Why I love Batman vs Superman?

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Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

Before, the only comic superheroes I was a fan of were the X-Men. I watched the cartoon series, read some of the comics and was ecstatic when the movie franchise came out. After a series of failed super hero movie franchises which I won’t mention anymore, the genre has once again boomed with Marvel’s success with their Marvel Cinematic Universe. A success that the DC Cinematic Universe hopes to follow.

But the two are different as what the Batman vs Superman movie would show you.

After becoming a fan of the DC Universe through watching the current series of  Gotham, The Flash and Arrow, I know that I would expect a serious and dark movie. After all, Man of Steel was bordering on boring and the Batman series of the recent past were all dark.

So the lack of humor was not a surprise for me. Critics said it made the movie boring and some writers I read said they were able to sleep at the first part of the show. They criticized the film for having an action-packed sequence only towards the end.

The movie was also criticized for not having overarching story lines and for the character expositions to be really poor. I overheard someone say she was disappointed because Wonder Woman appeared out of thin air without her usual transformations (I guess she was accustomed to the old depictions of Wonder Woman).

I also read a criticism that said the movie should be called something else because the title was a misnomer. It wasn’t Batman vs Superman. It was Batman and Superman vs Doomsday. Another critic said the mere mention of Batman’s mother’s name as being the catalyst to stop the fight and have the two superheroes acting as BFFs was absurd.

For me, it’s all these criticisms that are absurd!

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Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

I guess for someone not familiar with the DC Universe and expecting long explanations of why things are happening then they would really be disappointed. The movie forces you to think outside the screen, read between the sequences and understand why something is happening.

I perfectly understood why the African crisis had to happen. For me, that didn’t need any additional exposition. It was the catalyst for why the opinion of Superman was divided. It helped in the framework of the movie that here was a guy with super powers wanting to do good but his superpowers actually cause harm as he does good. Where can you see someone destroying buildings as he tries to destroy the enemy? Superman isn’t really that super. He’s just a really strong alien who needs Batman’s tactics in order to be more effective.

I love the discourse about whether someone like Superman should be regulated and the debate within Superman if he is doing the right thing. It shows that the guy is human and despite his super powers is someone who didn’t ask to become a hero. He was simply inherently good and wants to do good inside but like most people, sometimes doing good without proper wisdom will mean causing harm to others.

I perfectly understood why Batman had to be obsessed with killing Superman. And why he acted the way he did. His sole goal is to save his city – keep it safe. He’s a vigilante so he doesn’t want to be perceived as a hero, only as someone the criminals are scared of. Obviously, someone with super powers who seems to do more harm than good in his quest to be a hero must be tamed (or even put out).

I love how Batman’s ingenuity and resourcefulness was shown despite him fighting a super human – someone he clearly cannot battle defeat – not without his schemes. I applauded inside as Batman’s careful planning – his traps and what-nots – lured Superman and led him to have the upper hand. I can hear Oliver’s (Green Arrow) words about a fight being all about control and understanding your surroundings.

I know why the movie was titled Batman vs Superman – because that was what the movie was really about. It was about the world – and those who claim to protect it – understanding what a super human can do. Batman was the epitome of the world who wants to control what it cannot understand. When the legal way become impossible, then the vigilante brand of justice had to be exacted.

I love how Wonder Woman appeared, how her powers were shown in the battle and how it left me hanging and excited for when those powers – and her character – will be explained in due time. There is a reason why her movie will be an origin one unlike those of The Flash and Cyborg which will begin in the present day. As someone who watched the old Wonder Woman movie, seeing her powers in action during the battle made me ohh and ahh as I remember in my mind what each of those can do.

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Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

Every time Lex Luthor appeared, I wanted to cringe and punch him in the face. I didn’t like the guy and his insane antics not to mention his schemes. A friend hated him for being whiny. I don’t recall the Lex Luthor of the old Superman movies (just that he was a much older guy) so I don’t know how he should have been portrayed. But if the goal was to create an irritating villain, Jesse Eisenberg definitely delivered.

I am not so sure I can agree to see a Flash that is not Grant Gustin but I’ve come to accept that the Ezra Miller version of the Flash will be a different portrayal from the Flash in the TV Series. Whether I will like him as the Flash is yet to be seen.

