Celebrating our anniversary at Little Island Brewers Co.

Since I moved to the eastern part of Singapore, I’ve always wanted to grab a beer and take in the ambiance at Little Island Brewers. It’s a self-service brewery and restaurant located in Changi Village.

When we arrived on a weeknight, the setting was comfortable. There were barely any people here due to this pandemic. I remember seeing their Facebook page and the place was normally PACKED pre-pandemic.

Since I made reservations and we arrived 15 minutes early, we were given options to choose whichever table has a “Reserved” card on it. We picked a table right around the center of the outdoor area. I loved the string of lights and thought it’d be perfect.

P and I ordered the Animal Farm (SGD 48.00) platter:

It has beef brisket, pork belly, tikka chicken thigh, beer sausages, served with mashed potato, mixed greens, and sauces. I’m a sucker for everything tossed into a platter like that. I was happy with everything on the platter. The pork belly was crispy and juicy. The beef was tender. The chicken tikka was definitely grilled. And I can never get enough of mashed potato.

I think P was unaware of the large serving size. He also ordered the Chicken Tikka Burger (SGD 18.00):

This came with fries and mixed greens. Knowing P, he would ignore the greens. He loved his burger and I took some of his french fries.

Of course, Little Island Brewers is a… brewery. I was excited to check out the craft beers. Because of the pandemic, the staff will do the “self-service” for you. Here’s what the craft beers section looked like.

They let you sample the draft beers. I easily get tipsy when I start mixing different types of alcohol. I picked out the Hefeweizen since it’s their wheat beer. Golden Ale was the recommendation as well as the Double Trouble.

You can choose different types of serving size. We went for the smaller sized “Stem” so we could sample more. Here’s how the Stem glasses look like at Little Island Brewers:

I think I’ll stick to my wheat beer. It was my favorite among the ones we tried. After three glasses, I started to feel a little tipsy. I think my alcohol tolerance has changed in this pandemic. I’m actually cutting back on beer. But I thought this was an occasion anyway. 🙂

Plus, I was enjoying myself! Beers, a meat platter, and celebrating an anniversary. It was also a cool evening. New dining restrictions were about to be enforced so we managed to enjoy an anniversary dinner outside the house.

I think the place is popular amongst cyclists who find themselves having a pitstop at Changi Village. The area is in a slightly more remote part of Singapore which is inaccessible by MRT. I think that adds to the charm of the place. You have restaurants lined up within the parallel buildings that line Changi Village. There’s a nearby park and a nearby jetty for those going for a day trip to Pulau Ubin.

Little Island Brewers bills itself as self-service – with exception of this pandemic, there are some measures like letting the staff get your beer for you. I try to imagine how this place looked like pre-pandemic. It must’ve been packed and featured bands perhaps.

I’ll add this place as a recommended drinking spot in Singapore.

Little Island Brewers is at 6 Changi Village Road, Singapore, 509907. There is no MRT station near this location. But there is the Changi Village Bus Interchange which is two minutes away by foot. (Learn more on their Facebook page.)

Tell me about your favourite drinking spot in your city.

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Getting my second vaccine jab in Pasir Ris

I guess this is a continuation of a previous post about getting my first vaccine jab. 🙂

July 25. The day of my 2nd vaccine appointment. I was LESS anxious this time. Probably because the first experience was breezy and painless. Plus, I had a cute guy inject me!

Like the first time, I didn’t take public transport since Pasir Ris Elias Community Club is a nice 15-minute walk away. I know that GoJek has some type of free transpo promotion for those getting their vaccination. But I didn’t want the fuss of downloading the app and being subscribed to some marketing mailing list. I’m fine walking since it’s good to get some sunshine.

Singapore flags are up and in full display – National Day is in a few weeks

I reached the community club on the dot. As soon as you arrive, you get asked if you’ve experienced fever or anything of that sort in the past 24 (or was it 48) hours. Then you get led up the stairs to a waiting area.

