Sunday, September 29, 2013

This My Jam!

No wait, this literally is 'my jam' haha So aside from growing sugarcane on our farm, my dad decided to experiment with some things and planted an orchard filled with mangoes about 7 years ago. It was only until recently that the trees started to bear fruit. Not expecting much, we hauled them back to our house and proceeded to sample the literal 'fruits of our labor'.

Boy, were we surprised when we tasted our mangoes.

Sweet nectar of the gods. I ain't exaggerating. It was like the mango trees sucked up the sugar from the sugarcane stalks growing beside them and greedily loaded them up in their fruits. Ever since that fateful day a few years ago, we've been planting more and more mangoes in hopes of turning this into something bigger than a backyard project.

Now one of my little experiments ever since coming home to help with the family business is to look for alternative ways to sell our mangoes. My problem is this: we don't have a stable bulk buyer yet. This means that we usually sell our mangoes at 'farm gate' ( a.k.a. really cheap) price to middle men who come from the towns that surround our farm. Don't get me wrong, we usually sell out within the day that the fruits are harvested, but the thing is we have to sell it to them cheap since we haven't been able to find a bigger buyer.

Anyway, I'll get to fixing that buyer problem soon, but in the mean time, I wanted to develop an alternative to selling mango fruits. I was looking for something with the following criteria: (1) Must have a long shelf-life (mango fruits usually only last 2-3 weeks in fruit form), (2) Must be able to be branded and (3) Must be able to be exported easier than exporting fruits (export laws are friggin' hard!)

With these three points in mind, I set out to look for alternatives. After spending some time researching, I was able to come to the conclusion that mango jam fit all three criteria quite nicely. I found a good recipe and I set out to make my own jam.

It was a bit challenging at first since I'm not that good in cooking, but with enough hard work and perseverance, I was able to come up with my first batch of jam. It was as sour. How sour? My family mistook it for calamansi jam. Oh well. Back to the drawing board, on the second try, I was able to get the general taste of what I was going for in the first place: jam that isn't too sweet that it'll instantly give you diabetes, but jam that has just the right amount of cloying sweetness as well as a nice little hint of tartness to it. And thus, my jam was born.

You can now see my jam below, chilling on some toasted whole wheat bread that has been generously slathered with delicious creamy cheese.

Up next, refinement of the recipe, the need to consult a proper food technologist, and branding & packaging :) Oh and taste testing of course! Any volunteers?

In case you're wondering how I shot this, here's the set up below:

Camera Info: Nikon D7000 with Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 & Nikon 40mm f/2..8 Macro
Exif Data: For most shots, Aperture: f/8, Shutter Speed: 1/160 or 1/200
Strobist Info: One Nikon SB 700 @ 1/2 power located behind a collapsible light tent. Reflective Paper on light tent as well.
Post Processing Info: Minor enhancements in Lightroom and Auto-Alinged and Auto-Blended for Focus Stacking in Photoshop.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Lion City: Singapore

So here's my long over due post about our trip to the Lion City, Singapore.

Took a vacation leave from the Death Star (McCann) last April 2013 to go with the family on our first out of the country trip together. We spent three wonderful days exploring that beautiful and pristine city. Since it was my second time there, I made a list of all the places I wasn't able to visit during my previous trip. Sadly, I never even got to complete 50% of that list. Ah well, that warrants a return trip I guess. (Mental note: Visit Buddha's Tooth Relic in Chinatown, Little India and Holland Village next time).

Here are the little snippets from my trip through the Lion's den:

Took a three hour flight from the Philippines and hit Changi airport sometime late afternoon (too bad I wasn't able to get any good shots.) The place was huge. Must go back and dedicate half a day to shooting around that place. Anyway, settled in at the hotel during the afternoon and did some light sight seeing.

I have a general discomfort when I lug my photo equipment around when I'm with my family or people who don't like taking photos. Out of respect to them, I would rather venture out solo with my camera gear at some other time than hold them up by stopping on the sidewalk, pulling out my camera and proceeding to take thirty minutes in finding the best angle for dodgy looking, one-eyed alley cat that I happen to stumble upon.

So I decided to make a solo photo flight at night when they were all sleeping in the hotel. No matter how tired I am from a day of walking or travel, I will always, always have the energy to chase 'that' shot.

Anyway, proceeded to snap around the Singaporean Art Museum (SAM) below. It was closed during the time of our trip due to renovations. Oh well.

Walked a little ways off and was able to spot another gem which was the Singapore National Museum (below). Too bad that not all windows were lighted. Would've made a better shot.

Headed back to the hotel after that to turn in.

The next day we had the 'semi-traditional' Singaporean breakfast of Kopi, Kaya Toast and soft boiled eggs. The Kopi is pretty darn sweet and goes very well with the unique sweetness of the jam in the Kaya Toast. The soft boiled eggs counter the sweetness finely with its mild saltiness.

Headed to the Singapore Flyer next. The shot below is the audio-visual presentation that you have to walk through in order to get to the Flyer. We breezed through this as we wanted a compartment all to ourselves.

Luckily, since we were a group of 5, we didn't have to share the compartment with anyone else. We had a caboose all to ourselves. It was a spacious place where we could stand up and look around at the sights that the Singapore Flyer had in store for us.

The ride took about thirty minutes, the Flyer was probably the highlight of our trip there. You could see as far as neighboring Malaysia (If I'm not mistaken) and you had a grand view of the metropolis. The ride was very comfortable with the smooth operation of the Flyer, the cool aircon despite the heat and the soothing music coming from the on board speakers. Well worth it for S$33 per person which translates to about Php 1,100.00.

