Painted garbage cans around Bonifacio Global City.

I went to Bonifacio Global City this morning to have breakfast with Bern. We walked about, circling several buildings to look for a place where we could eat.

In the end, we decided to eat in a canteen at the building across the street from Bern’s office, though we certainly took a circuitous path to get there. It was called “killing time”.

The walk wasn’t a waste, though, because we spotted several colorfully-painted garbage cans designed by local artists. They looked very pretty, it felt almost unjust to have them smeared with garbage.

The very democratic chocolate.

Explaining how some kind of food is made usually will take away the fun out of eating it. There are some things we do not want to know about what happens before a particular product reaches our plate.

Although sometimes, knowing how food is made makes us appreciate more the effort and care needed to produce a delicacy. Take chocolates, for example.

Bryan Graham, founder of Fruition Chocolate, explained why so many of us love chocolate:

Chocolate is … extremely democratic. You don’t need to have studied and tasted every great chocolate in the world to appreciate it. Nobody should tell you how to experience it. If you want to just pop it in your mouth and munch away, great! If you care to taste the same piece and experience the flavor release, and all the subtlety and complexity, it’s there for the taking.

In this delightful interview, Graham described how chocolate is made from the little cocoa seeds into the mouth-watering confections of various shapes and forms. His descriptions alone make me want to grab a bar of dark chocolate.

Roasting the beans is the first real opportunity for most chocolate makers to begin putting their stamp on the chocolate. Roasting, through the Maillard reaction, turns those flavor precursors developed during fermentation into what we know as chocolatey flavors. This is the first time in the process that you’ll start to smell that familiar chocolate aroma. It, I must say, is heavenly.

People have different preferences when it comes to chocolate. I prefer mine dark and slightly bitter. I steer clear away from white chocolate which I dismiss a not-chocolate. It’s a good thing the boyfriend has a similar preference, so surprise gifts of chocolate is always something that we both appreciate a lot.

Chocolate cake surprise from Bern
For my birthday (six months ago), Bern surprised me with a chocolate cake immediately after I woke up.

The Science and Art of Chocolate Making

Lessons from Portugal: Time to end the war on drugs.

Ten years ago, Portugal adopted a different, and initially controversial, approach to drug use by not going through the popular idea of “war on drugs”; the government instead decriminalized drug possession and use. The idea is that drug users should not be treated as criminals to be punished; rather, they were considered patients who needed to be treated.

Critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country has some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. The recently realised results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April 2011, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.

Forty years later, the “war on drugs” has been found ineffective and pointless. The aggressive stance against the drug users makes for someone impressive news footages but it hardly gives any measurable benefit to society. Even the current US government has decided to change tack and focus on treatment and prevention in its drug policy.

For many years nows, Philippine society has embraced the same “war on drugs” attitude and demonized drug use and users as some of the roots of social decay. I wonder how long will it take for our government to get its head out of its ass and start looking at empirical data rather than listening to hysterical rhetoric. Playing it tough has not really done us anything good, has it?

Time to end the war on drugs

The welfare of one person should not take priority over the needs of so many.

Before anything else, here are websites listing how people could help flood victims of Sendong:

Philippine Red Cross: Emergency Alert: Tropical Storm Sendong
Here’s To Life!: How to help victims of Tropical Storm Sendong

Aerial view of damages caused by flash floods brought by Tropical Storm Sendong in Cagayan De Oro. Image Credit: REUTERS/Stringer
Aerial view of damages caused by flash floods brought by Tropical Storm Sendong in Cagayan De Oro. Image Credit: REUTERS/Stringer

After President Aquino created a controversy for supposedly partying after in the aftermath of Sendong, this story about his youngest sister, Kris, is currently spreading around Facebook and was also quoted in Pinoyexchange (one needs to select and highlight the “hidden” text):

A friend of mine who’s volunteering at ABS-CBN right now texted me. She said they were already at Consolacion to distribute the relief goods to the people, the people were already lining up, when suddenly they rerouted and went back to Balulang. The reason? Kris Aquino is there and they have to fetch her and go back to Consolacion so that she can also help.

Imagine the faces of the people already waiting for the releif goods; All hungry and thirsty and still covered in mud and they all needed fresh clothes to change into…They were shocked to see the ABS-CBN trucks leaving. All they can do is watch and wait for them to come back again. That’s what my friend witnessed just a while ago.

It’s disgusting how Kris Aquino had to be given more importance over the flood victims who desperately needed help. Was is really necessary for all the trucks to leave in order to fetch one person? Couldn’t the ABS-CBN crew begin their relief program and just let Kris just join them when she arrives?

I don’t know whose decision it was to temporarily stop the relief program (to be fair to Kris, I am not assuming it was she who asked for the trucks to fetch her), and I am not belittling ABS-CBN’s efforts to help the flood victims. But an incident like this seems to show misplaced priority on the welfare of one celebrity over those of hundreds of people who truly needed help.

Tropical Storm Washi (Sendong) kills hundreds in the Philippines
PNoy’s ‘partying’ in Sendong aftermath sparks debate on propriety
Valerie draws flak for partying with PNoy during Sendong
Aquino sisters defend PNoy on ‘party’ issue

Good grief. There are carolers in the building.

I’ve closed the front door and windows, turned off nearly all the lights, and shut myself inside my flatmates’ bedroom until they’ve done their rounds on our floor and have gone away. There are carolers in our building.

I could hear several kids singing while I was sweeping the floor and could make out the tune of the ABS-CBN Christmas jingle. It was followed by the familiar “thank you” sung by kids after a Christmas carol, where the lyrics are changed depending on whether the household gave them money or not.

I don’t know how and where that “thank you” jingle started, but it became popular among kids when I was around eight or nine, eventually becoming a staple for carolers. What happens is if you gave the carolers money, they’d sing “ambabait ninyo” (you’re kind/generous); if you didn’t give them money, they’d sing “ambabarat ninyo” (you’re stingy).

When I looked down to the corridors, I saw five kids singing in front of a unit one floor below. Most carolers would end their songs immediately when given money or if the house occupants shoo them away. Some of the more persistent kids, if not told to leave, will sing three or four songs before giving up. These kids, however, seem to finish their songs even after given money. It’s nice because it shows how they’re not just after collecting something from the units they visit; but at the same time, the way their voices echo around the building is getting annoying.

You could probably tell the actual state of the economy by how much the carolers would get from each household, on average. Except that nobody probably interviews the kids to find out. When I was in grade school, I’d join some classmates in caroling and we’d split the collected money equally afterwards. I used to envy the some schoolmates who played bandurria in the school band because people tend to give them more money as opposed to carolers who only had home-made drums and tambourine to accompany them.

I’m surprised the building maintenance folks allowed kids to go around caroling. I can’t make myself complain about the noise but I don’t really want to encourage them so I’ll be staying inside this room for an hour or so until they’re done and have returned home.