Thursday, August 3, 2017

just checking in

if you follow me on social media, you may have learned i've moved into a new place. same city, different hill.

it's a lot different from where i stayed previously--a condo unit in a tourist area--and presents its own set of challenges (neighbors whose domestic noise--shouting kids and angry mom included--reach my ears much too often) and joys (other neighbors' cats that now have the run of the house, nearby sources of "real" food, a 24/7 jeepney line).

i've also changed jobs--i'm writing, researching, and editing around 83 percent of the time for work, and the remaining work-related hours are spent learning more about...everything. it's all good.

in june i attended a series of trainings for waldorf school educators. i was--still am--intent on volunteering in balay sofia, the first and so far only waldorf-style school in baguio. i haven't stepped foot in the school in nearly two months now. i'm working on my schedule so i can volunteer in the mornings. the ideal plan is to go for a walk/run or practice yoga (activities i've been missing terribly!), go to balay sofia, rest a bit at home/do errands/work on a project, then do my regular work.

the current rainy weather has made it hard for me to fully explore my new surroundings, but i will surely get to doing that in the coming weeks. my "walkdays with laurie" project hasn't been updated in months!

free time is spent napping/sleeping (haha yes), sketching, tidying up the house/making small home improvements, going out with friends (haha yes), thinking of projects to do (i have a few long-term project ideas in mind), and cooking! thanks to the house being equipped with an induction cooktop, i'm enjoying spending time in the kitchen (and stir-frying everything). i think i like my cooking. :P

that's about the gist of things. i'm an awful blogger now but i do plan on writing here a bit more often (if not regularly), not only for myself but for those of you who think my stuff here is worth reading. i've had other blogs before this and other blogs after this, but i guess this one really sticks. i realize this blog is close to 11 years old now--thank you for keeping it on your reading list!

here's a look back at my first post on this blog: sunog sa araw, written after coming from a community immersion in nueva ecija. i'll be going with a friend's group to visit another community soon, this time somewhere here in benguet, and i'm really looking forward to that. i'm already planning which camera to use and which sketchbook to bring.

i'll be sure to tell you how it goes!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Coffee Harvest Tour

Friends and family know how much I love coffee, and now I have a deeper appreciation for it and for the farmers who grow the coffee plants and process the fruit. I learned that it's hard, time-consuming work and I will never look at a cup of brewed coffee the same way again.

Yesterday, I joined the Coffee Harvest Tour in the community of Sayatan in Tublay, Benguet. Sayatan is a project site of the Cordillera Green Network, a Baguio-based environmental NGO. Since 2001, the organization has been working to help transform communities in the Cordillera into models of sustainable resource management.

Let's back up a little bit--how did I get to join the tour? Well, I was helping a friend look for a place to stay in, and Tala came to mind. I go to Cafe Yagam every now and then when I have friends over and see people coming and going from Tala, the guest house just below. I got curious about it but never pursued looking into it, until now.

I checked Tala's Facebook page and learned of its connection with the Cordillera Green Network, and also learned that the org conducts educational tours as part of its advocacy. Coming up was a Coffee Harvest Tour, and I signed up.

Aside from showing us how a cup of coffee is produced, the tour also gave participants that much-needed break from city life, and for the foreign students, the chance to practice their English. :)

The group met up at 7:30 (everyone was so punctual!) at Tala, where organizer Kanami gave a short orientation and where we introduced ourselves. It's a very 'international' group comprising Filipino, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean and Vietnamese coffee lovers. When we were all set, we climbed aboard CGN's jeepney and off we went.

When we arrived at Sayatan, we were introduced to the "coffee queens," the ladies who manage the community organization. They told us about the CGN's advocacy as well as coffee's journey from farm to table. They also showed the proper way to harvest coffee cherries to make sure the plant bears fruit again.
Orientation and introduction at Tala.