I can say I got my jab within 10 minutes after arriving on my assigned schedule. Lol no cute guy this time but instead a very friendly young lady in a hijab. I wanted to get a selfie with her for this blog but I was too shy.

The waiting area was filled with people! Must be a good thing. People are getting vaccinated here.

TED Talk Time: I checked that as of today, 50% of Singapore’s population is fully vaccinated. The country’s goal is to have two-thirds of the population vaccinated before National Day in August. I think they’re making great headway to reach their goal despite the spike in community cases. The cases the past few days are in the triple-digits.

Like last time, they give out masks to those who get vaccinated at this community club.

I walked home afterwards and walked home without listening to Blackpink. I don’t know. I think I was emo underneath the sunny weather. I feel lucky and grateful. But I think about things like… how about our friends in Malaysia? Indonesia? Thailand? And of course, how about my family and friends back home in the Philippines. The Delta variant has started to spread back home.

When I got home, I checked my TraceTogether app and the “In Progress” vaccine status changed to “Waiting to take effect”. Tapping it brings you to another page which tells you which date you’ll be fully vaccinated. My 14th day will be 8th August, right in time for Singapore’s National Day.

Wherever you are in the world, please be safe. Please get vaccinated. Sending love. ❤

How is it like to get vaccinated where you are?

“Are You Local?” Podcast Launch

I’ve finally launched my podcast! I was afraid to hit publish back in late 2020 because of imposter syndrome. I needed to take a “time out” and wait until I was comfortable putting my voice out there. It’s not perfect but I learned not to fall into that perfectionist trap. So finally, here it is! (Open in Spotify here).

“Are You Local?” is a question I get asked by some taxi drivers when they hear I carry a different accent. It’s an innocent question I’m usually happy to answer. But to have to answer it every time, I pondered what does local really mean. Many of us move between cities and countries. Are there secrets to fully integrating or happily co-existing?

In this podcast series, we’ll hear from folks who have moved to different parts of the world. We’ll also hear from people who live in multicultural locations. These are conversations with people who are finding their new place away from home.

My friend Greg joins me in the first episode and we explore what local means to him as a Singaporean. The podcast is available on Spotify. Support my storytelling by tapping “Follow”! Thanks!

Getting my first vaccine jab in Pasir Ris

COVID-19 vaccine registration for non-citizen residents of Singapore (ages 12-39) started on June 30, 2021. The government gave citizens in this age group more than two weeks head start to register. As a non-citizen but long-time Singapore resident, it was anxiety-inducing to wait. But I’m glad we were finally included. We are fighting this pandemic together on this island.

My housemates and I registered as soon as we could. We managed to book our first jabs within the first week of July. You can choose where to get your vaccine. The scheduling service will recommend the closest vaccine centers to your address. My schedule was on July 4.

My schedule was at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club which is a 15-minute walk from the house. Wearing comfortable clothes (shorts, a loose shirt, running shoes) – I made my way to the CC.

It was on a Sunday afternoon so I was expecting a managed crowd. Seats were laid out nicely and with social distancing. Once you arrive, like many things in Singapore, it was clockwork.

The vaccine offered at this centre is Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 (Comirnaty) and it is offered as two jabs. They interview you twice before you get the jab. They ask if you have known allergies, if you’re on specific medicines, etc.

The jab itself was painless. It lasted only a few seconds. After getting the jab, you have to wait 30 minutes in an observation area.

The observation area where you wait for 30 minutes
They have a pamphlet about the vaccine. It is provided in multiple languages.

I didn’t feel anything during that observation period. They call your name for one final interview before you are discharged. They check in with you, if you feel any immediate side effects that warrant attention or care. They also provide you with a printed sheet with your next vaccine appointment on it. The wait is 21-28 days until you can get the next jab.

Overall it was a seamless experience. (I wrote that like I’m reviewing a spa.)

My 2nd jab is scheduled at the end of July.

