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The Metro – New gastronomic experiences abound in Chinatown!

Everybody knows that hidden in the streets of Chinatown are gastronomic treasures that aren’t available anywhere else. Well some are, but they’re sure to taste better in Chinatown. The thing is most people don’t know where to start. Well not anymore! One weekend in April, I signed up for the Big Binondo Food Wok. It’s a walking tour (get it?) with plenty of food stops along the way. Our tour guide was Ivan Man Dy, who was lucky enough to accompany a certain world-famous chef named Anthony Bourdain through the very streets of Binondo a couple of months back. If Ivan was good enough for Bourdain, then he’s more than plenty for me!

Let’s begin with a starting point that everybody knows about – Binondo Church which, conveniently sits at the beginning of Ongpin Street where a few steps away from the church, on the second floor of an unassuming building is hidden treasure number 1: the Volunteer Firefighters’ Bar.

Ok, that may not be its real name but trust me, one look at the place and that’s exactly what you would be thinking! And it’s the kind of place you don’t expect in Chinatown. It looks more at home in either Makati’s or Ortigas’ business centers. It’s very modern with the tasteful decors: vintage black and white pictures of the fires that raged through Chinatown hang on the walls and the coolest collection of firemen helmets – from antique ones to the most modern models – line one side of the place.

But I wasn’t here to gawk at the interior design. I was here for the food. In this place I sampled what they called “salted rice” which was nothing like its name. It’s a very tasty mix of fried rice, peanuts, some herbs and spices and some small pieces of meat (or at least I thought it was meat). Accompanying the rice was a soup with a single fishball and some iced brewed coffee. I didn’t care much about the soup but the rice was unexpectedly delicious.

Next stop: Dimsum. Turning left from Ongpin onto a narrow street there’s a small place that served siomai. But not just any siomai, according to Ivan the stuff here is made fresh everyday in the Northern Chinese style. Honestly, I don’t know the difference between Northern Chinese cuisine from other Chinese styles of cooking but these small meat-filled dumplings were really good! They kind of reminded me of gyoza – the Japanese version of siomai – but better.

Let’s move on to another dimsum variety: Siopao. Yes, I know, siopao are a dime a dozen, found anywhere in Manila. But I bet you’ve never had siopao this way: fried then boiled in water! Not steamed. I’ll repeat: fried then boiled. Would you believe cooking siopao that way makes them softer and a whole lot yummier! You don’t even need sauce!

We moved along Binondo at a leisurely pace. We had to on account of the food we were ingesting: dimsum varieties, lumpia, tea eggs, hopia, etc… And while the sights of Chinatown weren’t very arresting, the history of these streets as told by Ivan was very interesting.

There are a lot more great tasting experiences on the streets of Chinatown but I’ll let you discover them on your own. I guess that’s one reason why the food here is good. Aside from being fresh and made in surprisingly new ways, it’s the experience and joy of discovery that lends to the special taste.

Japan ambassador apologizes for Bataan Death March

SAN ANTONIO – Japan's ambassador to the United States apologized Saturday on behalf of his country for the 65-mile forced walk of U.S. troops and allies during World War II that left some 11,000 prisoners of war dead.

"As former prime ministers of Japan have repeatedly stated: The Japanese people should bear in mind that we must look into the past and to learn from the lessons of history," Ichiro Fujisaki said at the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

He said his country was extending a heartfelt apology for "having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people, including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences."

Although Fujisaki received a standing ovation from about half of the 400 to 500 attendees, others said the apology was overdue and didn't seem sincere.

Former POW Hershel C. Boushey told the ambassador that he did not accept "your apology," and that the atrocities and mistreatment many suffered was severe.

In 1942, Japanese captors marched about 78,000 prisoners of war _ 12,000 Americans and 66,000 Filipinos _ for six days on the Philippine island of Luzon to a prisoner-of-war camp in what became known as the Bataan Death March. Many prisoners were denied food, water or medical care, and some were stabbed or beheaded.

As many as 11,000 prisoners died, according to the U.S. Air Force.

Survivor Tony Montoya, of Woodland, Calif., also questioned Fujisaki's sincerity.

"This young man knows very little of the atrocities," Montoya said. "They probably rehearsed him on it."

Abie Abraham, of Renfrew, Pa., said it was time to move on.

"I was never one of those guys that worried about whether we got an apology or not," said Abraham, a 95-year-old vet.

"The way I look at it is _ Japan is now our ally," Abraham said. "Why should we get an apology from them?"

Retired Tech Sgt. Joe Alexander, of San Antonio, said he was satisfied because "we finally got the apology that we wanted."

