Monthly Archives: August 2008

Historic Filipinotown Festival: A celebration of a community

by Gayle Gatchalian/AJPress
Two blocks of Temple St. was barely enough to contain the 6th Historic Filipinotown Festival last Saturday, August 2. Spearheaded by the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HFNC), this year’s festival has been the biggest so far and has opened its arms to embrace people of all color and creed, making it an event truly for the community at large.

Since its inception, the Festival has been drawing crowds of Filipinos from all over Southern California and beyond. The one-day extravaganza of food, culture and fun used to reside in small alleys but it proved too big to stay there for long. The festival also catered to the current residents of Filipinotown, not just its namesakes. With 65 percent Hispanic residency in the district, they had to take it to the streets. The 2008 festival provided an action-packed schedule to those who attended. About 800 runners participated in the 7:30 a.m. 5K Run/Walk followed by eleven hours of non-stop stage time. There was dancing and singing that kept the multi-cultural crowd entertained. There were carnival rides for the younger kids to enjoy and numerous booths of organizations and commercial entities active in the FilAm market. No festival would be complete without food of course and not surprisingly, food was to be found aplenty. Filipino superstar Nora Aunor graced the evening, topping off the long day’s celebration of Historic Filipinotown.

Alvaro VanEgas from Proyectos Saluda, is media chair and promoter for this year’s festival. Proyectos Saluda is actually an organization that promotes Hispanic cultures, but VanEgas could ignore the similarities between Hispanic and Filipino cultures. His involvement is paradigmatic of the inclusive, welcoming nature of the festival and Filipinos themselves. Cross-cultural sharing is an important part of the festival and the Latin component could be felt throughout the day.

“It used to be on a small community level, but now we have gone big-time with a massive campaign and plenty of sponsors,” VenEgas continued. “We want Historic Filipinotown to be a model for all other Filipino communities and this festival is the first step in a long-term project to promote the area.”

Historic Filipinotown has gone a long way since its incorporation in three years ago. The HFNC has a vision to make Historic Filipinotown, HiFi as it is fondly called, a tourist destination in the city of Los Angeles. HFNC President Cecille Ramos explained, “This is an opportunity for the community to get together, discover and embrace each other’s culture.” She added, “A miracle is happening in HiFi. Everyone is coming together, enjoying diversity and the happenings.”

HFNC was responsible for putting up the freeway signs indicating HiFi’s downtown location. Their next project involves adopting 125 city posts upon which will hang a parol, those ornamental star-like lanterns that grace every Filipino home during Christmas. Mrs. Ramos disclosed that “there’s a lot of excitement in the families we’ve spoken to and the pledges are coming in.”

The community can only look forward to more in the coming years. “We are looking into a bigger street closing, more booths and more runners for the Run/Walk,” revealed Mrs. Ramos. This one-day street party might even see another day added to its schedule.


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Talk is cheapest now

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
It is a fact that the way we communicate with the rest of the world has been dramatically changed since the invention of the Internet.

In the past, getting the message through was a struggle, especially when we were entirely dependent on postal mail, a.k.a., snail mail.  Also, gone are the days of expensive phone calls, again, thanks to the Internet.  Aside from the usual voice chats or conversations, the introduction of the Voice over Internet Protocols (VOIP) has given people the chance to keep in touch on the cheap.

Saying ‘hello’ over the Net

Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP or Broadband phone service as it is often referred to, has changed the telephony world.  It has slowly phased out traditional phone lines as businesses and households around the world embrace the benefits.

The technology started as far back as 1995, when a small company called Vocatec released what was believed to be the first Internet phone software.  Designed to run on a home PC, it was simply called “Internet Phone.”  It had initial success, but the lack of broadband availability in 1995 resulted in poor voice quality when compared to a normal telephone call.  By 1998 however, VoIP traffic had grown approximately 1% of all voice traffic in the US.  Businesses were jumping on the bandwagon and started to create devices to enable PC-to-phone and phone-to-phone communication work.  By the year 2000, VoIP traffic accounted for more than 3 percent of all voice traffic.

By 2005, all major voice quality issues have been addressed and the system was able to ensure reliable, clear sounding and unbroken calls.  It is forecasted that revenue from VoIP equipment will be over $8.5 billion by the end of 2008, driven primarily by low cost unlimited calling plans and the abundance of enhanced and useful telephony features associated with the technology.

