Hida Folk Village, Takayama

Japan Alps in the distance, view from Hida No Sato

When we hopped on the Meitetsu bus at Nagoya en route to Takayama, I didn’t really know what to expect. All I had planned in my to-do list were: visit the Hida No Sato (aka Hida Folk Village), get to see snow capped mountains, ride the bicycle and breathe in the fresh air. Takayama was, after all, our jumping point to exploring the Japan alps in the next days to come.

When we drove past the hustling city and into the countryside, my eyes feasted on the sights of clear streams and rivers, rice paddies, rolling hills of green. We passed through tunnels beneath mountains, and there were several sceneries that reminded me of the way to Sagada in Luzon. But this was hardly two hours away from Nagoya – what a treat for the city folks! In a few hours’ time they can reach these beautiful towns.

After a little more than three hours we finally reached the Takayama train station. Our hotel was just about ten minutes’ walk from the station, so as soon as we dropped off our luggage, we went to a nearby bike rental to check off one thing on my to-do list. I wiggled on my balance quite a few times as I tried to get used to my bicycle – it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a Japanese bike – the last time was almost a decade ago in Kyoto. The guy told us it would take about 15 minutes to get to Hida No Sato (if we were to take the bus it’ll be about 10 minutes; and if we walked it would be about 40 minutes). He didn’t tell us it was uphill.

I’m not as fit like how I used to be when I travelled and biked. The uphill was quite a challenge, and several times D helped push my bike up. Although the temperature was only 24 degrees celsius, it didn’t help as I was sweating profusely (and sometimes imagining I was comfortably tucked in bed or soaking in a bath at the hotel). D must have been annoyed as he pretended he didn’t hear me when I called out “Are we there yet?” a couple of times.

And then we got there. Woohoo!! Parking fee was free for bikes. The entrance to Hida No Sato was 700¥ per adult. I found that it’s an open air musuem, and the houses that were displayed show the original houses of different parts of Hida. There was a lake and an outlook view of the peaks of the Japan Alps at the distance. Japan Alps in the distance, view from Hida No Sato

There were several interactive activities near the lake and the entrance like origami, stamps, wooden cube puzzles, wooden stilts (which I saw no one succeed at), and a wooden water gun. Japanese-styled parasols were free to be used, as well as boots (maybe when it’s raining?).Nakayabu’s House

Like the hotel we stayed at in Takayama, we took off our shoes as we entered the preserved homes. Because the Hida region is know for woodwork, the houses were wooden floors, tools and furniture. The homes have sunken hearths called irori which kept the surroundings warm.Panoramic view of a house’s interior

There were also artisans who were demonstrating arts and crafts like Hida quilting, wood carving, and painting. If you walk in the Takayama town’s center, you will find a lot of wooden and hand crafted souvenirs.

Doll painting in the Tomita’s HouseThere were structures for different livelihoods. There was also a hall where the elders held meetings, and a shrine with a giant bell. There was a woodcutter’s hut, aand a logger’s hut. I also saw how the irrigation system used to be, and how rice fields were designed. The last stop that I went to was the resting area where vending machines for drinks were clustered together in. On the way there was a canopy of sweet smelling flowers – and the remarkable sound of bees.One of the Hida houses kept in its original condition

As I walked around the town I cannot help imagine how it was living in the past when there was no electricity. How did it feel during winter? I was fascinated at how the structures were built, the materials that were used. Life was indeed simpler back then, and how lucky the folks were as they woke up to the beautiful nature-filled surroundings, with the snow capped mountains a common sight in their backyards.

All the Chickens in the Yard

dog and hens

We’be been raising hens for about seven years now. I got inspired after watching the movie “Flipped” where the main character was taught by her dad that hens do not necessarily need roosters to lay eggs. I wanted to have an organic source of fresh eggs, and so after building a coop at the yard, I headed to the market one afternoon after work, and bought our first hen, Henny from the market. A couple of days later, my dad came over to give us a companion for Henny, Henna. At first they did not get along, and kept us awake all night with their bantering. But eventually they became best friends and were quite inseparable. In fact, a few years later, when Henny passed away, Henna followed suit shortly after. Since then, we did not have to buy our hens – dad managed to raise a few of his own and shared with us four.

We now have 2 coops – each one housing a pair. They’re all good girls, and they make me giggle with their antics every once in a while.

I am no expert, so what I wanted to share with you today are what I’ve learned from raising our hens. These are based purely from observation and personal experience:

  1. They lay eggs around noon or when the sun is high – and we could easily tell they’re laying eggs because they’re quite vocal and announce it. Sometimes they go to the same spot in their coop, or at times, when they’re out frolicking in the backyard, we find the eggs neatly tucked within the shrubs.
  2. They do not lay eggs daily. There’s a certain period when they molt (or lose their feathers) – they do not lay eggs during this time.
  3. There are times the hens would peck on the eggs. My dad said it indicates they are low on calcium. So what we do is we include crushed egg shells in the hens’ food.
  4. Speaking of food – we give them kitchen scraps like peelings from fruit and vegetables. One of the antics that our hens have been proudly showing me is whenever I give treats to our dogs, they would also line up for theirs. I’m amazed at how peaceful our animal companions are because even though my boys are so focused on getting treats, when they see that I am sending some to the hens, they wouldn’t bully them into getting the hens’ shares. The hens, though, at times try to sneak some treats off Pedro (the bulldog) who is a slower in catching them. But good old Pedro doesn’t seem to mind.
  5. So we send them out of their coops daily so they have an excursion around the backyard. They do not fly out nor go to the garage – it’s like they know which area they’re should stay in. One time when strong rain came out of nowhere, I rushed to let Pedro in from the yard. I realized the hens were also out because I saw them lined up outside their own coops’ doors (which closed because of the wind). They love to drink lots of water, but clearly they did not want rain on their feathers. As soon as I opened their coops’ doors, in they hopped.
  6. We use the hens’ poop to add on to our compost.

