Friday, February 20, 2009

Alternate Ending: When Angei Meets Jen At the Oscars

Hey, there's gotta be an alternate ending right? All is fair in love and war, right? So here it is!

When Angie Meets Jen At the Oscars!

What happens when Angelina Jolie bumps into Jennifer Aniston at the Oscars Red Carpet? Anything could happen, right? Well, here's a re-imagining or something. All in good fun! Enjoy the Oscars, cineasts!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

NINGAS-COGON, American Idol Style

Okay, I admit it! I am a fan of that reality/talent show, American Idol. I am infected with that contagious, dangerous disease called the American Idol Syndrome, the symptoms of which include rearranging my schedule so that every Tuesday and Wednesday night I can watch my favorite contestants uninterrupted, and finding myself belting out such cheesy songs as A Moment Like This and Bridge Over Troubled Water. I look forward to Tuesday nights like a drug addict waiting for his next fix and I sit on the edge of my seat on Wednesday nights waiting for the ultimate high to kick in: watching who will get the boot. I realized with horror that I was in the advanced stage of the disease when I started using “Dawg!’ as part of my vocabulary. And uh, I bought Clay Aiken’s CD as well—before he sold his soul to that Broadway Devil, Spamalot.

This season, we are blessed with another Filipino-heritaged contestant who made it to the top twenty four: Ramiele Malubay. Boy, did that make my day! And brought back memories of an American Idol season when we had two Filipinas in the finals: Camille Velasco and Jasmine Trias.

In the first week of that particular AI season, our two representatives eluded being included in the bottom three, the place reserved for the three contestants who receive the lowest phone-in/text-in votes. We have the Filipino-American community to thank for that. E-mail messages encouraging us to phone-in or text-in our votes for Camille and Jasmine poured in like crazy during the first week. Second week came and to my dismay, Camille was one of the three in the bottom. Still, to my relief, she was not eliminated. Week four came and, to my horror, Camille and Jasmine were both in the bottom three! What’s going on? What happened to the Fil-Ams’ initial rousing support for these two contestants?

Eventually, Camille was voted off… and Jasmine was soon back in Hawaii, singing in the Mahalo Karaoke Lounge. No, actually, she made it big in the Philippines.

Back to that AI season, I refused to believe that callers vote off the least talented of the bunch. In my opinion, they’re all talented singers, all future wannabe pop-stars, all equally deserving of their 15 minutes of fame. Therefore, I believe that viewers vote for their emotional favorites and yes, pride in one’s heritage plays a part in that. I present as proof those countless e-mails I received from Filipino-American groups exhorting us to vote for these two Filipino-heritaged contestants. But just as those e-mails surged like a turbulent tropical storm in the first week of The American Idol, they quickly ebbed like the tide returning to the sea. Soon, I rarely got such e-mails.

I call this phenomenon Ningas-Cogon, American Idol style.

Cogon, a kind of grass native to the Philippines, grows to about three feet tall and depending on its usage, is either a weed or a crop. To farmers, it is a pesky weed; to nipa hut builders, it is a source of excellent roofing material. Cogon quickly burns, giving off intense heat and flames, then quickly dissipates. We call this process ningas-cogon. Ningas-cogon is also the way we describe the typical Filipino commitment: intense and strong in the beginning, but swiftly going downhill, fading away, waning focus, losing interest.

Ningas-cogon is, uh, not my bowl of rice.

Indeed, what good does it do to embark on a new project with all the enthusiasm and energy of someone who is on Viagra, only to lose interest halfway through the work?

I am just as guilty about this ningas-cogon mentality as the next Filipino. There were several writing projects that I abandoned before the proverbial ink even dried on the paper. Heck, there was a book project that I quit after writing only the prologue. At some point, I realized I couldn’t finish anything, yet I kept starting, starting, starting. One might say I had a really bad case of startitis.

But I’m getting better.

I think the most eye-opening thing that helped me ‘cure’ my ningas-cogon attitude was realizing that no matter what we do, something always manages to come up and get in the way of what we are trying to do. So to avoid being distracted, I started putting down on paper a list of things to do on a particular day, a particular week. I prepare the next day’s list at night before I go to sleep. I set deadlines that I have to meet and dutifully check them off when they are met. Those check marks, believe it or not, provide the impetus to move along, to finish something started. They’re like little prizes I collect for doing something good. Well, several checkmarks later, I finished a novel!

