Adventure, Food, Learning


I really don’t have a fear of heights. A few years back, I tried the zipline and was forty feet above the ground. Easy-peasy! Flying was another matter. I delayed traveling via plane for the longest time not because of acrophobia, but because of responsibilities.

I’m not sure why I applied for a passport last year. I wasn’t expecting to go out of the country, not to mention ride a plane this year.  I thought that my first plane ride was to go out of town; perhaps Cebu or Davao to attend a conference or to go on a vacation with my loved ones. Surprise, surprise. My destination was Phnom Penh, Cambodia for an education fair. Duty calls and I must answer.

Being the worrywart, highly-organized, obsessive-compulsive person that I am, I prepared for the trip physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I admit that the thought of being 34,000 feet above the ground scared me because I was traveling alone; no colleague to chat with and no beau to coach me on what to expect next. I was also worried that if the plane crashes to the sea, I will surely drown as I don’t know how to swim. But what scared me more was that I will not be able to attend the education fair due to a missed flight because of the horrendous EDSA traffic or that I wouldn’t be able to answer the Immigration Officer’s questions due to my anxiety.

I had a lot of firsts during this trip.


First plane ride: The plane that I rode in was an Airbus A320. My travel agent booked me a window seat. Thank goodness he did!  From where I was seated, I saw the wings of the plane and the flickering red lights that I only see from down below. Aside from this, I saw the lights of Manila as the plane gathered speed.


First meal: I’ve read about airplane food not being the best kind of meal there is but I wouldn’t know until I’ve tried it myself. After one hour into the flight, we were served our meal. I was served Roast Beef with vegetables and Banana Cake for dessert. I wasn’t that hungry because I managed to grab a bite at Terminal 1. Overall, I liked the fact that despite the short trip, meals were served.


First stay at a hotel outside the Philippines: I was billeted at Hotel Cambodiana, a hotel loctated 15 minutes away from the Phnom Penh Airport and 3 minutes (literally because I timed myself going there) away from the venue of the education fair that I attended. I had a king-sized bed all to myself!


First amazing international tourist spot: One former student of our center and a local resident of Phnom Penh informed me that the river behind my hotel traverses through six countries. That fact is impressive enough for me as a first-time traveler. However, seeing the sunrise by the Mekong River was beyond words.


First breakfast buffet outside the Philippines: I usually eat breakfast in a rush before I go to work. For me, buffets are reserved for gatherings or team-building activities. By mid-day, I usually have worked up an appetite. The breakfast buffet is a freebie attached to my accommodation so it needs to be consumed. The restaurant usually opens at 6:30am for the buffet breakfast; this was what I was told as soon as I checked in. For two days, I started off with bread and cold cuts. To keep myself full for the entire morning, my second meal consisted of meat and veggies.

At my age, I wasn’t expecting to experience a lot of firsts as these would have been normally experienced when I was a decade or two decades younger than I am today. But I was wrong, especially for travel as I would rather stay home and read books. Traveling broadens my horizons and allows me to get out of my comfort zone. As one saying goes: If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” Indeed. Traveling alone did challenge me and it surely changed me. Now, I want more stamps in my passport. cat-seat-skin-body-animal-512





Perfecting Bulgogi

426611_360163190671195_873936707_nThe long vacation was an opportunity for me to rest and surprise, surprise, perfect my Bulgogi. l swear that I can cook it with my eyes closed. After a couple of experiments in the past year, here’s my own recipe for Bulgogi.



1/2 kilo beef (breakfast steak), cut into strips

1/2 tsp. sesame seeds, roasted

4 pcs of carrots, julienned

4 pcs. of white onions, cut into rings

3 tbsps of sesame oil

1/2 tbsp of gochujang (optional)



1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

1/2 tsp. gochujang (Korean chili paste)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

6 stalks of green onion, chopped

2 tbsps. sesame oil

2-3 tbsps. of brown sugar


Dip: (for those who like it spicy)

2 tbsps. sesame oil

2 tbsps. of brown sugar

1/2 tbsp. of gochujang

1/4 tsp. of sesame seeds, slightly roasted



  1. Mix the beef and all the ingredients of the marinade in a bowl. Refrigerate for 3-5 days.
  2. In a non-stick pan, roast the sesame seeds. Set aside.
  3. Pour the sesame oil into the pan and sauté the carrots. Set aside.
  4. Next, fry the beef until cooked and set the marinade aside.
  5. Add the carrots.
  6. Pour the marinade into the pan and let it simmer. (For extra sauce, mix together 2 tbsps. of sesame oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 2 tbsps. of brown sugar then add to the beef and let it simmer.)
  7. Add the onions.
  8. Add 1/2 tbsp.  gochujang for added spice.
  9. The sauce should be sweet and a little spicy.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice.

For those who want it spicy, mix the ingredients of the dip together in a small bowl. You may place the beef in the dip before eating it.

Enjoy your Bulgogi!


Cooking: A Therapy

I didn’t like to cook when I was young. The earliest recollection of me cooking at home was when I cooked fried rice and omelets with tomatoes and onions on Sundays circa… uh, never mind… Then it’s off to the market with Mama.