These four ladies have been with us for a couple of years now, and I have to admit I still couldn’t tell them apart. Do you know if chickens respond to names?

I think my hens are quite smart, and I’m glad they are quite comfortable with me, D and the boys. We are, after all, one small happy family.

DIY Wonders

Yarns

When I took some time off from work, my eyes were opened to the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) world – its endless possibilities, the therapeutic feeling I experience working on my crafts, and the sense of fulfillment from completing projects. I get to hand pick the materials I work with, adding a unique touch.

With DIYs, my concept of giving gifts likewise changed, and since then I’ve personalized my gifts – it warms the heart being able to share these labors of love to the people who mean the world to me.

Apps like YouTube, Pintest, and DIY bloggers who I follow at WordPress are my regular go-tos for new ideas, tips and guidance.

So far, these are the crafts that I’ve quite enjoyed:

  • Crochet – my first DIY project. I learned this back in grade school, and have rekindled my affiliation with it in 2017.
  • Beads – I’m a newbie at this, and my projects are just the simple bracelets. I sure am having a blast looking for the beads and parts that fit designs I have in mind.
  • Perfume Making – I attended class for this, and it was worth the investment. It involves a bit of math, but it’s so easy to make perfumes! I can make a lot with every batch of materials. D is an avid user of my ‘products’.
  • Essential Oils – I use these as recipes for lots of wellness products (more blogs to follow).Perfume making

Lately I’ve discovered some friends and family who are also into DIYs, and I get pumped when they share successful projects they finish. I think there’s an instant bond when we talk about our crafts. I’m inspired to learn other types of DIYs like woodwork, calligraphy, and pastry-making.

Do you have a favorite DIY project? What personalized gifts are you known for?

 

 

 

Sustainable Living: Recycled Plant Pots

composting

I’m all about planting our own crops in our backyard. It’s fun, therapeutic, fulfilling, and also promotes well-being for my family. More importantly, it is our way of helping save the planet.

Since we have started planting more herbs and vegetables in our backyard, we resorted to using recycled containers so that we could be able to organize the plants in a more space-efficient way. Recycled plant potRecycled

One thing I love about our community is that neighbors support one another by sharing seeds, compost, seedlings, and even recycled containers for pots. I have also recently became a regular customer at Starbucks because they support backyard farming through sharing of their coffee grounds and empty milk gallons that we use at home as herb pots.

Lastly I want to share with you this wonderful find from the roadsides of Luisiana, Laguna. This box is handwoven and made of coconut leaves. It was used to wrap three pieces of bibingka that we bought for snacks on our way back to Manila. These plastic-free boxes are so simple and innovative, and they last long. I intend to use them as pots for my next batch of basils and mint.

Handwoven

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 8

Bellpepper

Today I will show you the very first fruit bearing tree that we planted in our yard: the calamansi. A little over a decade ago, D collected some calamansi seeds and planted them, carefully barricading the seedling that grew thereafter so that Rex, our labrador who was then a pup, wouldn’t destroy it. It has since then grown tall and strong, about two meters high. We trim it so that it will remain that way as it’s a bit harder to harvest the fruits if it’s taller – as the branches are filled with thorns. Other than its infrequent need for pruning, the tree is quite easy to maintain.

Calamansi

The calamansi is native citrus fruit widely used in the Philippines. It is small, green on the outside and yellow in the inside. On a hot day we would squeeze a bunch of fruits, add honey and water to make refreshing calamansi juice. It can also be used with soy sauce and chili pepper as condiments to dumplings and barbecued meat. For marinade, we use calamansi in the absence of lime or lemon. Of course, the skin of the fruit is added to our compost. Lastly, some people use the juice of calamansi as skin toner.

Calamansi

Chili Pepper

Next is the chili pepper. Now this one we planted from collected seeds. It sprouted within 15 days and in less than a month we already saw it flowering. It is also a low maintenance plant. The picture below shows our first harvest from this shrub. We would add it with the calamansi and soy sauce as condiment.

Bellpepper

There you have it, fruit bearing trees from our backyard. 100 percent pesticide free.

Watch out for the next parts of this series, coming soon (just waiting for my new seedlings to grow bigger).

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 7

Onions

Hello and welcome back to my sustainable living series!

Today I will show you two plants that blossomed from our kitchen scraps: the onion and mint.

Before I became a concerned citizen of the earth, I always thought that all plants came from seeds, therefore before they even grow, a load of effort is required from the ‘planter’. Imagine my delight when I found that the onion and mint that we set aside from our kitchen staples sprouted into seedlings.

