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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


(Photo Courtesy of Ernesto V. Enrique)

I must have been in Freshman High School when I first stepped into the Art Gallery on the second floor of Cafe Amapola. Michelle Soriano, a friend of mine who was a year ahead of me in high school, had asked me to accompany her to the opening of a group exhibit. She had to choose an artwork and submit a critique of it for her English Class assignment. And so we went and had just caught the tail-end of the opening ceremonies. It was late afternoon and there were people crowding all over the space. 

Michelle was drawn to one particular artwork. It stood out amongst the rest because it was drawn on an oversized intermediate pad -- the ones kindergartners usually use to practice writing the alphabet. It was lined in blue and red. The main artwork was like a kid's scribbling or doodling. I nonchalantly told Michelle: "But, I could do that?!" She answered: "But you didn't think of doing it first!" I left it at that. I Looked at the other works on exhibit and went back to the one Michelle had singled out. She leaned over my back and whispered "See, you can't get your eyes off it?!  It's the idea (or did she say 'concept') behind it."

 I then thought : AHA! The work was by the then budding artist Rock Drilon

In college, the Angel's Trumpet Bookstore was replaced by The Pub. It was more like a piano bar where blind musicians would play. At one point, Dave Tabligan (bless his soul) would play the piano. And then he suddenly disappeared from the Baguio Scene only to come back in the early 2000's and play the piano at The Manor. Medical students from SLU would also hang-out there. I remember Dr. Dennis Flores, then a medical student, take over the piano and play while his buddies would take turns singing.

Beer was 8 pesos a bottle. The Molo Soup and Camote Bread were favorites for us students. I usually ordered Reuben Sandwich for take-out when I would travel to Manila. I'd wait at the Cafe for the midnight Dagupan Bus Trip and eat the sandwich at the stopover in Pangasinan. It was at the cafe where I first tried eating artichokes. No big deal. I think they must've served the canned variety. Churros con chocolate on sunny afternoons or rainy evenings was perfect.

Amapola was the drinking place for us UP Baguio students. We would walk from campus and converge either in the pub or outside by the sidewalk. We hobnobbed with local artists the likes of Tommy Hafalla, Willy Magtibay, Rene Aquitania, Santi Bose. The cafe was bohemian in character. The old structure was refurbished by its new owners but kept the old flooring and basic structure. There was an old jukebox by the entrance and loads of mounted posters of art films or exhibits lined the walls. By the entrance of The Pub was a table fashioned from driftwood and stools to match it. The winding, wrought-iron staircases complemented the vintage mosaic tiles of the comfort rooms. 

The Pub had a mezzanine where throw pillows were strewn for a more relaxed atmosphere.  The cafe's logo/font was art nouveau reminiscent of the Paris Metro. The cafe attracted rightists, leftists, artists, homosexuals (latent and otherwise), foodies, fashionistas, backpackers, etc.  all converged there. There would be the occasional 'artista-sighting' -- like Richard Gomez or Aga Muhlach -- whence we'd give them the Baguio-snub and act like we didn't know/recognize them.

Sometime in 1987 or 1988, while we were drinking outside, a group of 8 or 10 Americans stepped into the cafe. They seated themselves in the table directly across ours although the glass pane separated us. Suddenly, one of us pointed out that one of the men looked like Tom Cruise. This was no coincidence since we knew that Tom Cruise was filming "Born On The Fourth Of July" in Ilocos that month. We figured he must've taken a break and come up to Baguio for some R&R. We were all excited and were trying to convince each other to go inside and ask him if indeed he was The Tom Cruise! But we chickened out. We were shy. Despite the beers we had drunk, we didn't have the guts to go inside. The Americans of course were basking at the attention and fuss we were 'throwing' their way. My female friends were acting 'kikay' just to get their attention. I could swear that that was Tom Cruise! We never got to validate it though.

