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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Volleyball At Its Best

I’ m writing this just after the best volleyball match I have ever seen (admittedly I have seen not so many).

You see, Japan now hosts many of the qualifying events for the Beijing Olympics. I got hooked to volleyball a few days ago, after witnessing just how exciting the women’s matches were (Japan’s loss to Serbia was a classic).

Well tonight, the men’s battle proved to be more intense (as it should be?). This was the game between Japan and Italy. I don’t know what the standings were, but with the stadium filled with Japanese supporters (even popular teen actors were reduced to being official cheerleaders), I was certain it was a very material game. And with the home court advantage by its side, it seemed like Japan was to take the match easily.

But not so! Japan bled hard, losing the first set (20-25) and bounced back taking the next two (30-28, 30-28). In all these, the score board seemed like a see-saw – with no team gaining more than a two or three point headway.

But momentum veered towards the side of Japan on the fourth set, when all it needed was a single point to win the match. Ahead 17-24, all it required was a single missed block, a wayward spike or a serving error from the Italians for them to win. The crowd was already on its feet, celebrating a victory just about to unfold. But the Italians rallied, tying the game at 24 and clawed back to win the set at 33-35.

On the fifth set, the Japanese found themselves dumbfounded by the Italians’ tenacity. The points piled earlier on, and alas, they failed to do the grand catching up displayed to them earlier on.

The Japanese lost 7-15.


It’s funny how the Japanese media handle the games. When their compatriots win, live TV coverage is extended, where each and every member of the team gets interviewed. That, in the middle of the court sometimes, with the spectators not leaving the stadium until the entire team gets introduced. Yup, the entire team! Even the benchwarmers will have their few seconds on-cam.

But when they lose, the cameras are turned off from the very minute the game ends. No goodbyes from the anchors, no recaps of the plays, no analysis of what happened. After the inevitable ads, the next program segues in.

Need I say they take a loss very badly? Go figure.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Rejoinder On Food

(pic from the Daily Yomiuri Online)

Japanese media have been giving extensive attention to this woman in recent days. Last night, almost all TV stations featured her – bowing incessantly, muttering words I could surmise were apologies, and tears dropping on her tired spectacles.

I wondered what horrible crime against humanity has she done to deserve such public shaming.

It turned out that the fragile-looking old lady in grand Japanese kimono was the 71-year old President of Senba Kitcho, an upscale restaurant chain operating in Osaka and the nearby wards. The original restaurant was said to have been founded by the first recipient of the Japanese government's Persons of Cultural Merit award in the cooking industry.

Last night, she announced the closure of their 17-year old restaurant due to bankruptcy, after patronage dwindled drastically. The reason? Two scandals: first it mislabeled the origins of the beef they used for their packed meals and just recently, they have been discovered to have customarily re-served left-over dishes untouched by customers.

Newspapers quoted her as saying: “"I apologize from the bottom of my heart for our betrayal of public trust in the safety and reliability of [our] food."

With that I could only say, Wow! That’s how the Japanese treat their food! Desecrating it was almost tantamount to murder, rape or any other heinous crime (judging at least by the way they treated this woman).

Now that brings me to a Quezon City restaurant where something outrageously yukky was once found by a customer. It did cause a mild stir, making it close for a while, but it was soon back in business. Truth is, after that, my friends and I would still regularly go there for dinner and the usual drinks.
My point exactly? He he. Wala lang.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What's Wrong With Filipino Food?

Filipinos are all over the world. There’s probably no nook in this earth where not one Filipino exists. That’s because we were blessed with natural adaptability to all types of environments. Kahit saan pwede. As it is, most Pinoys have already successfully assimilated in the cultures of the people with whom they live with.

But why is it that the food we eat can’t seem to pass the tastes of other peoples?

In the Roppongi area where I hold office, there are Chinese, Thai, Indian and even Vietnamese restaurants. And these food joints are patronized not just by their respective native eaters, but by the Japanese and other nationalities as well.

There are two Pinoy restaurants here, eat-all-you-can style – but only Filipinos can be seen there.

Why? I don’t know, but the same phenomenon happens in some of the countries I’ve been to. In Taiwan, there are hundreds of Filipino restaurants and food stalls, but only catering to Filipino customers, especially during Sundays. I heard the same thing in Hongkong and Singapore. In the US, the Goldilocks restaurant in Daly City is usually packed, but again, mostly of Filipinos. Same is true for the establishments I’ve seen in San Diego and LA.

