Episode 87: Christianity and Food

Food is an integral part of our culture, as defined by the ingredients, cooking methods, and the resulting dishes that each country or ethnic group uses and enjoys. The same could be said of religion, which incidentally sets standards in what believers are expected to eat and drink.

Symbolic foods are rife in Christian tradition. For starters, there’s the sacramental bread or “host”, a thin, round unleavened wafer served along with a goblet of grape wine in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. These symbolize the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, of which people are invited to partake of (sometimes, minus the wine) as a way of professing their faith.

Milk and honey are usually mentioned in the Bible. Milk is thought to provide spiritual wisdom and perfection, while honey is a reward for appreciating truth and goodness. Old scriptures also use these as a symbolism for fertile land, particularly the one promised to the Israelites. Olive oil, on the other hand, was used to anoint God’s appointed kings.
And then there’s fish. Fish is traditional fare for the first Christians, who live on fishing for their livelihood. Christians who abstain from meat eat fish instead. The Bible also contains references to fish, the most popular of which is Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. And then after his resurrection, Jesus was offered grilled fish and honeycomb.
The fish itself is a symbol of Christianity. Jesus Christ teaches Christians to be “fishers of men”. There’s also “ichthys”, the Greek word for “fish”, which is used as an acrostic for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”.
Some countries have types of food that hold Christian symbolism. The Greek pastry baklava, for instance, is supposedly made of 33 layers, each symbolizing a year in the life of Jesus Christ. There’s the hot cross bun, eaten on Good Friday to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ. The pretzel, popularly eaten during Lent, is supposedly a symbol of a child’s arms folded in prayer. There’s also the Easter egg, decorated eggs that symbolize new life.   
Even we Filipinos have the Panecillos de San Nicolas (a Kapampangan treat incidentally sold at Razon’s of Guagua), biscuits bearing the image of San Nicolas de Tolentino that are used as lucky charms. By the way, Christian tradition says pancakes are supposedly eaten on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, to symbolically end rich, luxurious eating in preparation for Lent.  
Despite the abundance of symbolic culinary treats, Christians do follow certain dietary rules.
The general rule is that fasting and abstinence is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, unless you’re from Bantayan Island in Cebu, where eating meat during Holy Week is allowed. Also, on all Fridays of the year, Filipino Christians may either abstain from meat, or do an exercise of piety or charity. In most cases, abstaining from meat or any other food for that matter is voluntary.
What’s remarkable about Christianity is its respect for food in general. Christians generally have no restrictions on the type of animals that may be eaten. This stems from the story of Saint Peter’s vision of a sheet with animals. In the vision, Peter is ordered to eat the animals, which were deemed unclean by religious laws of his time. Peter refused, to which he is told, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Scholars interpret this as God’s symbolic order to stop discriminating against people from other religions or races. In a slightly literal context, Christians are allowed to eat any type of food with no guilt feelings associated with violating religion.
As we continue our commemoration of the Lenten Season, let us set aside some time to thank the Lord, the animals and plants, the chefs, farmers, fishermen, and everyone else involved in the food-making process. It is through God’s grace, and the sacrifice and effort of others that we are able to have something to eat and drink every day.

Aikyatchi: Gustos Night Market at Forum Robinsons

If you’re looking for a new place to hang out tonight and you happen to be around the Boni Avenue area in Mandaluyong, you may want to take the time to drop by the Gustos Night Market at Forum Robinsons.

If you’re familiar with the Gustos Food Market along San Miguel Avenue in Ortigas Centre, surely you’ll find the same good food and company when you venture to Forum Robinsons.

Over one hundred food choices and drinks for all belly sizes and wallets await foodies looking for a quick meal this side of Mandaluyong. Diners can also unwind for the coming weekend to great music and live entertainment.

The Gustos Night Market is located at the Forum Robinsons Open Parking Area, Robinsons Road.

The market is opening starting today, January 18, and every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afterwards, at 8:30pm.

Unlimited Grub Grabs, now on its fifth year!

I am the soul of the gourmand.
Good food fuels my body, and good wine burns my blood.
I have tasted hundreds of dishes
Regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price.
I seek great-tasting food and drinks.
My heart will only be satisfied by the best.
And so I invite you to my UNLIMITED GRUB GRABS.

Five quiet years have passed since I started my food blog. I won’t say this has been an eventful year for me, since I’ve been posting less about where I eat out and explore. It’s not because I’m slowing down on my blogging activities; rather, I found more things to do with my writing.

Recently, I started writing a novel – four, to be exact. They’re not like the love stories you read online, or so I hope. It’s a new playing field I want to explore and be good at. I already finished one titled The Feast of the North Star, which is based on an old, undated poem I wrote in college (not Hokuto no Ken, as the title states). I’m in the middle of writing a second one, and there are two more lined up, which I hope to finish by August next year.

(I might as well mention that I’m using pictures of anime characters and such as templates for my characters and book covers since I don’t know how to draw or do digital art.)

