Monday, November 12, 2012

The Ice Cream Showdown

Lazy Black Cat Selecta Whoppers

The “ber” season resumed its reign roughly 2 months back, but still Manila continues to get haunted by the ultraviolet rage. There is something very unnerving about the weather, and that includes the possible mistake of prepping the holiday coats and stockings, only to be outshone by the dazzling rays.

I have prayed for snow since El Nino has been referenced as a climatic condition rather than for religious reasons, but to no avail. Instead, all I ask for is a bit of breeze. You know, the type that would remind me that Christmas is around the corner and not in the coming decade.

Still, the heat signifies no end, which make hot chocolate and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, not my thing at the moment.

And so I find solace I what seemed to be the summer staple and now, a round-the-year essential: ice cream. That velvety soft cream, finessed by the cold, is the only item worth investing in this season. While the variants are abound, I’ve decided to settle with three—Fruity Comfort, Blissful Chunks and Great Balls of Crunch—and yes, give them code names while we’re at it.

FIC Raspberry ice cream

Fruity Comfort: Raspberry Rapture by Fruits in Ice Cream
Why settle for the by-the-scoop FIC ice cream in the malls when you can dig into the gallon right at home, in the car or wherever the craving hits you? Raspberry rapture is a proven family favorite because it combines that raspberry candy flavor with the smooth ice cream. 

One taste of this fruity comfort and a scoop is usually never enough – so why buy just a scoop, right? It’s an all-in sweet fix which no longer calls for cones, toppings or sprinkles!

BTIC Kahlua Brownie

Blissful Chunks: Kahlua Brownie by BTIC
While not entirely classified as ice cream, BTIC’s yogurt selections supposedly provide the healthier alternative to regular ice cream. A bit on the icy texture, the lighter base makes it more refreshing to eat. The brownie chunks are hefty so hoarders need not scoop out all the brownies—there’s  plenty for everybody! With no sour hint whatsoever, this makes a healthy chocolate alternative to calorie counting folks and children. Yes parents, no one got drunk while eating this ice cream. Oh excuse me, better than ice cream.

Selecta Whoppers Hershey's Ice Cream
Great Balls of Crunch: Whoppers by Hershey’s/Selecta
Who doesn’t love Whoppers? When I first saw the whopping poster outside a 7-11, I nearly went for it—to bad I was in a speeding vehicle. 

Still the Whoppers Ice cream combines that popping chocolate candy with the smooth caramel ice cream by Selecta—a pretty awesome combination for a locally concocted flavor. With chocolate syrup to complete the sweet ensemble, it makes every kid’s dream dessert come true. However, it’d be greatly whopping if there were more and more Whoppers in every bite! Then again with the risk of hyperactive nonstop ADD kids in progress, no parent might want that much excitement level. (Guess I’ll just have to buy a pack then.)

So, November might be a drag for being a sweltering season that is the anti-thesis of Santa’s sleigh sliding down the snowy chimney. Still it gives me the very reason to indulge in ice cream, 24/7, all seasons of the year, whenever, wherever.

If you think I’ve gone all loony, well then, whatever!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Moving In: The Lazy Black Cat

A recent resident of Wordpress, Lazy Black Cat has decided to move in to the orange neighborhood otherwise known as Blogger!

Please note that I am neither a Wordpress exile nor a cyber criminal, and that only a Saturday night whim led to this change in (URL) address.

Still, I shall continue blogging about food, with a dash of health items (I try) and Philippine Football features on the side - once I get the hang of the Blogger menus and jargon.

I have tried to the best of my layman ability to import posts from my wordpress blog to this site, but if you find the photos slightly larger than usual or captions improperly positioned, just read them in the original wordpress site. 

You can also comment - I would appreciate the welcoming note of disdain, praise, just not a spam!

I guess I'm done. Well not really, it's just that it's lunch time and I hate missing my meals.

So here are some useful tidbits to incriminate me, in case you're curious or just plain stuck at this page:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Va Va Bene!

