My Life My Race

My Life My Race

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Armie Lawrence Leyva Yuson…My cousin.

I was 4 and he was 2...
We were in Camp John Hay, Baguio City
He was trying to walk while I was holding his tiny hand
I was smiling and he was laughing - this is a description of a picture taken more than 20 years kept in an album.

I was sitting on the floor with a toy in my hand...screaming
He was standing and biting my back...trying to get my toy - another picture taken
A very naughty, spoiled and playful boy he was
still...I didn't hate him.

After 15 years, we were both standing, with arms on each other's shoulder.
We were both smiling.
I am glad he grew up sweet and thoughtful.
I knew, I should not hate him.

I studied Business Administration.
He studied Medicine.
He lives in the North
I live in the South
totally different paths
and different likes.

Family gatherings kept us updated with each other
Communication devices made us closer
He is more than a cousin...he is a friend

I do not like talking
I talk only when I have to
I laugh...I smile
I talk when there is something to say
I keep my mouth shut for the rest of the day

But I love to write
And it surprised me that he loves to write too
Perhaps this common interest made us closer than before
I listen to his thoughts, I read what he writes
Often, it is about his travels around the country
He can see the beauty that others cannot see

I admire his love for our country
I admit, I am not that in love with our land anymore
I am frustrated and disappointed
No...I don't hate Philippines
I hate the people...or some people
Their lack of motivation to move forward

But my cousin has a different perception
His hopes are high and he expresses this through
promoting Philippine tourism
He is an avid fan of our tourist spots. So devoted
He visits the farthest island that only few have discovered
just to take breathtaking shots

Nature speaks...loud and clear
and my cousin spends plenty of time to listen
I have good ears too and eyes to appreciate beauty
Thanks to this cousin of mine
I am beginning to feel hopeful for our country again

I believe that is what he really wants to do
To inspire give wake up their sleeping faith

Unlike me, my cousin is very expressive
He is passionate and open
He believes in true love
He calls his girl his "princess", "my wife", "my one and only"
A romantic soul

He is not ashamed to pour out and write his feelings
for the whole world to read
A modern day Romeo...posting his love letters on line
I hope his Juliet won't find it funny but sweet

God must be one of his blog followers too
Would you believe, he is now one of the lucky finalists of Philippine Blog Awards?
Heaven is sending him blessings
In fact, I did not know there is such a award for blogging...

If there is a person who should win should be my cousin..
Yes you read it right...not me...but my cousin

I vote for him not because we are related
But because I am a reader
I only read those worth reading
I am not one to waste my time

Yes he is my cousin...but he is one of my favorite bloggers too.

I wrote this blog entry to support him...

Monday, September 5, 2011


Oden…Oden…What is Oden? Four years ago, I didn’t know what an Oden is or what it looked like. My vocabulary of Korean food was limited to Kimchi, Bulgogi, Bibimbap, Samgyupsal, Jajangmyun and Chapchae. I am very familiar about Ginseng too and could probably write three paragraphs about it. Ask me about Korean street food and I would quickly answer Dukbokki.

When I was in Jeju, I bought a waffle from a food tent parked near an arcade. Although it’s hard to guarantee that it’s germ free, still… it’s a yummy snack. I love the creamy butter. My cousins and I also tried this thin yellow brownish cookie cooked by an Ahjussi on a street. It’s cheap and cute. It’s too sweet for me but very attractive because of its cute little designs. But Oden…Nah. Never heard. I was ignorant about it until Autumn of 2008 came. My friend and I were in Everland Theme Park and we were both getting cold – the temperature was about 3 degrees then. It’s close to lunch time and we were a bit tired so we sat on a bench in front of a snack booth looking for something warm and delicious to devour. On other tables, I could see students (It’s a weekday) eating a spiral thing on a stick. It was white and fat. I was curious so I watched them eat. The spiral thingy was served in a cup. I noticed they were following 5 steps to eat it: dip, bite, dip again, bite again and sip whatever it was on the cup. My friend and I were both hungry and curious so we went to the snack booth and we pointed what the students were eating. The pretty lady on the counter said “ah, oden”. We just nod. She took two sticks of “oden”, put each of them on two separate cups and she poured them with a colored liquid that looked like broth. I said Kamsahamnida twice. I have poor Korean vocabulary then. Like two kids, we excitedly went to a table with our order. The cup was very warm on my hands.

Up close, it looked like a fat version of “Isaw” – a Filipino street food made from pig or chicken intestines. I love chicken intestines but my friend doesn’t. So I was asked to eat the “oden” first. (some kind of a friend who wants me to eat it first and see if it’s poisonous…hahaha). I took a sip first and yes it was a broth. I like the way it warmed my throat. Then, I remembered the 5 steps. As a beginner, I was determined to follow the steps…afraid I might not enjoy the food at its best. I took the oden by the stick, dip it again (silly) and bit a small portion …ooohhhh its so soft to the bite and it tasted like……fish! it’s fish cake! I told my friend it’s fish cake so she better eat it soon or I’ll grab her order and eat it too. It tasted so good. I dipped the oden again and took a bigger bite. We liked it very much that we ordered two more sticks. As the day came to an end, we both felt sad. We thought “oden” was available at Everland only – like one of the theme park’s specialty or something. My Korean friend laughed at me for thinking like that. He said, Oden is a Korean street food and available everywhere. Teasing me was his hobby so he didn’t tell me where was that “everywhere”. The following day, my friend and I woke up with bigger eyes…determined to find Oden again. We walked more slowly and we used our senses at their full capacity. After several minutes, we found ourselves in Gangnam subway station. I love subway stations because I enjoy riding the train…I enjoy looking at the stores too…there are stores selling clothes, souvenirs, cosmetics and of course food. While my friend and I were looking at some clothes, our noses caught a familiar smell. We immediately walked out of the store and went to 7-11 which was just next door. And there it was…a steamer full of freshly made oden. Since then, we never had a hard time finding Oden again…Thank God for 7-11, Family Mart and other convenient stores.

