Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga

From the start, it looked like Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga would be the bottom-feeder at the box-office of this year’s Metro Manila Film Fest.  No surprise there, as it had several things going against it: 1) It’s not a franchise, 2) it’s loosely based on Tondo gang lord Asiong Salonga’s life, 3) it doesn’t star any drool-worthy, abs-tastic lead and instead features an aging former actor –turned governor who can’t seem to let go of his movie star dreams, and 4) it’s an action film, and we all know that genre died aeons ago.
In any case, the lowest-grossing film in the MMFF sometimes translates to it being the best among the pack – a sad but rather disturbing proof of the intellect of today’s movie-going public. So, hubby and I decided to test if this theory would prove true for this movie.
Well, it seems that bit about it being the lowest-grossing is not true – as of my last check, it’s the 2nd lowest grossing this year, and judging from the crowd at the last full show last night at Market Market (sorry, we had to settle for this cinema because it’s only five minutes away and I’m still plagued by an almost excruciating headache that I nearly threw up in the car), it looks like its total haul will still increase considerably before the festival officially ends a week from now. The theatre was packed, even more than the Enteng and Panday cinemas, albeit the crowd looked gangsta like the movie. 
To give a short background, this movie is about Tondo gang leader Nicasio “Asiong” Salonga and his fights with Carlos Capistrano alias Totoy Golem, Boy Ventura, and other kingpins in the late 40s-50s. Asiong gained quite a reputation as a local Robinhood and savior of the masses, protecting them from the combined forces of the latter kingpins, which obviously led to him being their target. He married a local beauty, Fidela, with whom he had three kids, although he regularly visits his mistress, a box office cashier at a local theatre, and a bar girl. He ended up in jail twice, frequently helped by the “mayor” (although it is unclear why the mayor himself did not want to escape, given that he was able to arrange for Asiong’s escape the first time, and his release the second time). He finally met his death while having a drinking session with his gang and Totoy Golem, in the hands of his former comrade, Erning. 

