Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chicken eats gator

When it comes to sampling strange, exotic flavors, I am no chicken. I normally eat anything I'm fed (in high school, some sugarcane farmers in Tarlac served me a plate of field rats and I flinched not). But hey, everything tastes sweeter when you're in good company--or so I thought, until I nibbled on my first morsel of alligator at Tagaytay Highlands.

Taking advantage of the long weekend, my dad, two sisters, a brother-in-law and I trooped to Tagaytay last August 22 to have our fill of meat at the Highlands' famed steak house. And as we were ordering our surf n' turf, a waiter dared us to try some new protein--gator, which they apparently import now from the U.S. My sister Eileen, who has tasted alligator many times in the States where she lives, seemed vaguely interested. But my brother-in-law Louie and I jumped at the opportunity--we requested one plate to be shared by all five of us.

In fairness, the dish looked pretty, and the gator meat seemed it could fall off easily from the gator bone. But the piece I forked was dry and fibrous--not succulent at all. Worse, it emitted a gamey aroma that matched its gamey flavor. Major turn-off. Maybe the meat was stored too long in the freezer. Maybe it wasn't seasoned well enough. Maybe Filipino chefs aren't yet as skilled as they can be in preparing the strange meat.

Eileen insists that alligator tastes like chicken. It might take a trip to the U.S. for me to prove her right. Meanwhile, the plate we ordered remained half touched.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Belgian Chocolate Champorado

After enduring the sweltering heat at Bonifacio High Street yesterday, my sister Eileen and I rewarded ourselves with some ice-cold treats at the STOCK MARKET, which boasts of a well-stocked ice cream and yogurt bar plus a wide variety of scrumptious toppings. While Eileen ordered a helping of frozen yogurt with kiwi slices, preserved blueberries and almond slivers, I chose a more curious concoction: Belgian Chocolate Champorado.

A skeptic at first, I was delighted by what eventually greeted me: a steaming heap of short-grain rice flavored with deep, dark chocolate and topped with a scoop of luscious raspberry ice cream. My sister was quick to point out: it's much like a rich, moist fudge brownie a la mode. And right she was. Except the pudding had a much more interesting texture than any brownie can--suck on a spoonful and you'll know what I mean. Plus the contrast between the hot sticky rice and the frozen cream was a welcome sensation.

I would go back for a seconds. Even if a serving costs a hefty P195.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Asia's Titanic from NatGeo's first Filipino director

In 2004, advertising industry colleague and friend Yam Laranas survived a grueling screening process conducted by executives of the National Geographic Channel (NGC) to select an exclusive circle of filmmakers and producers who would create NGC's next batch of highly-acclaimed documentaries. More than 300 from all over Asia had competed for the NGC grant, with 29 being invited to pitch their stories at the NGC headquarters in Singapore. Of that number, only 15 including Laranas, were offered the spot to produce their work for the prestigious network.

"Facing the NGC panel was very intimidating, much tougher than facing the most demanding advertising clients," recounts Laranas. "My job was to convince the NGC panel that we had the best story and that we Filipinos have the ability to produce it and to meet the very high standards and hallmarks set by the NGC."

But when asked in 2004 what the winning story was about, Laranas shrugged apologetically with his reply, "NGC keeps its future programming confidential."

Yesterday, August 18, I was invited to the press viewing of the documentary produced by Laranas and his all-Filipino team. Dubbed, ASIA's TITANIC, the film recounts the story of the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster--the sinking of the MV Dona Paz just 5 days before Christmas in 1987, after the passenger ship had collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro island in the Philippines. About 4000 perished during the tragedy.

Laranas's film dissects the event through re-enactments, first hand accounts from survivors (there were only 24), transcripts from the Philippine congressional inquiry into the tragedy, and archival footage and photos. The director explains, "We were not tasked to do an investigative piece, and were made to ensure we remained true to the facts." As such, the Filipino team was mandated to corroborate the stories of the survivors with actual accounts published in newspapers, congressional transcripts and other printed documents. Andrew Roque, the documentary's producer, clarified saying, "We had no room to editorialize or politicize. NGC provided us with a thick bible on what we could and could not do while making this film."

In truth, a documentary is defined as a movie, television, or radio program using images or interviews of people involved in real events to provide a factual record or report. After the press viewing and during the Q&A, I was tempted to ask if Laranas, while fulfilling his mission of piecing together a factual story, had aimed to weave in his point of view surrounding the tragedy. But there was no need. A master at his craft, Laranas cleverly juxtaposes physical occurrences during the event with raw human emotions expressed by survivors to evoke a specific response from his viewers.

Those who catch the documentary will read between the lines.

ASIA'S TITANIC, the first NatGeo documentary produced by an an all-Filipino team, debuts on Tuesday, August 25, 8pm, on the National Geographic Channel. You can also catch it on these dates and times:

August 26, Wednesday, 4am/9am/1pm/9pm
August 30, Sunday, 9pm
August 31, Monday, 1am/5am
September 5, Saturday, 6pm
September 28, Monday, 8pm
September 29, Tuesday, 1pm

A scale model of the ill-fated vessel greets guests at the press preview in Rockwell.

Yam meets the press.

I and my sisters Eileen and Audrey hangout with an old friend.
Hmm, I even look taller than the event's big man.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nivea's ACTIVE 3: Shower Shampoo Shave

I am a fan of products that multi-task, so you can imagine my delight when I encountered on the grocery shelf, the latest item in Nivea's line for men--New ACTIVE3. Unlike Nivea's shower gels for body and hair (SPORT with mineral extract and ENERGY with mint extract), ACTIVE3 boasts of a third benefit: it is effective as a shaving gel.

Ok, you may argue that most Filipino men do not keep their razors in the shower (nor do many of us have much body hair to shave); nonetheless, the consumer promise of ACTIVE3 is a sound one, and I would not be surprised if some metrosexuals suddenly take on the habit of manscaping because of the product (however, that also means installing a mirror in the shower and investing in a razor like the Philips Norelco).

ACTIVE3 lathers bountifully, making full use of advanced microtechnology to ensure a smooth shave by lubricating the skin and minimizing painful nips. Some may be put off by the film of moisturizers that the product leaves (you will have to resist the urge to wash it off completely), but this is necessary to keep the skin supple after all that shaving. My only hesitation? Though ACTIVE3 has a most pleasant scent, the fragrance can afford to be less floral (come to think of it, women may benefit from the product too).

Nivea's ACTIVE3 for men retails at around P160.

To learn more about the product and how to use it, check out this link: