Different Strokes for Different Folks

I never really imagined living in Vietnam. I think I’ve related this story before that when my Dad in the late 90s visited Ho Chi Minh City and came home, he didn’t have a lot to say about his trip. So, I had some misgivings about living here.

But it is interesting meeting Filipinos who have fully embraced the culture and built their families and dreams in this vibrant country. One such person is Nomer Adona, who I first met in 2012 when I was still moonlighting for Word HCMC.

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Nomer moved to Hanoi in 2012 as an architect and eventually found his calling as an art teacher for an international school. He’s a witness to how Vietnam’s landscape changed over the past 25 years or so.

Lately, Nomer has been embarking in his own personal project — creating awe-inspiring works with only two things, a ballpoint pen and paper. How this Ballpoint Pen Drawing series came about is noteworthy. He actually asked his students to create drawings using the cheapest pen and cheapest paper they could find. At the same time, he too challenged himself using these medium.

His end goal is to publish a book illustrating different portraits of Vietnam — but he is in no hurry and just wants to enjoy the process. To date, he has more than 30 portraits since he began in late 2018. It takes him 15 to 50 hours to finish a portrait depending on the size.

His pen of choice? He started with the local Thien Long ballpen, then hoarded some 100 Bic ballpens from the Philippines on his last visit. He usually consumes a pen or two per drawing.

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He has divided his project into three: Portraits of Vietnam, People who Inspires, and Beauty of Cultures.

I sat with him one afternoon for a chat on how his experimental project was going and he was more than happy to answer my questions.

What do you want to show in your Portraits of Vietnam?

I’m painstakingly doing all these things to document what I’ve seen in Vietnam since I first moved here, anything and everything about Vietnam.

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Original Photo by Alden (IG @360nomad)

What about for People who Inspires?

It’s about people who inspires me to think critically, even those who has opposing perspectives with me. This also includes pastors, teachers, friends, people I admire. They don’t wear capes yet I consider them as my heroes. People who inspires you not only to think, but also to live.

One particular Bible verse that really touched me is, “You’re wonderfully and fearfully made.” Whenever I create this ballpoint pen drawing, I see our life in that kind of sense, how God created us, molded us. We are His workmanship. The glory goes back to him.

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Fidel Ramos, 12th President of the Philippines

What about for Beauty of Cultures?

Actually the movie Black Panther inspired me on this. Remember the scene where Black Panther was being inaugurated? There were a number of Africans witnessing his inauguration and that scene looked looked amazing. Different tribes all bowing down to the same authority.

I also want to convey the value of people is not in one’s nationality but in being human and I want to show that in my drawings.

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What do you like most about drawing the portraits?

I like the dents. I don’t like perfectionism, filtered portraits. I find pleasure drawing the freckles, the imperfections. It makes it realistic. All the imperfections represent the challenges each person has to go through but ultimately, despite such imperfections, turns out to be a masterpiece.

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For Beauty of Cultures, Nomer has collaborated with photographers he has met through his immense network. Unable to always travel, he thought of getting in touch with his friends and using their work to reproduce what was caught by the lens with his pen instead, “They use their feet [to travel] and their camera, while I use my hand [and my pen].”

He has worked with Vietnamese photographer Bui Tuan Hung, Abu Dhabi-based Filipino photographer Anthony Austria, Asia Geographic contributor Donnel Guimaran, and Italian photographer Sabrina Niccolazzi, among others.

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For Nomer, creating works of art through the stroke of his pen is paying homage to the Greatest Creator.

You can catch up on what Nomer is up to through his IG, @nomeradona3d

 

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Taking a Leap

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When I started Hello Saigon in 2011, I was just aiming to write a chronicle of our life here in Vietnam for the kids’ sake. What started out as a planned 3-year journey is slowly becoming a decade. Yes! A DECADE!

I remember walking around feeling that I know most of the Filipinos in HCMC but honestly, 10 years later, the Filipino community has grown exponentially, and I realized I don’t know these people! Have I been living under a rock?

