Sisters’ Night Out at Bulgogi Brothers


What is the best way to spend Payday?

Is it, (a) sit down and budget the cash you have until the next payday? (b) Pay all debts and bills? Or is it (c) donate everything to charity?

If your answer was (d) treat your younger sister to dinner, then, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! You must be my sister! Because that is exactly what happened last week.


Bulgogi Brothers is a highly rated Korean BBQ restaurant among the more well-known foodies of the online circuit. Ever since BB hit the Islands about two years ago, we have heard from so many about how great the dining experience was. Curious about all the great reviews, and as fans of the Korean cuisine–my sister being a fan of Korean anything–this just seemed like the perfect night to finally try it out. And so we found ourselves at the third floor of Greenbelt 5.


The dining experience starts out with your classic banchan. These are side dishes or appetizers traditionally served first alongside complementary tea. We have here some kimchi, something that seems to be soysauce cured kangkong in oil, and sweet sundried anchovies or dilis. On a large platter are some that would better pair with an order of meat: some corn, hardboiled quail, and sweet potatoes. The tea of the day was Bari or Barley Wheat Tea, which had a mild, rounded, sweet-soft flavor.


Bulgogi Night doesn’t truly begin unless you’ve been served Kimchi, and some hot, spicy broth. So why not have both in the same pot? We ordered a large bowl of Kimchi Jjigae, which can give you about six full servings. The broth was made with boiled Kimchi and some additional peppers and onions. The soup also had small cubes of soy, small cuts of delicious, sweet cured beef, and ddeokbokki (read: /TOHk-bo’-kii/), a rice cake shaped like penne traditionally included in spicy dishes.

It is served to the table still bubbling in heat. A sip of the soup gave a sour kick mixed in with a bit of spice. To my taste, the broth was not as spicy as I had hoped, but was most likely adjusted so for the common Filipino taste. I found the bits of meat adding an odd sweetness to each spoonful, but I suppose it contributes a fair amount of flavor to the bowl.


Next came the Bulgogi Brothers Special, a platter of two kinds of beautifully marbled meat: thick and juicy heart-shaped patties, and cuts of thin, yet fatty beef marinated with sweet soy. As the pan pre-heated on the heating pad incorporated into the table, we were served with this lovely bottle of Bokbunja, or Black Raspberry Wine.


Grape based wines have a thick bitterness to it hiding deceptively behind its sweet aroma, and a glass of it will rest heavily in the stomach. Whereas, rice wine is the soul of an aggressive, wise, old hermit, forever intertwined with the spirit of a fierce, mischievous youth. It is bitter, full, open, light, truthful, and warming to the senses. Black Raspberry Wine is light in spirit, but packs a full-bodied flavor, and travels lightly through the chest, leaving behind a trail of blue flames. Its fruity aroma brings about a liveliness to the drink, but does not even attempt to mask the alcohol. In the glass, the sweet juice of life and its darker spirit are bonded friends that do not deny each other. It is a quiet virgin whose only means of conversation is through a song of dark seduction.


It seems like Bokbunja and a platter of fatty, rich, heart-shaped beef would make a great pairing and could pass for a romantic Valentine’s dinner. But the heavy, earthy flavor of meat breaks the balance and angers the virgin–and when she’s not in the mood, she’s not in the mood.


Non alcoholic drinks are also on the menu, and fair well with the dishes just as nicely. Raspberry Mint Tea can pair perfectly with the meat, if Black Raspberry Wine just isn’t your thing.

The onions and sweet potatoes are the first few sorry criminals sent to their smoky-flavored deaths. As they settle in and caramelize, the heart patties are grilled in the hot pan, and within seconds, the fat melts away. Soon enough, the beef cooks in its own gorgeous fat.


When the patties leave the pan, the fat continues to cook in with the onions and sweet potatoes as the sprouts are added in, and there is just an aromatic exchange of beautiful flavor that takes place in the air.


And in comes the thin strips of heaven.

Every bite of this sweet, stirfry bulgogi reminds you of just how important quality ingredients are to a good meal. There is nothing particularly unique about grilling meat in a pan–and definitely not this, as this might taste something more like gyuniku teriyaki. But it is with every bite that you understand that the real flavor you taste is in the meat, not in the marinade.



Let me just say this straight out:

As a rule, truly good Korean food should not be expensive.

Korean cuisine showcases dishes that warm the soul, and soothe the numbed fingers that have suffered the harsh winters of every day living. Here, food is a warm blanket that lovingly embraces you on a cold night. Warmth, in Korean Cuisine, is not only a description of temperature, but a flavor on its own. It is the mixed taste of calming comfort, and daring fierceness.

It is this flavorful experience that I had been looking for in Bulgogi Brothers, which I did not find.

Which is not to say that BB doesn’t offer great food–just don’t let your hopes up if you were looking for the best Korean dining experience your money can afford. Because trust me, your money can afford a whole lot of great Korean food; it just isn’t here. Maybe it’s mostly because I live in the Southern Metro, and Aguirre is just one among many places where the best, Seoul-ful restaurants are lining up. Cham-Maru and Shabuyaki are among my favorites. These two in particular are home-based businesses of Korean families. Eating there is quite literally eating a homemade Korean dinner, and simply nothing compares.

Dinner at Bulgogi Brothers is delicious, and perhaps even exciting for those who have not eaten, or have no intention of eating authentic Korean cuisine. But for those who have, BB will come out as a bad knock-off, a Teriyaki Boy of the Korean scene. In all honesty, the kimchi we buy in jars was better. If not for the great quality of the ingredients they use, this review wouldn’t have been edited, and would simply been harsh from start to finish.

Take my advice: Eat at Bulgogi Brothers when you have a great craving for meat, and all else will be forgiven.


Struck with Awe: Chris Colfer’s Struck By Lightning Movie Review


What do you call a twenty-two year old actor, singer, New York Times Bestselling Author, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential in 2011, and the writer and producer of his very own film for the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival?

t100_colferA genius, that’s what.

A creative genius.



Carson practically hates his life: his mother is a defeatist bum who lives off her inheritance, his favorite grandmother can’t remember him anymore, his dad left them, his high school is filled with thick-headed pricks, and nobody just gets him. His only way of escaping his life is through writing, and hopes to one day become a famous journalist for the New Yorker and other publications. He carefully builds his college résumé to get into his dream college, Northwestern University, and the only way to do that is to blackmail Clover High’s royalty into contributing to a literary magazine he hopes to publish.

And the catch? Carson dies at the beginning of the film, and this entire story is a flashback, narrated by Carson himself from the grave.

Once upon a time, there was a boy.

Struck By Lightning holds a simple plot, but is so filled with incredibly witty dialogue and such inspired messages that Carson’s entire account makes for a beautiful story in itself. Carson hates his high school, and everyone in it, that SBL is the anthem of every out-of-place teen who just wants to get out, break free, and do something more with their lives. SBL is the story of every dreamer, who knows he shouldn’t settle for less than the highest.

Struck By Lightning is everything we’ve always wanted to tell people in high school, but couldn’t.

High school: society’s bright idea to put all their aggressive, self-righteous, pubescent, naïve youth to torment and emotionally scar each other–for life.

Struck By Lightning is about Carson Phillips, and his immense amount of back-sass.

Casting, Characters and Yearbook-style Superlatives

Best Death: Chris Colfer as Carson Phillips

Carson is not Amused

We’ve already been through this one, but to add to the commentary, Chris Colfer is perfect when it comes to playing a smart-ass. Maybe it’s because he actually is?

“The minute you walked into this school, you were labeled as high school royalty. And you would rather maintain that label than–heaven forbid–stand up for yourselves. But high school ends. And for your sakes, I hope you guys aren’t the walking clichés everyone thinks you are, because life is going to walk all over you, and it’s gonna bite you in the ass!”

I think what makes Struck By Lightning such a compelling story and a believable film is that Chris Colfer has a lot of similarities with the character he created and portrayed. Chris was from Clovis, California. Carson was from Clover. Colfer was also in speech, debate, drama, and was the president of the Writers’ Club, and the editor of the school’s literary magazine, just like Carson Phillips. He was also a victim of bullying, and was often told that he was never going to make it big anywhere. In a way, Colfer shares his life’s story through Carson, and uses this film to send the message to his young viewers–a message of hope, to always keep reaching for the dream, and never let anyone or anything stop you.

Best at Table Tennis: Rebel Wilson as Malerie Baggs

Conservative at the front, party at the back.

We know Rebel from films like Bridesmaids or Pitch Perfect as an annoying and self-righteous loser. For once, here, Rebel plays Carson’s most loyal companion, Malerie Baggs, who might be the only person in the entirety of Clover High that actually wants to be in The Chronicle.

Malerie likes to carry a camera around and videotape everything. She has flawless complexion and great talent in table tennis, like,  Asian good. Also, like the BAMF that she is, she is fluent in Spanish, Celtic and Elvish.

“What isn’t worth remembering? With good memories comes bad memories, and I’ve got a lot of both. At least, this way, I can fast forward through all the bad stuff. The counselor once told me that it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in the past, or trying to forget the past. What matters is what you do in the present. So that’s why I just try to soak it up as much as possible.”

Worst Posture: Sarah Hyland as cheer captain-slash-queen Claire Matthews


“But I didn’t laugh at you. In what grade do we stop believing in ourselves? In what grade do we stop believing, period? Someone has the be the Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Someone has to be the ballerina. Why not us?”

Someone should cast her as Vanessa Hudgens’ younger sister in some movie or something. We know her as Dylan from Disney’s Geek Charming. And now you will know her as the whiny head cheer bitch who has in-campus sex with the coach.

“The worst thing of being on top of the pyramid is that you can get really hurt if you fall.”

Best Hair, I mean look at that thing: Carter Jenkins as Nicholas Forbes


Nicholas Forbes is the school rich boy, and gets around by paying people to do his bidding. He seems to have very strict and unaccepting parents, so when Carson finds out–spoiler alert–that he’s gay and frequently has bathroom stall sex with his boyfriend, Drama Club President Scott Thomas (Graham Rogers), he’s more than happy to pay Carson to get him to shut up. But it doesn’t work.

As for Carter Jenkins, that boy has fine hair. I’m pretty iffy on his acting, though. The only other place I’ve seen him in is Aliens in the Attic as Tom Pearson.

Most Gay, more-than-Colfer: Graham Rogers as Scott Thomas

I don’t think Graham Rogers is actually gay IRL, but his voice, his glittery-painted toe nails, and his dance moves could give him a pass. So plus two points if he really isn’t gay, because he still made a pretty believable character.

Struck By Lightning

This is him, right? The blonde guy? Because I originally thought it was  Grant Gustin, who plays Sebastian Smythe from Glee‘s Warblers. But alas.

And that, over there in the background, is the athlete who is deserving of the next superlative:

Most Conceited: Allie Grant as Remy Baker

Struck By Lightning Allie GrantWe all might remember Allie Grant growing up, as Agnes from Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. She was the creepy one. I don’t know how she got cast as the president of the Yearbook Committee, but if the goal was to make her the most annoying character in the film, then it works. Seeing her, of all people, seated atop a table, rejecting photos and judging people by their appearance, only makes me think that the casting director is a genius.

I think the way Colfer wrote her and intended for her

Most Poetic: Matt Prokop as school stoner boy Dwayne Michaels

“Why do people live 2D lives in a 3D world, when they can live 4D lives all the time?”

Once again from Disney’s Geek Charming, and also Jimmie from HSM3, Matt Prokop plays the perpetually high student Dwayne Michaels. I feel like Matt is actually the most versatile actor in this cast, for some reason. But I think that’s just me.

Most Make-Up: Ashley Rickards as Vicki Jordan

Struck By Lightning VickiFamiliar face? Or do we need to put her arm in a cast? Jenna Hamilton from MTV’s Awkward. brings her sassy remarks to the big screen with Vicki Jordan. What amazes me with Ashley Rickard’s performance is that she’s given the goth character, the person who likes talking about the dead/undead, and has a pretty dead outlook on life. But that doesn’t make Rickard’s performance dead at all. She moves her lips and angles her head slightly to make a reaction, all while keeping her voice in a deep, I don’t really care if you die, semi-monotone, and her eyes filled with nothing but apathetic joy.

Most Emilio: Roberto Aguire, as Emilio

There are only three things you need to remember about Emilio: (1) Emilio has gorgeous rooster hair, (2) Emilio smells like puppies, and (3) Emilio is the bean in your pupusa, and he’s damn proud of it.

I hate her:

Struck By Lightning Counselor

Nuff said.

Also, I hate Carson’s mom.

Young Carson Struck By Lightning

Sheryl Phillips loves her son, even when she casually tells him he was unwanted, or she hates her. We all know she just did things because she loved her son, and she’s the first to worry about him.  Doesn’t make her any less stupid, though. So I still hate her. But I love Allison Janney–she’s the woman who will end up making you cry in this film.

Struck By Lightning - Neal and April

And his dad. His dad is the worst. Dermot Mulroney perfectly portrays Neal Phillips, the man who recycles his apologies, and taste in wives.

Christina Hendricks playing April only breaks your heart worse than it already has, because you start to think that she’ll end up with that pretentious douchebag. What kind of monster turns bright, loving ladies into emotionally wrecked, drugged up bums?

This isn’t the life you want. I gave him my life, and I was tossed aside when he decided I wasn’t enough. This was never part of my picket fence fantasy. You and I aren’t so different. I had a kid to save a marriage, and you’re having one to ensure one. So you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Especially you. Because I was you. And now I’m this.

And he’s back: Adam Kolkin

Grandma and Carson
Once upon a time, there was a boy who wanted to fly.

If you can remember that little boy over there, then you must have seen him from Glee, as a young Kurt Hummel. I think he’ll forever be cast as a younger Chris Colfer in everything, because the resemblance really is uncanny. It’s too bad he only appeared a few shots, but this kid is perfect.

In Essence

Once upon a time, there was a boy who flew.

What The Carson Phillips Journal really tells a story of was how Carson wasted his life, by working so hard, trying to be a good grandson, a good son, a worthy writer, but end up not having what he wanted–and how he’s okay with that. It’s a story about how Carson learns that it was in whatever he “wasted” his life on that made it worth living in the first place. It was in Carson’s acceptance and self-appreciation for the things that he had and were able to do, despite all the disappointments, that he found his peace.

And so, he died.

“Don’t try to find the ideas. Let the ideas find you. It’s one of hte most amazing experiences, you know, finding something to write about–realizing something for the first time. It comes out of nowhere, and it just hits you, and it’s all you can think about, and it goes through your body, and it tries to escape, and be expressed in any way possible. I mean, it’s ah, it’s a lot like, uhm–”


Struck by Lightning gets 9 out of 10.

