Highway to Hell

   The reptilian complex (R-complex) attempts to explain, among others, the origins of rage: in a nutshell, some of the higher brain functions of higher mammals are similar to those of reptiles.  Sometimes, the R-complex is triggered to override mental functions like conscience and reason, leading to unpredictable results that span the gamut from bouts of anger to mass genocide.  Socialization and interpersonal interaction plays an important part in the development of human R-complexes, but having done some self-study on psychiatry myself, I think that the environment is equally important: not just for the R-complex, but on human behavior as well.

   Like driving a car.

   I’ve been sort of “psychoanalyzing” my dad’s driving behavior for quite a while now.  My dad drives a forest-green Mitsubishi Lancer, kept shiny and meticulously clean.  A barely-visible dent or scratch on his car is enough to drive him into irrational feelings of depression.  But outside of that, my dad turns into a very different man when he’s behind the wheel of his vehicle.

   The laws of logic, reason, and science do not hold true.  The car does not move.  Instead, it is the road that moves.

   I don’t like authoritarian regimes.  If anything, my dad’s car is a sort of a figurative rogue state: a fascist dictatorship with him at the literal helm of the near future.  He, along with millions of other drivers in the country, is the kind of fascist that would rile the principles of true activists: the ultimate threat to democracy, the very consequence of what would happen if Hitler’s father and Mussolini’s mother mated.

   Adolf Mussolini?  Benito Hitler?  My dad behind the wheel?

   Like many drivers, my dad implicitly believes that the ground touched by the four wheels of his car is his.  My dad adheres to the unwritten Constitution that governs his driving, or should I say the Republic of his car:

  • Every actual or imaginary line that there is in the road is his: no vehicle or pedestrian has the right to cross his territory.
  • In every exit, changing lane, overtaking lane, or intersection, he has the right of way.
  • He has the inalienable right to blow his horn: but if another driver blows his or her own horn, it is an open declaration of war.
  • By international law, he is entitled to two parallel parking spaces: one to actually park, and the other to estimate his parking distances.
  • He is entitled to a smart and proper salute not only by legitimate Armed Forces personnel in road checkpoints, but also to security guards who are not, by rule and convention, required to salute a fellow civilian.
  • We, the people who ride his car, are not allowed to make comments about his driving (or should I say the direction of our near future): any comment is punishable by exile.

   My dad, of course, is schooled on actual driving: I learned all my driving from completely unrealistic video games, where I have the benefit of comparatively low traffic, no fuel gauges, and going 200+ MPH without damaging my computer-generated car.  But in reality, I have the driving skills of O.J. Simpson and a drunk/high Lindsay Lohan.

   I’m going to stick with public transportation for now.  Something tells me that when I have kids and drive them to school, I’d probably get sued for emotional abuse.  If I drive Kennon Road the same way I do canyons in Initial D, I’d end up in jail.

Food Trough

   Lisa of I-Baguio wrote today about the bum rap Baguio restaurants are getting because of bad service.  Lisa writes:

Personally, I may forgive lousy food but never, ever, bad service. Slow service, maybe, if they’re full, or if understaffed (that sometimes happens). But lousy service? There’s just no excuse for that.

   Because the general idea of being served is enough to trigger my paranoia, I stay well away from restaurants and go to hole-in-the-wall self-service places where taxi drivers eat.  In these eateries, service is almost instantaneous: the owners don’t fool you with ambience and gratuitous descriptions of food that take your mind away from prices.  You basically take a peek at the pots, look at the most appealing slop available, take it, pay, eat, and go.  It doesn’t hold the pretense of a school canteen, but it does remind you of prisons and of feeding troughs in piggeries.

   I wouldn’t recommend my short list of eateries to moneyed tourists, however.  The least I want is to lead some unsuspecting tourist to an emergency room convulsing with cholera or something.  Besides, these aren’t places that serve half-dish and half-garnish: no lemon wedges, no parsley, no sprinkles of cilantro.  No sandwiches, no cordon bleu: all meals are served with rice that taste like the sack they came in.