About 73 surviving Bataan Death March veterans of the Army and former Army Air Corps members attended the convention Saturday, which served as the march survivors' final reunion.

4 bank guards fight off 20 robbers

MANILA, Philippines - At least 20 heavily armed robbers wearing police and military uniforms tried to rob a Union Bank branch in Caloocan City at around noon yesterday but fled empty-handed when four of the bank’s security guards engaged the suspects in a gunbattle.

Caloocan City police chief Senior Superintendent Jude Santos said that apart from a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver of security guard Camus Briccio Jr., the armed men “got nothing from the bank.”

Santos said at least 20 men armed with M14 and M16 rifles and .45 caliber pistols barged into the Union Bank branch at the corner of Urbano Plata street and EDSA using the back door, guarded by Briccio.

“The suspects looked more like Army troopers and they entered the bank with blazing guns,” Santos told The STAR, adding that most of the gunmen used bulletproof vests, with some wearing military paint on their faces and others wearing bonnets.

Santos said the bank was closed because it was a Saturday, “but they seemed to know that a large sum was inside,” adding that the branch is the “cash center and the main depository of all Union Bank branches in Caloocan and Quezon City.”

Santos said the bank’s main vault could not easily be forced open because “it has three layers of safety locks.”

Some of the suspects disarmed Briccio of his shotgun and revolver while the others went to the second floor of the building, where the cash center and the main vault are located.

But the armed men were surprised when four security guards at the second floor of the building engaged the suspects in a gunbattle.

“The suspects… left after around 10 minutes of (firing shots) without them gaining ground,” Santos said. None of the bank’s guards were hurt as they positioned themselves behind the walls.

As the suspects fled on board three vehicles toward Quezon City, they stopped to rob a nearby adjacent Caltex gas station and disarmed its lone security guard of his .38 caliber revolver.

Witnesses told the police two of the getaway vehicles were Toyota Revos, one white and the other blue, but none of them was able to jot down the vehicles’ license plates. The third vehicle’s type was undetermined.

“I suspect they were members of the notorious Alvin Flores rob gang because of their modus operandi… They are now more daring and they grew in number,” Santos said.

He said that it was also the first time that the suspects used an M14 rifle in their operation. Police recovered shells for M14 and M16 rifles and for .45 caliber pistol at the crime scene.

Northern Police District director Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao Jr., who was conducting a safety seminar for the NPD reporters at the police station during the botched rob try, directed Santos to dig deeper into the case.

- By Pete Laude (Philstar News Service,

Commission on Human Rights: Some Davao cops involved in death squad

MANILA, Philippines – Some members of the Davao police are actually “involved” in the death squad behind the vigilante killings in the city, Commission on Human Rights chairperson Leila de Lima said yesterday, citing “confirmed information.”

But according to De Lima, they are having a hard time convincing their assets to come out against these rogue policemen.

“We have confirmed information that there are certain police officers in Davao who are involved in the death squad,” De Lima revealed during a dialogue with Quezon City policemen yesterday afternoon.

“We are 100 percent morally convinced that the killings in Davao are something that is really organized,” the CHR chairperson added.

According to De Lima, their informants have given them the names of the Davao policemen, numbering to more than 10 and even including some station commanders in Davao, whose participation in the killings allegedly range from ordering the attacks to actually firing the shots at the victims.

De Lima refused to drop names of the Davao policemen at the moment.

“We recorded their (informants’) statements and the names they have given. It will form part of our report,” she said.

According to De Lima, they are working on a “breakthrough” before they conduct their next public hearing that she said is something to “watch out for.”

To stress the veracity of the CHR’s information, De Lima said their informants had “personal knowledge” of the killings, with some of them being former members of the death squad.

De Lima mentioned of “patterns” that point to the allegation that some policemen in Davao were involved in the death squad.

She cited that most victims had “petty criminal records” and were minor aged.

“The assailants are motorcycle-riding men with the attacks staged in broad daylight,” she added.

Apart from this, she said that in most cases of killings in Davao, the response of the local police was belated even if some incidents happened near a police station.

De Lima also said that in most instances, there were many people actually seeing the incidents but would eventually not come out as witnesses to the killings to implicate the suspects.

Because of this, De Lima admitted that it has been a “challenge” for the CHR to convince their informants to come out.

“There should be an honest to goodness witness protection program and at present the CHR has no capacity for that,” she said, noting that coming out to testify on the part of their assets would strengthen the case against the implicated Davao policemen.

De Lima said that since the public hearings they conducted recently, there has been a significant decline in the incidents of killings.

“Some say the death squad is just laying low. I hope that’s not the case,” she said. - By Reinir Padua (Philstar News Service,

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tres musketeeroz and nay tika

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