Saturday, May 7, 2016

JJampong Gangnam Style

Since the early 2000's there was an influx of Korean students coming to the Philippines to study English. As the number of Korean students increase, the need for everything Korean increased too. When I was still in Iloilo, I saw that a lot of Korean inspired businesses opened to accommodate the needs of the travelling students including the number of tutors, Korean boutiques, grocery stores and of course, restaurants included.

Here in Davao I have tried eating in four Korean inspired restaurants. Of the four that I already dined in, I only can recommend a couple since some are not really serving authentic Korean dishes. Ambiance is of course a factor in choosing a place to eat. You can also throw in the price of the food, the customer service and the variety and authenticity of the food served.

My good friend Jolen Crame invited me to eat in Gangnam in Davao Café and Restaurant one time. I have tried some of the dishes like the rice cakes and the Kimbap. The first thing I noticed about the place is the ambiance. The décor and the lighting of Gangnam is modern, with brick walls and wooden tables. The bookshelves are also amazing (though I haven't tried asking if we can borrow books and read them while waiting for our order).

Tonight, I went back to the restaurant to try their Jjampong. This Korean dish is a personal favorite because it is made up of seafood in a spicy broth. They also give you four side dishes to enjoy while waiting for your order- there was a potato dish, rice cake, a bijon-like side dish and my personal favorite, Kimchi.

So here are my simple observation of that dinner in Gangnam- things that I like and things that they probably need to improve in the restaurant.

I like the ambiance. Lighting is okay, the decoration is nice especially the picture of the coffee beans (though I don't think it was the most appropriate picture to display in a Korean Resto). The plastic tree decors for me are distracting and could collect dust. The framed sayings on the restroom are a nice read.

The food is okay especially the refillable side dishes (though the staff don't proactively inform you that it is). The Kimchi is perfect that I have to ask for a second serving (I was ready to buy another serving, when the staff told me its refillable). It is not very sour and the spiciness is just right. The sauce of the Kimchi is also thick which probably add to the taste.
The Jjampong is so so, the noodles are okay and the seafood added to the soup are just enough. There was squid (3 slices I guess), 1/2 pc crab (with shell), 2 big scallops, and a few smaller scallops (3 of them is shut tight and I was not able to eat them), there was no trace of fish, there was a couple of shrimp on the stew but they're not de-veined, so you can still see and taste the dark gritty stuff on the shrimp. The food serving was ample and for PHP 270.00, the bowl is big enough to be shared by two people.

The service needs a little improvement. I noticed that the person who took the order was not able to relay the orders properly. I ordered one Jjampong and a can of Coke Zero, but the Coke was not communicated well with the service staff. He asked me if I have additional orders and I told him that I ordered Coke and that's the only time that he got me one. They greet people coming in and going out like in those Japanese restaurants and I think this is a great show of customer service skills.

Will I comeback and eat in Gangnam again, I think my answer is yes. Will I recommend I with friends? I think I can recommend them to friends who love Korean food. Though I would probably advice them to bring extra money since the price of the food is on the PHP 200 up range.

Overall, I'm rating Gangnam Davao 3 and a half stars. The restaurant has a great ambiance, delicious refillable side dishes, big serving and a very delicious Kimchi.

photo is owned by the author

Gangnam Kimchi

Side Dishes


Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Dilemma of an Urban Witch

Upon waking up around 9AM, I usually go to the altar dedicated to the House Spirits and offer a quick prayer. Not being able to do the complete Ritus such as wearing a white toga, or doing libations and food offering, I just usually light an incense and whisper a prayer of thanks to the Lares. After my day job, which usually ends around 12 MN, I would face the altar in my room for a daily devotional to the Gods and the ancestors and this would be my usual routine everyday excluding the eight Sabbats.

In the centuries past, our ancestors are still not bound to an 8-5 office job (for some of us- night shift) and are free to practice their Craft all day, every day. Our ancestors breathe magick and treat the Craft as part of their daily routine. They are cut-wives, midwives, herbalists, fortune tellers, journeymen and priests or priestesses. They have been doing this all the time that there are no distinction between their normal daily tasks and their magickal workings. They put magick in all they do- from planting their crops, to harvesting them and even preparing their food.