   Of course, Lisa’s palate is more sophisticated and recommends restaurants that enhance the Baguio experience.  Check out her site at GoBaguio for the finest Baguio has to offer.  But if you happen to be around and would like to “pig out,” come by and, after a release agreement and an appointment with your gastroenterologist, I can show you places to eat dog meat and dried beef sides infested with maggots.

Bulalo and the Art of Bus Maintenance

   Nothing is more comforting than a steaming hot bowl of bulalo.  If anything, bulalo is my favorite Filipino dish.  I’d go to many places to look for it, to eat it, and to warm my heart and soul with its quintessential simplicity and taste.

   Because bulalo is served on almost every bus stop or travel stopover in the Philippines, the proverbial hat is overflowing with all sorts of places where “the best” bulalo is served.  But if I have learned anything from eating late dinners at greasy spoons, the best bulalo is not the stuff served at Michelin-starred restaurants, or in places where it’s a mortal sin to take soup with the wrong spoon.

   But allow me to add another place to that long list of bulaluhan, where a bulalo addict like me should go in the search for the best-tasting bulalo in all 7,107 islands of the Philippines.

   It was 3 AM today when me, Jayson and Inin decided to cap off the night with a feed of bulalo at the 3H terminal at Abanao Road.  I’ve eaten bulalo in all sorts of places, and figured the bulk of them to be tasteless, chewy, sinewy, and expensive.  The bulaluhan where we ate was characteristic of the many places where I’ve eaten bulalo: dank, dark, musty, and smells of diesel oil.  This was different: it was deep inside a bus garage.  There was no sign: this is a place that you go to by word-of-mouth.  Because it was unlighted, I expected a hobo sleeping under a bus chassis or a woman being raped and snuffed out on a very dark corner of the place.  It looked like a scene straight from Wes Craven when he started out making horror films.

   The place was well-lit enough for you to see the comfort room-green paintwork, the cracked tiles, and the tattered linoleum floor.  This place had no menus or menu boards: the old signs made out of cigarette boxes or used white folders made it blatantly obvious that this place served bulalo, and nothing but bulalo.  For P60 a bowl and a P7 plate of rice, this was a cheap place.  There were no glass cases that showcased other food served.  There were no frying pans in sight: there were just dilapidated gas burners where big cauldrons of bulalo continued to simmer away.  This was a bulaluhan, in its strictest, most honest sense.

   Not exactly a family-friendly environment, either: the people who ran the place aren’t the cheery people of McDonald’s who have smiles literally sewn on their faces from serving Happy Meals.  I doubt that they would break out tambourines to sing the “Happy Birthday” song when a birthday is celebrated there (if there ever was).

   But for all the unappealing things you can say about this place, the first thing you should notice is that this place is crowded.  This is not the kind of “crowded” that there is in coffee shops in between shifts at call centers, or “crowded” Sundays at Jollibee.  This is the kind of “crowded” that says that the food here is good.  The people in there encompassed and represented a broad spectrum of society, from bus drivers to call center agents to clubbers from Legarda Road looking to stall a hangover.

   I think I know the reason why this place is crowded: the bulalo tasted damn good.  Unlike other bulaluhan‘s that cheat the flavor by adding beef boullion cubes, the bulalo soup had that unmistakable flavor of bone marrow and beef that has simmered for hours, and imparted its flavor on the stock.  The beef was extremely tender, but still retained its texture and its character.

   The most impressive thing about it is that it didn’t need any side condiments like soy sauce or patis: it was perfectly seasoned.  You won’t see the smallest packet of Ajinomoto in the place: it was simply stock and beef garnished with young onion leeks.  I think that the bulalo was an old family recipe that wouldn’t be sold even to the Sultan of Brunei himself.

   Yup, Jayson was right.  Best.  Bulalo.  Ever.  Don’t mind the screaming woman.

Night Out

   I had a lot of fun last night.  Too bad I didn’t bring my own digital camera, so the pictures will have to wait until next time.  Although I must point out that a few things didn’t go according to plan:

  • I didn’t get really drunk and wasted;
  • I didn’t get to watch the UP Baguio Lantern Parade, much less attended Pasiklaban, and;
  • Because I’m not drunk, I’m blogging with a really benign hangover.

