Since I left New York on Oct.1 2011, time flew just like an arrow. All of the sudden I was on my way to my last destination, the Philippines! I was excited to meet Josephine, whom I knew from my website as Dr. Moongyeunyoung. We would cook and film together, and she would organize our meetup.
My flight was at 6:30 am, so I couldn’t sleep at all! After packing all my bags, it was already 1:30 am, and I had scheduled at 2:30 am wakeup call. I closed my eyes trying to sleep for even 30 minutes, but couldn’t. I was basically lying down on my bed and waiting for that call. Yes, they woke me up on time.
I landed at Clark International Airport in the Philippines, a small airport in the middle of nowhere. I took a bus into Manila, and then a taxi to my hotel. Amazingly, the 10 minute taxi ride was more expensive than the 2 hour bus! When I told the concierge at the hotel how much I paid for the taxi, his eyes almost popped out of his head. “No way, he charged too much!” My taxi driver had ripped me off. I couldn’t remember his face, all I remembered was an empty spot in his teeth. He had lost one tooth.
The hotel was the strangest I had stayed in for this Gapshida trip. It was on a high floor of what looked like a highrise office building. The reception was on the same floor as my room; everything seemed to be on one floor. During my stay, I filmed my CJ Korean cooking startup kit contest video here.
When I checked in, the hotel reception asked me: “What kind of breakfast do you want tomorrow morning?” She gave me a piece of paper and I checked off what I wanted.
“Where shall I go to eat breakfast?” I asked.
She said: “Oh, it’s room service.” I thought, what a nice hotel!
Uh oh! When the breakfast came the next morning, the coffee was incredibly bland, like water and black ink. I asked for pancakes, but they gave me exactly bland pancakes and syrup. No fruit, or even a piece of tomato? The juice was not real juice and it tasted like it was made from powder. Usually I eat all kinds of food, but this was the worst breakfast in my life!
When they knocked at the door to pick up the empty plates, I returned everything barely eaten. They didn’t ask why and I didn’t mention anything, either. Why didn’t I complain? Because the hotel had been my choice and there is nothing much that I could change. Besides, I had more important things to do than talk about breakfast.
One night, I wanted to do my laundry and asked the receptionist: “Where’s the laundry room?”
The receptionist said: “Oh, give it to us and we we’ll do it for you and deliver it to your room when it’s done.” And then I realized that the washing machine was in the corner of the reception room. There was also a sofa with drying bedsheets piled up on it. I also saw that they had the breakfasts delivered in styrofoam boxes from a catering service. I realized there was no cooking in this hotel and everything was taken care in the small reception room.
What a strange place! When I checked out I got a chance to meet the owner. He insisted on carrying my bags down the elevator, even though I told him it was ok. When we got to the bottom, I thanked him. He asked: “Can you write about my hotel on TripAdvisor.com?” I didn’t say it out loud, but only thought: “You better not ask.” : )
Josephine, her sister, and her sister’s baby came to the hotel on a rainy evening. During my Gapshida trip, I think the rain loved me so much. Everywhere I went, I had at least one rainy day. Since the next day was our shoot and meetup date, we had to shop for some Korean ingredients. After almost 2 hours stuck in traffic and looking for a store, eventually we found one. Wherever I travelled, people said their traffic was the worst, but I think it was only true in the Philippines!
We finished shopping and went to a Korean restaurant. We had blood sausage soup and rice called soondaeguk bap. They took me to my hotel and they went back home. I prepared kkaennip kimchi for the meetup party next day.
Preparing to make kkaenip kimchi
Josephine brought me this dried mango : )
The next day Josephine and her husband came to pick me up. A long day was waiting for us: filming 2 videos, preparing for meetup party, and the meetup itself. On the way home to her house, we stopped by a local market to pick up more fresh groceries. Getting to her house from my hotel took almost 2 hours!
Joesephine and her husband Cyrus are both dentists. She saw some patients in the morning before picking me up.