MintOnions

The mint took about two weeks to start growing, while the onion took about ten days to propagate. We had to move the onion to out enclosed pot garden though, because one of the four hens started digging through it.

The perks of having these two herbs home grown include saving on trips to the supermarket, and running into possibilities of not being able to consume all that we end up buying (hence waste). More importantly we are sure we are getting fresh and organic produce.

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 6

Sprouts

I was able to stay away from rice for about the whole year of 2017 and started slipping back into the habit in 2018. So, this year I am mustering all my will power I try to cut off rice from my diet and replace it with greens.

Lettuce

It’s a good thing we are still in the cooler months, and I am quite pleased we are still able to grow lettuce at home. Here’s how the new sprouts look like. We cover them with screen because we found out that along with our mulberries, the lettuce are a source of joy by the birds that frequent our yard in the mornings. No wonder they sound so happy when I wake up. I’m happy to let them have a blast with the mulberries, but I need the lettuce for later…

Other than tossing them into salad, I also use the lettuce as a substitute for pita wrap. Sprouts

Gynura Procumbens

Another salad ingredient that we use are the leaves of the gynura procumbens. Now unlike the rest of the crops at home, I bought this baby from the local garden store. I thought they were ashitaba, only to find out months after that they’re not. I read that the gynura procumbens have medicinal benefits like treatment for cardiovascular and kidney diseases, constipation, diabetes, etc. While I am not sure if these claims are scientifically proven, all I know is that the leaves go well with salad – or soup. Gynura Procumbens

That’s all for now! See you again same time next week for the next part of this series.

Happy Tuesday!

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 5

Atis

Good morning, and glad to have you guys once again for a quick tour of my backyard.

Today I will show you 2 tropical fruit bearing trees: Kamias and Atis.

Kamias

The kamias, also known as bilimbi, is a short tree whose green fruits grow in clusters. The acidic fruit is juicy and is rarely eaten raw. When I was a child I would frequent the kamias tree that grew at a vacant lot behind my grandma’s house, and bravely eat the fruit raw, dipping it in salt. As I got older I came to realize that the fruit is best used as a substitute ingredient for tamarind, for sour soup dishes like sinigang, pinangat, and paksiw. I have also been able to have a taste of kamias candy and jam. Didn’t like these much though, so I stuck on just using kamias for home cooked dishes. Kamias

In olden days, elders boiled the kamias leaves and cool the water to be used for bathing mothers with newborns. I don’t recall what the ritual is for though…

Speaking of that old tradition, the next tree I wanted to show you is the Atis tree, whose leaves are also used for new moms’ baths.

Atis

Atis

Atis, also known as sweetsop or sugar apple, is a fiber and protein rich, custard-tasting fruit. A fruit has multiple black seeds. It is also ricg in vitamin C and B6, manganese, iron, magnesium and potasium.

Our atis tree was also a pleasant surprise. We were using the seeds from a consumed fruit as part of our compost, when all of a sudden a seedling emerged. The photo above capturesthe first 2 fruits produced by our atis tree – that’s six years in the making! So I am so excited it finally yielded fruit!

What fruit bearing trees do you have in your backyard and are they also easy to maintain?

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 4

Malunggay

Hello and good morning! I’m up early to check on my darlings (animals and plants), enjoying the sound of chirping birds this cool February Tuesday.

Over the last weeks we’ve had a short tour of what I consider treasures from my backyard: from the fruit bearing trees like mulberry, papaya, rambutan, coconut, lime, to our vegetable crops like eggplant, and ginger. We also had a look at my aloe vera, a medicinal herb, and lastly I introduced you to my four lovely hens that grace us with our organic eggs.

This morning let me show you 2 of our very reliable trees. They’re self sufficient, in fact they just grew at our backyard, much to our pleasant surprise. They’re also quite easy to maintain, don’t require much.

Banana

First up is our banana tree. It’s yielded several bunches of fruit already. I love having banana for breakfast. Sometimes, I add a fruit to my smoothies as a source of natural sweetness. The leaves also serve multiple purposes. We use these as wrapper for suman, a sticky rice snack. We also use this to wrap bibingka, a sweet rice cake that is a Filipino favorite during the cooler months.

As you can see the fruits are due to be ripe soon. And with this much fruit we are sure to share them with our neighbors. This is what I like about our community, people sharing garden produce every so often.

Banana

Malunggay

Next one’s our malunggay tree. In english it’s called moringa. We use the leaves as ingredients to home cooked meals like tinola or diningding. There are many health benefits from malunggay, in fact I have seen kiosks in the supermarket selling malunggay tea.

Our tree generously produces leaves. Every fortnight, before heading out to the market, my aunt would harvest bunches of its leaves and brings them to the early morning market vendors to trade with other crops like corn. I’m so happy when she does this – isn’t it how it used to be done ages ago? She gets approximately a good 100 pesos’ worth of crops in exchange for the bunches of malunggay stalks and leaves. It’s always a treat when I wake up to sweet freshly cooked corn on the cob – a trade she made for the leaves. Malunggay

Have you ever experienced trading your home grown produce in the market, or sharing it with the community?

I hope you liked our short tour. Next week I’d show you two tropical fruit bearing trees: kamias and atis.

See you soon!