In modern times, witches are too occupied with their day jobs that it can be challenging to create rituals following the correct time correspondences. It can also be very challenging to gather ingredients to a potion or a satchel. It’s also very difficult to look for places of power in the heart of the city let alone a silent place to conduct your rituals, especially if your house is located in front of a busy highway.

Compared to our ancestors, we modern witches would find it challenging to observe the movement of the seasons. Aside from the light pollution blocking our view of the night skies, some of us living in the metro has all these skyrise buildings blocking the view of the stars. We have lost our close connection with nature with all of the concrete and metal surrounding us. That’s why we witches often times leave the cities to go on a vacation, where we can run barefooted or just hug a healthy trees.

Some of us require a lot of effort to switch from our “mundane daily mindset” to our “ritual magick mode”. Some of us do this by listening to chants (played of course on an iPod or those sleek Samsung Phones) and meditating, holding a crystal, or anointing ourselves with oils and burning incenses (from the health and home area of Gaisano Mall). I switch to my magick mode when I smell (sometimes if my nostrils are clear) Lavender Oil, or reciting a mantra. While our ancestors can easily cast a spell in front of the hearth, we urban witches do a lot of “rituals” first to achieve this state of mind.

Probably, the one thing that I can appreciate as an urban witch is the fact that we became very resourceful. We still can cast spells using grocery items (McCormick Dried Basil anyone?), we dance around a bonfire burning inside a clay cauldron in the middle of a room at a beach resort, we can still map the moon phase using those useful Windows and Android Apps. We also learn to find the things we lack by substituting them with something, especially if the spell require something that we cannot find here in the Philippines. On this age, magick and technology has become partners in achieving a desired goal, ever heard of a USB of Shadows?

As the traditional approach to Magick change with the modern times, the essence of the Craft did not. Whether you are a modern witch or Pagan from the 16th century, the basic foundation of how magick works remain the same. It is as Cordelia mentioned in American Horror Story- Coven said- Intention!

photo from the internet

Friday, December 11, 2015


Way back 2008 when one of my friends informed me that she'll visit Davao and other cities in Mindanao, I immediately reprimanded her that the place is full of terrorists and rebels. I told her that she might encounter accidents if she travel to Davao. I always thought that Davao, being a part of Mindanao is rebel infested and bombings is just a normal occurrence in the city.

This probably is what millions of people living in Luzon and Visayas think. 

Due to a career move, I "forced" myself to move to Davao last 2009. Again with all those silly thoughts about Davao being a dangerous place playing in my mind when I disembark the plane. However, after a few minutes, my perception about Davao changed drastically. 

Davao has one of the most honest cab drivers in the country. I took a cab from the airport to my dormitory accommodation and the driver used the shortest route (checked this out after a couple of weeks in Davao) and gave me my change up to the last centavos. The cab drivers are polite and accommodating and would even return bags, phones and other stuff that people leave in their cabs. I am not saying that all of the drivers are honest, most of them though, follow the law. 

Davao is a clean city. When I arrive in Davao, I was amazed how the city looks really clean. Water can be drink right out of the faucet, the air is clean, we have effective waste management. We rarely see people throw their trash on the streets. They are disciplined not to just throw their garbage everywhere. 

Davao is smoke free... and nobody is exempted. As a non-smoker, this place is heaven for me. I do not like the smell of cigarette smoke. I feel that my lungs tighten if I inhale cigarette smoke, and in this city, you will only see smokers in designated areas. In my experience, living in other cities in the country, you see people smoking inside the jeepneys, on the streets and almost everywhere. Here in Davao you will be arrested and fined if you smoke in everywhere aside from the designated areas. 

This list can go on and on, but the most important thing that I Love about Davao is its security. I have lived and visited other parts of the country and in those cities, it is normal to hear housemates and workmates talking about robbery, hold-up, mugging, snatching happening almost everywhere. I even get to see and experience a few pickpocket-ting, but here in Davao, one can use their gadgets inside the jeepney without being scared of these items getting snatched. The police responds really fast and thanks to the CCTV cameras scattered around the city, emergency and disaster response is really on time. And oh, did I already mention that we have a working 911 HOTLINE here?