The Circus of Dreams, Destiny and Defiance

The Night Circus Advanced Copy

Magic, Mystery, Love and Clockwork—The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a verbal scrapbook that brings to life a fantastical story of love and destiny so unlike every other romance novel out there.

It is a book that I would easily rate with an 8.5/10.


The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not

Prospero the Enchanter puts his long-lost daughter Celia Bowen into a game against Mr. Alexander H’s student, an orphan named Marco Alisdair. With no known reasons and no known rules, the game is set in a circus that comes unannounced and appears only at night, owned by a rich young man, Monsieur Chandresh Lafavré. Le Cirque des Rêves is the chessboard and everyone is just another piece.

What started out as a humble NaNoWriMo submission ended up as a bestselling debut novel for Erin Morgenstern, jumpstarting her career.

Up, up, and away–Erin Morgenstern’s writing career soars into new heights with the success of her debut novel, The Night Circus

I dislike how often The Night Circus is compared to Harry Potter for the simple reason that it isn’t similar to it in any way. The Night Circus is a Shakespearean tragedy set in a small dome of fantasy travelling in the real world in the dark. It is a story of the Hunger Games, with Love is Our Resistance playing in the background. It is not a story, but a poem in paragraph form.

Wine is bottled poetry.

He wonders if the poem of the circus could ever be bottled.

The usual downside that most reviewers have pointed out about The Night Circus is that it was too slowly paced, or All-Word-No-Plot, or that it was “the most boring circus ever.” They’ve even compared it to Twilight. The difference, of course, that most people did not see was that it was the entire bottle of poetry, of every piece of imagery that was necessary, not only to make it magical, but to actively portray and paint a picture of the love shared by Celia and Marco. When one reads about the circus, about the design of the clock, or how the statues move at such a glacial pace, one could barely notice, every carefully laced detail should be read to interpret Celia and Marco’s love story. They are the circus. They were destined to be together in this way, in a way so magical and so eternal and so artistically bizarre. Every one of their tents was a love letter: The Ice Garden, the Carousel, The Labyrinth, and the Wishing Tree where each wish gets lit up by someone else’s. Compared to real circuses, yes, they do seem slow and boring. But it’s poetry, and you’re never supposed to take words for what they seem to mean at first.

The Delicious Reads Book Club meeting for their February choice The Night Circus

Writing Style

Even the sex scene was so quietly, artfully, poetically portrayed.

Trapped in silence, Marco traces apologies and adorations across Celia’s body with his tongue.

Though I have to admit, it’s not your usual popular romance story, with the witty comebacks from the charismatic young lover who tries to charm his way through a million rejections, just to get her to smile and probably rethink that offer. It barely even touches on the romance, and takes half a dozen forevers before Celia and Marco even meet. And when they do, it’s all the I Love You’s and the I Can’t Live Without You’s stock dialogues, like the badly written Legend of Korra season finale. Even though I think TNC is trying to be poetic and symbolic, but it could try to be a bit more natural and creative. In this way, what TNC really lacks isn’t plot, but character development. We look too deeply into the circus, all the tents and the cinnamon things and the spiced chocolate, but we see the characters too subdued, too quiet, that after some 400 pages in a journey with these characters, you’ll feel as if you’ve barely known them at all.

But Erin Morgenstern knows how to keep you flipping through those pages, regardless. It didn’t need to be fast-paced, witty and action packed to be interesting. Every single issue was shrouded in mystery, and our main characters don’t even know what they’re in until somewhere towards the end. And it will mostly be what gets you to continue reading: to try to uncover the mystery, when in fact, every flip of the page just adds another layer of it.

Another creative bit about the writing, after all the colorfully interwoven imagery, is the description of the attractions in the circus, used to separate chapters. Using second voice, it seems as if the reader himself steps into the scene. And, like good poetry, the ending was written to resonate with the beginning. Everything just seemed so polished and well-structured, that you can feel the amount of time and effort Morgenstern poured into the creation of this piece.

Book Covers

The artistry of the book covers is no exception. The covers come in black, gray and white with a hint of red.

Before The Night Circus even hit the market, the lucky critics who received advanced copies (like Reveurs getting free admission or something) had this stack of beautiful silver things to enjoy.

The US version showed a view of the tents of the circus with the clock above it, being held in what seems to be Tsukiko’s hand. The hardbound version is lovely, but having this transferred to paperback doesn’t seem as nice at all. Printed by Anchor Books, an imprint of RandomHouse.

The US Release Cover designed by Pei Loi Koay
Walter Sickert himself designed this poster for The Night Circus Paperback Release Party, where he performed with his band, Walter Sickert and the Broken Toys

The UK print from Vintage Books, another imprint of RH, looks much more elegant, especially in hardbound. The dust jacket is in black, with white silhouettes of Marco and Celia, which was also used for the online game.

The UK Release Cover

The book itself is in red, with a golden clock face painted on the inside.

Herr Thiessen’s Clock Face

Look at the red ribbon bookmark and the black edged pages! Book publishing as an art form–it’s definitely a good reason to buy this version as a sort of collector’s item.

The inside cover has a pattern of top hats and bowler hats.

Marco Alisdair on the inside-back flap of the dust jacket for the UK Release

I found a Spanish Release cover, but I’m uncertain on whether or not it is the official one. Most of the other translations are the same cover as the UK release but change the title.

The Spanish Release Cover?

Rejected cover by Jessica Hische, perhaps because it was in black and gold–and there was no gold in Le Cirque des Reves.

A black-and-gold cover that wasn’t able to make it out to the market, a beautiful design by Jessica Hische
A cover that didn’t make it out, by Jessica Hische

Fan Art

The Night Circus is so visually indulgent that an artist just can’t help but make something inspired by it. Here are some notable works I’ve found.

Laura Walter has a fan-made cover in a deep shade of teal.

Laura Walter redesigns Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus with deep shades of evening blue

Upcoming Film Adaptation

Summit has already claimed the rights to the movie production of this book, and I hope they won’t mess it up the same way they did Twilight. Although, there seems to be a good thing about having David Heyman as the producer, since he also produced the Harry Potter films. Writer for the screen adaptation is Moira Buffini who previously wrote for films like Jane Eyre and Byzantium. There has no official date as of yet, and no cast either, so the film can be predicted to be out by mid-2013 or early 2014.

The book is just so visual despite the fact that the circus comes in Black and White, and I think it would be perfect as a movie. Costume designs, props and set would be perfect if we could get the team of people from the 2004 Phantom of the Opera, ala Masquerade, or Moulin Rouge on board.

What I want to hear: Music

It would be incredible to have Erin Morgenstern’s personal writing playlist as an inspiration for the film’s OST, just as Summit was able to do for Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. It would be perfect to have at least one Florence + The Machine track in there, hopefully a new one, or perhaps Spectrum. And then Andrew Bird as well as Smashing Pumpkins. Other than the music from her personal soundtrack, a bit of Muse would do some good, especially something similar to Starlight or The Resistance. (Starlight because of the sound, Resistance because of the message resonating with the film.) And Birdy. And Coldplay. And Fun. And Panic! At The Disco. These last two choices seem out of balance with the rest of the track, but when I ask myself, “what music sounds like an old French circus?” then nothing would match it better than some PATD.

Who I want to see: Cast

I have no one in mind for the cast, to be honest, except maybe Lucy Liu for Tsukiko, but that was still a no for me. I definitely want to see Chloe Moretz in red hair for Poppet. Mila Kunis would make a great Isobel. But other than that, my thoughts on casting are really useless. I’d love to know who you guys think should play it though. I do think that it’d be great to have Cirque du Soleil be in the movie.


Here is a comprehensive list of the characters and themes of the novel. Do not read them until you’ve finished the entire book. Also to note, a good number of the themes or the personalities of the characters are my own thoughts and observations. They’re not necessarily what Erin herself intended.


Celia Bowen

Celia is the daughter of the world-renowned magician. After her mother died, she is given to her father who uses her as a representative in the game because of her “natural talent”, inherited from her father. During her childhood, she was thought to be strange, or a child of the devil, as she would tend to break things around her without touching them whenever she was upset. She was taught to heal herself, remake things she broke, and do illusions and magic tricks. She worked as an illusionist at the Circus, and wrote letters to the Revéur Herr Thiessen. She collaborated with the engineer Mr. Barris in creating the enchanted Carousel.  She also made a vertical labyrinth of clouds, and took it upon herself to train the Murray twins. She acts very mature and motherly towards them.

Celia dislikes being treated like a child, or having to follow orders and rules that she don’t understand. She continues to struggle to gain independence, to break free from every bond she’s had, represented by the ring that was embedded into her skin. At some point, she mutters to herself, “I’m already married,” declaring her unwanted engagement with a seemingly pointless game. She compared herself to Shakespeare’s Hamlet once, saying that she was haunted by her father’s ghost. And she has plenty of Shakespeare in her stack of books in the tent.

Her style of magic makes use of illusions and redirecting energy from places, something that seems natural and inherited. Her usual acts in the circus as the illusionist include the usual dove tricks, changing the colors of her dress, destroying watches and re-making them, etc.

Celia’s Gown, by the Delicious Reads Book Club

Her character ends up as a very self-protective one, often finding herself not allowing Marco to love her. She tries to be in control of things, and tries to push away the people—especially Marco—who take away that control.

Marco Alisdair

Marco starts off as an orphan, taken by Mr. Alexander H. to represent him in the game. Marco Alisdair is not his real name, but one he used growing up, revealed only once he met Isobel. His magic is part of his studies for years, unlike Celia who was born a natural talent. His style of magic makes use of a lot of alchemic symbols and formulas which he keeps in notebooks with drawings of trees. He does not perform in the circus itself, but works for Chandresh Lefèvre, the main proprietor. Marco keeps the accounts and records, etc., and makes certain that the dinners and parties and events are organized. His contribution to the circus is the bonfire, which actually acts as a protector, shielding the people in the circus, so they won’t be overpowered by the magic and would eventually go insane. Likewise, the protector also seems to prohibit the main people in the circus from aging. He also created the Ice Garden, Celia’s favorite tent.

Personally, Marco’s favorite tent was the wishing tree.

His romantic pursuits are often without Alexander’s permission. His decisions on love seem impulsive and rushed. His usual way of courtship is by creating fantastical illusions and recreating the surroundings, which is what he did the first time he kissed Isobel in the rain, and what he continued to do for Celia. He never told Isobel that he loved her, but he never held back on telling Celia.

The Night Circus Character Designs by deirling via deviantART (click the image to visit her page)

Hector Bowen (Prospero the Enchanter)

Prospero the Enchanter was a well-known magician, a student of Mr. Alexander. He challenged him in the belief that magic cannot be learned but a special talent accessible only be a rare few. This challenge between them two was what started the centuries of games. At some point, people believed that Hector Bowen had died, but in truth, he was suspended in a state of life with no physical body in a failed attempt at gaining immortality.

Esse Quam Videri is the Bowen family motto, which means, “To be, rather than to seem.” According to Celia, Hector was “very fond of engraving it on things.”

Mr. Alexander H.

Mr. A.H—as he is often referred to in the book is the teacher of Hector Bowen, Marco Alisdair and Tsukiko. He always wears grey clothes and does not have a shadow, which was noticed only by Celia in the first chapter, and by Widget in the last. Celia also notes that it’s as if Alexander isn’t his real name, as if “it doesn’t fit.” Mr. AH—believes that magic can be learned, that it is all around and for everyone, but only very few people make an effort to notice it. He warns Marco during the game to stay away from Celia, knowing the objective of the game and that the end result would only hurt Marco, as it did Tsukiko.  Also unlike Hector, Alexander openly appreciates the value of death, a sentiment he only expresses with Widget in the last chapter.  Although he is very old, he admits that he will eventually die and does not intend on seeking immortality.

[Immortality] is a terrible thing to seek. It is not seeking anything, but avoiding the unavoidable.

Alexander also believes in the power of stories, and makes a deal with Widget that the game will end and the Circus will be passed over to the hands of Bailey Clarke.

Circus Performers

Winston Aidan Murray (Widget)

Widget was born October 13, 1886, six minutes before midnight. He has striking red hair, always wears a black suit, and carries a white kitten with him. Other than his kitten act with his sister, Widget also has his own tent called Bedtime Stories which houses various bottles that release stories when uncorked.

He has a natural psychic talent of knowing people’s past, and is tutored by Celia to develop his magical powers. His talent is attributed to the fact that he was born on the same night as the opening of the circus, and perhaps was affected by the enchanted bonfire lit by Marco. His favorite treat at the circus are the cinnamon things.

The Cinnamon Things that Widget loved so much; from the Night Circus meet-up by the Delicious Reads Book Club

Widget, as revealed later on, is apparently the narrator of the entire novel.

Fan Art: Poppet and Widget – The Night Circus by jucylucyinspired via deviantART (click the image to the original)

Penelope Aislin Murray (Poppet)

Poppet was born October 14, 1886, seven minutes after midnight (thirteen minutes apart from her twin brother). Like Widget, she has striking red hair. She wears white dresses made of scraps of different fabric, and has a black kitten. The Murray’s parents run the Big Cats attraction. Poppet ends up as Bailey Clarke’s love interest, as well as the reason he comes to join the circus. Opposite her brother, Poppet has the power of foresight, and sees blurry images of the future. She also has the ability to read the stars.

Isobel Martin

Isobel is a reader of Cartomancy, Tarot Cards. She first appears as an unnamed wanderer, and ends up kissing Marco in the rain. Through the years, she tries to aid Marco to win the game, but ends up finding out that there is nothing she could do to hold things together. Her relationship with Marco ends up as a very one-sided love story. No matter how you put it, the only way to really describe it is that Marco cheated on her. Other than Tarot Cards, Isobel also makes use of charms.


The Night Circus Contortionist by Fluffball264 via deviantART

Tsukiko is a Japanese contortionist who performs at the Circus. She first appeared at the Midnight Dinners. Tsukiko becomes the main inspiration of the circus. She reveals herself later on to be one of Mr. Alexander’s student, and the one who previously won the game, or, in her words, “survived” it. She was in love with her competitor Hinata who lit a pillar of flame and stepped into it, to burn herself and let Tsukiko win. (This also means that Tsukiko is a lesbian.) On October 31, 1902, she claims to have won the game that ended “eighty-three years, six months, and twenty-one days ago. It was a cherry-blossom day.” Approximately, that would be April 20, 1819.

Original Conspirators

Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre

Owner of Le Cirque des Rêves, Chandresh is a wealthy man of great ambition. His life spanned from August 3, 1847 to February 15, 1932, dying finally at the age of 85. He was 39 when the circus first opened. His character has this keen sense of beauty and a burning love for the arts. He has a lingering restlessness whenever he does not have work to do, which, other than the burden of the magical circus, caused his emotional and psychological unrest less than a decade after the opening of the circus. In that said moment of instability, he attempts to kill Alexander with a silver knife, but misses. Instead, Herr Thiessen gets stabbed. After he hands the circus over to Bailey, he creates a museum with Poppet.

