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The Leftovers of a Travel Experience

Lenten Rites at Cutud, Pampanga

 

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Maleldo 2016 was an eye-opening experience on how Holy Week is celebrated in our country. This one in Cutud, Pampanga truly challenged my perceptions.But I only have respect for the people and culture of San Fernando as this practice has been apart of their lives since the 1950s.

Some people call it barbaric and it is likely that the Catholic Church does not approve of it. But witnessing it was not for me to judge but to understand such tradition in order to reflect on my own meaning of sacrifice.

The blood was immediately arresting to onlookers and it spattered everywhere the penitents walked. This is underscored by the sweltering heat of the sun, close to unbearable temperatures. Seemed like sacrifices were being made by everyone present on the site.

I walked away not just with pictures but a widened perception on the things we are willing to do for our faith. I remember that for Catholicism, sacrifice is a big tenet. That is why Catholics revere the Christ on the cross.

Thank you Travel Factor and Tour coordinator Che Sasoy for bringing me closer to this unique Holy Week experience. ‪

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See the gallery of pictures after the jump.

Continue reading “Lenten Rites at Cutud, Pampanga”

Outback Steakhouse

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I’m not a huge steak fan but when you are in a place like Australia, I guess it is pretty inevitable to end up eating steak. Beef is quite common in Aussie dishes, perhaps reflecting the abundance of meat in the Outback. Their steaks are very thick slabs of beef and mostly char-grilled depending on your preference.

I got a chance to visit the Outback Steakhouse in Sydney back when it was still new (circa 2010). I really loved their fried onion blossom aside from its pretty presentation and huge size. We also tried some sloppy fries (no picture as it looked sloppy, duh) and their yummy baby back ribs. To make things appear healthier, we had some salad with grilled fruit. As you know, everything is bigger in Sydney so a family of four might have a hard time devouring all of the dishes we ate!

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Inside the Winery There Are…

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Barrels. Hundreds upon hundreds of barrels that contain fermented grapes.

Going inside one of Hunter Valley’s wineries wasn’t so phenomenal (maybe perhaps I did not fully appreciate wine at that time) but it was my first time to see where wine is kept to age. We had various wine tasting sessions and I tried to learn how to discriminate tastes and flavors. But the only thing I really learned was swirling, of which was an utter failure the first time because I swirled too hard and the wine spilled out of the glass!

Nonetheless, it was interesting to see the huge barrels stacked on top of each other. Too bad, these pictures were taken before selfies were invented so our shots were terribly shaky.

Occupy Beach Street

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A Sunday in Penang is pretty laid-back and the streets are not so crowded except for Beach Street. From early morning to midday, red tents are pitched on both sides of the passage and cars are banned. The center lane becomes a boardwalk where people can shop, chat, and be entertained by the various things going on all at the same time.

This is called Occupy Beach Street and I was lucky enough to experience it! I presume this was taken from the “Occupy Wall Street” event in 2011 and the organizers had a play on words to come up with “Occupy Beach Street.” Though it was not an resurgence of the 99 percent versus the one percent, this Malaysian version was 99 percent entertaining and one percent surprising.

Locals were peddling their goods including locally brewed teas (delicious Chrysanthemum tea), interesting ant-eater carnivorous plants (bought by Vince), toys and candies, balloons, and different home-made foods.

There were also entertainers there street dancing, making people laugh, and this one guy who used recycled items to make instruments. The showstopper though was that he was a one-man band! He did a really sweet rendition of the classic “When Will I see You Again.” All of these were really entertaining,  but I was particularly surprised by the cleaver massage where meat cleavers were being used to massage the shoulder of a woman. Strange but true!

There was also a man teaching Chinese calligraphy and there’s a huge snakes and ladders board on the street. We tried to play it but it was too hot by that time.

This was a really good stop to hang out on a Sunday in Penang!

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22 Foodtastic Penang!

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Penang is a food mecca. It’s the place of convergence  for dishes coming from all over Asia, influenced strongly by Chinese, Thai, and Indian cooking traditions. I lost myself in this place as I was basically just inhaling all the food around me, thanks to my travel companion Vince.

I only had a couple of days in this wonderful island, but I took in as much as my stomach could. And my heart was just so happy trying out all of these wonderful dishes. So go print out this list once you plan to drop by Penang. Vince, who’s been in Penang for quite some time, helped me out in coming up with this list of 22 food places to try. I guarantee that I have tried all of these and they are all good!

Jemput makan!