In the car Josephine showed me her iPad. She keeps all her patient records and x-rays on there, as well as my recipes! Around dinner time, after long day’s work at her dental clinic, she might be clicking my recipes. “What shall I make for dinner?” : )
We bought some cabbage and cucumbers at a local market. I wish I had time to look around the market longer.
Public transportation in the Philippines
The shoot went well even though it was sweat trickling hot day. Cyrus volunteered to be our cameraman. I can’t help mentioning a little bit more about Cyrus here. Josephine called him “Chog” which sounded like “Daeg” to me. I actually had to email her to clarify his name. She said, “My husband’s name is Cyrus but We call each other CHOG, short for bochog which is a Filipino term for someone chubby who likes to eat food.” What a cute nickname it is, especially for food lovers!
Cyrus shot our videos, cooked adobo for our meetup party, cleaned the house, got some ice and beer from the store, and was always taking care of me and Josephine by serving us cold juice or water. Whenever Josephine called him for help, it sounded like “Daaaaeeee~g!” and he appeared in a few seconds. He is one of the greatest people that I met during my Gapshida trip.
Josephine’s Adobo made with chicken. The recipe video will be posted later.
Seasoned cucumber. The recipe will be posted later, too.
Since Josephine’s house is located far from downtown, it seemed to impossible for many people to easily get to the meetup.
But the meetup started and Benedict came first. “Maangchi, I am the person who sent you a photo of Korean fried chicken, but I used fish instead of chicken. Do you remember me?”
I remembered instantly. “Oh, you!..”
He brought seasoned fried chicken and a huge pot filled with manduguk (dumpling soup). “How did you bring this huge pot filled with soup without spilling any?” I asked.
He said, “I rented a taxi and a driver. The driver is in the car now waiting for me until the meetup is done.” I asked him to bring in the driver to share food together. Isn’t it a huge effort he made to come to the meetup?
Josephine lead us to her rooftop where our meetup took place. Voila! There was a long main table for the potluck dishes, and nice tables and chairs were set up. The tables were covered with beautiful green table cloth. The rooftop was beautiful and breezy and we had a nice view of the setting sun.
Rooftop party set
She prepared a banner that said: “Welcome Maangchi!!!” You can guess how honored I was to receive such great hospitality. It was totally a huge surprise. She never mentioned anything about this preparation before! I think what she wanted was to surprise us.
Mika and Michelle came with a big pot of stew and Filipino dishes. They said they had to take a bus, taxi, and then another taxi, changing transportation four times to get there. I could picture them carrying stew pot and plates, getting on and off the buses and taxis…
And then soon ArMi and her husband came. ArMi was almost jumping when she saw me. I also jumped to her and she cried. I started crying, too. She is living in Quezon city and came to join the meetup by riding the bus for 12 hours. “I can’t believe! I’m meeting Maangchi!” she said, and then cried again.
Her husband was smiling the whole time. One of the best things about my Gapshida trip was that I got a chance to meet many passionate silent readers like ArMi.
ArMi and her husband
My happiest moment, surrounded by avid and passionate foodies
Salad, kimchi, cucumber salad, and manduguk (dumpling soup)
My plate full of delicious food!
With Mika and Michelle
With Josephine’s family
I met Mika and Michelle again next day. They gave me a chance to taste Laing and Sinigang, and Halo-halo.
Filipino dessert Halo-halo which is made with shaved ice. It’s similar to Korean patbingsu!
Soon I would leave the Philippines and end my Gapshida trip. It seemed like I had started just yesterday, but it had been 6 weeks. In that time I had travelled once around the earth, met so many interesting people, cooked many many delicious meals, and enjoyed the hospitality of numerous countries. My portable hard drive was full of video that I would take back to New York, edit, and share with all of you.
The Philippines was a good place to finish my journey: it was full of passionate foodies whom I never expected to travel so far just to meet me, say hello, and share some food. It was a perfect example of why I started this Gapshida project to begin with: good food, good people, good times. It couldn’t be better!