#MyDuterteStory is not really about my experience with the Mayor. I have only met him twice and I was really starstruck. He is very accommodating and charismatic. However, I see Davao City as an extension of the honorable mayor. He is after all the father of this place. All the experiences that I have reflects the leadership quality of Mayor Digong. He is a man of action and not just talk. He always puts the welfare of his constituents as first priority. He makes sure that help is received on time, all the time. That's why his constituents love him very much. 

Although I am not born here, being here for six years made me love this city even more. I see myself stay and grow old in Davao. Same goes with other co-workers who have expressed their desire to live in this city. Davao City, truly, Life is Here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

EXPLORE: Super Surigao

For the past six years of staying here in Mindanao, traveling to Surigao has always been a dream and a steady item in my bucket list. Last November, I had the opportunity to explore this part of Mindanao and boy, it was one of the most amazing experience ever. 

You can go to Surigao by public transport if you have the time and the patience to travel by bus. There are a  lot of buses that travel from Davao to that area, though this could take you around 6 hours. However, there are also some tours that are offered for 2.5 to 3K per person. This include trips to Tinyu-an Falls, Enchanted River in Hinatuan and Britania Islands.

I was lucky to be able to travel with office mates that time, Instead of getting the tour, we opted to rent a van and stay with our employee who is from Bislig. The trip costs us around PHP 3,500.00 per day excluding the gasoline which actually made the trip more expensive, however, gas is cheaper in San Fran, one of the municipalities of Surigao and that's where we got the van full.

Now, going back to the story of the trip. We left Davao City around 8-9AM. We traveled all the way to Tagum and Compostella and it took us he entire afternoon to reach Bislig. Though this is probably because we often took wrong turns and end up a few kilometers away from our correct destination. 

After a meal in Tagum, we were shown the beautiful landscapes of Compostella From the colorful farmlands to the lush mountains, the trip offered a visual treat to my tired eyes. We also passed by a few silent towns (most of them memorable to Kendra, one of our employees who frequent these places), some mansions along the roads, a few beasts of burden that are still on their shifts. The most unforgettable part of the trip is the literal "long and winding road"  and as the concrete roads zigzagged, I also have my own fight with nausea. 

After a few stops and a few times asking for directions, we finally hit our first destination- Tinuy-an Falls. Dubbed as the Philippines own "Niagara Falls", Tinuy-an is a magnificent waterfalls.Though we havent really appreciate its beauty, since we arrived after dusk, the waterfalls is really beautiful even in the dark. It is located inside a resort where they collect an entrance fee (PHP 50.00). There are also some cottages that are for rent around the area. But the most wonderful thing is probably riding a raft for PHP 150.00 and let the guides take you near the falls. You can really feel the strength of the pressure as the water massages your back. The waterfalls has this almost mystical charm that attracted my senses (probably this is other than the elementals that frequent the area, but this is another story).

After we went to Tinuy-an, we stopped in this small inasal restaurant near the public market. The food there was really affordable and delicious and you get to pick the meat that you want to eat. After dinner, we went to Michael's house for the night.

Day 2:
It was early morning when the group decided to go to the market and buy food for the 2nd day. We went to Michael's farm and get to meet his dad who works there. They have a lot of coconuts which Mike's brother, Arjay graciously climbed to get. The farm also has a crab pond where they grow these delicious crabs. The farm was kinda far from the main road, that's why after so many years of not being able to walk barefooted on mud, I removed my slippers and I just walked. It was scary (because mainly of the thought of having leeches, snakes, etc.), but the trip was worth it, muddy feet or not. 

We left Mike's house and went straight to Hinatuan where we get to see the Enchanted River. This area is also very mystical. We arrived in the area and I quickly looked around. The Enchanted River is a very mysterious place because a.) They still have not reached the bottom of this river. b.) How the fishes would react to the sound of the bell during fish feeding (too bad that I haven't seen this). I was really very hesitant to just jump on the water, like most of them, I secured a live vest since I felt that I am being sucked in by the hole.  After almost two hours of wading through the iver, we headed out to the last destination on the list, Britannia Islands.