I know it sounds so easy on paper but sticking to a commitment really becomes easier when you monitor your daily progress. Think of it as the ‘commitment police’, the force who’ll keep you focused in your quest to be productive and accomplish goals.

Hopefully, by the time this article comes out, our very own Ms. Malubay is still in the running, not falling victim to our ningas-cogon mentality. If not, well there’s a lesson to be learned here I think.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

GOSSIP, GIRL! (Tsismis)

“Psssttt…it’s healthy to gossip, with Listerine!” That was the headline of my mock print advertisement for an advertising class project way back in college where I graduated Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications. I thought that headline said it all: a face-to-face gossipy conversation is not all that bad if your breath is mouthwash-fresh. I got an “A+” for that but my teacher scribbled, at the bottom of the mock-up print ad, that “Gossip, Listerined-breath or not, is bad for you.”

My initial reaction to this was, “So are cigarettes but we keep smoking away anyway”. I fumed and called my teacher ‘hypocrite’ under my breath. Then I told a classmate, while puffing away on our Marlboros, about this and added that the scribbled note might have been this teacher’s way of staging her closeted attraction towards me. Tsismis!

Though not everyone smokes, pretending that not everyone gossips is a travesty. We all do it. As I’ve mentioned in my book Not My Bowl Of Rice, “Filipinos have a predilection to gossip, to spread rumors, to frighten and titillate one another with dire warnings, salacious gossip, and preposterous allegations. Gossiping has practically been our national pastime for centuries. We gossip in beauty parlors. In restaurants. Restrooms. On buses. In supermarket lines. In bars. In funeral homes during wakes. On the phone. With our drivers. With our office mates. With our doctors. And sometimes, even with our priest confessors. A Filipino’s day is jam-packed with these sometimes heartwarming, oftentimes heartbreaking, maybe true, maybe entirely false gossips.”

Tsismis is indeed, everywhere, just keep your ears and eyes open. And everyone is fair game in gossip. You hear your co-worker talk about your boss’ new and expensive -- as in, how can he really afford it with his derisory salary? -- Lexus. You read a blind item in a purportedly respectable newspaper about a hunk superstar’s homosexuality. You find out about your own promotion at work from your favorite gourmet coffee vendor. And then there’s the latest “medium” used in gossiping: text messaging. My sister had to confiscate her daughter’s cell phone because she was texting (or should we say, “gossiping”) with her girlfriends constantly -– at church, in school, on the bus, at the dinner table. Though free gossip is most Filipino’s bowl of rice, gossip carrying a per minute charge is not.

Aside from sometimes being an expensive habit, gossiping can kill too, literary and figuratively. I knew of a man in our town who turned into a hurimentado, a madman, and went on a killing spree with a sharp bolo after he heard rumors that his wife was cheating on him. He snapped and hacked to death his wife and his kumpadre, best friend, the rumored lover. Many relationships have been broken; many good reputations have been damaged because of tsismis. And yet, can one really imagine a world without gossip? In a perfect world, there would be no gossip, no scandals, no rumors, no hearsay. There would simply be no reason for them to exist. But in a world of average, imperfect folks, we will always need to discuss juicy details about our co-workers, our friends, our neighbors, our government officials, our favorite actors. It makes us feel better to point out other’s flaws so that we can deflect attention from our own. But you know what? Others will do the same to us. Regardless of the impact on others, it sure beats boring chitchat about the weather and the new paint color of your kitchen wall.

So we’ve established that tsismis is here to stay. How do we indulge in this, uh, vice, without it being a killer of men, a breaker of relationships, a “bad for you” thing, as my former advertising teacher had scribbled on my project a long time ago? In my book, one of the characters asked, “Is there gossip etiquette?” “Don’t be mean”, another character answered. I think that about sums it all: don’t be mean, don’t be malicious. Even in the middle of an intense gossip session, one should never be nasty enough to spread fictitious rumors about others. And when relating a truthful story about another, make sure it’s something that’s not going to hurt the subject of gossip. Relating something derogatory about others, even when true, should not be anyone’s bowl of rice.