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 3

Gynura Procumbens

Hello again, and greetings from my humble abode. This is the last part of the tour of my backyard. Over the last two weeks we checked out my muberry, papaya, rambutan, aloe vera, lime and eggplant. If you have not yet read about the first 2 quick tours I wrote about, you can click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Don’t mind me as I sip on my tea while I show you around today.

I have 4 hens in the backyard, and whenever they are not moulting, we get at least one egg per hen per day. So we hardly get eggs from the supermarket anymore, and these are certified organic. Whenever we have a surplus of eggs, my aunt makes leche flan for dessert.

I have two coops for my hens, and this is where they spend the night and lay their eggs in. During the daytime they frolic around the yard. And when they do, we keep a close eye on the compost bin because there was an instance we left it open and they happily dug into it.

The hens are quite easy to take care of. They eat vegetable cuttings from the kitchen.

Free range eggs
Free range eggs and sweets

Ginger

Our ginger grew from a ginger cutting (with the eye bulb)that we planted. We thought of growing our own ginger because of its many uses. I use it everyday! On weekdays I skip coffee for breakfast and start the day with ginger and honey tea. I find it calming my tummy and soothing my throat. We also use ginger for local dishes like tinola, sinigang sa miso, and tahong soup. We planted this back in April of 2018 and is quite low maintenance. It does not require too much water. I can’t wait to get our first harvest soon.

Ginger
Ginger

That wraps up today’s tour of my humble backyard. Hope you enjoyed this one. Next week I’ll show you some fruit bearing trees.

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 2

Eggplant

Greetings from my humble home! I hope you enjoyed seeing my mulberry, papaya, coconut and rambutan trees from my backyard garden in last week’s post. If you’re new to my blog, you can click here to read about it.

In today’s tour, I’ll show you a plant that I’ve been using since I was a child, and 2 fruit and vegetable bearing crops which we use frequently when we are cooking at home. Here we go…

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is called Sabila in Filipino. It is a medicinal plant that does wonders for the skin. Ever since I was a child I would rub the sabila meat on my face and scalp. It softens and calms my skin. Now I see a aloe vera in a several Korean skin care products, and I’ve even tasted refreshing aloe vera drinks. When we started cultivating our garden, the sabila was one of the things we planter first because it’s low maintenance and fast and easy to grow.

Lime and Eggplant

The reason we planted lime is because I could cook a lot of tasty food using it. Also, surprisingly, it’s easier to get lemons from the nearest supermarkets compared to limes (they run out easily). I was pleased that it quickly grew within a few weeks from planting seeds and I look forward to its first batch of fruits.

Behind my newly grown lime plant, is a row of eggplants. Eggplants are perrenials and also easy to grow plants. We have harvested quite a few of its produce already and used them in local dishes like pinakbet, tortang talong and diningding. Eggplant

Hope you enjoyed the second part of the tour of my backyard. Next week I will show you other crops and animals (aside from my dogs) that walk around my home. Happy Tuesday!

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 1

Organic fruits bearing trees

Organic food is harder to come by as compared to the commercially mass-produced food options in the market – those that are most likely clad in chemicals. Eating out exposes most consumers to these mass produced products, and here in Metro Manila, if I look for a restaurant that uses organic or free-range ingredients, I’d have a lesser and more expensive options. I’m glad healthy options are now more widely available – but they’re somehow concentrated in the CBDs. So for instance, if I was at my hometown at the south, or at my folks’ in the north of Metro Manila, and I’d crave for something organic for lunch, I will have to drive or commute to get to the next city where I can dine in at a selected restaurants that serve organic food.

Sustainable living is a lifestyle where I reduce my carbon footprint and limit the wastage of the planet’s resources. I can do this through Reducing, Refusing, Reusing and Recycling. This year, I’m doing more of the Refusing than Recycling. It’s part of the change that I wanted to drive starting with myself. So part of Refusing means using my own resources, and buying only as a last resort. One of the things I can produce on my own is by planting vegetables and fruits in my own backyard. In doing so, I can put my compost soil to use, and at the same time, I know for sure what I harvest are indeed organic. For the crops we plant at our backyard, we do not use pesticides and chemicals.

Let me give you a tour of my backyard garden.

Mulberry

e8fe302a-baec-4369-9d63-449cdfe1fcc6

First stop is my mulberry tree. Its seedling was shared to me by our parish priest last year, and in a matter of a few weeks it already started yielding the mulberry fruit. Mulberries are small fruit colored pink or red. They are tart and sweet. I read about their nutritional benefits and interviewed sellers of mulberry tea from the Legazpi Sunday market and was advised they are considered superfood rich in antioxidants. They help prevent cancer and aid in digestion. For more information about mulberries, click here.

Papaya, Coconut and Rambutan

Organic fruits bearing trees
Clockwise from left: papaya, coconut and rambutan

The papaya regularly produces fruit (or vegetable?) for us at home. The fuss-free, low maintenance tree quickly propagated from the papaya seeds that we planted. When it’s still green, we use this as an ingredient for tinola, a local dish. When ripened, the fruit turns yellow in color and we eat this for breakfast as it helps with digestion. On a hot day it’s also a good idea to make papaya shake. Yum!

