Bits and pieces: Nami Island

I’ve decided to start a type of post I’m calling “Bits and pieces,” which are just one-shots of a particular moment I chanced upon or found interesting.

Here’s the first one, taken at Nami Island, South Korea.

Alive and cooking

Well, hello, it seems I’m back at this whole blogging thing, at least for now. It’s been awhile, and in the middle of all the writing I’ve been doing, I realized I need to pen something for myself for a change. Hopefully shake off all the cobwebs and keep at this going forward.


Anyway, a lot has happened. We moved to the U.S. for good, and I’ve been blessed to be able to still work freelance for a number of folks while staying with the kids at home. Speaking of kids, Amy is no longer swinging solo — her sister Clara was born last year and has recently turned one year old. I feel especially older realizing, once again, how fast they grow up.

So precious, these two.

One of the new things I’ve picked up is cooking, which I’ve been fairly successful at so far, if I do say so myself. One of the more elusive dishes I’ve tried to make — with hits and misses — is Korean braised beef stew. It’s also something my mom made for us growing up. I’ve had varied levels of success in the several times I’ve tried to make this, until now. Before, I included red apples and bosc pears in the puree, which wasn’t only more labor intensive, it also made the sauce pulpy. Not to mention it’s hard to approximate taste with fresh fruit.

Good thing I came across Chef Roi Choi’s recipe while I was watching the Chef Show on Netflix. He also blended and pureed his braising liquid, but used apple juice and orange juice instead of fresh fruit. Genius! I also modified his recipe a bit, searing and salting the meat first on both sides before I cooked everything in a slow cooker. The result was pretty good, if I do say so myself — and with the much simpler recipe, I feel relatively confident I can replicate this in the future.

Korean-style braised beef short ribs (Galbijim)


  • Beef short ribs
  • Onions
  • Scallions
  • Ginger
  • Olive oil
  • Mirin
  • Apple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Garlic
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sugar
  • Beef stock
  • Shitake mushrooms (Portobella/cremini or white/button mushrooms will do in a pinch)
  • Potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots


Create a puree with the garlic, ginger, onions, sugar, scallions (be sure to set aside some for garnish later), apple juice, orange juice, mirin and soy sauce. I used equal parts soy sauce, and orange and apple juice, around a cup each (but it depends on how much meat you have), then half a cup of mirin and a quarter cup of brown sugar.

It’s ideal that you soak the meat in cool water inside a sealed container in the refrigerator overnight. This sucks out the impurities. If you can’t for some reason, I think that’s alright. Once you’re ready to cook, throw out the water, then score the meat on both sides, season with salt and pepper, and then sear on a hot pan with a little olive oil.

Set the beef inside the slow-cooker, including the oil. Pour the puree in and set the slow-cooker on high for around 4 hours or on low for 6 hours. You can add the mushrooms, potatoes, butternut squash and carrots around 1-2 hours before the cooking timer ends.

Once done, top the dish with some chopped scallions (the more the better, in my opinion), and sesame seeds (which you can opt to toast a little beforehand). Best eaten with rice. Enjoy!

Christmas 2017

I did not grow up observing Christmas. Suffice to say that due to complicated religious reasons, I was raised a different way, and only ended up actually celebrating the season in the mid 90’s. Before then, it always felt weird saying “Merry Christmas” back, and by the time we began celebrating it — in largely awkward, off ways — I was too old for godparents, and only saw angpao when I was extremely lucky.

Up to this day Christmas feels a bit underwhelming for me. 13th month pay aside, I usually find myself annoyed by the traffic and the crowds, and terrified of the temporary escalation of the crime rate. Plus there’s the pressure of trying to think of gifts for family and friends while at the same time dreading the nth uninspired gift I’d receive in return (this year wasn’t so bad though).

But after an eventful Christmas Eve — from family in Tarlac from my wife’s side to a potluck dinner at my aunt’s on my mom’s side — I decided that it would be nice to at least take advantage of the holiday itself and spend some quality time with my wife and daughter.

So we braved Amy’s low grade fever, and with a stock of paracetamol and Cool Fever, we headed to U.P. Diliman.

Our first stop was for lunch at a place called Soru Izakaya along Maginhawa, which was one of the few open that time. A bit pricey, but the servings were large enough and the food was pretty good — enough to warrant a mutual agreement between myself and the missus for a return trip in the future.

Hiroshima MakiHiroshima Maki


We spent the rest of the day at the Sunken Garden in U.P., put down a mat, and just watched Amy behave like she wasn’t sick at all, eating ice cream and laughing and giggling and running around the place. I took the most photos here, grateful for the foresight to bring my DSLR and a trusty 50mm.

Looking back, I remembered the dates I had with my wife-then-girlfriend here, both of us largely subsisting on allowances, trying to keep our grades up, dreaming of the future. In spite of all that came in between then and today, I’m glad I ended up where I did. Such a profound blessing, family. And it is all made possible by grace, which called for Christ to be born only to die to pay for the sins of humanity.


Sola Gratia. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, folks.

Cookie and Amy - Xmas 2017



Sometimes you come across a moment, and you just can’t help but take a picture. Here’s my 2-year old nephew, Paolo, entranced by a model train setup inside Petite France in Seoul, South Korea. He’s usually all over the place, running around, like many children his age. And yet he spent a few minutes here, quiet and still, just watching the train go around the set.

Having a 2-year old myself (who is just a month younger), I’ve come to appreciate these moments when I can see children exercising their innocence. They’re all growing up in a hard world, and I’m grateful (and envious to some degree, too) to witness them seemingly set apart from all that, and for a few minutes, existing in a time and place where all is good and well and magical.