Monthly Archives: November 2013

Yolanda Aftermath: Where to Go from Here?

When September 26, 2009 happened in my life, I really thought that my world was crushed big time. Residents of Metro Manila and the nearby provinces will never forget that day because that is the day when the typhoon, Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) submerged parts of the Luzon island in the Philippines.

Our house never experienced flood prior to Ondoy. However, that typhoon brought so many rains that it made La Mesa Dam overflow. It overflowed so much that it sank our two-storey house up to my neck in our second floor. It forced my mom, my brother and our house helper to climb the roof of our house. For seven hours they stayed there helplessly. We only rescued them that night. The next day, when we returned to our house, we cannot enter it. Debris of everything, mostly the ruins of the informal settlers, was somehow gathered in front of our house. With the help of our neighbors, we were able to make a tiny passage to our house and when we got in, everything was a mess covered with gunk. The stench was deadly. Almost everything is wet. In fact, it took me a week to wear clothes of my own. For days all I’m wearing was clothes coming from relatives and friends. Everything was ruined and the big questions then were “Can we ever go back to normalcy?” and “Where will we start?

And now, flash forward to November 2013, I really felt guilty that I even questioned God why that Ondoy tragedy happened to us. Yes, a lot of our things were ruined but our house was intact. We also never went hungry. Our money could still buy goods and services of people who helped restoring our house. Electricity was restored in three days. We have relatives nearby who has a house big enough to provide us shelter at night. Some of our electronic gadgets were restored after just cleaning and drying it. In five weeks, our lives somehow returned to normal as we returned living in it. The best part is none of my family members or neighbors were seriously injured or worst, dead.

Thus, even if I am a typhoon victim too, there is just no way to tell those typhoon victims that I know what they are going through and they could make it like we did four years ago. Despite that very misfortunate day, I just fully understood recently how blessed we were then. People in Visayas region who were victimized by the wrath and power by the Super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) truly need our help now. Almost a week has passed but there are hardly any help or relief being given to them. People, especially the Waray-Warays, have lost everything. Some houses were completely swept away. Even sturdy houses and buildings made of concrete were also severely ruined by the typhoon. In footages by the local and international media, I hardly saw a house or a building with roof still in place. All the shops were looted so money at hand is basically worthless. Communication is hardly restored and realistically speaking, I don’t think that electricity would be restored in Tacloban and the rest of Leyte before Christmas. Everyone is just walking like zombies, mindlessly walking around with no destination in mind. Everyone is grieving for a family member or for a friend but they have no energy to put them aside properly. Bodies were left in the streets. Everyone wants to survive and leave their homeland as soon as possible. Basic necessity of shelter, food and water is a luxury in there. It’s almost as if they live in anarchy with hardly having a government to take care of them. That is why how can you tell a typhoon survivor that, “At least you survive” casually knowing that they lost everything they have?

Erased. Practically
Erased. Practically, Yolanda/Haiyan erased big parts of the Visayan region because of its wrath. But we are stronger than any typhoon. We could recover from this.

Meanwhile, here in Metro Manila, where we are barely touched by the clout of Yolanda, we are also not in peace. For instance, in our home ever since that typhoon hit the country, we have no choice but to be glued on our TV and computers for updates. My dad have cousins in Leyte and Ormoc and our house helper hails from Palo, Leyte. While we are sure now that our relatives in Ormoc are safe, we are still not sure with our relatives in Leyte. We heard some news that they somehow survived the typhoon. However, there is absolutely no news yet on what happened with our house help’s family. Two days ago, her brother and niece came to our house to ask for money so that they could travel to Palo and check on what happened in their family there. There is still no news about them as I write this down. People here are still so agitated and cannot concentrate on our daily lives having no news yet on the state of our loved ones.

Wiped Out. This is Tacloban
Wiped Out. This is Tacloban City, the Regional Center for Region VIII or the Eastern Visayas and is considered a highly-urbanized city. Or at least that is what it was a week ago.

Please do help them. In the first place, life is hard in the Visayas region, most especially Leyte, even in ‘normal’ days. My house helper told me that there are days where they only eat rice with rock salt when they do not have money to buy food. Region VIII, where Leyte is included, is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. That is why most of the families in Leyte have relatives working in capital cities in the Philippines or abroad to make their ends meet. And while people there are used with storms or with hunger, nobody can withstand almost a week without food, water and shelter.

I really don’t know where to begin in their restoration. I cannot even hypothesize on when will they return to their work and the children are attending school again. But we could at least reestablish communication to them and provide them with food, water and proper shelter and also security. We must let them know that reliefs are coming and rehabilitation is on its way. Let us help restore integrity and hope in their selves for them to start again. And please, let us focus on helping them and do not dwell on issues on what Anderson Cooper and Korina Sanchez had said or by adhering too much with I-told-you-so statements from some people or by spreading unconfirmed reports or rumors that would just worsen our situation now.

I know that our Visayan brothers and sisters could rise up again from this catastrophe like what they did twenty-two years ago when they were also stricken by tropical storm, Uring (international name: Thelma) and flashfloods killed thousands of people especially in Ormoc. For now, let us do our part. Our brothers and sisters in Visayas need us more than we know.

help
Help NOW. This is some ways in which you could help the typhoon victims. Please, give as much as you can. (from my favorite on-line news source, Rappler.Com)

(The two images above is taken from Twitter. I was retweeted so numerous time. So if you own the image and you want me to remove the image or give you credit, kindly comment down below. Thank you.)