Down to the last scene – which I won’t spoil – I was watching at the edge of my seat, excited for something to happen be it in the current movie or in the next one.

Despite having read countless reviews and to an effect spoiling the movie for myself, I still went in to watch it in the big screen and felt every peso I spent worth it. The thrill was real – in fact more real than what I feel watching Marvel’s movies. My heart beat raced in more than one occasion and my mind shot fireworks as I understand each sequence more and more.

It was an amazing movie and I’m proud to say I loved it. It’s one of the best movie I’ve watched in the big screen and I am excited for the next installment which will be Suicide Squad showing in August 2016. I just hope they don’t try to push Suicide Squad to be more like a Marvel movie (I’ve heard they were re-shooting to add more humor after the criticism of Batman vs Superman).

So if you haven’t watched the movie yet, do yourself a favor and go see it in the big screen. Not from some pirated DVD (which sadly I saw was being sold as I crossed an overpass after watching the movie). It’s totally worth it to experience in the big screen.

Go there devoid of expectations despite having read so many reviews like this one. Then form a verdict for yourself.

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Source: Batman vs Superman Official FB Page

 

Thoughts on Emotions: An Inside Out Reflection

Yesterday I ran against time to watch Inside Out – the latest Disney Pixar movie about getting to know our emotions. It was a really cool movie and the fought we did against time to be able to watch it was worth it. Even the hefty cinema ticket price (I rarely watch movies in movie houses) was worth it.

It was not a movie for kids though. Kids may love the animation, etc. but the whole impact of the story will be felt by adults. It was a movie for adults – about reflecting on how we handle our emotions.

Psychologists would love the movie. I believe it creates for them the same effect that Osmosis Jones has created for me and for any biologist / medical practitioner familiar with the characters and scenes.

Rational vs Emotions

I have always prided myself at being objective and analytical. Since I was young, I grew up learning never to let my emotions overcome my rational thinking and make decisions for myself. In Inside Out, the movie shows 5 basic emotions that influence our decisions for how to go about the day.

The Emotions in Inside Out

There’s Joy, the happy and positive emotion that influences us to always look at life in a positive way and to react with a smile even when faced with challenges. Joy pushes us to look for solutions and opportunities amidst challenges and trials.

Then there’s Anger, a default reaction when things do not seem to go our way. Anger influences us to pursue certain courses of action just because we are not satisfied with the current situation. There is actually righteous anger which causes us to seek justice when we see injustice and then there’s unrighteous anger which is the one that’s out of control and causes us to break laws just to achieve things. The former is positive and creates positive results while the latter is negative resulting in hurtful situations and thus is best avoided.

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There’s Fear who, as the movie says, keeps us safe. Because of Fear, we learn to avoid things that could otherwise be harmful for us. While it’s wrong to live life in fear of everything, the right amount of fear is actually necessary for us in life. I recall an episode in Gotham where the antagonist sought to eliminate fear in his life. Because he did so, he was unable to perceive danger and end up dying. Unhealthy levels of fear meanwhile prevents us from accomplishing anything in life because we end up too afraid to take any form of risk. A healthy balance is always encouraged.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Emotions: An Inside Out Reflection”

An Expression that Impressed – Flow Arts Show Review

Nine brave individuals gave birth to a new kind of art – one that not only awes but inspires. They have shown how, with passion and courage, one can elevate his craft and reach new heights.

Flow Arts is commonly seen in street or event performances where as the host said, the goal is to impress rather than express. Hence, flow artists are forced to resort to tricks that amaze the audience and in the process are lost to the true expression of their art.

But a group of veteran flow artists hoped to change all that. Bravely, they staged the first ever Flow Arts Show at the Bulbs Studio in Makati last August 30, 2014. Nine artists wowed the audience, not with tricks, but with the raw emotion displayed in their performance.

In a very short show – approximately one hour for all of them – they managed to hypnotize us, flow arts enthusiasts and newbie audiences alike, not just with their expertise in their chosen props but with the magnificence of their flow. The emotions displayed were raw, the passions conveyed were pure and the way everything was presented was new.