1. Springly Dry noodles with Chicken Chop – Old Town Coffee
2. Alu Ghobi Masala – Kapitan
3. Cendol – Lebuh Keng Kwee
4. Nasi Lemak – Nasi Lemak Ali at Lebuh Pantai
5. Chicken Floss Bread – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
6. Twiggies Tiramisu – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
7. Apple Fruit Drink with Aloe – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
8. Milo Nuggets! – Any Malaysian Convenience Store
9. Dimsum – Tai Tong Restaurant
10. Durian Ice Cream – Kek Seng Coffee Shop
11. Salted Egg Lotus Biscuit – Seng Seng Heang at Ayer Itam
12. Dry Wantan Mee – Lebuh Aceh
13. Bottled Lemon Drink – Huey and Wah Cafe
14. Lo Bak – Kheng Pin Cafe
15. Wantan Mee Soup – Lebuh Aceh
16. Tea C Peng Special or Three Layer Tea – Most Hawker Centres
17. Nutella Cake – China House, Georgetown
18. Laksa – Jalan Penang
19. Lotus Biscuits – Ming Xiang Tai
20. Pork in Black Vinegar – Pit Stop Cafe at Lorong Chulia
21. Specialty Fried Chicken – Pit Stop Cafe at Lorong Chulia
22. Pad See Ew – Pit Stop Cafe at Lorong Chulia

Vincent Ian Zabala is a Filipino-American based in Malaysia. He is a food enthusiast and an avid traveler like me! 

Remembering Patan Durbar Square

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With well-preserved structures dating back to the 1600s, Patan Durbar Square has been considered a UNESCO Heritage Site — a true gem of Nepal. I was lucky enough to visit this place before the big Nepal Earthquake and it is just an amazing sight to see. I have never seen an architecture so intricate and unique anywhere else I’ve been and it actually surprises me how they’ve been standing for so long and just survive the elements (except for the earthquake).

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The Durbar square is actually a complex of Hindu temples though Nepal is a unique mixture of both Buddhism and Hinduism. Both religiions sit side by side at peace. (How I wish Islam and Christianity co-existed peacefully here in the Philippines.) Because of this openness in religion, the experience is so unique that I don’t think there’s any other country in Central Asia that has this kind of dynamic in religion.

PhototasticCollage-2015-09-21-22-07-10It’s a piece of Nepal’s history, sadly taken down by the Earth’s tectonic movement. Structures were shaken to the ground. And much of the pictures posted here have vanished along with the innocent lives that have given life to this peaceful place.

A colleague of mine works for Teach for Nepal. One of their teachers died in the incident. Recovery efforts are still ongoing and if you would like to help please visit http://nepalrelief.teachfornepal.org/ to know more about the organization and how to donate.

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Alluring Leura

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If Sydney has attracted me with its bright lights and busy streets, going to the countryside has made me appreciate the quieter side of New South Wales. Just near the famous Blue Mountains National Park,  there’s this place called Leura, a charming small town surrounded by beautiful foliage and old-style homes and stores.

It was such a cozy place to just chill-out, relax, and appreciate the scenery.

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Compared to the big and overbearing malls we often see in the city, Leura has their strand of little shops and cafes that will win your heart for sure. I personally appreciated the little stores that sold candies in jars and a shop that sold handmade dolls.

Best of all, I found a bench dedicated to “bored husbands”. A perfect place to sit while the rest did their shopping.

You can reach Leura by car or by train. Just check out the Sydney transportation website!

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A Taste of Nepali Milk Tea

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Sweet. Nutty. Rich.

That’s how I described it the first time I had a taste of the popular Nepali milk tea. I am used to the milk tea here in the Philippines as it recently became a craze– every corner has a milk tea shop now. So what I am used to is the Taiwanese style of milk tea. Good Taiwanese milk tea is light, a bit more diluted perhaps, since it has less milk usually or because soy milk is used as substitute.

On the other hand, Nepali milk tea or chiya for the locals is denser and creamier. It felt like it had more milk and was mixed in brown sugar and had a little hint of nutmeg. I was so intrigued tasting it for the first time because I never tasted milk tea this way before. I also looked at its color and it was not the usual light brown I see in Taiwanese milk tea. This one had a deeper brown and orange color.

In Nepal, chiya is a staple drink. They usually have it for breakfast instead of coffee, and they have another one in the afternoon. One of my friends, Shisir, told me that chiya was so important in their meals that they take this tea first thing in the morning even before having a breakfast meal.

This curiosity of mine lead me to one of the houses in the community I stayed in. So before having breakfast with my foster family, I was fortunate enough to watch the mother make chiya. It was an amazing sight to see because the tea was “cooked”.

She cooked the milk, had it simmer, then poured brown sugar. When everything came to a boil, she put the tea leaves and towards the end, some spice that I would later on identify as nutmeg. She scooped out the thin film that formed on top of the brew and poured it on a strainer to take out the leaves.

Voila, chiya!

It’s a good thing I’m able to do it at home.

Tea time!

-MR

A Healthy Bite of Leura

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It’s crazy how Australia puts other countries to shame when it comes to food freshness. They grow some of the best vegetables I’ve ever tasted and every restaurant I’ve been to serves them fresh,

Leura, a particular suburb I’ve been to, has this place called Loaves and Dishes. It’s a beautiful and simple nook along the strand arcade of this quaint little town. You won’t even notice its there until you’ve passed through the other stores.

This small cafe serves delicious, healthy food, and even gluten-free options. The dishes on the menu were nothing strange so we went ahead to order some salad, fritattas, and pumpkin soup. To cut this short– everything we ordered were just darn good.

And healthy…so I did not feel guilty having a full stomach.

Just drool over these pictures.:)

-MR

website: http://www.loavesanddishes.com.au/

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