Sunday, July 26, 2009

pretty city: capo in the square...

was milling around in union square, before going to see 500 days of summer. my friend and i weaved our way through the madness (shoppers, skaters, strollers) and were drawn to the deep and tight circle of enthusiastic on-lookers who were mesmerized by the capoeira performers. (are they properly called fighters, or dancers?)

anyway, among the performers, i spied a familiar face: a former co-worker, who also happens to be one of the coolest (and nicest) people i've met:

the amazing ryan! (the gorgeous filipino brother, with the shaved head.)

i tried to snap photos of some of the others, but it was a situation where it pays to be tall, or have crazy long arms.

this is all i got

this woman is beautiful. and "hard core," says nicholas.

one guy can't believe his eyes...

my friend took this, hence, the better aerial view.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

postcard: vehicular madness 1

jeepney: the passenger. batangas, philippines. july 12, 2009.

a jeepney, in batangas...july 12, 2009.

a "tricycle" i.e. a motorcycle with a sidecar...batangas, philippines. july 12, 2009.

a tricycle...packed with produce. quezon city, philippines. july 15, 2009.

Monday, July 20, 2009

postcard: seasonal fruit

buko (young coconut)

the sweetest pineapples i've had...would that i could have these every day...

giant jackfruit.

i don't know what this fruit tastes like raw--or if it's even eaten that way. it's commonly canned or bottled (in heavy syrup) and then added to various desserts --chopped finely, and added to some sweet rice cakes (bibingka)...or goopy, soupy desserts (ginataan) which is made with coconut milk and glutinous rice flour (how good did i make that sound?)...or icy treats like halo-halo (a dessert made with shaved ice, evaporated milk, with a hodgepodge of sweet beans and sweet corn and purple yam jam and young coconut balls)...all are, shall we say, acquired tastes. and to be truthful, i only acquired it in late adulthood. really, it just requires a little bit of daring, and a palate that is open to various textures and intense bursts of SUGAR.

yes, they have some bananas. no different than what we have here, except in terms of freshness, and thus, sweetness.

longan and lychees. I did not try these during this trip, but loved how they look.

i wish i could call this "nice melons" but obviously, these are voluptuous grapefruit.

santol (in the foreground).

we were lucky to travel at this time of year (despite the "monsoon" season) as it is peak (or near peak) season for many fruits that are unavailable here. like santol. i used a knife to cut through the thick fuzzy rind that protects the whitish, opaque, and mushy fruit. the fruit is sectioned, like any common citrus fruit and it does taste vaguely like grapefruit, but without any bitterness. it's mild and sweet, but not pretty. and it's also not terribly satisfying, since the fruit pulp seems to only serve as protection for the 4 or 5 brown, inedible pits that are roughly the size of a brazil nut. you can't chew or really swallow the fruit. you just gnaw the flavor out of it until you get tired of lolling the pit around in your mouth. i was told that you could use a knife to carefully separate some real fruit from the pit, but i had already gone native with the thing and tried to eat it the way i would an orange. apparently a method exists where the meat can be extracted and reproduced commercially into dried fruit and jam.

i think this is the dreaded durian (on the left), and so i steered clear. have you ever tried it? i bought a durian popsicle once and it was the foulest thing ever. i imagine if i were to eat a dirty sweatsock, that had been steeping in its own wet funk for about a week, that would be on par with what durian tastes and smells like.

red pitaya dragonfruit!

i tried one variety of dragonfruit that has white flesh and black seeds...wonderful! reminiscent of kiwi. at market! market! they were selling a variety that has pink flesh and purply-black seeds, which i have read is costa rican...

clockwise, top left: lanzones, santol, and chico...

and to lanzones: i tried this for the first time when i was 5. it was one of the few fruits that i ate that age that wasn't in soaked in a bath of heavy corn syrup...but i only had a few times during one visit to the philippines that our family made. i don't know if i really remembered its taste, but i never forgot that i liked it. after this trip, i am fascinated all over again.

they grown in tight bunches, on a branch. pull one off, and squeeze it very gently, and the very thin skin will break to reveal an opaque, whitish fruit (a theme in tropical fruit?) that is encased in a nearly translucent rind. if you're patient, you can separate the sections...otherwise you can probably pop it whole into your mouth. i prefer the former method, if only to marvel for as long as i can at its delicateness. the flesh is light and juicy, rather like a grape but without that crispness or intensity. it's mellow and sweet and a touch citrusy. if only i could have smuggled some in...

and chico: it is a handsomely shaped fruit and it looks great on the tree (as you'll see in future photos). small enough to hide in your palm, skin, thin and smooth like a stone. sweet or sour, depending on ripeness, it tastes very much like kiwi, but flatter. a couple of people in my family cited this fruit as their favorite. it's good, but not mine.

clockwise, top left: limes, mangosteen, atis, and rambutan.

and finally, two more fascinating tropical adventures: mangosteen and atis.

atis (AH-tees) looks like a cross between an artichoke and a grenade. i thought i would need a knife to power through the rind, but that tough-looking exterior is all for show! squeeze it a little, and the little "plates" will give way. you can pull it apart into two or more pieces, and suck out the flesh. but being the "civilized girl" that i am, i took a teaspoon to it, and shoveled the pulp into my mouth. again, this fruit does not have pretty insides. remember alien? all that white goo? that's what atis looks like. but wow, the flavor! delicately sweet and grainy, like pear puree. the only downside, aside from the visual, is the many seeds inside. you can't get too carried away eating this, you need to concentrate on spitting the seeds.