So how crazy am I to Oden? I could share to you some of the times I bought this favorite street food of mine…

- At 7-11 in Coex Mall…tired from shopping and looking for a quick snack to recharge myself

- My cousins and I were in Nami Island and we visited a souvenir shop at the exit gate. We noticed a food vendor selling Oden…we decided to buy and try “Nami’s Oden”

- While waiting for our train that would bring us back to Seoul, we went to a convenience store and ate Oden as our “past time” food

- On our way to Apgujeong Rodeo Street, we saw a 7-11 that’s bigger than any other 7-11 stores…it has several pretty tables with parasols and chairs. We discovered that cold coffee goes well with oden…

- Ate a stick after shopping in Myeongdong

- At a 7-11 store in Tokyo (Yay! We were so happy to see Oden in Japan)
Back in Manila, we looked for a Korean restaurant serving Oden. I was so happy when we found one. It’s a fine dining restaurant so it was a shock to know that they have Oden on their menu. The oden was served in a bowl. Although the taste was quite the same, eating it with a fork was not as fun as eating it on a stick. How sad that convenience stores in Manila don’t sell Oden…

Whenever I have friends who would ask me what Oden is…I always answer their question with several questions that go like this: “Have you seen Boys Over Flowers? Do you remember the scene where Gu Junpyo was with Jandi’s father and brother inside a food tent? They ate something white and flabby on a stick right? That’s Oden! Can you remember his facial reaction while eating it? Words are not enough…so just take a bite.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bibimbap...Love at second taste

I think I was only 15 or 16 years old when I had my first ever Bibimbap...not in Korea but in Manila. Korea is my favorite country. I love their culture and their people even their weather...I love their food too and that makes me a genuine fanatic of Korea. Korean dishes are healthy and good for the skin.
Almost all Korean chefs use different kinds of vegetables in creating their dishes...thus making the food overly healthy and nutritious.
Bibimbap is an example - It's one of the most widely popular Korean food in the world. That's why when I saw it from a menu of a Korean restaurant in Manila, I didn't think twice and I immediately ordered it. When my order came, although the rice was sizzling hot, I excitedly dipped my spoon and started mixing it the way I saw it on TV. After mixing it, I scooped a huge amount, put it on my mouth
and ate it. But..blah! It tasted like raw vegetables mixed with chili paste and raw egg. There was no meat too. I was expecting to see a fried egg on top of my rice but the egg was fresh from the shell and it remained like that. I didn't like the taste. Everything tasted raw. After that, I had trauma eating Bibimbap again. I wondered "how come it looked good on the menu picture but didn't taste as good..."
Anyway, last 2007 when I had my first trip to Seoul, Bibimbap was the first food served on my table (besides the ala carte breakfast served at Holiday Inn). I was so hungry that time after a morning trip to Daejanggeum Theme Park and I didn't want to be impolite by ordering another food when our tour guide happily suggested to try the restaurant's specialy which is...Bibimbap Anyway, I decided to trust our guide and my sense of smell and sight. The restaurant's ambiance looked so good...very traditional looking. And there were many tourists coming out of its exit door with smile on their faces - meaning they were satisfied.
The restaurant is located in Insadong and for me everything in Insadong is authentic.
The Bibimbap served to me had a nice smell and was so colorful. The vegetables were neatly arranged with the fried egg and beef resting on top making the dish so deliciously looking that I didn't have a hard time forgetting my trauma...
Our order came with several yummy side dishes too. (They are happy to refill if you need more. I especially love their spinach)
My Bibimbap was served in a stone pot...keeping the food warm. Very impressive presentation for just a mixed rice - but it's not an ordinary mixed rice so I forgive it for being pretty.
I think that's what made the difference. The reason why my first Bibimbap tasted "raw" was because it was served in an ordinary rice bowl. Although the rice was hot, the vegetables and egg remained raw.
Anyway, like what I said, my trauma was all gone. So when my cousins and I were in Jeju, we tried this restaurant where tourists usually go. This time, I felt like an expert when it comes to Bibimbap. I expertly mixed it with the right amount of gochujang and expertly ate it too with no hesitations. I became a lover of this "Korean mixed meal" that whenever I am in Korea, I make it a point to drop by Ssamzigil and treat myself to an authentic Korean Bibimbap. One of these days, I am planning to make my first homemade Bibimbap...

This is a free advertisement. I am just too happy to share :)