Ana Padva

Often referred to as Tante Padva or Mme. Padva, she is a retired Russian prima ballerina. She acts almost like a mother to Chandresh and the Burgess sisters. She loves fashion most of all, and appoints Lainie Burgess as the heiress to her business.

Lainie & Tara Burgess

The Burgess Sisters Lainie and Tara are socialites who love secrets and stories. They feel uncomfortable being apart from each other, one of them acting as the eyes, the other the ears during social events, making them a complete set. Tara ends up committing suicide by jumping in front of a train, after being heavily affected by the overpowering magical influences of the circus, just as she realizes the grand scheme. Lainie, however, ends up inheriting Ana Padva’s business, as Padva claims her to be reliable and responsible. Also, Lainie is the love interest of Ethan Barris, but initially refuses his proposal. Her argument was based on the fear that she was only chosen because Tara was already dead, making the choice not completely Mr. Barris’s, but just a matter of consequence.

Ethan Barris

Mr. Barris is the engineer and architect that built the circus. Aside from Isobel, he was the first among the original conspirators to know about the game, and how the circus was being used as a stage. He seems to be always busy, but he has a reserved and secretive character. He does not take sides.


Bailey Alden Clarke

Bailey is just a son of a humble apple farmer who ends up as the main proprietor of Le Cirques des Reves. When the circus visits Concord, Massachusetts in September of 1897 but is closed due to inclement weather, Bailey gets dared by his sister Caroline and her friends Millie and the Mackenzie brothers to check it out. There he meets Poppet, who lets him keep her glove as a souvenir. He keeps it in the hollow part of his favorite tree, for years until he sees the circus again in 1902. He finds himself in a dilemma between choosing Harvard, by recommendation of his grandmother, or staying to take over the family farm, by the strict decision of his parents. When Poppet returns for him, she asks him to join the circus as if though his presence were essential for the preservation of it. Later on, Celia and Marco are trapped in the half-matter state of the circus and can no longer keep it operating under their own power, so they ask Bailey to take over.

Assuming that the internet became available in 1990’s or 2000’s, then the ending would hint that Bailey and the rest of the circus continued to live past a hundred years.

Bailey’s Favorite Treat: Chocolate Mice

Friedrick Stefan Thiessen

Herr Thiessen (September 9, 1846-November 1, 1901) is a German clockmaker from Munich who creates the iconic timepiece that is displayed at the circus. After his first visit to the circus at Dresden, he develops overwhelming feelings about the magical performances and starts to write about them. Patrons of the circus see his articles on the news, and start writing to him. They begin to create a network of fans of the circus called the Reveurs(daydreamers). He had a great fondness for Celia and was often assumed to have a romantic relationship with her. He died by getting stabbed with a silver knife by Chandresh who was in a time of mental instability, trying to kill Alexander who dodged the attack. His and Chandresh’s names are engraved on a metal plate installed on the great clock in their memory.

Designed by Stephanya from BookPeople


Victor meets Bailey on his way to New York and is the first to introduce him to the Reveurs. He offers Bailey to stay at one of the rooms at the Parker House, and even gives him a book of clippings and circus memorabilia. He is stubborn and does not accept rejections for his offers of kindness.


Victor’s sister who chooses out Bailey’s deep grey suit and puts a rose in his lapel. She seems very supportive of Victor and often finishes his sentence.


Elizabeth seems to have a hidden romantic relationship with Victor. She makes red scarves all the time for the Reveurs and gives on to Bailey as a gift.

We lead strange lives and chase our dreams from place to place. —Elizabeth, on being a Reveur.

Analysis of Themes & Ideas

What’s in a Name?

In the first part, when Celia meets Mr. Alexander H., she asks her father if it was his real name, saying that it’s as if it doesn’t fit. Likewise, when Hector first meets his daughter, he says that it was a shame she wasn’t named Miranda. And after various attempts at calling Celia as “Miranda” it never catches on. Later on, calling the Murray twins as Poppet and Widget, the narration includes that “the nicknames stick as all nicknames do.”

So what is in a name? Does not a rose called by any other name smell just as sweet? Well it would, but if you called it a daisy, it wouldn’t feel like a daisy. It would still be a rose. The thing is, names have their own definitions—not the type like those in baby name books. Words mean what they are meant to represent, and names mean the person they are meant to identify. To use a name for a person that isn’t their name would be defying their own sense of identity, in some way.

“Why did you call that man Alexander?” Celia asks.

“That’s a silly question.”

“It’s not his name.”

“Now, how might you know that?” Hector asks his daughter, lifting her chin to face him and weighing the look in her dark eyes with his own.

Celia stares back at him, unsure how to explain. She plays over in her mind the impression of the man in his grey suit with his pale eyes and harsh features, trying to figure out why the name does not fit on him properly.

“It’s not a real name,” she says. “Not one that he’s carried with him always. It’s one he wears like his hat. So he can take it off if he wants. Like Prospero is for you.”

Destiny, Dreams, Defiance

Tarot Cards, premonition and foresight, the rings, the game, the circus, the umbrella, the bottle, the glove, the fire, the silver knife, the blood, Harvard and Apple Farms—there are so many things in The Night Circus that none of the characters could be in control of. In fact, the game wasn’t one that you play, but one you survive. Marco and Celia aren’t even players in this game, just two kings on the opposite sides of a chess board, while Hector and Alexander move them around, knocking other pieces over like worthless pawns.

She has gathered that the man in the grey suit whom her father called Alexander also has a student, and there will be some sort of game.

“Like chess?” she asks once.

“No,” her father says. “Not like chess.”

And maybe, even, that’s why the entire circus is in black and white—because it’s a chessboard. No matter how they try to end the game, they couldn’t. They could try to win or to lose for the sake of the other, but there was no way to end it. Their love for each other was the resistance that they put up, their last act of defiance. It’s the same way that Romeo and Juliet died for each other, or even how Peeta and Katniss took those berries at the end of the games.

But then, there’s Bailey. He was supposed to either go to Harvard or take over the family farm. One of those was his predefined destiny. It’s a nice thing to think that Bailey tried to go against destiny by running off with the Circus. But then, Poppet saw it happen first, that Bailey should come over to the circus so that it would continue to survive. If so, then wouldn’t joining the circus be part of Bailey’s destiny? Is there really ever an escape for it?

In the same way, Celia tried to not get Bailey involved—but he still did. And she also tried to not fall for Marco, but she still did. It was something out of her control, like her emotions and her powers. And at the end of the day, if you really think about it, nobody escaped their destiny. It’s as if defiance and rebellion are just heroic illusions, when in fact, nobody ever really gets away.

Perhaps, even, love is just another way of giving up your freedom, like when Marco and Celia bind themselves forever into the soul of the circus, or when Bailey takes the contract and stays. It’s as if the only way to truly rebel from life is to dream. Art is the purest form of defiance, it’s the escapement, the maximization of the true sense of freedom.

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. – Oscar Wilde, 1888.


The book narrates back and forth from the beginning of Celia and Marco’s game in 1873, jumping to Bailey in 1897, and takes them together until both parts of the story meet at 1902. This, and the fact that the narration was in past tense, only meant that there was already a defined past and future, and there was no way of changing it. Peculiarly enough, Widget started telling the story in 1902 to Mr. AH–, but was able to write at the end of a time with internet, even though he wouldn’t have known about that in 1902.

“I am saying that you had a chance,” Isobel says. “A chance to be with her. A chance for everything to resolve itself in a favorable manner. I almost wanted that for you, truly, in spite of everything. I still want you to be happy. And the possibility was there.” She gives him a small, sad smile as she slides her hand into her pocket. “But the timing isn’t right.”

But likewise, it showed that destiny could be—or could have been—quite flimsy, flexible. An outcome of some event could be changed by the smallest factors, or in Isobel’s terms, the timing.

Kiko, please,” Celia says. “I need more time.”Tsukiko shakes her head.“I told you before,” she says, “time is not something I can control.


The concept of immortality and how Hector tried to obtain it is briefly discussed directly, but in all truth, I think it’s what the entire thing was about. Celia and Marco being forever part of the circus, with their souls intertwined with its existence is their piece of immortality. And Widget’s account of the circus is the preservation of everything—Herr Thiessen lives, and so does Chandresh, and likewise every person in that circus.

Oddly enough, as the years progress, the people in the circus never seem to age. By 1902, Marco and Celia would have been at age 34 or so. And Bailey, who was born around 1886, same with the twins, lived long enough to reach the time of internet, as shown when “you” receive Bailey’s business card with the website name and his email. That would mean they all lived past a hundred years. This might mean that the circus continues to pro-long and preserve their lives, making Celia and Marco, and everyone in the circus, in their own way, immortal.


The whole of Les Cirque des Reves is formed by a series of circles. Perhaps it is tribute to the origin of the word  “circus,” deriving from the Greek kirkos meaning circle. (…) They are set within circular paths, contained within a circular fence. Looping and continuous. – Herr Friedrick Thiessen, 1892.

So is the narration, and Marco and Celia’s rings. Everything is like an orobouros and everything continues in circular motion, on and on, again and again, looping into forever, like a clock that never stops ticking.

Wave. Smile. Repeat.

Right there, that table sheltered by the shade of the trees—that’s where she sits everyday with her friends. Just every day, like it was required of her to come home to her table. She has lunch there, and studies there. When her friends come by, they’re a really noisy bunch, and when she’s alone, it’s just her and a book. She’d pop on some ear phones, and it sometimes feels like I can imagine the music play in the background, but only when I look at her.

This is what it feels like in campus every day; this is what feels normal. I guess I got really used to it, because this table across theirs is like home to me now too. There’s an odd shift in the air whenever she isn’t around. The scene is incomplete when I glance up from my homework and she’s nowhere in the peripheral.

But today, the odd shift isn’t caused by her absence, but the presence of another person. I know this one: he comes around every day for a class in a nearby building, but he’s never talked to her. I didn’t really think he knew her. I didn’t know her; I just saw her every day, that’s all.

I get bored of my calculus exercises, like a healthy person should, and end up watching him try to borrow her laptop and surf the internet. But the odd thing is, he’s behind her, with his arms reaching out over her shoulders. Her friends are there, watching, and they giggle. I can hear one say something like a taunt, and the girl just put a finger to her lips, shushed them with a smile she can’t push back. But the guy was uncomfortable, and it seems like she is too. I don’t think anyone else noticed, but she was about to lift her hands to take his arms and ask him to hug her or something, but she didn’t.

The guy finally backs away, and thanks her, bids her goodbye with nervous laughter.

When he’s gone, her friends huddle up and discuss. She tries to ignore it with light laughter, and before she looks down at her laptop, our eyes meet.

I look away.


I never get used to it, when things change around here. I do my homework during my free time, and I see the same girl and the same set of friends when I look up. The guy came back again, and I’m certain he never passed by or visited in the past two weeks.

His visit today seems to be longer than the first time I saw him around. He has a pack of candy, and he offers it to the group; they naturally decline. He shakes the pack in front of her, her slight hesitation is overridden by a sense of politeness. She takes a piece.

She pats on a seat and invites him to join the table. He takes the seat, but he’s being ignored. The girl seems unusually animated, her conversation with her friends turn into a show, and the guy is reduced to an audience member. They sat next to each other, but he felt pretty distant, even at the points when he seemed to try to join in.

The next time I look at them, I see him stand up and awkwardly say goodbye.

The entire circle of friends immediately transform into a small council, advising her to stay away from the guy and not encourage anything.

I could get it, I guess, for friends to tell you to stay away from jerks and stuff, bad people who would hurt you and break your heart or whatever, but the guy seemed pretty decent to me. I mean, his glasses look pretty good on him.

I think I should take back what I said about the small council. Those are for kings. This is a democracy, and the sovereignty lies with the constituents—she isn’t getting advised; she’s trying to please her people.


It’s like she’s trying not to hug him or something. Maybe, I don’t know. This guy really distracts me. I can’t do homework when he’s around. She’s alone today, and she just put down a book when he came over. Now I’m pretty fixated on the pair of them, trying to see if she’ll be like how she was when her friends were around them both.

When he came by today, she just waved hello without looking up from her book. He took a seat and tried to make conversation. He even brought her something new to read. She lit up when she saw it, and started to make recommendations. Now they’re talking like normal.

But it’s still kind of odd, like, unnatural. Whenever there were dead bits of silence in their conversation, she would revert to her old ways of ignoring him, and just giving him a show—and this show is pretty boring because she’s just there, reading. But she doesn’t pop her ear phones back on, because, you know, he’s still there.

But he isn’t leaving, and she’s just waiting there. I don’t even think she’s really reading because she never got to flipping any pages anymore. He breaks the silence, but the new topic doesn’t succeed at provoking any comments. He gets up and says goodbye, and she puts down her book and gives him a smile and a wave.

There’s something almost political about the way she says goodbye.


Once a week is the most I see of this guy, and in the span of seven months, his awkward visits are kind of normal now, and I’ve grown pretty tired of watching them back-and-forth their attempts to sway each other towards something more favorable.

And I know I used to say that seeing him is weird, but today is really, really weird, because they’re next to each other and they’re holding hands.

I don’t know what happened.


I see him today, and she’s busy on her laptop. Must be some homework thing. He sits down next to her, but she ignores him, except for the trained hello-goodbye smile and wave combo. So I guess yesterday was a false alarm.

And yes, I said yesterday. I see him twice in a week—and two days in a row. What a record.


And then he’s gone again, for like, two days. He’s back now, and he’s kind of trying to be sweet, actually. He nudges her on the shoulder, and takes her by the wrist and asks her to go with him. The girl whines, wanting to stay. How territorial. But she pats on the seat next to hers, and gives a real smile this time. He looks around the table only for a second to see her friends pretending to ignore them both, and dismisses the idea with a nervous chuckle and turns around. She groans. “Okay fine,” she stands up. “Where are we eating?”


He wasn’t here yesterday, but he is now. And I think I’m watching a re-edited replay, because it’s all the same. Except when he turned around, he just left, and she just smiled and waved. That choreography must be by muscle memory. That lunch the other day must have went badly.


I thought I was finally going to have a month clear of this distracting drama. It’s almost pre-finals week, and I’ve got to study. And here he is again, few weeks after. How long have I been watching these two?

And that thing I said about her friends being a small council is kind of pretty true if you’re considering how well-dressed advisers to royalty should be.

I don’t think that she thinks he’s a loser.

But she’s ignoring him again, but let him sit next to her. It’s both obvious and confusing. He tries to say something with a smile, and she’s almost irritated about it. He pulls out a couple of tickets to something.