Mama got lost in another world when she prepared meals for the family. She made a fuss in preparing the best meals I remembered from my childhood. They became my comfort food–Pork Sinigang, Fried Lumpia, Sopas, Adobong Pusit, Grilled Bangus… the list goes on.

I got so excited when Mama laid the most delectable dishes on our dining table. I was also thrilled that for at least one day every week, our family got together and ate. Sundays to me meant meals and conversations; a chance to bond with each other.

Mama had to work on Saturdays so I was the one tasked to prepare lunch for my sister and me. Of course under the supervision of my maternal grandmother who’s a great cook. One Saturday before leaving for the office, Mama reminded me that I had to cook Batchoy. It sounded delicious but… Oh dear! I didn’t know how to cook that.

Our house was in a compound so my grandmother’s house was just a stone’s throw away, literally. She would just open her kitchen window that was adjacent to our kitchen window and yell the instructions to me. To make the long story short, I survived my first cooking test under the supervision of my food-connoisseur Lola.

It wasn’t until I left home that I learned how to cook. I had to rely on my own taste when cooking meals. It would be a disgrace if I had someone taste my cooking and it turned out to be horrible. Yikes! And so, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, studying… cooking… a pinch of pepper here, a pinch of salt there…until I came up with edible meals.

Time passed and my life changed. My beau and daughter came. I became more interested in cooking healthy but good food. Every chance I got, I tried out new recipes from books, magazines, and the internet. I found myself with a silly smile on my face a few days ago. I recalled that in the past, I was so hesitant in picking up a ladle. Now, I consider cooking as therapy.

I’ll bet you’ll know where to find me when I’m stressed, melancholic, pensive, happy, overjoyed…. Right!—in the kitchen, whipping up something delectable.

Here are some of the dishes I’ve cooked for loved-ones, friends, and myself.

First row: Aglio Et Olio, Chicken Pork Adobo, Kimchi Chigae

Second row: Vegetarian Hot Pot, Stir-Fry Mixed Veggies, Glass Noodle Soup

Last row: Fish Sarciado



“Samgyupsal duh joo se yo”

Dr. Kim, our late Korean language professor, invited me and my classmates to a Korean restaurant for lunch as a culminating activity for our language class in 2010. We have seriously prepared for this Korean lunch out. Judy and I had a light breakfast and we totally skipped our morning snacks. When Dr. Kim sent word that he was waiting for us at the lobby of our building, we eagerly went out to meet him.

“Woo Ri Jib” which means “our house” in Korean is located in Kalayaan Avenue. When we entered, we noticed that most of the patrons were Filipino. There were only a few Koreans in the restaurant. Then we were escorted to a private room just behind the counter. The owner welcomed us and spoke so fast that I caught just one or two words…Geez, I still have a long way to go to converse using Hangul.

The waiter handed us the menu and we salivated over the pictures of the dishes. Wow! Everything looked so good! But we asked our professor to order for us since he’s the expert on this kind of food. He ordered six dishes—Bulgogi, Samgyupsal, Kimbap, Buldak, Deanjang Chigae, and the most expensive dish of all in the line up– Godeunguh Kimchi Jorim.

Below are the pictures of the side dishes or “banchan”. These are to be eaten before the main courses. We especially liked the sweet potato, dried salmon with bean sprouts, cold cucumber, and the dried “saeng tae” with sesame seeds.




Here are some pictures of the main dishes. Kimbap, (similar to sushi and “nori-maki”), Buldak (spicy chicken), Daenjang Chige (soup with tofu and pumpkin), and the Godeunguh Kimchi Jorim (soup with pieces of mackerel and kimchi that has been fermented for a year).


Godeunguh Kimchi Jorim

That’s us posing for the camera… “C’mon Kuya, hurry up! We want to continue eating!”

And of course, everyone’s favorite–Samgypusal (similar to bacon only thicker with three layers-fat, meat, fat.)                                                    




This is the proper way to eat it.

  1. Get a piece of the meat and some roasted garlic, dip it in sesame oil.
  2. Then get a piece of lettuce, put the meat on top together with the garlic.
  3. Get some “mak jang” and place some on the meat.
  4. Get some rice and place it on top.
  5. Fold, wrap, and eat.

 When eating Korean food, you must remember to go easy on the rice. Most restaurants use Japanese rice. This kind of rice is almost like our glutinous rice. There is a certain feeling of fullness when you eat it. Try to sample a little bit of everything first especially the “banchan”. Then go for the soup followed by the main dishes. One cup of rice is enough to have a filling meal, unless you’re a big eater. But if you had your fill and still want to eat some more; drink “nuk cha” or warm green tea. It helps digest food faster and in a few minutes you will be able to say “Samgyupsal duh joo se yo” which means “Please give me some more Samgyupsal.”



Haikus and the Rain

One of the perks of being an ESL teacher is that I get to customize my lessons to fit the needs of my student.  Back in 2009 on a rainy April day, my Japanese student and I were inspired to write Haikus. I haven’t written any poetry for a long time since I started working. But there’s something about the ambience of the Japanese Zen Garden which made me write some.


Rain, as it falls down

the Earth as it lays still now,

refreshed and renewed.



Fire trees danced gaily,

the wind warm and inviting

Summer is here now.


The Lighthouse

The lone lighthouse stands

shining its light to the sea

beckoning sailors home.