October 24, 2021

Another Dream Achieved

First of all, I am so sorry for not being here for quite some time, I had a series of bad luck in my health in the past two months, which includes, well a strain of this pandemic. But I have recovered by the end of last month, still struggling with fatigue that it left my body but all is better now.

When I was in high school, even if my parents will not allow me because I was entering college very young, I still took the entrance exam for the University of the Philippines. It is the most prestigious university in the country because it is very hard to get in as the screening process is very tight. It is the country's topmost state university so a lot of students fight for a spot to be one of the "iskolar ng bayan" or Scholars of the Nation.

Long story short, my UPG or university projected grade failed me to get a spot on my two campus choices. There are a few more campuses that will consider my UPG score though they are quite far and my parents will just not let me (or I even I think I can't live that far) because I was just 15.

I accepted my fate and taught to myself that my dream was over. The dream that someday I will have a portrait of me taken with the "Sablay", UP's official costume that replaced the usual black toga and mortarboard which is used during college commencements in the country.

Decades passed and I still find myself editing my photos into UP "sablay" photos of random people just to make it seem like my dream came true even on a photo (I still have that fake photo HAHA) Fast forward to my 27th birthday, I had this conversation with Ate Carm and what she said struck me, "Everything ends and begins with a solid desire. Be clear on what you want then push yourself towards that direction". So I tried again, this time for Grad School, got accepted. It was a challenge to work full time and study at the same time but I am lucky to have the best manager in the world, Miss Sheryl, who was very encouraging. 

And with God's grace and all the support, there it is. Not fake or photoshopped, Real and True! My University of the Philippines Graduation Photo. And yes, it even came with a degree. Too bad it will just be an online Graduation this December due to COVID, but still looking forward to it!

Never EVER stop Dreaming!
Stevenson

July 18, 2021

Upland Kafé

Upland Kafé, Silang, Cavite

Just along Aguinaldo Highway, located at the back of a Shell station is this new hidden gem! I mean just look at how cute their place is! Nestled under decade old trees, everything is made inside a whitewashed container van. 

We were so happy when we arrived. We looked for it because the place was starting to trend on facebook and when we stepped out of the car, it was even more beautiful than the gorgeous photos that are posted on social media. Silang has a milder climate compared to the rest of the province so coffee will never be out of fashion (even for warmer days, a cup of ice cold will do the trick!)

Machuca-style Tiles and Neon Signs

Team Puti or literally white team in English is a design movement that is very popular in social media nowadays here in the islands. It's clean and minimalist finish is applied to this cafe's interior which made the tiles and neon signage (two of my favorite things) really pop! Machuca Tile is the largest and oldest manufacturer of handmade cement tiles in the Philippines dating back 1903. 

      
(L) Their signature Blue Pea Latte and (R) Caramel Macchiato 

We were not shy to ask for their best-sellers especially it's our first time so we wanted their hits, a thing my friend RJay taught me. So both him and I tried their Blue Pea Latte, as per their facebook page is the very first concoction here in the Philippines! It's made by using the Blue Ternate flower as a tint, and I have to say, it was really good and yes, very colorful! It was sweeter compared to my cousin Judy's Caramel Macchiato which has a stronger coffee:sweetness ratio

Me pretending to be the cafe's Model

We stayed to enjoy our drinks because we felt comfortable to due to its al-fresco seating, and though it just rained, the owners and crew were so kind to clean us some seats and tables which we didn't really use because we can't stop taking pictures of the place! It's just really beautiful. We tried two more drinks, this time we tried a Frappe and an Iced Tea. 

      
(L) Strawberries and Creme Frappe and (R) Lemon Lychee Iced Tea

Since I am getting older (certified Tito), I'm starting to refrain from sweet drinks so the strawberries and creme frappe will not be a choice on my next visit but this Lychee iced tea is like sunshine on a cup! It is sweet but only the right amount! I can taste a hint of brown sugar, perhaps they use it as a sweetener? But the lychee extract they used gave me bolts of energy from the inside even if it was a grey and gloomy kind of day! 