Situated on the second floor of a Petron gas station (EDSA cor. Pasay Road), Va Bene Italian Deli is far from the usual diesel delight that truck drivers fancy. If any, it’s all that fancy which makes it the pitstop for anyone who enjoys authentic Italian fares. Harboring an atmosphere that closely resembles an Italian joint—with oranges in plain sight, ciao Italia—Va Bene might as well serve dishes straight from the kitchens of Italy, with its handmade tagliatelle and gnocchi to freshly concocted pasta sauces.

Fresh pasta is indeed for sale, like the pappardelle, olive fettucine and cappellacci, among others—a glorious catch for those who dabble in kitchen wizardry but as for yours truly, the menu holds the greater value.

The menu selection is not that vast, but contains enough to create indecision as the order of the day: a toss among Ricotta Eggplant Tortellini, Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, Arugula; Wild Nuts and Organic Eggs Tagliolini with Portobello mushrooms, white wine cream sauce and truffle oil. The last item won, on account of the mushrooms and yes, partly because of the truffle oil.

Complimentary bruschetta with olive-tomato salsa was served—another feast for the hungry. Crisp and light, it was a great opener for a grandioso Italian lunch.

Va Bene J.Anne Gonzales 
The Organic Eggs Tagliolini came with a gorgeous whiff of that truffle oil-mushroom combination that could compete with the aroma of espresso anytime. The truffle studded presentation came to a close when hunger finally struck us to reality. Forking through the tagliolini was quite the experience— the chewy and freshly made noodles provided a filling and comforting sensation that shattered any other craving.

The sauce was exuding with the flavors of mushrooms and truffle oil, an organic eggs high was certainly inescapable. The exuberant flavor coupled with the satiating pasta made for a bellissisima meal, I could not ask for more—except maybe another visit to have a try of that ricotta eggplant tortellini which I heard was va va va bene!

Dessert was not to be missed with this triple threat: Prosecco & Raspberries Parfait with White Chocolate Mousse, Homemade Profiteroles with Caramelized Walnuts, Vanilla Ice Cream, &Chocolate, and Mango Pannacotta. 

5 miniature profiteroles decorated the flanks of the plate, delectable and light. A charitable nature may concede to sharing but for the many, elude the generosity, quite understandably.

Jenina Gonzales Va Bene 
Sweet Mango chunks top the pannacotta which holds a pudding like viscosity that many may enjoy. Fans of its local counterpart the leche flan will love this cooked cream, but others may turn to the more solid desserts for that much anticipated crunch.

The Prosecco and Raspberries Parfait promised a white chocolate aspect, but the sweet section was drowned by the tartness of the raspberry layer, not to mention that generous drizzle of the prosecco. Fruit and wine dictated the overall flavor of the dish, coupled with the frozen punch that can relieve any warm day. A berry comfort for the forlorn with a bit of liquor to cap off a fantastic meal.

With this, Va Bene has become my next favorite Italian phrase, next to buon apetito! On warm days when a comforting meal is necessitated, Va Bene certainly pushes through with its gourmet Italian offerings. Tagliatelle, squid ink pasta and cannelloni—they’re all in attendance here. Magnifico!

I will never look at a gas station the same way again.


- J.Anne Gonzales

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pinky Swear: Pinkerton Ice Cream

A taste of Pinkerton Ice Cream can be quite a life changing and mood altering experience, there is now a more sensible alternative to alcohol, herbs and the occasional punching bag. A dollop can get you out of that suicidal disposition, and as an added bonus, will elevate your foodie ranking to ultimate gourmand. Congratulations on this unexpected promotion.

Because after a taste of Pinkerton, you can’t view ice cream in the same unbiased and innocent manner. The commercial produce will forever be reduced to proletarian treats, while gourmet ice cream like Pinkerton, elevated to majestic snacking—thus dismissing Magnum and its royalty-inspired ad as pure disconnect.