.Britannia is a group of islands which are accessible via pump boats. You need to rent these boats to sail and dock to these islands (PHP 1000-1500). Since we have arrived late, we only visited two of these islands. The night was fast approaching and I know that it has become more difficult to navigate the waters around this place. After we toured the white sand beaches of Britannia, it was time to head home.

We went back to Bislig and stayed in Mike's house for a few hours to rest. We left Bislig City around 12 MN and we arrived in Davao around 4AM, That was a fun trip that you would really enjoy with friends. Will I try to do it again? Of course I will. As long as it is with friends, then I am ready to travel and explore the country.

Dont be a stranger to your own country. Travel and Explore.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bane of the Modern Pagan

The Pagan Path is an evolving Path. It has endured and evolved all these years and became what we have in these modern times. However, with the evolution of the practice, the spiritual aspect of the Craft has been overshadowed by the interest of magick for everyday use. As I am not entirely against the use of your skills to craft spells for your everyday needs, I am a bit concerned about people leaving out the spiritual parts of their practice.

Let me enumerate some of my observations regarding the practice of the modern Pagan. I call these the bane of the modern Pagans.

1    1.  The Lack of Spirituality- As I have mentioned earlier, the Craft has became more practical and less spiritual. A lot of so-called Wiccans and Pagans right now are more into spells and rituals than they are with their devotion to the Divine. Whenever you ask some of them why they want to become Pagans, the usual answer I get is because they want to do spells for their crushes or do prosperity spells. Not a lot of them would say that they want to be close to the Goddess or to the God.
2.  2. The Flair for Instants- As information became very accessible on the internet, some of the Wiccans/Pagans I know forgot some good old by the book research. Majority of us are just into the pre-made spells and rituals that we forget that crafting and wording the spell is already part of the spell. As spells on the internet become readily available, some of us fail to realize the importance of putting our intentions to the spells.
     3. The “Chopseuy”- now dont get me wrong, Eclectism is a valid and accepted Path however, there are some who claim that they are eclectic as an excuse for putting things they believe are useful, without even studying the entire Path or Tradition. Eclectism should be a blend of practices that creates a cohesive Path where an eclectic practitioner should be able to piece together parts of structured or identified traditions. However, the Eclectics that I see right now are people who would put together stuff without even knowing the entire thing. No spirituality, no belief in the Gods just plain and simple practical spells.
       4. The Devotion- Focusing specifically on devotion, some of our Pagan friends do not even bother to celebrate their Goddesses or God’s feast. They only call the Gods when they need them in rites. When the Gods did not give their petitions, they would drop them like hot pies, jump to “worship” a different God. This cycle can go on and on until such time that their prayers are heard. One they ask for another thing and its not given to them again, the cycle starts again. How can the Gods answer a prayer from a person they do not even know?
     5. The Inner Mysteries- with the lacking devotion, some of our Pagan friends are practicing the Craft superficially, unable to connect with the Divine. Some of us are guided by the Voices of the Gods, especially if we have created a very strong connection with Them, through devotions and prayers. Some of us though, especially those who failed to maintain a strong relationship with the Gods, are unable to connect with them and cannot and will not hear the voice of the Divine.

As a Wiccan or a Pagan, we need to be very spiritual as this is the foundation of our Practice-may it be Stregheria, Seidr, Greek, etc. The Path is always affected by our connection with the Divine. We need to be close to the Gods we serve and devote ourselves to them. By being connected to the Gods, we eventually hear their voices and in return They could guide us better. Try to start a devotion with the God/Goddess you serve by getting to know them better. Learn Their stories, myths, Sacred Days, feasts, color, etc. Try to light a candle, burn Their favorite incenses, provide the right offerings on Their Sacred days and you’ll be surprised to have visions and hear Their voices.

Modernity does not make the Gods unreachable. It is the witch’s heart that stray away from the Gods. It’s time to reconnect with the Divine.

Photo from the Internet