Good. I like how it was filmed in black and white and used vintage cars, and looked like it honestly tried to recreate 1950’s Tondo. As it is, the cinematography was superb. Editing was likewise good and the camera had some really good angles, and the script was better than what I’ve come to expect from today’s dialogues that have come to define Philippine cinema nowadays. And contrary to the other movies in the festival, this one actually had a story to tell, although one that has been told several times since the real Asiong lived, and if I remember correctly, its last incarnation also starred Jeorge “ER” Ejercito JR.
Ah yes, him. If I have to criticize one aspect of this movie, it would be the casting. If I hadn’t known that Asiong was only four days short of celebrating his 28th birthday when he was killed, I would have accepted the aging ER in the lead role. But I knew. And even if I didn’t, the movie’s opening scene gave it away: Asiong was being brutally beaten to a pulp by another ganglord, and said ganglord told him he was still too young and “marami ka pang kakaining bigas” implying that he was still a “baby.” And yet, Asiong himself looked as old, if not older, than his assailant. How funny.
And then you have Philip Salvador playing his older brother Domeng, the good cop – again, another miscast. I liked Philip in the 80’s and 90’s when he played all those action roles, but playing a young cop in the 21st century, when he is obviously of retirement age?
The two Salonga brothers should have been re-cast and given to younger actors, especially since ER has practically no acting chops to show off (and yet, he blatantly expresses his desire and expectation to win Best Actor). I was practically squirming in my seat whenever close-ups of these two’s sagging jowls are shown. No offense to aging actors, but please don’t play much younger roles which you know you can’t pull off, not even physically. To compensate, at least Philip can act. And the story of the older brother torn between doing his job as a cop and protecting his younger brother, the criminal, well, it wasn’t the focal point but it was given the right amount of exposure in the movie. And I got quite teary-eyed when Domeng closed the lid on Asiong’s coffin, commenting, “Matatahimik ka na rin sa wakas, Asiong” after he and his late brother’s gang gunned down all his enemies during his funeral march.
Moving on to the bad guys, I’d say the casting of John Regala and Baron Geisler was pure genius. I remember John from the 90’s as well, and I know for a fact that he is a very good actor, though hounded by alcohol and drug abuse and to see him play the villain Totoy Golem (an even more notorious kingpin in Tondo, in my opinion) was such a dream come true (ok, wasn’t really a dream, but you get the picture). And Baron getting the Juda-esque role of Erning, himself saddled by alcohol and drug abuse issues, was brilliant. It’s common knowledge that Baron is a gifted actor; I just wish he’d realize it before he spirals totally out of control in real life.
And I have to admit, Ronnie Lazaro as Boy Zapanta was good. I never really take notice of his talent, because he is usually cast as the underdog, but I realize now that he plays any role given to him with such credence you end up believing he’s a bad guy when he plays one. He’s one underrated actor for sure, at least in the mainstream.
As for the ladies, I just have to say Carla Abellana is too pretty for this movie. But then, every action movie has to have a pretty girl, right? Throw in Valerie Concepcion and that other mistress (who is she, btw?) and you have your ingredients down pat.
My particular favourite is the gun fight between Asiong and Hapon, played by Joko Diaz, in the streets of Tondo, with the rain pouring down on them. As cliché as it may sound, they were actually wearing suits (or something of the sort), with matching hats and holding revolvers in both hands. I know I’ve seen this scene in countless movies (hey, I honestly prefer watching action movies to comedies) so minus points for originality, but the shot was almost artistic.
Another scene which stayed with me was the death of Erning, Asiong’s former close friend turned Totoy Golem acolyte after Asiong discovered that he extorts money from their people. In the movie, Erning was caught by Asiong’s loyal gang, beaten, covered with a sack and hanged from a tree, then burned alive, until one of them fired a mercy shot (or bullet?) to end his agony. It was rather disturbing although it fit in well with the theme of torture, blood, and revenge.
I don’t know Asiong’s personal history, but from a scan of a Manila Chronicle article on his death, he actually got shot at a Sari-sari store, where he was drinking with his men and Totoy Golem’s men. And he in fact made it alive to St. Luke’s where his neighbours took him; he didn’t die on the streets with his wife cradling him as depicted in the movie.
And I am quite confused with how he became “king” of Tondo – I believe that it was Totoy Golem who ruled the place and since this was immediately after the war, this would mean Asiong would have had to establish his claim sometime between 1945 and 1951; quite a short time given that he was young, and he was also jailed. (But then, I realize that Baby Ama was only 16 when he died via electric chair so what the heck).
In any case, the Tondo then is not much different from the Tondo I grew up in. Yes, I am a Tondo girl – born and lived there for the first 18 years of my life, although in a different neighbourhood from Asiong’s. My lola, having ran off from the provinces with nothing but her beauty and her bayong full of money (no kidding, this is a true story; my lola’s clan in the provinces used to own a gold mine which has since dried up and she was once a starlet in the LVN compound) was one of the first residents in that part of Tondo; her house, built in the early 50’s, was actually only the third to be built on that island of Balut. 
As I was saying, Tondo is still ruled by gangs, and the three G’s that ruled in Asiong’s time, still rule now – guns, gold, glory. Criminals still win in the elections and I can even name you three known murderers hiding in the very street where we lived (although for fear of life, I would keep my mouth shut). And yes, I even got entangled in a street brawl, which took two years to fester in our ever so efficient judicial system – my father got into an altercation with a thug over parking space and I thought he was going to stab him (turned out he was wearing knucklers), and being the careless but brave little girl I was (yes, I was only 17 at the time), I charged into the thug, hoping to knock him off long enough for my father to come to his senses (heck, he’s a former athlete, a martial artist, and a sharp shooter for crying out loud; he could easily have defended himself had he chosen to fight back). 
But that’s another story altogether. 
Needless to say, I quite enjoyed the film. Good story and I can relate to the craziness of Tondo. Not that I would want to live there again.