A quick stopover to buy snacks
Bread, bread and more bread
Toploading ftw
Ate Lily explaining the process of how a cup of coffee is made
Pick just the fruit--avoid taking the stem along with it!
Before harvesting: hot coffee!
Sweet sweet dog
Coffee plant
Looks like Christmas
Just pick the ripe cherries (the red/red-orange ones)
The cold climate makes Benguet conducive to growing arabica coffee
Trying out guava
Picking coffee cherries...until the ants came (the fruit is sweet)

Coffee seedlings at the nursery ready for planting! The community sells these for Php 7.50 each.
It takes around three years for the plants to bear fruit.
At the old nursery (they're preparing a net to cover the seedlings)
This view.
Why did the chicken (and her kids) cross the road?
To say hello to the grazing cow, of course!
Here's Johnny making sure our meal's cooking well

After lunch it was time to try pulping (where the fruit pulp is separated from the bean) and hulling, where the remaining mucilage is removed from the seed. After pulping, the beans undergo wet fermentation for 24 hours, washed and then dried before hulling.

Forgot to take a photo of the (manual) pulping machine, but here's the output: the pulp at left and the seed or bean at the right. 
The beans are first pounded to remove the mucilage or hull from the bean
Separating the hull from the bean
Separating the dried hull from the beans is challenging at first, but once you've mastered the movement, it's beautiful to watch.

More hulling
After sorting the beans, these are roasted for an hour. While there's a roasting machine that can get it done in 20 minutes,it's in another town and for the purpose of the tour, a kawali can do the job just fine. 

Almost done! Heavenly smells all around.
Ready to be ground up!
These beans will be grounded, ready for brewing

Hanging out with "Sweet Dog" (we don't know his real name)
And done! (Don't you just love these cups)

I had a great time learning about coffee and meeting new folks. Thanks to Tala - Kanami and Sevy - and the CGN as well as the community of Sayatan and the women farmers who showed us about how coffee makes its way into our cups.

Fact: To make 450 grams of roasted coffee beans, you'll need around 4,000 cherries. A cup is usually brewed from 10 grams of coffee, so you'll need around 90 cherries for just this one cup.

And that, my friends, is why you should savor each and every sip.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Speed Ball Training with Siri (Mongki as coach)

Who needs expensive kitty toys when you have a plastic cup, some string and puffy balls lying around?

Saturday, July 9, 2016


some work-related adjustments are opening up opportunities for me to write again, and i'm scared as sh*t.

as the few readers of this blog can surely see, i haven't posted anything in months. i meant to, it's not for lack of topics, but perhaps a lack of will. and confidence.

the kind of work that i do (i currently copy-edit stories for an online publication) requires me to be strict when it comes to factual accuracy and as much as possible, be perfect in all things grammar. i'm no grammar nazi. i make mistakes myself, and i think i've learned to just ignore the errors i see in other people's work, especially if writing isn't really part of their profession (i quietly judge them sometimes though, but usually just the ones who say they're reading this book and that, or watching this show and that, because hey if you're really an avid reader/viewer, you should have picked up proper english by now - snooty me).

i envy them sometimes - how they are able to come up with words to express themselves, tell the interwebz about their life without minding whether a particular piece conforms to ap style.

i've grown more conscious about word use, but in return i've lost confidence in my own writing style. i've come to believe that the way i write has not really improved. my working vocabulary is still the same, i haven't really incorporated new descriptive words. things are still pretty simple in this corner of the blogosphere.

i'm afraid to let loose, afraid i don't really have anything interesting to say.

i've been looking at writing prompts online to somehow get me started with writing again, but i find myself uninterested. or i begin to think, that's a long story, and i don't have the time patience to sit and write that down.

in january, a friend and i went for a day hike up mt. ulap, which is just around 40 minutes away from the city. he pitched the idea of a collaborative project about our little adventure: he would take photos, and i could write about the experience. it's july and i haven't really written a word. i have some phrases written down on a few sheets of paper - my impressions of the place, the things that interested me the most. but i couldn't do the colorful captions, the ones you usually read in travel sites describing a place.