Snail mail vs e-mail

It has been a longstanding debate – which is better, snail mail or e-mail?  However, in a survey conducted by the International Communications Research (ICR), it was a mixture of results.  Although the survey concluded that respondents overwhelmingly prefer promotional messages via snail mail, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are persuaded by them.

Electronic mail, or e-mail is a natural use of networked communication technology that developed along with the evolution of the Internet.  It was, in fact, already in use in the early 1960s, developed for the ARPANET shortly after its creation.  It has now evolved tremendously into the powerful e-mail technology, a widely used technology on the Internet today.

E-mail provides a way to exchange information between two or more people with no set-up costs or less paperwork.  It is also a convenient way to send the same message to multiple addressees, with a swift click of the ‘send’ button.

A number of people however still see the e-mail as ‘too impersonal’ or business-like.  This is probably because handwriting a letter, putting it in an envelope and actually mailing it out, takes more effort, thus the personalized touch.  Still, the advantage of time and cost overthrows the reasoning, making the e-mail an essential part of our lives – business or personal.


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Strange Brew

by Nickee de Leon/AJPress
Wherever in the world the globe-trotting Pinoy may be, one alcoholic beverage has remained sine qua non — a satisfying brew known as beer. For Filipinos in the United States, it’s practically euphoric to be living in beer heaven, with hundreds, maybe even thousands of varieties and brands to choose from.
In the Philippines, beer is a staple drink in every gathering — be it with family, friends or colleagues. It’s customary to have several bottled or canned beer chilling in the fridge as Filipinos are known to be strong drinkers.  After all, beer catalyzes one’s courage to belt out a few songs in videoke– yet another fixture in every Pinoy affair.

For most yuppies, the most anticipated time of the day is the “happy hour.” Filipinos are ardent lovers of the nightlife and what best way to spend it than to indulge one’s self in the “buy one, get one” special offer for beers. It’s getting the “buzz” without going over the budget.

But what is a refreshing bottle of San Miguel, Red Horse or Cerveza Negra without pulutan? The Filipino concept of pulutan (or barchow) is a sub-culture in itself. Being hefty eaters, Pinoys definitely won’t settle for a mere bowl of peanuts. Picking the right pulutan is perhaps, as equally crucial as drinking beer itself. Take your pick from all-time favorites such as sisig, chicharong bulaklak and calamari to the more daring papaitan and calderetang kambing. For most male drinkers, the choice of pulutan is actually a gauge for masculinity and machismo. The more daring you are with your choice of beer and pulutan, the closer you are to becoming the quintessential alpha male.

However, it’s not only Pinoys who enjoy these flavorful brewskies. Beer is a universal concoction — the proverbial grog that’s enjoyed by different cultures across the globe. It has become both an elixir for pain and a catalyst for pleasure. In the United States, watching Superbowl or the NBA playoffs seems incomplete without beer in hand. In Germany, the Oktoberfest is the most famous and highly-anticipated  Bavarian tradition of the year —  a sixteen-day festival that attracts about six million people annually.

So what is beer exactly? And why has it become the celebratory drink of choice?

An ancient brew

According to, “Beer is an alcoholic beverage produced by brewing and the fermentation of starches derived from cereals. The most common cereal for beer brewing is malted barley, although wheat, corn, and rice are also widely used, usually in conjunction with barley. Most beer is flavoured with hops, which adds a slightly bitter taste and acts as a natural preservative. Occasionally, other ingredients such as herbs or fruit may also be included in the brewing process. Alcoholic beverages fermented from non-starch sources such as grape juice (wine) or honey (mead) are not classified as beer.”

Possibly one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages, detailed recipes of beermaking were found in Babylonian clay tablets that date back to 4,300 BC. The ancient Chinese, Assyrians and Incas were also known for brewing beer, says says that beer may possibly date back to the 6th millennium BC and is recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The University of Pennysylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology’s Earliest Chemical Evidence of Beer states that the earliest known chemical evidence of beer has been traced to circa 3,500–3,100 BC — from the site of Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran.

“As almost any substance containing carbohydrates, mainly sugar or starch, can naturally undergo fermentation, it is likely that beer-like beverages were independently invented among various cultures throughout the world. The invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for humanity’s ability to develop technology and build civilization,” says

Founded in 1294, The Augustiner brewery in Munich is the oldest brewery in the world. An Augustinian monastery was established at the Haberfeld upon the order of the bishop of Freising. Munich became world-famous for its breweries which were operated by monks.