You could see Marina Bay quite nicely as demonstrated by my youngest brother here. (He unofficially became my model during the trip.)

Captivating view of the Botanical Gardens as well.

After, we took a cable car from Mount Faber to get to Sentosa. Paid around S$26 (Php 900) for the 12 minute ride. Exciting for me since I don't deal that well with heights. What made it worse was when the wind buffeted our cable car and made it dance on it's hinges. Fun, in a morbidly cool kind of way.

Stop over for lunch at a Toast Box resto in Sentosa. Nice interiors.

The next day we took to the streets in search of things that glittered and shined but will eventually lose their luster. We headed to Orchard Road to take a look at them classy window displays and stuff.

Here's my little bro taking the well designed subways in Singapore. Wish we had this in Manila.

Couldn't leave Singapore without having a taste of those ice cream sandwiches. Great how they plunk it in between a rainbow loaf of bread. All that for S$1.50!

That night, at around 11 PM, took my brothers to see the Merlion up close. Had a dazzling view of the Marina Bay Sands as well.

The next day, my youngest brother and I explored a old military fort that was turned into a park. The place was called Fort Canning. It served as a British garrison during the second world war and now serves as a nice and green little park between the bustling urban structures that circle it.

Walked around the rest of the day exploring the city.

Couldn't leave Singapore without trying Fatty's authentic Chinese restaurant. (It's actually called Wing Seong Fatty's) (Link here)  My cousin brought me here during my first time and I devoured every last bit of their tiger prawn in bread crumbs and special Chinese fried rice. One of the best Chinese restos I have been to.

Dropped by the Bugis district which is famous for their flea market. Lots of hustle and bustle around here but you'll be able to scavenge a good deal if you know where to look. What most people don't know is that there is actually a second floor to add to the cacophony that is the first. Still, the place offers a lot of shops where you can buy souvenirs before heading home.

And to cap it all off, downed a couple of Tiger Beers with the brothers before our early morning flight out of the Lion City.

Can't wait to head back and explore more of the Merlion's city.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Uni Town: Dumaguete

I once asked my dad, "Dad, how do you get to Dumaguete?"

He replied, "You need to keep heading South."

"How will I know I've arrived?" I asked.

"You'll know it's Dumaguete when the people start speaking in Cebuano and when you notice that there are more motorbikes than there are people." (For those of you that don't know, Ilonggo is the dialect most used in our little island of Negros :) )

Thus was conferred to me the crude, yet accurate directions on how to get to the University Town of the south. Dumaguete is a busy town in the south of Negros Oriental (Bacolod is in Negros Occidental.) It's roughly a 5 hour drive through the mountains if you're coming from Bacolod City. What started out as the first American university in the Philippines (started by Protestant missionaries to be exact), has now blossomed into the crown jewel of the town that has sprung up on this school's massive success.

I knew this school was pretty good since it attracted students from Cebu, Iloilo and other far flung towns of Visayas to take long ferry boat rides just to study here but I never knew it attained such acclaim as to be known as one of the top 150 schools of Asia or the 4th best university in the Philippines according to some studies. [Link Here] (Okay, okay, I used Wikipedia as a reference. So sue me)

Anyway, our family took a short vacation here to escape the consecutive two day brown out that regularly plagues Bacolod City. (Brown outs are as common as the carabaos each Bacolodnon keeps in his back yard. I kid). I really liked the architecture that the old colonial Americans used to build their school houses. I was only able to cover a few things in town, so I must make a mental note to come back.

Silliman was founded in 1901 which makes it one of the oldest universities in the Philippines as well.

The Silliman University Church. You can see an open ground in front of it which serves as the amphitheatre. Students gather here regularly for meetings and stuff.

Another sight to see in Dumaguete is the promenade along Rizal boulevard (seen below). This place offers a pretty neat sunrise and is the most popular hangout in town as it has a lot of hotels and bars lining the street opposite it. Must take a picture of the sunrise next time.

Coming home to Bacolod from Dumaguete is another picturesque adventure as you're treated to a beautiful coastal road (as seen below) with long stretches of road bordered by a deep blue sea. You can also see the island of Cebu as you coast along. You'll also go through some twisty mountain roads which are fun to drive through if you take the Mabinay-Kabankalan route to get to Bacolod. (Must take pictures next time).

To cap it off, here's a picture of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pontevedra, Negros Occidental. This was close to home and mom decided to stop over (like she always does) to pray for the soul of this poor unfortunate and sinful man typing these words.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Snaps of Hope: Typhoon Maring Relief Ops

There are two things that came out of typhoon Maring when it hit the metro: the good and the bad. The bad of course were all the lives, property and resources that Maring washed away, but the good consisted of what came after that.

In the face of devastation, you will always find a little hope. I'm sure that most of every Pinoy kindled that bright flame by paying it forward in their own small way. Our small way of giving back was in the form of a relief operation that the men of the Sangandaan Cultural Center took up in a badly bruised barangay called Brgy. Bagong Silangan in Quezon City.

What follows are camera snaps that desire to document the snippets of life in a dense barangay that was affected by the recent storm.

Thanks to our awesome sponsors, we were able to fill the back of an entire van with relief goods. Thanks Summit Mineral Water, Mega Sardines, Safeguard and Argentina Corned Beef!

After many tiny turns and dubious detours, we make our way into the barangay.

The lines begin to form under the hot sun.


Throwing up a prayer to whoever hears it.

At the end of the day, we were greeted with a sign. (See below)