At first, her hand instantaneously comes up and she gently pushes away the tickets using the back of her hand. She says something quietly. His smile becomes unbearable to keep up. He tries to hold any expression on his face, and the best he could do is press his lips together.

“What don’t you get?!” She snaps, but her body is completely composed—or stiff, nervous. “Do I have to say it to your face?” Her brows are pushing together, and she’s trying to loosen her jaw as she waits for a response.


“I’ve been trying to be nice to you. There’s nothing wrong with a girl just trying to make a decision about her life, right? I mean, I have a say in things—that I don’t have to force myself into something I don’t want?”

“Well, I’m sorry.” He gets up. “I’m sorry I just kept on trying.”

Her friends begin to leave the table, uneasy about the atmosphere. I would have done the same, but I’m locked on to them.

“You were always just there.”

“I’m sorry I kept on bothering you.” I don’t know if he was beating himself up about it, or if he was just trying to not be so angry.

“And you were so scared! Scared to say anything, to do anything—scared to make a mistake and you’d go missing for a long time until you try again. Just a scared little boy!”

“I’m sorry that I couldn’t be a man.”

“And stop with your stupid apologies!”

“I’m sorry I fell in love with you, okay? Not like I could have done anything about it!”

“Oh please! You’d feel that way about any other girl who pays you a bit of attention.”

It shuts him up for a while, but he starts back up. “I was going to say that I’m sorry I seemed so pathetic to you, but I feel even sorrier for you. That you actually think someone would only want to be with you if you’re the last choice they had.”

He calmly walks away.


I never saw him around again, except for the times like right now when he needs to pass by to get to another building. He scans the environment, making sure she wasn’t there at the table.

But she never was.

She never came back home.

Totally Wicked: Deep Fried Oreos

Vanilla Gelato & Wicked O's

Presenting  a delicious new deep-fried sugary heart-attack. Having that brilliant idea to make Homemade Vanilla Gelato only brings up a second, equally brilliant idea to mind: Wicked O’s.

Wicked O’s are deep fried Oreo cookies in batter, and goes very well with ice cream. The original comes from the Flaming Wings-Gravy Fix line of restaurants. I don’t know where else you could get deep fried Oreos.

The recipe here is good for Pillsbury boxes, which is the one that we have here because the other recipes you’ll find use a different brand and different proportions.


  • As many Oreo cookies you want.
  • A box of Pillsbury Pancake Mix (400g)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  •  2 cups of milk
  • 4 teaspoons oil
  •  Cooking Oil for deep frying


  1.  Preheat the deep frier to 375*
  2.  Make the pancake batter with the eggs, mix, milk and oil.
  3.  Dip the Oreos into the batter. Don’t worry if the batter seems thin.
  4. Put it in the deep fryer. It will float to the top, and once the bottom is toasted golden, flip the Wicked O’s to cook the other side.
  5. Serve on a plate lined with kitchen napkins.

And the most fundamental step of all:

Eat with Ice Cream.

“Goes without saying,” sabi ni Miggy.

“You don’t say,” remarked AJ Cambal.

Homemade Vanilla Gelato

Gelato is denser and more intense in flavor than regular ice cream.

The Philippines is a hot country all year round. It’s hot when it’s dry; it’s hot when it’s rainy. And though it’d be a great treat to have something cold to eat, your usual sorbetes can be sort of crystalized and not as smooth with the texture, as a result of compromising the quality to cut back on costs. And not most Filipinos can afford to have an ice cream maker at home.


One, because it’s expensive.

Two, in a country where quality education only comes by way of private school, no, we do not need to spend money on an ice cream maker.

And three, unnecessary expensive expenses are expensive and unnecessary.

But quality gelato does not have to be expensive. Remember that ice cream making has been there way before the invention of freezers and liquid nitrogen. So there’s nothing that can stop you.

Okay, so this isn’t the one I made earlier today. Mine is still chilling away in the freezer. Pics up when I post the recipe for Wicked O’s I’m serving it with.

All that you need would be:

  1. 4 egg yolks
  2. ½ cup sugar
  3. 2 cups (2 boxes/packs) of all-purpose cream (heavy cream if you can afford it)—chill one box, and leave the other one in room temperature
  4. Dash of salt
  5. Vanilla Extract
  6. Some ice cubes

Sounds like a normal, inexpensive list of ingredients of absolute normalcy, right? I think if you tried to buy all those in the grocery, you could buy them under 120PHP. Definitely beats that 500PHP Hagen-Daazs.

Gelato is denser and more intense in flavor than regular ice cream.

The equipment you need:

  1. A saucepan
  2. A tray
  3. A wire whisk (I don’t know if you could do this with a fork, but hey!)
  4. A plastic spatula (or wooden spoon, or just your normal sandok ng kanin)
  5. A big bowl (the serving bowl for rice would do)
  6. A relatively big bowl, but smaller than #5 (preferably metal/mixing bowl, but normal ones are fine)
  7. Cling wrap/plastic wrap. If you don’t have it, aluminum foil is fine.

Remember to prepare your ingredients and equipment before you proceed with the cooking.

Remember that this recipe is only good for four to six scoops, so if there are more than three people you’re serving this to, you can double up the recipe. Try to chill them no more than 2 inches deep. If you need to use more pans for it, go on ahead! :)


  1. Prepare the custard base. Separate the yolks. Beat the yolks together with the sugar. Add a tablespoon of vanilla extract and a dash of salt and beat together.
  2. Chill one box of cream; heat the other box in a saucepan. Heat it but don’t let it boil.
  3. Take it off the heat, and temper the egg mixture. Carefully ladle the hot cream into the egg mixture while mixing it. Once it’s mixed in well, pour the custard cream back into the saucepan. Heat it up again on low heat and remember to mix it continuously until it thickens. Be patient. If you stop mixing, the edges will cook and curdle. And if you cook it on high heat, you’ll cook the edges and the hot air will make unwanted bubbles in your custard. Those bubbles will catch water and make ice crystals later when you freeze the ice cream. It’ll be ready when it falls with creamy ribbons from your mixing spoon.
  4. Pour the custard into the tray. Mix it a bit to let it cool so you won’t destroy your freezer. When it’s not too hot, you can pop it in the freezer for the next thirty minutes.
  5. In those thirty minutes, put some ice cubes into the bigger bowl. You can put rock salt or normal salt on them to not make them melt as easily. (Read: it’s a chemistry thing.) Take half of the chilled box of cream and pour it into your mixing bowl. With a wire whisk, whisk it over the ice bath until it doubles in volume. Do this again with the other half. You do it half-by-half because whipping an entire box of cream can be difficult—it can be done, though, so it’s up to you. (You can always do this with an electric mixer, but I promised you could make this without that equipment. I just did.)
  6. Once the whipping cream doubles in volume, take out your tray of custard from the freezer. Break up the custard then gently fold in the cream.
  7. Put everything back together in the tray and cover it with cling wrap or aluminum foil.
  8. Freeze.
  9. Check on it every hour for the next four hours and mix it up with a plastic spatula to disturb any possible crystallization going on.
Remember that this recipe is just for the basic gelato, and can always be modified. Always have fun and discover your own flavors! :)

If you want to marble up some chocolate, just melt a bar of it and then pour it in zig-zags unto the gelato tray when the gelato’s frozen already. Mix it up with the plastic spatula in an 8-figure pattern.

If you want your gelato in chocolate flavor, you can add three tablespoons of cocoa powder to step 3 when you heat the mixture again. You could also add in half a cup of melted dark chocolate. If you’re using chips, make sure they’re the ones you’d be willing to eat, not the ones you just decorate with.

If you want to do it in a different flavor (strawberry, peach, anything) incorporate it to half of the chilled cream before step#5, and mix that half to the custard base. Only use the other half of the cream to whip.

Remember to flavor check after step 6. That’s your last chance to change anything in your recipe. At this point, you can add in cookies, fruit or chunks of chocolate.

Cupcake Salvation: Sophie’s Mom


Stacey’s Mom might have it going on, but Sophie’s Mom has a fresh batch of cupcakes in the oven every day.

On a five-hour break with Hedda Damasco the other day, she invited me to go to Makati to visit a nice new cupcake place her friend had recommended. So we hopped on a cab and made our way to Unit 111, 8760 Residences, Santol cor Aranga Sts, San Antonio Village, Makati.

We knew instantly that we were at the right place the moment we saw the adorable powder blue signage designed by Nina Martinez. The huge windows allow passersby to see a quaint and picturesque store. Inside, rows and rows of cupcakes are lined on white plates on the center table. Chocolate, Crème Brulee and Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Frosting.

On the counter was an impressive display of an assortment of cookies. Even the cookies had a Red Velvet counterpart:


Also, a platter of Tres Leches with Mango were available.


Excuse the crap photos.

Other than cookies and cupcakes, there were rolls of bread—the usual ones and some Spanish bread too. The full list of products and prices presents a variety of other treats, even Mochi, Tarts and Cream Puffs.

I bought one tres leches and one red velvet cupcake. I’m not a big fan of cupcakes, because the cupcakes you’d get as a kid at parties were too sweet, too buttery, too soft or too whatever. It’s safe to say that Sophie’s Mom is the ultimate cupcake salvation for me. The cake itself is moist but light, and it’s definitely rich with flavor. The frosting is just the right kind of sweetness. The rum in the Tres Leches was interesting because you wouldn’t think it was there, but it perfectly compliments the mango slices that were inside the cake. I think the Red Velvet cupcakes also have melted chocolate inside the cake itself which makes each bite luscious and flavorful.

However, it is to note that Sophie’s Mom started out as an order-in for bigger things like parties and events. (They design specialty art cakes, one was like Van Gogh’s Starry Night on a three-tier cake and the other the shape of a shoe.) And with where it’s at right now, business has progressed tremendously well. The branch we visited was the one in the residential districts of Makati. The only other branch I know is located at the ground floor of SM Megamall.

Sophie’s Mom is unquestionable when it comes to the treats and sweets, but there is only one thing that I disliked: the packaging.

Well the logo type is not bad. In fact, it’s adorable! What’s bad about the packaging isn’t really a big deal, but if you buy less than four cupcakes, you don’t get them in a box, just a low-ceiling plastic container. Because of the height, it ruins the icing because it gets smushed on the lid. If you’re going to give a cupcake as a gift for someone, make sure to bring your own box.

But since Sophie’s Mom is more of a big order type business, it’s well understood that for now, the individual orders aren’t really their main focus. But I’m hoping they would fix this some day when they plan on making it a full-blown specialty cupcakes and sweet store.

After I went back to campus, holding the cupcakes in a plastic container, people kept asking me where I got them. Imagine if I had a special box packaging for my individual purchase, with the logo “Sophie’s Mom” printed out and stripes of pink and white lining the box–in that sense, every one of their customers will become a walking advertisement. And I may not even have to write about them anymore, because by then, everyone would start talking!

And also, the whipped cream atop my Tres Leches wouldn’t have fallen.

But once you sink your teeth in that soft, sweet cupcake, you’ll forget all those things about designs and packaging. The mark of a great cupcake is the cake itself, and I’m happy to say that Sophie’s Mom does more than just pass the mark.

The Fault is Kind of in the Stars, Seriously

The first batch of prints of John Green's TFiOS during release day


That really is the first thing I’d have to say about John Green’s literary scar on humanity, The Fault in Our Stars.


Hazel Grace Lancaster, or just Hazel, has cancer–not the curable “you will live if we chop off this part of your body” kind. No, it was the definitely terminal, Your Lungs are Producing Water and are Trying to Kill You Everyday sort. Hazel Grace is a known professional of Having Cancer. At one of the support group sessions she reluctantly attends, she meets a boy named Augustus Waters, an amputee and the Mayor of Cancervania–he had a You Will Live If Your Leg Was Cut Off sort of cancer. They fall in love that makes for the most tragically beautiful romance that you will ever read in your Young Adult Genre Shelf ever. EVER. Yet. Until John Green writes again.

The first batch of prints of John Green's TFiOS during release day
Cover Art: John Green discussed that he wanted to stray from the usual book covers, and that he’s very thankful that his publisher respects his thoughts on these things.

My Thoughts, Exactly.

Mind you, I do mean that it stays in the Young Adult Genre Shelf. Because it is, and it should, and that’s where John Green meant for it to be because he really doesn’t care about adults. The prose is half and half enlightening insight with hilarious dialogue. His characters are every geek girl’s teenage dream. Well, minus all the cancer.

Augustus is the perfect gentleman, with a witty repertoire of responses, a love for video games and their novel adaptations, and would be dedicated enough to fall in love with your favorite novel, set up a picnic in the theme of all the things you love about said novel, and would do anything to accomplish your last dying wish.  He’s the gamer geek that defends you in combat when you really suck at it. And when you’d feel terribly sad about a swing set for no reason, he drives to your house, pronto.  He looks at life and makes a metaphor out of everything. He hates basketball and would break his own trophies.  And he’s hot, and he’s aware of it.

Our heroine? College girl, smart, well-read, liked to quote books and a constant, albeit well-mannered, downer for the people as terminally ill as her.


Not even. Hazel Grace may tell you that you will eventually die and everyone will forget you, but even when she knows it will happen, she uses her life in a way that she doesn’t let death itself defeat her.

This will be among the many thoughts you will realize from the moment Hazel Grace allows you into her mind. And that is the thing that truly picks up the novel, making it something worth reading regardless of age. Everything–and I mean everything, even the hamster–is a metaphor for something, and it takes some deep thinking to really appreciate the depth of the story beyond the young romance. Even if you’re at the point when you’ve moved on from falling in love with characters like Augustus Waters, Hazel’s intelligent narrative will still keep you holding on long enough til the writer pulls out your heart and eats it.

It’s not a basic cancer novel where the writer uses “cancer” as main reason to make you cry. No, cancer here is a metaphor, like everything else in this novel. It’s a thing that plagues humanity–the thing that we want to stop but couldn’t understand: suffering. It’s everywhere, and there’s nothing we could do about it no matter how we try.

The story isn’t only a romance but a story of accepting fate while likewise defeating it—a practice of freedom—a lesson that, dear Brutus, the fault is in the stars, but don’t let it get you so down.

Painful, what good literature does to you.

Having said that, I do feel cheated sometimes. The intelligence of the novel feels like a quilt of patches, with bits and pieces of thought from other great people. And although our character Hazel shows us her own way of understanding things, there isn’t really something new that she offers. It’s effective in a way that it exposes the reader to all sorts of thought, whether or not said reader will agree with the character. But it’s not going to strike you with something completely new.

To be realistic, one must always admit the influence of those who have gone before.

– Charles Eames

It is important to say that the pieces of influence that float around in this book are fundamental to how you’ll be attached to the characters. Towards the end of it, you’ll be thinking like Hazel, and knowing much of what she knows and believes, that whatever decisions she will make in the book and the things that she will feel towards the events will deeply affect you.