Pinkterton Ice cream is homemade and fresh, and offers an assortment of crafty flavors, we will never turn back to plain vanilla or just mocha. Mile-long names are the new cookies and cream, and chocolate is slammed to the mental abyss. If I hear another Rocky Road, you’re in for that endless road of tasteless oblivion.

With Banana Nutella, Cake Batter with Sprinkles and Blueberry Cheesecake at the tip of the iceberg list, I lie not when I write that it took me a day to decide on my first buy. And a sleepless night counting sprinkles.

[caption id="attachment_2487" align="aligncenter" width="491"] The Dynamic Duo for Depression[/caption]

Eventually, I settled for Red Velvet (pardon the cliché, having dissed this flavor in earlier posts) and Carrot Cake with Honey Glazed Walnuts (a no-brainer for the carrot lover). While both may have intertwined flavors and cake bases, this has been resolved for my cake fantasies will never be laid to rest without sampling the two.

And so sweet and with an unmatched creaminess, the ice cream is superb. The cakes interspersed in the ice cream are just as divine and offer none of that inadequacy of the common chiffon. It makes me wonder which I like better, cake or ice cream—a conundrum best solved by just enjoying it collectively.

The carrot cake especially is mixed in greater proportion, it’s like eating cake infused with ice cream. Mild hints of cinnamon and honey bring a sense of comfort for the forlorn and the chunkiness of the walnut introduces that much needed crunch.

Pinkterton is something you bring home and savor in moments of dire, hair raising frustration, on forgotten birthdays and Gossip Girl marathons.

It can spice up any dull day when nothingness fills your schedule, and on the other side of the planner spectrum, the best way to wind down a traumatic day.

With other interesting flavors to complete the Pinkterton spectrum—like sorbet or organic honey—a next time is certainly mandated.

Friday night outs are off the list of stress busters since I like mine sweet, cold and best served at home. Nothing beats Pinkteron in this department, except maybe a rock concert.

But wait, I have been continuously blabbing about Pinkerton Ice Cream, I have not even given a background on this fabulous find. It’s a homemade ice cream brand produced by Xandra Rocha, made to order and picked up after a day or two. They make the ice cream upon order, so customized is a better way to put it.

When you see the list of flavors, I bid you a sleepless night as well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

All You Can 101

For this selfish urge to finally set foot in Robinson’s Magnolia, I wantonly booked a table at Buffet 101—not the other way around which is quite contrary to my hungry nature.

Since I was beginning to lag behind the social sphere of geographical knowledge, this necessitated a visit to that much talked about mall. It was time to finally get a view of the high ceiling, the al fresco lounge and the once retro Magnolia ice cream parlor. And of course, finally dine at Buffet 101.

They say Buffet 101 could be a doppelganger for Vikings, with its massive spread of internationally based cuisine. But let me quip that it fares more as a lesser sibling that focuses on select continents, with nothing exotic such as caviar, Indian or Mediterranean delights. Instead, Buffet 101’s prime selections hail from the Asian district, with Chinese cuisine topping the must-eat list while Japanese having the second most popular aisle.

[caption id="attachment_2468" align="aligncenter" width="491"]Jenina Gonzales Buffet 101 Balsamic-Olive Salad with Kani on the side[/caption]

The salad bar boasts of about 5 or 6 dressings (the common kind so I refuse to spend time here) that did not warrant a second take. A keen eye brought into sight a balsamic vinegar bottle at the side—and with its partner olive oil—finally a decent salad came into a reality. No cheese platters or parmesan to liven up my plate, so it was on to the sushi-sashimi boat.

[caption id="attachment_2477" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Nori all you can![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2470" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Itadakimasu![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2472" align="aligncenter" width="491"] East meets more East[/caption]

The sashimi was all right, the lemon a bit on the hard size. Excited with the soba noodles I packed my bowl with nori strips and soup, which sadly, was a tad too sweet for my diabetic sense of taste.

