Episode 9: Pigging out at MAFBEX 2010!

How long has it been since I went to a food show? I only get to read about events like these in newspapers and the Internet, but all I find are reviews and photos. Most of them are already over by then, and the guests are big names from the upper crust of society, which is kinda intimidating.

So when I visited the 4th Manila Food and Beverage Exposition (MAFBEX 2010) a few days ago, I knew this would be a good chance for a simple food lover like me to visit such a major event. I mean, who’d not be delighted by the sights and scents of food and cold drinks, and desserts from all parts of the world, assembled in one event? Anyone should know a show like this is a foodie’s wonderland.

I learned about MAFBEX 2010 only from the Internet about a week earlier, and I was instantly enticed to go there. Food shows such as this are kinda rare, some of them are not really well advertised (unless you look in the right places, but I digress), but are really interesting for anyone who wants to know the good stuff they ought to have their stomachs stuffed with.

MAFBEX featured exhibitors from the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, the US, and other countries. The exhibitors had all sorts of stuff like food and drinks, household items, T-shirts, toys, cookware and kitchenware, books, even cosmetics and factory equipment.

Also as interesting are the exhibits by student chefs and HRM interns, which range from cake decorations to table setting and food preparations. Budding entrepreneurs were also welcome, as suppliers and franchise holders entertain and and entice those who’d like to take a shot at the food industry. Seminars for those who want to learn about the food industry were also available.

Just near the lobby, various caterers have set up a gallery of table arrangements at the WTC lobby. (If I ever get married, I’ll pick one of those caterers for my reception; they’re prettty good at setting the mood. But that’s another story) A few stalls nearby had liquor on exhibit, as well as what looked like a cooking show-esque stage with seats for spectators. Wok With Yan, much?

The first to greet me in the exhibit hall was a wide collection of cookware and food processing equipment. Hey, if you wanted to start a business or even has a state of the art kitchen where you can whip out your food fantasies, you might as well have good tools for them, right?

True enough, the exhibitors have some of the most delicious-looking stuff I’ve ever encountered on sale (and for show), such as the brewed coffee, milk and juices, snacks, cooking ingredients, even stuff that you won’t easy get from your regular supermarket, such as…

the Samurai Defender Mandarin Ginger Oolong Tea. I’m not kidding.

One of the stuff I came across in the food show was the Taiwanese shabu-shabu, squid balls, beef balls, and fish cake on a stick boiled and served with hot sauce. It helps that the stuff is served hot off the pot, and the scent of the boiling broth alone is appetizing enough to want the whole package.

Then there were other free samples being given away, such the mashed potato with cream of mushroom soup, noodles, and the takoyaki (classic favorite). I think I saw some roasted duck or chicken and lots of different kinds of drinks on sale in most of the booths, along with the usual franchise contract endorser hanging around them while looking for a client.

Over there, baby! Look at the spooky guy carrying a doll and a video camera! XD

Special mention goes to that stall that sold super-spicy Bicol Express and Laing. Mmmm~. If only I had rice or brought some of those home, it would be a blast.

MAFBEX mentioned something about El Buono Pizza, which allegedly serves the world’s largest pizza (36 inches to be exact) participating in the event. Their booth, however, was located far off to the side of the exhibit hall. I was not disappointed by what they had in store. Saying their pizza is large is an understatement.

To cap the visit, I ordered a slice of their El Buono Special, a heavenly pizza slice bursting with cheese, pineapples, pepperoni and ham and onions etc…. which disappeared in ten minutes or so. So much for being a large pizza.

To be fair, when El Buono called their pizza “Asia’s finest and largest,” they weren’t kidding. The dang slice is so heavy and filling, and it helps that they warm the pizza slice before serving it to you, making the resulting scent the start of a delightful experience with pizza.

In any case, the pizza was so damn good, I was shamelessly walking around the hall while eating the pizza, not minding everyone who’s OMIGOSH CESAR MONTANO IS TOURING WITH HIS FAMILY AT MAFBEX? @_@

Now what’s a food show without desserts? Heck, there were lots of dessert shops at MAFBEX, which sell cakes and pastries, ice cream and shaved ice, candies and sweets… My favorite there so far would be the pistachio gelato. Someone I know is salivating already. (snicker)

There were lots of imported and local liquor on sale too, and some of the stalls even gave away samples. Yum, yum. Most of the alcohol sold are discounted, so wine lovers would have a good time stocking up. I regret not buying a bottle of red wine; I hear drinking some of those is good for the heart.

Speaking of booze, I came across this flairtender showing off his moves (not sure if he’s from De La Salle – College of St. Benilde, since their booth was just nearby). Haven’t seen one of these guys in a while.


Of course there were other non-food stuff at MAFBEX, such as the ovens, stoves, and coffee makers. Of course their target market would be restaurants, food shops, cooking schools and bakeries who’d need highly advanced cooking equipment for their needs. No takoyaki grill?

There were a lot of things I saw around MAFBEX that I definitely could not squeeze into one post, such as the other food I discovered along the way, or the travel agencies advertising resorts and tourist destinations offering me tickets for raffles for free tours and accommodations (seriously, are they even real promos or something?), and even the occasional beauty treatment package.

There was one booth in the expo that I was not able to avoid: this booth which was offering health supplements and a free blood pressure reading featuring a digital sphygmomanometer.

