Remembering Some of My Favorite Studio 23 Shows

I did not know, until I came across Bianca Gonzalez's blog post, that Studio 23 is going off air. In her blog post, she was reminscing her YSpeak days.

Back in college, I used to watch lot of TV shows on Studio 23 because its shows were different from the other free-to-air channels. YSpeak was one of my favorite shows. I instantly loved the show's format because it was youth-empowering. It talked about sex, politics, friendship and even showbiz. YSpeak made me realize that Bianca Gonzalez is such an admirable person. Anyway, even when I entered adulthood, YSpeak was still a favorite, although I did not get to watch it as often as I used to.

My other favorite show at Studio 23 was Digital Tour, a tech TV show that used to air on Sundays. It was originally hosted by Iya Yotoko and Carlo Ledesma (I unexpectedly met him at a WOD night class in CrossFit MNL Alabang). Carlo eventually left the show and Iya became the mainstay host. Iya's other co-hosts were Chunchi Soler, JC Gonzalez (Bianca's big brother),  Manu Sandejas (Agot Isidro's husband) and Archie Alemania (Mickey Ferriols' husband). Manu and Archie became Iya's long-time co-hosts, until the show went off air. The show featured gadgets, technology, Internet stuff and digital lifestyle, and because there were no other shows like it back then, on the other free-to-air channels, I instantly fell in love with it.

I know that at some point in time Studio 23 will have to go off air, but I did not expect that it will be that soon. Although I do not watch TV shows at Studio 23 often (and even shows at the other free-to-air channels) and  even though I'm already at my 30s, saying good-bye to Studio 23 is like saying good-bye to another part of me, the youth in me.

Bale Dutung

On the first week of January, my friends and I went to Angeles City, Pampanga to attend our friend's wedding at Bale Dutung. The place was inside a quiet village - Villa Gloria Subdivision. Bale Dutung, apparently, was a house made of wood and its interiors were made of wood as well. Despite the hot weather on the day, the nice ambiance around the place gave me homey feeling.

I enjoyed everything about that place because it is located in Pampanga (I consider it as my second home), wonderful customer service, and their scrumptious authentic Kampampangan dishes.

We had a full course meal and it was hosted by the lovely Mary Ann. She and her husband Claude owns the restaurant. Mary Ann even went to each table to personally explain each dish, so we can have a better appreciation of the flavors. She even told the stories behind some of the dishes. Being part Kapampangan and having tried my Lola's cooking since I was a child, I thought I already knew a lot about their dishes, so this certainly became a delightful eating experience for me.

Dalandan juice. Ligaya table.

They served us the Lechon Menu. The refreshments, dalandan juice and salabat juice, were served first. The dalandan juice was served in a glass, while the salabat juice was served in a pitcher, which means you can refill it to heart's content. Then we had non-Lechon dishes: the Ensaladang Pakô (fiddle head fern salad), Piniritong Lumpiang Ubod sa Claude'9 Oriental Sauce (fried all vegetable spring roll with lemon coriander Thai basil sauce), Inasal na Manok at Claude'9 Talangka Sushi (BBQ chicken wings with lemon grass marinade and crab fat sushi), and Hito at Balo-balo Sushi (cat fish sushi).

The piniritong lumpiang ubod was my favorite appetizer in the menu because I love lumpiang ubod, and the sauce just made it extra delicious!
Pritong Lumpiang Ubod sa Claude'9 Oriental Sauce

The (taba ng) talangka sushi was really something new to my taste. It was my first time to try a food that is a fusion of Japanese and Kampampangan. Amazing, right? The inasal na manok was delicious too.
Inasal na Manok at Claude'9 Talangka Sushi

I remember Mary Ann saying, "Don't give up yet," as the lechon dishes were served. The lechon dishes were: Balat ng Lechon at Liver Sauce (crispy roast pork skin), Fried Lechon Flakes binalot sa Tortilla at Claude'9 Oriental Sauce (crispy roast pork flakes on a tortilla), Sinigang na Lechon (pork meat in sour soup), Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon at Ensaladang Talong (grilled pork ribs with eggplant salad), and Sisig Ulo ng Lechon (pig's cheeks with onion and liver sauce).
Fried Lechon Flakes binalot sa Tortilla

This was my favorite part of the menu. I lechon skin was so crispy and it felt like 7th heaven by the time I sinked my teeth in its juicy fat trimmings.
Balat ng Lechon
A matchbox-sized brown rice wrapped in banana leaves