And that’s where John Green succeeds: taking you by the mind, then by the heart, then twists you til you suffer an emotional cancer of your own. Especially that ending! That ending was perfect. That ending saved the entire novel.

But more than mere emotions, John Green takes you to a ride into all the philosophies of suffering that will make Gautama Buddha proud.

The Fault in Our Stars is intelligent and hilarious, truthful and insightful, but I will not hold up my ten fingers just yet. John Green’s best is yet to come.

Nine out of ten.

Planes Crashing Into Buildings: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Using Janson Text on Thomas Horn's fingers for the film adaptation

I wanted to be able to say: I don’t know how I could have tried harder.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is nothing short of a literary revelation.

Revelation, because you’d realize that up until you’ve read this book, you’ve never really read. Or at least, that’s how it feels like.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close takes us into the mind of a young Oskar Schell, nine years of age and still grieving a year after he lost his father, Thomas Schell, in the events of 9/11. He one day finds a blue vase in his father’s untouched closet, wherein there is a key in an envelope, written “Black”. He then goes on for months to find what the key unlocks, hoping to find something of his father’s. He will have to check all the locks in New York and all the Blacks he could find–and all the months necessary to find them.

But that’s what most people think the story will be about.

I want two rolls.

Don’t get me wrong, it is. But there’s more to it.

Oskar will narrate the story of the search for the most part, but the reader will encounter a series of letters from two very fundamental people. At the first reading, you will not know who they are from and who they were addressed to, but later on in the recent-day narrative of Oskar himself, it hits you all at once. I’ve said this before about Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. It feels like dying–all your memories flash before your very eyes at some point when everything’s about to end.

By the end of the novel, you would have felt the pain of loss some five or six times.


I know this review comes off as overly enthusiastic, but I have some defense for this novel. While writing this review, I’ve come across other reviews, mostly bad ones.

But they were all written in 2005. By Americans.

I get them.

Foer felt like a hack, trying to sell a 9/11 story, taking advantage of a recent happening and riding the bandwagon of so many writers trying to evoke the emotion in readers. By 2005, Americans would have been trying very hard to get over what happened four years ago. It feels like they’ve been cheated, betrayed even, that sometime in their grief, a novelist would use that to make money.

But I’m not American, and it’s 2012. And this book deserves to be read.

The book covers before the film adaptation

ME. Alas, poor Hamlet [I take JIMMY SNYDERs face into my hand]; I knew him, Horatio!

JIMMY SNYDER. But Yorick . . . you’re only . . . a skull.

I am not an American, I didn’t lose anyone in 9/11. And if EL&IC was meant to take advantage of the emotions of 9/11 victims, then why was I so moved? Foer is doing something–and a lot of that something–right, and through this book, he has managed to put feeling where most people are numb.

And, mind you, our little hero suffers from some sort of autism.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close isn’t about 9/11. It’s about losing someone and finding yourself. It’s about a father who lost his son, and a son who lost his father, and a mother who lost her son, and a mother who is afraid of losing her son, and a boy afraid of losing a friend, and the people afraid of losing their memories of the people they’ve lost–and a woman who keeps all the memories of a husband who is still alive and well. It is a story of desperate love and love in the time of despair.

It’s about trying to make sense of the senseless.

The novel puts us through three different wars: Nazi Germany, the 9/11 terrorist attack, and the war that every person fights with himself, trying to hold on and let go.


Writing Technique & Analysis

Foer’s writing makes use of various typographical tricks and strays away from common fiction writing. It doesn’t take much time to realize who’s writing what, and the language is incredibly natural. The narration has its own character, and it never loses it. You can feel the nine-year-old, socially awkward child still trying to learn his bigger words, and wrongly, if not unnaturally, using the idioms his grandmother tried learning when she first came to America. “Jose!“, “Heavy boots” and “a hundred dollars” are just some of them, and you will see them everywhere. It uses language uniquely, but effectively. To some extent, even, humorously. The use of images, and red pen, and all the letters dated from 1963 to 2002–everything that Jonathan Safran Foer has poured into this novel makes for a very engaging, very compelling, very creative storytelling experience. 

If Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a gimmick, then it was a very effective gimmick, and I’d like more of it.

I’d hate to admit it, but it is a perfect hipster novel.

Hipster being the new genre of things that are popular but feel like they’re indie and/or artistic.

Or artistic things that become popular.

Movie Cover Version

Book Covers/Art:

The original first print of the book from Penguin had the image of a child chasing birds. The next reprint is a red hand with the title and author written all over it using the similar typeface of the first print. This version stayed on til the reprint of the novel for the movie of the same title, featuring the face of Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) covered with his hands, title, cast and author written in the same typeface. The movie version was designed by Anne Chalmers, using the Janson Text typeface.

The writing on the hands concept was more lasting because of it pertaining to a more major character in the book and the film–in fact, in the book, he is one of the three narrators. It represents the frustrating struggle of all three of the narrators trying to say something, and the confused use of language. Whether it was a child learning big words, a foreigner trying to learn new expressions and a man losing his ways of communication altogether–the cover perfectly fits the story’s attempt to say the things when you’re running out of paper, but the words just keep on coming. It’s about not knowing for yourself how much you love someone, and never knowing how much that person loved you.

The child chasing birds concept comes from one of the chapters, showing a point where a man starts to live his life again when he can. It’s the return of sight in a time of extended grief. It was a point of finally overcoming life to begin living it. You’ll get me when you read it.

The two covers represent two of the greatest concepts the book was trying to portray, (birds more subtle than writing on fingers) so I can’t really say which one I prefer, or which one sums up the book better. But the one that gets potential readers to come over and pick up a copy would unarguably be the writing on fingers concept.

Using Janson Text on Thomas Horn's fingers for the film adaptation

Conclusion & Rating

Jonathan Safran Foer deserves any and all praise and awards he’s been given for this novel, including Best Book of the Year. This novel isn’t overrated; it’s misunderstood–not meant to be a piece of fiction but a piece of art. The book itself is like a gallery of thought.  It is highly creative, effectively moving, intensely artistic, and there’s just nothing quite like it.

Easily on the top of the shelf for favorite books and have-to-recommends.

I’d give it a rating of nine-over-eleven.

Harsh, misplaced pun.

Giving it a ten.

French & Forensics: Smaller and Smaller Circles by FH Batacan

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

Crime-fighting Jesuit priests, a Payatas dumpsite, bad coffee, good French and a persistent toothache—these are the makings of a witty, fast-paced and intelligent multi-award-winning detective novel.

Smaller and Smaller Circles takes you to Payatas, a place in Metro Manila known for its mountainous range of garbage, and the low horizon lined with galvanized iron roofs of shanties and a loving layer of industrial smoke.

Here, we meet Fr. Augustus “Gus” Saenz, SJ—a Jesuit priest who does autopsies, cool, composed, tall and handsome, likes classic rock and European music, clever with the tongue—and his once-student, now sidekick, Fr. Jerome Lucero, SJ. He is a clinical psychologist, whenever he’s not saying mass, vomiting, or honking horns at traffic jams.

Gus discovers a pattern in the recent autopsies he’s done at Payatas, and claims them to be serial killings. With the Philippines’ intelligence community weak and skeptical, Gus and Jerome have to prove a point before any more killings happen. And so the chase for the Payatas whodunit commences . . .

An excerpt from Smaller and Smaller Circles
FH Batacan gives you a glimpse into the mind of our killer, between every other chapter.
It is sick, twisted, and I love it.

For a Filipino, this is definitely new and entirely refreshing. When Felisa H. Batacan submitted her manuscript for the Palanca awards in 1999, hers was the first of the kind in the Filipino literary scene. It claims to be successfully “popular and literary”, and record-breaking. Unlike most indie novels in the Philippines that have only one run of about a thousand copies, Smaller and Smaller Circles has been reprinted four times, making a total of 6,000 copies printed and sold.

I am a proud owner, one of the few-some thousands.

But as a novel, we have to use that big fish in a small pond metaphor to explain what it’s like.

It’s just new to the Philippines, to have a story like this and for a Manilenyo to imagine a serial killer possibly be eating turon at the same carinderia, buy 5-peso Coke at the same sari-sari store, and basically walk home through the same dark eskinita. It’s an entirely different experience from reading a Grisham novel simply because of the scenery. And it’s different from watching CSI, because you can’t just get fingerprints or DNA samples and have things done. The government here is poor and its citizens, poorer. There is no fancy technology, not even a comprehensive database. Manila is a whole different crime scene.  And definitely, it’s new in Philippine literature to have a Jesuit priest and his students defy the inefficient police system.

But it isn’t new, for the rest of the world. For one, the priest reminds me of Shiro, Rin’s father from Ao no Exorcist. But mostly, I am reminded of Sherlock Holmes, Metro Manila Edition. Gus is a smart man, backed up by a rich family. He is tall; Jerome is short. Jerome is a doctor. He likes to pick at the times when his supposedly mature and calm mentor starts to act like a child. The police system is inefficient, and they take pride when their own version of Lastrade, Atty. Ben Arcinas, is disproved. They work on their own, and have connections to get the information faster than the NBI.

It looks like fan-fiction of a well-educated Otaku. It sounds like elements of a pretty normal novel, if you’ve read enough crime, thriller and suspense fiction. And everything seems fairly plausible, however improbable.

So aside from the time that Smaller and Smaller Circles was written and published, what makes it so special that it received the highly coveted Palanca, among many other awards?

The thing is—the thing that readers don’t easily see is—it is so masterfully written. It is immensely tricky to write something like this, what with the research and required knowledge and familiarity. FH Batacan is lucky to have worked for the Philippine intelligence. And it is so short, that its length itself is a carefully crafted element. Any longer and the novel would have been boring and worn out; any shorter and it would be a short story. The novel is well-condensed, and her characters know exactly what to say and when to say them. She knows when to paint the picture of the scene, and when to focus on the movement of her people. She knows when she has to write a witty dialogue, and when she has to get to the point. She knows when things should happen, where they should happen, like a god of her own universe. Batacan just knows how to make a reader keep on going.

It’s difficult to make crime sound realistic, and crime-fighting priests even more so.

It’s difficult to write this, and what a writer would find more clever than her characters’ dialogues would be how she thought of it all up in the first place.

It’s difficult to write a thriller novel set in the slums of Manila, and yet she did.

And that is exactly what she was awarded for: her writing, masterfully crafting every detail down to the very last punctuation. Even the toothache makes sense, and the French dialogues that I wish I understood, and the homemade turon and arroz caldo. Every word used to illustrate the scene–none is out of place. It is the novel that made no mistakes.

It is the novel you would wish you could write.

Smaller and Smaller Circles is the novel you would never wish to change.

Ten out of ten.

Together, We Can Conquer the Word: Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief


It’s Germany.

It’s Nazi Germany.

And the sky is the color of Jews.

In The Book Thief written by Markus Zusak in 2006 we join the voice of Death as he retells the story of the life of a girl named Liesel Meminger, the orphaned daughter of a communist. The story begins as Death first encounters Liesel Meminger stealing a book in the snow where her brother dies, right before she is transported to her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, at the very humble address of 33 Himmel Street.

Hans Hubermann is a kindhearted, loving, patient and level-headed man who, though simple minded, has quite a lot of luck on his side. The story takes you down to their basement where Hans keeps his paint cans and drop sheets for his day job. And down there, he teaches Liesel how to read and write. Rosa Hubermann is loud-mouthed and scornful, frustratingly strict, and surprisingly a very passionate mother. There are other characters that will enter Liesel’s life as the book takes you five years through it. But in those five years, no one could be a more consistent companion to our heroine than her school friend, Rudy Steiner, a dirty little boy who excels in academics and athletics, and is as much a good a thief as Liesel herself.

We’ll give him seven months.

And then we come for him.

And oh, how we come.

The five years starts from Liesel at age nine, and ends with Liesel at age 14, until Death meets her again. But I won’t tell you how and when. Although here, Death does not hesitate with spoilers. He will give you the details all too early. Death admits, it’s not because he’s being evil or mean, but he tells you all the events beforehand so that it wouldn’t be as painful when he has to tell the full story later on. This unique, almost non-chronological order of the narration—in fact, the unique narrator himself—effectively puts the story in such a perspective where the point-of-view itself is something new to explore. Most books written nowadays are written as if though a movie, something that so quickly and so vividly flashes through your mind. They narrate you with scenes that start and cut off like a film reel. But what The Book Thief offers you is a new friend to sit down with for story time and tea. Rather than display a show, it paints you a picture. And the narration does this because the narration itself has character—the narrator is a character. Given, he is omniscient, but he lives is own life—a life as Death himself. At first, he would seem sinister, possibly enjoying his work or embracing his unique identity as Death. But he will later on try to let you understand what it’s like to be Death, especially in the dark times of World War II in Nazi Germany. And that, in itself, is a new experience.

“When Death tells a story, you really have to listen.”

It contributes greatly to how you get attached to the characters. In fact, you won’t only be attached to the people—you’ll be attached to the setting, the entirety of Himmel street. And you’ll be attached to the words, both English and German, and you’ll learn a good number of them as you read along. At some point, you’ll feel that it’s unnecessarily lengthy for a narration, and you’ll think that there are just parts of Liesel’s mundane life that Zusak could’ve just left out because it takes too long to get to the point. But you’ll be thankful in the end. They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. In the same way, when the Book Thief ends, everything comes back at you and hits you like a strong white flash of magnesium-burning light. The pain you’ll feel at the end of the story will not be the fanatical type of pain when parting with a book or a character. It will be the kind of soft, almost sincere and genuine pain, for remembering all of the memories that were never yours to begin with. And that’s usually so difficult to achieve. For something that uses language in its most unnatural manner, what with all the translations or the mesh of colloquial speech with symbolism, it gives you the most natural, and most immediate emotional impact.

The use of words in this book is just so unique and interesting, that the only flaw I could seem to point out is the struggle a reader might have to get used to it. It’s simplistic, but artistic, in such a way that if you read it like you would any normal-sounding piece of prose, then there is a lot of it that you will miss. And if you do try to slow it down and take it all in, if you’re just a casual reader, then it might need a bit of getting used to. The only difficulty I had with the text was imagining them all speak in English with a German accent, really. But if you get passed that, you’ll enjoy the change in the way things are described. Clouds like tightropes, suns that drip and cardboard lips. The words just come so naturally from Zusak.

And what with all these words? The Book Thief is powerful, not because it’s another wartime Germany survival story. But because it shows you the power of words—the power Hitler gained from using them, and the exact power that Liesel wanted to steal, to take back and return what is rightfully the people’s. That’s the reason why a plot as simple as this takes so much time to build up: because the book itself is an entire lesson, like how we get to watch Liesel learn to read for the first time. The Book Thief progresses like a school that teaches you freedom and control over your own opinions, and use your words because you have a right to do so.