I got the coconut tree from the plant nursery and have been waiting for months now for it to produce fruit. I’m fond of drinking coconut juice, and we mix the coconut meat with other fruits for salad. I dream that one day soon I can go to the backyard at any time and get a coconut fruit at my heart’s desire.

Lastly, the rambutan, is a seedling for now. Rambutan is similar to lychee in taste in my opinion. Its sweet fruit is filled with antioxidants, iron and vitamin C. I can’t wait for it to grow.

That’s it for now. Next week I’ll show you some plants in my mini pot garden and along the fence of the yard. Hope you enjoyed the first part of the tour. Til we meet again!

Zomato Gold Review

coffee

Before I discovered and got hooked on WordPress, I started posting reviews in sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Zomato. I used these websites to document my travel and food experience, and I find it fascinating going through my reviews from years ago – sort of like going through a diary and reliving the moments. Needless to say I continue toggling in between these sites to record my thoughts closer to real-time. Although there are no monetary incentives from contributing to these websites, I take pride being awarded reviewer level status – and keep those in my bragging rights pocket.

And then I was intrigued by Zomato’s (insistent) notification offering me Zomato Gold. It’s a membership type of offer – one gets to subscribe for 3 to 6 months to a year, and members can get to avail their food or drinks Buy 1 Get 1 promo at restaurant partners. On their first few text and email notifications, I shrugged it off and at times even found them annoying. Until D and I moved in to our new apartment where we could not cook as much as we would like to. Hence we resorted to regularly eating out. And being the analytic person that I am (I would research restaurants we have not tried yet and read through reviews before making a decision), I came across several raves about Zomato Gold. So I joined the bandwagon and subscribed to an annual membership. I got it when the fee was offered at a lower rate – five hundred pesos (or around US$10) at the time. I think subscription rates vary from time to time because I checked the other day and the annual rates have gone up. I did not get to be a member right away because I think I was 6000+ in the queue of pending subscribers. I’m glad I got my subscription approved a few days after.

As soon as I got my subscription I invited my visiting relatives out for a couple of food dates – we ate at Cafe Garuda (an Indonesian restaurant in Legazpi Village in Makati) for dinner, and at Apartment 1B (located at Henry Hotel in Pasay City) for brunch. We availed of the Buy 1 + Get 1 food promo, and the way it works is the second to the most expensive dish is free. After that I’ve gotten into the habit of checking out restaurants with Zomato Gold option first whenever I go out with D or friends for a meal.

So is Zomato Gold worth it? The short answer is YES. In less than three weeks, I have already recovered my investment, and more importantly, my savings over the last two weeks is already triple the amount I’ve paid as annual subscription fee. I’m so excited to use this – and discover new places for my weekly dinner date with D. If you have Zomato Gold in your city and are keen to try it out, feel free to use my promo code MARI2980 to get 20% off on your subscription amount.

I am writing this review voluntarily and I paid for my own Zomato Gold subscription. This review is not sponsored by Zomato Gold.

 

 

Taking a Stand for the Earth

Contribution

In recent years, I have become more conscious of the impact of plastic pollution. Tons of plastic end up in the seas, and these cause great harm to the animals who ingest them – hundreds of them dying choked or trapped by the plastic. Knowing how these animals suffer break my heart, and there was a time a couple of years ago that I had a break from Facebook because I was deeply bothered by animal photos. I appreciate that many countries have taken big steps to reduce the plastic pollution. In the Philippines, I know that some cities have already moved to paper bags in the supermarket counters, or switching to paper straws in cafes. I have also seen more effort in terms of waste segregation, where composting and recycling are encouraged. But we have a long way to go in this war against plastic pollution. D and I join coastal cleanups regularly, and I feel that the amount of trash in the oceans are just not getting any lesser.

As I  start this year, I made a pledge to go as plastic-free as much as I could. I locked in this pledge at National Geographic’s Choose the Planet campaign. The goal is to prevent 1 billion items from reaching the oceans by 2020. This initiative incites everyone signing to drive the change beginning with ourselves. So, hand on my heart, this is how I’m going to contribute.

Contribution
Little ways to contribute

Ditching the plastic bag

Now I’m so happy I’ve received several eco-bags from family and friends, more so over last Christmas. I have them neatly tucked in my bag so I can use them whenever I end up buying stuff from the supermarket. This should cut off at least 3 plastic bags from me per week. Annually, that’s at least 156 bags.

Bringing my own cutlery

When I eat out, or purchase food to go, I use my own cutlery. I won a set of foldable cutlery two years ago, and glad they’re quite handy. This helps cut off plastic spoons and forks.

Stainless over Single-Use Plastic Straw

Single-use plastic straw is smaller compared to the plastic bags and plastic spoons and forks – but these are one of the most commonly found items in the oceans. I remember picking up dozens from my coastal cleanups. Lately, big cafes in Makati and BGC have switched to paper straws, and some do not readily offer straws for folks taking out drinks. I’m not sure if paper straws are really plastic free (I read some comments in forums that they still have plastic linings), but one thing’s for sure: my stainless straws are. So, they’re also one of the items neatly tucked inside my bag. Last Christmas, I received around 3 of these from different friends. I hope it’s not just a fad and people will consistently use them.