It was at Amapola where I affixed my name and signature in the petition seeking One Million Signatures to convince Cory Aquino to run in the 1986 Snap Elections. My mother was active in the Cory Campaign. Along with other relatives and friends, and the Coryistas from Manila -- Mama would go join the rallies, fund raisers, motorcades, leading to Election Day that February in 1986. I remember  the night before elections, Mama and my Auntie Tessie were busy preparing sandwiches to be distributed to the poll watchers. They delivered these sandwiches along with other donated food stuff at the basement of Cafe Amapola where it was transformed into a Yellow Base for the Cory Supporters. A few days after elections, somebody threw a rock (?) and broke the window on the Pub side. It was supposed to send a warning to all the Cory Supporters. The owners of the Cafe were not intimidated and punctually replaced the window pane and put up a steel accordion gate on both the Pub and Cafe sides. Business as usual.

We, UP Students had friends from SLU who were also habitues of the cafe (mostly my Brother's Barkada) -- there was Arel 'Lamang' and Steve Limpin and the rest of the Limpin Clan. I remember Steve and his motorbike. He would allow us at times to ride with him at night. Once, he hitched Nina Ledesma as they went zooming across town. Nina however had to pee really bad and so they stopped at the funeral parlor along Naguillian Road, Nina steps off the bike, enters the first chapel she sees, gives her condolences to the people inside, hurriedly goes into the Chapel's comfort room to relieve herself, then bids everyone goodbye! HAHAHAHAHA!

There were also the Fil-Am Boys from SLU who were friends of Ferdie Balanag and later on got to hang-out with the rest of us. Emma and Jimil became an item. The Fil-Am Boys would bring their US Passports during Election-Liquor Ban nights and would be served beer. They would then pass on some to us, Philippine Passport Holders.

The Cafe saw relationships come and go. I know of several couples who first met there. I know of at least one couple still going strong today. They were both reeling from their failed marriages when they first met at the Cafe. But, more than twenty years later, they're still in each others arms. Awwwwww!

The sidewalk tables were perfect for people-watching. Baguio then was not so populated nor polluted. During Christmas we would see Karla P. Delgado (Her mother Peachy Prieto owned Cafe Amapola) on break from Harvard University. All the boys had a crush on mysterious, angelic Karla. But they were either too torpe or too stoned to muster enough guts and introduce themselves. I can count on my ten fingers the number of boys who were broken-hearted because of Karla.

My best friend Carol and I would hang-out at the cafe almost every evening. The last night we were there, we had agreed to meet up again the next day at 5:30 pm.

We didn't make it. The next day was July 16, 1990.

(Photo Courtesy of ramny.toralba's photostream on flickr)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The pre-earthquake Baguio had Cafe Amapola at the top of Session Road. Beside the cafe (in the same building) was 'The Angel's Trumpet Bookshop'. It was a first in Baguio that carried esoteric and art books. I used to tag along with my mother to the establishment, she being the accountant of both the cafe and the bookshop. At the onset, my mother supervised the inventory of the bookshop. We had to list down each and every book, magazine, catalog, map, artwork or whatever was being sold there, a fairly easy job for a grade 5 student like myself. I liked going to the bookshop because I was in awe of all the characters there.  The 'Angel's Trumpet' had attracted a number of artists from both Manila and Baguio. Free spirits who dressed outrageously, had long hair, worked on the set of 'Apocalypse Now' and clutched in their hands a copy of Ermita magazine all dog-eared. During inventory breaks we would have snacks at the cafe. We partook of freshly baked camote bread or churros con chocolate 

There was a curiosity on top of the piano though, a glass jar filled with what looked to me as some sort of fish or meat in some even stranger sauce. I thought it was some offering to whomever those artists were venerating. And while I was intrigued by it, I dared not speak about it. Or even stare at it for a long time thinking it possessed some magical powers. On our last day of inventorying the bookshop I went next door to the cafe to ask for a glass of water. While waiting for the waiter to hand me my water, I marveled at the glass jar. Its contents gleamed with the sun's afternoon rays. The waiter must have caught me staring at it and asked me if I wanted to try it -- the salsa monja 

With eyes open wide I imagined an old, evil nun stirring a brew over an open fire. The waiter must've seen my scared expression and hurriedly offered me my glass of water and promptly sat me down probably thinking I was about to faint. He assured me it was delicious and said I should try it with a piece of bread. He entered the kitchen and later came out with a slice of bread on a plate and holding a spoon with the other hand. He got the jar from the piano, opened it and asked me to sniff the contents. He did it as if the jar was a puppy and he was asking me to pet it.  