Book: Sweet Valley Confidential

I must confess that while I was a serious reader back in grade school and all throughout high school (by serious, I mean I read the classics, mythologies, heck, I even read encyclopedias), my guilty pleasure was Sweet Valley. I started out with Sweet Valley High, then Sweet Valley Teens, and I even read a couple of Sweet Valley Kids. Then I moved on to Sweet Valley University. Most of my lunch breaks were spent reading these books and most of my Christmas shopping money went to buying the latest edition of these series. I practically grew up with the twins (well, them, and Nancy Drew) and I know a lot of my friends can relate.
So when I heard earlier this year about its release, I was so excited. I mean, we rarely get conclusive stories to our favourite series (yes, I am talking about the Vampire Chronicles and Lestat) and I was only too happy to be given this, and to be written by Francine Pascal herself, after having most of the series written by ghost writers.  

my hardbound copy, waiting for me on the sofa


Well, turns out, that excitement was all for naught. I could barely get through each chapter, especially those pertaining to Jessica. It was just unbearable to read her lines, peppered with “so” and “like” that the only thing so keeping me from throwing the darn book, was because I paid, like, almost Php900 for the hardbound copy. And don’t even get me started on the editing. I mean, given that there are hundreds of books in the Sweet Valley Universe and who knows how many ghost writers, there’s bound to be a couple of continuity issues, but within the same book? And can’t they even get the names consistent?
To be fair, I did find the book a bit entertaining and offered a bit of closure, except that I didn’t expect the ending to be like this. 
Liz and Jess (from the old SVH books; they later used real persons, most notably the Daniels, on their covers)
Shocker # 1 – I never, in a million years, thought that Steven would turn out to be gay. And according to the book, he had been having affairs left and right, and apparently, had been a sort of heart breaker even in high school. Wait. Steven? Heck, I thought he was the older, responsible brother who didn’t date around? And now this book is telling me he’s been having affairs with women, apparently to cover up for his identity issues. What’s the point of having this storyline? Was Francine trying to be more relevant with all the gay/lesbian themes rampant nowadays? She should have left Steven alone. 
The Wakefield kids
Shocker # 2 – Jessica is now with Todd. Whoa. Didn’t see that coming. Oh wait. I did. Actually, after all those Diary editions started coming out, I figured something like this would happen eventually. So much cheating and stealing boyfriends behind each other’s backs. I just didn’t really think Francine would go through with it. Oh, and Todd is now a writer. Seriously. 
Shocker # 3 – Bruce Patman is in love with Liz. Bruce has never been my favourite character in the books, but after that plane crash accident in college with Lila, I felt that he has improved a lot. And I quite agree with this pairing (well, if Liz can’t have Todd, at least she has the rich and impossibly gorgeous Bruce; though from the book covers, he doesn’t strike me as handsome, more like smug). 
Shocker # 4 – Liz apparently sleeps around. Ok, so the books only say that she slept with Will Connolly, the playwright she was supposed to interview and ended up being friends with. (might I correct – friends with benefits). But there are some vague statements implying that she does – such as when her boss drops her off at her apartment in New York and she contemplates sleeping with him to shut him up. I don’t like this. It deviates too much from the Liz I knew, the one who wouldn’t even sleep with Todd (and Tom Watts, later in college). 
Shocker $ 5 – Winston is dead. Apparently, he alienated himself from his friends when he suddenly got rich over a dot com venture with Bruce. That and the fact that he caught Jess and Todd at their shared apartment and had to cover up for it so as not to hurt Liz. Why kill Winston? I liked Winston.
There were countless other shockers, and inconsistencies in the book. And rather than bore you with my account of them, I found this website on the internet which chronicles practically all the books. It’s quite fun reading it, felt like relieving my high school life.
And, pardon me but I just have to point this out. Why did Francine have to set the book in the present? The fact is, we all know that Ned and Alice got married sometime in the 60s. They were hippies, remember? And they listened to Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind, which was released in 1963. I know because I’ve read the sagas so many times I must have memorized them. That would mean the twins would be in their mid to late forties by now. BUT NO. In Confidential, they are only 27. Which would mean, it should have been set sometime in the late 80s or early 90s for it to be logically possible. And I am pretty sure Facebook wasn’t around then.
Needless to say, I am disappointed with this book. Probably the only reason I finished it (other than the price, as I mentioned) is because I was a fan of the original series and I needed closure. But if Francine thought that by writing this book, she would get new followers, she’s so wrong. I would not recommend this book to anyone, save my old high school friends who loved the series like I did.