Refillable containers

I’ve found shops where I can refill my shampoo, body wash, liquid castile soap, conditioners and laundry detergents. And since I am into DIY, I am also able to recycle the containers I use for my cologne, face wash, salt scrub, and linen spray. Another way to reduce plastic is through packing my own lunch using reusable containers.

I know that there are thousands of people in the world who are as concerned, if not more than I am, in taking measures on preserving our mother earth. I am grateful to them, for taking a stand and for not giving up in sharing their knowledge and passion to the people around them, sparking inspiration and change everywhere they go. #ichooseplanet

Bikes and Trails

Trail

When I was a child, I liked riding the bicycle and exploring the neighborhood. Some weekends when my family would go to the Quezon Memorial Circle park, my dad would rent bikes for me and my brother and we’d ride around the park for hours. And then when I was in college, I would borrow my friend’s mountain bike especially when I was running low on loose change for jeepney rides to get to class.

In 2010 D and I appreciated cycling more as a practical way to get to know new places when we travel. We were in Munich for less than 24 hours and were able to roam quickly using our rented bicycles. We did this again when we were in Amsterdam, Kyoto, and Melbourne. Somehow with cycling I get more in tune with the surroundings and the moment, almost like a form of meditation for me.

Most days now whenever I walk (to work, to church) I daydream I am on a bicycle. It would sure save me more time to get to my destination faster, and at the same time tick the box for my daily exercise.

Speaking of exercise, D and his friends would regularly go to different bike trails at Metro Manila’s south for some serious cycling. There’s a trail right next to McKinley Hill in Taguig, at Filinvest in Alabang, and at Nuvali in Laguna. Of these trails, the Filinvest one is recommended for beginners. For a scenic view, best to try out the one in Nuvali. As for the one next to McKinley Hill, the path is lined up with trees so they shield bikers from the sun’s heat.

TrailNuvali bike trail

I wish there are bike paths in the Philippines so it is safer for cyclists to ride along city streets. It would definitely encourage more people to use bicycles as mode of transportation to reduce traffic congestions if there were bike paths. It would also be good for commuters like me to save on commute money, or parking and gas fee.

Solar Panels

Solar Panels

I first saw solar panels in 2010 when we were on a train ride from Prague to Munich. D was amazed at houses lined with them as we passed through German towns. We saw them again when we were in Osaka later that year, during a train ride yet again en route to Kyoto. Since then, D had been researching their availability in the Philippine market. At the time, it was still very expensive so he just kept it within radar.

Then an opportunity came knocking in 2014. Solar panels became more affordable, and D read about a distributor based in a nearby city. After making some calls, he was sold to the idea and easily convinced me to invest in them for our house. D’s primary reason was to save on our electric bill, whereas mine was to do our bit to help address climate change.

Solar Panels
Solar Panels

For the technical stuff:  before installation, we identified an area that is well exposed to sunlight. An analysis of the daytime electricity usage was conducted by the supplier to determine how many panels were needed for our house. One panel emits 250 watts, and we got a total of 6 panels. We also bought an inverter which is the device that converts the harvested solar energy into electricity. We applied for net metering so that any unused wattage harvested by the panels would be sold back to the utility company, which, in our case, is Meralco.

For the administrative stuff: we secured a permit for the solar panels from the city hall. The city hall’s technical team inspected our house prior to the installation, assisted by our solar panel distributor. As for Meralco, they were the ones that granted us net metering for a fee. The requirements we submitted to them included copies of the title of the property and electric bill.  It took 3 months for our net metering to be up and running because we were the first in our area who applied for such. At the time, net metering was so new, that they took a photo of the team once it was done – for documentation purposes I guess?

Meralco
Meralco

Investing in the solar panels was one of the best decisions D and I made. I’m glad when friends express interest in having them installed at their homes, and more so when they do. I wish it will be encouraged more in the Philippines (maybe even subsidize it for consumers). Sadly, as with electric cars, we may have a long way to go before this happens as more favor is given to the utility companies. On a bright side, some big companies are already starting to use them like shopping malls, farms, and factories. My dad, who had been dreaming about solar energy, was finally able to put up a solar energy company partnering with friends who share the same passion. It now keeps him busy, and I am happy to see him share the advocacy to a bigger audience and making it happen.

 

 

 

 

Green Fair 2018

Scenic

I dream of a world where every living being is respected, valued, protected, and live in peace. My wish for Mother Earth is for its beauty and cleanliness to be restored, so generations yet to come can live to see and appreciate it. 

Because of this dream and wish, I support efforts and endeavors that promote sustainability.

Last Saturday I came upon a friend’s post in Facebook about The Green Fair. It was a collaboration of eco-friendly merchants with the aim of increasing awareness on actions we, buyers, could take to make a positive impact to the environment. It was happening the same day I read about it, and so right after my Minhwa class at BGC, I headed to the O2 Space at the RCI Building at Rada Street in Makati to check out the stores that participated in The Green Fair.

Merchandise
Merchandise at the Green Fair

You Dirty Dog

Of course, this is the first stall that I checked out (I have been out for five days having gone to Sagada a few days before, and I was terribly missing my fur babes at home). First order of business is to get something for the boys. I refilled a bottle for the chemical-free, biodegradable dog shampoo in Oats scent. Other than dog shampoo they sell hemp chew toys which were 100% natural.

