Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The ordinary instant

I've thought sometimes that if life were maybe like the movies, maybe it would be useful to know if something bad was about to happen. Omens. Premonitions. They would maybe help us make better decisions or at least prepare us for the consequences of bad ones.

When I was 11, maybe 12, I read about a Trojan priestess of Apollo's temple. Her name was Cassandra and because she rejected Apollo's sexual advances, he cursed her to see the future but no one will ever believe her. She warned the Trojans not to trust the gift of the Greeks because it will bring destruction to Troy. Of course, they didn't believe her and Troy fell, as she predicted.

Even as a child, I knew the moral of that story is foresight and prophesy were not gifts. I don't want to know the future. I guess that's why I choose to believe in God even though my prayers are, many times, a battle with Him and my doubts of His existence. In the end, weary of my fears of the pandemic present and eaten away by anxiety at what dangers life can bring (choking, slipping, falling) to me and my boys, I give it all up to God so I can sleep and face another day. 
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
Anyway, I just started reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. She died last week so I figured I should read up on this famous essayist, considering I'm female, a feminist, and an essayist. I've never read her work, which is a shame and a surprise. It had to take her death for me to read her.

But a few paragraphs in and I had to put the book down. I think I'll read it another day. She was talking about the "ordinary instant."
"It was in fact the ordinary nature of everything preceding the event that prevented me from truly believing it had happened... I recognize now that there was nothing unusual in this: confronted with sudden disaster we all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred."
Didion's book is about the death of her husband and then the grave illness of their only daughter. And when she wrote about the ordinary instant, I knew exactly what she meant. I wrote in my blog post Of boys and school buses and my breaking heart, "How many of us have the painful privilege of seeing a chapter closing?" Not all of us so maybe when we do feel something is about to end, that can be a good thing.

Mama and Papa in happier times. If they had known how unhappy their marriage will be, would they have married still?

When Papa died, it was such a beautiful day. We were surprised because he had started feeling better, well enough to leave the hospital. But I wasn't really surprised, in hindsight. On the day he went home, we waited for the elevator to bring us down to the basement parking. Papa's nurse was pushing the wheelchair, and he was quiet. Papa told him thanks but he joked, "I hope I never see you again!" And the nurse should've laughed haha. Instead, he gripped Papa's shoulder and just bowed his head, and I knew I knew I knew then and there that Papa was going to die.

But I brushed it away. And a few days later, back in the hospital again, this time with no brain activity, Papa lay in his bed, surrounded by family and friends who laughed, cried, and sang his favorite songs. And I looked out the window at the brilliant blue sky with the dazzling white clouds and thought, "Such a beautiful day to die. You'd never think someone was dying today."

Mama's death came as a surprise, too. Her death came on a rainy day, the type of day movies say is the day when people die. But it was September, the rainy season, and rain is an ordinary event. My husband and I were in our new home putting up a large print of a woman looking at a cherry blossom tree when my younger brother called, which was not ordinary. Mama was in the hospital, hurry. And I hurried to my closet and thought, "I'll wear the orange dress that she likes so she'll cheer up when she sees me." Choosing what to wear. What an ordinary thing to do on such a horrific day of the most terrible of surprises. 

But I wasn't really surprised, in hindsight. That week, at the office, two of my co-workers' mothers died. As my staff and I were having merienda, I said, "They say it comes in threes. Who do you think is next?" And we all shuddered then nervously laughed. 

As I went back to my desk, I got this overwhelming feeling of dread and I heard a voice in my head say, "Call your Mama." I wish I made this up because then I wouldn't feel bad (to this day) about shaking off that awful heavy feeling and thinking, "Woah, weird. I'll call her tomorrow after lunch." The next day, after lunch, Mama was dead.

Omens. Premonition. Foresight. A gift or a curse? Maybe both. If only I had listened to that strange voice, I'd have talked to Mama one last time. But there's no use crying over spilled milk. It's done. What matters is learning from the experience.

In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien wrote, "A divine 'punishment’ is also a divine 'gift’, if accepted, since its object is ultimate blessing, and the supreme inventiveness of the Creator will make 'punishments’ (that is changes of design) produce a good not otherwise to be attained."