 

Now the question is, am I gonna go back? A big YES! For so many reasons - their coffee, their fun concoctions, but most especially - the ambiance! being there gives me this relaxed feeling, on the levels that you just can't get from the usual cafes because Upland's edge will always be them being so close to nature. No other mural can beat the views of being under the embrace of strong trees that gives out natural air conditioning! Will definitely be back Upland!

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This visit to Upland Kafé very much inspired me to start an Instagram project wherein I will share and review coffee and experiences from café to café! May I take this chance to share with you all Cafe Hunter PH and join me in my café adventures across the islands!

You can visit and follow it on https://www.instagram.com/cafehunterph


Never Stop Nature!
Stevenson

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Upland Kafé
Shell Select along Aguinaldo Highway
Silang, Cavite
0927 917 9690

July 11, 2021

Serenidia's Kitchenette

Lumpiang Shanghai (Spring Rolls)

Nestled at the same location as Antonia's Garden, Serenidia's Kitchenette caters Filipino food as you roam around a garden shop where you can get your indoor and outdoor plants. Named after the late mother of the cooks, Serenidia's serve Pinoy comfort food that will surely touch your hearts and fill your all-day breakfast cravings.

 
Serenidia's Kitchenette, Amadeo, Cavite

At the moment, they are on soft opening, serving our favorite "SiLogs". Silog is a Filipino colloquial word (usually used as a suffix to a shortened version of a meat name which it is paired with) that stands for two combined words, sinangag or Garlic Friend Rice and itlog which literally translates to egg. So these silogs are very popular as breakfast meals since it's a complete meal with rice and egg plus a meat item whether it be pork, chicken, beef, or even fish. 

Tapsilog (Php 130)

The most famous "silog" meal is the Tapsilog. It stands for three food items - Tapa which are thin slices of beef cooked in savory soy sauce and garlic + sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg). Every home has their own version of Tapa and they can even be made with pork or chicken. Some make their tapa sweet by adding some brown sugar, some adds a bit of Calamansi (local lime) to the marinade to give it a tangy kick, or as it is traditionally, dried it for a few days under the sun to give it a drier but tastier finish.

Tocilog (Php 120)

Probably the second most popular on the big silog family is Tocilog. Rice and egg is paired with sweet slices of friend pork or as it is called, tocino. Both Tapa and Tocino are food items we inherited from the Spanish culture and is part of our everyday breakfast plates across the islands.

Lumpiang Shanghai (Special order)

The one above is my plate, I had it specially prepared for me since I haven;t been eating rice for a month now (I got really big so I am on this low carb diet now. Been losing 16 pounds already so hooray me!) This is basically two orders of their Shanghaisilog minus the rice, as you can see it also has two eggs! Inside these spring rolls are ground pork and vegetables, my favorite! If you have Filipino friends and were invited to a Filipino party, I am very sure you have tried Lumpia already!

Ate Judy (my cousin), RJay (my best friend), and yours truly!

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Soon, they will now serve everything from their menu and I am just so excited to try other of their recipes! For parties within Cavite, they also cater food trays, just order them in advance and they even deliver to you at your cost. I have tried their Chicken Alfredo pasta before, it was heavenly!

To see their full menu plus food tray menu, click on the images below for a bigger view. Contact information are included.


Serenidia's Kitchenette
Banay-Banay, Amadeo, Cavite
+63 977 833 3736

July 5, 2021

Spontaneous Afternoon at Tamsui

Last 2018, me and my sister Ate Judy went to Taipei in Taiwan. We were there for four days and during our third day, we decided to split up with our own itineraries. We were so excited and a little bit nervous too because it will be my sister's first time to travel alone, so I was quite nervous for her but also excited so she can experience how it is. She decided to took up the high-speed train south all the way to Taichung, a city in the south. I on the other hand really wanted to go up Yangmingshan Mountain and around the trail leisurely and hopefully catch some Autumn leaves which I have always wanted (and which I did not catch, sadly, since they all have fallen of already).

Selfie with Canadian Missionary Dr. George Leslie Mackay

I had an awesome time and I got back to our apartment just after lunch time. I rested for a couple of hours and decided that since it's still early, I'll ride the train going to another city in the north, Tamsui. the journey to Tamsui from Taipei took two metro train rides which were not so long, around 30 minutes in total. Tamsui is situated at the northwestern tip of the island of Taiwan so the views were nice on the way there. I alighted the train and the first thing I noticed was the Spanish inspired design of the station.