I hope you’re doing good in your part of the world. Please get vaccinated safely. 🙂

Pandesal in Singapore: Panrizal Tinapay Therapy

A friend posted an Instagram story recently and it featured a box of pandesal. My friend is also in Singapore and it caught my attention. “Where did you order that?!”

Well, hello there! Ensaymada and two boxes of pandesal and cheese bread.

A few days later I’m happily welcoming a box of pandesal and cheese bread at my doorstep. I also ordered a set of ensaymadas. It’s from Panrizal “Tinapay Therapy” which is a home-based bakery run from a house in Punggol. They bake Filipino classics like pandesal, cheese bread, ensaymada, and Spanish bread. The delivery fee from Punggol to Pasir Ris was $5 (yikes) but it was worth it. My housemates and I described it in one word: “legit”

Freshly baked pandesal from Panrizal
Cheese bread from Panrizal. Fluffy bread with a cheesy, crispy crust.
Ensaymadas – easy to pull apart for individual serving.

I was quite pleased with the purchase. It did set me back $29 if you count the delivery fee. But it’s not everyday I get to enjoy “legit” Filipino-style bread. The pandesal was soft and fluffy. I asked my housemates (who are great at cooking) if they’ve tried making pandesal at home. Housemate D says it’s difficult and it ends up like monay bread (which is dense!). The cheese bread was also “legit” – soft and fluffy inside with a crunchy outer layer. I don’t know what makes it different from the cheese bread you can buy at a local Singaporean bakery lol – is it the extra appeal of being baked by our kababayan? The ensaymada was also good. Great for breakfast. I also miss the sugary-coated ensaymadas from Cavite.

You can visit Panrizal’s Facebook page here. Orders have to be placed via Facebook.

Revisiting Yishun’s Northpoint in 2021

The pandemic has kept most of us from travelling overseas for leisure. What’s the next best thing to do? Go visit a shopping mall in Yishun.

Massive Northpoint City in Yishun

I used to live in Yishun. It was one of my first neighbourhoods in Singapore. Back then, the neighborhood shopping mall was a simple building with an L-shaped layout. The mall sat opposite the MRT station. The bus interchange was as simple as it could get. Two sides lined with bus berths. It was open air and you can feel the humidity each time.

Before and after (from Google Street View)

How I remember Yishun vs how it looks today (in 2021)

Eight years later and that bus interchange is now air conditioned with a condo built on top of it. Northpoint mall is now Northpoint City and it looks like it doubled in size. A large tunnel between the MRT side and the shopping mall was built. This tunnel is lined by shops. The entire vibe reminds me of subway stations in Hong Kong and Tokyo. (Or, Orchard… of course.)

It was also pretty packed with shoppers queuing to enter the mall. Due to capacity limits brought by the pandemic, queuing to enter is normal.

This is the newer tunnel that links Yishun MRT to the shopping mall.

Once inside, I was completely wide-eyed. Funny because most stores and restaurants you’ll find branches in other malls across the island. But it was fun because I was looking for traces of the old mall.

I was hungry and happily found a Wee Nam Kee at the basement level. I ordered my favourite roast chicken rice set with dumpling soup. I also added a glass of lime juice.

Wee Nam Kee at Yishun’s Northpoint City

I met up with my friend G who lives in Yishun. He knows how excited I get about revisiting places in Singapore so he literally gave me a level-by-level tour of Northpoint City. He also added tidbits about shops he remembers growing up.

Waffles, ice cream, and coffee with G in Yishun

I was overwhelmed by the amount of people in the mall. Because I live in Pasir Ris, I’m not used to seeing so many people packed into one building. Even in Tampines, there are three malls that sit next to each other… so there’s an open air vibe there.