and...mangosteen. i've been fiending to try mangosteen for years now, since the rw apple and david karp wrote dreamy articles about it. i nearly left the country without trying some! fortunately, our last minute trip to market! market! meant that i could finally satisfy my curiosity. this rich, eggplant colored little fruit has tough skin and like other fruits i've tried on this trip, there is a thick rind. the mangosteen fruit is nestled like a rare jewel in a maroon velvet cushion...

and curious it is, because each person that tried it had a different take on it.
i said it reminded me of banana, with a hint of lychee and the deep, heartiness of mango. my sister said, "grape!" my aunt said lanzones, but then agreed with my mom in that it's also like santol. i couldn't, at the time, remember what karp and apple said about it. but i loved that it didn't remind all of us of any one fruit. we loved it. but it seemed appropriate that something that is still so elusive to us stateside is just as mysterious to the palate.

all photos © anita aguilar

Sunday, July 19, 2009

postcard: to market edition

selling buko (young coconut) at market! market! fort bonifacio, taguig.
market! market! is actually an indoor market (part of a larger mall) which features fresh produce and regional specialities.
at a roadside market at tagaytay
apparently, i missed an opportunity to try one of the best local candies. she tried hard to get me to buy freshly made rice flour sweets. suspicious tourist pays the price. tagaytay, philippines.

Friday, July 17, 2009

postcard: family edition

my niece...
niece and nephew...photographed by andreas aguilar


me...photographed by andreas aguilar

Thursday, July 16, 2009

postcard: manila airport edition


fans are compulsory. my aunt, at manila airport.


my nieces, meeting mom.

our bags!

the truck that was used to transport our bags...

belongs to a local eggdealer...

Monday, July 13, 2009

postcard: flying the friendly skies

ready to go (and: "will your carry on fit?"). me and cousin, jason. jfk.

dolled up at narita.

well-suited pair. narita.

young american high schooler. (reading: the chosen). narita airport.

pretty gal, at asian bowl. narita.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


having a low-key holiday weekend in town, working a bit and prepping for the upcoming trip... but yesterday was blockbuster friday. i met up with friends richard, anthony, teresa and zovig for the 11:30 am showing of PUBLIC ENEMIES...featuring...richard! this is a film that i would have seen--depp, bale, mlle. marion cotillard, period sets and costuming...

via imdb...

all of that is way up my alley. but obviously, the fact of richard being in the film (as agent sam cowley), and having heard about some of the on-set adventures from him and teresa, made this exceptionally thrilling. i love to see friends find success at what they love to do, and are meant to do.

before taking in the film, i did read a couple of reviews (manohla dargis at the nytimes, and david denby at the new yorker) and didn't disagree with their assessments. there's an epically beautiful build to the film, but an ending that's strangely slow-mo and abrupt. and anti-climactic. (i had a "that's it?" moment near the end.) despite mr. mann's attempts to fudge "real" events to clear a stronger dramatic path, in the end, there are no heroes here, just a collection of intriguing personalities, none wholly good or bad. (ok, maybe baby face nelson was an entirely bad apple.) and while that makes it in one sense true to life, it might be why the film falls just short of great?

to me, the hero of the film is cinematographer
dante spinotti (oscar-nominated for his work on the insider and la confidential). public enemies is one beautiful shot after another. close-ups from terrific angles. and look at the light wonderful:

via imdb...

via imdb...

via imdb...

(side note: don't see the film at the e-walk theater on east 42nd, if you can help it. we sat in theater 1, which had a vertical line running the length of the screen, effectively splitting off 1/3 of every one of mr. spinotti's beautiful shots. very distracting.)

and on the subject of gangbusters, how about andy roddick?!!

richard and i were both pulling for murray (richard, because he's a brit, me because i figured he had the better shot at beating federer on sunday) and had set our respective dvrs to record the match. we discussed the particular cares we would have to take in order to avoid seeing or hearing about the match before we could watch it all unfold ourselves. this meant no lunching at a pub after the movie, no internet, and definitely no looking up when walking through times square.

i put the match on when i got home--and actually fell asleep between the first and second sets (oops. very tired!) but then caught the rest of it. the result: shocking!

i learned the hard way last summer to not actually bet on murray to win, but i still had a notion that he would win yesterday. even knowing that roddick is in the best shape of his life, i simply never believed he'd be able to mix it up enough, or have the composure under pressure to create winning points against players that have a bit more in their arsenal. and i guess it's been a long time since i could recall him really winning a big match--though yes, he's come very close...

and as i watched murray predictably pop off, i expected roddick to have his turn. but he played it smooth and smart all the way through...

i did notice earlier in the week, that in an interview, he seemed very thoughtful and mature. my sense from what i've read on the blogs is that he's fun to interview--candid, wry, funny...but sometimes (anyone's) smart-assiness wears on me. but there was something so noticeably different in the interview, and for probably the first time in my life, i wanted to really root for the guy.

he was similarly dignified and humble in his victory yesterday. and he said something that reminded me of a post that mfw wrote a few months ago--"not a quitter." roddick said, "throughout my career i have had a lot of shortcomings, but trying hard hasn't been one of them. " i have to admire that.

and cheer.


ap photo via yahoo sports