The Book Thief is incredibly ambitious as a novel as most other critics have said about it. But it is an ambition that Zusak was able to reach. Over-all it is a must-have, must-read, and there is no age for it. It’s simple enough for kids to understand, and brilliantly inspired enough for adults to appreciate.

As with the book covers, most of them are just simply trying to illustrate Liesel as she reads, or the face of Death. He still comes in the black Grim Reaper costume and the scythe like how most people imagine him to be. Later on as he narrates, he’ll admit that he’s quite amused with how we see him, but he’s not like that at all. The most recent reprint cover, however, is my most favorite which I think best captures the story entirely–Dominoes. Right now, it doesn’t make sense. And when you read it through, you might not realize it. But at some point, you’ll just come back to it and realize, that the time when dominoes were falling was the time they could’ve made the decision to save someone’s life. Even one, at least. And they were playing dominoes so innocently, you really wouldn’t suspect how crucial this point of the story was. But as with all dominoes, once you tip them over, there’s no stopping what will happen. The story of Liesel Meminger is an entire domino effect of back stories and the business of people that shouldn’t have mattered to her. But it all leads to an end where everything is but a messy floor of toppled rectangular tiles.

8.5? 9? 10/10? I can’t put a number on it. The words have greater power, and I’m afraid that The Book Thief has stolen mine.

Magnum Opus Fine Coffee Gallery


If it isn’t obvious enough, I love myself a good cup of coffee. And places that serve truly exquisite ones are hard to come by. It’s fairly easy for anyone to fall into the trap of paying for a highly commercialized coffee chain and expecting the best, but truly great coffee doesn’t stop at sourcing the beans. Preparation methods and being mindful of the time between getting the coffee from the roasters into your cup are all part of what makes coffee truly superb. Thankfully, BF Homes houses not only celebrities and businessmen’s families, but also, this coffee expert and his masterpiece.

IMG_3055Meet Jonathan Choi, the Head Bean of Magnum Opus Fine Coffees. He created a space for people to enjoy coffee, not just for its jolt of caffeine, but its various flavors. With BF Homes’ commercial district, Aguirre Avenue, always keeping the lights on at night for the people to just get out and talk, Magnum Opus is the top hub for just that.


Like a batch of specialty roasted coffee, the space of Magnum Opus is likewise small. Abstract pieces of art bring a bit of color to the depth brought on by the dark wooden pieces. Boxes of different types of coffee pots and whatnots are on the shelf. And yes, the door to the water closet is the bluest blue police box that travels through time and relative distance in space.

Despite Magnum Opus’ attention to detail in its coffee, that isn’t just the same with how the place looks at the moment. Some great looking pieces, inconsistently displayed. But that doesn’t stop people from coming in at around 10PM every night. In fact, the place says a lot about what you should expect from its coffee. Great coffee doesn’t mean flamboyant frappes and piles of spiced whipped cream–great coffee is about going back to the bare essentials, stripping down to the flavor profile, and focusing on what really matters.


We decided to visit the cafe at a less crowded timeslot, and grab post-lunch coffee and desserts. I was with JC, my loving boyfriend who is tolerant of how I take pictures of my food and talk about what I’m eating at great depth. (It’s useful on a blog, but imagine how annoying it is in real life.) With us was his niece Chesca, who just really wanted dessert, and thankfully, his mom, Amy Tamayo, who was a huge fan of good coffee herself. She’s been involved with developing a blend with Mang Juan Roasters, which produces small-batch roasted local coffee. She’s my go-to semi oficionado about these kinds of things.


We had the honor of chatting up with Jonathan as he himself prepared our hand-brewed coffee. We had a light but earthy El Salvador blend, which he prepared via pour-over method. And the Brazilian blend, which is much closer to the flavor profile that Filipinos love. Rich, and bold, with a bit of a cocoa-like flavor to it, they use the Brazilian for their espresso as well to keep the taste of their cappuccinos and lattes consistent.


The Brazilian blend was brewed via the Chemex, which I barely ever see in the Manila coffee scene. I myself am a French press kind of gal, so I let the bitterness and the oils and the acidity of the coffee to just sit together. With the Chemex, the difference is that it allows you to taste only the unique flavor that the coffee has to offer.

We took these two coffees unsweetened, and matched them up with the right desserts instead to balance the taste. Because of the pour-over method, there was no unnecessary bitterness or acidity that had to be dealt with or cleaned out with cream or sugar.

We paired the El Salvador with their apple strudel ala mode. El Salvador has a vibrant red hue, and such a light flavor mixed in with a bit of smoky wood taste, that it would remind you of South Africa’s Rooibos tea.

IMG_3038Other than the hand-brewed coffees, we also took a Belgian Heartbreak and paired it with a New York Cheesecake. The Belgian Heartbreak is basically a mocha latte using the same Brazilian blend for its espresso, some rich Belgian chocolate, and hot foamed milk. It’s a top favorite for customers, even for those who aren’t huge fans (or high-brow snoots) when it comes to their coffee. The cheesecake has perfect texture, and it isn’t too sweet, neither is its tartness that overwhelming either. This is a great pairing and is a definite back-to-basics that absolutely anyone could appreciate.

IMG_3046See, even Chesca likes it.

IMG_3040The Brazilian hand-brewn coffee was paired with the Sticky Date, a bread pudding amidst a sea of butterscotch custard, topped with cream and caramel. The sweetness of the Sticky Date hits all the right notes of rich cocoa in the Brazilian coffee. “It tastes like a cookie having sex with a donut,” Ed Slaterton said in the book Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, describing his first enjoyable sip of coffee. And he’s right. This is exactly what this pairing tastes like. It’s a brilliant marriage of sweet, light, airy fluffs of sugar, with the deep, rich, and bold. This is a ten-out-of-ten, hit-it-right-out-of-the-park-home-run kind of pairing, that just doesn’t go wrong. I am definitely not a fan of bread puddings, but I am a big fan of the combination of Magnum Opus’ Sticky Date and their hand-brewn and unsweetened Brazilian coffee.


Magnum Opus may just be a humble neighborhood cafe for southerners wanting to discuss art or science fiction, but its offerings are a revelation to the world of creative coffee and desserts. Next time I’m coming back, it’ll be for the Wafflegato and the Duet. But I’m certain that any visitor, whether new or recurring, would come back to Magnum Opus each time with a new and exciting masterpiece to experience.

If you’re looking to try them out, they’re at the second floor at the intersection of Aguirre Avenue and J. Elizalde, right across a building that says Lego Block Education, and around from one that says Hanakazu. If you’ve got zero ideas on what to get there, don’t be afraid to ask the folks of Magnum Opus for a recommendation or what they have off-menu. It’s an estimate 300-500PHP per person for a pairing of coffee and a food item (they have more than just desserts there!)

Check them out on instagram @magnumopusfc, and their Facebook page, and if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for events, coffee tastings, conferences, you can talk to them directly via

A Taste of LASA Bistro, Alabang

LASA Bistro Alabang

In recent years, we’ve seen Filipino cuisine move out of humble house setting, and out into the upper rim of the culinary scene. From warm and homely broths and meaty, hearty dishes being shared with the family, to the upbeat and fast-paced world of commercial dining, our sinigangs and adobos have allowed themselves to be a canvas of creativity for this generations’ host of chefs. And there’s a new addition to the line-up along with the likes of Abe’s, Mesa Filipino Moderne and Serye Bistro. As the southern border of the Metro graces its evening dinner tables with the fresh and exciting, it also houses the unique twist in Philippine cuisine that is LASA Bistro, in Commerce Center Alabang.

LASA Bistro Alabang

Upon entry, a gentle, appetizing scent of soy sauce and vinegar will present itself, reminding one of crispy pata being dipped and crunched away. Look up and you’ll see dark wooden framing as colorful panels and lime green lanterns line the ceilings, bringing a fun fiesta feel of the humble bahay kubo to the restaurant.


Those brightly lit steps seem to lead to a second dining area with a wide window allowing view to the rest of the area. Bamboo lined the walls, bringing height and depth to the round white lanterns and dark wooden panels above. All of it’s enclosed in the clean lines made by the golden cream and white walls. Everything feels like an appropriate representation of what the chef has to offer: tradition in a world of contradiction. And somehow, it totally works.




Also, gotta take a moment to say that the staff is attentive and quite knowledgeable about their offerings. They’re more than willing to answer any questions, and are perfectly comfortable speaking in either Filipino or English. So if you’re visiting the country, that’s a plus. You could, however, play a game of spot-the-tired-waiter, where there are few, brief moments when servers would have that look of “I just wanna get home” on their faces. But it’s easily swiped away, just before they move on to their next task. Bravo for them.

Puto and Strawberry Butter (complimentary)

I promise there were four of these; we just got really excited.

The boyfriend and I went here for our anniversary dinner. The meal began with a small batch of complimentary puto (Philippine rice cakes), with a bit of their specialty flavored butter. They switch it up every now and then, but when we were there, they served up some strawberry butter. On other days, they put aligue (crab fat) butter on the table. The puto is, other than a unique alternative to complimentary bread, a bit more dense and moist than some of the usual ones, almost like Puto Calasiao. My favorite.


Gambas Al Ajillo (369PHP)

Gambas Al Ajillo

Gambas usually comes on a sizzling plate with a freshly cracked egg, and a puddle of chili garlic sauce. LASA’s gambas offering is more like Shrimp Scampi, with prawns in garlic butter and olive oil. Light, fresh, and flavorful are definitely the right combination of words to best describe this little number. We liked it so much that we decided to keep the sauce it was sauteed in, for the rest of the dinner.

If there are any flaws to mention, it’s that it’s the second-most expensive thing we ordered. Granted, it is seafood, but the shrimp is hardly anything as special as tiger prawns. Definitely a great appetizer that we still would order again for someone else to try, but it is merely an appetizer. And if you compare it to the rest of the main dishes on the menu, it’s pricier than a good lot of them. (3.5/5)

Sinigang na Lechong Kawali (380PHP)


We Filipinos absolutely love our warm broths, as much as we love sour food. Without a doubt, sinigang na baboy sa sampalok is the king of the sour broth category. LASA takes it up a notch by combining the second best thing to pork in sour broth–crispy, deep fried pork belly. Served in a double-top lacquered palayok (clay pot) to keep the heat of the broth throughout the course of the meal.

IMG_3105The broth is deliciously sour, exactly how we love it. Despite being pork broth, it isn’t at all sickeningly fatty, but perfectly bright and flavorful. All the vegetables are cooked perfectly well–kangkong, sitaw, aubergines, and even the radish doesn’t betray with a bitter bite. The pork itself is tender, and amazingly retains a crunch despite being drenched. Again, LASA shows its faithfulness to the tatak Pinoy, with the minor tweaks here-and-there come only to enhance classic flavors. This dish is definitely a new favorite.

Complaints? Only that we couldn’t get enough of it. The sinigang is good for two people, except if you’re a heavy eater, then you could definitely take this on your own. No big issue on the portion size, but take it as a soup, and order something else to eat with it. Still, 5/5.

Adobong Batangas (300PHP; off-menu)

What is Filipino cuisine without the famed adobo? My boyfriend is a self-proclaimed adobo-gobbling monster, himself. And seeing that LASA didn’t have any adobo offering on the menu, he absolutely had to ask. And we were offered something else: Adobong Batangas, which uses achuete instead of soy sauce, and a kind of vinegar that finds its roots in Batangas. We’ve never had anything like it, so we just had to give it a try.


Definitely not what you expect to see when you say adobo, but we were promised a unique twist on things. From what I understand, there is in fact an existing Adobong Batangas, just not the one Manilenyos like myself are used to. Like all classic Filipino dishes, we take the flavor profile and modify it by each region’s homegrown goods. After all, if sinigang can be made with tamarind, guava, miso, and what have you, then you can definitely take an adobo and use achuete, right?


Adobong Batangas is the happy in-between of a pork adobo and a beef karekare. You absolutely cannot deny that achuete taste, and how well it comes in with garlic. The sour tones that you expect to have in an adobo aren’t so pronounced, even with a squeeze of lemon. But the beef is fork tender and breaks apart so gently, that you could already imagine how soft it’ll be in your mouth just by looking at it.

The vibrant presentation of the achuete red, lemon yellow, and plated greens match perfectly with the ambiance of LASA Bistro, and it’s a dish that embodies this unique and bold dining experience that stays true to its roots. (4/5)

Bagoong Rice (235PHP)

Now what kind of meal would you expect a Filipino to have without rice?


With all those lovely dishes, we had this star on the center of the plate. LASA offers a variety of rice preparations that they serve in big, beautiful portions, including Chorizo rice and Tinapa rice, and the usual garlic rice and plain white which both can be taken as a solo order.

Their Bagoong rice definitely looks like a fiesta on a plate with multi-colored nachos scattered about. The rice itself is packed with that crab and shrimp flavor–exactly what you expect from a good bagoong alamang–but without the extreme saltiness or pungent fishy odor that usually comes as a downside. The rice is clean of the bad stuff, and is loaded with nothing else but good flavor, even with some visible strands of beef in the mix to give it a meatier body. Bagoong‘s natural best friend, the unripened mango, joins this piece in thin slices to provide a bit of bite and to retract from the slight greasiness with its sour taste. (4/5)

Ripe Mango Shake (99PHP)


I do love the taste of summer, and mangoes are my absolute favorite. This shake, however, is a bit bland and disappointing. I’m quietly hoping that it’s just an issue of seasonality, since I did order this during the height of typhoon season.

I’m not putting a score on this one. (?/5)


However new, LASA Bistro should be a strong contender in the Philippine restauranteur business. It is a good place for any meal, at any time of the day. And whether you’re a local wanting a bit of a twist in the cuisine, or a visitor hoping to make an acquaintance with our food here, then this is a great place to start. With a budget of 500-800PHP per person, the dining experience you’ll have is definitely worth the price.

I’d have to say, this restaurant gets a 4/5 from me.

Fresh from The Farm, Alabang


Fighting for a worthy cause has moved out of the streets and gone into the kitchen. Organically farmed food may come off for some as a fashionable fad, but its popularization first spread among those who fought against the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, whether for issues concerning health or the environment.

Safe to say, the fight lives on and has made its way to Metro Manila. For the Filipino organic foodists out there, I know you have had too few options around the cityscape, so let me add one to your list.

The Farm Organics is an organically farmed food only kind of restaurant, with all sorts of great selections on their menu, from steaks to salads, drinks to desserts. Ingredients are directly sourced, and even for those that aren’t (like the boxes of branded tea bags they have on the counter), they make sure that what they serve you is organically produced.

