Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Prawns Soup with Vegetables


Today at the public market in Boac Marinduque, my cook was able to buy one kilo of prawns. It cost her P650(about 14.50 US dollars) for one kilo, but the prawns were so sweet and yummy after she made it into sinigang. Sinigang is a Pinoy soup with mixed vegetables, a little bit on the sour side, but my wife and I enjoyed this dish very much. It was one of the best lunch we had since our snowbirding sojourn here in Marinduque-our second home. Here's my cook recipe for the dish.

Prawns Sinigang Ingredients:

1 kilo prawns, 10 pieces

3 tomatoes, sliced

2 onions, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

5 pieces of pechay or baby boc toy

100 grams String beans

2 pieces horse radishes, sliced

12 pieces of okra

2 pieces sili pag sigang (green finger pepper)

200 grams sampalok (tamarind)

1 liter of rice wash or water

Sinigang Cooking Instructions:

Boil sampalok in water until the shell shows cracks. Let cool then peal off the shells and with a strainer, pour samplalok (including water) into a bowl. Gently massage the sampalok meat off the seeds, strain again.

In a pot, sauté garlic and onion then add the tomatoes. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the horse radish and simmer for 5 minutes then add the string beans, pechay, okra and sili (for spice-optional). Last add the prawns ( washed_) and Let boil for 2 minutes or until the prawns turn red. Serve piping hot.

Sinigang Cooking Tip:

Instead of sampalok fruit (tamarind), you can substitute it with any commercial souring seasoning like Knorr sampalok seasoning or tamarind bouillon cubes for this sinigang recipe.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Marinduque Island-A Photographer's Delight

Sunset taken from the Balcony of the Chateau Du Mer Beach House

My two guests at Chateau Du Mer for this coming Moriones Festival are both professional photographers. I believe both are primarily interested in photographing the colorful and unique Moriones costumes and festivities but perhaps also interested in photographing Marinduque's natural beauty, perhaps its limestone caves*, white sands beaches, waterfalls, coral reefs, gorgeous sunsets, old churches and antique homes. Their visit here at the Chateau Du Mer this coming Holy Week reminds me of an article I wrote in my blogs about 2 years ago titled Marinduque-A Photographer's Dream as follows:


Marinduque is a photographer's dream. The province is endowed with unspoiled white sand beaches, pristine blue waters, fringing reefs, virgin coral reefs, isolated coves, limestone caves, meandering and underground rivers, mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls and streams, fabled sulfur and hot mineral springs, old churches, antique homes and of course beautiful sunsets. The Internet is filled with photographs of the scenic beauty of this island not only from the local amateur and professional photographers but also from photographers all over the world. The province has more than six islands popular to beach lovers, scuba divers and snorkeling enthusiasts. It has also Mt Malindig known to mountain climbers and hikers. It has Bathala* and Tarug Caves popular to spelunkers and just curious seekers. In one of the eight caves of Bathala, there is a resident python, believed to be enchanted. If he shows himself when you visit the caves, it is suppose to bring you good luck.
Sunset over Tres Reyes Islands- Photo from panoramnio.com
The nearest and most accessible islands from the capital town of Boac are the Tres Reyes Islands ( Islands of the Three Kings), Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar in the town of Gasan. The local names are Laki, Pangkog and Man-nga ( see map above). These islands are located southwest of the mainland. The other three group of islands bigger in area and more populated are Polo, Maniwaya and Mongpong Islands. These are located in the Northeast part of the mainland in the town of Santa Cruz. Maniwaya's Polo Maria White Beach is being develop as an alternative to Boracay. There is a bigger island, Salamongue Island which is not as well known to the tourists and residents.. I really do not know the reason, but I believe it is not as accessible from the mainland . Moreover, it is not as developed( no electricity or running water) compared to the other islands.

One of the most popular white beach located in the mainland in the town of Torrijos is Poctoy White Beach. It is about a 70 minutes drive from downtown Boac. Poctoy White beach with Mt, Malindig as the background is the most photogenic and the most photographed scenery in the island.

Two or three years ago, the former Elephant Island in Lipata, Buenavista, owned privately, was renamed Bellarocca Resort Island and Spa. It has been converted to look like Santorini Island, Greece with buildings all painted in white sticking in the cliffs. From what I heard, this resort is one of the most expensive and luxurious resort in Southeast Asia. The cheapest room charges $300 per night excluding meals and other amenities. When I was in Marinduque last year, I met a few rich and famous Filipinos( businessmen, actors and actresses, TV personalities)) from Manila as well as Korean and Japanese tourists at Masiga Airport in Gasan on their way to the resort. From the resort advertisement, I know that the most expensive accommodation is a 3-bedroom villa with its own pool and jacussi charging about $ 800 per night without meals.