[caption id="attachment_2461" align="aligncenter" width="491"]Buffet 101 Robinsons Magnolia Next destination: China![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2458" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Nihao mantao![/caption]

While Chinatown was supposed to be the hotspot for dimsum, fried rice, crabs and Hainanese chicken, I let the boys take over this town. The fried noodles looked awesome, but the taste inspired no awe. The usual vegetables were of the standard variety and the sweet and sour pork boasted of more fat than meat (unless that’s how it is for carnivores).

[caption id="attachment_2460" align="aligncenter" width="491"]Buffet 101 Robinson's Magnolia In Crustaceans we Trust[/caption]

The crabs and butter-oat shrimps were a splendid tag team, I broke my rule of not eating with my fingers. Of course a cracker was available but still, getting down, orange and dirty was the only way to claw into those crabs. They have a bathroom and liquid soap, in case you’re wondering about hygiene and grease.

I barely visited the Japanese and Filipino cuisine, but I did see local favorites bangus and crispy pata. The tempura was okay but I enjoyed the chicken teppanyaki, which I scooped by accident. Soft and sweet, it fares much better than the usual Saisaki flavor.

[caption id="attachment_2457" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Got Steak? Yes they do.[/caption]

A platter of steak found itself on our table—the necessary sustenance for the carnivores. Without it we cannot go home!

[caption id="attachment_2459" align="aligncenter" width="491"]J.Anne Gonzales Buffet 101 Eating the American Dream[/caption]

The American – Italian section was a junk food fest with fries, onion rings and other fried wonders. The American fish fillet was 10x saltier than its Thai counterpart—yes, I had to compare—and so the point goes to the Asian catch! Here, I found my serving of vegetables with the mozzarella topped broccoli and cauliflower—not the healthiest portion but all that yellow was just alluring.

[caption id="attachment_2464" align="aligncenter" width="491"]Jenina Gonzales Buffet 101 Don't mind if I pass up the Pasta[/caption]

The stuffed tomatoes were oddly addictive, while the herb cream pasta could be described as “not a penne more.”

[caption id="attachment_2474" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Make Pizza, not War[/caption]

The pizzas had their own corner—Italian (meat) and Thai Seafood. I must have gorged on 6 slices of that seafood pizza. Mediocre on a very thick crust (read: carbs) it wasn’t the flavor that got me hooked, logistically speaking, sitting beside the pizza made proximity the pretext for this sudden gluttony.

[caption id="attachment_2471" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Where Kids and ADD-ults Come to Play[/caption]

The dessert zone was rather diverse with a crepe station, ice cream corner, frozen yogurt, chiller for cakes, candies, fruits and more little pastries and cakes.

[caption id="attachment_2465" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Not all good things come in small packages[/caption]

Many may skip the cheesecakes, mini cakes, mousse and pastries sacredly kept in the chiller—detached from the public and require the waitress’ sanitation procedures before proper serving. By the supreme authority of the chiller lady, permission is required before proper serving.  These cakes must be made of gold; on the contrary, the cookies are exposed, so dig away.

Unfortunately the chocolate chip cookie I dug was a hunky chunk that was neither inspiring nor chewy so I don’t suppose anyone will be stealing from that cookie jar.

[caption id="attachment_2473" align="aligncenter" width="491"] I've told you time and agan, don't crepe me out![/caption]

The cheesecakes were fancy sounding but were more of cakes than an actual cheesecake, with sponge cake making up a faux graham crust.

[caption id="attachment_2475" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Beats the tooth fairy anytime[/caption]

The candy corner was a hub for children with ADHD and with impatient hands abound, picking on gummy candies and that gummy egg, we wonder when candy cholera will strike next.

[caption id="attachment_2462" align="aligncenter" width="461"] Raising the brown flag for the Anti-dentist Crusade[/caption]

The brownie was moist at the very least which made that chocolate lava cake pale in comparison in terms of sweet succulence. I spotted “revel bar” amongst the labels but just found what seemed to be a pale looking slice of cake—no oats, no revelry at all.