The salsa monja had a rich, briny aroma. It smelled like olives, star anise, and even anchovies, its pungency both revolting and appealing. The waiter scooped out a heaping tablespoon and poured it beside the bread on the plate, dripping the last few drops on the bread itself. Not an ounce wasted.  Images of the evil nun flashed before me once more but now morphed into a wicked queen awaiting my consumption of her nasty potion. It must be really special and expensive I thought instead to shake me out of my stupid fantasy. The waiter then instructed me to dip the piece of bread on the salsa monja. I remember closing my eyes upon putting the food in my mouth, preparing myself for what I thought the waiter would reveal to me. Here I go again, I figured I'd rather not look at the frog's legs, newt's eyes or whatever it was that was in it.  

have no words to describe how the salsa monja tasted. Salty, aromatic, biting and sharp all do not give justice to the pleasure I had tasted. I would liken the experience to that first moment when you finally learn to ride the bike. Or learn to swim. That crucial moment when you know you are balancing on your own. No adult holding the bike at your back. Or when you first float sans the hands of your instructor on your belly or floaters on your arms. That fleeting magical moment of sheer joy when you know it is you and you alone making that bike go on or making you sway with the tide of the water. Extreme joy yet replete with uncertainty and danger. That very instance, suddenly alone, and no one or nothing seems important because you had crossed that line towards a new discovery.  

That was the effect salsa monja had on me. I was oblivious to my surroundings, savoring each mouthful slowly, absorbing the textures in my palate, my tongue swirling the varied flavors. I hoped that the portion given to me would last longer but I was not willing to stop eating just the same. I kept that a secret for the longest time. Thinking I was the chosen one amongst many to imbibe an edible mantra of sorts.  Selfishly guarding it from friends and family. I would never get to taste salsa monja again despite repeated dreams and fantasies of it.  

In college, we would hang out at Cafe Amapola. The former bookstore now converted into a piano bar. While the molo soup, the oysters rockefeller, reuben sandwich or even the paella at the cafe were delicious, I still yearned for the salsa monja which now was absent from the piano top. It never really was on the menu. Years after I learned that the salsa monja at the old Cafe Amapola was cooked by my neighbor, Laida Lim-Perez. Her daughter tells me that she hasn't made some for quite sometime now. There still is hope. I hope.  

In the early 80's my mother and I enrolled in French lessons at the second floor of Cafe Amapola. The second floor was also an art gallery. Our teacher was Fran├žois Bocquet, a mime artist who was married to Stephanie a Filipina who was then writing her dissertation on Astrology. We were about twenty in the class, me being the youngest. Classes were held thrice a week, scheduled in the early evenings. We were given photocopied pages of a French language instructional that was more like komiks. After three weeks, we were informed that the classes were cancelled and that Monsieur Bocquet and wife had left for France. So that was the 'french leave' I had read about, I thought. The only thing I remember learning from that class was 'Voila! Un taxi!' which I would use each night at the sidewalk outside the cafe when my mother and I would hail a cab.  

note: this is an excerpt from the essay "A Few Of My Favorite Foods" which I wrote ca. 1999 - 2000

(Photo Courtesy of Quaximodo Wye aka Roberto 'Boy' Yniguez)

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I was sifting through my stuff last night and chanced upon one of my grandmother's cookbooks that I've kept. It is old, stained, dog-eared, torn, stapled with other hand-written recipes or cut-outs of recipes from other magazines. I am talking about "Our favorite Recipes -- Monday Afternoon Club" published by the same group in Baguio City, 1963.