In the Christian view, death is the divine punishment for sin. As we are all sinners, we all have to die. So in that sense, no death is ever a surprise. We all know that's where we're all headed. If only life would also grieve with us when the not-actually-unthinkable happens. As that song goes, "Why does the sun go on shining? Why does the sea rush to shore? I wake up in the morning, and I wonder why everything's the same as it was. I can't understand, no, I can't understand how life goes on the way it does." If only the world acted like death was a punishment, right? But if it did, then we would never see a blue sky with dazzling white clouds again. So perhaps the world knows that death isn't actually completely a bad thing.

In the spirit of Christmas, we know that while we celebrate Jesus's birth, we also know that His ultimate mission was to die on the cross for our sins. I don't know how the wise men knew that because they gave him myrrh, an embalming oil, as a gift. A very alarming gift to give to a baby, right? And of course, Jesus knew His earthly end and so the Bible describes Him as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). And yet because He also knew that His death will bring all who love Him eternal life, Jesus was also happy. And He wanted to share His joy! "I have told you this that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11). It's one of my most favorite verses and reminds me all the time to have joy despite all of life's tragedies.

Jesus the man knew His terrible future and yet He treated it as a gift because He devoted His numbered days to serving God and His will. He made His life count.

Our inevitable death is a divine punishment. But if there's anything the deaths of my loved ones have taught me, it is this: Death is also a divine gift. We have to choose to see it that way, however, for it to "produce a good not otherwise to be attained" by a happy, carefree life.

And this is something I don't say aloud because it sounds terrible but if my mother had still been alive today, my life would not be this amazing at all. Her death made me softer, kinder, more compassionate, and humble. It was the one thing that made me hold on to God with all my might. Before she died, I relied on myself and myself alone. I was fine on my own and I didn't need God for anything. But there's nothing like your mother's death to shatter your heart and your bones. So if Mama hadn't died, I truly believe I'd not have been a good mother. I don't even think I'd be a good person. So the best thing that happened to me and my children, possibly, is Mama's death, which is also the very worst thing that happened to me.

A divine punishment, a divine gift. 

That said, I still don't want to die. I still don't want anyone I love to die, especially not my babies. I want my ordinary life to stay as uneventful as possible. But knowing that all our futures end in one guaranteed event should teach us to love now, forgive now, laugh now. Especially now. 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Celebrate Christmas with Welch's Sparkling Juices and their perfect food partners

Christmas is a week away! Have you got your recipes ready? If you're thinking of something new to add to your traditional menu, try these recipes that CCA's Chef Trisha Ocampo made. Created to be dishes that will go well with each of Welch's Sparkling Juices so that you can fully enjoy your meal with the perfect drink.

A complementary drink not only refreshes your palate, but it also brings out the flavors of your dish better. So if you're wondering what drink goes with what food, here's Chef Trisha's quick guide:

Welch’s Red Grape Juice has a natural sweetness and slightly bold flavor. A tomato-based or tangy meal balances out the sweetness of the Red Grape Juice. Hearty dishes like Pork Tenderloin Roast with Romesco Sauce are one of the best pairings – in a snap of a finger, it immediately brings an Italian vibe to the table!

Chicken Picatta Cream Fettuccini is the perfect pair for your Welch’s White Grape Juice. The light bubbly sensation of the sparkling juice balances out the creaminess of the pasta and is the ultimate refresher in between bites.

Welch’s Sparkling Rosé has a crisp and sophisticated taste of ripe summer fruit with subtle sweetness, so a refreshing fruity dessert is the way to go. Made with fresh strawberries, tarragon, baguette, ricotta, and cream cheese, Chef Trisha’s Strawberry and Tarragon Mousse Crostini will cap any meal with delight and joy.

Here are the recipes and procedures on how to recreate Chef Trisha Ocampo’s easy to follow festive dishes:


CHICKEN PICATTA CREAM FETTUCCINI

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
4 pcs boneless chicken breast fillet
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup chicken stock/broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
1/3 cup parsley
500 grams fettuccini noodles, cooked as per package instructions
Parmesan cheese, shaved

PROCEDURE
1. Season chicken breast halves with salt and pepper. If chicken breasts are too thick, pound a little to ¼ inch thick. Dredge in seasoned flour on both sides and shake off excess.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and olive oil. Add chicken and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden. Remove and set aside.