Hanz on Buugeng

First to perform was Hans. I’ve seen him perform only twice and in each time, he flowed to the beat of drums so it was a treat to see him flow to canned music. His theme was soldier and he did justice to it by the way his expression remained fierce throughout the number. Even though there have been some mishaps one wouldn’t even notice for he remained composed and in the flow. I just wished he went a step further and completed the whole soldier package but then again I might have interpreted everything literally. Hands down, he’s still the best buugeng artist I’ve seen.

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Oli on Poi

The seriousness of Hans performance was balanced by Oli’s playful one. His theme was first love and you can feel the innocence and sweetness of that first love memory in how he manipulated his props. His performance was so relaxed that if he was nervous I wouldn’t have known. His number had an overall playful atmosphere which showed just how playful and jolly he must be.

Paulino on Poi & Staff

Paulino is a known veteran in the flow arts. So when you think you have seen all that he can do, you’d be surprised that the guy, in expressing himself, actually brings the whole flow arts to an entirely new level. He did not just manipulate his props, he incorporated a story in his entire performance. A story that was refreshing to watch. The comedic relief of his entire performance was wonderful and truly entertaining. Through him, I saw that when you have a flow toy, your performance doesn’t revolve around it alone – to give the audience a truly spectacular show, you need to add story to your entire show.

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Mic on Hoop & Staff

Where Paulino has been a sort-of comedic relief, Mic’s performance was one filled with emotion. It was in her performance that I found my connection to the flow arts. Her graceful movements seemingly oblivious to the audience in front of her really draw me in. I did not feel like I was watching her perform on stage, I felt like I was privy to her innermost emotions. She moved as if there was no one with her in the entire room. How she seamlessly moved from the flags, to the staff to the hoop was mesmerizing. Every turn of her body filled me with awe.

I guess in every performance, there is that artist you’d connect to and for me, that was Mic. One day, I hope to be able to perform and express myself as well as she does.

Clair on Hoop

Clair’s performance was also another refreshing number for me. In my limited exposure to the Flow Arts, I’ve seen her perform as much as I’ve seen Hanz. So when she went on stage, make-up and all, and danced to a girly song with her hoop – I was hooked. I was transported to the innocence of my youth wherein the challenges of adulthood were unknown and all my cares are what I would consider now as childish, girlish worries. Her performance was refreshing to watch as it was light-hearted yet full of soul at the same time.

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Thea on Hoop & Poi

Thea’s performance to me was theater at its best! Some might find it weird but to me I found it supremely entertaining! At this point, I wished the organizers allowed us to record the show, even on our cellphones, for our personal consumption. Her performance was one I would love to watch again & again and show to people. She definitely elevated flow arts to a whole new level as how she used her poi and her hoop was not the conventional ways they were used. All throughout her number she never lost character. Yes, it was a crazy number but it was a truly magnificent work of art!

Alvin on Isohoops

I don’t know if Alvin’s physical absence was intentional but his video number showing how he effortlessly manipulated the mini hoops was also mesmerizing. I just wondered – if it was that mesmerizing on video, how mesmerizing can it be in person?

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Star on Hoop

Perhaps the most spectacular performance of the entire evening was Star’s. For the first half of his number, he didn’t even use any props and yet he captured all our attention. You can see that he was a performer through and through. How he incorporated the hoop as he wove his story was amazing! In fact, the entire performance wasn’t even about the hoop! It was about him and how he bared his soul to the entire audience. The last part, where he danced effortlessly while quotes on insecurities were flashed on screen was captivating and moving. His bravado in admitting his weakness was inspiring.

Star – we would never think you have such insecurities for to us, you are perfect! You are someone to be admired.

Ehrlich on Leviwand

The last number of the night proved to be the most moving of them all. I am personally biased towards the flow wand as it has been my first choice of a prop. I have seen Ehrlich performed with it in festivals and street jams and easily I can see his expertise. But for him to wove a story on dreams and the words used, plus how he delivered it, brought performance with a flow wand to a whole new different level. It was no longer about the “magic” surrounding the prop. It was no longer about the illusion or the tricks one can perform with it. It was now about the expression – of one’s dreams, frustrations and fantasies. It was now about the admission of a painful reality. It was now about the realization that such reality can actually be turned into something life changing.