Strategically placed above sea level, the yogurt machine was like divine intervention to ward off those crazy hyper children. They already have the candies and chocolate fountain as their ADD playground, so they ought to leave the frozen yogurt to the ADD-ults. The frozen yogurt was fine—on the light side—which made me rejoice for foregoing the crepe and ice cream.

[caption id="attachment_2476" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Fruits for the Gods[/caption]

Fruits are not really worth reviewing but credits to Buffet 101 for serving grapes. My dad must have gotten giddy after enjoying loads of this fruit, he thought he was Zeus in his past life. Unfortunately, the cheese went AWOL. Now where did I leave my lightning bolt?

[caption id="attachment_2478" align="aligncenter" width="491"] More fruits for the gods[/caption]

Drinks are unlimited as well, and since I’m more of a water girl there isn’t much to say. Juice. Soda. Iced tea. Beer. Shakes. I tried the espresso machine since being the daughter of Zeus, this mechanism does not exist in our household. I expected bitter, but this was bland. Still, cool. I mean, hot!

Buffet 101 is perhaps a jack-of-all trades in the world of buffet and you can probably see where I’m going—the master of none. Save for the espresso machine—which wasn’t even a dish—there was nothing too memorable or much of a sterling catch that would make me dream about it in the days to come. It’s just okay, all right, the average joe.

However I give it points for trying to outdo Vikings. In this attempt, it surely beat Sambokojin and Dad’s. So you’re almost there, just bring out the curry and cheese!


[caption id="attachment_2466" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Grazie Mille. Arigatou. Burp.[/caption]


Friday, October 12, 2012

Untangling Messy Norte

Apparently 9pm signals the clearing of the battlefield known as Mezza Norte—with tables finally floating into the line of sight and vendors finding the time to breathe in, and out. It’s amazing how much smorgasbord of gastronomic treasures these tents hold, amidst the smoky haze and a diversity of aroma depending on where you sit. Fine weather also permitted setting up more tables under the stars, UP Technohub lights and closer to the Commonwealth traffic.

We were stationed in El Poco Mejico—otherwise known as Mexicanto—and sat alongside simmering corn chips and cheese. However I was craving for another continent’s produce, so off I went and found the wraps place.

mezza norte jenina Gonzales

As it turns out, the wraps place has a proper name: Wrap Battle. While deciding between Tofu with Asian Dressing or Grilled Eggplant with Balsamic Vinaigrette, the Chicken Pesto was being assembled. With a thick smear of pesto, cabbage, cheese, onions and chicken strips—that pesto’s grassy allure was salvation to the famished and in less than a minute it was mine to behold.

At P100, it was a gigantic wrap, quite the steal and the ultimate hunger buster. A bit hefty on the cabbage side, this I did not mind (okay, I loved it). If given a next time, I’d like to try that tawilis (that’s fish) number or maybe the grilled eggplant. Or maybe both.

As much as it shames me, I had a photo taken. Twice. Were my pupils dilated? Dying of curiosity, the stalker in me found Wrap Battle’s Facebook page and one heck of a hazy photo. La fee verte from pesto.

Bumble Tea is always queued but I found one second of emptiness and went for the Pulpy Aloe Juice (Mango) at 25% sweetness. At a quarter, 25% or just ¼ of the original sweetness, my drink seemed more like 125% syrup. The opposite for my friend whose dark chocolate-rock salt and cheese at 50% was bland. I propose an assembly line for the vendors, or better yet, a shot of red bull. That should help with the math.

Lastly, Merry Moo never fails to disappoint. This time, the Strawberry Shortcake unraveled fruity sweetness with awesome chunks of cake in between. A better form of ice cream cake, bathed in my favorite strawberry goodness, not even Mochiko’s Oreo Bestseller (I had that too) could offer such gourmet dessert delight.

This time, the cat bows to the cow.