Tracy, the owner of You Dirty Dog came up with the business because of the needs of her 2 dogs, Ringo and Mo. Ringo has sensitive skin and is allergic to the dog shampoos out in the market, so they researched and formulated a natural shampoo that was suitable for his skin. Mo, on the other hand, would ingest plastic from the sturdiest of chew toys. So they used hemp to create chew toys as a safer alternative.

Refill and Beyond

Next stall that I checked out was Millie and Kris’ Refill and Beyond. They sell (by refills) liquid bath soap, fabric conditioner, laundry soap, and hand soap.

What I learned from Millie is that globally, millions of bars of soap are discarded every day. These are partially used soaps – some even used just once. What a huge waste! This, along with the fact that they themselves needed better ingredients on their personal soaps for their families, inspired them to create their brand.

They worked with a relative who is a chemist in coming up with a sulfate-free soap that yielded a good scent. Their fabric conditioner (which I bought through refilling my bottle) uses lavender scent, and the body wash uses olive scent (it reminds me of the Body Shop liquid soap that I have at home).

Greenpeace

Greenpeace was there to provide informational talks. What I learned from my discussion with them is sadly, the Philippines’ Pasig River is now the second most polluted river in the world, and the Philippines is now also the third biggest ocean polluter following China and Indonesia. Heartbreaking information, and nothing to be proud of.

I’ve joined coastal cleanups last year and early this year. Every single time, I’m overwhelmed and frustrated by the plastic pollution on the coasts, and no matter how long I spend in picking them up, they just cannot be cleared. I know too, that even though we were able to clear up the beach, by the next day it’ll be overflowing with trash again. Greenpeace would do a brand audit on the top polluters from the coastal cleanup, and they would send their data to the big companies. Some of the big companies have responded that they would be researching for a better way to address the use of single plastic packaging, which is hopefully a good sign. I asked Greenpeace what they do to the trash that were audited, and I was told they return it to the companies and follow through on how these are being disposed or recycled.

Bini Natural Living

Bini sells organic products like essential oil soaps, jelly soaps, foot scrub, natural deodorant (paraben and aluminum free). They also have roll-on oils using essential oil. I was so curious about the jelly soap, it looked so colorful and soft I wanted to squish it. I bought a bag of pink himalayan salt for my DIY gifts.

Eco-products from other stores

I wish I had a bigger budget to use for the fair. I bought wooden spoon and fork from my friend who was manning a booth. They also sell wooden knives, pickles, reusable beeswax wraps, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, and organic soaps.

Next to her stall is Kooky Koleksyon’s handmade accessories, some even using recycled materials.

There were also booths that sold bamboo toothbrushes, reusable straws and eco-bags.

Shopped items
Items I bought

I hope we have more of these sustainable products and brands coming together so they are more readily available in the malls and weekend markets (for those who opt to do the traditional style of shopping). Otherwise, there’s always online shopping to be able to reach stores like these.

 

 

VegFest 2018

Vegan

Yesterday was my first time to go to the Veg Fest held at the BGC Arts Center in Taguig City. A couple of years ago I skipped this. I remember seeing the booths when I used to work in Eastwood in Quezon City, and I was just so busy I couldn’t spend time checking it out. This year, after volunteering at PETA I had the chance of not only being able to go to the 3rd annual Veg Fest, but also taking part and manning the PETA kiosk for a few hours. I started at 8AM and helped distribute the Vegan starter magazine, some stickers and flyers; talked to people dropping by inquiring about the animal adoptables, and the different animal campaigns; and putting on temporary tattooes. PETA

I’ve cut off all kinds of red meat from my diet since 2011, after watching the movie Contagion (there was a short scene there that pulled my heartstrings – big time). Lately, I’ve transitioned to a more plant-based diet and it’s getting kind of boring because I keep making the same food over and over again. One of the challenges I have is the distance I had to go to be able to get some of my ingredients. They are not readily available at our neighborhood supermarket or at the nearby convenience stores. If I opt to skip cooking and just buy my meals, I’d also have to go far because not all restaurants nearby offer plant-based food. Sometimes I would daydream about the vegan burgers I’ve eaten in my travels abroad. We don’t have that many options here in the Philippines. Yet. So I was so happy when some people at the Veg Fest approached me asking me to sign a petition to include plant based options in Philippine fastfood chains and restaurants. I signed the petition of course, no questions asked.

Man, I was overwhelmed by the food options at the Veg Fest. They were so many, how was I to choose, knowing I get so full easily? I had to walk around two times to be able to decide – every time I go to a new stall I see something that beats the one/s I initially thought I’d get for my lunch. After much deliberation I ended up getting laing (dried taro leaves stewed in coconut milk) and veggie barbeques. I also got a bottle of Diwa Kombucha (strawberry flavor this time), some veggie chips and a scoop of dairy-free and sugar-free ice cream. For my takeaway, I bought frozen pizza so I can pop them in the oven before binging on Netflix. Stalls

In the Veg Fest there were also some stalls by animal welfare groups just like PETA. I was able to go to the CARA booth; and the ARF (Animal Rescue Family) Manila. There were also activities like talks and yoga.

I’m so glad to being part of the Veg Fest and look forward to more of these. This motivated me to check out the Mandala Park which is done Sundays at Mandaluyong – I was told there’s a lot of food options there too. What I saw from the Veg Fest also inspired me to learn more recipes so I can add more variety to my homecooked meals.

