Day off be like

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Been experiencing winter here in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks now. Rains just stopped, as well. So at 45°, still seeing exposed ankles. That’s the kind of winter we get in California.

Top photo was shot by the lady with me in the next photo. She’s Marcy Contreras, a sharp 84-year-old Ilocana, who works at my friend’s office. Btw, she’s an Atenista. I want to be like her, a bundle of energy, when I reach her age. She’s really adorable.

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This is where I go Filipino food shopping. It can get expensive buying my Purefoods corned beef, Cabalen longganisa, Do-Do fishballs, Dagupeña alamang bagoong and chichirya, but what the heck?


Philippine mangoes are hard to come by, so Mexican will do. They’re the equivalent of our very own apple mangoes.

Okay, loves, ’til the next blog post. Looks like sunny days are here to stay.

Sari Sari Store at the Grand Central Market LA


At last, a convenient stop for silog in Los Angeles! Just like its name, Sari Sari, which is the Filipino word for variety, the store or stall that opened last summer at the iconic Grand Central Market, offers notoriously liked traditional mainstream items, and lechon manok, arroz caldo and halo-halo are the Chippy, Halls and Coca-Cola here.


Caught Chef Margarita Lorenzana Manzke, one of the owners of Sari Sari Store, also a co-owner of the crowd-pleasing République on La Brea, and Wildflour Bakery & Cafe in Manila, a James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee, fervently working on  buko pie, a mainstay at Sari Sari. Husband Chef Walter Manzke was also around.


Located in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), the Grand Central Market, a 1917 landmark, houses the many different flavors and cultures of the city. Eating here is a must-do when in LA.  Eggslut, Wexler’s Deli, Mc Connell’s Fine Ice Cream, La Huerta Candies, and lately, Sari Sari Store, are my frequent stops.


Arroz caldo is a hit among non-Pinoy guests here. With mushrooms, it’s a delicious modern rendition of the original arroz caldo back home. So far, I’ve tried tortang talong, studded with corn, and best eaten with patis; sisig rice, which is more liver than pig face, but definitely, the way I like it, like the original Kapangpangan Aling Lucing style; the Americanized buko pie; halo-halo with frozen watermelon and caramelized rice crispies; and homemade calamansi soda — all fun and still Filipino, notwithstanding the fresh twists on the basics.


Absolutely, unlike a sari-sari store in the Philipines, no pa-lista here, cash and credit cards only.

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved

Chevylle V. Fariñas: Tailor-made for public service


Chevylle sounds like Chevy Chevelle, the car of choice of Baby Boomers, somewhat hinting at the age of the first woman mayor of the city of Laoag. The only daughter among the two children of Baby and the late Rudy Villanueva (not originally from Ilocos), Chevylle spent her formative years in Laoag. An honor student at the Holy Spirit Academy of Laoag, she had that kind of beauty that made the boys swoon. Her college years were at the Maryknoll (now Miriam College). As cupid would have it, Michael Fariñas, the first grandchild of the late Fariñas Trans patriarch, Don Federico, and nephew of then Laoag mayor Rudy, never let her go, and they tied the knot and had children. Michael worked in the family business while Chevylle was full-time mom, yet helped manage their own retail store, and later on they dabbled in politics (Chevylle always supported Michael, who was tasked to organize and manage his uncles’ election campaigns). When it was Michael’s turn to win the mayoralty in Laoag, Chevylle assumed the other essential posts like the barangay heads association chair.

Fellow-barangay heads helped her “walk” for the mayoralty post, with last-termer mayor Michael defying family wishes, which caused a split-up in the Fariñas family and supporters (the first time it happened to the close-knit family), and indeed she eventually won by more than 21K votes over reelectionist uncle, Roger. But that’s all water under the bridge. The passing away of cousin JR ( Rudy’s son) made Laoag’s most prominent political family whole again.

More low-key than the average Ilocano politician, her strength lies in her diligence and organizational skills. And I see that feisty streak in her, exactly what a woman leader should be born with.

Under her leadership, Laoag continues to reap awards, awards such as most livable and most business-friendly city, notwithstanding the controversial disappearance of former City Treasurer Elena V. Asuncion and 85 million from the coffers of the city, which political opponents of the Fariñases are trying to link to both the mayor and vice-mayor (husband Michael).


Fun Facts about Laoag City Mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas

•  She sings very well. Very well means like a professional singer.

•  She’s a hands on mom, albeit her other duties. Now that her two older children, Jami and Mikee, are able to help serve her constituents, we can see how she has influenced them in their career paths — Jami is the City Administrator, after Perry Martinez vacated the post, and Mikee has followed her parents’ footsteps into politics.

•  Creativity is her middle name. She likes arts and crafts, she’s her own stylist, she loves makeup (like you and me, darling), and dressing up as seen in her fashion choices (well, her mom owns a clothing store). Her personal strong liking for happy colors extends to her office like Barbie pink and apple green are the official colors of her administration.

•  She drives like a man. She will drive to Manila alone if she has to. What are the Sampaloc and Divisoria streets to her?

• A city hall employee will attest to her exemplary work ethic. One more employee says she pushes them to think out of the box, and likes to hear innovations.


•  It is hard to imagine her in a different hairstyle. It might be a politician thing like Imelda has had that bouffant since time immemorial.

• Basically, between Michael and Chevylle, she is the more approachable one.

• As city mayor, despite her busy schedule, she has time for everyone, (this I experienced three times, to be precise, no cordon sanitaire).

All photos lifted from the Agserbi 24/7 Facebook page.

Rice Bar to love in LA


There’s no place like home, but with no lola or nanay or hubby’s cooking to come home to, Rice Bar is home to me. And Chef Charles Olalia makes pancit luglug and longaniza (the hamonado kind) so much better than anyone else I know. And on my most recent visit, Vigan longaniza (in top photo) and pancit devil eggs were so new on the menu.


At the high point of its popularity, Filipino cooking in LA gets more and more powerful, and Rice Bar is one of the few innovative ones who has successfully defined Filipino food with just a handful of dishes on the menu. There will always be pancit, lumpia and adobo anywhere else, but Rice Bar has also other things like tinola is unexpectedly a bestseller, and the longaniza rice bowl is so good that I had two the first time, and buko ice candy for dessert? That’s so brilliant.


Pancit devil eggs taste so much like palabok with a zing of lemon.


If you happen to be in Downtown LA, Rice Bar is located on 7th Street. The space is tight and I liken it to a carinderia, but that’s part of Rice Bar’s appeal.

Just like home.