Yes, the cookbook is older than me. It's as old as my brother. But he doesn't cook. Anyway, I read all the way through the book (it's not that thick, after all) and truly imagined how it was when slow-food was the norm. The foreword of the cookbook reads:

Monday Afternoon Club of Baguio was founded in 1933 by Americans living in the Philippine Islands. Now it is a cosmopolitan women's club, still predominately American, devoted to charitable aid to Filipinos in a number of widely differing ways.

It was thought that the favorite recipes of such a group of women would be unique in their international derivation, and would be of wide interest, whilst the sale of the book would bring much needed money for the charitable projects.

Some of the recipes have been contributed by friends of members generously giving the club their well-tried favorites. A few of the recipes are similar but none is exactly the same as another. The result varies slightly to suit different tastes.

To make the book readily understood by all, the editors have included a table of metric, avoirdupois and other equivalents, a glossary of foreign words and hints on adjusting quantities for altitude.

We in the Philippines wish you all GOOD COOKING!

Nowhere in the cookbook are we to find out, however, who the editors were. In the page fronting the foreword, there is on the lower right side the printer's name (Baguio Printing) and below it is written "Weaving by: Easter School". There are no photographs that accompany the recipes, so I presume the cookbook must have come with a woven satchel. Or perhaps a woven bookmark? The book is divided into sections like Hors d'oeuvres, Soup, Salad & Dressings, Bread & Rolls, Fish, Poultry & Sauces, Meat, Cheese & Sauces, etc. Below each recipe is the contributing member's name.

One would notice, that even though most of the members were American, the recipes they shared belied their European roots, and so you would see Swedish Cabbage, Berlin Doughnuts, Sauerbraten, Irish Stew Casserole to name a few. American regional cuisine is also represented in the likes of Bostonian Spread, Virginia Chicken-Apple Salad, Baked Salmon (New Orleans), North Carolina Brunswick Stew (this last one shared by Betty Ploeser wherein she writes at the end; "Tar Heels like this dish served with hot corn bread and a green salad").

There are a few Filipino dishes shared by some members. It is not surprising that these dishes are deemed classics when it comes to Filipino fare. And so you have Pancit Luglug shared by Joving Santiago, Coco-Chicken Adobo by Mary Ann Rosales, Morcon  and Chicken Relleno by Jolly Serron,  Pancit Molo by Margarita Kolodzik, Fried Lumpia by Martha Plagens and Empanadas by Madge Melton. I am curious to try two recipes shared by Violeta H. Adorable -- Potage de Garbanzos and Chicken Hinalog. The Chicken Hinalog being a dish gently simmered with tender leaves of the Tamarind and seasoned with patis.

Nowhere in the book will you find the mentioning of pressure cookers, microwave ovens, or non-stick skillets. Meat and Chicken stews were simmered for hours until 'meat easily separates from the bones'. Canned produce is rarely used save for evaporated and/or condensed milk. Other packaged items used were the usual flour, butter, baking powder and soda, sugar and salt of course, and the ever popular jell-o and marshmallows. Ditto raisins, dates and nuts and olives. Otherwise, all ingredients were deemed to have been bought fresh at the market. Pyrex was popular for the casseroles. Casseroles having the most entries in the cookbook.

My grandmother checked the recipes she had tried (the fountain pen's ink now a light brown) -- Empanadas, Ice Box Cake (the recipe called for peaches, but my Lola would use ripe mangoes instead), Pancake (from scratch) courtesy of the Baguio Country Club, Polvoron, etc. Lola didn't tick off any recipes for cakes or cookies, understandably so because Lola never baked. It was us, the third generation of cousins who would use the oven.

The recipes are easy to follow. Instructions are simple. Most ingredients were and still are available year round. That I think is the reason they did not include photographs. There is a recipe for The Original Chicken A La King by Ruth Pearson and is truly reminiscent of those toast cups filled with chicken that was popular up to the seventies during kiddie parties or luncheons. Baguio Country Club's Gazpacho and Raisin Bread are also included. The Twenty Four Hour Bean Salad and Roquefort Whirl Salad Dressing by Lourdes Gesner are both  tempting.