Food Trip: Top of the City by Chef Jessie

You would probably think it funny that after working in Makati for the past nine years (well, give or take a year and a half when I made the mistake of working in companies outside Makati), I have yet to try the restaurant Top of the Citi.
I can cross that off my to-do list now. A couple of days ago, my officemates and I all agreed to eat there since most of us haven’t tried Top (at least I wasn’t alone, hehehe). Food is quite pricey but their set menu is very affordable – priced at around Php 500 for the standard one, and Php 860 for the more “special” one. Since it’s not everyday that I get to eat here, I got the special set menu and just added a dalandan juice for only Php88.
Refreshing. But, again, the best dalandan juice is still at Sonya’s Garden. I think I’m addicted to it.
my bad, I forgot what soup this is

Seafood salad – sorry for the endless comparison, but still, Sonya’s beats this one.

Chicken in a pastry wra with orange sauce (that’s not exactly what it was called but it ‘s what I could remember). This is the other option for the main dish of the set menu.

But I wanted something more extravagant than chicken, so I opted for the lamb curry.

Mocha pot. Tasted like leche flan, mocha-flavored. Didn’t really like it much.

Raspberry sorbet. Too sweet. In a not so good way.

I was told that the set menu changes everyday but the day we were there, it included soup, seafood salad, and for your main dish, a choice between chicken in orange sauce and lamb curry. For dessert, you can choose between raspberry sorbet and mocha pot. They ran out of mocha so I ended up having the sorbet.
Verdict? Well, I don’t really understand all the hype – the food was okay, but not spectacular. I can’t help but compare the lamb curry to the venison curry at Mamou in Serendra, which I absolutely love. Ok, so they’re different but still, they’re curry and the latter had a better tasting sauce. But I will still eat here, though maybe try their ala carte menu – it’s more expensive but I figure it will be better. Plus, I don’t want to judge this resto with just one try.

*Top of the Citi is located at the 34th floor of the Citibank Tower along Paseo de Roxas, Makati. Check out their facebook page here.

The World According to Joey: 122811

Kids really do say the darnedest things. And Joey always has something to say about something. 
Last Christmas day, the elevator we were riding on suddenly closed, nearly hitting Joey’s younger cousin, JM
Joey: Mom, Dad, JM almost got squashed.
(Everyone hushes in the elevator – you rarely hear anyone use the word squash).
Joey (with a shrug of his shoulders): It’s a good thing it wasn’t me who almost got squashed. 
(And with that, everybody just ended up laughing. Hey, Joey didn’t mean anything bad by it, but it’s funny how his relief was so obvious that he himself didn’t get hurt. 
I was busy cleaning our house last night, the usual drill when the New Year is approaching: throw away the old, give away the ones you don’t use, etc. Anyway, I decided to throw away our old couch and pillows and as Ipe was taking out the latter:
Joey: Dad, why are you throwing away the pillows?
Ipe: Because they’re already dirty and dusty and they make you cough and sneeze.
Joey: Dad, you mean I’m allergic to them?
Ipe: (speechless. He was actually thinking of a way to explain that the dust triggers Joey’s allergies without having to mention the word allergy and explain that word. Turns out, he didn’t have to worry because Joey already knew the word).

Christmas 2011

Christmas Party at Republiq – great company though I did get hungry (and my hair smelled realllly bad):

Dinner with Ipe’s high school barkada at SM North…and a photo op at the North Pole-themed Sky Garden:
dessert at this little cafe at the Sky Garden – forgot the name though

The best custaroons ever from my friend Neri. I’ve been wanting to buy these custaroons but I only know of their Eastwood branch, and I am too lazy to go there:

Finally setting up our Christmas tree the day before Christmas. Talk about last minute. Oh, and I did my shopping only last Thursday. I literally dropped from exhaustion. Well, that’s what happens when you work 11 hours straight then shop for four hours straight without even stopping for dinner. Whew.