3. Turn the heat to medium-low. Add broth, lemon juice, heavy cream, and capers. Bring the sauce to a boil and return to medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Allow the sauce to cook and bubble for about 3 minutes.

4. Serve the chicken over cooked pasta and spoon the sauce over both. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.


PORK TENDERLOIN ROAST WITH ROMESCO SAUCE

Yield: 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS
250 grams red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeds and membranes removed
350 grams tomatoes
4 pcs large garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup roasted almonds
1 to 2 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp red wine
1 kg pork Tenderloin
salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil

PREPARATION
1. Preheat the broiler and line the baking tray with foil.

2. Place the tomatoes on the baking tray, and place them under the broiler for two to four minutes, until charred on one side. Turn over and broil on the other side for another 2 to 4 minutes until charred. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Peel and core.

3. In a food processor, put in red peppers, tomatoes, garlic cloves, and roasted almonds.

4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the olive oil in a slow steady stream.

5. Add 2 tablespoons of red wine, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper. Process until smooth, thick, and creamy. NOTE: If it is too thick add 1 or 2 tablespoons of red wine. If too thin, add olive oil, pulsing a few more times.

6. Taste and adjust seasoning, by adding salt or red pepper flakes as desired. Let the sauce stand for an hour at room temperature before using.

7. Meanwhile, generously season pork tenderloin with salt and pepper. Put in a roasting pan then line with aluminium foil. Brush with olive oil and put in a 350℉ oven for 45 min to 1 hour.

8. To serve, slice pork tenderloin to 1/8-1/4 inches thick. Arrange in a serving tray and pour Romesco sauce on top leaving some to serve on the side.


STRAWBERRY AND TARRAGON MOUSSE CROSTINI

Yield: 20 pieces

INGREDIENTS
20 pcs fresh strawberries, cut in half or quarters
1 pc baguette, sliced into ½ inch rounds
8 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2cup cream cheese, softened
2 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Preheat your oven to 190°C.

2. In a food processor, mix your ricotta, cream cheese, fresh tarragon, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper, until fully incorporated. NOTE: This can keep in the refrigerator for 7 days until ready to use.

3. For the crostini, slice your baguette ½ inch thick, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 8-10 minutes in the oven, until golden brown.

4. To assemble: Pipe the ricotta tarragon mousse on the baguette, followed by sliced strawberries, then drizzled with balsamic glaze.


Welch’s Sparkling Juices is for any occasion, especially the holiday season. It's the perfect celebratory drink for individuals who are health-conscious, non-alcohol drinkers, and even kids. Since it has no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup, there’s no guilt in having a glass or two.

Christmas for Welch's means “Sharing the Sparkle.” Celebrate the holidays with Welch’s by trying out Chef Trisha’s recipes or even creating your own Welch's Sparkling Juice pairings, whether it's with meat, seafood, or poultry.


A product of the USA, Welch’s products are available in retail stores. To learn more about Welch’s Sparkling Juices and recipes, visit www.welchs.com or follow Welch's PH on FB and IG.

No need to leave the safety of your home, too. You may have Welch’s Sparkling Juices and other Welch’s juices delivered at your doorstep by visiting https://acefoodservice.com. Or place your order on the following online groceries: metromart.com, Lazmart, and waltermartdelivery.com.ph.

*Press release and photos from Moist PR. Plating by Chef Miguel Antonio Lorino from CCA.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Review (haircare): HairReve Hair Rescue Thickening Serum

Hello to everyone, but most especially a huge hello to those with thinning hair like me! Today is a great day for you because I have great news - I have found a serum that will address our hair situation. Yes, I'm sharing with you my new find: HairReve Hair Rescue Thickening Serum. Here's my happy review:


But first, this is me with my long hair. I haven't cut my hair for one year na. Usually, I keep my hair short, shoulder-length, collarbone-length max kasi manipis lang hair ko. As in my baby hair never grew up. It's as thin and fine as the day I was born.


So here I am - no makeup, no blowdry, no hair dye. Actually, no suklay din yan haha I don't think I've ever been this natural-looking since I was in my teens. Hindi ako ma-makeup talaga but as soon as I turned 18, I colored my hair and I've colored it since. Then the pandemic happened and here I am - with graying, thinning hair. 

