Friday, November 02, 2007

Things I'm not supposed to do (abroad)

(Foreword: this post is actually a really old one from months ago while i was still abroad. I'm lifting it off my friendster blog so that I can start putting my entries in just one site. That, and I'm also too lazy right now to write any new ones.)

Okay here's the deal.
I'm abroad so everything's supposed to be different.
The food, the scenery, the culture and the people.
I decided I want to take it all in.
Fill up my senses with information and just take it all home.
I want to go to every museum, landmark, event and heck even supermarkets and just feast my eyes on the new, the weird and the mundane.
I want to remember everything.
But aside from that resolution, I never thought I'd be learning more about myself in the process.
Here are the list of things I've done (whether voluntary or not) that are so undoubtedly Filipino:

1. Lily's peanut butter
I have always favored this brand over the imported stuff. My cousins say it takes more like sugar than peanut. I say US brands like Skippy and Goober taste more like peanut than sugar. So what? I grew up with this stuff. I happen to like it whether its on bread, pita, crackers, bananas or just by eating a big dollop off a spoon. I guess it's useless to argue the point. It may not be the healthiest thing in the world, but thats just my third world (un)common sensibility kicking in. It's cheap (well, maybe not over here. It costs almost $3 a bottle. An almost 200% profit for asian stores). So far, I've bought at least 3 or 4 bottles during my stay here. Crazy huh? Just like getting a little piece of home.

2. Karaoke
This is definitely a staple in any Filipino party here in the states. It goes with the "smile-though-your-heart-is-aching" mentality we Pinoys have. People may complain about loneliness, money troubles and stress over here, but once someone starts belting out a tune, everyone becomes happy again. Even some Filipino restaurants have it. We frequently visit this one place in San Jose which is open til 2am everyday because of their videoke hours. They also offer discounts on the food if you sing (I have no idea if this also applies to off-key singing as that goes against the whole theory that singing will make people want to stay)

3. Filipino restos
I've always wondered why with the proliferation of Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean restos, there is a glaring disparity in the number of Pinoy places to eat. Somebody pointed out to me that Pinoys scrimp on the serving size. Another person told me that they overprice things. So I checked out Goldilocks, Barrio Fiesta, Gerry's Grill and a bunch of other home cooking restos. (Jollibee doesn't count. It's the same menu, but you have to order rice as a side dish).

Goldilocks is the only place I've eaten at over here that actually counts the number of meat and actually lessens the serving in front of you. No wonder only Pinoys eat there. But it's always packed though.

Barrio Fiesta
Barrio Fiesta's interiors look the same as their local counterpart, only stuffier. The waiters have been there for ages and ages already and the staff is very attentive. Definitely first-world customer service. Their $4.50 halo-halo was okay, but the leche flan (which is like the piece de resistance of any halo-halo in my opinion was exceptionally disappointing). It tasted worse than ready-to-make flan you buy at the supermarket.

Gerry's Grill (Union city)
It was a pleasant surprise to know that one of my favorite sisig places had opened near my cousin's house. But I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up too high. They had obviously adjusted their cooking to suit foreigner's tastes already. The chicharon bulaklak was almost all meat (which is actually a good thing). Everything else was fine. They were kinda pricey though. Must be because of the cool interiors. Unlike other Pinoy restos, Gerry's definitely put a premium on good ambiance.

Chowking and Red Ribbon
I havent actually gone there yet, although I've passed by these places so many times. They close early so I can never grab a bite to eat there after my games. Looks promising though, my cousin says the dimsum is good.

I don't know why so many Filipino places here look like your average carinderia or canteen in Manila. Whether the price of upkeep is too high or they simply don't bother with appearances, it just doesn't cut it as compared to other asian places (but in fairness, the toilets are always clean and tidy unlike better looking Chinese restos. ugh). I find it funny that the older pa-sosyal people who lived in Manila before go to these places alot. Pero when they go back to the Philippines, hindi mo sila mapapapasok sa ganung lugar. Oh the hyprocrisy nga naman. When they're in Manila, they wanna look rich because they're "stateside," but when they come back here, they're as bakya as you can get.

3. Halo-halo
It's summertime so Pinoys just love to go out and cool off. My lola loves it when we take her out for this treat if a dozen or so delights (hehe pahiram ng tagline Icebergs...). The price of halo-halo here averages from $3.50 to $4.50. Wala pang tax yan ha. I would rather order sago & gulaman, but I cannot part with my $3.75 for something I know probably cost them less than a quarter to make. The problem is with getting halo-halo at Pinoy eateries is that your never quite sure what your getting. Minsan masarap, minsan hindi. The worst problem would be if they ran out of your favorite ingredient (it doesnt matter if its a major or minor flavor, one place even had the gall to charge us full price even though they ran out of leche flan AND ube!). And when I went to complain... "Ay, pasensya na po, madami kasing nag-order nyan kahapon eh. Kaya naubusan na kami." Geez. As if stating these facts automatically absolves him of substandard food quality AND not being forthright to the customer. This is why I love American customer service standards. I actually abhor that saying "Kung maikli ang kumot, matutong bumaluktot."

4. Malling
I'm staying at a place near the Great Mall (which I think really isn't so great and worthy of it's name. Come to think of it, they should've named MOA the Great Mall of Asia. Now thats a "great" mall if your talking of sheer size alone. Nevermind the store arrangements...). I haven't really done alot of malling since most malls here are just one or two storeys high. Parang ali mall lang. But I've visited most of the major malls in the area. There's Valley Fair and Santana Row which is our equivalent of Rockwell or Greenbelt. Then there's Sunridge and Eastridge (I cant tell them apart) which would remind me of Galleria or ATC except that I find them inferior in aesthetics. Hay... miss ko na talaga ang Gateway.

5. Movies
I thought my movie watching addiction would subside over here (given the $9-10 price range) but I guess that was not meant to be. Thank you God for $6 matinee shows and double features. Thank you $2-5 DVD sales at Hollywood and Blockbuster video. Thank you Netflix for getting me through my housesitting weekends! I can't remember everything I've watched but Disturbia, Spiderman 3, A Mighty Heart, Transformers, and Sicko top the bunch.

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