It started out around 38 years ago in the cattle business, and it has led the industry in producing “clean” food. By around 2011, you could buy The Farm’s organic meats from select supermarkets around the Metro, and only April last year did they bring their goodies to the foodies, starting up this restaurant in Alabang Hills.

Not only is their food organic, but they offer up certain items on the menu that would cater to your special dieting needs. They offer a Vegan Mushroom Burger (230PHP) and even a Paleo Burger (180/130PHP). Generally, you could come in for something light at about 200-300PHP, but if you’re looking to have dinner, 400-700PHP per person should do the trick–unless you’re having steak, which is an entirely different story.


As a first look at the general ambiance of the scene, The Farm looks like a photo studio set in a log cabin. With all the metal coated black, off-black coal wall with the restaurant’s logo embedded into it, and the overhead grid of studio lights, the place brings a lot of stark modernity into a very warm and earthy wood-furnished style. The place is fairly sized, with about ten or so tables. The bit of colored chalk on the board pops out to bring a lively vibe to a very laid-back environment.

My boyfriend, the awesome-est ever JC Tamayo, a man of truly impeccable taste, found this place and very aggressively recommended to have dinner here. And by that, I mean, he absolutely made sure that our next dinner date would have to be at The Farm. (If you are from The Farm, and you’d like to acknowledge this review, you have to thank him via twitter @jctamayo17, because it was his idea.)

Farm Salad with Grilled Steak


To start off with something light and fresh, their Farm Salad is an amazing marriage of bitter, sweet, tangy, savory, smooth and crunchy. All of the good things have come to one dish, and it even has a good cut of steak (though not that much; and I’m not really sure which cut of beef they used). The salad is a mix of romaine lettuce, arugula, feta cheese, and candied walnuts, drizzled generously with a mango dressing. The steak is served perfectly medium rare (unless you request otherwise), and compliments the dish well. It feels and tastes so fresh, that it has a hint of the meat’s own earthy sweetness to it like good fresh meat does, independently from the salad dressing. The steak does well not to overpower the rest of the salad, and makes the mango-and-walnut combo shine like real superstars.

This dish deserves a 5/5.

 Organic Roast Beef


I have many qualms with this dish. Taste-wise, I don’t understand if their roast beef was trying to accomplish a Southern country kind of vibe, or if they’re trying to pull off a Filipino taste. It’s rather confusing, with very little direction. It isn’t very memorable either, only hints of garlic, and something unintentionally tangy in the marinade comes to mind. Which confuses me as to why they offer some sort of mushroom gravy (or was it soup?) on the side, because it just doesn’t pair up well. The gravy did taste pretty good, though, so instead, I just drowned the meat in gravy.

I don’t very well remember if they offered to give an alternative side dish to this meal, instead of mashed potatoes. But either way, it comes with garlic rice. To which, I make my second point: garlic rice does not taste good when it’s cold. In terms of service, the food takes a long while before it gets to the table, which is usually understandable, because they prep everything fresh off the order sheet. But when food comes to you cold, that’s just not leisurely dining–that’s leisurely serving.

It is difficult to enjoy good flavors when it’s not in the right temperature. And as always, good food isn’t only judged by its taste. It is under scrutiny for its presentation, its texture, creativity in execution, but also temperature. Temperature is very, very important.

I was really disappointed with this dish, so I won’t score it on an over-five basis; I’ll just leave it be. Just know that it failed me gravely.

I was so sad.

Fries, oh glorious redemption.


When I ordered fries, my line of thought was like this: Oh, the menu is big on steaks, so prolly like southern cooking kind of thing. Hm, I’m thinking thick cut fries with the skin still on, and it’s prolly baked too.

But it isn’t. They’re beautiful, and crisp, and golden. Well-seasoned, but doesn’t mask the nutty, meaty flavor of potatoes. Like Luther said, “Nothing gratuitous, nothing unnecessary.” Crunchy to bite, but delicate to chew. Just very well-balanced.


Some Berry Crush Drink in a Hipster’s Mason Jar


I wasn’t kidding.

The ice was clumped and too thick, and you couldn’t drink it through the straw. I loved the taste, over-all, as the sweetness doesn’t overpower the naturally sharp tanginess of the berries. There are bits of berries that you could even bite. However, with the density of the drink, it becomes more like a shaved ice dessert, rather than a beverage.


Chocolate Mousse



That’s right, an organic-everything chocolate mousse. Hard to imagine that such a sinful delight could ever be part of anything helping the earth. But I’m sure that it’s helping to keep this review positive. The top is light and creamy, with the sweetness just-so. The ganache-like layer is rich, and melts in your mouth. The last layer of chocolate is dense and moist, tying together the taste of one bite in deep, chocolate euphoria. This dish gets a 4/5.

The Verdict

Overall, the food tasted amazing. Most of it, anyway. The service was very slow, and an order of fries took forever. Being the first branch The Farm has, and being a small one at that, we could understand if they have a staff-to-customer ratio issue. It’s pretty common. But the customer service problem is something they’ll have to improve on. And I hope to see better from them the next time I come around, because I’m pretty sure I will. The food is good enough to come back for, and I’d love to try out their burgers and pizzas soon. Maybe then, I’ll change my mind. But for now, The Farm Organics in Alabang Hills receives a 3.5/5 from me. Almost a 4, but not quite so.

If you’d like to check out The Farm for yourself, you could visit them at this address: The Farm Resto, One Legacy Place, Don Jesus Blvd., Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa City. 

You could learn more about the restaurant and their organic meat via their official website, or their Facebook page.

Avatar Korra says Goodbye to Television


Jerkalodeon tumblr_n972sc6iPg1rv6ukfo3_500

Angry fans unleashed a raging wave of tweets and tumblr posts in the panic of Avatar: The Legend of Korra‘s possible cancellation earlier today, following the announcement of NickAndMore that the show would be pulled off air from their semi-weekly schedule on Nickelodeon.

Don’t worry Korra, your approval ratings are higher than Nickelodeon’s.


LoK is currently in its third season, with the eighth episode to be aired tomorrow as the final Avatar episode to be shown on television. The remaining five episodes have since been pulled off from the lineup. This sudden goodbye is said to be attributed to low viewer ratings for the television show.

Avatar co-creator Bryan Konietzko posted on his tumblog and twitter to clarify that the show wasn’t exactly cancelled, per se, only “moving to digital”, whatever that means, and that further announcements will be provided during their San Diego Comic Con panel.

from Bryan's official tumblr
Korra not cancelled. Moving to Digital. We’ll talk at SDCC. Thanks for caring.” -B. Konietzko

Co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino adds,

Hang tight, Korra fans. There is 1 new episode this Friday at 8, then the rest of the season will be available from various sites online. We’ll let you know when we have more details. Thanks!

The season finale would have been the 100th episode produced under the Avatar cartoon franchise, comprising of 61 episodes from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and 26 episodes from LoK seasons 1 and 2 combined, coming up to a hundred when season 3 closes with its 13th episode. To add to the disappointment, that means there will be no hundred-episode marathon to be televised for Avatar.

Not even Zuko could help Nickelodeon regain their honor at this point


The fans of Korra are calling on their fellow attendees to the SDCC to give co-creators Bryke a standing ovation at their panel. In fact, as the eighth episode of the season, and the last Avatar episode to be aired on TV will go on tomorrow, Friday, July 25, fans are calling to make it Bryke Appreciation Day, to fill social media such as tumblr and twitter with their favorite Avatar posts, as a sign of gratitude for the co-creators Konietzko and DiMartino, and the team who created the show.

I don’t know about you guys, but SpongeBob seems happy about the news. He did escape the rumors of his cancellation, after all.

For many, Bryke’s announcement of the show’s migration to a digital platform was half-comforting, in the worry that the fourth season would be cancelled for good, since the announcement only covered the last five episodes, until DiMartino’s recent Facebook update:

(…) there is most definitely a Book 4. All the pre-production is done and Studio Mir is hard at work on the animation. So this was a disappointing development for sure but as long as you all are able to see the show in some capacity, I’m grateful. And honestly, you’re all watching it online anyway, right?

The last statement seems to be hinting at the greatest cause of Korra’s falling ratings. The 3rd season’s first episode garnered as much as 1.5million, and the fourth dropping to 1.1million. This may seem to be a problem, however, this digital migration Korra must undergo seems only natural for this day and age. According to ReQuest®, a quarterly telecommunication behavioral study conducted by TNS, more than a third (34%) of the 20,000 US Respondent Households have streamed online content. TNS study Connected Life also found that among some fifty thousand online respondents, almost half (48%) are engaged in some online activity, whether social media or shopping, simultaneously while watching television at night.

 It is easy to infer that a large chunk of the viewers are fans of ATLA, which started airing from about nine years ago. The generally older audience would entail busier lifestyles in comparison to children, making online streaming a better option for them, as it gives them not only control of time, but the ability to access content on-the-go via mobile devices. Additionally, as the Avatar fanbase has expanded globally, non-US fans would opt to watch the videos online and in real-time, rather than wait for months until their local Nickelodeon channels would be up-to-date with the show.

The preferencial shift from television-to-digital sounds troubling for Korra fans, but for Nickelodeon to take the first step now, preemptive to the drastic shift, allows the network to solidify their base on the online market. If Nick’s move to put Korra online deems itself successful, then it would allow for a new venue for future show creators.

But that is for the future. And today, the impact of the loss of a female, Person of Color protagonist on a non-romance-centered television show means more for some fans. As korratea writes:

korra not being on tv means there’s THAT many more little brown girls who aren’t going to see themselves represented in the tv shows they watch and that fucking sucks

I sympathize, being a brown little girl that once looked up to Katara, knowing her as probably the only character I knew I could dress up as. (Princess Jasmine, Pocahontas, but they’re too pretty.)

Well, let’s just hope those little brown girls have high speed internet where they are. For now, all we can do is pray.

Our Lady of Weightlessness, guide us through these troubling times.
Our Lady of Weightlessness, guide us through these troubling times.

Are you as affected as we are by this loss? Do you think Nick’s move to digital is a good idea, or a form of surrender?

Updates will follow as soon as announcements are made at SDCC.

A Garden by the Sea


Imagine yourself sipping lemonade on a warm summer day, while overlooking the beautiful Italian seaside, breathing in the crisp, sea-salt air. Take a few seconds on that. Now let me tell you that it wouldn’t take you more than a few simple ingredients to recreate that moment. Light, refreshing, healthy, and absolutely delicious, it’s a complete surprise how simple this is to make.


Insalata de Mare simply translates to seafood salad. There is no traditional or specific set of requirements on how to make Insalata de Mare, as there are many kinds–some are made with literally only seafood. This one is inspired by Cibo’s Insalata de Mare, and comes in directly as a food hack. Though Cibo’s chefs are geniuses and deserve every peso they earn, I can’t dish out 400 bucks for every time my body says “Salad! Salad!”



  • Shrimp or Prawns, peeled, washed, deveined/butterflied
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Other seafood–Squid, Lobster, Mussels, Oyster, Clams
  • Recommended additional greens–alfalfa sprouts, arugula, Lola Rossa, shredded zucchini
  • Fresh basil leaves, picked and washed
  • Parmagiano-Reggiano
  • Olive Oil (or hydrogenated coconut/vegetable oil is alright)
  • Garlic
  • Balsamic Vinegar (or substitute with equal parts red wine and cane/white vinegar and two teaspoons/more brown sugar)
  • Filleted Tuna
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon
  • Salt & Pepper


For the Pesto:

Chop up a couple cloves of garlic and tear some fresh basil leaves. Put them into a blender or food processor with some oil and parmesan and pulse for a couple of seconds. You can include some rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. If you’re making a large batch of pesto for future use, make sure to keep a sterilized, air-tight jar.

To make the vinaigrette, just mix the pesto and balsamic vinegar/red wine, white or cane vinegar, brown sugar together in a small bowl. The pesto-to-vinegar ratio should be roughly 1:3.

Insalata de Mare

Heat some oil on a pan, and lightly sautee all the seafood together. Toss in with the greens: romaine, lola rosa, alfalfa sprouts, arugula. Have the vinaigrette in a separate saucer. When you’re ready to eat, just pour over the salad and toss lightly.


Lemon Seared Tuna

Have your tuna cleaned and filleted. Make sure you trust where you buy your tuna from. If it’s fresh tuna, leave the skin on. If you’re buying the ready-filleted frozen tuna from your grocery store, try to find the ones that are certified sashimi-quality, with the packaging vacuumed and air-tight. The fish won’t be sliced into steaks until after cooking. So, with a knife, make incisions every two inches across the fish. Also make sure that your sources for lemon do not use pesticides or coloring. And if you aren’t sure about it, just wash the lemon before you begin cooking.

Thinly slice four cloves of garlic and put it into a large bowl with a few splashes of olive oil/vegetable oil for the marinade. Take your lemon and use a micro-grater to zest the lemon. Roll the lemon on your counter-top to get the juices flowing, and cut off the top half. Slice off the rinds and mince them and include them to your marinade. Set the lemon aside. Take a sprig of rosemary and pick off the leaves. Crush them in your palm and throw them into the marinade. Toss together.

Make sure your hands are clean for this one. Sprinkle salt and freshly grate some pepper on your tuna, and rub lightly. Toss it into the marinade and massage lightly. Let it sit on some of the lemon and garlic, and sprinkle some of the lemon and garlic on top.

While the fish is settling with the flavors, heat up a pan. You can choose to not oil the pan anymore since the marinade has enough of it. If you are oiling the pan, use vegetable oil or peanut oil, not olive since it burns faster than the others. Heat the oil but don’t let it smoke. Regardless of oil, check if the pan is at its hottest. When it is, use a pair of tongs to take your fillet and cook skin-side down. Only wait until the skin crisps up and spreads the heat a bit towards the center before you change sides.

Don’t overcook. The entire point of a good pan-seared fish is that you get the best flavor of the fish by cooking up the skin quickly, but without drying out the center of the fish. Tuna is reddish when raw. A light pink with about a centimeter of white around the margin  is a good texture for pan-seared tuna. You know it’s cooked, because it flakes easily, but it isn’t dried out. Don’t worry, though. If you really do prefer your steaks and fish well-done, or if you don’t trust your fish supplier 100%, feel free to cook the fish all the way through, or cut the fillet into individual steaks from the beginning.

Plate your fish with your greens, but take a minute or two before you carve the fish, just to let the juices settle in. Before you serve, have a final sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste, and squeeze the lemon over. Garnish with slices of lemon and a sprig of rosemary.


And there you have it–a simple, refreshing, and flavorful meal.

Four Weeks.

Twenty-eight days.

Six hundred and seventy-two hours.

Forty thousand, three hundred and twenty minutes.

Two million, four hundred and nineteen thousand, and two hundred seconds.

