(Supplier Visit) Batangas Salt

If you grew up in the ParaƱaque area and/or have been alive for more than three decades, you are probably familiar with the sight of vast and flat irasan (salt beds). Our saltmaking style, in contrast to the Ilocano coast's "cooked salt" and the Boholano coconut husk method, has sprawling salt beds lined with shards of clay pots (rumor has it that they now make new "shards" specifically for salt beds, with demand for clay pots being on the decline for a tiny bit of time now). The saltwater is basically evaporated off by the sun and wind.

Shards of clay pots tamped to make salt bed floors.
Last April, upon the suggestion (and general directions) of a good friend, we found ourselves in the salt farm of a new supplier in Batangas. These and other producers are an integral part of the dried and fermented fish industries of the region.

There is a tendency to romanticize saltmaking--we envision the leisurely raking the beds in by workers in rustic straw hats, while a refreshing breeze furthers evaporation, leaving soft, billowy crystals. But it is truly backbreaking work under the brutal heat of the sun. And with industrial or consolidated salt taking over the palengkes (it is becoming more common to find Mindoro salt in Cebu), saltmaking is becoming a less profitable venture in many places. Salt farms are dwindling, except perhaps in Pangasinan and Mindoro.

Salt being collected in baskets.
The Batangas salt is very earthy, a salt-next-door. I have childhood memories of picking salt out of my eyebrows after swimming in Nasugbu. The high salinity of Batangas water results in a VERY salty salt. Our Batangas salt is perhaps the saltiest one we've ever carried. It still has mineral notes, but is very boldly salty, like-a-Hagibis-song-is-masculine salty. Perhaps the perfect salt for a preservation project, or for cooking.

Varied elevation allows gravity to distribute saltwater from the ocean throughout the beds.
Slippers of storage staff need to be tacked onto wooden planks to avoid wounded feet.
More slippers.


Getting to the Shop

Time to talk a bit more about how to get to the shop! Recent "carmageddon" incidents have led us to ponder: how can we, as a small shop, reduce car use, in our own little way? Thus, we decided to post specific directions to our shop, so that you can see how easy it is to bus, train, and walk or to us. You can also go car-less and hitch with anyone going to Greenbelt! Remember to bring a heavy-duty bag (or wheeled stroller) if you are stocking up!


One of the reasons we chose our new location is its accessibility to our customers, regardless of transport type. Some people (with and without cars) really struggled with our old location.

We can be found on the second floor of the Pamana-Languages Internationale Building (click here to see building photo). The fact that Languages Internationale is the oldest language school in the country--that would explain the extraneous letter E, which was apparently in fashion at some point-- gives you an idea of the type of "architecture" to look for.

We are two lots away from the Makati Ave. gate of San Lorenzo. On the ground floor of our building are PNB, Mav, Villarica, Cebuana Lhuiller, Diane Optical, and Fuji (which is closing out soon).


Click here to search for directions from your place, or continue to read below for some directions in prose.


Many people walk to us whenever they find themselves in Greenbelt. We often advise people (especially those with larger cars, as our basement parking is very narrow) to park in Greenbelt. In between Greenbelt 3 (the Greenbelt building that has Diesel, Firma, and etc.) and Arnaiz Avenue or Pasay Road is the New World Hotel. Now, if you are coming from Greenbelt, you can walk along Makati Avenue, past New World Hotel, to reach us. It is a 2-5 minute walk, depending on how fast you walk.


The Ayala MRT Station SM Exit and bus "terminal" (along EDSA) is a few blocks from our store. From the terminal, walk towards Arnaiz Ave. (anyone can point you in the direction). Once you get to Arnaiz Ave., turn right and you may walk to our shop along the road. You will pass Isshin, Fairmont, and Raffles. You will cross Makati Ave. and the San Lorenzo gate. After Hotel Celeste (the former Mars Disco, for those who remember) on your left, there is an empty lot. Next to that lot is our building.


You may follow same directions as above but please note (especially if you are coming via bus) that you are getting down in opposite side of EDSA. You will have to use the MRT pedestrian overpass to get to our side of EDSA. Don't ask us why pedestrian life is so cumbersome in Metro Manila.


Please check this out. It is a lovely website with commuting directions for all sorts of places. This is their Glorietta link. We are only a few minutes' walk from Glorietta.


Uber is still car-based, but it is so convenient that it has made us rethink automobile ownership. Renting a car only when you need it versus buying one reduces your environmental footprint (think not only gas but energy and chemicals used to make and transport the car). "Languages Internationale" (again, remember the superfluous letter E) is perfectly searchable on the Uber app.


(New) The Basics' Peanut Butter

Obviously, merienda.
Hello internet world! We interrupt this silence to talk about peanut butter.

If you are like me, you often choose not to peanut butter at all versus compromising by eating hotel breakfast peanut butter of the choke-hazard variety (insert memories of Jif). In fact, I prefer the goopy Lily's variety (complete with libreng baso) to those thick, tasteless conglomerate ones. I wish hotels and restaurants serve Lily's, at least.

But anyway, we are now stocking The Basics' Original Muscovado Peanut Butter. We've gotten samples of nut butters over the years, but most of them use palm oil and white sugar, or are made of imported nuts. This jar is pretty much how we would make peanut butter, if we were to make it ourselves (thankfully someone else is concentrating on that, it's not easy).

It's so yummy that around 3/4 of the jar was eaten off the spoon, and not on bread or anything.


Holiday Schedule for 2014

Folks of the internet, behold our holiday schedule! We are quite busy filling orders, and listening to frazzled shoppers unload and freak out about not meeting their gifting deadlines. We say take a break as well, and relax. Don't try to go to all of the parties, and sip a cup of tea beside your beautiful Christmas tree, will you?


(Supplier Visit) Silk Workshop

Bombyx mori at work.
Recently we visited the silk center in Negros Occidental where we source our silk cocoons for facial grooming. It is run by a Japanese lady who also makes marvelous natural dyes and silk products. We are actually looking to carry their wonderful shawls at the shop.They are truly some of the best we've seen so far.

Apparently our climate is perfect for silk production, because we don't need greenhouses to keep the worms warm. The government has been trying to encourage sericulture as an alternative to conventional crop production, and in some places, the people are starting to grow it instead of marijuana (whether that is a good or bad thing, is up to you...).

The silk worms are fed mulberry (Morus alba) leaves. They then spin a cocoon, which is unraveled in hot water and spun into fibers. The pre-unravelled cocoon is what you use for your face, FYI. Here are a few more pictures:

Worm close-up.
Mulberry or Morus alba leaf. The mulberry tree grows super vigorously, almost like a large weed.
Must not let ants eat the worms.