I liked how he framed his words throughout the entire number especially towards the end when he admitted that perhaps he can’t be superman who can fly, or the best martial artist with killer martial moves, or the person who can move things with his mind. I sincerely hoped I could have recorded that night so I can go back to his words. In the end, he said, he might not be able to move things with his mind but he can move things with his heart.

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And so inspite of it being a short show, it was one filled with soul. Indeed, what these nine brave individuals did was to give birth to a new kind of art – one that not only awes but inspires. They have shown how, with passion and courage, one can elevate his craft and reach new heights. For truly, I will never look at the flow arts in the same light again.

When I was first introduced to it, I saw it as an organic community where expression is encouraged and there are no hard defined rules to follow. What I saw that night was a deeper exploration of the art – one that holds much promise. It was a journey to the depths of one’s soul – a means to reveal not just talent, but passion, too often buried deep within.

Note: Since taking pictures and videos were not allowed, I posted pictures from the Flow Arts Show Official Facebook Page. All credit to them. Also, I hope to gain permission from Ehrlich to share his piece here. It’s such a moving piece.  

 

#Y: A Journey of Personal Catharsis

I don’t have much experience with indie films – or films in general – but I do know that Cinemalaya films are a must-watch for they expose issues in society rarely discussed and much less shown on film. And so, I made it a goal to watch a Cinemalaya film this year – finally after being cooped up in the province for so long where Cinemalaya is virtually inaccessible.

With so many great films to choose from, I didn’t know where to begin. A friend recommended #Y and it being about my generation, I opted to watch it. And so, at 9pm on a Thursday night, there I was, alone, in Greenbelt, watching #Y.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the film. The reviews were mostly vague. And nothing could have prepared me for the film’s effect. Seemingly shallow at the beginning, the more I dwell on it, the more it exposed issues inside of me – issues I have been too afraid to disclose; issues I have set aside and never really dealt with. It was not your usual indie film. It didn’t just expose issues in society – it exposes issues within yourself.

And so, after almost a week of having seen the film and after countless discussions with friends, officemates, myself and even the director – here is my take on the film and how it has purged me of my own personal demons.

SUICIDE

The overall apparent theme of the movie was suicide. The trailer unapologetically led people to believe it was a film simply revolving on sex, drugs and alcohol and never really gave a hint that it was primarily about suicide. Hence it was a shock when the film opened with the main character – Miles (Elmo Magalona) – lying on the pavement, in his own pool of blood.

And from there, it was a flashback to how it all began.

The suicide theme was softened by Miles’ comedic monologue. I found it funny when, even while lying in the pavement, apparently dead, the audience can still hear his thoughts – about how dying by jumping off a building, despite being really fast, was in fact, very painful.

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No one really knew why Miles would commit suicide. In fact, his family and friends all pretty much had good opinions about him. They saw him as having everything he could wish for and living a pretty much good life. No one knew why he would do it. But I do.

And that I have expounded here.

SEX

Sex was another overriding theme in the movie. It tackled how sex is the norm in today’s generation and how the days of Maria Clara and sex-after-marriage are seemingly down the drain. My mom would have a fit when she reads my exposition on sex – and my vast knowledge of it but such is the reality of things.

Continue reading “#Y: A Journey of Personal Catharsis”

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SUICIDE – How I Overcome It: My #Y Personal Catharsis Series

The main overriding theme of #Y was suicide. When I asked the director why he made a film about suicide – and if that is really the norm in my generation – he straightforwardly answered YES. Studying in the U-Belt area, he claimed that it was a normal occurrence for a student to simply jump off the building. In fact, the number of students who commit suicide are never really reported for most of these kids belong to well-known families who would rather keep everything private.

Come to think of it, suicide is a tough thing to deal with. From the person attempting to commit it to the people left behind after the act. So many questions. So few answers.

It appears that despite the socially connected world we live in, we still suffer from isolation.

Continue reading “SUICIDE – How I Overcome It: My #Y Personal Catharsis Series”

Pino’s 4th, My 1st

It was my first time to attend a quiz night last Wednesday at Pino Bar & Restaurant. It was also my first time at this famous Pinoy Fusion place in Jupiter St., Makati which had a vegan concept called Pipino.

As such, I was excited to try their food and to participate in their 4th Quiz Night.