Brick train station of Tamsui

Okay I hope you don't get fed up with my selfies, I was alone that time haha but there you have behind me was the train station. It is symbolic since Tamsui was once a fort by the Spaniard during the area of colonialism which also colonized my islands for 333 years that's is why it looks very familiar to me.

The first thing I visited was the Catholic church so I can say a prayer and make a wish. For us Filipino Catholics, we have this tradition that whenever we visit a church for the first time, we can say a prayer and make a wish and it will come true, okay that's not in the bible I know.

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church

I spent a good few minutes resting from my uphill walk and said my prayers before leaving. It was very quiet and empty but it was open so I decided to go inside and lit a candle at the candle station just outside.

I then went down to continue my leisurely walk downtown. Downtown Tamsui was packed with people and tourists enjoying the perfect cool weather of Taiwanese November. I was looking around from shops, to restaurants, to street hawkers selling their delicacies and pastries and at a small junction, there was this statue.

Dr. George Leslie Mackay

Dr. George Leslie Mackay was a Canadian missionary who devoted his life for the objective of making the lives of the native Taiwanese better. He was a Presbyterian missionary that founded a number of hospitals and colleges all across Taiwan. This statue is a commemoration of his life and his works for the love of the Taiwanese people.

Following where the people went, it led me to a Presbyterian church standing on top of a hill just downtown along the shops. It was beautiful and humble and that day there were a lot of people. I was so curious as to why they were a lot of people when it was not a church day. But before I decided to check the happenings, I asked a kind lady to take a photo of me in front of the church.

Tamsui Presbyterian Church

See the people behind me, it really got me curious so I thought maybe I can check it out since it's still a bit early. So nosey me got into the church and I saw this people lining up on a queue going to the front of the church where there's a guy that seems to be a celebrity taking a photo with the people. I just found out that he was a famous baseball player in Taiwan. 

Baseball is a famous sport in some East Asian countries including Japan and South Korea. The organizers there were greeting me and motioning me to the side of the church. At first I thought they were showing me the exit but then I realize they led me to the end of the queue!

It's kinda funny because I had no plans of queueing up I was just stuck with the crown inside and had no chance because if I leave the line, I would have to excuse myself with the people behind me and people might think I'm disrespecting the athlete so I just went in and had a photo with him. 

A photograph with Brothers Baseball Club's Choi Szu Chi

I did not know him at all before this because I am not a sporty person but I was happy that day because he was a very cool guy and was even surprised when I shook his hand and told him I'm from the Philippines. After a few photos, I thanked him and again another organizer stopped me and gave me this pentagon frame with a signature which I reckon was Mr. Choi's. I still have that autograph with me to this day, an unforgettable souvenir.

Mr. Choi Szu-chi of the Brothers Baseball Club

After that, it was starting to get dark, I did a phone call with my sister and she was still in Taichung. I told her that I'll go ahead and board the train back to Taipei where I'll be looking for a church so I can hear Mass since she's still hours away.

We'll just never know what's in a place and what surprises are in store for us especially on spontaneous side trips like the one I did! I wanted to try some of the cakes and sweets that I saw but I kinda miss my sister so I just did not since she was there and we'll just have something nice for dinner when she arrives back.

Never Stop Spontaneous Side-trips!
Stevenson

June 27, 2021

Breakfast at Antonio's

One reason why my close friends told me that my birthday spans the whole month of June is because my cousin's birthday is also on the same month and she always celebrate it with me, for every single year since we were young, thank you Ate Judy for making our month extra special always! 

That day, we went to Tagaytay early in the morning to buy some groceries and goodies that we will bring to a elderly home care that we usually visit and give donations to. We visited the grandmas and grandpas and they were so happy to see us. We were not able to get close to them but we just waved and seen them from a distance due to this pandemic. After saying hello and dropping our donations, we went to lunch. Ate Judy treated me and two of our best friends to a fancy all day breakfast place in the city.

