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Northern (gustatory) pride…

How “original” can an offering be the moment you take them from the very contexts that made them thrive to begin with?

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Every region (if not every town) in the Philippines has their own gustatory offerings that sort of define them – e.g. Bicol Express in, obviously, Bicol; bagnet in Ilocos; guapple pie of Negros; and so on…

This is why – when one is just in Metro Manila – when seeing all those “original such-and-such” offerings of various restos, supposedly with their preparations learned from the regions these offerings originated from, one can only really… frown. Because how “original” can an offering be the moment you take them from the very contexts that made them thrive to begin with?

This is the thought that stays in the mind when thinking of Ilocos’ empanada and okoy, particularly after one has tried those offered in Vigan City’s Nanang Sion.





WHAT’S THERE

There are actually two branches of Nanang Sion (as per the apo or grandchild of Nanang Sion herself) – one is by the plaza/near the church in downtown Vigan City (this is the “main” branch), and another one in one of the streets parallel to Crisologo (that tourist trap portion of the city, where just about every tourist has his/her pic taken). The former is a more “formal” resto; but the latter – if I may say so – has more character, with the apo’s collections of everything old (vintage, if you must).

There are wooden tables, and chairs and benches scattered on two floors, and adding to that “being in an old place” vibe/feel.

But – more apparent – are the owner’s collections of… just about everything, from rebulto (statues of holy people or saints) to scooters to bikes to kalesa (horse carriage) wheels, and so on. And while many are placed on pedestals, there are some that are made to be – literally – parts of the place, e.g. the bicycles that were cemented on the walls.

If it’s “character” you want, then this one’s worth a check, indeed.

WHY GO THERE

But – recognizing that ambiance is but part of the attraction – if there’s one thing that will make you come here, this can be summed in one word: FOOD.

Must try are:

  1. Empanada (super special, P65) – I’ve traveled to various parts of northern Philippines a lot of times, and while there, many always tell me to try the local empanada. But – considering the number of people who recommends empanada – I can’t fathom the fuss about it. In my mind (and from what I tasted) it’s nothing really special, just a combo of longganisa/chorizo with either scraped green papaya or thinly chopped cabbage, plus egg thrown in, and then wrapped in dough before being fried.
    And then I tried Nanang Sion’s empanada, and I now sorta get the hype. I’d say this: if done really well, empanada is really tasty. And this one (so far) has been the tastiest empanada from somewhere north of the Philippines for me.
  2. Okoy (with egg and longganisa, P55) – This one is also a surprise because okoy, as we know it, is nothing but fried: shrimps with veggies (some use carrots or kamote), and then coated in flour. Now be honest, how many times have you eaten okoy and actually complain with that hair-like strands from the shrimp heads? With Nanang Sion, though, the okoy is actually… succulent, with the shrimp juicy and (thanks to the longganisa) tasty.

The servings are big, BTW. So if you end up unable to finish what was given you because you’re too full already, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you…

If hungrier and in search of “real” meals (not merienda or snacks), there are “silogs” – e.g. bagnet (P150) and longganisa (P120), and the “common” corned beef (P90), siomai (P90), hotdog (P90), et cetera.

If it’s just me, though, I’d say stick to the food that has been helping define Ilocos. That way, you avoid getting disappointed…

And so, yes, empanada and okoy are good starts…

WHY AVOID IT

To start, heading to Vigan isn’t in everybody’s list of to-do. And truth be told, even when driving (instead of commuting), going there takes a while. So for those who have… aversion to long trips, then this isn’t for you.

If- I suppose – you’re a local and already have had enough empanada and okoy to last you a lifetime, then…

IN THE END…

But – let me say this – the next time someone mentions “original such-and-such” to you, and you’re having that offering outside its original context, it’s always better to have them where they (first and originally really) made them. That way, you’d be able to tell how “real” or “fake” the offering has become.