Here are some curiosities: Coca-Cola Salad by Martha West is a dish made from Raspberry and Cherry Jello, cherries, nuts, cream cheese, crushed pineapple and 2 Coca-Colas (8 oz. I presume as there was no other variant then). There is also the recipe for Ginger Beer by Elizabeth Mackenzie wherein she warns: "Leave for 24 hours then strain and bottle. Keep in the refrigerator or the bottles may burst." Or how about the recipe for Bar-Talk! by Sally Nordstrom -- it is a concoction of Scotch or Bourbon, pineapple, grapefruit and calamansi juices and soda poured over ice then garnished with orange slices. Ms. Nordstrom adds; "For holiday sparkle, float aluminum cut-outs with lighted birthday candles." Could Bar-Talk! be a pun on the highand term for drunkard i.e. Bartek?! There are also recipes for Clay and Home Laundry Soap. (For the very bored housewife, I guess).

The Buffet Supper For 100 contributed by Ditas Valles is as follows:

Smoked Beef Tongue
Roast Loin of Pork with Prunes
Rolled Roast of Veal
Ravioli in Tomato Sauce
Potato and Bacon Salad with Mustard Dressing
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
Lettuce and Sour Cream Salad
Cucumber Salad
Picked Beets
Pan de Sal                      Rye Bread
Dessert: Assorted Cheese Garnished with Fresh Grapes
Served with Crackers (salted & unsalted)
Fruit kabobs
Pineapple Chunks         Fresh Strawberries
Melon Balls        Lychees
Irish Coffee

(The recipes for the items above are seen in the succeeding pages of the cookbook)

There are numerous recipes for Apple Pie and its variants. Also loads of Chocolate Cakes. Towards the end is an Herb Chart naming various herbs and their more common and acceptable uses. There are also tips for High Altitude Baking (eg. Sugar; decrease for each cup -- for 3,000 feet -- no change; for 5,000 feet -- usually no change; for 7,000 feet -- 1 to 2 tbsps.)

In the section titled Treasure Pots: 40 tips for the homemaker is given. Here are the gems, I am suddenly reminded of Martha Stewart:

        No.  2: Toasting bread on your waffle iron is a nice change.
        No.  3: Place waxed paper over the butter knife to cut butter squares for serving.
        No. 17: Potato peeling and vinegar boiled in a kettle will remove lime deposits.
        No. 18: A handful of salt added to the rinsing water in winter will keep clothes from freezing to the
                     line. (Baguio had winter in the 60s?! See also number 37 below)
        No. 20: Egg white is useful in removing gum from clothing or hair.
        No. 22: To preserve bouquets: Put saltpeter in the water you use for flowers. Flowers will then keep                         
                     for 2 weeks.
        No. 23: Tea towels starched slightly will leave no lint on dishes.
        No. 35: Hot salt water poured into sink and drains helps to keep them clean and odorless.
        No. 37: Keep windows free from ice in winter by rubbing the panes with a sponge dipped in   

After this section is the page on Spot and Stain Removal Chart, which I am going to skip as modern day techniques/products abound. Or we're not just that attached to our articles of clothing as they were back then when clothes had to be made by the family seamstress or the tailor in downtown Session Road. Nowadays, it's off-the-rack, ready made, mall issued clothes for most of us.

I couldn't help but smile while reading the recipe for Beef Stew Margarita by Jerry Reed. It is written in a rush. She rattles off the ingredients and the procedure and mutters in the end; "Soothing for disgruntled males!!!" 

hahahahahaha   :-)

I leave you now with Lupita Coromina's recipe titled simply: DUCK

1 young duck, disjointed
Strong Beef Stock
Salt and Pepper
3 Doz. Olives
2 Onions

Chop the onions, duck liver, gizzard and heart with 12 stoned olives and mix well with sufficient hot stock to cover duck. Add seasoning and stir well until sauce is thick. Place pieces of duck in sauce and simmer for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours. Add remaining olives and serve.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Mondo Marcos now available in National Bookstore and Mt Cloud Bookshop! Grab a copy while supply lasts!