Trouble in Paradise

HERE’S A STORY I wrote for the Philippine News Agency (PNA) about Coron, a beautiful island municipality in northern Palawan. It’s about a planned undersea park being proposed by Coral World Park (CWP), which claims to be “the largest Marine Reserve and Coral Reef Conservation program in Asia. ”

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Beautiful Kayangan Lake in Coron Island, Coron, northern Palawan.

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This photo of the small inlet that leads to Kayangan Lake was taken from a promontory where I stood for a while to take in the charming view.

The reason why it’s controversial is in the story.

Tagbanua tribes in Coron spurn Nickolodeon undersea park

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, July 27 — The Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IP) community in Coron and nearby islands gave the thumbs down Thursday morning to the propositioned 400-hectare Nickolodeon undersea park due to fears of irreversible negative environmental and cultural impacts.

Amil Abella, representative of the Tagbanua Tribes of Coron Island Association (TTCIA), said in a Greenpeace Philippines-hosted press conference here that the project will only displace them from their ancestral domains, and will spoil their traditional fishing grounds.

“If there are investments that will build structures that will cause destruction to our ancestral domains, our agreement is we will not accept them,” Abella said, adding they live independently and are reliant on Calamianes’ beauty and blessings.

The Calamianes is an area in the northern part of Palawan that includes Busuanga, Coron, and Culion island towns, and the islands of Calauit, Malcapuya, Banana, Pass and Calumbuyan, and several minor islets.

“The legendary heroes of Coron will unite and defend the last ecological frontier of the country, where we live with freedom and abundance,” he added.

Continue reading the story here: http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1003332

It’s really difficult to marry development with environment conservation, especially if it would have irreversible impacts on the lives of the indigenous peoples and their ancestral domains.

I am for development. The SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT kind. The one “that meets human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend.”

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You’ve never been to Coron if you haven’t been to Kayangan Lake.

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Sustainable development should not be compromised.

 

 

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Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant

DID YOU KNOW that in Vietnam, you can’t eat your food and then leave your chopsticks lying vertically over your bowl (or plate) of rice or noodles when you’re done?

Did you know too, that doing the same in China would contract-in-displeasure the eyebrows of the residents as it is how they position their incense sticks whenever present in ceremonies honoring the dead, or burying them?

Or something like that. I’m not too sure.

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A small bowl of PHO BO at Pho 88. It’s a Vietnamese rice noodle soup with fragrant herb leaves served separately with calamansi, and beef meat. 

Did you know further that if you don’t want to get in trouble with any of your Vietnamese friends (perhaps I should try one day just to make sure), then you must call to mind not to tap your chopsticks on your bowl for it will bring misfortune, and it means you’re convoking the dead?

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I HAVE TO GET ME ONE OF THESE. Tuong Ot Sriracha, or rooster sauce in Vietnam, actually originated from Thailand.  It’s made of “chili, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar,potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum.

It is really our own eating beliefs and traditions that matter. But of course, it wouldn’t hurt to observe and do as they do, right? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese people do.

The reason I had to remember what I learned about the eating culture of the people of Vietnam was because I was with some friends in this new restaurant called Pho 88 along J. Rizal Avenue the other day.

Sometimes I have that habit of tapping my chopsticks lightly on the bowl when I’m talking about something passionately. But not always.

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Ha Chi Lhan, the pretty owner of Pho 88. The place does not seek attention where it is located so, one has to be really on the alert.

Pho 88 is Pho 88, according to owner Ha Chi Lhan, because 1988 was the year she started to work in a bank in the coastal city of Nha Trang in KhĂĄnh HĂČa, on the South Central Coast of Vietnam.

It was her Filipino husband, who brought her to open Pho 88 after residing for a while in Silang, Cavite. The husband was not there to meet with us, but whoever he is, it’s good decision to bring Ha Chi Lhan to move to this city.

Another restaurant that serves real Vietnamese food is good news to me although in Puerto Princesa, there are about two I really love to visit once in a while. One is located in Barangay Sta. Lourdes, the other is in Barangay San Jose — quite far from where I live.

I wanted to order Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup) since its photo on the resto’s simple menu looked steamy and pretty with the chicken meat all lined up on one side, herbs on top of them, and a slice of chili.

But it wasn’t available; the kitchen staff apparently forgot to buy chicken from the market that day.

I don’t know. Tsk!

An old Vietnamese friend, who came to Palawan a few years ago as one of the boat people, told me that you can gauge the goodness of a Pho by the intensity of the flavor that’s rustled up in the stock while maintaining its clarity.

I wanted to prove. Unfortunately…

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This popular Vietnamese dish is not heavy in the belly so, go for it when you’re in Puerto Princesa.

Every time I go to a new Vietnamese place, I like comparing how each cook their Pho. This is the reason why I wanted the Pho Ga. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the Bun Thit Nuong cold noodles upon learning from Ha Chi Lhan that the noodles they used were imported.

Except for the meat and some spices that can easily be bought from the public market, all their ingredients are imported from Vietnam.

The food junkie in me couldn’t help but also order Banh Mi Thit Heo, bread with pork and veggies inside. Bahn Mi is all kinds of bread to the Vietnamese; bahn is bread and mi is wheat. Popular to them is the baguette or French bread.