“In 1506, beer was given a makeover when the German Purity Law made it mandatory for beer to only have four ingredients: water, barley, wheat and hops,” says

Beer ingredients

The four key ingredients of standard brews was also described in the same website.

“Barley is a key ingredient that adds a certain amount of color and flavor, depending on the roasting time. Barley is responsible for the sweet taste in beers.”

“Hops come in several different varieties. The type used, as well as the length of time it’s included in the brewing process, affect the bitterness, aroma and flavor of the beer. Hops are called the ‘spice of beer.”

“Water may be flavorless, but this main ingredient’s chemical components often affect the final flavor of the beer. Hard water produces bitter ale, while softer water produces a bitter lager.”

“Yeast comes in various strains and affects the flavor and aroma. This ingredient converts the sugar in the malt into alcohol.”

Beer style

In Michael Jackson’s seminal book, The World Guide to Beer, published in 1977, he categorized “a variety of beers from around the world in local style groups suggested by local customs and names,” says His book has become a significant influence to the modern theory of beer style.

Various elements constitute beer style — appearance (which includes color, clarity and nature of the head); aroma, flavor(brought about by bittering agents as hops, roasted barley and herbs), mouthfeel (based on the smoothness and viscosity of the beer in the mouth), strength (from the amount of fermentable material converted into alcohol), yeast,grains, hops, water and other ingredients.

Ales and Lagers

With the onset of more innovative brewing technology, several variations of beers have proliferated across the globe, with over 20,000 brands of beer that can be grouped into 180 styles. However, the most common types of beer can still be classified either as ales or lagers.

A top-fermenting yeast strain called saccharomyces cerevisiae which is fermented at higher temperatures (15-23 degrees Celsius or 60-70 degrees fahrenheit) is responsible for giving ale higher alcohol content. The warm temperature is suited for the production of esters or acidic chemical compounds and robust and fruity flavors and aromas that resemble those of apples, pears, pineapple, grass, hay, bananas, plums or prunes.

Amber ale, barleywine, brown ale, pale ale, porter, stout and wheat beer are beers that can be classified as ales.

On the other hand, lagers use a bottom-fermenting yeast called saccharomyces carlsbergensis, fermented at temperatures ranging from 45 to 55  degrees Fahrenheit and stored at temperatures between 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures inhibit the growth of esters and produce a smoother, crisper and more elegant taste. Lagers are the most highly-consumed beers in the world.

Indeed, beer is no longer regarded as a mere beverage — it has become a thriving pop icon. Beermakers as Budweiser, Miller and Roling Rock have taken giant leaps and strides in advertising  to elevate people’s perception of this frothy beverage. Beer-drinking has become a lifestyle in itself — an indispensable part of popular culture.


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Tapping Good Business: Yardhouse’s formidable trio does the ‘right thing’

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
In 2007, after eleven very successful years, the Yard House chain of restaurants was ready for a giant boost. Founder and CEO Steele Platt, along with partners Harald Herrmann, Yard House President and Chief Operating Officer; and Carlito Jocson, Corporate Executive Chef, were poised for significant growth. They were on the lookout for a strategic corporate partner that will help make Yard House a national brand.

Meanwhile, TSG Consumer Partners is ever watchful for high-growth companies to invest in. The recognized leader in building and investing in high-growth companies since 1987, TSG knows how to tap into a good business investment. And so, it offered to buy shares of Yard House, leveraging TSG’s 2 decades of experience in building some of America’s most trusted brands. Thus, a merger was born.

Acquiring a 70-percent interest in Yard House, TSG enthusiastically lauded the Yard House team’s success and announced that there will be no changes in its management.

TSG Managing Director Hadley Mullin said, “Founder and CEO Steele Platt and his team have developed a successful and exciting concept in the restaurant field. They have grown Yard House at a compounded rate of over 30% per year over the past five years, and we are highly enthusiastic about the Company’s future growth prospects.”

Platt is equally excited about the new partnership. “I believe that TSG will be an ideal strategic partner for Yard House. TSG will assist us in growing and building the brand as we continue to move forward,” said Platt. “We are very excited about beginning this next chapter in Yard House’s evolution and making it a national brand. My executive management team and I continue to own a meaningful portion of the company, and we will remain actively involved in the growth of the business for many years to come.”