I have given up smoking a long time ago but I must admit, I still gossip. I use it mainly as a conversation starter,
an icebreaker, not a breaker of men’s hearts and souls.

E-mail me Not My Bowl of Rice (or ‘my bowl of rice’) topics that you want featured in this column. We’ll try to accommodate everyone. After all, this column is meant to be everyone’s bowl of rice.

ER Escober is the author of award-winning novel/cookbook Not My Bowl Of Rice. Copies are available at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It Started With A Chair

Yes... It Started With a Chair...

...And I ended up on the cinema floor before the movie even ended--bawling! Totally floored by Diablo Cody’s JUNO. My favorite “bowl of rice” this season! Go see it!

A message to Ms Cody:
Yo! Adlib Doc (anagram for Diablo Cody)
Congratulations! Now you've got "a blog, a (stripper) pole, a hit" = anagram: "a labia & leg photo" (a reference to that gorgeous pic of yours in stripper outfit--y'all know what I'm talking about , right? )

Anyway, just thrilled to pieces about your golden moment. Kudos!
-ER (hopeless anagramist --is that even a word?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Not My Bowl Of Rice- the Idiom

Recently, I googled my invented phrase ‘Not My Bowl Of Rice’ just out of curiosity. I wanted to see if people are already using it as an idiom, a phrase, part of their daily vocabulary. To my surprise, there were several new entries, the most exciting of which was a review of singer Kylie Minogue’s CD called Fever. The review was titled ‘Not My Bowl Of Rice”. I guess Ms. Minogue’s new album wasn’t the reviewer’s cup of tea, not his bowl of rice. No matter, this article brings the phrase ‘Not My Bowl Of Rice’ to mainstream vocabulary, a source of pride for me and all Filipinos. We now have our very own phrase that’s being universally used out there.

People, who have not read my novel/cookbook with the same title, asked me how I ‘invented’ the phrase. I often refer them to the introduction of my book, which colorfully explains it. Here’s the excerpt:

“It’s not really my bowl of rice,” —Mother

“Why do you always say that? The correct thing to say is, It’s not my cup of tea!" I told Mother one day, fed-up with her made-up idiom, also irritated that she didn't think she felt like going to an air conditioned matinee on that sweltering Philippine summer afternoon.

“Oy,” she pointed out, “Look around you. Do you see any cups of tea lying around?” she asked, gesturing at our lunch table filled with wondrous Filipino dishes: pork Adobo, Lumpia, chicken barbecue and rice, lots of rice.

Reluctantly, I shook my head. No tea. The only tea I drank was Salabat, ginger tea, and only when I was sick during the cold season or as a holiday drink on Christmas morning.

“No tea, huh?” But look, bowls of rice! Bowls and bowls of rice! So I say, ‘Not my bowl of rice.” It’s better. It’s correct. Di ba?” Am I right? She announced with a triumphant grin.

How could I argue with her twisted logic after that? Rice, to us Filipinos, is more than just a staple food. It is an integral part of our culture. The rituals involved in the cycle of planting, maintaining, irrigating, harvesting and ingesting rice have enriched our lives far beyond what a single staple could ever do.

Rice – steamed, white, fragrant and mild –is the center of the Filipino meal. Everything else is eaten with it. It is a shaper of our tastes: the very salty, the very sour, the very sweet and the very spicy are especially savory when eaten against the bland background taste of rice. Filipinos simply cannot live without rice. So English idioms be damned, ‘Not my bowl of rice’ has more flavor for us Filipinos than a cup of tepid tea.

“So now you get my meaning,” Mother said, seeing my acquiescent face. “Now we can go to the movies!”

“Really?” I shrieked happily. Wow! Life is such a bowl of cherries. As long as you agree with Mother.

Here’s the book’s recipe for Chicken Adobo. It is especially savory eaten with fragrant Jasmine rice.

3 lbs chicken
3 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
8-12 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp oil

Clean chicken, rinse and wipe dry. Cut into large pieces and rub with salt and pepper. Put pieces into a deep saucepan and add bay leaves and crushed garlic. Pour on vinegar and soy sauce and marinate for an hour.

