Monday, April 9, 2012

PICTURE THIS : Fresh Salsa

      The picture above will be the first of the Picture This series. Simply because there are times when pictures can convey much more than words ever can.


©CherWriter 2012.04.09


     Manila is a vibrant city with lots of things to occupy yourself with on a shoestring budget.

     There is the iconic Luneta Park or Rizal Park where you can find Kilometer Zero,the marble marker in front of the monument of one of the Philippines' national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, where road distances in the archipelago are referenced.

     In Intramuros, your feet can take you back in time as you navigate the cobblestone streets to marvel at the old wall city and steep yourself in the architecture during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines especially when you get to visit San Agustin church. You could take a stroll on the streets of Binondo where the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit will surely get you to sample cheap, filling and tasty eats.

     But let's just say that like me, you find yourself in the middle of a scorching hot afternoon during Holy Week  and going around Manila is just not practical. You've cleaned the house, watered the plants, fed the pets, and hung the laundry, which by the way, is more cardiovascular exercise than I would ever find myself doing in the gym. What can you do while catching your breath?

     Seek sanctuary in the kitchen and attempt to replicate the elusive vendor-quality fishball sauce that you know is what made student haunts like UP famous! 

     You might argue that street foods in Manila are so commonplace that you can choose from  a good mix to stave off hunger pangs, or that incessant craving for "anything when you just have to eat something." Why bother to whip something up when your friendly neighborhood hawker is just around the corner. But then, this is Holy Week and if you are in Manila, it's so quiet and "shut down" that it's like having the place all to yourself.

     So,  I dusted off a sauce pan and got these:

          Let me just say that in terms of measurements for how to make the fishball sauce, I am sorry to tell you that I didn't measure how much of each ingredient I put in. It's not because I didn't have measuring cups or spoons but it's sort of a family thing that I was really taught not to be too dependent on measurements for certain things that you cook but you trust on your own sense of taste to define the flavors that you create in the kitchen, which I think is a good thing (as long as you are not doing pastry.... :D).

     So, here is how I made the sauce:

      1. Initially dissolve around 1 tablespoon each of cornstarch and flour in about 4 tablespoons of water for your thickener.
      2. To this add 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce. Set mixture aside.
      3. Mince about 2~3 cloves of garlic and 1 small onion. Set aside.
      4. Depending on how much sauce you intend to make, add that much water to the sauce pan.
      5. Add the vinegar and "cook it off". (Remember: Do not stir until the liquid in your pan has boiled.)
      6. Add the minced onion and garlic, and soy sauce and thickener mixture and stir well to prevent lumps. Bring down the flame of your stove. 
      7. Add sugar and hot sauce [or fresh minced bird's eye chilies (sili labuyo) if you like], and adjust the soy sauce and vinegar according to your taste. Use more sugar of if you like the sweet dipping sauce. Use more chili if you like the hot dipping sauce.
      8. Adjust the thickness of the sauce if you find it too watery. It should be able to coat the fishballs without becoming a paste or thick glue in consistency.

      Now, just head on out to your nearest grocery store or Asian food store and buy a pack of frozen fishballs or squidballs and fry some up. You could even go the whole nine yards and get a few small bamboo skewers and serve the balls skewered, and have a wonderful time dipping these into the sauce for a filling snack. 
     You end up with an end product like this:

    If you would like a finer sauce, maybe you can strain it before serving. Personally, I have left the bits of onion and garlic in for the authentic "street food feel."  It was a hit if I do say so myself. My aunt approved of the taste and my nephew could not get enough of it. :D

     Try it and let me know what you think.

©CherWriter 2012.04.09

Sunday, April 8, 2012



     I would like to apologize for the long silence. Contrary to what you may think, the season of Lent does not really last more than a year, if you were to base it on the period of time between my last entry and this one. :D 

     It is only for 40 days from Ash Wednesday but it seems my muse took a year off vacation so that "nothing" came together as a cohesive piece to write and share with you all.  Sorry. 

     Anyway, I am thankful that my muse has prompted me to write a new entry this Easter, being a time of renewal and all. Let this be a new basket of entries of a little life lived by me.

     May we again find new nuggets of treasure together. 

     Cheers and may God bless all of us abundantly.

©CherWriter  2012.04.08

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Travels with Faith: Re-fitting into the Mold

     Today, we usher in the season of Lent. It is 40 days to journey into ourselves as we journey with the Lord.

