Battle of the Pepper Steaks

BattleofPepper Steaks

I enjoy fast food every now and then. What I like about the Pinoy fast food scene is the focus on rice meals, which are closer to home-cooked meals that give people the feeling of satiety and satisfaction. (A lot of Filipinos don’t feel a meal is complete without rice; a burger sandwich, then, is just a “snack”.)

The latest battlefield in the Pinoy fast food wars is on the front of burger steaks. Jollibee has had Burger Steak with gravy and rice for the longest time on their menu, but McDonald’s introduced their Mushroom Pepper Steak as a competitor. I’m not sure about the timeline of things, but soon enough Jollibee had their own Pepper Steak.

One good thing that came of this is Jollibee reinstated their two-piece Burger Steak menu item. Prior to facing competition they had phased out the two-piece item, forcing hungry people to order two one-piece Burger Steaks instead.

It was time to put the two pepper steaks to a taste test. While I definitely have the appetite to eat both kinds in one sitting, my waist line won’t allow for further expansion. So, I ate them one week apart, both after arduous gym sessions that left me ravenous. They do say hunger makes meals taste better, so…

Battle of the Burger SteaksBattle of the Burger Steaks

Patty

I loved how thick yet soft the McDonald’s patty was. In contrast, Jollibee’s was thinner and the edges overdone. Some people note that McDonald’s used the same patty here as in their Burger McDo, so it’s not 100% real beef unlike Jollibee’s.

Sauce

Jollibee’s tasted more of pepper, but McDonald’s sauce was so flavorful I spread some of it over the rice, and attempted to scrape up every last bit as I finished my meal.

Topping

I like mushrooms and corn equally but the mushrooms melded into the flavor of the sauce better. The corn on the Jollibee steak reminded me too much of KFC’s Chicken a la King sauce, and I prefer that sauce vastly over the Jollibee pepper sauce.

VERDICT

Unlike most people I know, I prefer the McDonald’s dish! Maybe I just like gravy that tastes more like cream of mushroom.

I seem to be in the minority, according to this informal Twitter poll I took.

A little disclosure: I also prefer McDonald’s hamburgers to Jollibee’s Yum burgers, and would buy McDonald’s french fries over Jollibee Crispy fries. But you will only be able to pry Jollibee’s Chickenjoy from my cold, dead hands.

The Aging Millennial Goes to a Rally

I have gone to protest rallies only twice in my life.

The first time was in 2001. I was 17 years old, in my third year at the University of the Philippines. I had not had the opportunity to vote in the recent election, having been too young. Yet President Joseph “Erap” Estrada in his two years had attempted to bury the disgraced deceased dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, then committed flagrant corruption. At that point, he was in the midst of impeachment hearings, but with senators voting not to open a second envelope of evidence against him it looked like he was about to get away with impunity.

We weren’t about to let that happen. And so I trooped with my batchmates and other fellow students from Diliman on foot to the EDSA Shrine to join what would be dubbed as People Power 2 or EDSA Dos. That evening, my parents, sister, and I rejoined the rally. The next day, Erap resigned and his vice-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in to replace him.

This rally was an object lesson to me about the power of peaceful uprisings, a gift that the Filipino people had shown the world was possible during the first EDSA People Power.

(Of course, several years hence we see that Arroyo was in her own way corrupt. Politics is dirty business, after all.)

The second time I joined a protest rally was last Wednesday, fittingly on Bonifacio Day commemorating the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, a national hero who led the revolution against Spanish oppression. I am now 33 years old, university a distant memory. I’ve had opportunity to vote in three presidential elections. The last one was the most contentious and most toxic one, given the extremist rhetoric of the man who was eventually elected president, Rodrigo Duterte. I have since distanced myself from friends who supported him, given his favoring of summary executions and his unholy alliance with Ferdinang “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who lost the vice-presidential election to Leni Robredo.

November 30

“Andres would have been here.”

This rally was not a call to oust Duterte; rather, it protested his collusion with attempts to rehabilitate the Marcos name and image, revise history, and depict the Marcos dictatorship as the golden years of this country. The end result the Marcoses seek is their return to the highest seat of power in the land so they can rule with impunity once more.