The concept of Yard House came from Platt who opened a restaurant called “Boiler Room” in Denver, Colorado offering a wide selection of beers. After several years, Platt sold his restaurant and moved to San Diego, California. There, he spied a deserted warehouse building in the waterfront in Shoreline Village in Long Beach Yard. He decided to put up another upscale pub and eatery in that spot, using his original concept. One of the smartest moves Platt made was forming a partnership with Harald Herrmann and giving him carte blanche to run the restaurant his way. Herrmann in turn signed up Carlito Jocson who had worked with him in Chez Panache and made him executive chef.

From the trio’s combined efforts came Yard House, an upscale-casual eatery that can serve up to two hundred different kinds of beer on tap and a menu of eclectic gourmet food. Yard House’s name is derived from the time of the “Wild, Wild West” when stagecoach drivers only had a quick minute to get a cooling drink before hitting the trail once again. A “yard of ale”, which is a three -foot drinking glass, was handed to the drivers without having them getting off their mounts.

Yard House launched its first restaurant in 1996 in Long Beach with the largest selection of draft beers people have seen; as much as 250 tap handles – when other beer pubs were struggling to produce a dozen kinds.  The beer attracted the crowd but the 100-plus mouth-watering dishes on the menu kept the people coming back for more and more. Yard House soon gained a huge following for its upscale-style fusion cuisine, classic-rock soundtrack and of course, its self-proclaimed offering of the world’s largest selection of draft beers.

Over the last 12 years, Yard House expanded exponentially. Now with 20 restaurants and 5 more in the works, the chain has restaurants in Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Rancho Mirage, San Diego, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, Newport Beach, and  Brea, all in California; in Colorado; Illinois; Kansas; Phoenix,Arizona; Scottsdale, Arizona; Glendale Arizona; Waikiki, Hawaii;  Las Vegas, Nevada; and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

With an average unit volume of $8.5 million per store and cumulatively estimated at close to $200 million annually in sales, Yard House is the recipient of many accolades and awards, including the Hot Concept! award by Nation’s Restaurant News, and the Best Chain Overall Beverage Program as voted by Cheers Magazine. The company was also ranked among the Top 50 Fastest Growing Full Service Chains by Restaurant Hospitality (which also featured the Yard House as a Concept of Tomorrow), and among the Top 100 Independent Grossing Restaurant in the United States according to Restaurants & Institutions Magazine.

Yard House is the first restaurant brand in TSG’s portfolio, whose other food-related investments include Famous Amos, Terra Chips, Garden of Eatin’ snacks, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts and Smart Balance. Managing about $1.5 billion in invested capital, TSG, together with partners Platt, Hermann and Jocson, have been developing a short- and long-term strategic growth program to make Yard House a national brand.

“We have as much capital as we need to grow, but our performance will lead our growth,” said Platt. “Yard House could parlay its growth momentum into a billion-dollar company, but it’s not about speed, it’s about doing things the right way, “ he added.

And doing things the right way, they have certainly done. So much so that Chef Jocson disclosed that Yard House is poised to go public with the company within the next five years; which is something smart investors should look forward to. After all, Yard House has proven it’s not only a good place to tap in for fun; it’s a great place to tap into good business, too.


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Ingredients for Success

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
In any recipe, picking the right ingredients is perhaps the most crucial — one that would determine the flavors of the dish. Carlito Jocson’s recipe for business success has the following key ingredients which every aspiring businessman might find useful and inspiring.
First, know your strengths and your passion. What work do you love to do? If you like what you’re doing, then you wouldn’t mind doing it for long hours, maybe even for the rest of your life. Knowing what you want to do in life is like knowing how to pick the finest components in making your stew.

Knowing is half the battle. The next thing you need to do is to hone your skills in order to master your craft well. Carlito said that while other kids his age were playing, he and his brothers were helping their mother prepare food in the kitchen. Even while he was still in high school, Carlito worked part-time to improve his culinary skills.

The third ingredient is hard work and going the extra mile. As they say, no pain, no gain. While he no longer advocates this stressful work schedule, Jocson’s work ethics clearly shows that he makes sure the work is done, and done excellently.

The final ingredient in his recipe is having creativity and an adventurous spirit. One has to be a dreamer, a visionary who can think up of ways and means to offer people something new.  Yard House regulars say that they keep coming back for the extensive food selection –and not just for the beer and the music. Being the restaurant chain’s corporate executive chef, Carlito makes sure there is something for everyone at the Yard House –from the basic to the exotic.

Jocson kept these elements for success in mind wherever he worked. And he was given due recognition for his hardwork when Harald Herrmann finally gave him the biggest break of his life and said “The only guy I want to handle the food is you.”