The big wonder therefore is, what’s wrong with Filipino food?

Here are just some of the few reasons I could think of and what should be done about them:

1) Pinoy food looks so unhealthy. Prito na nga, kailangan pa bang nakalutang sa oil (read: tocino, longganisa, tapa). Japanese tempura is also fried, but they don’t turn-off foreigners because they not as greasy.

2) We lack creativity in packaging. Indian food here comes with intricately designed presentations. Thai food is likewise pleasing to the eye. Tayo, salpak lang sa pan, solb na!

3) We don’t seem to be sticklers for freshness and cleanliness. In most foreign restaurants here, the kitchen can be seen by the customers, just to show that they food they’re serving comes direct from the fire. For most Pinoy restaurants, it’s usually buffet style. Andyan na kaagad lahat. And while throwing food is abominable, di rin naman dapat i-serve uli. That’s what is known to most of us as “pangat”, or pangatlong ulit ng ininit.

There you go. I hope you could add more and from there, food industry entrepreneurs will hopefully act on our observations and apply whatever they’ve learned. I hope to see one day a restaurant serving Filipino food to patrons composed mainly of other races.

Then I could proudly say, "Tara, kain tayo!"

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Most Sensual Train Ride

In my loneliness and desperation for the utter lack of intimate contact with any human being (decent or indecent, wink wink) here, I prayed for an occasion where I could possibly have the chance to mingle with the inhabitants of this country.

And in His natural playful self, the Lord gave me this…

… an opportunity to get too close with not just one, but hundreds of people, all pushing themselves unto me. That, my friends is my daily routine (almost) in this Metropolis called Tokyo. Indeed, it is one sensual, sweaty, back-breaking ride each time. Now I’m beginning to wonder how it would be like come summertime. That for sure would be one smelly divine joke. :-)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Child-like at Disneyland

I am not much of a Disney fan. Probably because we were never really truly acquainted with the cartoon characters as we were growing up. Visual media then have yet to reach the shores of our island.

That’s why when I was in the US, I even skipped visiting Disneyland. It just didn’t charm me enough.

But with nothing much to do during my spare time here, a visit to Disneyland Tokyo became inevitable. One, it turned out to be just four train stations away from my residence. Two, this year is Tokyo-Disneyland’s 25th anniversary, so it’s pretty sure some nice surprises await the visitors.

So off I went. Allow me to let the pictures speak. Needless to say, I had fun.

The Disney characters doing the Anniversary Greeting.Tokyo Disney Hotel
The Formula One Race Track
Toon House

Big Thunder Mountain
Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean
Toon Town Facade
Tom Sawyer Cruise
Critter Country

Thursday, May 8, 2008

And Then The House Rocked

I was jolted from deep sleep by a rocking that reminded me of riding through the pot-holed streets of Manila.

My first gaze focused on the suspended lightbulb above me – it was swinging like a crazy pendulum.


I could say I’m quite used to this earthly movement (I’ve been to Taiwan, remember?), but nothing really prepares you for a sudden jerk in mid-sleep. And this one’s not just the regular type. It was quite strong and came in spurts. Ten seconds…stop…five seconds… stop… ten seconds… stop.

I got scared, alright. You see, I’m staying in a semi-wooden apartment. I got worried the planks will break anytime.

But I didn’t get up. The quake stopped right before I got the urge to dash for safety.

Or so it seemed. Just as I was about to doze back off, then came the rocking again! And this time it was stronger, and the movements quicker. Survival instinct made me seek shelter – the large bunker cum closet nearest to me.

Until it was peaceful again.

Early reports say the earthquake was 6.7 strong, with the epicenter forty kilometers away from the Ibaraki prefecture. Thankfully, no casualties so far.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Strawberry Feast

All Pinoys.
Gathered together.
Two busloads.
Target: Strawberry fields.
Mission: Eat-all-they-can.
Rule: Nothing should be brought out of the greenhouse.
Stop-over 1: Picnic, kanya-kanyang baon
Stop-over 2: Stone Museum/Symbol of Peace
Mission Accomplished!