I couldn’t help but reminisce about my first chapter in Singapore many years ago. I remember the takoyaki stall outside the grocery store in the basement. It’s still there and the signages look welcomingly dated. I see where the old mall gives way to the new extension. The flooring changes. The way the shop signs are displayed look different. If I can add, what’s alluring here is the hodgepodge of old and new. Because finding traces of history vs development in this city is important. LOL I KNOW IT’S JUST NORTHPOINT. But for once, I’m seeing something where both co-exist. They didn’t have to knock down the old Northpoint in the process.

But yeaaaaah… hella lot of people. Social distancing ambassadors were around. QR codes for SafeEntry were everywhere. But I didn’t want to linger at the mall for too long.

This section is part of the extension of Northpoint. You’ll notice barricades because people arriving from the bus interchange have to queue to enter the shopping mall. They are doing controlled entry.

Thank you again G for showing me around!

Singapore Favorites: Kimoto Gastro Bar

My boyfriend and I discovered this kushiyaki izakaya at The Sail when I used to work at LinkedIn. It has my kind of vibe: Japanese skewered meat, Japanese beers, a long bar table, and with minimal foot traffic. It’s like a secret! Very hole-in-the-wall and hidden if you don’t know where to look.

My friend A and I met up at Kimoto Gastro Bar to catch up over some Asahi beers. I’m glad the establishment is still open during this pandemic.

Sorry to make you squint. Here’s the menu at Kimoto Gastro Bar.

They have donburi available but I am eating less rice these days so I’m fine with the kushiyaki. The Buta Bara (2 sticks) for SGD 7.80 is SO GOOD. It’s addictive. The pork belly is juicy and freshly grilled. We couldn’t stop ordering. I think we had three plates of that!

We also ordered the Sasami (2 sticks) for SGD 7.80 which is tender chicken breast with wasabi and lime. WASABI on a kushiyaki – amazing haha! The other item on the plate is the Enoki Maki wrapped with pork belly for SGD 4.80. Sinful. The juicy pork belly wrapped around a crunchy filling of enoki mushrooms.

It’s a great place to catch up with old friends in Singapore’s CBD.

Glad to also catch up with A who is hella busy these days with his raqs sharqi which is the official or proper name of bellydancing. A shared with me his dance school’s logo. It’s great that outside of his full time role as a recruiter, he is passionately pursuing the arts. You can follow him on Facebook.

A selfie with A inside Kimoto Gastro Bar. What you see behind us is the ambiance of the establishment.

Location: Kimoto Gastro Bar is at The Sail, 6 Marina Boulevard #01-15 Singapore 018985. Closest MRT station is: Downtown. It is accessible as well from Raffles Place MRT. Visit Kimoto’s Facebook.

Preparing for this marathon

Taking a selfie at the Promontory. It’s a beautiful spot for a reprieve when you’re in the downtown area.

I think we are going to live with this virus for the next few years.

Businesses and travel might resume in the next few months. More people might get vaccinated. But I think it makes sense to start planning for the long term. It’s going to be like this for the immediate future. We will be wearing masks and undergoing tests. We will start reading more about hospital capacity in our locale as well as news about outbreaks. Some of us might even catch the virus eventually. I don’t want to be fatalistic in thinking. It only makes sense to prepare for every outcome.

In the past two months I’ve seen friends and contacts become infected. Today, a death in one of my circles. Two of my three immediate family members have received their first vaccine jab. I’m currently in queue for my own shot in a few weeks.

Last week, I went to work in my office for the first time since I started in the job last June. It still wasn’t the same as walking into an office filled with people. The nine of us in the office last week were social distancing from each other and we were all wearing masks.

Though Singapore’s Covid-19 cases in recent months have plummeted, there was a sudden spike with 16 community cases last week. A fully vaccinated Filipino nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) tested positive for the virus. A cluster has formed at TTSH which has claimed the life of one patient. It is the 31st death in Singapore since the pandemic began. The total cases in Singapore is over 61,000. That’s compared to over 1 million cases in the Philippines to date.

