Coconuts…Pineapples and Wildcat Coffee. A day in Tagaytay

The final excursion of our trip was to the town of Tagaytay which is about 2 hours from metro Manila. In the mountains we journeyed to see the inactive volcano.

Our tour guide drove us up the mountain and we made a few stops along the way.

We stopped at a coconut stand and viewed the massive amounts of coconut trees.

We continued to climb the mountains and were amazed to see the homes and resorts that were truly living on the edge.

One more trek to go, so we could see the panoramic view of the volcano.

Our first ride in a Jeepney! So glad it was Monday and really no tourists. We had the Jeepney all to ourselves. As you can see we are a lot taller than most Flilipinos.

We finally made it!

We journey back down the mountain and we saw:

Beautiful pine trees

A lush plant store

Had a quick lunch at a fried chicken spot that had surprising views.

The view at the chicken restaurant!

Half a spring chicken

A calamansi and cucumber shake

For dessert Halo Halo

We stopped by the coffee supplier who produces the famous Wildcat coffee (Civet Cat Coffee) the coffee fruit has been eaten by the cat and after it has gone through the disgestive tract it has altered the coffee bean that results in 3x the antioxidants. (Yes, this coffee beans is retrieved from the cats poop!) That is why it is so expensive. The owner shared that one kilo of this coffee in metro Manila goes for is 24,000 pesos which is $450.

Here is the owner talking to us about the health benefits of the coffee and how she traveled to Las Vegas to see the Mayweather- Pacquiao fight and how one of the vendors was selling her coffee. This lady is 92 years old!

Next we stopped by a honey bee farm

One of the hives

Another hive

Time to head back to Manila

Later that evening we had dinner at a Korean resturant.

Sizzling beef broth noodles

Korean bbq ribs

Various Korean side dishes

Our final full day in Manila has come to a close. It is time to mentally get prepared for this long journey back to the States and begin my detox. Until next time….

Taking the scenic view…learning about the history of Manila

Exploring a country that has a storied history of being colonized by countries like Spain, the United States and Japan. I had a difficult time processing the displacement and frankly the gentrification that was caused.

In 1898 the Philippines were freed from Spain but given to the United States and ironically on July 4, 1946 the Philippines were granted full independence from the United States.

As our tour guide took us to various parts of the city we observed the hard working and family orientied communities.

Here are a few things we experienced on our tour:

We went to the Lechon capital of the Philippines. Whole hog roasting is a celebratory dish. All major events will have Lechon as a main dish. The place we stopped at is very well known and has multiple locations. We were told that the smaller pigs are more tender and tasty!

We drove through the flower district. Where I learned that this area is jam packed with people during Araw ng mga Patay, Undas, or Todos Los Santos (Day of the Dead).

We are entering the historic and oldest district in Manila. This walled city endured lots of war.

Ked and I walking on the 16th century wall

The Philippines is 80% Catholic, 10% Muslim and 10% other religions. It was very evident to see the importance of religion in the culture.

Jeepneys all over had scriptures or messages about God.

Lots of churches

We had a chance to visit a church musuem. Its called the lucky church because it has withstood natural disasters and World War II.

We wrapped up our tour by visiting the Manila American cemetery where over 17,000 U.S personnel were killed during World War II during the battle of the Philippines.

After our tour we headed to lunch and continued to explore the city.

A modern Japanese restaurant

This was to paint soy sauce on top of the maki that was ordered.

Delicious Uni (sea urchin) courtesy of Amelia and John.

Soft shell crab tempura

Duck and foie sushi

Lunch was capped off with some yummy black sesame ice cream.

After our lunch we ventured to another mall and look what was there….

Hours later we had our final meal for the day…you guessed it Flipino food. This time we went to a local chain and had some yummy favorites.

Sisiq (pork head)

Lumpiang Shanghai

Green mango with shrimp paste

Water spinach

Crispy Pata ( deep fried pork)

Grilled squid

Today was a full day of learning and eating. Tomorrow we will take to the volcano. Until next time….

Pinoy K-Staters Bleed Purple

Alumni and friends from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s gathered together this evening to share their fond memories about their time at K-State and experience in the United States.