November 30

Millennials taking up the cudgels

November 30

“Temperamental brats”

November 30

Lighters now replaced with smartphone lights

Truth be told, I found it bittersweet that those who had once been student activists back in the 70’s to 80’s were now saying they were passing the torch of resistance on to the millennials. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” it is said — and apparently we have not been vigilant enough with the Marcoses once again knocking on the doors of Malacanang.

The first rally I went to, I was the age of those who now populated the second rally. I’m still what they call a “millennial” albeit one of the older ones. (Market segmentation would call me an “aging millennial”.) Still young enough to rock a funny sign that formed part of news coverage montages about youth involvement in the rallies, but old enough to remember the decades of recovery and unrest that followed after toppling Martial Law.

I grew up enjoying the human freedoms and rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, which was crafted as a safeguard against dictatorship. Yet now we’re on the precipice of losing those once again because the propaganda goes, “EDSA wasn’t effective in changing Philippine society so maybe we should just go back to the Marcoses.”

I attended the rally because I still believe in the legitimacy of People Power in deposing a dictator. Whatever happened in the years after, the freedoms and rights that People Power returned to us must be defended. Oppression must be resisted.

I just can’t believe we’re still rallying against this shit.

Don’t Panic: My Quest for Coldplay Tickets

I don’t normally write about music because I am not as much of an aficionado as music bloggers out there. I also don’t really have a diverse range of artists I listen to. But when I do listen to an artist, you can bet I have listened to most of their back catalogue of songs and would love to see them perform live.

Coldplay is one of those bands I’ve listened to over the years. While I can’t say I’ve grown up with their music (I was already in my late teens when they broke out with their album “Parachutes”), their songs were the soundtrack to much of my adult life. So when they finally announced dates for the Asian leg of their “A Head Full of Dreams” tour, I knew I had to get on the ticket train.

coldplay-ahfod

In the same vein that I listen just to music, I don’t follow music industry news nor gossip columns — which is why I failed to pick up on the fact that “A Head Full of Dreams” is said to be Coldplay’s last album and this could be the last time the band goes on tour. This, aside from the Coldplay drought in the region for so many years, has driven demand for tickets sky-high.  Read more

How to Waste 9 Hours at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

By a sheer stroke of (bad) luck, my flight to Germany a few weeks ago was booked via China Southern Airlines and had THE WORST layover times: 9 hours in Guangzhou, and 9 hours in Paris Charles de Gaulle. This turned what could normally be a 21-hour trip into a 36-hour nightmare that seemed never-ending.

Paris Charles de Gaulle

Hello, Paris Airport.

I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad to be stuck at CdG had I not had to go through the 9-hour layover in Guangzhou before boarding a 12-hour flight to Paris. Free wifi at the airport but stuck behind the Great Firewall meant it was a huge ordeal trying to browse the internet or even blog, which was what I had planned to do. No Google, no Facebook, no Flickr… I ended up subscribing to a VPN service just to Facetime my family back home in Manila.

China Southern to Paris

so much legroom!

cloudy landing in Paris

cloudy landing in Paris

Paris Charles de Gaulle

Air France planes at Paris Charles de Gaulle

The flight to Paris was uneventful: I was knocked out even before take-off in a great window seat that had tons of leg room. We landed around 7am Paris time and my onward flight to Munich was scheduled for around 4pm.

While you might think that’s a decent amount of time to get to the city center and maybe see the Eiffel Tower or the Arc du Triomphe, I had these things to consider…  Read more

Noelle in Bavaria: Munich

Because I took so long to write this next post in the series, I ended up going on a second trip to Germany this year! Let’s see if I can keep things straight while trying to write about the previous visit to Munich, though.

I arrived on a train from Regensburg into Munich Main Station (Hauptbahnhof). It is a MASSIVE rail transportation hub with trains coming and going not just from Bavaria, but all over Germany and even to other cities in Europe via international high-speed trains. The main platforms contain the regional and international trains, while another subterranean area contains the S-Bahn city trains. A few steps outside the door and you’ll find the U-Bahn (tram) and bus lines.