The place was packed but protocols are strictly enforced, including social distancing between parties and individuals while they dine. Signs are also placed up to encourage people not to talk too much especially to converse less while eating to minimize the spread of droplets. The place was gorgeous situated on top of the Tagaytay city Caldera. The restaurant was well ventilated. It's indoors but all the windows are open so I don't know if I can say it's al-fresco? We also saw construction being done at the back were their 100% al-fresco dining will be available soon.

Coming Soon: Dining with an unobstructed view of Taal Lake

Let me go through the dishes we had. We started with a small plate of Truffle French Fries which were amazing! I have read from some blogs that Truffle is an acquired taste but I fell in love with it when I first tasted something with it thanks to my cousin Ate Carmeline that introduced me to a pasta dish with it about a decade ago. These fries were made perfectly crispy with the perfect hollowness on every piece that made it felt like you were eating potato chips in block form. Coated in truffle and salt paste, it was a heavenly welcome!

Truffle Potato Fries (Php 180)

In this age of the pandemic, sadly, we cannot share our dishes with each other but I'll share with you the dish I had and those that my friends enjoyed. Let us start with my order. It was hard for me to choose with the full array of sandwiches because I am a sandwich monster. But lucky was I that when I chose a burger, the waiter informed us that burgers are not available at that moment! So I opted for their Roast Beef Sandwich.

Roast Beef Sandwich (Php 570)

Served with French fries on the side, I made a request to our waiter if I can switch them with potato crisps since I saw it from the other table and they look divine! So the sandwich came and I was super excited! It was plated with a small saucer willed with roast beef drippings so of course, I tried it first without it. The slices of USDA sirloin were very tender and juicy, plus the melted provolone cheese adds amazing texture! But I have to be honest It was really bland. So I tried it with the drippings, still bland. I added some salt, sadly I can only taste the seasonings that I added and not the dish at all. I was really downhearted because the beef's tenderness were top marks, but the taste was just absent, at least for me.

Sautéed Corned Beef (Php 500) 

Served with rice and two sunny side up eggs, this was the birthday girl's order. It smells really good when served. Since my cousin is a very small eater, she portioned her corned beef so we can snatch spoonfulls from her plate to taste. I like it, at least more than my sandwich because it was tastier! My friends were even joking me as to why I don't taste anything from my order and that maybe it's not the sandwich! I was quite scared if you know what I mean so tasting this garlicy dish was quite a relief.

Beef Tapa (Php 535)

This was our friend Lea's order, typical Filipino breakfast, served extra classy. Soy and garlic marinated sirloin served with rice and eggs. We missed Lea so much because she just came home a few months ago from years of working in Kuwait, and it's always a pleasure to have her as she makes up most of her missed years with us. Here's to more brunches and meals with you Lea!

Bistek Tagalog (Php 590)

Okay so this is my favorite out of everything we ordered. This was Rjay's dish - Tenderloin beef marinated in soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, olive oil, and calamansi. Calamansi is our version of the lime but is much smaller and tangier. It is one of the most Filipino ingredients on any Filipino dish and can also be made into juices and as a condiment itself. Back to the word favorite, I did not get to taste this but with Rjay's word, it was good. Why did I like it, well just look at how it was plated! 

Lea, Rjay, Steve, and birthday girl Judy

We capped our delicious lunch with their homemade ice cream flavors but sadly, we forgot to take photos of it because we were super excited when they arrived! But just to tickle your sweet imaginations, we had scoops of Mixed Berries with Banana, Dark Chocolate with Peanut Butter Cups, and Banana with Caramelized White Chocolate. How good were their housemade ice cream flavors? Well it painted rainbow colors to my greyed out experience from the Roast Beef sandwich haha!

Unmasked for Breakfast at Lunch!

To my ate Judy, I wish you only the best in your new year. I hope that you continue to grow happy and truly joyful from the inside out. I am very excited for the next chapter that will surely be a big adventure for you. Just so you know, I will always be here for you in every step of your new venture and beyond. Keep being that compassionate and a person full of empathy that spans out beyond the people she knows.

Never Stop the Party!
Steve

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Breakfast at Antonio's
Tagaytay City, Cavite
(046) 413 0738 / (046) 404 6199
0909 234 7304 / 0925 706 0837 / 0917 163 8374