The place was well lighted, had high ceilings and comfortable seating. It reminded me of resto bars I see in American movies set in New York. Most of the patrons were also corporate Makati and so it has a vibe of a professional, upscale resto bar.

The menu is extensive! There’s just so many items listed that it’s hard to choose. Pipino’s menu is already incorporated to Pino’s. They just give a distinction that the dish is Pipino’s. Pipino is the vegan counterpart of Pino. If Pino serves a Pinoy Fusion food such as Chicken Inasal Caesar Salad, Longganisa Topped Nachos, and Red Wine Adobong Tadyang; Pipino serves fusion vegan dishes such as Watermelon Steak, Tofu Lemongrass Skewers and Wicked Walnut.

Both concept share one resto space but between them – their dishes are just too numerous to be able to choose which is the perfect one suited for my taste.  And since the prices are not that cheap, I opted to do my due diligence and check out what other foodies are saying about their menu.

Yet, I ordered and sampled items far from what they all reviewed. And here’s my verdict:

 

 

 

The Mini Sisig Tacos was weird for me. Normally, you expect to taste beef with tacos so tasting pork – with distinctively pork taste – with your taco shells was not something my palate liked. I am not a big fan of pork but there are times when pork would taste good. This time, sadly, the pork tasted off. To me, it was a miss.

My order – the Tuna Shiitake Pasta (P215) was a hit! The pasta was al dente and the combination of the ingredients created a sumptuous dish. The blend of tuna flakes, shiitake mushrooms, and tomatoes was perfect! Sadly, the serving portions was too little. It’s good for just 1 person on a diet. Seriously! It’s half the serving of most pasta places who also serve great pasta. For the great taste of this food, I could have easily consumed two servings! Don’t expect much of the garlic bread side though.

The Tofu Lemongrass Skewer was one of the more popular item in the Pipino menu. However, to me the taste wasn’t right. It was too bland and stuffy and I can’t quite figure out what it should taste really. It was a miss for me. I’ve been trying vegan food and I have yet to find a vegan joint who’ll serve a vegan dish I’d like.

For dessert we tried the Tablea Cheesecake. It was salty and sour as can be expected from a cheesecake. I didn’t really like it. Another miss.

I didn’t get to taste the Bacon & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast which my companions ordered. So I can’t give a verdict for it.

Good thing the Quiz Night was entertaining enough. I had a good time learning about random facts such as Nicki Minaj’s first name being Onika. Most of the questions were really random stuff i.e. What is the first property in Monopoly? and though I got most of the items which I do know, I’m afraid I missed out on a lot. Good thing my team mates were veterans in this kind of thing. What the Quiz Night taught me is – you can never be too smart on your own.

Pino vowed to make the Quiz Night a monthly thing so next month there’s another one to look forward to.

For more details on Pino’s Quiz Night and other events, you can visit their Facebook Page.

Manang’s Chicken: Way Better than BonChon

Chicken places abound in Manila. Some are hits but for me, many are misses. So when a friend told me that the son of so-and-so owned this place, I was skeptical. It’s a chicken place – what else is new?

But like my recent discover and love for Chef Lau’s Pugon Roasters, this place – Manang’s Chicken – would be something I’d be coming back time and again simply because I can’t get enough of how the chicken tasted.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve tasted far better chicken and Bigg’s Crispy Fried Chicken still reigns supreme on my list. However, devoid of Bigg’s in Manila, I opted for alternatives.

Manang’s Chicken, every time I bring someone here, is likened to Bon Chon. But unlike the latter, which I hate for the lack of value (too expensive for so little), I liked the taste of Manang’s better.

For the price of P99 (1 pc chicken with rice and chips), the chicken is good namely for the sauce. There’s something unique with how they blended soy sauce to be sweet and how they added sesame seed (possibly sesame oil) to add that unique flavor. It’s kind of addicting really to think they have original, mild spicy and spicy versions. The chicken itself is sometimes a hit and miss – one point it will be juicy and at times it won’t. But the sauce is what I keep coming back for.

Admittedly there are many other items in the menu but I haven’t tried them. Manang’s is the kind of place wherein when I need a budget meal – and Jollibee, McDo, KFC or any other fast food joint is a no-no, then it’s a pretty fair alternative.

