Category: Journal Art

Childhood Reads: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Got a few ink samples of the new collaboration between Robert Oster Signature Inks and Endless Pens – Cozy Comforts Inks! I made a beeline for the Old Book Smell sample because the color reminded me of one of my favorite books when I was a child: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The color of the book was exactly this. Dark red with a bit of orange in it. It was my first hard bound book and, to my young eyes, it was incredibly beautiful. My favorite part of the story was the one where Tom basically conned the other neighborhood kids onto whitewashing the fence for him and even paying him little trinkets and bites out of their apples for the dubious favor. I thought it was a naughty thing to do, but still funny. In this post-truth reality, reading this scene would have taken on new meaning for me.


Today’s journal entry is about the culture of impunity in our country. Last Friday, I woke up to some distressing news from a fellow member of our pen group. His sister, a healthcare worker who had established health centers in Mindanao among other work for the poor in the area, was arrested. The circumstances of her arrest is something that sounds so familiar because it has happened to many people before. People who serve poor communities, labor leaders, etc etc etc all have very similar stories–violent arrests, dubious search warrants, being denied access by family and counsel, just a lot of blatant human rights violations. I cannot imagine having a sibling forcibly taken under such suspicious circumstances and to not know where she’s taken. I have never in my life lost contact with my brothers. I have never been separated from them in this way. I can only imagine the anguish the family is going through right now.

It saddens me that we again find ourselves in this situation, when there’s so much in our history that should have warned us of the red flags and should have pointed us to a better path. It’s time for us to realize that the violation of one person’s human rights puts all of our rights in danger. It’s time to ask important questions and to care about holding our government accountable. It’s time to reject leaders who do nothing but weaken our democracy and insist it’s “for our own good”. Someday the violence will visit us in our own homes, and by then it will be too late to care.

First Date of the Year – Teppanya Evia

Yesterday’s journal entry was about our first date in 2022. My husband and I usually open the year by going on our first date, which is usually just a quiet meal and some time to read and write in a cafe before heading home. After a good Christmas celebration with our family, we were really looking forward to a quiet first date. It was our first time at Teppanya and it truly did not disappoint. The service and food were excellent. It was our first time to watch a chef perform over a teppanyaki grill and it was a lot of fun.

By the time we went home in the afternoon, though, it was pretty clear that we are in the early stages of a COVID19 surge. I’ve been monitoring and recording the new cases, deaths and positivity rates in my journal and the increase in new cases is so quick. It’s nothing like the Delta-driven surge of last year. Time to buckle up and go  back to sheltering in place at our respective homes. I hope this surge will be over soon, and that fewer people will need hospitalization.

Bamba Bistro

Today’s food journal entry is about a meal at Bamba Bistro, one of our favorite, cozy little hole in the wall at BF Homes. This pandemic has  been really rough on businesses, and I’m really happy that this favorite spot of ours is still open. My husband and I had lunch with friends last Sunday, it really looked like more people are beginning to venture out and meet up with family and friends. This is the first time we ate out with people who aren’t from our own household. Bamba has an al fresco dining area, and we enjoyed the cool weather under the trees. I missed eating out with friends, and really missed Bamba’s food. They always  have an adventurous take on food and I love how creative they are with their flavors.

I had their salisbury steak dish named “Not your momma’s salisbury”. It’s cheese-stuffed beef patties with porcini mushroom sauce over rice, served in a cast iron skillet. It’s a beautiful, creamy dish that’s part of their holiday menu. I like that the patties are done just right, with a beautiful sear on the outside and still moist and juicy inside.  The porcini sauce is so, so gloriously delicious. None of that overpowering faux-truffle flavor that stays in the mouth long after you’ve had your meal. The pancit negra is also part of their holiday menu and it’s a really good example of how they’re very creative and adventurous about layering their flavors. I think the pancit may be pancit bato, but I’m not sure about it. It’s thin pancit with squid ink. There’s perfectly cooked shrimps with crispy kangkong and chicken skin for texture and flavor. Don’t skip the vinegar, it brightens the dish up with that pop of acid. Their crispy lapu-lapu is a mainstay. The fish is cooked just right, crispy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. The chorizo rice is a nice complement to it.

Being able to share a good meal with good friends after two years of isolation feels incredible. I missed this so much.

The downward trend of covid19 infections, the aggressive and consistent vaccination drive of LGUs, and high vaccination rates of our respective cities played a part in giving us confidence to meet up with friends. Of course, we still mask up and avoid crowded places. Here’s hoping that there won’t be another surge, and that we’re finally seeing the light at the end of this long tunnel.