Craving for Kombucha

kombucha

The first time I’ve had kombucha was during my trip to the US, when I visited a cousin in Los Angeles earlier this year. I knew that kombucha is a good source of probiotics, so I have been keen on having a taste. Unfortunately it’s not yet readily available in the Philippines (and I’d have to go to weekend markets or drive far from home to be able to get a bottle). I was positively overwhelmed by its availability in the US (and eventually in Australia, which I discovered when I visited my sister a few months ago).

My first impression of kombucha was that it was definitely an acquired taste. I defaulted to ‘liking’ it immediately, because of benefits I’ve read about. It tasted vinegary but depending on the blend, it could be sweet too. Most of the brews I bought from the stores were sour with a tad bit of sweet. Needless to say I haven’t found my favorite brand that I would go to again, within the first weeks of discovering kombucha. My cousin from LA was into a healthy lifestyle and she shared with me a scoby that she bought from Whole Foods. The scoby looked like a mushroom, and it came sealed in a bag. At the time, I didn’t know what the scoby was for so I did a bit of research on Google and YouTube as to how I could brew my own kombucha at home. I was a bit intimidated by the seemingly complicated methods of brewing. So I held off on brewing and even asked my sister in Australia to take the first step in brewing so I could follow suit.Kombucha jar

My sister’s kombucha jar for her homebrews

When I flew from the west coast to the mid west, my friend from the university who was also into healthy living was home-brewing her kombucha, and even shared with me her favorite blend: black tea with lots of berries. Now this was by far the best that I’ve tasted – I wish I had more than 1 bottle! My friend taught me how to brew kombucha (I will write about my brewing experience soon!), and showed me what equipment to use.

Back in the Philippines, I’ve been fortunate to have stumbled upon the Instagram page of Diwa Brew. The brand is new to the market, and I had a chance to meet Air, the founder, when she personally met up with me so I can get my 1 purchased bottle. She recommended the bestseller: Pineapple+Turmeric+Ginger. I was pleased with the taste of Diwa Brew’s kombucha – not too sour, and I liked the combination of the flavors I got. As far as I know, Diwa Brew offers the lowest selling price in the Manila market now. They also provide discounts on next purchases for every bottle returned to them – an automatic thumbs up from the environmental-conscious in me. I’m looking forward to seeing Air again in the Vegan Fest that I’ll go to this weekend. I’m gonna return my bottle and try out the other flavors.kombucha

Diwa Brew kombucha

I really hope kombucha will be more widely sold in Metro Manila. Hopefully the market will be more aware of its benefits so there will be more demand and it can be sold in more cafes and convenience stores.

I purchased Diwa Brew for my own consumption and just wanted to share with you how I enjoyed it. 

Sustainable Living: plastic-free shopping

dry goods

Hello everyone, for those of you new to my blog, I’m an environment advocate. And so, I support companies that promote recycling and plastic-free shopping.

I’m so excited to share with you a new find: I recently discovered Ritual.ph – it’s a small general store at the Languages International building along Arnaiz Avenue in Makati City.

At the onset the store makes quite an impression with its modern, clean, and chic interiors. I like how the merchandise was organized and placed in glass jars, or wrapped with paper. The shop supports local producers and farmers. I saw some wooden bowls that were beautifully crafted and I was told they were sourced from Dumaguete province in Visayas.

Ritual.ph sells various pantry items such as dried lemongrass, dried pandan, dried wild mint, turmeric, virgin coconut oil, salt, rice, flour, and beans. For food and drinks they have ice cream, coffee, cacao and cacao bits, kombucha, and chocolate bars. They also have bath and body items like gugo (sourced from Mt. Banahaw and used to increase hair volume, prevent hair fall and strengthen hair strands), scented salts, oils, liquid soap, shampoo, activated charcoal, balms, and kaolin clay. For cleaning materials they have baking soda, deodorizer, laundry bars, and liquid dish soaps. I also saw vegetable crayons, stainless straws, vintage notebooks, matches, and cigars displayed near the cashier.

I’ve recently tried their coffee – unfortunately at the time only Robusta was available so that was what I had. Next time I will try their Arabica coffee.

How it works is I, the buyer, would bring my recyclable containers, then I fill them up with, say, the liquid soap and weigh how much I got. The pricing of their refills are by the gram and I’m always pleasantly surprised by how affordable my purchases are. More importantly, I always leave the shop feeling quite contented that I didn’t add up to the plastic usage problem of our planet. img_2591

My favorite purchases are the lemongrass liquid soap, rosemary clarifying shampoo, and the lemongrass conditioning shampoo. The ingredients used for these are 100% biodegradable and do not contain harmful chemicals like sulfates, parabens and fragrance oils. The shampoos use coconut base, aloe vera and essential oils. They all smell so divine, to the point that I look forward to my showers so I can enjoy the refreshing scents.

I hope more and more shops like Ritual.ph open up in Metro Manila so that their reach will be wider. Ritual.ph can also be found at the Legazpi Sunday Market in Makati. For more details about my new favorite store, check out their website

This blog is not sponsored by Ritual.ph, and I wrote this because I’m so happy with finding them and the products I’ve bought so far.