     The season begins with the priest's imposition of ashes on our foreheads to remind us all that as mere creatures, we should in all humility, acknowledge the fact that our lives as creatures on this earth is not forever.

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,

     Far from being saintly, I pray for the grace to rediscover the "me" created as I was intended to be by God.  It is like I know I have pushed myself out of the mold, and as I try to squeeze back in, I find that I cannot fit into that mould intended only for me. I have gone away from my true self and need God now in my life to reshape me back into the soul that is pleasing to Him.

     This means coming to terms and facing the excesses I have come to love in this life that I have attached to myself but which are, in fact, not really a good fit for me. I find that I need to recognize those things that are not a good fit for my soul. (Yikes!)  

     As I hope to pray a bit more than what I have let my schedule permit, I know that as I should practice fasting and abstinence on meals, the harder part of fasting and abstaining on this journey would be to let go of the things I have let myself become attached to. The scary thing is that some of the things may have become so deeply ingrained in my system that I may not be able to recognize them or worse, I may make excuses for them. I pray to God that He may let the Holy Spirit guide me in recognizing the things I should let go of, maybe not all at once but at least, slowly, I may be able to give up something of significance this Lent.

Photo from:

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
(Excerpt, Responsorial Psalm of the Mass, Ps. 51:12~14 & 17) 

     It looks like a very tall order to accomplish in just 40 days, but at the same time, I take comfort and place my hope in the reassuring invitation that the Lord has for me today...

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
(Excerpt. Second Reading of the Mass, 2 Cor 6:2)

Father of Mercy, unworthily I come before You hoping that your mercy and kindness will merit  Your love to see me renewed and recreated in the person you have intended me to be, instead of the person I have created for myself.

Help me to trust in Your love fully that I may give myself to You so that you may mold me once again into something more beautiful and worthy of You.

Mother Mary, I ask for your love and prayers to present to God my petition through the merits of the Most Holy Wounds of your Son, Jesus Christ.


©CherWriter 2011.03.09

Monday, March 7, 2011

Travels with Faith: Have Faith... Will Travel

      There are a lot of cultural traits that make the Filipino distinct from other races in the world.

     Filipinos are family-oriented; hospitable; naturally creative and resourceful; we are known the world over for world-class individuals who have lit up the world stage in theater (Miss Saigon: Lea Salonga, Leo Valdez, Junix Inocian), music (Rock band Journey: Arnel Pineda;  Oprah's prodigy: Charice; Black Eyed Peas: Apl de Ap), sports (Billiards: Efren Reyes; Boxing: Manny Pacquiao).

     An undeniable love for the family has resulted in families being separated by time and distance as well-educated mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers go out of the country to work in almost all parts of the globe as construction workers, house help, nurses, teachers, consultants in multi-national firms and practically, any job conceivable just so they can send money back home for their children's education and make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Most Filipinos who work abroad bring with them not only their industriousness, but this self-sacrificing love. You could say that all they have in their backpacks when they leave, apart from a few clothes and pictures of their loved ones are the three theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. In this country where 85% of the population is Roman Catholic, faith of course, is something most Filipinos never live or leave home without.

What do you pack when you travel?

     My faith is also a source of security for me. It is a big part of my identity. Where I am living, there are so many reminders of my faith that it's easy to overlook the fact that I needn't exert any effort to practice it.  Even in places of work like the country's premier business districts, it is easy to practice my faith. There are churches or chapels nearby. If not, a priest says Mass during lunch break in certain offices; if not everyday, then during days when there are popular devotions like Wednesdays for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or first Fridays for devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here, I am never far from a spiritual lifeline.

      About three weeks ago, I was chatting online with a cousin who has since migrated to Canada. In the course of our conversation, I happened to mention that it was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and had just attended Mass. Well, he thanked me for the reminder of the feast day and told me that he would be hearing Mass too later that day. Now with Ash Wednesday only two days away, I am still struck with that conversation I had with my cousin.