MI, Inc members stayed overnight at the resort with a dinner and dance last February 14, 2011-celebrating Valentine's Day and the success of the 2011 medical mission.

Dong Ho, Oggie Ramos, Ferdz Decena, Allan Barredo, Sydney Snoeck and Dennis Villegas are some of the photographers that I know who have photo blogs about Marinduque. Their pictures are beautiful, unique and mesmerizing. It is worth your time to visit their photo blogs sites. Looking at their photographs of Marinduque, its Tradition and Culture will surely make you proud of the beauty of our island paradise.

Here's the latest on Recommended Caves in Marinduque from Joven Malabana Lillies:

"As one of the member of Provincial Cave Committee and Provincial Assessment Team, we are not recommending and promoting Bathala Cave anymore, the reason is based on the National Cave Act, before any cave is offered for tourism, there should be a classification approved by the IPCC & RCC (Regional Cave Committee) and with a management plan to protect the cave and trained cave guides for visitors, which Bathala do not have....We are recommending Bagumbungan Underground River Cave (San Isidro,Sta. Cruz) Ka Amon Cave (Bonliw , Torrijos) Camarines Cave (Bintakay, Mogpog) and Talao Cave (Tiguion, Gasan).We just finished a week long Cave Guides Training Seminar and Workshop sanctioned by the DOT,DENR,PCGA (Phil. Cave Guides Assn), Philippine Speleological Society and Province of Marinduque".

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rigodon de Honor-Philippines Royal Square Dance

Macrine and I are right in the middle of the Dance Promenade

Today is the 45th day of our 90th day of our annual snow birding ritual in our second home-the beautiful island of Marinduque. Without the brown outs, political intrigues/shenanigans and corruption and with air transportation services resumed the next year( I hope), I will be glad to call Marinduque with out doubt and with pride as my Island Paradise. But for now, I am content with enjoying the beach, my gardens, fresh vegetables and seafood as well as the friendship and company of my fellow Marinduquenos and relatives in this island province.

Our return to US is scheduled the second week of May. That means we will not be able to attend the culmination of the May Flower Festival that is highlighted by a Parade and Grand Ball at the end of the month. But our memories of our participation with May Flower Festivities several years ago including our dancing the Rigodon De Honor will never be erased in our memory. Attached is my article on the Rigodon De Honor published in my blogs three years ago.
The Grand Entrance and Parade of Participants- Note my matching Barong to Macrine's Terno! Macrine did not used her matching removable butterfly sleeves bolero, since it was a very warm evening.

About twelve years ago, Macrine and I had the honor to be invited to participate at the Rigodon De Honor dance at the Grand Ball of the May Flower Festival in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines.

The Rigodon de Honor is an elegant dance which was brought to the Philippines by the Filipinos who returned from their travels abroad during the Spanish era. This dance takes its name from its opening performances at formal affairs such as the President's Inaugural Ball and other Festivals in Philippines and also in other parts of the world. In Marinduque, members of the provincial government, including the Governor and his wife, legislative officials, and other prominent members of the town are usually invited to participate in the Rigodon. Traditionally, a ballroom waltz dance would follow the Rigodon. This particular dance is a form of quadrille which is a historic dance performed usually by four couples in a square formation.

In Marinduque, it is an honor to be invited to participate in the dance. It meant you belong to the high society of the town and recognized as a leader in the community. Macrine and I were invited to dance at the Grand Ball of the May Flower Festival in Boac in May, 2001. At that time Macrine was the President of Marinduque International Inc-a non-profit worldwide organization based in US and Canada whose main goals is to conduct medical mission to the needy in Marinduque every other year. At that time, I also served as acting Treasurer of the organization. For the whole month of May, we (sixteen couples) practiced almost everyday. Near the end of the dance, a part called the CADENA ( it means chain) had to be performed perfectly, otherwise confusion and mayhem could ruined the dance. Attached is a video( taken during the Philippine Gala of the Filipino-American Community of Washington, D.C.) for your viewing pleasure, I found in You Tube! The video is a bit grainy, but does illustrate the movement and choreography of the dance. Note that the women are wearing their ternos( with butterfly sleeves) and the men their barongs.