The MOH website says that about 849,764 people in Singapore have received the full dosage of a vaccine. They are currently offering it to those 45 and above, as well as front-liners. They say that people below 45 will be allowed to register from June.

I have not been home in the Philippines since Christmas of 2019. While this is the longest time I have been physically away from family, our chats have increased. I Facetime with my mom regularly. We talk about what they had as a family for lunch and dinner. Sometimes I video call from places in Singapore like the ArtScience Museum or the rain vortex at Jewel Changi Airport. They tell me about their isolation at home. My brother and my dad converted a bodega into a home gym. My mom enjoys connecting with relatives via Facebook. They tell me that our driver, Kuya Boyet, helps do grocery runs. Except for my brother, the family stays at home 100% of the time. The only two instances they left the house was to attend two funerals.

It’s reached a point that we’ve discussed the idea of my parents moving to the United States in the immediate future. We’re thinking that once everyone is fully vaccinated, if it would be wiser for our parents to stay in California where there are hospital beds if needed. The idea of an emergency and no hospital able to admit you is horrifying. I can’t believe it’s gotten that bad in the Philippines. I am stressed over the thought of my parents getting on an airplane to take a 15-hour flight to San Francisco. My brother says he will travel with them. I’m thinking if I can meet them in California. Perhaps travel between Singapore and the United States would be safer. That’s why I monitor the news about Covid-19 in the United States.

The idea is that all of this is feasible only after we all complete our vaccination.

***

I am doing fine in Singapore. There are a few upcoming things that might be stressful. PJ’s pass is for renewal in a few months and I’m encouraging him to aggressively pursue the option that secures a work pass for him that’s good for 24 months or valid until 2023 at least. By then, at least one of his siblings would’ve graduated from university already and would be working. He gives so much for his family and I only want to see him thrive.

As for me, my work pass is valid until the middle of 2022. There is much uncertainty over work passes these days. My role is based in Manila but it does not make sense to put myself in a cage in Manila – isolated from my circles during this pandemic – in a job that can be done 100% online. Only if the veil of this pandemic is fully lifted will I consider relocating to Manila for the job. I think I can accomplish everything needed for the role while being safe in Singapore.

Our living arrangement is safe. I share the house with other overseas Filipino workers who are breadwinners in their own right. We have a happy atmosphere of occasional movie nights, birthday parties, and barbecues. It’s rare that I host my own friends these days but I’ve invited some for Nintendo Switch or a chat over beer.

On most weeknights I’m part of an online HIIT and body weights class. It’s something I make a point to participate in as much as possible. The interactions are healthy for the brain. Exercising releases endorphins. It also helps provide structure to my day. I’ve also resumed intermittent fasting. I had to pause in April because of a root canal.

***

We are going to have to live with this virus for the next few years. I suggest we start planning for it instead of waiting for it to magically disappear. It’s so bad in India, in the Philippines, and in countries that are lifting restrictions prematurely. Wherever you are reading this, be safe.

Unli-Rice at Orchard Road: The RiceTable Indonesian Restaurant

PJ is a rice lover. Often what we both want for lunch (or dinner) is different. I want my salads, pasta, and proteins. He wants anything else as long as it has rice.

On his birthday, I wanted to take him to a restaurant that specialises not in rice… but in what goes great with rice. Instantly I’d think about Peranakan, Malay, Thai, or Filipino. I didn’t want to take him to Gerry’s. We have Thai every other week. The good Peranakan can be pricy.

Through someone’s Instagram story I learned about a restaurant called “The RiceTable Indonesian Restaurant”. It’s a restaurant that features Dutch “rijsttafel”. Rijttafel means “rice table”. Think of it as a setting of Indonesian or Indonesian-inspired dishes placed over a plate warmer. In terms of having dishes laid out in front of you… I think it’s similar to the nasi padang you’d find in Jakarta?

I thought this would be perfect for PJ. Savoury Indonesian dishes coupled with “unlimited” rice.