A Pedestrienne in Bavaria

a panoramic view of the main platform

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Noelle in Bavaria: Regensburg

Regensburg is just a train ride away from Nuremberg, so the day after the Roth festivities I boarded the S2 from Roth to head back to Nuremberg Main Station, where I would change to get on a regional express. I had already pre-booked my Bayern ticket, so all I needed to do was show my printout and the credit card I’d used to book it to the ticket inspector.

(While there are no turnstiles at the train stations, it’s really not advisable to travel on the German trains without a ticket — the fines are punitive!)

It took about an hour to get to Regensberg, which was earlier than the estimated time shown on my DB Navigator app. Apparently, I had boarded a different regional express that had less stops. Happy accidents 🙂

My lodging in Regensburg was a bed-and-breakfast called the Castle Hotel. No it wasn’t a castle, but it was located right next to the Palace St. Emmeran house of Thurn und Taxis. It was less than a kilometer’s walk from the train station, although dragging my luggage on the cobblestone streets the last few hundred meters was a bone-jarring experience.

The reason I chose the Castle Hotel is that it was right on the edge of Regensburg’s Old Town, the reason Regensburg was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Culture Town. The Castle Hotel is a refurbished old house, and as such it had no elevator and very steep stairs. But the good thing is my room had an en suite bathroom instead of a shared bathroom you might see in other European hotels. The bed was comfy, the pillows soft, and the air through my shuttered windows cool, so after walking about my area of Old Town to familiarize myself with it and find dinner, I crashed and slept well.

The next morning I woke up to a great breakfast spread. I had my choice of eggs, yogurt, cold cuts, and breads prepared by Castle Hotel’s proprietor.

Regensburg

I was relieved to bite into a soft croissant — most breads in Germany are a bit harder. (Notice the Bavarian emblem on the decorative bowl.)

Regensburg

An omelette is a great way to start the day and stay full until lunchtime.

I had mistakenly brought along the keys from my homestay in Roth, so I needed to find a Deutsche Post office to mail it back to them. (Lucky I discovered my mistake while I was still in Germany instead of halfway home to Manila!) I used the Castle Hotel’s fast WiFi to do my research on DP branches and found that it was right across the Regensburg Cathedral (or Dom St. Peter). So off I went on two feet to explore.

Regensburg

notice the Red and White shutters — Franconia!

Regensburg

dirndles and lederhosen

Regensburg

the Dom St. Peter Regensburg

Regensburg

Gothic architecture

Regensburg

The post office is inside this orange building.

The post office staff were very helpful even if they said they spoke “only a little English.” They helped me choose which kind of box to package the keys in and gave me a small envelope as an extra layer of protection for the keys. So into the mailbox that went, and I headed out to explore the rest of Old Town.

The thing with coming from the Philippines is, most of our “old” structures are only a few centuries old. Regensburg has been around since the time of the Romans, and even has a stone bridge from the 12th century. The Steinern Brücke and the Dom St. Peter are the two iconic sights Regensburg is famous for; unfortunately when I visited it was during what they consider the off-season for tourists. The bridge was under repair, and half-covered by scaffolding.

Regensburg

the view from the bridge

Regensburg

Some of the repair work needed to keep this bridge useable!

A Pedestrienne in Bavaria

The Stone Bridge fords the Danube River, but there’s a little islet in the middle that houses a hotel and a park.

A Pedestrienne in Bavaria

an artist painting and onlookers watching

 

Regensburg

the street on the opposite bank of the Danube from Regensburg Old Town

Regensburg

cobblestone

I headed back into the center of Old Town for a little more sightseeing. I was fascinated by all the narrow streets with the old buildings hunched up against each other. Most of them are now shophouses and hotels thriving on the tourists Regensburg draws in.

Regensburg

obviously this was a one-way street

Regensburg

Some roads were closed to cars and only allowed scooters.