Asin Tibuok

Yesterday’s art journal entry is about asin tibuok. I first saw this on the feeds of my friends and of course the appearance was the first thing that attracted my curiosity. It looked like a dinosaur egg, it’s so cool. I looked for an online reseller and ordered one. After a week, it’s here and it looks pretty awesome.

This dinosaur egg-shaped curiosity is a chunk of unbroken sea salt inside a specially-made clay pot. Asin tibuok is a heritage salt from Alburquerque, Bohol. I found this very interesting article about it on Grid Magazine (The Price of Salt). This type of saltmaking technique has been around for centuries, even before the Spanish colonization. I remember the process being described briefly in Pigafetta’s journals, but it was also mentioned in the writings of the Spanish missionary, Father Francisco Ignacio Alcima. The article features one of the last saltmaking families in Bohol and the last asindero of their line, Nestor Manongas. I like how the writer described that salt making  used to be part of their everyday lives, is even a rite of passage for little boys. They still use the time-honored methods that they learned from their elders and which has been passed down from generation to generation. I hope that the tradition can be preserved by the next generation. It would really be quite a loss if we lose the knowledge of how to make this heritage salt.

The little pot is filled to overflowing with asin tibuok. It’s small but heavy. It tastes salty with a bit of umami, it’s a bit savory and smoky. I feel bad that when you look at groceries these days, himalayan pink salt made it to the mainstream, so to speak. We should do the same for our own heritage salts. So many asinderos have abandoned their craft because the production process of asin tibuok and other heritage salts are labor intensive and it takes a long time. Soaking the coconut husks alone takes about 3 months. Add to that the difficulties of getting permits and licenses and that it’s hard to compete with cheaper, more readily available imports. There’s a market for artisanal salt, though. I am thankful for people like those behind for making these available to people like me, who have never even heard of this wonderful heritage salt until now. As I was holding this beautiful pot of salt in my hands, I feel humbled knowing that it’s the product of months of labor of Mang Nestor, and it’s the product of ancestral wisdom and know-how passed on to families for many generations.

Asin tibuok was added to the Ark of Taste by Slow Food back in 2016. This is an online catalog of endangered heritage foods worldwide.

Pinoy Vinegar

Today’s art journal entry is about locally-made vinegar. I got curious about this when I read “Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic” by Felice Sta. Maria which describes locals offering alcoholic drinks and vinegar and “Tikim” by Doreen Fernandez which mentions locally-made vinegars in several of her essays. Vinegar in the Philippines are primarily made from coconut (sukang tuba, pinakurat), nipa palm (sukang Paombong), and sugar cane (sukang Iloko). Vinegar is made by fermenting juices from sources like coconut et al so that they become alcoholic (producing ethanol), then exposed to oxygen and the acetobacter bacteria and fermenting it further to produce acetic acid. Water is added to acetic acid to produce vinegar. Other spices may also be added. In the case of sukang Iloco, molasses is added to sweeten it. It’s a shame that vinegar-making has become a dying industry in the Philippines. Many vendors just opt to skip the fermentation process and use synthetic acetic acid. Not only does synthetic acetic acid-based vinegar taste different, they’re also unhealthy in the long run because it’s made of petroleum by-products.

We were recently able to try several flavors of naturally-fermented vinegar called Basimatsi (suka with bawang, sibuyas, kamatis, sili). I particularly enjoyed their version of hot sauce, which is Labuyo Cerveza. It has local siling labuyo fermented in vinegar. I like that it doesn’t feel like physical punishment when you use it on food or in dipping sauce. While store-bought hot sauce is so spicy that it’s just painful, Labuyo Cerveza has a pleasant level of spiciness that dissipates into heat that highlights the flavor of vinegar and peppers. It reminds me of other homemade hot sauces that I’ve tried  before where the sauce is not so painfully spicy so that you can detect the nuances in taste of the peppers and other spices used.

Naturally-fermented vinegar doesn’t taste so caustic. It accentuates other flavors instead of overpowering it with caustic sourness. It’s hard to find authentic, naturally-fermented vinegar these days, especially those that are specific to certain provinces. It’s worth the effort trying to find them, though.