As I mentioned above, to be invited to participate in the Rigodon is considered as the subtle way of "branding" certain members of the community to specific social ranks. Usually performed as a party opener, the Rigodon starts off by calling the names of the participants; first the rich and influential who will compose the cabezera or headline followed by the not so popular and lesser ranking dancers who will then form the costados or sideline. The Cabezera's will start the dance movement and then followed by the costados. What a way to brand and assign social ranks in the community!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Joys and Pains of Managing a Beach Resort in Marinduque

Moriones Parade, 2013
In eight days The Moriones Festival, 2014(April 14 to 20) will start and from what I heard a similar program that was presented the last 5 years will be again offered to guests and tourists all over the world.

In spite of the absence of air services from Manila, I am lucky that both the upper and lower floors of the beach house are booked. A couple from the US has reserved the upper level and another couple from Australia has reserved the lower level. I believe the two men are professional photographers who are looking forward to take photographs of the Morions and other colorful events scheduled for the whole Easter week. The Moriones Festival always remind me of an article I wrote in my blogs a couple of years ago on the joys and pains of managing a small beach resort. Here it is in case you have not read it.

Center Stage of the Conference Hall-Ready for a Wedding Reception

A closer view of the Conference Hall

Entrance to the Conference Hall

The Conference Hall

The third Bedroom with Two Double Deck Beds-The Room is Air Conditioned

The Second Bedroom with Two Single Beds

The Master Bedroom with the Queen Size Bed

The Beach House after Completion of the Bottom Floor as the 3rd Bedroom

Early Evening in the Main House-so Quiet and Calm

The front yard of the Main House

The landscaping in the front yard of the Main House

The driveway from the main house to the national road

In 2005, three years after my retirement from FDA, Macrine and I started constructing a beach house with no intention of opening it to the public. Two years later we decided building a multi-function Hall by the side of the beach house.
(Note: The main house-our retirement home was built in 1999-three years before our retirement).

However, in 2008 after numerous inquiries and urgings from friends and relatives, we decided to open both the Beach House and Function Hall to the public. I then created a website( www.chateaudumer.com) and a blogsite ( http://chateaudumer.blogspot.com).
Just this year, I posted a video on YouTube titled Chateau Du Mer-Marinduque. Since then, the hall had hosted more than 40 wedding receptions, seminars, parties, and community prayer meetings and picnics. The beach house on the other hand had less than fifteen guests, mostly from abroad ( US and Europe).

So, what are the joys of running a beach resort and conference center. First of all, Macrine and I enjoyed meeting strangers which afterwards become our friends. Second, I love hearing positive comments about the resort, such as: your garden is so beautiful, the landscaping is perfect and I feel like I am in the Garden of Eden in this place.
It was indeed a joyous moment, when one day, one of our young guests during a wedding reception informed me, that our retirement house ( which was built earlier) is her dream house and that someday, if God permits she will have a similar one constructed.

This Holy week, a van load of tourists from Manila stopped by and requested to take pictures of the beach house and conference center area. One of the tourists had seen my website and wanted to see the place in person. She commented the place is as beautiful as the pictures in the Internet. Last, but not least, the conference center is the only Hall in the whole province of Marinduque that can accommodate more than 300 attendees in doors and up to 500 attendees outdoors. This resort is also providing permanent employment for two local residents and temporary employment to four local residents, which help the economy of this 3rd class province.

So what are the pains of running Chateau Du Mer Beach Resort and Conference Center?
First, there are unique physical maintenance problems, since the compound is exposed to salty air and breezes almost all year round. Most of the fixtures even stainless steel had to be cleaned and rusted almost every year. Repainting and repairing equipments are common. Just recently, the water pump did not work. I had to replace it immediately at the costs of $400. Wood borers and mites attacked most of the wooden and bamboo structures as well as furnitures. If you know of a chemical that will kill the wood borers and mites( not termites), please let me know.

Second we have problems with the recruitment of reliable and honest personnel. Since 2008, we had already two managers. One we caught stealing. The current one is honest but super sensitive.

Lastly, the resort income is only enough to pay for the taxes. Hopefully as the economy improved more tourists will visit Marinduque and more young people will hold big wedding receptions; the resort will then earn enough to pay for both maintenance expenses and taxes and might even earn a little profit. But I am not depending my livelihood on this project. We build the place for our personal enjoyment. Our relatives called the place "Macrine's and David's Follies" in their old age.

