhist nation) is very accessible from my place (around 5 mins. drive in the early morning). Thus, it will not be difficult for me to celebrate this tradition.

I attended the mass today with few of my friends and approximately over 90% of the church goers are Filipinos. Surprisingly, there are some westerners and I saw an Indian Family attending the mass too. After the celebration, the popular Christmas Carol “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” (Christmas has arrived) was sung. In addition, free breakfast is served at the back of the Church sponsored by various Philippine Groups or Organizations in Thailand which is really an enjoyable sight as you get to mingle with your fellow Filipinos while enjoying a sumptuous food and a cup of hot coffee.

Indeed it is such a good feeling to at least have a share of sacrifice during this time of the year by making an effort to wake up very early to attend the mass. Moreover, it is a time to remember and Celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the reason why we are called Christians.

The start of Simbang Gabi signals a bigger celebration as part of the annual Christmas festivities.

CNN Hero of the Year: Efren Penaflorida

As I was about to call it a day, I saw a video link from a Facebook Page I joined called “Definitely Filipino” about the CNN Hero of the Year. It say’s: Acceptance speech of OUR 2009 CNN HERO and the thumbnail picture of Efren Penaflorida was attached to it.

Prior to being feted as such, Efren is relatively unknown. At such a young age of 28, he has accomplished something that not many people his age or even older had accomplished or will ever accomplish in their entire life..that is, changing the lives of others–for the better.

He created the group called “Dynamic Teen Company” which aims to teach basic reading and writing to children living on the streets in the hope that it will be a diversion to hooking up into gang activities like vandalizing, bullying others or even raping young girls.

Their classroom is a ubiquitous push cart wherein volunteers teach children with age ranging from 2-14 years old. Since 1997, approximately 10,000 members had taught over 1,500 “children of the slums”. To sustain this activity, they make and sell crafts or collecting items to recycle.

Moreover, those children that they taught upon getting the inspiration to learn more and strive to have a better life has also become volunteers for future students.

CNN selected 10 nominees for this year’s Hero of the Year which is now on it’s 3rd year. These Heroes as what the tagline says “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Impact” was selected by a distinguished panel comprising of leaders and humanitarians such as Gen. Colin Powell, Whoopi Goldberg, Sir Elton John, Phil Jackson, Shakira among others.

The Gala Tribute attended by an audience of 3,000 was held in Kodak Theatre, Hollywood last Saturday, November 21 and will have its premiere on Thanksgiving, November 26.

Apart from the prestigious recognition, Efren received USD 100,000 to continue his advocacy. More than 2.75 million votes were received online in CNN.com in a span of 7 weeks. Proof of the impact CNN Heroes of the year has brought us in 3 years time.

Presenters include Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Neil Patrick Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes, Randy Jackson, Greg Kinnear, George Lopez and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Here is Efren’s acceptance speech. While delivering it, he was visibly shaken and emotional maybe upon realizing he won such a great recognition and soon will be watched by millions of people worldwide.

“Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry,” Peñaflorida said upon accepting the honor. “Each person has a hidden hero within, you just have to look inside you and search it in your heart, and be the hero to the next one in need.”

“So to each and every person inside in this theater and for those who are watching at home, the hero in you is waiting to be unleashed. Serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve. As I always tell to my co-volunteers … you are the change that you dream as I am the change that I dream and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be.”

His speech is short but so meaningful and inspirational. May this recognition give him and his team more energy and passion to continue helping needy children have the education they deserve. It is such a pride and honor to the Filipino people to be given such award. Hope this would also open the eyes of many of us to help someone in need whenever we can. All the small efforts we exerted can be a life-changing experience for others.

For the full story of the CNN Hero of the Year gala night, please click the link below.
http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/11/16/cnnheroes.tribute.show/index.html

 

Update: According to ABS-CBN news report, Efren said 90% of the prize money will go to his organization and the remaining 10% to the Church and none for him..really a selfless act. May your tribe increase.

Mabuhay ka Efren! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang lahing  Pilipino!

Manny Pacquaio ruled em’ all…

Manny Pacquiao defeats Miguel Cotto (AP Photo by Mark J. Terrill)

 

Today, November 15, 2009- Manny Pacquiao made history by capturing his 7th world title belt in 7 different weight division in a very exciting if not nerve-wracking 12 round match vs. Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico in MGM Grand Arean, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pacquaio’s sheer speed and determination is his best defense against Cotto whom Manny acknowledged to be a tough boxer. Referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight 55 seconds of the 12th round which many observers think should have been stopped earlier.

Cotto admitted that he fought hard but Manny is one of the best of all time.

In the Philippines, everyone is in euphoria upon learning of Manny’s victory. Many Filipinos in every corners of the world called their family back home to bring the good news, me included. It was really not a surprise but such a disappointment to hear and to learn that in most part of the world they know the result of the fight already because of live telecasts in their country or through the internet but many Filipinos who only rely on local TV, they heard about it or are able to watch the fight the last because of the very very late telecast of GMA-7 due to tons of commercial gaps. Talk about commercialism to the max!

Because of the win, everyone expects Pacquiao to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.  Of course, it is inevitable as their match-up is long overdue. Even Manny’s trainer-coach, Freddie Roach said,  since the whole world wants to see Manny fight Mayweather..so Mayweather it is..

The fight will add minimum USD 13 million (approx. PHP 607 million) to Pacquiao’s purse while Cotto reportedly gets USD 7 million (approx. PHP 326 million).  More importantly, I hope the win will bring Manny a bit more respect from the boxing world cos even how hard he tries to prove he is a great athlete, still many boxers are trying to belittle him or still considers all his victory caused by sheer luck.

Once again, Manny was able to literally stop the Philippines for a day where many people decided to stay at home and glue themselves in front of the Television. For sure crime rate will almost be zero as what past Pacquiao fights proved to be– “an instant crime buster” that is.

I’m sure Mommy Dionesia prayed hard and called all the Saints for help before and during the fight as well as danced joyfully upon seeing her son dominate his Puerto Rican opponent..

Indeed Manny ruled em’ all.