Where is it? The RiceTable Indonesian Restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of the International Building (360 Orchard Road). It is walking distance from Orchard MRT station. The building is small… so once you enter, take the escalator to Level 2 and you’ll spot it right in front of you. Here’s how it looks like:

The restaurant is straightforward. It’s one open area with tables laid out on two sides of the space. The lighting is warm. The decor is minimal. There’s a gamelan soundtrack playing lightly in the background.

Easily you’ll come to notice this device in the middle of the table. It’s a plate warmer and this is where the wait staff will lay the dishes one-by-one in front of you.

Once seated, you’ll be served your lunch or dinner set.

For our lunch set, we had a delicious mix of satay, kangkong, curry chicken, and fish. Our favourites were the beef rendang and the kangkong.

Clockwise from top left: Chicken Satay, Kangkong Belachan, Otak, Grilled Chicken, Curry Chicken, Fried Sweet and Sour Fish, Ladyfinger in Bean Sauce, Beef Rendang, Vegetables in Coconut Stew, and Curried Tofu

Rice is “unlimited” – and PJ enjoyed his refills. The refills are done similarly to Mang Inasal back in the Philippines. One of the wait staff will come to the table to put scoops of rice onto your plate.

***

We had a great first dining experience here. I couldn’t help but think it’s a great place to bring my family when they come visit Singapore again in the future. Unlimited rice, Indonesian dishes, and a no-frills dining experience.

During this pandemic, I highly recommend making reservations at restaurants to guarantee your spot because of limited seating arrangements. I made my reservations via their website.

Note: This restaurant was PACKED when we visited on a Monday. We happened to be the last ones to leave the restaurant during the lunch hours… so it looks empty and clean. But it was packed!

If you’ve tried The RiceTable Indonesian Restaurant, let me know what you think?

Photos: Universal Studios Singapore (February 2021)

Author’s Note: Yes, it is SAFE to visit Universal Studios Singapore (USS) during this period. Social distancing ambassadors are patrolling the park grounds. Entrance is restricted to those who are scheduled to visit on that particular day. USS is open 2pm to 9pm but with several rides closed, I think you only need 4 to 5 hours to enjoy the park.

One of the liveliest parks in the city is Universal Studios Singapore.

Before this pandemic, the park would welcome tourists from across this part of Asia. There would be parades, street performers, and fireworks. Queues would form at numerous rides. Those with extra cash to burn could utilise ‘express passes’ to skip queues. The park is one of Sentosa’s main attractions. It even has one of the best park experiences I’d recommend anyone: Halloween Horror Nights. They would install up to five haunted houses on the park grounds. Complete with scare zones and actors in character.

The real scare now is seeing scenes like this:

A full year into this pandemic and the park is visited by Singapore residents. Tourists have not been allowed entry into Singapore for almost a year. The effects of which include a decimated travel and tourism industry, thousands of lost jobs, and scaled-back attractions.

While it’s humbling to go to Universal Studios Singapore “to show support” by spending on tickets, food, and whatnot… the experience of going to an amusement park during a pandemic is bewildering. I suddenly miss the sight of tourists and first-timers entering this park. I dislike crowds but what I dislike more is the sight of emptiness. A closed amusement park food stall, Jurassic Park dinosaurs placed behind barricades, and constant reminders of where to sit, how to stand apart, and where to wash your hands.

I recommend visiting Universal Studios Singapore for the thrill of it. If you’re in Singapore, take advantage of not experience crowds and queues. Support local attractions. Book and schedule your visit because walk-ins aren’t allowed.

And for the rest of the region… stuck in homes, stuck in quarantine, stuck in countries with governments who have done a poor job at handling the pandemic… we’ll try to keep parks like these “alive” for the day you return.

The rest in photos:

We had a good time at Universal Studios Singapore. We visited the park on a Sunday in February 2021. We followed social distancing, wore masks, and applied hand sanitiser consistently.