Christmas Eve mass at the Sta. Ana Church in Taguig, before we started our food giving:

Joey opening his presents. Tons of presents, might I add. Courtesy of doting titos and titas and just about everyone. It helps to be a really sweet and cute little kid. Now I don’t have to buy him any new toys until next Christmas. Hehe.

Going home to my parents’ house and seeing our old dog Britney looking, literally, like a pig. Seriously, did I tell you she suffered s stroke and just flopped on the floor unmoving? And she had to undergo emergency operation coz she couldn’t give birth to her puppy. Papa was beside himself with grief (as in he was breaking down into sobs on the phone when he called me up to tell me Britney was at the vet, haha!). She’s doing fine now, obviously.

Joey with his cousin JC “from the far place” as he calls it. My sister lives in Cavite and works the night shift so we rarely see each other. 

Finally getting a mini-tripod so we can have a decent enough family photo (I still insist on us having a studio pic sometime soon).

Not officially together anymore, but hey, at least we’re all in this picture, right? I’d settle for this photo, for now


Christmas this year was hectic – we started late, around noon, since we were too tired from all the preparations and food giving the night before. Plus, we had two reunions to go to this year on the same day, and they weren’t exactly right next to each other. Usually, Christmas Day is spent with my side of the family (my father’s side, actually, in Bulacan), as it has been a tradition to hold the family reunion on this day for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, Ipe’s side also decided to bump up their reunion on the same day so you can say we were literally driving all over Bulacan and Metro Manila. But hey, at least we made it. Too bad we were too bummed to make it to my tita’s house in Manila. I would have loved to end the day with her fabulous cooking.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas like I did.

Give Love on Christmas Day

Hubby and I had picked up on my family’s tradition of giving food on Christmas Eve and this is our second year. Nothing fancy: just home-cooked spaghetti and ham sandwiches, cheese and a zesto. But imagine how all these must taste like to people who have nothing to eat.
I don’t have the resources to make this project a daily thing but no one deserves to be hungry and cold on Christmas Eve.

Ready for distribution – our route takes us in front of the BSP, where a lot of homeless families had set up shacks
I am also happy that our friends all agreed to donate instead our exchange gift fund to charity. Really, we have all been so blessed and what’s one less gift, right?

Also, I am posting this not to brag about the good we did for Christmas, but in the hope of maybe inspiring some of you to do the same. Hey, if Ipe and I can feed a couple of families, imagine how many families will not go hungry on such as special night as this if a couple more people do it? It would truly be a Merry Christmas then.

Varsi Amihan Christmas 2011

This year perhaps marks the first time that our annual Varsi Amihan Christmas party did not involve overnight. And it probably takes 2nd place as the most spur of the moment parties we’ve had in the ten years we’ve been doing this (guilty on both counts). Planning this annual event somehow landed on my lap but I was just not feeling Christmassy this year and throwing a party was not one of my priorities (not that I don’t want to meet up with my Varsi friends – I do, and if I could, I would hang out with them everyday).
Anyway, good thing Feli came to the rescue and organized it with less than a week to go. Since we sent out the invites rather late, it also meant we had to think of a venue that was more or less never occupied. And so we ended up at Gloria Maris, Araneta. Seriously, the place serves decent enough food but any given time that we’re in Cubao, it’s almost always empty. 
First half of the night – dinner at Gloria Maris. Party hats courtesy of Feli.
Second party this week that I’m late. They were all done with dinner and about to transfer to the next venue when I arrived. But thanks to Leah and Marisse for arriving even later, we ended up staying at Gloria Maris til they closed. Though of course, Leah just arrived from Singapore so she was excused for being late. Haha.
Followed by coffee at Starbucks
Amelia Earhart, is that you?
We usually have coffee and dessert at Gloria Jeans (ok, too many Glorias there and I find it too funny) but it closes early; hence, the Starbucks.