The sinigang na lechon tasted like kare-kare. Yes, there is bagoong for this too.
Sinigang na Lechon

When it was time for dessert, the host announced that we now can get a cup of Sinaunang Kape (coffee) or Tsaang Pandan (tea). While my friends at our table were getting their coffee and tea, I was still busy finishing my sisig. Moments later, they began serving Paradiso (dessert of yam, coconut, egg yolk in water buffalo milk). After finishing my sisig, I waited for them to serve me Paradiso, but I noticed that the servers kept passing me by. So, I called one of the servers and asked for a serving of it. Then, I learned that I had to get a cup of coffee or tea first before they serve me the dessert that I have been anticipating. And when I finally got to try their signature dessert, I thought it was certainly a heavenly treat and it was not even too sweet.

At Bale Dutung, they do not have air-conditioning units, but they have huge industrial fans with mist sprayers to keep you refreshed on a hot weather. At the end of the course meal, they provided frozen towels. Aaahhhh..... so cool!
A frozen towel

I am really glad I got to try these foods for free. If you're into a gastronomic adventure, I highly recommend going out of town on a weekend to try Bale Dutung's menu.

To know more about Bale Dutung, go to

Keep Calm and Get a New Backpack

After getting my haircut this Sunday at ATC, I decided to stay in the mall for a bit, look around, and get myself a new backpack. I rarely buy bags, but when I do, I make sure that I really need it.

I think the last time I bought a bag was on December at CMG. I was shopping for a nice bag as a gift for my mother's birthday. It was also my first time to shop for a women's handbag, and picking a nice women's bag was tough. The bags were really expensive too, considering their sizes. I would not mind spending 3,000 pesos if I was looking for a big backpack, but I think these handbags were just too small to be very expensive. But then again, I am not a woman, so I don't know really have the right to rant about handbags.

Anyway, back to my story, I think it was really time to replace my almost 2-year old Conquer backpack. So, I went to one of my favorite bag stores --- Bratpack. So many eye candies (still talking about bags), but I was having a hard time deciding what to get because I was feeling thrifty. I left the store to rid myself of misery and went to somewhere else where everything is budget-friendly --- Artwork.

The backpacks at Artwork were just as amazing as the ones I've seen in Bratpack, but only much cheaper. Their packs can also come as nice gift ideas. And since, I am feeling "summery" these days, I got myself a pack that gives me that "summer feel", anticipating the summer months.

And I can’t wait to see, what my buddies all think of me.
Just imagine how much cooler I’ll be in summer.

-In Summer by Olaf the Snowman, (Disney's) Frozen

Leo and Micci Francia Wedding

My first visit to Pampanga this 2014 is for the wedding of my friend Micci and her fiancé Leo. I was excited for many reasons: reunion with friends, celebrating the union of two souls, eating Kapampangan foods, and going back to Pampanga. As you know, my father is from Pampanga and I lived there for some time during my childhood, so it is very close to my heart.

My friends and I arrived in Angeles City just in time before the wedding started. The weather was hot and the barong that I was wearing was not helping at all. I just had to suck it up until the wedding is over, for my dear friend.

The wedding was held at a restaurant called Bale Dutung. It is an old house made of wood, as well as the furniture. The place had a homey feeling, and I am not saying this because Pampanga is my second home.

The couple had their wedding ceremony at Bale Dutung's garden by the pond. It was actually quick, but the exchange of vows were so touching. Their moment as newlyweds when they were finally announced to everyone as Mr. and Mrs. Francia were so solemn. 

After the ceremony, the guests had their photos taken with the newlyweds, then Leo's sister announced the part that everyone loves --- eating time! The food was great and every food was served by course. The owner (didn't get her name) even hosted the luncheon and she was so nice, like motherly nice.

I really enjoyed having lunch at our table because of the food and the company. I met Leo and Micci's college friends and they were as fun as my friends Emil and Ann. We all instantly clicked and moments like this rarely happen. Honestly, I do not think of myself as friendly person. I am just blessed to be surrounded with good friends at the right places.

My friends and I miss Micci since she moved to Malaysia with her now-husband. We spent a lot of time together with her and kept her company when she was staying here in the Philippines, while Leo was living in another country. Although they have been living together for a while now in Malaysia, this wedding was like officially the day that we hand her over to Leo to start a new chapter and have a family of their own.