“Is it all right for me to have my blood pressure read after eating?” I asked.

The nurse in the booth said yes, but the sphygmomanometer thought otherwise, because machine gave out error messages thrice as it squeezed my left arm until it numbed. Eventually, the dang thing read my blood pressure…

“170 over 140? Man, that’s high!” the nurse said.

Great, I just had to be reminded that I have a heart ailment and I can’t eat the way I do before. Jeez, thank you for validating my chance for an instant death.

Kero-chan, stop playing on that machine; I don’t want to risk you getting shipped back to Japan.



Episode 8: Fixing a Broken Heart

It all started with chest pains. Then the palpitations happened, followed by the light-headedness and drowsiness. Sometimes, my chest would pound heavily, and I would feel short of breath or have headaches. These have been happening to me for quite some time now, but I dismissed these as just stress and fatigue-related problems.

But a few weeks ago, the chest pains came back and didn’t go away. When I rushed myself to the emergency room the next morning, I realized something was really wrong.

It turns out that according to my ECG results, my heart was not beating properly. For once, I had signs of hypokalemia, or lack of potassium. Hypokalemia causes irregular heartbeats, muscle cramps, and elevated blood pressure. This may also have been causing my light-headedness and drowsiness, and partly responsible for my chest pains and other body aches.

While the lack of potassium is already something to worry about, the bigger problem was my blood pressure. I was already considered hypertensive since my blood pressure stayed most of the time at 140/90… Then there are the palpitations, which are connected with the rest of my symptoms. So if my heart’s beating irregularly and not circulating enough blood, this would be a bad sign already.

As I lay at the hospital bed that morning, I couldn’t help but think I had it coming. I inherited my mother’s cardiovascular problems, but I was too carefree to think of the implications that would bring to my health. I thought for a while that I was about to go the way of my mom.

Mom died of heart problems in June last year. Not only did she have high blood pressure (hereditary, to be exact), but her heart became overworked and had stopped pumping blood properly, which led to cardiac arrest. Ironically, Mom was health-conscious, and she exercises and watched the food she eats. She was on maintenance drugs, though, but it seemed she wasn’t taking them regularly because they were expensive.

It looked like I’m having the same symptoms as she did: chest pains, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, the works. Everyone was warning me of the possibilities.

Admittedly, my condition was the result of my previous lifestyle. Back in college, I smoked, drank heavily, and overate at every moment. It got worse when I started working, with the frequent drinking sessions and feasting. Beer and hard drinks were my staples, along with lots of meat and rice. Bad eating habits were rife as well, but that’s another story. “Unhealthy lifestyle” is an understatement.

Things didn’t change much when I returned to Manila years later. Working in front of a computer all the time paved the way to unhealthy snacking, smoking and drinking after work, and more irregular eating habits. Needless to say, not only did I grow fat, but the warning signs – palpitations and shortness of breath and such – began to show.

Eventually, my mom’s death, followed by some personal and family problems, also took its toll on my mind and body. Add to those all the stress that I’ve had, along with my lifestyle, and voila! I’m a sure candidate for death by heart attack.

Some time ago my mom warned me about this, and believe it or not, I was ready to follow her advice. I worked out at a gym, ate more nutritious food, and drank and smoked less. But my self-discipline would still slip once in a while, and I would end up eating and drinking more than what I’m supposed to. The stress I was receiving didn’t help me much.

The doctors have assuring advice, though: Since my condition is just at an early stage, it could be reversed.

I’m currently taking pain relievers for my chest pains, and thankfully I’m not supposed to take maintenance drugs. As of this writing I’ve stopped taking the pain relievers, partly to avoid dependence and possible side effects, and to see if I could pull through without the need for medicines.

I’m supposed to avoid stressful situations (as if I can) and stop smoking (this one’s unbelievable easy, though I can’t quit cold tukey). Liquor is prohibited as well, although whether I could drink “allowable doses” of them is something I never found out. Exercise is also in order.

I’m also not allowed eat pork and other red meat, have lots of rice, and engage in strenuous activity. I’m allowed to eat white meat (chicken and fish), and maybe moderate amount of seafood. Above all else, I’m supposed to go on a diet.

What does this have to do with my food adventuring? A LOT. That means my quest for the perfect meal, the tastiest dishes and the best drinks, and my eventual quest to learn how to write about them, is taking a dramatic shift. That’simply because one wrong bite and I’m kaput. How? I don’t know… Yet.

Maybe I’d be writing more about healthy eating habits. Maybe I’d start looking for food that’s good for the heart. Or I’d stay away from bars and look for alternative drinks and snacks and stuff to chow on. Most likely, the things I’ll be writing about will be low-fat, low-cholesterol stuff, with work-outs and nutritional facts on the side, or something.

Or I’d at least look back at the things I’ve eaten and the places I’ve been through, and rely on my memory to write about my past adventures. But that would be cheating. I don’t really know yet.

In any case, I can’t live the way I do before, with a broken heart that needs fixing and maintenance and all. Then again, I shouldn’t be whining about my heart. Bottled-up feelings much? Don’t worry, I promise I’d stay alive as long as I can.

Just when I wanted some of that lechon Cebu and tom yum soup, this happens. And that nefarious ice cream sandwich… Sigh.