So, if you’re in an authentic Vietnamese dining place, and you ask to be given Bahn Mi, and the food attendant asks you next what kind you would like to have, then you’ll know they can give it to you with different fillings. Pulled pork, fried or grilled chicken, barbecued pork, beef, and yes, even crazy tuna spread.

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VIETNAMESE ICE COFFEE: On Pho 88’s menu, they come in two blends — Cafe Sua and Cafe Sai Gon.

After our good and light meal, we couldn’t leave as there were still good stories to tell and laugh about. So, one of us decided to try Pho 88’s two ice coffee blends — Cafe Sua that uses the traditional French coffee drip, and Cafe Sai Gon.

Both blends use coarsely ground dark roast coffee, and they’re so good!

So, what sets apart Vietnamese cuisine from the rest of the others in Asia? For me, I think its really the amalgamation of spices, colors, love and passion of cooking, fresh ingredients, and the minimal employment of oil.

Isn’t it that Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest in the planet?

We went to Pho 88 at past 12 noon, and left around 3 p.m. because Wednesday is WOW date for all of us. WOW meaning Women of Wednesday.

I’m going back there for my Sriracha sauce.

Pho 88 is okay with reservation. Call them at 09271521706 and 09279378729.

 

L Element Asian Fusion Cuisine

Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.- B. Frankel

THERE’S A NEW dining place in Puerto Princesa that serves authentic Asian fusion cuisines, and it’s called L Element Bar & Seafood Restaurant owned by Manila businessman  Laurence Lau.

Laurence is a Filipino entrepreneur, whose mother is Malaysian. He was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Hong Kong. Yes, three countries that love to cook, and are food capitals in the world’s largest and most populous continent.

So, why not a restaurant that serves traditional dishes from these three countries, and maybe more like Vietnam and Taiwan.

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SEAFOOD TOFU SOUP

In this city, and I could probably say anywhere else in Palawan, there is simply nowhere to go when it comes to your favorite bona fide Asian fares. Most times, your Chinese stir-fried noodles is frustrating for the reason that the restaurant where you had it couldn’t cook it the way you wanted it cooked.

At L Element, you have to try the Taiwanese Beef Noodle with Barbecue Sauce because it is simply the best. The noodles are not mushy and oily, and the chef was generous enough not to scrimp on the beef meat as one of the main ingredients.

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BEEF IN BLACK PEPPER SAUCE

Another dish I enjoyed so much at L Element in the three times I had been there so far, is the Beef in Black Pepper Sauce. Three times there, three times ordered the same dish because the meat was tender, and the bite of the black pepper sauce on your palate is really habit-forming.

It’s beyond explanation why I love it.

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VIETNAMESE FRIED SPRING ROLL

Another best-loved Asian cuisine there is from Vietnam, the Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls that is pleasingly crispy outside and firm on the inside. One of the restaurants in Puerto Princesa that serves this really good is located in Sta. Lourdes.

So, it’s nice that when you don’t have a lot of time to travel far, there’s a place nearby that offers it on its menu.

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CRISPY & JUICE FRIED CHICKEN

The photos of the food I posted here are those I have already tried at L Element. If you get the chance to see its menu, you’ll find that there are more to choose from. I, myself, have to try the recipe the chef has for crabs as I am also very fond of crustaceans.

Next time!

However, the Beef in Black Pepper Sauce… I wouldn’t be raving about it if it’s not a dish that more than satisfied me.

If you’re planning to visit Puerto Princesa soon, and you’re looking for a place with Asian fusion cuisines that are flavorful and easy on the pocket, then don’t miss L Element Bar & Seafood Restaurant.

Baragatan sa Palawan 2014

My province recently celebrated its 112th Civil Government Anniversary through the annual convergence event “BARAGATAN.” In our local dialect, Baragatan means “convergence.”

Every year during the month of June, all 23 local government units (LGUs) journey to the capital Puerto Princesa City to participate in the festivities: the LGU Trade Fair for their “One Town, One Product” (OTOP); culture and arts presentation, such as the Saraotan sa Dalan (street dancing in the Cuyunon dialect), and many others to mention.

Among all activities, my favorite is the Saraotan sa Dalan or street dancing competition because participants wear colorful costumes and head gears, and the beat of the drums is just fantastic — totally different from the usual music we hear all the time.

Too bad I wasn’t able to get a photo of Wak-wak. Weird sounding name — it’s a sand worm — harvested by the locals, dried under the sun, and cooked (fried or ceviche) as food. I swear it’s good!

Here are some photos from the street dancing competition. Love the colors!

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For more photos (you may also like the page): https://www.facebook.com/PalawenyaPhotographybyTRFormoso

Earth Hour Celebration in Puerto Princesa

Imagine my disappointment after turning on the television, it’s one of those depressing Filipino films… and the high temperature is killing me.

March 29 was unforgettable. These photos were taken from my city’s commemoration of the Earth Hour at the People’s Amphitheater in Mendoza Park. At exactly 8:30 p.m., power in my city was turned off because of the celebration, and these fire dancers took over the darkness beautifully.

From nearly a hundred long exposure shots, I succeeded with only over 20 good ones. The rest of the photos, sigh… waste of effort. But I’m happy with what I have.

Sharing the shots! Good night 🙂