A yummy Pinoy treat called Balikutsa

My childhood summers involved regular weekend beach trips, biking from afternoon ’til night with 10 of my cousins and friends, good food (lots of Lechon!), and chewing on balikutsa. I had totally forgotten about it, save for some cravings here and there, but truth be told I haven’t really eaten balikutsa (coconut toffee) since high school. Come to think of it, I haven’t eaten a stick in 20+ years!

What is Balikutsa?

It’s coconut toffee, basically. It’s a sweet snack/dessert that is always handmade with a recipe that is passed on from generation to generation. I first tasted this delicious snack in Cabadbaran City, my hometown in Agusan del Norte, where I used to spend my two months of summer vacation like clockwork. I understand (after doing some light research on Google) that other provinces have their own versions of this very addicting dessert.

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Here’s a quick background story: While in Cabadbaran City visiting my Dad, I woke up one day looking for Mart (Dad’s helper) and found him over the stove frantically cooking something. I was a little bit annoyed because he was ignoring me, until I went over to him and asked: “What are you doing ba?!” He said he’s cooking balikutsa for me. In true Kira fashion, I didn’t believe him (I am naturally dubious of poeple, haha) until I looked over his shoulder and saw the warm sticky toffee! He said he wanted to surprise us — and thank you, Cathy, for arranging all of this. Oh my god, I wanted to cry! Read More

My picks from Lunas by Nanny Rose

Old readers of my first blog would recall that when I started in 2008, I focused more on beauty and writing about local all-natural brands. That was the blog’s first inclination after all — to share my local beauty discoveries. Even though this new blog is geared towards more lifestyle posts, I still relish in visiting bazaars and discovering handcrafted products from indie brands.

And one brand that I’ve supported from the start was Nanny Rose who was known more for their cold wax hair removal kits exclusively available in Watsons. Now I’m featuring their new products from their sub-brand, Lunas (means solution in English).

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There is one particular product that I hoard and that is the Feel Good Cooling Cream (Php 500), I actually have 5 bottles waiting in the wing while I finish my current. It’s a body lotion made of beeswax and moisturizing shea butter plus essential oils including citrus, peppermint and menthol (of course!) which give it a fresh minty kick. Degree of mentholated-ness is decent, but the lotion is lightweight and absorbs fast. The citrus blend scent is also very comforting, I use this after every shower.

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Seriously Safe: Messy Bessy Bug Repellent Cologne

Messy Bessy is probably one of the most underrated local brands in the all-natural/organic scene. They’ve been around almost forever (do you remember Leyende back in the day? I used to support them alongside Messy Bessy), are so affordable, and are made of simple ingredients spearheaded by pure ol’ water.

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I’ve long been a supporter of Messy Bessy especially the minty Disinfectant Aroma Spray which can also be used as a deodorizer spray (for sanitizing public toilets, office tables, and other surfaces), hand sanitizer, yoga mat cleaner, and poo-fume. I just buy the 500ml spray bottle and refill my 50ml one to save big bucks and lessen plastic consumption (you can join me rid oceans of plastic, check my Eco Bricks challenge here)

A new discovery is their Bug Repellent Cologne from their baby line which I supposedly got for my nephew but ended up using while traveling. This was part of a special bundle pack released last Christmas, a pack of 3 was only Php 150.  Read More

Cusina Natural Antibacterial Dishwashing Liquids

This is such a late post but I received a package of Cusina Natural Antibacterial Dishwashing Liquid last year and have only started to use it last December. They’re my favorite dishwashing products by virtue of their delicious scents, plus the potent formula effectively dissolves oil and grime.

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While most commercial variants smell painfully artificial, Cusina uses only real fruit and plant extracts that not only leave our flatware and kitchen utensils fragrant but effectively rids bacteria while cleaning.

Created in tandem with perfumers and chemists from Spain (very highbrow, I know), these dishwashing liquids pamper the noses as well. Take your pick from Ginger Yuzu Peel, Grapefruit Lemon Zest, and Lemongrass Citrus scents that will leave your kitchen smelling fresh and clean with no nasty chemicals.

Tip: Since these are certified gentle on skin yet effectively cleans, you can use a drop or two to rinse makeup brushes and bikinis post-swim. Another bonus? Cusina Natural Antibacterial Dishwashing Liquids are a steal at only Php 85 each!

To order, visit http://www.cusinahome.com/cusina.htm

Our Medical & Dental Mission in Bgy. Cararayan, Naga City

As the propeller plane approached Naga City, I was half relieved and half disappointed: relieved to finally be landing after a tremendously bumpy ride (a storm was brewing), and disappointed because obviously it was very gloomy. So much for trying to get some sun, I thought to myself.

Still, I was thankful to be here. Naga City has been on the news as it was devastated last Christmas by tropical cyclone Nina (internationally called Nock-ten). Images of destroyed houses, trees and concrete blocks flung to the grounds, displaced locals flooded the news. When my friend, artist Pepe Gaka, said he was invited by Missionaries of the Poor for a commissioned project and a Medical and Dental mission was in the works, I said I would be more than happy to tag along. This was a good a time as any to come visit, see the damage myself, and help if needed. Given different circumstances, I would never have finally decided to visit Naga.

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The Medical and Dental Mission is a yearly event spearheaded by the Missionaries of the Poor in Bgy. Cararayan, Naga City in partnership with Maronites on Mission of Australia (MOM), a Christian voluntary organization that helps marginalized sectors of society.

This year, they have 18 volunteers from different industries and professions. They flew all the way to Naga from Australia, sourced all the medical sponsors for the event, and did all the leg work. Most arrived on January 9th to help full-time while I arrived on January 11. The mission was an 11-day event which involved numerous charity works including medical and dental support, house building, and food relief. The medical and dental mission was slated for January 14 in San Rafael, Bgy. Cararayan and was the major event I helped out in.

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My 6 Favorite Food Places in Naga City

One of the things I loved about Naga City was that it was so easy to commute to anywhere! I stayed at Naga Land Hotel which was smack in the middle of town just a couple of yards away from a popular eatery, and a 10-minute walk away from the Cathedral and local churches. There were no scooter rentals here, but it was notably so easy to travel via tricycle and jeepney — and so affordable, too!

Here are some of my favorite places that you should try when you come visit. These are all easy to locate and reach whether by foot or local transport:

1. Que Pasa  Barlin Street, Naga City, Camarines Sur

I had just finished exploring the famous Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Penafrancia when it suddenly rained and I found myself seeking shelter in a nearby barbecue joint. Intrigued with the quirky interiors, I was surprised to discover that it was actually open for lunch time. I had initially thought it was a bar!

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Que Pasa Naga is a fun resto with a very Instagrammable Spanish ambiance. They specialize in freshly grilled fare with 4 different sauces: Que Pasa sauce (reduced beer with butter and garlic), Cerveza Negra sauce (barbecue sauce), Chili Xocolate (spicy and sweet), Bicol sauce (spicy). Guys, try all the sauces if you can! They add all the character and flavor to the dish — nasa sauce ang sikreto!

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