And as far as some of the best northern gustatory delights are concerned, I’d say head to Vigan City. And give Nanang Sion a try while there; for less than P100, you’d understand why “eating local” continues to be the best way to appreciate delicacies…

Nanang Sion is at Plaridel St, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. Vigan City isn’t THAT big of a place. Ask around NOT just for the location of Nanang Sion, but also where else you can grab what’s good there. I’ve encountered shy Ilocanos who demur when speaking with us outsiders; but almost always, they try as much as they can to help out and lead you where you wanna go or – for that matter – where they think you ought to head to best enjoy being there…



Believing that knowing on its own is not good enough, "you have to share what you know, too", Mikee dela Cruz gladly shares through his writing. A (BA) Communication Studies graduate, he had stints with UNAIDS, UNICEF and Ford Foundation, among others, writing "just about everything". Read on as he does some sharing through Zest Magazine.

Destinations

Launch your boat into a new season

Whether you’re racing against the waves or quietly floating with a pole in hand, a day on the water is hard to beat. However, before you can enjoy the excitement of a new season, there are several steps you need to take to make sure your boat is ready for the ride.

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Photo by Gunnar Ridderström from Unsplash.com

Whether you’re racing against the waves or quietly floating with a pole in hand, a day on the water is hard to beat. However, before you can enjoy the excitement of a new season, there are several steps you need to take to make sure your boat is ready for the ride.

System Check
Your boat’s fuel and electric systems need an experienced eye to determine potential problems. Cracked or damaged hoses and connections need to be replaced, and all fittings and clamps should be checked to ensure they’re tight and secure. Test exhaust and ventilation systems, and replace worn or lose belts and cables, giving special attention to the steering and throttle cables. If you didn’t change the oil and filter before putting your boat in storage, do so before the season begins. Also be sure to check oil, power steering fluid and coolant levels as well as running lights and emergency features such as horns.

Battery Function
A reliable power source is essential for powering your trolling motor and operating accessories like fish finders when your engine isn’t running. You’ll need to test your battery before heading out on the water. If it’s time for a replacement, look for a powerful and cost-efficient option like Interstate Batteries’ Enhanced Flooded Deep-Cycle Marine Battery. The battery features a durable design with extended battery life and includes a two-year, free replacement warranty.

Visual Inspection
After several months in storage, it’s a good idea to give your boat a thorough inspection so you can identify any holes, cracks or dings that may impact its performance or safety. Scan the hull closely to for any abnormalities and check the propeller, as even minor dings and scratches can affect its operation.

Careful Cleaning
Depending on the security of your storage space and how you covered your boat, you may not have much heavy cleaning to do. However, it’s a good idea to start the season fresh by giving everything a thorough wipe down. This can help illuminate any problems you may have overlooked during your visual inspection. In addition, using UV protectant on exposed surfaces can help prevent damage such as cracks and fading caused by harsh sunlight.

Safety Supplies
Before you hitch the trailer, take inventory of your on-board safety supplies. Be sure your life jackets are in good condition and that you have options to appropriately fit all passengers. Check fire extinguishers to ensure they’re in good working order and test the carbon monoxide detector (or add one if there’s not already a detector installed). Also scan your safety kit; update any expired items and replenish your supply of bandages or other items that may be running low.

Find more information to get your summer on the water underway at interstatebatteries.com.

Finding the Best Battery for Your Boat

No matter how you spend your time on the water, a durable and reliable battery is a must. Learn what kind of battery is best for your boating needs from the experts at Interstate Batteries:

Starting: Whether you’re sailing the ocean or ripping it up in a motorboat, starting batteries are built to withstand most marine conditions.

Deep-Cycle: These batteries are the most popular line of marine batteries and offer strong, reliable power. This type of battery is used to start your trolling motor and power other accessories like fish finders whether your engine is running or not.

Dual-Purpose: Originally developed for military tanks and submarines, this type of battery has the staying power of a deep-cycle battery coupled with high-cranking performance.

Powersport: When you’re trying to catch every wave, the last thing you want is a weak battery. These top-quality batteries are built to withstand the most rugged conditions on the water.

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Destinations

Frequent travel could make you 7% happier

A new study in the journal of Tourism Analysis shows frequent travelers are happier with their lives than people who don’t travel at all.

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Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels.com

People dreaming of travel post-COVID-19 now have some scientific data to support their wanderlust. A new study in the journal of Tourism Analysis shows frequent travelers are happier with their lives than people who don’t travel at all.

