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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.

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