Summing up what’s needed for a Pinoy to succeed in America, Carlito simply stated that God created us to work for excellence and not for mediocrity. “Just do your best in everything you do,” Jocson advised.


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Just Add Faith: How Carlito Jocson found God and the perfect recipe for success

by Gayle Gatchalian/AJPress
Meet Carlito Jocson, one of the partners and Corporate Executive Chef of Yard House Restaurants. A simple fellow with grand taste, this forty-year-old lives to love his family and cook astounding dishes that will floor any food connoisseur. But there is also something behind this relaxed chef, a certain peace and profundity that is as inspiring as the food he lays at your table. This is his story.

The saga begins

“Being Filipino, we love to eat,” begins Carlito’s tale. This food-loving household provided an interesting environment for Carlito. While other kids were taking out the trash, the Jocson kids were prepping food for their mother’s dishes. As his teen years came, he found himself seeking the kitchen even outside the home.

Little Chef

At fifteen, Carlito was at Chez Panache in Fullerton, a fine food emporium that served food as well. A restaurant far head of its time, it introduced the wide-eyed young man to black truffles, wine and caviar long before fine dining was commonplace.

It didn’t take very long before he was in with the big boys. He became head line cook for the dinner shift. He was a senior in high school at this time, surreptitiously disappearing every night from his seemingly normal teenage life to seriously play with pots and pans.

He was doing his pre-med at UCLA when a food writer from the Los Angeles Times moseyed into Chez Panache for the customary restaurant critique. The writer called Carlito over after the last bite saying: “I understand you want to be a doctor. But you are going to make a lot more people happy by feeding them than healing them.” The very next day, Carlito quit school and put on his chef’s toque permanently.

A turn for the better

He moved through a couple of restaurants learning everything he could before landing at an ultra-upscale Italian restaurant in Costa Mesa called Antonello’s. He did so well that when the head chef decided to leave, he left the fate of Antonello’s solely in Carlito’s 25-year old hands.

Life was good and only got better. During this time, Carlito met wife Elizabeth, the instant attraction and connection saw them married two months later.

A turn for the worse

After five years at Antonello’s, Carlito wanted to try something else. With the help of a mentor and friend, he put together a quick-service vegetarian restaurant. Despite an entire year of near-slavish conditions to bring it to life, the enterprise failed.

Carlito decided to take a break from it all. He wanted to get to know the family he had neglected– to be a loving partner to Elizabeth and a caring father to his children. They came to Jesus, became Christians and discovered a new chapter in their lives and came to a new understanding of who God was. Despite all the good in their hearts, life still dealt them blow after blow.


“Life felt like it just kept going down.” Carlito and Elizabeth’s relationships with their respective families were deteriorating. There was no job for him. With no one to reach out to but God, the devastated Jocson family found themselves homeless. Everything they owned was stuffed into their Volkswagen Jetta.

Nowhere to go but up

“God works in the realm of miracles,” declared Carlito. “He gives when you can’t stand it anymore.” And indeed God gave, in the form of a magical phone call and an angel named Harald Herrman, an ex-colleague. “I have something for you,” came Harald’s voice on the line and told Carlito to come by one Monday. Carlito walked into Harald’s office Monday morning and was hired on the spot. Harald was in food operations, the Yard House was going through a major reorganization. “The only guy I want to handle the food is you.”

Yard House of dreams

Carlito revamped the entire menu in time to open their first restaurant in Long Beach in 1996. With absolutely no expectations, Carlito worked hard and true, content with having time with his family and time for God. For the first time, Carlito felt like he was fulfilling the ministry God gave him- to be there for his wife and kids. “I believe God created me for excellence, to do my best in everything I do. So I did.”

Yard House opened restaurants all over Southern California and now that a huge national level opportunity has come up, Carlito will continue to man the helm of the kitchen in each and every single restaurant.

“Today, everyone is so results-oriented, you know, focused on the results. I like to focus on the process. To be in the moment and God will take care of the rest. We’re only in control of the moment.” So carpe diem my friends. Live, love and the Lord will have your back.”



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FilAms representing top 3 groups in MTV dance show

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – FilAms are represented in every finalist dance group on season 2 of MTV’s Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance crew, a hit competition reality show that pits dance crews from the nation against one another for $100,000 cash prize and a touring contract.
On a hot sunny day at Dodgers Stadium, one-by-one the groups took the field strutting their best dance moves in front of thousands of fans and you couldn’t help but notice that many members of the groups had at least one Filipino face.