Chun-Chu (Bamboo) Chen, an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management at Washington State University, conducted a survey to find out why some individuals travel more frequently than others and whether or not travel and tourism experiences have a prolonged effect on happiness and wellness.

The results of his analysis show individuals who pay more attention to tourism-related information and frequently discuss their travel plans with friends are more likely to go on regular vacations than those who aren’t constantly thinking about their next trip.

Additionally, participants in the survey who reported regularly traveling at least 75 miles away from home also reported being about 7% happier when asked about their overall well-being than those who reported traveling very rarely or not at all.

“While things like work, family life and friends play a bigger role in overall reports of well-being, the accumulation of travel experiences does appear to have a small yet noticeable effect on self-reported life satisfaction,” Chen said. “It really illustrates the importance of being able to get out of your routine and experience new things.”

Previous studies have examined the stress relief, health and wellness benefits of tourism experiences, but they have tended to examine the effect of a single trip or vacation. Chen’s research takes these previous studies one step further by looking at the sustained benefits of travel over the course of a year.

Participants in the study were asked about the importance of travel in their lives, how much time they spent looking into and planning future vacations, and how many trips they went on over a year. They were also asked about their perceived life satisfaction. Out of the 500 survey participants, a little over half reported going on more than four pleasure trips a year. Only 7% of respondents did not take any vacations.

As travel restrictions due to COVID-19 begin to relax in the future, the research could have important implication for both tourists and the tourism industry. Based on the results of the study, Chen said travel companies, resorts and even airlines could launch social media campaigns, such as creating hashtags about the scientific benefits of vacation, to spark people’s interest in discussing their opinions about travel.

“This research shows the more people talk about and plan vacations the more likely they are to take them,” he said. “If you are like me and chomping at the bit to get out of dodge and see someplace new, this research will hopefully be some additional good motivation to start planning your next vacation.”

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Travel

No evidence people alter daily travel after having symptoms that could be COVID-19

“We could not detect any significant change of movement when people should self-quarantine. On the other hand some people almost did not leave home since the beginning of the pandemic, while others move freely around.”

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Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.com

How can we better understand how people move during the pandemic and how they spread COVID-19? New George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services research is one of the first individual-level studies to explore this question.

Dr. Janusz Wojtusiak led the study published in the Journal of Healthcare Informatics Research. Wojtusiak and colleagues tracked symptoms and movements of 175 volunteer individuals on George Mason University’s campus. They found that there is no evidence that participants altered their movements based on the symptoms they reported.

“We could not detect any significant change of movement when people should self-quarantine. On the other hand some people almost did not leave home since the beginning of the pandemic, while others move freely around,” said Wojtusiak.

Participants used the Mason COVID HealthCheckTM to record symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection and GPS and WiFi data to provide information on how they move during the pandemic. This allows the researchers to model and predict movements during the pandemic and in conjunction with any reported possible COVID-19 symptoms.

“By tracking individual movements and symptoms in our study, our findings could help inform effective public health interventions to reduce COVID-19 infections,” explains Wojtusiak.

In addition, Wojtusiak and colleagues analyzed de-identified Mason COVID HealthCheckTM responses and found that a headache was the most frequently reported symptom, and a headache was always listed as a symptom when any other symptoms were reported. Other commonly reported symptoms were coughs and sore throats.

Movement patterns varied among participants, with some only going out for essential trips while others moved about more. As a group, movement was consistent over the study period, which included a period when Virginia was under a stay-at-home order and when it was not. Participants traveled a total average of 139 miles per week, visiting an average of less than six locations per week. This low average mileage and number of sites visited does suggest that COVID-19-related restrictions affected their movement. However, they also found that even when participants reported symptoms of COVID-19 or contact with others with COVID-19, they did not change their movements as recommended by public health guidance.

George Mason University has a very low COVID-19 infection rate, and during the period none of the study participants reported COVID-19 infection, so researchers weren’t able to link COVID-19 positive tests and movement. Future analysis will include data from the winter of 2020 so may provide more information on movement after COVID-19 infection. The researchers are also conducting surveys and interviews to provide richer data including reasons for complying or not complying with social distancing.

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