During a part of the evening, alumni and friends had a chance to introduce themselves and share their favorite memories of their time at K-State.

Memories that were shared were flying on a small plane to Manhattan for the first time (a 4 or 6 seater plane) and being scared to death; experiencing their first winter snow and only having sandals to wear or using an umbrella because they did not know how to function in the snow.

Alumni and friends reminsced about cheering on the Wildcats at women’s basketball games, eating Call Hall ice cream, and the frequent jaunts to Aggieville to indulge in a few libations and destress from their intense studies.

Listening and watching my alumni talk about their time at K-State provided me with 3 majors themes:

1. Cultural Communities- there is power in cultural communities. Alumni talked about how the Filipinos in Manhattan embraced and helped them transition. It was stories of individuals fetching them from the airport; to alumni helping them get apartments and gifting them with furniture from previous students; to lots of parties hosted by the K-State Philippines Student Association. The community that alum reflected on contributed to their social and emotional wellbeing. The bonding together evolved into a family away from home.

2. The power of faculty and research- many of the alumni and friends were masters and Ph.D. level students and it involved intense studying and research. Alot of the memories shared involved faculty advisors who served as mentors who helped shape them into the successful professionals they are today. Individuals spoke about the opportunities and active pushing they received that stretched them to do more and prepared them for future jobs.

People like Dr. Chandler, the Maghirang family and Dean Shanklin were consistently referred to and they were pillars in the community who were holistic advisors who not only helped with academics but went above and beyond and were seen as parental figures. Alumni and friends expressed their sincere gratitude by dotting on these individuals with gifts, hosting them when they visit the Philippines and staying in contact after many years. One alum shared that when he came back to the United States he made a special trip back to campus to meet with his major professors and he was so blessed to do so because not long after one of his professors passed away.

3. Kansas State University- my final theme is Kansas State University. Our institution prides itself on the family experience they offer to students and this theme has shined throughout my visit. For some of the alumni and friends it was their first time to the United States and the warm embrace and hospitality they received from the K-State community has left a lifetime impression. Alum talked about when they hit I-70 they instantly get a sense of coming home and one alum shared that she considers K-State her home in the United States.

K-State has been welcoming international students for over 130 years and to witness the love and purple pride these individuals exude made me even more proud of my alma mater.

I can’t close out this post without sharing the delicious food that was served.

Creamy roasted capsicum soup

Asian salad with grilled chicken and carrot roasted cashews

Grilled blue marlin with garlic sauce served with steamed rice and seasonal vegetables

Strawberry mousse for dessert

Plus they had ice tea that was already sweet!

Our beautiful evening of purple pride ended with the singing of the alma mater and fight song and taking lots and lots of pictures. Until next time…

Rice is life…Payday Friday

Today we journeyed to Los Baños to visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the University of Philippines Los Baños. This day was filled with meeting K-Staters, connecting with administration and students and learning what “Payday Friday” means in the Manila metro area! Along the way we had some fabulous Filipino food and experienced another mindblowing transportation experience.

The power of purple pride. Through a K-State connection we were able to tour and learn about the research and sustainability that is happening around rice.

A map made out of rice.

In our visit we met two K-Staters and numerous others who worked with individuals who were proud K-Staters. We listened to stories about Throckmorton Hall, driving in the United States for the first time and the impact that faculty and research had on these individuals.

Chatting with a few K-Staters who were at K-State during the mid 1990s who now work for IRRI.

Private guided tour of the rice fields.

Visited the long term rice genebank that is kept at -20° C to keep the integrity of the rice properties.

Our next venture was the University of Philippines Los Baños.

We started our visit with a meeting the with the University Chancellor. I learned how the Philippines adopted the American higher eduction system and why the citizens speak English even though they were colonized by the Spanish.

Before our K-State presentation to prospective students and faculty we were treated to a traditional Filipino lunch with their dean of graduate studies and you guessed it MORE K-Staters!

The alumna on the left went to K-State from 1977-1978 and then obtained her Ph.D from 1980-1983. She is the dean of their economics department. The alumna on the right is a 1989 graduate and another trailblazer.