It’s a sign of things to come, according to Angelito Casal of Super Cr3w.

“This is just the beginning for us,” he said before his dance crew performed.  “You’re going to see more brown faces. You’re going to see more Filipino faces in the media and all over entertainment. This is just the beginning. Get ready for it.”

It’s a sentiment that rival member of SoReal Cru agrees.

“This is dope [cool],” said Andrew Baterina. “If you see all the teams, there’s at least one Filipino on every team and on a lot of teams the majority of them are Filipino. It’s about time. We’re getting up there especially in the dancing scene.”

Filipinos are known for dancing. With its long array of traditional cultural dances like the tinikling, Pandanggo sa Ilaw and Maglalatik, that’s how many of this year’s FilAm contestants started to dance.

“It’s in our culture. We’re drawn to dance,” said Baterina.

Top 3

Fourteen dance crews started the competition …whittled down

While the Los Angeles – based Fanny Pak has only one FilAm on the team, Cara Horibe, the other two groups rosters are made up of FilAms.

The Las Vegas based dance crew, Super Cr3w, is a heavy favorite to win the competition. The crew boasts three Pinoys including Casal, RJ Puno, and Ronnie Abaldonado. Chris Gatdula, a member of the America’s Best Dance Crew season 1 winner Jabbawockeez, was a former member of Super Cr3w.

Puno said it was just exciting to be able to perform in front a famed venue like Dodger stadium.

“We’re really excited I don’t know what to say,” said Puno. “We’re just going to get down and dirty.”

Puno added that his team is prepared to make it to the finals.

“We need to attack and execute,” he said. “We’re going to put our hearts into every performance.”

The Houston, Texas-based SoReal Cru is a predominant FilAm group. Baterina, Brian Fucanan, Mark Fucanan, Ailyn Joy Isidro, Jackie Lautchang, and Brian Puspos are all FilAms. The other member Pat Lam is a Chinese American.

Baterina said people are always surprised to see Filipinos living in Texas.

“A lot of people think that Texas is cowboys and Indians and that we ride on horses but there’s a lot of Filipinos in Houston,” he said. “It’s a big community over there.”

Baterina said America’s Best Dance Crew has so far been an once-in-a-lifetime experience for everybody in the group.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “We’re always going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”

He added that they are working hard to win the competition.

“When we wake up, we practice, we use the bathroom, we sleep and it repeats over and over again,” he said. “It’s never ending. Going to the grocery store is free time for us.”

Puno of Super Cr3w said that if his dance crew wins he’d be showing his Pinoy pride for everybody to see on MTV.

“You know I have a big Phi-lippine flag in my room,” he said. “And if we win this [competition], I’m going to show it to everybody on the dance stage.”


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How a war started

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
In 1914, in the early days of August, Germany mobilized seven armies. Their plan – which took years in strategic planning – was to sweep in a giant arc across Europe, and by the end of the month, descend on the heart of their longtime enemy, Paris.

The events of August 1914 were the opening salvos of what that generation called The Great War.  The next generation later had a reason to rename it World War I.  It is in this single month that Barbara Tuchman focused her Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Guns of August (1962).

A military history book, The Guns of August primarily describes the events of the first month of World War I.  From the declaration of war to the start of the Franco-British offensive that stopped the Germans to advance through France, the book also provides a brief history of the plans, strategies, world events and international sentiments prior to and during the war.

Although an immediate bestseller, the Pulitzer Prize nomination committee was unable to award it the prize for outstanding history.  This was because Joseph Pulitzer’s will specifically stated that the recipient of the prize for history must be a book on American history.  Instead, Tuchman was given the prize for general non-fiction.

Critics considered The Guns of August as one of Tuchman’s best works, but historians generally contest the thesis of the work – that the outcome of the war was decided during the first month, August.

In spite of questions about it, one of the readers of the book was US President John F. Kennedy, an amateur historian himself.  In fact, Kennedy even encouraged members of his cabinet to read The Guns of August, to help in dealing with the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.  Also, in Roger Donaldson’s film Thirteen Days, which showed a truthful dramatization of the crisis, Kennedy mentions the book and compares the situation with the chain of misjudgments that led to tragedy nearly 50 years earlier.


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The Guns of August: How history triggered RP’s destiny

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
Only a few Filipinos think of the month of August as something significant. Besides, it is not as famous as December, the Christmas month, or even Valentine’s Day.
But in reality, this month is filled with events in Philippine history – events that shaped our country to what it is today.

