Monthly Archives: May 2011

The not so desirable quality of Filipino food in the Philippines

Filipino food in America is not as good as Filipino food in the US. It’s kind of ironic. But that is what we found out in our stay here. And why is it not as good? Because good food is only as good as its ingredients could make it.

Back in the US, my American husband really loved Filipino food. And how I loved cooking for him. But here in the Philippines, he complains that the Filipino food here is somewhat off, sometimes even yucky.

At first I thought that it could just be the way the maid cooked. So, I told the maid to use less oil, less salt, and cut out fatty portions of the meat. The flavor improved, but not by much. Even with me cooking, it still wasn’t as good as the dishes I prepared in the US. Eventually, we discovered that main culprit was the quality of the ingredients, more especially local meats.

Meat here is generally more fatty and tougher. Chicken is slimy and fatty even the leaner potions like breast meat. Whether you buy a premium brand from the grocery or from the wet market, or palengke, it’s still fatty. And when you try to fry it, it easily becomes tough. A bit pricier “native” chicken is less fatty, but it’s also tastes a bit more earthy.

Pork meat, is somewhat lighter in color as that in the US, and it’s marbled all throughout with a web like whitish pattern more prominently. I had to keep skimming the top of a stew or soup as fat continuously rises to the surface.

Beef is the worst. It is really really really bad. With cartilage intertwined with tough stringy meat, that you might end up spitting it out after trying to chew it. Even with pressure cooking, it is still tough. (I read an entry from an expat that he had to put his dog on a diet because it got fat, as its caretaker was feeding it beef caldereta stew.) Recently, we tried out an established restaurant at SM Mall which serves grilled steaks. The outside has a weird grayish brown color. And the steak was bone-dry.

It’s not the cook’s fault that the food turns out not as good as we would expect. I think the chefs here are the best when it comes to cooking Filipino food, but they could only do so much considering the quality of the meat they have to work with.

We almost got caught during “coding” in Metro Manila

Last Tuesday, my American husband and I decided to drive to Robinson’s Mall to do some grocery shopping.  We were almost there when we realized that our car was “coded” on that day.  It was around 9:45am.  We had to turn back as MMDAs abound in front of the mall.  We were lucky that we didn’t get spotted on our way back.   We parked at a corner drugstore parking space, and waited till 10am before driving back to Robinson’s. 

How the “Coding” System in Metro Manila works

If you are not familiar with driving in Metro Manila, you might ask¸”What is she talking about?”  If you decide to drive here, you should be aware of an ordinance commonly referred to as “color coding” or “number coding” or simply “coding.”  It was meant improve the flow of traffic during rush hour by reducing the number of vehicles on the streets at that time. 

This is how it works: On Mondays, vehicles with plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are banned from the streets between 7am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm.  (In Makati City, the ban is for the entire day.)  On Tuesdays, it would be plate numbers ending in 3 and 4 that are banned.  On Wednesdays, 5 and 6.  On Thursdays, 7 and 8.  And on Fridays, 9 and 0.  If you get caught, you will have to pay a fine.

The MMDA and Fines 

The “catchers” are traffic enforcers of the Metro Manila Development Authority, or MMDAs, as we call them.   MMDAs have an amazing ability to spot a “coded” vehicle, and if  you get caught by one, he will take your driver’s license, and give you a ticket.  To get your license back, you’ll have to present the ticket at city hall and pay a fine of around 400 pesos. 

I’ve “heard” that some drivers, wanting to avoid the hassle of going to city hall to get back their licenses, discretely hand over anywhere from 200 to 300 pesos right there and then, without getting a ticket or receipt.  They continue on to their destination, and take note of the name of the MMDA.  If they get stopped again, they can just say that they’ve already been flagged by so and so officer, and are just on their way home.

I’m not going to tell whether we have been caught by an MMDA, or if we have, whether we paid the fine at city hall or handed over a bribe.  All I can say is this: Always be wary of your car’s coding day.  If forget and get caught, whichever way you’d like to settle the matter is all up to you.  Do keep smaller bills in your wallet.  MMDA’s don’t have change.  And I doubt that you’ll find someone on the street who can give you change for 500 or 1000 pesos without running away with your money.

The noise in the Philippines is driving me crazy; I need to sound proof my house

When I returned to the Philippines along with my American husband and son, I took over the management of a glass and aluminum windows and doors subcontracting business, a trade that was handed down to me by my parents.  Once in a while, I would receive a call asking: I would like to sound proof my house (or room).  Do you install sound proof glass? And wouldn’t you know, it’s a foreigner on the other line.  Or more like desperate Philippine- newbie foreigner, (or in Tagalog, bagong salta) who can’t stand the evening karaoke, the neighbor’s barking dogs, howling vendors.

I can relate and sympathize with these callers because my husband and I also went through the same predicament. When we first arrived here, we had difficulty sleeping, as we were kept awake or roused in the middle of the night by the late night karaoke coming from a nearby subdivision. If it’s not the karaoke, it’s the neighbors´dogs, hollering vendors, people talking loudly on their cellphones, frogs croaking in chorus, crickets clicking like Nextel walkie-talkies, pedicabs with a subwoofer, the list goes on.

As much as I would like to help my callers, there’s nothing much I can do. First of all, there is no such thing as a sound proof glass, only glasses that reduce sound from the outside, such as double-glazed glass. Second, it’s just not  worth the time and money for our company to carry double-glazed glass.  We’d have to import it, get a license to import, pass through corrupt customs officials, etc., etc.

All I can tell them is this: Instead of sound proofing your house or room, try sound proofing your ears. Get yourself some nice and comfortable earplugs.

Our favorite is Mack’s Soft Silicone Ear Plugs.  My husband remembered using these back in his college days at CalState Hayward, when he had a room mate who snored so loudly it made the walls vibrate.  I have my aunt buy these for us, which she sends through Balikbayan Box Door-to-Door service.  Of course we don’t use these the whole day, only during sleep time. And they do help a lot in making us sleep better.