I haven’t been in her car for almost a month. She always kept a bag of sweet-corn flavored snacks and a box of other cookies and biscuits. She had a pink bear in the back seat to accompany her often heavy luggage. In the morning, the car smelled like freshly poured coffee.

Before, we’d be together in the morning ride to campus, during lunch, after class, in meetings in the evening, and in the car ride back home. And this was on every day, even on Fridays and Saturdays when we both didn’t have scheduled classes. We went to campus to study together, from morning ‘til evening. There was even a time when she stayed over for two nights. We became unaccustomed to being away for a day apart, even missing a car ride would feel kind of iffy.

What troubles me now isn’t how long I haven’t seen Abigail. What troubles me is that I’ve stopped counting the days.

It isn’t that big of a deal, really. Abie’s not off in a different country, fighting in a war. She’s not lost or kidnapped. She’s at home, only five minutes away from mine, and she’s been enjoying her Christmas break. So it doesn’t make sense for me to have a need to think about a friend who’s safe and sound in the comfort of her own home.

But that’s just it, I haven’t.

I haven’t talked to her in a while, or tweeted, or even slightly cared about how her vacation is going. And now that I realized just how easy it is for me to be alone, how easy it is for me to let go of friends when they’re not around, it’s a discomforting thought.

It’s discomforting to think that I can live my life without these people. It’s discomforting to think that I’m okay. It’s discomforting to think that I’ve done this before, to so many other friends. Should I even be called a friend? Or am I just a passing phase? Or are they just a passing phase in my life?

How many people have I let go of? And how many friends did I forget?

What is a friend?

Is a friend a person who makes an effort to see you on a regular basis, or at least try to arrange a reunion despite the difficulty? Or is a friend a person that is just effortlessly there in your life, that, without trying, has found a place with you?

After all, if I have to work for it, then it wasn’t meant for me, right?

But what about all the people who tried so hard to hold on to me, those who tried to find a way, and those who did make an effort to give me a spot in their lives—did I lose them because they left, or did they leave because I pushed them away?

I was afraid.

I was afraid of being loved, or to even be thought of by such good people, and to be given so much of their time and effort for our friendship to survive. And I was afraid of being loved this way, not because I was afraid of getting hurt, but because I honestly believed that there was nothing of me to be loved, and nothing that I have which I could give back to them.

Or perhaps I just didn’t want to. Or just that I didn’t want to learn how.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love, and be loved in return.”

(from Moulin Rouge, 2001.)


Let’s Be Friends

Break-ups can be painful and scarring, but no one can deny that they’re part of life. They shape us just as much as relationships do. We’re built up, not only by the things we take in, but also by the things we let go of.

I’ve received a series of similar questions from anonymous askers via Ask.FM, and these answers pretty much sum up how I feel about ex-boyfriends.

What does it mean if your ex wants to be friends with you?

In general, I’d suppose it would depend on the manner and reason for the breakup. For the most part, an ex trying to be your friend would just mean that he perhaps wishes that the relationship didn’t happen, that you would’ve been good as friends before. Or he feels guilty for doing something, and hopes you could find a peace with each other. It would only mean that he wants to get back together, if the reason for breaking up wasn’t really worth losing you over. Other than that, an ex wants to be friends, because he wants to be friends.

Either that, or he wants to seem like friends, because he wants to keep his reputation clean and want to look good and innocent to other people.
Would you want to be friends with your ex after the break-up?
Like, right after the break up? No. I’d like to be left alone. When I’m fine, we can be friends again.

The only person who asks to be friends right after the breakup is the person who cares more about his reputation and just doesn’t want to look like an ass in front of people.
“Friends to lovers, possible. Lovers to friends, never.” Agree? By lovers, I mean those who are in a relationship.
Why do you disagree?
This is about the lovers to friends thing, right? Well, because not all breakups are painful and horrible. In some of them, you both just realize that you didn’t want to be in a relationship. Just because you guys were super close before didn’t mean you should have been together. And upon realizing that, it’s not such a bad breakup. It could hurt, because then you’d realize how much time you wasted trying to build or fix a relationship that wasn’t really meant for you both in the first place. Other than that, you’ll get back just fine. The small details about your life that you let only him know would still be there, and even though you’re not together, you at least make a good friend you could even end up trusting more than others.
How long does it usually take someone to move on?    

The rule is usually half the relationship period. But if you ask me, it kind of takes five to eight months.
How do you make your ex regret leaving you?

Well the first step is to not think about making your ex regret leaving you. If you do think like that, everything you do will be done for that ex. The trick is to do everything for yourself. Get back on your own two feet, live your life, learn to not be dependent on another’s love to survive.

What if I’m the one who broke up with him and right after the break up, he keeps on INSISTING to be friends with me? EVen though the break up’s been a month already   

Maybe he didn’t like the way things ended for the both of you. Why, do you think he’s trying to find a way to get back?

No. I was actually thinking that maybe he wasn’t as hurt as I am cause he can stand being friends with me and he even insists it. 

If that is true, that doesn’t give him an excuse to force his terms on you. Ask him to give you your time and space. Tell him that what he’s doing is insensitive towards you, and that if he really is your friend and cares about your well-being, then he has to learn to leave you alone. If he doesn’t really care about you as a friend, and is insisting on this friendship just so that being together in the same room/group of friends won’t feel “awkward” anymore, or so it wouldn’t make him look like a jerk to have a new relationship, then he can learn to fuck off.

Do you think it’s possible to move on from a broken relationship within a month, if you’ve been with that person for almost a year?
If the past few months of that relationship was all about falling apart and breaking away, then it’s possible. Are you the person who has an ex that insists on being a friend? If you are, your ex might have seen this breakup coming from a while back, and managed to prepare himself for the fall. Whereas you tried to work hard to keep things together. So at this point, you might feel that it’s unfair. Why is he not so hurt, and why does he want to be friends? Why do I feel so alone? Why does it feel like I was the only one doing everything? I feel exhausted, used, hurt. Why do you not feel this way? Why are you okay with everything when I’m a total wreck? Those kinds of things. What you should know is that the other person must have felt like this too, but gave up long ago.
Why do you think badly of ex’s that want to be friends right away?
When I say that they want to be friends right away, to protect a reputation or to have a ‘go’ signal that they can date other people again, it comes from experience. I’ve been that person, sort of. I’ve been the person to pretend that we’re friends, or ask to be friends, even though I know that “you” aren’t okay yet. I’ve been the one to somewhat force “you” into a situation to act like you feel better about everything, when “you” were still hurting. Because, you know, I didn’t want to have to walk the same hallway and not say hi to you. I didn’t want to leave the same set of friends. You should know that as much as I forced you to be okay, I was forcing myself to learn to be okay with it too.

But I’ve also been the person on the receiving end of it. “We’re still friends though, right?” ended up as a way to make sure “he” didn’t look bad in front of other people, especially when he was trying to court another girl. It also gave him an excuse to say “she’s totally fine with us dating; we’re friends” to this new girl.
And I realized, it’s not just me. With the friends I’ve listened to, maybe like you, dear Anon, if you’re the same one asking the questions, it happens all the time.
I guess I’m not really angry at these ex’s. I can understand. They’re just as confused as we all are, and to the best of their judgment, being friends is something they think they should do. If there’s one thing I learned in this world, there are no villains, only victims. People who hurt us do hurtful things, because they believe it’s the best way to protect themselves. Still, learn to protect yourself too. Be angry if angry; express pain if you’re hurt. You can’t begin to forgive someone before you’ve let them know that they’ve done you a great deal wrong.
So now that you now what ive been going through, would u give me some advice on what i should do now?    

Well, for starters, tell that person the reason why you aren’t ready to be friends just yet, if you’re ever to be friends at all. Also, if you have common friends who may be affected by this separation, let them know. Take your time to grow and heal, and learn to take care of yourself without depending on someone else. You can go on dates, if you like. But remember that not all dates have to become relationships. Only enter a new relationship when you feel like you aren’t going to look at this new person, and hope that he fills up whatever gaping hole the previous one left behind. Whether or not you become friends with your ex at the end of it all is totally unrelated. By friends, I mean close friends who regularly meet and hang. But you /should/ be on good terms with him.

Do you know about the Three Month Rule? Do you believe in it?
I don’t know anyone who’s ever dated and never knew about the three month rule, haha. So yes, I know it. I don’t believe in it, but it’s a damn good rule to establish. A lot of people just go and wreck themselves over the notion of love and eternity without even thinking about what happened to them in the past, so they date new people and repeat the cycle of what hurt them in the first place. But I don’t believe in the three month rule in a sense that there are mature people who know what they’re getting in to, and there are also people who are only casual daters, so it doesn’t really matter if they date someone new a day after the breakup.
What can you say about couples who get their names tattooed on each other, but break up only in a matter of months?
They’re impulsive romanticists. I don’t want to judge them. It’s not that they’re doing anything wrong, really. So they fell in love and fell out of it, what now? I’m sure they feel pretty stupid themselves, so I don’t want to add to their humiliation. I’m kind of proud of them, actually, to learn to let go of their fears that they’ll end up broken apart soon, and just fall recklessly and freely in love with each other regardless of that fear.I don’t know. I think society’s dumb for calling people like these dumb, or too idealistic, like having dreams is ever a wrong thing. You know what renders people incapable of getting back up after a break-up? All the scornful people who told them to wake up to reality, because happy endings are only in fairytales, that’s what. Why can’t we all just congratulate them on trying to find love in an otherwise hopeless world, right?

Taxi Cabs, Condoms, and Catholicism

Why is it that, in the Philippines, Taxi Cab drivers are picky when it comes to their customers? And on a side note, why do beggars complain when they get small donations?

Because the traffic regulation system in the country is totally shit, so some trips are less profitable than others. Taxi drivers should retain some right to choose the trips, I think. Like a lot of the taxis we see in central Manila park at Valenzuela, and that’s fucking far. If you ask the driver to take you to Las Pinas via service road during rush hour, then that makes them waste gas because of the bad traffic, it’s going to be one hellafa long ride home for them, and worst of all, they wouldn’t get that many customers there. So it sometimes gets irritating, but I sometimes want to take the side of the cab driver. If only I were rich enough to pay a fixed rate of five hundred bucks whenever I have to take a long cab ride. So if you aren’t rich, the solution is don’t take a cab, take a fucking bus, a train, a jeep and an FX.

 As for the beggars, wellllll, the world hasn’t treated them fairly, and in fact, they’re suffering. We’re going to do a small favor for them, and we’ll do it half-baked? They’re just people who are tired of the injustice of the world, and tired of the fact that they were born helpless and without the opportunity or capability to get out of their situation. Sometimes, it isn’t really their fault.

I’m a firm believer in the underdog, hahahahaha.

What if giving donations to beggars isn’t the answer to injustice?

And so if it isn’t? Because it really isn’t, you know. I know what I said about how they have every reason to react badly to a donation of a peso or something. But I didn’t say that they even had the right to beg in the first place. Begging is illegal anyway, and why inconvenience the upper classes with the burden of having to provide for those incapable of contributing to society?

But the thing is, as much as we shouldn’t give to them, they can’t provide for themselves. (Because if they could, why the hell would they beg, right?) So what I’m getting at is, that it isn’t their fault. They beg because they’re poor, because their parents couldn’t provide for them, because they don’t have proper jobs, because they weren’t provided with good education, because their own parents were total shitfaces back in their day.
So we can’t solve these kids’ problems today, and right away, but we can contribute to making sure that it doesn’t happen to the millions of kids to come in the future. What we can do now is build the foundation for better quality and more affordable education programs, and more employment opportunities.
So do you think the Reproductive Health Bill is the answer to poverty?
One of the steps, yes. Not exactly the answer to poverty. It takes a lot of different things to prevent and alleviate poverty.What I think is important to remember about the RH Bill is that it isn’t meant to be a direct answer to poverty. The principle behind it is that we who have money can buy our own contraceptives if we wanted to, can go see doctors to consult, and avail of health services when we need them. We, who have money, have a choice. It’s as if saying that if you have money, you have freedom. And if you’re poor, you don’t have freedom. What the RH Bill ensures, more than anything, is the closing of that gap. You’re free to choose what to do with your body, whether you’re rich or poor.So what the RH Bill ultimately becomes is not limited to giving contraceptives to the poor so they’ll have less children. It becomes a way of granting the poor access to the rights and resources the rich have, at least in terms of reproductive health services. And isn’t that the first step you take to eradicate poverty?
It took me like six years of my life to see it this way.
What are your views on being Catholic but doing a lot of non-Catholic things (being pro-RH, swearing, all the like)?    

 There’s a specific reason to certain issues, like the ones you pointed out, why I think they’re okay, and sometimes even, possibly in line with what I believe in as a member of the Catholic Church. Being pro-RH, for example, is just me believing in equality and the value of freedom (if you’ve read my previous explanation).

Swearing, on the other hand, is what I think to be a contextual thing. The words ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ still are bad words to use, mind you. But in the context of our language, and how English is growing in this day and age, a lot of it is used more of an adjective/adverb than to actually mean fornication and fecal matter. Using ‘fucking’ to mean ‘very extremely’, is easier to understand for most. I like learning about words as much as the next bookworm, but in this day and age, I think people would find me weird to say “superlatively” or something else. At the end of the day, it isn’t the word that’s wrong, but how you use it. If you aren’t talking to your elders or children, it’s fine. I think the only reason why elders and children would find those words offensive would be because in the context of their age, it should be. If you think about it, telling someone that you wished they were thrown into a pit of ravenous beasts for them to die an extremely painful death is still a worse thing to say than “Dude, I think this pie you baked is fucking delicious! This shit’s amazing!”

As for the other things that may seem un-Catholic, the only other thing I have left to say is that Jesus is kind of a radical. He believed that man is naturally good, and people should not adhere to the laws of man, but to the laws of God, and that we shouldn’t trouble ourselves with keeping the technicalities of these laws, but only to love God and neighbor. Jesus didn’t bother with following the rules when it came to, like, following the certain way of washing hands. And even when he met a whore about to be stoned to death, Christ was the first to tell us that it’s not in our hands to say what is right and wrong for that person. What matters is we don’t hurt each other, and we promote a culture of love around us. I mean, he took the most ungodly people to be his disciples, and he came from a long line of sinners. He’s here to make us believe that whoever we are, wherever we come from, and whatever we do, He’s going to be here to love us, and His only request is that we love others too.

If you think about that, what right have you, or anyone, as part of this Church, to tell me that I’m going to hell for the things I stand for? If I promote the RH Bill, or Homosexual Marriage, if I’m anti-dress code? Isn’t it less Christ-like to promote hate and prejudice? An important thing to think about.

I’m a huge sucker for prompts. If you want to leave me questions, you can do so at Tumblr or Ask.FM.