So, I thought to myself why not turn the spotlight on some of the seemingly ordinary but amazing Filipinos I’ve met in Vietnam? So here we go, fingers-crossed, am embarking on this personal project because you know, I need to have content in this site. Ha ha!

But more importantly, I just need to get my butt off the sofa and take a leap (figuratively speaking).

Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

Posted in Getting to Know Your Neighbours, Sharing Saigon | Tagged | 1 Comment

Ippudo opens in Vietnam


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It was way back in 2017 when news broke out that Ippudo will land in Vietnam in cooperation with another favorite restaurant, 4Ps.

And this weekend, Ippudo finally opened in my neighborhood in Phu My Hung! It’s a 15- minute walk from our place.

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We went on a Saturday night (the day after it opened) and there was still a bit of a queue at 8pm. Free-flowing beer was being served as you wait.

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It wasn’t easy convincing both our boys to try out this new place. We decided that if they didn’t like anything from Ippudo, we can just pop in 4Ps right beside it. But my eldest who’s a fan of salmon saw the above in the menu and was quite happy.

Our youngest is satisfied with fried rice paired with chicken so we had that too and I was surprised that he ate quietly by himself. If you knew him, you’d know he’s a slow eater who needs constant reminders that he has to chew his food.

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The  chicken is really good too!
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Hubby ordered gyoza which was good too but he said that the soy sauce was really quite salty. But shouldn’t it be? But then again, we’re steering away from salty food, so if you’re the same, you’ve been warned.

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Me? I came for the star of the restaurant — ramen of course. Ippudo has been open in my home country for some time now and I was always curious about it so am glad I finally got to try it.

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Verdict? Coming back for more. Later. At lunch. Yes, today. Haha.

Ippudo Vietnam
1-3 MD2, Khu A Đô Thị Nam Thành phố,
Đường Nguyễn Văn Linh, P. Tân Phú, Quận 7
Ho Chi Minh City

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Hello, 2019!

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Welcome 2019! Well, at least based on the Gregorian Calendar which we Filipinos follow.  Last night, we stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to catch the fireworks (which we thankfully can view from our apartment!!!) while my son shouted Happy New Year to random strangers below. Our whole vicinity was — not a creature was stirring…not even a mouse! Ugh. I miss the rowdy new year celebration back home.

We stayed in Saigon for the holidays and it was such a quiet Christmas and New Year! If not for family visiting (read: in laws and my mom), it would have been an even more quieter holiday.

2018 started great for me honestly and then midway, I kinda stumbled, fell, rolled over, fell again and again. It was a roller coaster year, I tell yah! It ain’t finished with me yet so am really looking forward to Tet. I’m really hoping (fingers crossed and toes too!) that the Lunar New Year will be kinder to me.

If and when I can get my footing back, I’ll tell you all about it.

However, despite the tumbles and bungles of 2018, it was such a year full of GRATITUDE.

My love tank was full and sometimes even overflowing with the immense goodness of people has shown me. It is really when it’s the darkest can you see the stars.

And so this 2019, I carry with me a hopeful spirit that I am sure will help me conquer what else is before me.

In today’s homily, the priest reminds us that with Christ…

“I am too blessed to be stressed.  Too anointed to be disappointed. Too hopeful to be doubtful.”

AJA 2019! But please, pretty please, be nicer to me.

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Philippines, Vietnam, and the Universe

It’s been a while since I last posted (obviously) and even missed my blog anniversary! Hello Saigon turned 8 in November and yup, this blog is still alive. It’s just that there are things I want to write about but can’t share at the moment which has taken a big chunk of my time this year.

Am crawling out of the woodwork to just rave about the Ms. Universe 2018 festivities yesterday and oh what a thrill it was! I know, I know Vietnam is still on a high after winning the Suzuki Cup last weekend too! Am no Vietnamese but 10 years in this lovely country, I have nothing but love for my adoptive country.