that's nothing new for me, really. i've always struggled with the "show, don't tell" part of writing a narrative. i don't think i have the right verbal creativity needed for travel blog-worthy descriptions. or perhaps this is just me coming up with excuses. i've always wanted to write about the things i've done, the places i've visited, the stuff i've learned. but when i see all these other people already writing about the same stuff, i lose heart.

now i realize i'm forgetting the whole point.

writing, like sketching, is an activity that lots of other people may be doing, but you all come up with different outputs. one's experience is different from another's. there may be similarities (in subject and location), but the way you tell it - the way you express yourself through lines and words - is unique to you. your own perspective, and your own way of showing who you are.

i should really listen to myself more often.


but that's when you're writing for yourself.

i'm scared about writing for something else. will i be able to pitch good story ideas? will i be able to pull a story off without sounding like a self-absorbed b*tch?

i guess i'll never really know unless i try (again).

wish me luck (and discipline)!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

what ifs

this afternoon, in anticipation of amazon's "the man in the high castle", i downloaded the e-book version of the philip k. dick novel the tv series is based on. i wasn't much of a pkd fan growing up (i think i tried reading one of his books once but stopped after the first few pages - now i think i might have been too young to appreciate it), so i had no idea about it, until i worked on an article about the tv adaptation this morning.

i haven't started reading the book, but from what i've absorbed online, the alternate history presented in the novel goes a bit like this: ww2 lasted until 1947, and germany and japan won the war. it's a great what if, and i find myself interested to know the answer.

it led me to think about imagine more what-if scenarios, nothing that historic though, just everyday stuff, the kinds of stuff i've thought about ever since i was a kid daydreaming the day away. it's how i entertain myself and keep myself amused, i guess.

here's one.

i ordered a burger two burgers from the nearby burger shop before it closed. as i waited outside for my burgers to cook, i saw a neighbor's cherry-red chevrolet impala heading up the street, homeward. that car's pretty famous around these parts, very recognizable.

so. what if.

what if i asked the owner/driver if i could take a photo of the car, and he would say of course, and i would introduce myself as a neighbor. and because i was genuinely interested in the car, he would invite me to have a look inside.

(a friend and i have already poked our noses inside once when the car was parked out on the street and we were passing by and the windows were down and no one was around.)

then he would do more - he would get out from the driver's side and invite me to get behind the wheel to drive the car the rest of the way home. and then i would say i haven't driven a car in ten years, to which he would say it's only for a few meters. and then i would agree, and somehow not crash the car. and then i would be able to say i drove an impala.

in that what-if scenario, the owner's name is fred and he is in his mid-40s.

seems far-fetched, yes, i don't think anyone would trust me and be all nice just like that, just like that. this what-if tale makes me sound like a naive chit, but then again, i'm sure there are nice folks like the guy in the scenario. you read about them all the time - about the niceness of strangers and such. could be dangerous to think of as true all the time irl, but  sometimes you get the feeling that something or someone is good, or at least won't do you harm. it's sad when the world thinks the default is that people are inherently evil and being good comes as a surprise. anyway, i digress -

but i guess that's how my brain works sometimes.

i think about these what ifs during quiet moments, and it's good creative exercise for the brain that uses the logical side most of the time. thinking of these what ifs may give some people either hope or a reason to be depressed, but most of the time i just have a fuzzy feeling about it being a story.

it may be why i'm drawn to fiction, why i can relate with amelie and her unfounded fears about the reason why nino hadn't shown up yet, why i think there's more to a story than what's written on a page or acted out in a scene. it may be why i like to be quiet and simply watch people sometimes. i don't think i fantasize too much - i'm still pretty sane (haha yeah) and know when the stuff in my mind really happened and when they're just the products of a very active (and creative, if i may say so) imagination.

what if i hadn't gone out this afternoon? i wouldn't have seen the impala, i wouldn't have come up with that scenario. i would probably have thought of something else.

i missed this kind of writing, the not-thinking-too-much kind. should do this more often to loosen up before/during/after copy editing. doesn't make much sense as i should be strict with following rules, but if it works for me, it works for me.