A K-State ID card that our alum has kept. You can’t tell me our alum don’t bleed purple all throughout this world.

A tradtional meal that was served was Kare Kare (an oxtail stew with a peanut sauce…how did they know I LOVE oxtails)

This goodness almost put me to sleep before our presentation (the struggle was so real)

Buko pie from the best place to have this pie (Los Baños) it is a young coconut pie. It has the texture of apple pie.

Ked and I gettin hit with jetlag….

So as our full day in Los Baños was coming to a close, we were talking with our friend and traveling host ,Amelia, and she mentioned it could take us up to 3 hours to get back to Manila because it is “Payday Friday”! Wait what is payday friday and how does this impact the already jampacked traffic.

This was the traffic when we were going to Los Baños at 6:45am.

This was our fearless NASCAR like driver who found every and any opportunity to get ahead in traffic (yes we are driving on the shoulder) in the Philippines driving rules are what we were told… suggestions. Don’t worry mom we wore our seat belts and prayed for God’s covering!

So seeing what the regular morning commute was it was unfathomable to comprehend what “Payday Friday” was going to be like. “Payday Friday” is when more than normal amounts of people are out on the town going to dinner, grocery shopping and going to the mall cause they just got paid. It is such a big deal that they were talking about it on the radio. When I say it took us 2 1/2 hours of gridlock traffic to get to the hotel and that was with an expert driver, it was crazy!

When we finally made it to the hotel what did we do…..EAT! We went to another bomb Filipino restaurant and learned more about the rich culture of the people.

Sinigang a sour soup with milk fish. This soup was made with guava instead of Tamarind and the guava flavor was divine.

Shrimp crackers and vinegar…its like the Filipino version of chips and salsa.

Paco fern salad with red egg…remember the red eggs from my first post? Well they color the eggs red to let people know they are salted eggs.

This dish was shrimp gambas, this was in a garlic sauce that you could drink!

Bicol express which is a veggie dish with long beans, okra and some more spicy yummyness. What I learned about Filipino food selection is you want to get flavors that are sweet, salty, sour and spicy!

This dish was fried pork belly with green papaya salad. These Filipinos know how to cook some chicharrõn.

For the drink I had a pineapple shake!

All in all, today was a great productive K-State day and we ended it with great food and wonderful friendships. Until next time…

The Philippines and Transportation

We made it! After more than 20 hours of traveling we finally landed in The Philippines.

The first day was packed with a little sightseeing, a presentation about Kansas State University, learning and witnessing the lack of transportation regulations and of course FOOD!

Let’s talk about this transportation though… Enter at your own risk is the vibe I got. Now as I prepared for this trip I read about the best way to get around and the advice that was shared was that a private transport option was the best way to go . The metro is really for people who know where they are going and the Jeepneys….well let’s just say the Jeepneys are truly for the locals.

There are tons of people everywhere and the lines are long and the buses are freakin packed. If you are claustrophobic this ain’t the place to be.

A long line formed in front of one of the malls before it opened.

Shopping galore

While watching buses, jeepneys, motorbikes, private cars and pedestrians interact in getting from one place to another I was amazed and honestly a little frightened at times, but it was eerily in harmony with the urbanized culture.

Time is fluid in the Philippines and now I understand its due to the insane traffic that you cannot plan for exact arrival. Its best to leave a few hours early if you must be on time.

The Food

Once I landed in Hong Kong we had a delicatable bite to eat of roasted goose and barbeque pork. This was much appreciated since the food on the flight was not on point like some of my other travels.

On our first day in Manila we were able to eat some really good food and for the cheap!

Rice congee with yummy mix ins. Let me tell you about the magical fruit called Calamansi Lime. These mini limes are packed with flavor that is out of this world. Its only found in Southeast Asia and used in everything. You will see more of this fruit.

This was some sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves with some carmel poured on top. This is definitley not on the weightloss menu, but it was oh so good.

After a tasty breakfast we explored Market Market and saw a ton of produce.