I finished reading Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic–Culinary Encounters During the First Circumnavigation, 1519-1522 by Felice Prudente Sta. Maria a few days ago. It had a lot of interesting details in it about the first circumnavigation and Pigafetta’s account of their adventures/misadvantures, even the food. According to Sta. Maria, at the time all seafarers know that as glamorous as an adventure at sea sounds, the reality is decidedly unglamorous and dangerous. Magellan’s voyage was not just fraught with danger from elements and enemies, they faced starvation as well. The provisions of mostly biscocho or hard and dry sea biscuits as well as wine and salted meat really weren’t enough to last them until they got back to Spain. Most of the seafarers suffered from scurvy, where their gums rotted and their teeth fell out, among other symptoms. People that time were aware of the condition but not what caused it. The only people who escaped from this condition were those well off enough to take their own provisions with them, including their favorite quince jam which are packed with vitamin c.

I looked for some on Shopee because I wanted to taste it. There aren’t any growing in the Philippines, I don’t think I’ve seen them in markets either. The jam I ordered on Shopee had bits of shredded quince that had the same texture as pears; a bit crunchy and grainy, like fruity sand. The taste is somewhat like a cross between pears and green apples, but strangely foreign on my tongue. Like it’s almost familiar, but it’s not. I can’t say I enjoyed it a lot, but at least now I know what it tastes like.

Of Pinangat and Favorite Food Memories

Yesterday I was able to taste what I think is the best pinangat I’ve ever tasted in Manila. My father was from Bicol, but we only visited his childhood home as a family twice. We grew up pretty disconnected from my father’s Bicolano roots except by way of food. He was a pretty awesome home cook, and when we went to Bicol, our palates just reveled in all the familiar food that he cooked for us at home. My favorite was pinangat from this particular restaurant called Paayahayan. It was so memorably delicious. It made such an impression on me that from that time on, anytime I would see pinangat at any carinderia or restaurant, I absolutely must try it, but I have to admit that it’s been hard finding well-cooked pinangat in Manila. What a surprise it is to find one that is so close to the one I tasted 21 years ago at Paayahayan, and I found it on Facebook, of all places (here’s the page, if you’re curious, it’s called Jo’s Pinangat).

From what I can gather, pinangat is made with slices of pork or fish wrapped with gabi leaves and tied up in a neat bundle with tanglad. It’s simmered slowly on low heat with a generous amount of kakang gata flavored with garlic, ginger, alamang, siling labuyo and tanglad stalks. It’s simmered on low heat until the coconut cream curdles and become yellowish, and the leaves become so tender. The pinangat I had yesterday had leaves that were so soft, and pork bits that were so tender. The maillard reaction on the kakang gata has caramelized it and made it thick and sweet, it’s almost like latik. It’s incredibly delicious. I think that the pinangat that I tasted from other sellers don’t have enough kakang gata so the taro leaves taste…leafy, not creamy, and the texture is a tad dry instead of melt-in-your-mouth soft. Properly cooked pinangat is when the leaves are so soft that it’s mixed so well with the kakang gata infused with delicate flavors of aromatics and the saltiness of alamang. It takes time to make, but of course all good things take time.

Eating this wonderful serving of pinangat yesterday brought a flood of happy memories with my family, especially of my papa’s excellent cooking. It just made me so happy.

The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Today’s art journal entry is about a book I’m currently reading, The Life of Olaudah Equiano. It’s my first time to read a slave narrative, all I know about those dark times were what I read in history books and books on African American social issues. Slave narratives connect with you in a very different way. I find Olaudah’s narrative overwhelmingly sad, and one can’t help but wonder about the incredible capacity of humans for cruelty. I’m halfway through the book, I have a few more slave narratives lined up. The illustration in the journal entry is about Olaudah’s description of an iron muzzle, a contraption put on a slave’s head to prevent them from talking or eating while working on the field or in the kitchen. Like I said, it’s an overwhelmingly sad read.

Learning Something New

I recently bought a sketchbook that uses kraft paper from The Unplanned Life. I love that it can take fountain pen ink and light watercolor and water soluble graphite washes, but it really shines best with colored pencils. I bought this small set of Caran d’Ache Pablo color pencils sometime last year, I was hoping to learn how to use it, but I just didn’t have the time to sit down and figure it out. The first time I tried to use it, I had a hard time layering colors and making the values show through, so I just stopped and then I forgot to pick up again afterwards. I was trying out different mediums on this notebook so I remembered about these colored pencils and dug them out from under a pile of books on our bed’s side table. This time I kept at it until the drawing looked closer to how I wanted it to be. That was pretty satisfying, but it took much longer than I expected. I’m probably going to invest on a bigger set soon, I need more browns and yellows for my food drawings.