     I imagine that he and other Filipinos now living abroad have to exert the extra effort to keep and practice the faith that they were born with. Masses in churches abroad may only be one or two in a day on Sundays, unlike here that Masses are said every hour starting at 5:00am or 6:00am, with some churches having the last Sunday Masses from 8:00~9:00pm. In some countries, you really have to be careful about talking about or practicing your religious beliefs lest you want to be accused of violating someone else's religious freedom. And what about children's faith? How do you cultivate it in a society where talking about religion is almost taboo? For Roman Catholic parents abroad, how do you teach and preserve the beautiful and wonderful aspects of our faith to the new generation when there are very little reminders of the faith around them?

     Nowadays where a typical day is run by clocks, blackberries, meetings, meet-ups with friends, and deadlines, it's getting harder to MAKE THE TIME to slow down and pray. It is easy to forget days which, if they were in the country, would see them attending Mass or paying a visit to a church or chapel which may have been part of their routine once.  Thankfully, new technology has websites like EWTN and others on social networking sites where Catholic Filipinos abroad can reconnect with the faith, and more importantly, participate in the Sunday Mass when there are no churches near where they live or work.

     Admittedly, I still have a long way to go in growing in the faith. There is more to discover and re-discover on this journey in faith. After all, the three pillars of Lent are Prayer, Fasting (and Abstinence), and Alms giving :-) For Lent 2011, I hope to spend a little more time in prayer and share with you little reflections of faith here and on :-D . I hope you can accompany me on the journey. 

     Here's to wonderful life discoveries on a journey in the season of Lent!

©CherWriter 2011.03.07

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Friend, the Fry

Forever on your hips? Good!
That way, you'll always be happy! Hehehe!

     Some days you just can't have it all.

     Recently, I listed down some of my guilty pleasures. What an ideal and idyllic world this would be if on days where you find your pep drained by the demands of work, relief from these guilty pleasures would come instantaneously. *sigh!*

     One particular day this week just had me drained and in an unhappy mood at work.The day started with a challenge. Knowing that I had a deadline, I shut out all other requests and concerns to be able to get the work done. The moment that I was able to meet the set deadline, my mood at work became optimistic that this would be a good and relatively easy day from that time on.

     Just before lunch though, things got irritating to the point that I decided to get out of the office during lunch break to walk off the bad mood by the afternoon. Have you noticed that the trouble with walks like this one is that you walk "blind" while your sour mood persists? You do not really notice anything. Nothing is interesting. You walk aimlessly hoping your bad mood gets stomped into the pavement for good. 

     Sage advise: Do not take your wallet with you on these stomp out trips. In the past, I just bought things at random to soothe my bad mood, and ended up regretting my spending spree when reason came back after my bad mood left. 

     Thankfully on this trip, I remembered that I had to get a few things I needed for the office so I only spent good money on essentials. Since I hadn't really planned to be  out of the office during lunch, I did not know what to eat. I ditched my lunch in the office and was suddenly looking disinterestedly at crowds crammed into restaurants and fast food joints. At the time, I felt the last thing I needed was to be crammed into a booth with noisy, happy office workers on their lunch breaks. I walked away from the concentration of traffic and found myself in front of food carts with the attendants busily texting away.  There was a shawarma cart, a fish ball cart and a french fry cart. I just went up to the nearest food cart and ordered, not really caring that I ordered flavored french fries just so I could have lunch and go over the day's events in peace.

     I do not know if it is just me, but don't you think indulging in fried foods really do hit the spot and are a great aid to reverse an otherwise bad mood? (Psst... do not tell my cardiologist about this entry! ;)) So there I was, munching on deep fried carbo-loaded matchstick potatoes and as I prolonged the life of the small pack of fries, my concerns earlier in the day slowly left me. It has been a while since I had fries and somehow, even as I became more aware of the taste and feel of the oil in my mouth (not really off-putting, just slightly disturbing after trying really hard to keep away from fast food quick fixes), my world made a little more sense and I was a little more forgiving of what had transpired that morning.

     Is there some sort of chemical reaction that goes on between a vat of hot oil and a bunch of matchstick sized potatoes, or anything fried for that matter that humans simply cannot get? How can something touted as bad for your health relieve stress? Way cheaper than a massage or spa treatment (although I would not say no to a pampering session anytime!); and you know exactly what you are going to get, unlike a box of chocolates; lighter than a book; certainly flavorful like good comedy, how can you go wrong with french fries for company?