   With bullet-points over and done with, let’s get to blogging.

*     *     *

   Last night, me and a few friends from high school got together to celebrate Christmas the best way we could: good food, good drink, and good companionship.  There was Dette and her boyfriend Bep, our two engineers Lincoln and McJames, our future engineer Chedan, our registered nurse Aaron, our future registered nurse Mickey, our insurance agent Haidee, our future events-planner Katz, Jayson and his wife Inin, and our future pharmacist Rhoda.  My good friend Noel couldn’t come to the party because he had a company Christmas party to attend, but showed up for a couple of minutes to say hello.

   We started off the night by having dinner at Kubong Sawali by Military Cut-Off Road.  “A bite to eat” is a nuanced expression: since it’s Christmas, we ordered three bilao‘s of mixed seafood platters that included octopus, grilled squid, tuna sashimi, steamed mussels, steamed tilapia, and rellenong bangus.  While I’m not the biggest fan of seafood, I had a particular liking for the squid.  The tuna sashimi, while not very fresh, was quite good even if the wasabi obviously was the kind that comes in a tube.

   Because it was about time I treated my friends, I decided that a round of beers at 18 BC at Legarda Road to prime our stomachs was just the way to do it.  Then, at Aaron’s suggestion, we headed off to Samurai Comedy Bar, found at the basement of La Azotea.

   I can’t say that I like comedy bars: I’m not a fan of gay humor.  But if anything, there’s something enjoyable about comedy bars if you’re not dragged into the stage to interact with a gay dude.  It got very funny when both Jayson and Bep were dragged into said stage.  I just hope that that they didn’t hear me calling them “animal food-trough wipers” on the way out.  Ah, what I wouldn’t do to find a comedy bar inspired by “Monty Python.”

   We headed off to Nevada Square to end the night.

   Pictures to follow… something tells me this will be better if I posted pictures.

Gala Gall

   Last night, me and a few friends scored invites at a gala dinner sponsored by Shell Northern Luzon, held at the Baguio Country Club.  It’s a lot like a Hollywood buffet, without Wolfgang Puck, the caviar canapés, and Jack Nicholson.  It wasn’t bad… but as long-time Marochaholics would already know by now, I’m not at my happiest in corporate-sponsored dinners.  All four of us – me, Dette, Bep, and Bonnierick – were underdressed.  In our blue jeans and rubber shoes, we stuck out like sore thumbs in a sea of three-piece suits and evening gowns.

   As much as I’d like to write about the “Jingle Shell Rock,” I would rather have it that it never happened.  It’s like a bad hangover that ended up with a menopausal old woman getting pregnant by your seed.

   While I like to have my own fun at the expense of rich people, even I know when I’m supposed to feel a bit of shame in being underdressed.  Thank goodness that Dette’s family was there and registered all three of us boys for the event, or else we would have been booted out for being common folk in the same social strata as gas boys.

   Not that there’s anything wrong with filling up gas tanks, but when the waiter is better dressed than you are, you might as well wish you dissolved into the glass carafé that holds your water.  Or if you’re like me on a lucid interval, you would have approached the table with the most glamorous-looking people, unzipped your pants, and gave them a healthy helping of the bubbliest champagne from the very depths of your bladder.

   That’s for jacking up oil prices, bitch!  While I’d like to give the next ass a Belgian chocolate fondant from… uh, my ass, that wouldn’t sit (so to speak) too well with anybody.

   I half-expected that waiters would take up my order of binagoongang baboy and free soup, but I forgot that this wasn’t my usual fare from turo-turo: this was a buffet.  A snooty one where “bistek Tagalog” is “beef striploin” and “chopped bacon” is a misnomer for bits that come off a plastic can.  Because I’m not well-acquainted with dinner-table etiquette, I assumed that I should just take a little bit of food and not go back for a second helping.  Then we all realized that the buffet table ran out of dessert.

   Don’t get me wrong: I had fun… sort of.  Pictures will follow.