I just hope they have a branch near my office so I can eat for lunch every item in the menu.

 

For more info on Manang’s Chicken, check out their Facebook Page.

 

PS – The marketer in me simply loves their marketing strategies. I guess knowing the owner (though just an acquaintance), I feel a kinship with the brand.

Pugon Roasters: An Inexpensive Celebrity-Chef-Owned Resto

When I first discovered Pugon Roasters, it was love at first bite. First, I was amazed that the famous celebrity chef – Chef Lau owned it and that the dishes were surprisingly affordable – even outright dirt cheap! Second, I was amazed at the food choices and more so at the succulent tastes of each. And lastly, it was located in my favorite park in the city.

And so it came as no surprise that every chance I got, I would invite friends to meet at Pugon. I loved bringing them there and suggesting my favorite dishes. But lo and behold not all of them loved Pugon as my as I did. And when I probed deeper, it was because their taste buds cannot appreciate the intricate flavors Chef Lau mixed into his creations.

The flagship product is, of course, none other than Pugon Roast Chicken (P99 with rice). It is actually served with artistic flair as would befit any chef. Their chicken is best paired with the vinegar that comes with it. It actually taste was better than Mang Inasal or any other common chicken place but my friends simply didn’t have the taste buds to appreciate the Indian-inspired cuisine. Their claim is that the chicken is roasted in a pugon and as we know anything cooked in an actual pugon is well-worth the taste (think Pugon Pandesal).

But what I love about them is their version of chicken liver and isaw. The Chicken Liver Surprise (P75 with rice) has this distinctive spice taste reminiscent of Indian cuisine. The liver is so soft you can just bite and swallow. But of course who would do that? Best chew the food slowly first and savor its rich taste. Another rather unique dish is Chikenini (P65 with rice). It’s chicken intestines (isaw) fried then cooked in adobo sauce. There are times when it would be so salty but most of the times the taste is just enough. It’s pretty strong taste but to me it’s what keeps me coming back because I find it ingenuous that there is another way of cooking “isaw” (in fact, I should just refer to it as intestines because it is not really “inisaw” (grilled)).

They have other good menu items like the Chicken Croquetas (P85 with rice) which I recommend you share with a group as one order has 5 big pieces and eating all of them can get “nakakaumay”. The barbeque sauce that comes with it though is divine.

The place also serves alcohol such as beer served really cold and hence dubbed beer zero because it is cooled to almost 0 degrees. Of course the have pulutan like Chicken Sisig. They also carry desserts such as cheesecakes, halo-halo and carabao soft ice cream. If you like dark chocolate, I recommend their dark chocolate cheesecake (P130). I’m sure you’ll love it!.

There are other menu items such as a baked bangus and angus beef. I didn’t really try them hence I can’t give a verdict. I merely go back for the chicken liver and chikenini most of the time but I must make a mental note to go back more often and try the other dishes.

Final note: Pugon is a fantastic resto. Their claim of #FastGood is true. Food is served fast and it tastes – and look – good. I love the food and I love their service. But I know the taste is not for everyone so if you are not that adventurous with your taste buds, or you do not prefer Middle Eastern tastes, then proceed with caution. Yet, as they say, YOLO – you only live once – so why not try the sumptuous meals at Pugon Roasters. (Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review though it might sound like one because I just so love the place!)

 

Pugon Roasters by Chef Lau is located at Ayala Triangle, Makati and McKinley Hill, Taguig. Visit their Facebook Page at Chef Lau’s Pugon Roasters.

 

 

Wabi-Sabi: Beyond My Imagination

Lately I’ve been feeling more adventurous and more exploratory. Blame it on my new found freedom but I really wanted to try as many things as I can now that I have time in my hands. And so, top of my list is to collate as many unique epicurean experiences as possible. I cannot claim to be a food blogger – maybe not yet – but I can most certainly review food and definitely be on a hunt for the most unique experience I can possibly dream of.

Being adventurous, I decided to try out Wabi Sabi after reading about it from two food guides. I searched the net further to find out what it’s about and came across famous bloggers who attested to its taste. And so together with friends, I decided to investigate.

The evening we were about to try out Wabi Sabi proved to be a dreary rainy one. We were close to backing out but I persisted for the sake of trying out something new.