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Ms. Philippines Catriona Gray represented my home country exceptionally well. It wasn’t just about her strutting her stuff down the runway but it was also the details she put into every piece of clothing she wore and every accessory. She showcased her talent (that slo-mo twirl?!) but also represented the talent of the designers and jewelers of my country. Each gown had a story, each, earpiece had a history. She even highlighted the T’nalak fabric of our ethnic group the T’boli tribe in Southern Mindanao. And her answer in the Q&A? You have to admit, she was the only one among the Top 3 that nailed the answer right in the head.

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Oh and did you know that this year’s Ms. Universe pageant showcased 13 gowns made by Filipino designers? Am betting by next year, each country would be doing what Ms. Philippines did.

As much as am celebrating for Catriona Gray’s claiming the Ms. Universe crown yesterday, I am so much in awe of Ms. Vietnam’s H’Hen Nie.

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I was actually rooting for her to get into the Top 3 together with Philippines and South Africa. You cannot imagine my glee when she got into the Top 20, then Top 10, then Top 5.

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And it wasn’t just me. A lot of my Filipino friends and were very vocal about her — her persona, her character, the way she carries herself were every inch a queen. The only Ms. Vietnam I raved about was Ms. Vietnam 2011 who I met back then and H’Hen Nie is someone completely different from the usual beauty queens. Her Cinderella story is yes something am drawn to but her beauty exudes so much confidence and strength — like you cannot mess with her.

It was just such a shame that am reading comments that the interpreter didn’t do a good job during the Q&A. But really, Vietnam must be so proud of her. It’s the first time Vietnam was represented in Top 5 in the pageant. I just love her!

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So this ends my fangirling. And hopefully, I get back to the groove of things and resuscitate Hello Saigon back to life.

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Chef Scott is back in PMH

I first met Chef Scott back in 2012 at his Scott and Binh’s restaurant in Bizu Hotel in Phu My Hung. He and his wife moved to District 1 a while back to open Scott and Jeremy’s and La Fiesta.

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Now Chef Scott and Duc are back in Phu My Hung with their second La Fiesta at 1-1A Ha Huy Tap.

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Love the interiors! The chandelier was designed by Duc using empty Corona bottles.

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There restaurant is 2 floors and the diners can opt to eat outside as well.

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We donned these hats for fun! We got 10% off too for doing so! 😛

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If you’re looking for a great Tex-Mex place, do visit La Fiesta!

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They have an extensive menu list including tacos, burritos, enchiladas, the works!

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We ordered soft tacos of lamb, pulled beef, fish. The kids had mac and cheese.

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Since we went there to celebrate Manuel’s 40th birthday, we ordered in advance and was served promptly.

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So glad La Fiesta is near our place now.

La Fiesta Phu My Hung
1-1A Ha Huy Tap
Phu My Hung, D7

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Got cheese?

I love cheese.  Too bad that my present situation limits my cheese consumption. Ugh.

I know I have been under the radar for the past two months only resurface to talk about cheese. Haha.

Well, I guess that’s how it is. What you can’t have, you must covet and rant about.

Sooooo… for some reason, cheese tarts have been all the rage for first half of the year. My friend who went to my home country for a vacation came back bearing gifts of Lava Cheese Tarts.

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Sooooo… I didn’t love it but maybe it was because the freshness wasn’t what I hoped for since it had to travel for over a hundred miles over sea before it reached my mouth. 😛

So I looked around HCMC and found that there were 3 popular shops selling cheese tarts. There’s Hokkaido (who always turn down my request for delivery), Whip (which was nearest my home and actually tasted good especially with the salted egg! YUM! Oh and yeah, they deliver), and there’s BAKE! Oh my BAKE I love!

How could you possibly turn away from this golden yummy goodness?

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Been reading a lot about Bake and I visited them last Tet.

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Been craving for this for weeks. Haven’t been back to their shop. Somebody send me some!

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