The cry of 1896

In August 19, 1896, the Spaniards learned of the Katipunan movement.  This resulted to a massive capture of many Filipinos.  Because of this, Andres Bonifacio and his fellow Katipuneros tore their cedulas, or residence certificates in August 23, signifying the termination of their loyalty to Spain.  “Long live Philippine independence!” they all shouted, during their preparation for battle, marking the day as the historic Cry of Balintawak.

On August 26, Bonifacio led the Katipuneros in their first encounter with the Spanish civil guards.  Due to strong forces and large presence of the Filipino troops, the Spaniards retreated.  However, in the end, the Filipinos lost the battle when the Spaniards came back with a larger number of fighters and stronger ammunition.

The Cry of Balintawak is regarded as the starting signal for the Philippine revolution.  Bonifacio and the Katipuneros paved the way for other Filipinos to realize that under the rule of the Spaniards, we are not free.

Aside from giving expression to the Filipinos’ desire for a unified nationality, the Katipunan was also the origin of that national symbol that today flies beside the Stars and Stripes – the tri-color of the Filipino people.

Dark times in a dictatorship

It started as the Liberal Party’s campaign rally to proclaim the candidacies of eight senatorial bets as well as the candidate for the mayoralty race in Manila.  The rally was held at Plaza Miranda, in the district of Quiapo, on August 21, 1971.

As a crowd of about 4,000 gathered, two hand grenades were reportedly tossed onstage.  This resulted to death of nine people, injuring 95 others, including political leaders Jovito Salonga, Liberal Party president Gerardo Roxas and Sergio Osmena, Jr., son of former President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Sergio Osmena, Sr.  Salonga was among those seriously injured, leaving him blind in one eye and deaf in one ear.  Ramon Bagatsing, the Liberal Party mayoralty candidate for Manila, lost his leg.

Suspicions fell upon incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos, although in later years, prominent personalities associated with the event have pointed the blame on the Communist Party of the Philippines under Jose Ma. Sison.  Sison continues to deny these claims today.  For Marcos’ part, also blamed the communists, citing a communist plot to destabilize the government.  He took the opportunity to seize emergency powers, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, a prelude to declaring Martial Law, which was considered one of the dark times in Philippine history.

From Aquino’s assassination to People Power

Who would have thought that one man’s death can create such impact on a nation shrouded by the leadership of a dictator?  Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was, like Marcos, a consummate politician.  If Martial Law had not been declared in 1972, he would have probably defeated Marcos.   Instead, he was one of the first to be jailed when Martial Law was imposed.

Aquino was allowed to go to the US for medical treatment in 1980.  Accompanied by his wife, he became a major leader of the opposition in exile.  On August 21, 1983, in spite of knowing the dangers, Aquino went home to the Philippines.   He was shot in the head and killed as he was escorted off the plane.  The government’s claim was that he was the victim of Rolando Galman, a lone communist gunman, who was conveniently killed after the alleged shooting.    This again, casted suspicion on the Marcoses.

But Aquino’s death became the Marcoses biggest opponent – his funeral drew millions of mourners in the largest demonstration in Philippine history.  Aquino became a martyr who focused popular indignation against the dictatorship regime.  The outcome became disastrous for Marcos – his government was overthrown with the People Power movement in February 1986, better known as the EDSA Revolution.  This also marked a first in Philippine history – the first woman president, Corazon Aquino who is also Ninoy’s wife.

August then holds many milestones in Philippine history – the cry for freedom, the start of a number of revolutions, and sacrifices of those who believe that our country deserves a place not only in history, but in the world.


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Summer Lovin’ in the Big Apple: the Morimoto Experience

by Momar Visaya/AJPress
There are almost 20,000 dining establishments in the city of New York, according to the area’s Health Department. The number is more than enough to eat at one restaurant a day without going to the same place twice for one, two or even ten years. They range from the greasy diner on the corner to the high-end Michelin-rated restaurant.
There are cheap restaurants, where you can go for a decent meal for less than $10, and usually these cater to the office workers who flock to Manhattan every day. There are also the moderately-priced restaurants, including some national chains where you can get an entrée for less than $20.

And then, there are the high-priced restaurants, those whose owners are either celebrities, celebrity chefs or sports personalities. For us regular people, a high-priced restaurant is one that charges $40 a meal and up. And yes, that is per person.