Then there’s “Foods Tayo,” our food segment at TV5’s Aksyon sa Tanghali, where I play the role of the anchor’s boyfriend and love interest (long story). I take every opportunity I can during our shootings to study food critiquing, broadcast-style of course, and explore good places to dine around Metro Manila.

Which leads to the main highlight of my year: my now-active Instagram account, where I post pictures of the food establishments and dishes I encounter. All you need to do is search on Instagram for the hashtag #onthenextunlimitedgrubgrabs and you can get a sneak peek of my solo raids and activities with the TV5 crew.

As always, I operate within my own budget, with no sponsors, invitations to events, or back-up (apart from TV5), but that doesn’t mean my resolve to write about food will waver at all. I still aspire to reach an Anthony Bourdain-level of food expertise, you know.

Without further ado, here’s to another year.

To have a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re up to (and for some hardcore food porn), visit:
My Instagram account @unlimitedgrubgrabs
My Facebook page: https://Unlimited Grub Grabs

Aikyatchi: Help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan! Dine for a good cause!

If you guys have nothing to do this weekend other than eat out, I’d like you to do your share in sending aid to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan (Super Typhoon Yolanda). You can either donate clothes, food, hygiene packs, or money. Or you can be a volunteer for relief organizations such as the Red Cross, Alagang Kapatid Foundation, GMA Kapuso Foundation, or Sagip Kapamilya.

But if you don’t have the time to do that, there’s another way to help our brethren: by eating out.

Chef and food blogger Jeremy Slagle of MrDelicious.PH organized a movement on social media called the #YolandaActionWeekend. This weekend, restaurants and food businesses are urged to donate a portion of their earnings to the relief efforts in hard-hit areas like Leyte, Samar, Cebu, and Coron in Palawan. Over 100 restaurants have joined this movement.

I browsed through Kristn and Philippine Tatler and found this list of food establishments that are participating in this endeavor. I will leave it to you to look for these places.

Once you’ve dined in any of these establishments, post a status and/or picture and use the hash tags #ReliefPH #YolandaActionWeekend to participate and support the cause.

I know that showing food pictures and selfies on social media at a time like this is taboo. Normally, I’d discourage such acts. I’m even tempted to post “Meanwhile, in Tacloban…” as a comment on any food post. This is a different matter, though. Eating in places that support relief efforts, and donate their proceeds to those who need aid, is a simple way to reach out to our needy countrymen.

I hope these participating restaurants succeed in helping the victims of Haiyan. I’ll pray for your endeavors.

Four Years of Unlimited Grub Grabs, and counting

I am the soul of the gourmand.
Good food fuels my body, and good wine burns my blood.
I have tasted hundreds of dishes
Regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price.
I seek great-tasting food and drinks.
My heart will only be satisfied by the best.
And so I invite you to my UNLIMITED GRUB GRABS.

I’m celebrating my fourth year as a food blogger very quietly. No food raids, no promos, no special events or contests… nothing. I just got off work, and didn’t feel any urge to eat out.

People ask me if I ever go to food events, store openings, tours, and other foodie-related activities. Nowadays, the answer is “no.” My job no longer allows that luxury. If I am going to a food event, I’d prefer those held at weekend afternoons, which is my only free time. Invite me anytime else and I’ll decline, eve if I wanted to come.

Some also ask me if I earn off my blog. My answer is “no.” Or to be blunt, I’ve never figured out how. Sure, I have Google Adsense in my Blogger account, but I never figured out how to maximize its use. That, or maybe I couldn’t find the time to study it. For some time I hoped I could ask someone to manage the business aspect of my blog, but I never got around it.

Call me lazy, because partly I am. But my circumstances don’t allow me to spend so much time on blogging.

I am still watching my health, despite all of the stuff I’ve feasted on this past year. I have a bigger reason to do so now. But that doesn’t stop me from eating out and writing about it.

If there’s one thing I figured out this past year, it’s working on my content. I’ve always had a high regard for the type of stories I want to make. You see, food blogging is basically “I ate (name of dish) at (name of restaurant). I was with (name/s of companions). We (name of personal event). The food was good. I’ll come back and dine again.” But that’s not how I wanted my stories to roll.

I remember saying that food always has a deeper meaning. Food is rooted to culture, society, insight, and other aspects of worldly (or in the case of my Lenten posts, otherworldly) wisdom. A story that answers such questions is what I want to write. Also, I want to emulate Anthony Bourdain’s storytelling style. I’m still working hard to achieve that.

I still don’t have a lot of readers, but I don’t mind. I continue writing what I can write about, and that’s enough for me. Those who need my stories will find them, and knowing that they do satisfies me. As for monetizing the blog, I’ll need a lot of help.

In the meantime, I’m hoping for more experiences, more food to eat, more places to see, and more stuff to do to perfect my food blogging skills. I hope you continue to join me in my upcoming adventures.

Until then.

Episode 33: Starting the year right at Casa Vallejo Hill Station!

I’m starting the year right with a quick dinner with my brother MC at Hill Station, the restaurant of Casa Vallejo in Baguio City. After spending the holidays with my family in the highlands, I figured it would be nice to check out at some place we haven’t been in the city. This place felt just the right spot.