Above are some recent pictures that I took of the main house, the conference Hall and the Beach House. Hopefully you visit one of my sites, in case this is the first time you have heard of Chateau Du Mer. Comments are appreciated.
Here's a short video of Chateau Du Mer Beach Resort and Conference Center

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sex and Dental Tourism in the Philippines

Moriones Parade during the Holy Week in Marinduque-Most Popular of Marinduque's Tourism Activity
Last week I broke 2 teeth from my 9-tooth lower denture eating lechon. I had it repaired but since the denture was about 4 years old, I decided to have another lower denture made here in Marinduque from my local dentist. My dentist here does all the measurement, but the actual denture is made in Manila. I got my new denture today and I am extremely satisfied and very happy with the fit. The fit is so perfect, I do not feel I have a denture. To top it all, it cost me only 160 US dollars. If I have this made in the US, it will probably cost me 5 times if not more. This true to life experience reminds me of an article I wrote in my blogs about Sex and Dental Tourism in the Philippines as follows:

( Note However, that some dentist particularly in Metro Manila will raise their prices for dental services, once they learn you are a balikbayan or tourist from abroad).

Photo Credit: msmagazine.com

How rampant and common is sex tourism in the Philippines? Based on reports and articles in the Internet, my conclusion is that it is very common. Last year the US Ambassador commented that 40% of US men who visits the Philippines have sex in their minds. He later apologized for his comments. A recent blog from a US visitor described how easy it is to get prostitutes in the former Clark Air Base site in Los Angeles, Pampanga. He said for around $10 to $50 (400 to 2000 thousand pesos), one can have a girl overnight. The amount varies from bars to bars. I have heard of similar stories of prostitution in Manila, Cebu and other big cities in the Philippines. There are women prostitutes, as well as male prostitutes. Child prostitution is sometimes in the news. The Philippines is a Catholic country and the subject of prostitution is taboo. But it is a reality of life!

Postcards like this encourage sex tourism in the islands.

The Philippines is not the only country in Asia known for the sex tourism. One country in my mind is Thailand. Other countries mentioned in the news for prostitution( adults and child) are Brazil, Dominican Republic and Columbia

Another popular activity in the Philippines is DENTAL tourism. My wife and I are beneficiaries of this activity. It is much much cheaper to have your dental work done in the Philippines compared here in US. My wife and I have been getting our dental work in Manila, since our dental insurance coverage here in US is very poor. This is however not true with our medical insurance coverage.

So if you hear of US men visiting the Philippines for sex, do not be surprise. They do not advertise it, but it is the reality of life. Income from sex tourism is one way of uplifting the economy of the country in addition to the billions of pesos remittances from the OFW ( Overseas Filipino Workers). Note that the OFW's are touted to be the modern heroes of the Philippines.

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Guest Article from Susan Creamer Joy

In The Silence, by Susan Creamer Joy.

Today's guest article is from Susan Creamer Joy. Susan is one of my favorite authors in the ViewsHound community. Susan writes, draws, paints and cobbles together art from found objects making a variety of creations from jewelry to religious shrines. She frequently sports burns on her fingers from her soldering iron, paint on her palms and ink under her fingernails, but her hair is usually combed. When she is not losing time in the creative vortex of her studio, she is likely to be putting her knowledge of metaphysics and esoteric principles including Tarot, numerology, astrology and graphology to good use in consultations. Her children are grown, her husband still works and her four dogs believe she needs serious help. The title of her article is "A Matter Of Love And Death". Thank you Susan.

By the time they reached my bedroom door, I was already sitting up – my stomach ratcheted in the tense grip of an unnamed anxiety; my pillow, unburdened of my drowsy head.

To this day I cannot explain how I heard them coming up those stairs in their bare feet or how I knew that my father struggled to hold his composure as my mother unnaturally clutched at the folds of her dressing gown and followed him through the dark just a little too closely.

As the wooden groan of those old stairs tore into my bones that morning like a hacksaw, all I could see between the predawn shadows was the letter I’d written just hours earlier to my boyfriend, Chris, propped against the lamp on my desk across the room awaiting an envelope.

I had not slept well. It was late November and there had been so many changes since the middle of August when he left for the Air Force in Texas to begin basic training and I began my third new school in as many years.

The conspiracy between fate and the last surge of the Vietnam draft had broken apart the every-waking-minutes of our two-year union with unceremonious indifference. All that night my sleep had been infested by difficult dreams and by the illogical fear that truth and reality were merging into a darkness only a martyr could grasp; and at sixteen, martyrdom seemed reasonable only for the nuns among the poor in Bangladesh

I tried to remind myself that he would be home on leave for Thanksgiving in another few days. It was the only tether to calm I could find, but reviewing the facts offered little relief from my baseless fears.