It's middle age. It could be me approaching menopause. It's the natural events unfolding (a.k.a. AGING haha). I took biotin and that helped. I found tiny baby hairs growing on my hairline. However, I saw the effects on my nails more (stronger, no more peeling), which is good so I continued taking the supplement. And then last July, I discovered HairReve!


HaiReve Serum moisturizes scalp so it's healthy. Effect sa akin: No more itchy, flaky scalp.

It strengthens hair follicles. This is true kasi I was using it, diba, and then I noticed less hair fall nga. But around mid-August or September, I stopped kasi I was super busy. Aba, my hair was falling out again! I started using HairReve asap! Hindi na ulit OA my hair fall.


So what's making all those nice changes to my hair? HairReve is infused with plant-based extracts from Rosemary, Green Tea Leaves, Larch Tree, and Zinc. How do those help? Here, I did my research:

Rosemary - "It works by stimulating scalp circulation and can be used to grow longer hair, prevent baldness or stimulate new hair growth in balding areas. Rosemary oil also slows the graying of hair, promotes shininess and prevents and reduces dandruff, making it a great tonic for overall hair health and beauty." - source

Green Tea - "The epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea may prevent hair loss by inhibiting the activity of hormones that induce hair loss and promoting hair regrowth by stimulating hair follicles." - source

Larch Tree - "The larch extract: conditions hair to improve manageability and combing, reduces hair frizz in humid conditions, reduces static and fly-away hair, protects hair from heat damage and reduces breakage. It is suitable for all hair types, including ethnic hair." - source

Zinc - "...plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair. It also helps keep the oil glands around the follicles working properly." - source

Spray, spray lang for great hair!

I really like HairReve! Here are more reasons:

1. It's so easy to use. Just spray on! No applicators, no vials, no need to measure anything. Just spray away! 

2. It's a standalone product. Other hair-thickening systems demand that you use their shampoo and conditioner. Ang mahal ng three products, ha! HairReve is Php 1,399 a bottle. Not cheap but it lasts a loooong time so cost per use, okay na. And yun nga, mag-isa lang siya na product effective na.  

3. It smells good! I remember this famous hair thickening product we had to review for a magazine. Hindi ko ma-take yung amoy! So I asked a guy friend to try it. Sabi niya, "Effective naman pero ang kapal nga ng buhok mo, type daw ng mga girls, pero wala ka namang sex life kasi ang baho ng ulo mo." Hahahahaha!

4. It's not yucky. Yes! Aside from the pleasant smell, it's also just a liquid. Not oily or creamy so your hair doesn't look greasy. And it's so easily absorbed. Spray, massage, done! Ilang minutes lang, tapos ka na. 

5. It's clear. I don't need gloves. I don't need to protect my clothes. It doesn't stain anything!

But is it effective in thickening hair???

Okay, I will admit that I don't use HairReve every day. Once or twice a day ang advised but I wash my hair twice, thrice a week lang. Nasa bahay lang kasi ako. So I really didn't think it was going to work. But look at my hair before:

My hair part is wide.
The top of my head is nakakalbo na.

But look at my hair part now! 


Hindi na kita scalp ko, diba? Wala na rin yung bald spot ko. Also, ang dami kong baby hair! And I guess HairReve is also the reason my hair now is so long. I can grow it kasi before, basta mahaba na hair ko, nalalagas. Mabigat kasi, hindi kaya ng roots. But lately, my hair stays put so napahaba ko siya.

Now, I've been using HairReve since July, stopped for a few weeks, then started again. Also, I haven't been using it daily as recommended. And yet the positive effects are still there. Visible effects!

So I really should use it every day. Maybe the effects would've been sooner and more dramatic! Still, I'm very happy. I highly recommend HairReve!


HairReve Hair Rescue Thickening Serum is available at select Mercury Drug stores, at Shopee, and at Lazada. Visit www.hairreve.com.ph for more information.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Family fun at the Mountain House at Antipolo


We went on our first vacation in years! Yes, it was just a quick one, an overnight stay at The Mountain House in Antipolo, just a drive of an hour-and-a-half from our home in the middle of the city. But since halos dalawang taon na kaming nakakulong sa bahay, that drive felt much looooonger! But malapit lang talaga pala siya.