The Phillipines has a wide range of bananas

Red eggs

For a major part of the day we spent it at the Fulbright office where we presented to interested students about pursuing a degree at K-State.

After sharing our purple pride we headed to dinner and enjoyed some local Flipino cuisine.

Sisig with Egg (parts of pig head with egg and you guessed it calamansi lime) FIRE

Mangga Salad (green mango salad)

Inhaw sampler (variety of grilled meat and seafood)

Garlic rice

Calamansi lime juice to cool you down from a hot and humid day.

Today was a great and long day. We have an early start to a long journey to the University of Philippines Los Banos where we have several K-State alum on faculty. It is expected to take 1 to 3 hours to get to our destination pending traffic. It’s time for bed even though in the states the day has just gotten started. Until next time.

The journey back to the United States….Thursday two times 

Today was our final day in South Korea, it has truly been a blast and the alumni and faculty I had a chance to interact with were fantastic. I have learned so much about the culture and have gained a better perspective about how to engage our future and current alumni who are from South Korea. 

Before our flight we had one more meeting with a retired faculty member from Yongei University, who Carol and Junehee knew. It was a pleasure to meet her and learn about her career and what she is doing in retirement.

* South Korean fact

When a person turns 65 years old they must retire. Also in Korea you turn a year older on the first day of the new year, not the day your were born.

We dined at a Chinese restaurant that was in the Seoul train station. I have never been to a train station that had multiple restaurants, coffee shops and a mall. The food was once again delicious 

Green tea

This chicken was so on point…..

But watch out for these peppers…Ked and I both accidentally ate these and boy were we on fire. Never again!

Crab hot and sour soup

Beef and vegetables….more vegetables than beef

Sweet and sour prawns! Oh so good

Chinese Bun

Juicy Lychee for dessert

The time has come to head back to the United States. We had a blast but we are ready to get back home. We look forward to coming back to South Korea.

So our flight from Seoul was Thursday, June 22nd at 5:30pm and we arrived in Dallas on Thursday, June 22nd at 4:30pm. We had a 4 hour layover and it was not bad, because we could chill in the Admiral lounge, which is a whole new level for waiting for your flight.

We also had the chance to meet up with one of Kedric’s high school friends who lives in Dallas.

We finally made it back to Manhattan safely. I have swollen feet and a slight back ache, but we are blessed to be at home and in our own bed. What an experience we had.

I hope you enjoyed this blog series about my first trip to South Korea.

Until next time

Farewell Busan

Today was our final day in Busan and it was filled with more sightseeing, catching up with alumni, cultural history and of course food.

This tour focused on the west side of Busan which was where the local folk lived. As I traveled through Busan I was wondering where the everyday people lived and worked. The hotel we stayed at was more of a touristy area .

What I observed on this tour was the hills…..San Francisco ain’t got nothing on these hills.

Also no space is wasted, every nook, cranny, and alley is filled with a home, restaurant, mom and pop store, coffee shop or fruit stand. Being from the United States I can see why people see it as a place with a lot of open space. What a luxury.

While on the tour we experienced more beautiful views.

After the tour we ventured off on our own!

We ended up back at the mall and we saw kimchee refrigerators (I want one)

We were told that just about every household has  a kimchee refrigerator. Families will get together before the winter and make kimchee that can last them all winter.

I didn’t talk much about the driving here, but it is crazy….not as bad as Costa Rica. Here this taxi stops in the middle of traffic to pick this woman up. She had luggage to put in the trunk….smh

Ked and I learned that sidewalks are not ment just for pedestrians walking….its for driving and parking as well.

We took the city bus…..traffic was crazy

Here’s what a school bus looks like

We had a chance to experience the  world famous chagalchi fish market.

I felt like we were on the Travel Channel as we walked down the various alleys looking at the fresh seafood. 

We stopped in a small restaurant along the way and had some fried fish.

After we experienced the fish market, the night market was happening so we walked around and soaked in our last night in Busan.

Another observation Ked and I made was the love for miniature dogs that people in Busan had. We never saw a big dog….like never!

Now back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our train ride back to Seoul. Busan it has been a blast.

Until next time