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Worth the Hype?: Unlocking the Mystery of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter

Happy Halloween or Blessed All Saints’ Day, wherever in the globe you are. Anyway, I decided to make a review on the sweet yet ever so mysterious Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter and its variant, Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl for this Trick-or-Treat season.

SPECU—WHAAAT?!

First, what on earth is Speculoos? According to the almighty Wikipedia, is a type of spiced shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas’ feast in the Netherlands (December 5), Belgium (December 6), and Northern France and around Christmas in Germany. In recent decades it has become available all year round. Speculoos are thin, very crunchy, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking; the back is flat.

So it’s basically some sort of holiday cookie. It’s also called as Belgian Spice Cookies or Dutch Windmill cookies or more importantly, Biscoff cookies. So yeah, I assume that the taste of Lotus Biscoff Spread which is sold in some stores in Metro Manila could be similar to Trader Joe’s products. I can’t really compare the taste of the two because I never tasted Biscoff.

THE HYPE IN THE PHILIPPINES

I did notice early this year that some of my friends in Instagram are uploading pictures of what look like ordinary jars of bread spread or palaman in Filipino. People who upload it seemed to do so to make their other friends envious through tagging them of their bread spread picture. I really did not get it. I’m in love with Lady’s Choice Creamy Peanut Butter but you would not spot it any time in Instagram.

Anyway, when we returned from the United States, a friend said, “I thought you were still in the US. I was supposed to contact you to buy Speculoos Cookie Butter for me there!”

“What is that?”

“It’s a type of bread spread. It is very yummy but it’s very expensive and hard to purchase here in the Philippines.”

“Oh.”

I initially thought that it was a cookie dough flavored type of spread. Sayang, I thought. My siblings and I loved cookie dough ice cream in the US but sadly, there is no similar ice cream flavor in the country. I thought that it would probably be great having a spread that kind of taste like cookie dough. But no. It was really, really different. Then again, am I the only person who has thought about that? Anyone else? No? Awww…okay.

As the months passed by, there are more and more pictures of Trader Joe’s and Biscoff Cookie Butter pictures were seen in my timeline. The ever so raved spread Nutella was no longer the thing talked about on-line. Wow. Why is everyone going crazy over some bread spread?

TASTING THE MYSTERIOUS COOKIE BUTTER

It turns out that there is no local distributor of Trader Joe’s. People who get the hand of it usually get it on-line or are given to them by their returning Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) relatives. I think there is one store somewhere in Makati that actually sells it but it’s always out of stock. Also the price of one Cookie Butter jar ranges from P450-P700 plus shipping fee! No, I am not that desperate to shell off that much money just to understand the hype is about but apparently, some people are. And because it is mysterious and hard to find, it probably adds flavor to its taste. Do you get what I mean?

Anyway, the first time I had the taste of it was when Mochiko made a variant of their product made out of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. By the way, Mochiko offers a type of dessert that consists of Japanese mochi outside and ice cream in the inside. I did not think it was great mainly because I had greater expectations with the taste of Cookie Butter and I love the other flavors Mochiko had. After that, I did not bother thinking on how I would get my hands over that freaking Cookie Butter.

By mid-October, some of my relatives from the US returned and handed me two mysterious jars wrapped in black paper.

“What is this, Tita? Oh wow…”

“I really don’t get it. The Filipinos in the US are hoarding these stuffs to bring home to their relatives. Personally, I did not think they are that great but we decided to buy these thing, too, as pasalubong.”

Yes, that golden moment. I now have two Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter in my very hands. And even though we did feasted on Filipino food in Romulo’s in Tomas Morato, the first thing I did upon returning home is open those Cookie Butters!

The Pleasant Surprise. The much awaited jars of joys were given unexpectedly by my Aunt from the States.
The Pleasant Surprise. You know the saying that you get what you want when you don’t want it that much anymore or something? That pretty much what happened with my Cookie Butter story.

THE VERDICT

The original flavor tasted like crushed cookies in a creamy, buttery texture. It is not greasy like some peanut butter. Also, that cinnamon and gingery tang eventually explodes in your mouth as soon as it melts in your mouth. It taste better and better every single bite. I really cannot think of something close to that.

The Cocoa Swirl variant is a wonderful unification of the original Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter and Nutella. Truly, a match made in heaven.

Everything it touches turned magical. Even the everyday pan de sal seemed so exquisite with ti.

Nonetheless, after five days of having it as my breakfast, it lost its touch. It still tasted good; however, it lost its magic now.

I guess it’s really worth a try but to get lost in its hype and spend hundreds or worst, thousands of pesos over and over again for some bread spread is so impractical and foolish unless you are some rich person who has no problem with money.

I’m hoping that one day, Trader Joe’s would really have a local distributor in the country so that we could buy it in our local supermarkets at hopefully, half the price on-line. Then again, I’m still sticking with my peanut butter no matter what.

Pea
The Timeless Classic. Nothing beats this little baby for me.