Chris had been girding his pacifist sensibilities preparing to fight in an unpopular war that had not yet slaughtered its last innocent. I was hovering just over the line of inclusion at an exclusive girl’s school – missing him – and finding myself at odds with these young women and their attachment to propriety and with the prep-school veneer that blinded them to the fact that they were no better than anyone else.

Neither one of us was coping well with the worlds into which we were respectively summoned, and although we both knew that the best hope for any future together depended upon our individual successes apart, it was far from comforting most days.

But in spite of our discomfort, we each did our best; and, of course, there were the letters: Thin, plain-paper sheets with row after row after row of inky blue words penned with the intensity and awkward locutions of a love learned too soon. It had come down to just that little, but without them, I would have had nothing.

Chris was learning to fly. I was learning to drive, and both of us were aching to transport our souls to an earlier time through the hallowed intercourse of memories and dreams. Of course, as with all progress, there was the positive element: We were both clean and drug-free for the first time in years.

Now, without pretense, both healthy cognition and sincere motivation surfaced regularly in my psychology and prompted me to care about myself and to arbitrate against all temptation for a better standing in the world, in school and in my own eyes. I even did my homework.

No longer was I escaping today but, instead, living for my day of escape. Lying still in the dark of my room, I listened to the slow, padded footfall of my parents approaching and looked to the floor and to my history book half hidden beneath the nightstand where I’d tossed it the night before. Even in this early morning dark I could make out the swirls and stars in colored marker and the bubble-formed letters that spelled C H R I S in soft, juvenile curves on the torn book cover I’d fashioned out of a brown paper grocery bag.

I vaguely remembered throwing it there somewhat hastily. I had been doing my homework when a sense of urgency struck and I realized I had not written him as I promised I would and glancing at the clock, I noted it was nine-twenty-three. Why that mattered I had no way of knowing in that strange moment, but within hours, it would be one I would never forget; and although I was becoming drowsy and still needed to finish my work, I felt beyond reason that my letter to him could not wait.

So, I wrote. I would always write. I would always be there. He would always be there.“Suzi."It was my name spoken in the smooth and familiar voice of my mother, although weighted and slow, her head bowed to her chest almost as though she were speaking only to herself.

"Suzi.” She said it again, this time with sharp gravity, like a chisel against stone.

As if on cue, I leaned forward, flanked now by my parents who were sitting on either side of my bed.

I had been waiting for them. I don’t know how. I didn’t know why. The lights in my room remained off, but it seemed that the darkness clung more to them than to me, as though they were holding it there – away from me to give me enough light to see through the next moment. They were crying. My father was crying. My father. “Suzi. We have something very, very bad to tell you." Chris has been in a car accident." And he was killed."

If the world moved forward from that moment, I could not know it. f there were air around me worth breathing, I could not take it in. And if there were another sound beyond the leaden bellow of my own raw grief, I could not hear it.

"Who am I going to talk to? Who am I going to love?” I wailed. Who will love me? In that sodden moment violated by the intrusion of a predawn light that had no business rising, everything I ever believed about happiness, hoped for in life, trusted in or held as my own was annihilated.

After that – there was no after that. After that came months of hollow redundancies that would inform my way of being in the world for years to come. A serial commitment to waking up each morning, remembering he was gone and dedicating the remaining hours to forgetting. To that end I would try anything, drink anything, ingest anything, inject anything. It was a slow and arbitrary suicide by indifference.

Many years later, at 25 years-old and in the midst of a pharmaceutical free-fall leaning dangerously close to terminal, I discovered that I was expecting a child, and after a decade of forgetting, I remembered. I named him Griffin after the legendary winged lion, a symbol of the divine because what he inspired and the miracle that he was, were nothing less. I remembered and I loved again, and I went on to marry and to the gift of two beautiful daughters.

Today my son is struggling not to drown in the same well of drug abuse and apathy that almost swallowed me – his great, divine wings clipped by his own hand; and while it is up to him to restore his place in the sky, I will do my best to help provide an open runway.

In the meantime, I will continue soaring for both of us; bequeathed as I have been, with a determination to fly from a boy whose ragged fate precluded that dream.

Death took one young man from me once upon a dark time. If it has any intention of coming for this one, it will have to go through me. And trust me, it will be in for one hell of a fight.

Note: If you enjoy this article, please let me know.

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I love gardening, play duplicate bridge, has collection of orchids, bougainvillas, hibiscus and other tropical plants