Cook over moderate heat until chicken is tender, adding a little water or stock as the liquid evaporates to keep meat moist. When chicken is cooked, turn up heat for a few minutes to dry out any remaining liquid. Pour oil into pan and fry on high heat until chicken pieces are dark brown and crisp on the surface. Remove from pan and drain well before serving.

E-mail me Not My Bowl of Rice topics that you want featured in this blog. We’ll try to accommodate everyone. After all, this blog is meant to be everyone’s bowl of rice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not My Bowl of Rice- the Blog

I have written and published this book- a fiction novel/cookbook hybrid- called Not My Bowl Of Rice. The book had been fairly reviewed. In my former (I just moved to Florida!) hometown paper in San Leandro, California; in a leading English daily in the Middle East; in a Filipino-American newspaper in Paris, France; even in a little known town called Chagrin Falls in Ohio in a paper aptly called Bainbridge Banter.

I did a lot of book reading and other marketing events for the book. I had a reading amidst slot machines in a casino in Reno, Nevada; a proper book reading attended by some Bay Area Literatis in a bookstore in San Francisco; even a book reading/booksigning event in a cruise ship on its way to Mexico. Last time I heard, the book is being included as part of recommended reading materials in several schools in California.

It has been a ride. A few weeks ago in a chic San Francisco bar, while choking and coughing over chardonnay that went down the wrong pipe, it dawned on me: “If I died tonight, at least I’ll have something tangible that I can leave the world!” Well, I didn’t die that night, just slightly stained a newly bought silk shirt. And that morbid grandiose thought that I had that night? I shelved it in my desktop folder labeled: My Illusions of Grandeur as a Published Author. Who knows? Someday, I might expand that folder into another book. But for now, I have this Blog, also called Not My Bowl Of Rice. This brainchild was born because denizens around the world who have heard of my book have been sending me all sorts of “not my bowl of rice” e-mails: What President Bush is doing for Iraq is not my bowl of rice. Pinoys in America who still use ‘Filipino time” as an excuse for being late is not my bowl of rice. Arnold Schwarzenegger as California governor? Not my bowl of rice! Eating green mangoes dipped in bagoong (shrimp paste) inside a movie theater? Ewwww, not my bowl of rice! But Hillary as First US Female President? Wow! Just 'my perfect bowl of rice'!

Okay, let me backtrack for those who have not heard of the phrase ‘not my bowl of rice’. It is a coined idiom that has the same meaning as ‘not my cup of tea.’ Our very own way of saying ‘it is not to my liking’ if you will. I’m sure this phrase had been used before so I will not claim to be the first one to use it. What I will own up to though, is the fact that I have passionately, shamelessly pushed for this phrase to be an accepted idiom worldwide.

My efforts are gradually paying off. Houghton Mifflin, (the publisher of American Heritage Dictionaries), has filed the phrase for consideration to be put into their reference books. In Australia, it is now part of Aussie slang. An article in their leading newspaper included the phrase ‘Not My Bowl Of Rice’ as part of their guide to Oz-speak for visiting Rugby players and fans. A quick search on the internet shows that the phrase is now being used as part of daily blogs (Samples I’d randomly picked in the internet: 1. Sorry man...politics not my bowl of rice. 2. On a personal perspective, as I have already said, shortening words into contractions is not my bowl of rice.). Even President Bush joined in by requesting a copy of the book prior to his last Manila trip. Now that got me excited! I was so sure that he would use the phrase in his Manila speech, as in ‘These mindless attacks by the Abu Sayyafs is not my bowl of rice!” In retrospect, I’m glad he didn’t use it, though a friend told me after I expressed my relief, that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

So, Not My Bowl Of Rice- The BLOG, will, hopefully, appear on a regular basis. It will deal with anything- serious or lighthearted issues, idiosyncrasies, food, fashion, etc- that is ‘not your bowl of rice’. Or even with things that are “your bowl of rice”. E-mail me Not My Bowl Of Rice topics that you want featured in this blog. We’ll try to accommodate everyone. After all, this blog is meant to be anyone’s bowl of rice.