My earlier Mezza "Messy" Norte post was written during the horrible Habagat season, which is why references to hair, tangles and anything disturbing are abound. You'd do the same thing too if caught in a hurricane on a bad hair day.


Monday, October 1, 2012

A Peace of the Azkals

From Long Teng Cup to Paulino Alcantara Peace Cup to what has become the official PFF-approved title Philippine Football Peace Cup, this football event has gone through quite a titular transition, most Filipinos are just glad host it ended up with something monosyllabic and catchy—September being our peace month, for those who do not know.


This year, the Philippines plays host to this four-nation international football competition with Macau, Guam and Chinese Taipei completing the Friendly Four. Staged in Rizal Stadium, in a span of 5 days (September 25 to 29) the Philippine Peace Cup was a rather a dramatic ensemble of highs, lows, new beginnings and Younghusband tackling.

[caption id="attachment_2429" align="aligncenter" width="491"] The golden ticket I wouldn't swap for Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory[/caption]

Still, for the golden ticket holder, it was a magnificent 3-day experience, making all the sideline spectacles seem like halftime entertainment. Of course the main show goes to the Azkals.

PHI vs GUM (1-0)

The sparse audience was a premonition to the level of excitement of the game against Guam. While the Philippines managed to score a goal—care of Patrick Reichelt’s header on the 2nd half—the victory was not bursting with jump-for-joy revelry. It must be because Guam has been a rather refined and collected opponent to which most Filipinos have a soft spot for, bringing down the level of animosity to civilized hooting.

The first half was particularly boring, and only GK Eduard Sacapano had the opportunity to exercise his ability to soar and spring. Whatever they gave him before the game was rather effective as Sacapano successfully repelled all attempts—and truth be told, these Guamanians have been trained to forget the word “Stop”!

On a positive note, the Guamanians have surely stepped up their game—having lost drastically to Global FC a few months back. With a 1-0 score in the Philippine Peace Cup, Guam deserves a pat on the back.


[caption id="attachment_2398" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Wolf bangs head or headbangs[/caption]

As for the Azkals’ perspective, much can be improved. Araneta and Wolf are in need of goal kicking instincts, and practice, on the whole. Reichelt, Christiaens, Moy and de Murga did their part, played fairly well, and saved the game when it needed redemption. Much can be expected from Marwin Angeles and it is our hope that Marvin be given ample exposure to match his twin’s skill level. It doesn’t matter if you cannot tell them apart since they have a gap in their playing time.


[caption id="attachment_2400" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Don't ask me, I never heard them.[/caption]

Newcomer Matthey Uy was barely noticed by the crowd but deserves the much needed attention, while Demitrius Omphroy likewise shared the similar fate, having been clearly mistaken for Reichelt. Both US-based and performed rather exceptionally, expect to see both as starting players in future matches.


[caption id="attachment_2401" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Guamanians, we sat on your side but cheered on the other. Thanks for your accommodation.[/caption]

Easily missed by the inattentive audience, this match also signaled the debut of the Azkals theme song “Pilipinas” by Tribu Calamianen. For those wondering about the song on repeat, yes, that’s the song. Composed specially for the national team, the song speaks of national pride and culture—all of which the crowd missed from the badly assembled sound system.


PHI vs MAC (5-0)


Fresh from the stupor caused by last Tuesday’s game, the 5-0 score in favor of the Azkals became quite a sterling moment for the melodic audience. With a sturdy defense and the high energy level displayed by majority of the players, Macau barely spent time near their side of the goal, giving GK Eduard Sacapano a breather for the evening.


3 goals courtesy of Denis Wolf, 2 of which came during the first half, came as quite an amazement, but then again, he has much to prove after numerous failed attempts during the Guam game. Other goals by Carlie de Murga and Patrick Reichelt were well felt by the audience, being Global FC faces.

The atmosphere during the Macau game has been more competitive, and the players seemed better adjusted with this type of set-up.