Casa Vallejo was a wooden inn opened in 1909, while Baguio is being established as a hill station for the Americans. The place was used as a detention center and refugee camp. It withstood the Americans’ carpet bombing of the city at the end of World War II. In 1945, it functioned as an annex of the Baguio City High School, and once again as an inn and convention hall.

Casa Vallejo closed down in 1999. After several years of subsequent restoration, it was brought back to life; and now Casa Vallejo is recognized as one of the ten oldest institutions in Baguio. One of the results of the restoration of Casa Vallejo is Hill Station, the restaurant owned by restaurateur Mitos Benitez–Yniguez.

Hill Station is Casa Vallejo’s old ballroom/meeting area, now decorated with elegant and nostalgia-evoking designs. The restaurant is connected by two staircases to the inn’s lobby above, and also leads to the café bar below. The open space is surrounded by French windows and the wooden beams and floors, remnants of Casa Vallejo’s antique structure. Old photographs also adorn the walls. One can enjoy the view of the trees and the city lights at night. The ambiance is totally Baguio.

Hill Station was voted as one of Asia’s finest restaurants, and is included in the Miele Guide 2011/2012 Edition. The menu is a mix of Asian, American, and European dishes, mostly slow food, stews, steaks, pastas, and other home-cooked specialties. Hill Station’s website describes its cuisine thus:


“Mitos offers you robust dishes that blend the flavors of Asia’s hill stations with the tastes of Old World Europe and New World America. Here in her creations, these three worlds fuse harmoniously as never before, and a spoonful of history was never as good!”

Our dinner started with some mushroom soup, just enough to warm the first night of the year.

We then had Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes and Pecorino, a sweet-sour, rich mix of Roma tomatoes, white wine, and artisanal hard goat cheese.

MC ordered Shepherd’s Pie, a bowl of sliced lamb and beef baked with mushrooms, gravy, mashed potatoes and cheese. The bowl looked small but every spoonful of it was very flavorful.


My dinner was Ribeye Picado, beef ribeye cubes cooked medium well, and served with vegetables and mashed potatoes. The beef was soft and succulent, and the vegetables were cooked just right. The whole dish was filling, to say the least.


For dessert we were supposed to have a Death By Chocolate Cake, which was one of their best-sellers, but since the bar ran out of the stuff, we ended up with a sweet, creamy cup of their crème brulee.


The whole meal was quite expensive, which is not surprising given the setting and cuisine served here. The service was quite fast, and the staff was very accommodating. In any case, our stay at Hill Station was quick, but all in all we enjoyed a really sumptuous dinner.

Hill Station serves Filipino and American breakfast meals from 7:00 – 10:30am. Desserts are always freshly made but subject to availability. Cocktail drinks and other liquor are also available to cap your lunch or dinner, preferably enjoyed at the adjacent bar.

Guests can buy Hill Station’s red and white wines, homemade sauces and condiments that they can buy for their homes.Various handicrafts are also available.

Back in college I remember walking past Casa Vallejo, right when it was in a state of disrepair. How would I have known that this old, neglected building would hold such a rich history. Its nice to see how Casa Vallejo was revived. This is one place in Baguio where you can enjoy a warm meal, a nice view, and a relaxing ambiance that can engulf you in a wave of nostalgia.


Hill Station
Casa Vallejo
Upper Session Road,  Baguio City 

Tel. No. 424-2734

Random thoughts on Christmas and New Year

Happy new year!

Here I am in my room in Baguio with my first post of the year. As always, I spent my Christmas and New Year’s Eve here with my family. We didn’t do anything fancy, we just went to church and had a full feast. That’s how we’ve spent our holidays these past few years, and it’s fun.

This year’s Christmas and New Year feel different. As the priest said at Mass las night, we ought to think of the people who will welcome the new year in more dire circumstances.

First, we have our brothers and sisters in Cagayan De Oro, Iligan, and all the other provinces devastated by typhoon Sendong. Instead of thinking of the holidays, they’re more worried about their survival.

We also ought to remember the families who suffered fires and lost their homes and loved ones these past few days. Perhaps the same could be said of those who lost those dear to them.The same goes to the poor, the homeless and bedridden, and those who had to spend the holidays alone and away from their families and loved ones.

Christmas (and by extension, New Year) not only celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, but also symbolizes the world’s hopes for love, peace, and a prosperous year ahead. This holiday season is also a time of giving and sharing, caring for others. That’s why we go to Christmas Masses together with our families, share Noche Buena and Media Noche meals, spend as much time as we can with them, and give as much as we can to the less fortunate while we’re at it.

I hope 2012 will be a great year for all of us, never mind what the Mayans are saying. This is a great time to start anew and strive for success, whether in our careers, relationships, or other endeavors.

And by “start anew and strive for success,” I mean more places to visit, more restaurants and bars to raid, and more delicious and interesting dishes to dine on. I’ve been so busy I haven’t gone out so much, but I’ll do better this year. And yeah, I’m still hoping to be chosen as the Sooo Pinoy Ultimate Food Blogger this year.

Again, happy new year! Here’s to a great 2012!