Of course, what party would be complete without…drumroll please! Raffle prizes! Yey! Ok, to give you a background, we don’t really spend for these raffle prizes. We just pool all the gifts we don’t want to keep or have no use for and raffle them off. Kind of like a swap thingie, except it’s more fun. Our grand prize this year is a two burner stove and a foot spa machine (which hubby won at his office party, haha). And left-over GCs. 😛

In keeping with the somber atmosphere this season, what with the terrible Sendong hitting CDO and Iligan, we unanimously agreed to forego exchanging gifts and just donate money to charity. What do you know? We raised almost Php10K (courtesy of a very generous S$100 from Leah, clap clap)! Yehey! I think we’ll be donating it to Iligan, which was hit quite as hard as CDO but is not getting nearly as much help. 
Merry Christmas my dear Varsi friends! Entering our second decade of friendship!


Kicked off the Christmas week via a party at Opus with my girlfriends from my former employer – which I almost missed. Actually, it’s a good thing dinner lasted three or four hours and Ipe agreed to take me, otherwise I really would have missed it. Anyway, I’m fast becoming an expert at grand entrances (translation: always late!).
Since they were all done with dinner, hubby and I ordered separate meals. Oh, and it was a buy one take one for their specialty cocktails from 7-9PM; though, being late, I only managed two orders spaced ten minutes apart. Ha! Nothing can keep me away from a good deal (though I had to keep myself in check – still had to report for work the next day. Big bummer. Haha.)
Anyway, it was my first time at Opus; though we live quite near Newport, hubby and I are too lazy to drive and almost always end up somewhere at the Fort. Plus, we’re not really big on clubbing and drinking (I hate the stinky smell that stays on your hair and pillows even after a week of washing your hair daily). It was quite impressive, what with the glass enclosure (though, unfortunately not sound proof; we were too engrossed with poking fun at the “foam” that comes with each dish we didn’t realize the chef/owner Carlo Miguel was at the next table) and murals on the walls. And the gleaming, sparkly cushioned seats! I felt right at home! I should have worn something sparkly but I wanted to stay low-key at the office.

Complimentary appetizer, which was really yummy!
Hubby and I ordered the Opus Tasting Menu and an extra main dish of pork belly. Quite pricey but really worth it – it was so good and I loved every single bite of it. Note though that each “menu” is only good for one – it’s a full course meal.
Pumpkin Sage Soup Bacon and Parmesan Ice Cream

Grilled Japanese eel and seared foie gras, cucumber jelly, pickled radish salad

Quail & Bacon Ravioli Mushrooms, Braised Leeks, Truffle Foam

Crispy skin pork belly and roast kurobuta pork tenderloin
cauliflower foam, braised red cabbage, pommery mustard jus

Crispy skin salmon fillet, basil foam

Dark chocolate fondant with salty caramel ice cream and malt foam

Now, as I mentioned earlier in my post, it was buy-one-take-one til 9, and a good thing hubby and I got there with a little over thirty minutes to spare (miracle that we made it from Makati to Newport in less than fifteen minutes too!) so I quickly ordered drinks even before our dinner. Can’t waste the opportunity. 
White Peach Margarita with Cuervo 1800 drizzled with Strawberry Puree with a Pink Salt and Sugar Rim

“Opus Magnum Mojito” Bacardi Silver muddled with Organic Spearmint. Kaffir Lime leaves, Lemongrass. Ginger, fresh citrus and topped with Sparkling Wine

The mojito is probably the best I’ve tasted so far. If I could go on drinking glass after glass, I would have (uh-oh, alcoholic much)

My lovely fasyon girlfriends – feels like I never left the company though it has been two years. Can you believe that?

Yes, Tin made it! She got there even later than I did, though of course, she came all the way from Eastwood so I didn’t really have an excuse

Arrgh. I need to go on a diet. Seriously.