Inulan kami during our stay so I don't have review-type photos, and so I wasn't planning to blog about our trip anymore. But sayang naman our happy weekend! And if you found this post because you Googled for a review of the Mountain House, let me tell you about our experience. 

The Mountain House is a one-hectare property right by the side of Calawis Road. May malaking bahay na bato right at the entrance. You can't miss it kahit na maliit lang yung sign. Basically, i-Waze mo yung Mount Purro Nature Reserve - nasa kanan yung Mount Purro, nasa kaliwa ang Mountain House. You won't get lost, promise.

Pero ginagawa pa yung roads getting there so medyo stressful because our car hasn't really gone for long distances for 20 months so medyo scared kami na may mabali or ma-flat kami sa lubak-lubak na road.

From Marcos Highway, turn left when you see this.
We're driving on the wrong side of the road because half of it isn't done yet. 

Anyway, the parking is right inside, by the gate. Then the property slopes down into a moderately sized garden bounded by a bubbly creek. The garden has a small playground (just a swing set really), space for camping and a bonfire, and two glamping pods sitting almost on top of the creek. Also in the garden is an outhouse with a sink, toilets and showers. Plus an outdoor kitchen where you can cook, get water, and wash dishes. Yes, there's plumbing and running water naman.

This is the garden and camping area. At least I think that's what those circular platforms are for.
Secret pathways!
The two glamping pods

The big house has 5 bedrooms and looked beautiful but it was booked for that weekend. Sayang. The photos of the main house look great. Plus, my friend who stayed there with her family said there's hot water. And that's why my review will look different from other reviews you'll find online because theirs feature the gorgeous house, while mine will be the, uh, affordable version haha 

Since there were just 5 of us, I had planned to book the glamping pods but I was told the pods can accommodate only 2 people, 3 max. So they told me they had a Standard Room for 4 people. I booked that. When we got there, well, it's more of a room for 2 people soooo buti na lang payat kami! No aircon but grabe ang ginaw sa gabi!

The Standard Room was P4500 a night. Maliit lang yung room. Para siyang gardener's shed actually so nagulat ako dun kasi ang standard room sa hotel is at least 30sqm and this room was smaller. Lima kami, remember. But it was comfy enough for us. Malaki naman kasi yung kama. King-size siya, plus may two-seater sofa where our youngest boy slept. May electric fan. That was enough kasi maginaw nga. I wanted to turn it off nung mga 2 a.m. sa sobrang ginaw but if walang fan, the noise from the road isn't muffled. Yes, diba sabi ko sa tabi mismo ng road yung The Mountain House? It's a busy road, even in the middle of the night! You'd never think you were in a mountain. You can hear the trucks, tricycles, etc etc. 

That's where we stayed - the room to the right. The main house is behind it.

I know my pictures make it look less than stellar but it super rained while we were there so it looks damp and gloomy. But it's really a beautiful place! And it's great it can only accommodate a few people. I was really looking for a place na walang ibang tao because, hello, may COVID pa. And we hardly saw anyone, except during the bonfire, which we shared with another super nice and generous family. No checkpoints, no need for rapid antigen tests, no vax cards to present. So hindi siya complicated na trip. 

Oh, this is the best surprise for me! The food. Okay, you can bring your own food. No corkage fees so that's fantastic! But I highly recommend you get your food from the Mountain House. Ang sarap ng food nila! Pinoy food lang ang nasa menu - sinigang, pritong isda, adobo, laing, inihaw na liempo, tocino, longganisa, plus may fresh fruit, and drinks. Simple lang but I don't know if it was the fresh mountain air or they really cook well (I think both!) but the food was soooo good. 

And ang dami! You have to order in advance (all payments are done in advance, too). I ordered only for 3 people (P1,100 per head for 3 meals plus snack) kasi hindi naman kami malakas kumain pero hindi rin namin naubos. Daming food! Sarap! Napakain talaga kami.

Breakfast! Sarap kumain sa labas - chilly morning air tapos mainit yung food!
Lunch namin was in the kitchen ng main house kasi umulan nang pagkalakas-lakas.
 
Okay, what to do at The Mountain House. Well, there's not much to do, which is the whole point. If you just want to be surrounded by nature and get your kids away from the gadgets and the internet, go there (meron wifi but I didn't tell my boys that hehe).