Out went Anto Gonzales, bringing in Reichelt as part of the starting 11. Ian Araneta and Denis Wolf resumed positions on the offense, the latter finally getting in the zone, leaving out Araneta as the stray dog. Kudos to the Coach for replacing him with OJ Porteria early on. Araneta needs to rest or eat, or both.


Newcomer Matthew Uy has been harshly criticized by the frivolous audience for size issues, but his performance proved otherwise. Excellent ball handling and amazing stamina—the guy managed to show potential and finally gained the confidence of the crowd.

Reichelt has been likewise spectacular on the pitch, while Porteria and Christiaens may have confusing hair-dos but with their fancy footwork, are just as promising players. It is still our hope that either will score a goal in future games.

With this recent victory, not only was the Younghusband issue buried, Phil and James themselves were forgotten, for now—which is a great step towards recognizing and introducing young talent. Christiaens, Porteria, and even Marwin Angeles would have smaller shadows in the spotlight had the Younghusbands taken center stage. With the Brits out frying their steaks, now’s the time to show Pilipinas what these kids are made of, and it’s not fish and chips.


PHI vs TPE (3-1) 

After a 99-year wait, the Philippine Azkals finally clinched the title as champion to the Peace Cup—a well-deserved triumph for their struggle and a fitting tribute to our very own, Pilipinas.


Amidst a backdrop of drama, a bit of rain and 3 goals, this was yet the most exciting match and the voluminously attended. Goal scorers were Wolf-Caligdong-Porteria, and credits to Porteria for his resilient attitude when his supposed first goal was ruled out.

 The Chinese Taipei side put up a combative spirit until the very last second of the game, but it was the Azkals’ persistent attempts that got them the lucky strikes (and goals).

An off field commotion gave players and viewers an unexpected water break, but for once, the “peace” theme was put to proper use as the dispute was laid to rest, Mr. Orange escorted to a place to meditate.

[caption id="attachment_2407" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Agent Orange rocks the field with his wrathful fist.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2416" align="aligncenter" width="614"] They too think Agent Orange rocks.[/caption]

While the Philippines bagged the overall title, individual awards were dished out to the Azkals as well. Once unidentified on the pitch, Matthew Uy has gained prominence for his ball handling skills, as he was named Best Midfielder, while Jeffrey Christiaens has been prancing his way to the Best Defender Award with his magnificent legwork and formidable tactics.


[caption id="attachment_2417" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Peace, brother! Wait, that's not Foster the People![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2405" align="aligncenter" width="512"] Prepping the field. PFF Rule #1: Bring out the multi-colored umbrella.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2409" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Who's the fairest? Caligdong, Wolf, Uy, Sacapano and Christiaens.[/caption]

Ironically though, for an event that leans on the peace concept, with the exception of Mr. Orange’s “peaceful” departure, not much can be said about the peace process. The post game ceremony, in particular, was too centered on the Philippines—efforts that far surpass the average level of patriotism—that other countries who have equal rights to the event looked a bit shunned from the media spotlight.

 Ah well, good thing I'm from Team Pilipinas.

[caption id="attachment_2406" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Best Defender Award goes to Jeffrey Christiaens, and no this is not a typo.[/caption]

And so we won

 With the introduction of new faces and less dependence on the more “senior” team members, we should set higher hopes on the growing and diverse team. The team may consistently be on a developmental path, but we are seeing fragments of improvement—a call that must be reciprocated with support, not rebuke.

[caption id="attachment_2415" align="aligncenter" width="614"] With absentee Phil Younghusband, I wonder who signed that kid's jersey.[/caption]

The Azkals team will continue to be shrouded with media spectacle and blown up controversies, but underneath all these, they are a team that represents the country with pride, as reflected by the song Pilipinas by Tribu Calaminanen.

They work hard, they fight and struggle, and they believe—and so should we.

[caption id="attachment_2410" align="aligncenter" width="614"] No red cards, fouls, lost teeth or broken fingers. Just a bandaged head and a bloody victory.[/caption]