I so love Leah’s skirt!

Til our next night out girls! Merry Christmas!

The World According to Joey: Christmas Party!

Joey had his first ever Christmas party at school – and his excitement was so obvious he barely slept the night before. So excited he woke up at 6am and was nagging all of us to give him a bath and get him dressed in his Santa costume.
Ah, his costume, which we got into a sort of one-sided argument a few days before. See, I was supposed to buy his costume last weekend, but he got sick and I decided to just stay at home. He missed two school days and when he reported back to school on Wednesday, dress rehearsal was in full swing and he was the only one without a costume.
And Joey was sobbing when I got home that night, telling me: “Mom, why did you forget to buy me my costume? I was the only one without a costume!” That was his last line before he fell asleep… and his first line when he woke up.
Anyway, to cut the long story short, I took a day off to buy his costume and run some errands – I covered three malls in five hours on foot! I didn’t realize it was that hard to find a Santa costume!

Joey making faces
With two of his classmates. So cute, running around the basketball court!

Joey was front and center during his Christmas presentation but too bad, he was too sleepy by the time it started that he was too grumpy to give a smile while dancing.

his first ever exchange gift

Or too hungry? He was only too hyper after eating his chickenjoy – he joined all the games!
Game #1 – The Boat Is Sinking

Game #2 – Trip to Jerusalem
Joey was the only kid who kept asking for directions before each game
Game #3 – Longest Line

And that’s a wrap!

Food Trip: Pancake House Serves Junior Masterchef Dishes

Hubby and I went out for lunch at my go-to food place: Pancake House. I haven’t been to this place in ages, and I was curious about the Junior Masterchef Pinoy Edition dishes, which are exclusively being served at Pancake House. 
After browsing through the menu, we decided on the tofu eggplant salad and baby back ribs. Heck, the pictures were so enticing we couldn’t resist. Other dishes which looked and sounded interesting are the cabbage lumpia in coconut breading and the fish burger with brown rice pilaf. There’s also this dish called Ampalayasilog – but, I wouldn’t dare eat ampalaya. Just not my type. 
First up, the tofu and eggplant salad. Now, for those of you who don’t know, I love eggplants. I swear, I can eat tortang talong everyday, if not for the fact that there is almost zero nutritional value in eggplants. So it was a no brainer that I had to try this dish…
Tofu and Eggplant salad
 …which I found extremely disappointing. The sauce was good; sweet, salty and the unexpected bitterness of the mustard adds a jolt to the tastebuds. Now, if only the eggplants were grilled to the core – as it was, they were served almost half-cooked and I had a hard time prying it loose from its skin. Had it been grilled perfectly, the smoky taste of the eggplant would have been a nice foil to the sweet/bitter sauce. Oh well. Better luck next time I guess (or maybe I should try this dish in another branch. FYI – I ate at the Bonifacio High Street branch).
On to the next dish then – baby back ribs with potato salad and corn on the cob.


I’m quite torn in the middle with this one. I loved the warm bacon potato salad which was heavenly! Seriously, the creamy potato melts in your mouth and the bacon was soo crispy and salty. Perfect. I wouldn’t talk much about the corn – just to say it was so-so. As for the star of the dish – it was okay. The sauce was good (what is up with the sauces? They’re all good but the main ingredient of the dishes are not) and if you drench the ribs in enough sauce, it’ll taste good too. But if you run out of it, too bad. The meat is quite bland for my taste, sort of like it was just boiled and glazed with sauce. And the pork skin was so hard I couldn’t even bite through it. Was it not supposed to be crispy? Anyway, I can forgive the ribs if only for the really good potato salad and the sauce.
Hubby summed up our dining experience: 70% for the tofu eggplant concoction and 80% for the ribs. Would I come back? Of course. Heck, this is Pancake House, which has long been my comfort place where I get comfort food (I don’t really know why and how it ended up thus, but perhaps it’s the proximity; my former office was right across a branch and I live in a place with three branches within a ten-minute radius). But I will probably settle back into my trusted favorites.