For the past few years, the city of New York has been celebrating fine dining in its numerous restaurants during the Restaurant Week, a bi-annual event that food hounds look forward to. During the event, restaurants offer prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner at an affordable price of $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner. By affordable, we mean way cheaper than the restaurants’ regular price.

This summer’s Restaurant Week started last week, and will end this week. A friend invited me to Morimoto last week and just couple days later, another friend requested my company at the same restaurant. I was so enthralled by what I had a couple of days earlier that I decided to go again. Never mind the $40 plus dining tab.

Morimoto is the eponymous restaurant of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, located in the bustling meatpacking district of Manhattan, a few blocks away from the Chelsea neighborhood. Diners enter a building through some unassuming red curtains, and once inside, you get transported into a modern and chic place. A wall of glass bottles acts as a centerpiece and adds some edginess to the already elegant place, a stark comparison to the humble and industrial neighborhood.

Morimoto, during the Restaurant Week, offers a three-course prix-fixe lunch with a choice of the house miso soup or mixed-greens salad with kabosu vinaigrette, plus any one of the four entrees [angry chicken, Chef Morimoto’s sushi selection, braised black cod and beef gyudon] and a dessert sampler.

In my first visit, I had the salad and the braised black cod, and ordered extra miso soup, which was served on a huge bowl. Now, hands down, I can say that this was the best braised black cod I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously. I am a big fan of chilean sea bass because I love its buttery consistency and I was pleasantly surprised to get that same melt-in-your-mouth feeling while eating this black cod.

It was so sublime.

Hours after eating this lunch, I was still enjoying the experience of cutting through the soft and flaky flesh of the fish and relishing each bite. The dish was so rich and tasty I had to have rice. So I asked for a small cup, which cost me $5 more on my bill. On regular days, I cross the street from my office on Penn Plaza to this Chinese buffet place which sells meals—a selection of any five of the buffet dishes—for just the same amount.

Going back to the $5 cup of rice, I decided not to compute and just savor the entire experience as a whole. Plus the soup and a small cup of coffee, this lunch totalled to $45, exclusive of tips. Disregarding the bill, I relished my gastronomic experience as priceless.

Aside from my previous experience with the place, there are still three entrees I had to try, and so I confirmed to lunch with another friend at Morimoto again.

There were four of us and as if we planned it, we ordered each of the entrée. The waiter, who did not up sell to us like the previous waitress, said that it was the first time that a table of four ordered all the four entrees. I was happy, I had the opportunity to have a taste of the other two.

I ordered the beef gyudon, which is basically strips of beef sirloin with onions on a bed of steamed white rice. Yes, think Yoshinoya. Morimoto’s had a twist though, with fried egg as its topping. Yes, think bibimbap. And that was exactly what my beef gyudon was, bibimbap-style Yoshinoya beef bowl. The only difference was that it was five times more expensive. Teenie tiny regret, I should have ordered the braised black cod again. Probably next time.

My dining companion who ordered the black cod was ecstatic with her choice, as evidenced by her “Ang sarap!” (Delicious!) and “This is so good” statements peppered into our conversation while she enjoyed every bite. She decided to have the dish in all its richness and opted not to order rice. Good decision.

Our two other dining buddies had the angry chicken and the sushi sampler, which had about seven pieces of various sushi plus six pieces of tuna maki. Our waiter explained that the angry chicken was actually grilled chicken marinated in spicy yogurt and served with fried rice noodles. Why it was called such was beyond us and the waiter. The only thing I remembered the waiter telling us was that this chicken was marinated in a mix of coriander, cumin, cardamom, chile powder, black peppercorn, among other spices.

The one who ordered the angry chicken was happy, the one who had the sushi sampler was not. “I’m disappointed. I‘ve had better sushi,” he quipped.

For regular people like us, dining at Morimoto can be a daunting experience. Just a quick look at the appetizers alone—with price tags ranging from $23 (kobe carpaccio or spicy king crab) to $28 (the house specialty toro tartare, which our first waiter tried to up sell us. An appetizer that was more expensive than the three-course prix-fixe? Maybe next time.)—dining at the Japanese resto will make your heart skip a beat.

Thank goodness for Restaurant Week, we didn’t need to spend a fortune just to taste the masterpiece creations of famed celebrity chefs. Maybe someday, when we get richer, spending $32 for a chirashi rice bowl or $36 on seafood toban yaki wouldn’t be such a big deal.

For now, all we have is the exquisite experience of dining in Chef Morimoto’s restaurant. That should tide us over until next season’s Restaurant Week comes.


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