Wabi Sabi is located in The Collective along Maluggay Street in Makati. At first, I thought The Collective was your usual, typical mall. I was badly mistaken. Coming from Buendia cor. Osmena Hwy, I walked to Maluggay and was glad that I easily found The Collective. Upon reaching the building, I harbored second thoughts. I was the first of our party to arrive and I didn’t know if I was in the right place. It looked like an abandoned warehouse from the front. There were several food joints in front but none of them was Wabi Sabi.

I dared ventured in. Inside were walls covered with graffiti – artistic graffiti that is but to my world, it was scary graffiti. Obviously, it was a hipster – artist place and there was even a newly opened gallery. I wasn’t entirely sure if I’ve come to the right place so I asked someone if they knew where Wabi Sabi is. I asked one of the ladies who appeared to work in one of the food joints and she was quite unsure what I was asking. She merely pointed out that I could try exploring deeper into the building for there are other food joints inside.

I took her advice albeit cautiously and all along, as I explored the narrow corridors whose walls all contained graffiti, I felt like anytime soon I will be stabbed or mugged. It was how I would picture out the Bronx in New York.

Thankfully enough that building wasn’t really that big (or deep) and upon two turns I saw Wabi Sabi. I felt relieved. It was just like Anton Diaz’s (of Our Awesome Planet) description – the place looked like a Kung Fu Noodle House. The place is really small and when I arrived there were two big groups occupying almost the entire restaurant. So, having gained a new found bravado, I ventured to explore the building deeper, only to find out it was actually small, and resolved to wait for my companions in the main hallway.

Surprising, all of us were scared and a bit skeptical when we entered into the building. I had a good laugh looking at their faces when they entered the building only to see hipsters, artists and graffiti – being scientists – we knew we were not in our turf.

So on to Wabi Sabi.

Sadly, the joint did not live up to my expectations. I expected a lot given that they have this concept of Ramen Padilla vs Fernando Pho Jr. Their specialty is noodles and they serve it two ways – Japanese ramen (choice of shoyu (P120) or miso (P130)) and Vietnamese pho (P105). We also tried to order their appetizers yet most that were written on the blackboard menu were no longer available. Most disappointing was that their specialty sample dish which allows you to go back for seconds was also not available. Apparently, it was just a promo 3 years ago and they just didn’t erase it from the menu blackboard.

So we basically ordered what was available. The gyoza (P55, 3pcs) which tasted like crab meat was pretty good. So was their Harumaki (P65, 4pcs) which had a seaweed taste probably due to the prominence of the dried seaweed. What we all love was the Bahn Mi (P150, 12”) which was a sub sandwich filled with pulled vegan pork, cucumber, carrots and some other veggies I can’t identify. It really tasted great and you wouldn’t realize you’re eating vegan meat!

For drinks we had two choices – a refreshing Lemongrass Iced Tea (P50) and the usual Thai Milk Tea (P60). For me the Lemongrass was better even if the lemongrass taste was too strong. It was not at all sweet also.

The main dish – the two noodle soup. I got to try the Shoyu Ramen and the Pho. The Shoyu Ramen to my taste was a bit bland. In fact we all agreed it was bland and we had to add some chili powder to heighten the taste. The meat – which was gluten of course – was average. I did not enjoy it actually so I switched with my sister who ordered Pho. The pho tasted strongly of cilantro and all the while I can imagine I was eating leaves. But I preferred it to the ramen because at least it had a strong taste to it. I also found it more filling.

So my verdict for the soup war – I go with Fernando Pho Jr.!

As for the entire place, it failed my expectations and my friends were generally not impressed. There were products we enjoyed but it won’t be enough for us to come back and relive the experience. We also surmised that since we were not vegetarians, we found the soups bland.

And so, in my quest to find out if I would ever be vegan – I’m sad to say my first attempt at vegan dining out in Makati was a flop.

The positive side to all this though was I got to try a new place and gain a completely different experience. Will I be back? In Wabi Sabi, perhaps but just to eat the B-my or the gyoza. In The Collective, perhaps to try Ritual, an organic store which sells vegan ice cream (P110 per scoop).

Will I continue exploring vegan places? Definitely! And not just vegan places but every hole-in-wall resto in Makati.