     For any of my loved ones who may be reading this, do not worry. I am not about to go back to being the fast food junkie that I once was. Goodness knows it's really tough to burn through all these calories that love me so much and just would not leave to show off a skinnier me. Hehehe.   :-)

     Some days you really can't have it all. But sometimes, you can too! Hey, lunch was affordable that day; I got things off my chest that would have probably gotten my BP reading into the high range; I got an hour's worth of peace and quiet, and I got back to my office with a smile on my face with people from the office totally clueless why.  Now I know why they ask you at the drive thru window: "Do you want fries with that?" All thanks to my friend, the fry.

©CherWriter 2011.03.02

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sweets: The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

     As a newbie blogger, I have the whole blogosphere to learn from in maintaining my little blog. It is one of the things that perks up my day, and preserves my sense of self after a stressful day of earning my keep.

     More than personal fulfillment, knowing that there is an added dimension on how you can reconnect with and touch another person's life is wonderful and rewarding. Getting a validation like The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award is just another version of receiving a wonderful gift of a guilt-free cream cheese frosting on the wonderful cupcake of life. So...

     1. Thank and link back to the person that gave this award:

  • MyMommyology, thank you for your wonderful insights on motherhood that I know your family and friends (and hope) Dada D, Sam, and Jamie will appreciate in the years to come. Here's to the first title on the bestseller list! :D

     2. Share four guilty pleasures that you have:

     Guilty Pleasure #1: Dark chocolate.    

     To me, dark chocolate is accessible, affordable, healthy, enjoyable "gold." The Aztecs would have indulged in this from the cacao plant in its purest form, and not even as milk chocolate. Ahh!!! They knew a good thing when they saw one. Even RenĂ©e Zellweger's character, Barbara Novak in the movie Down with Love has high praises for it too, although, it's chocolates in general. It does not hurt that in moderation, it's good for the heart too!   

     Guilty Pleasure #2: Massages.

     Pampered from head to foot, smelling clean and fresh afterward. The stress relieved from your tired, aching body. All because you love (your family) and would like to give the best of yourself to them. That one hour or so of having nothing in the world matter but you, connecting with yourself... and hot chocolate or tea afterward... ahh!!! Heaven!

     Guilty Pleasure #3: Reading Children's books with a cup of frozen yogurt in one hand. ;-)

     In the noise and bustle of everyday life, one of my escapes is to turn the pages of children's books. Mainly to remind me that life can be simple. There is a joy in simple things. There is clarity in simplicity. There is even strength and wisdom at times in meekness and humility. In fact, it starts out simple for everyone, for we all come into this world as children. I think kids are lucky because children live in the simplicity of a very chaotic and confusing world. Aaahhh... may we not lose this child-like view of the world as we go through this life as adults. 

     Guilty Pleasure #4: The Big Bang Theory and The Nanny.

     Even though the TV show The Nanny has stopped airing, I love the character's take on life.  Fran Fine's positive outlook turns trouble into opportunity. But my favorites are Niles the butler and C.C. Babcock's delicious, smackdown repartees. As for the Big Bang Theory, I love the way the show has turned the world on it's head by making smart people shine and stand out!
     3. Pass the award along to 6 other Sweet Bloggers:
     a. The Chef's Wife: Her blog on life in the land down under is what inspired me to start my own blog. She was a schoolmate in elementary and high school, and is mother to Kat, Zechy, Hannah and superwoman wife to Mr. K. 
     b. Catharsis: Transplanted from the Philippines, this mom shares her life lessons on her introspective blog.
     c.  Because Candy Says So: Candy's blog reflects her personality. It's all glitz and glam without being over the top. It's a look at a slice of life from Manila's fashion forward and stylish people.

     d. Market Manila has got to be one of the blogs I follow in my "must read list." It is a good reference for people who are just venturing into the wonderful world of the kitchen, and it is a haven for foodies and gourmands alike. It's insightful, simple and deliciously wicked in making you appreciate everything that goes into food more. Not to mention that MM's feeding program is always a double thumbs-up in my book.

     e.Not Just Minerals: This site is wonderful if I would just like to keep abreast with what's available for "girly-girl" days, thanks to a make-up loving SAHM. :-)

     f.  Dessert Comes First: Lori Baltazar's food blog is a sweet treat without the guilt. Plus, I love her photos. She's a no-nonsense writer that would make you look at desserts and food in a different wonderful way.

** I would like to share this award too with Soccermomof4boys who's witty, entertaining and insightful blog often leaves me in happy giggles.

©CherWriter 2011.02.23


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