Regensburg

an old-fashioned mural of David and Goliath atop a modern eyewear store

Regensburg

the building next to this houses a parking garage

Regensburg began as a Roman fortification on the Danube, and ruins are all over the city integrated into more modern buildings.

Regensburg

a marker pointing the way to the remnants of a Roman wall

A Pedestrienne in Bavaria

the wall is showcased and preserved within a more modern building

 

Regensburg

prenup photo shoot, anyone?

Because of the mild climate, food doesn’t spoil as easily; it’s kind of like being in a giant crisper. Fruit was sold in open-air markets like this one.

Regensburg

Just don’t mentally convert from Euro to PHP. You’ll end up starving 🙂

Oskar Schindler once lived here. I nearly missed the marker of the house and only caught it when I stopped to take photos of some bicycles parked in front of it.

A Pedestrienne in Bavaria

Bicycles are ubiquitous.

Regensburg

“Oskar Schindler [saved over 1,200 Jews from the Nazis]. From November 1945 to May 1950 he lived in Regensburg in this house…”

Walking through Regensburg was like walking through history that I had only previously read about in books and online. I ended up walking 11 kilometers on my one full day there just looking at everything. I lamented what the Philippines had lost in cultural heritage when Intramuros was bombed, and what we continue to lose every day with the razing of old buildings to make way for new developments. Preservation of heritage houses and architecture, and simply placing plaques where historical figures resided and events transpired goes a long way toward preventing national amnesia. The Germans seem determined not to forget both the good and the bad, as I would see in my next stop: Munich.

Noelle in Bavaria: Nuremberg and Roth

From Munich I took a train to Nuremberg Main Station, where I would then switch to a smaller train line heading to the town of Roth, my first actual stop on this trip. The total land travel time was around 3 1/2 hours, but at 23 Euro I can’t really complain (versus 100+ Euro to fly from Munich to Nuremberg).

Return to Roth

the town of Roth

I wrote in length about my Roth stay and Challenge Roth spectating on my running blog. Continue to read here if you want more travel-related insights instead of triathlon 🙂 Read more

Noelle in Bavaria: Getting There

In 2014, I flew to Germany to compete in Challenge Roth, and that’s pretty much all I did there. Arrive to acclimatize a few days before the ironman race, do the race, recover for a day, and then get outta there. Last year I had the opportunity to fly there again to observe the race. Since I wasn’t going to be exerting myself much I decided to go see places afterwards.

Challenge Roth is held in the region known as Bavaria which itself has a long and storied history as an independent kingdom as well as part of the country of Germany. I decided to focus my touristy attentions within the region, traveling between Munich (my point of entry into Europe) and Nuremberg (the major city near the town of Roth). I would also make a stop at the UNESCO World Heritage City of Regensburg, then take a day tour into Salzburg, Austria.

Getting to Germany from the Philippines was an easy affair once my visa had been processed. I booked via Etihad, which was the best bang-for-buck. While Manila-Munich vv is priced at over $1000 USD, you can get a much cheaper fare by going to Kayak and booking a multi-city flight. I booked Singapore-Munich-Manila which came out to a little more than $730 USD. For Manila-Singapore I booked a cheap one-way flight via Jetstar that cost me $90 USD (including baggage allowance and meal). So have a play around with the booking engines and try to find the best price. As an added plus, I was never on a plane longer than 8 hours. (My previous flight to Germany with KLM killed me with a 14-hour nonstop flight from Taiwan to Amsterdam!)

Flying with Etihad to Munich

flying to Abu Dhabi for the connecting flight to Munich

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Phang Nga Bay Tour from Phuket

Phang Nga Bay

When in Phuket there’s so much to do on the water as well as at the beaches. While there are many islands less traveled you may visit, as a solo traveler I decided to put my fate in trusted hands and signed up for a tour to Phang Nga Bay by Two Sea Tour, the #1 Phuket boat and watersports tour according to TripAdvisor. I had heard rave reviews from a fellow hotel guest staying in Thanyapura, so I went for it without hesitation. Read more