Pistahan (Filipino) Festival and Indonesian Day Festival

Saturday, August 11, 2007, saw me return to Yerba Buena Gardens for the Pistahan (Filipino) Festival. I like living near a Caltrain station; it makes trips to certain parts of the city very easy.

Pistahan (Filipino) Festival
The Filipino Festival was fairly small, smaller even than last week's festival. I explored it in under an hour. As I explored, I took a few pictures. The festival's most appealing aspect to me was the wide, themed food selection: pancit, adobe, lumpia, palabok, menudo, sisig, halo-halo, and more. I'd never heard of most of these dishes. And I'd certainly never seen halo-halo before -- I'd have remembered it if I had.

First, I tried some sisig. It was simply good grilled meat, tossed with jalapenos, and served over (unnecessary) rice. It reminded me greatly of Mexican food.

Later, in the afternoon, I tried some pancit. Basically a Filipino version of spaghetti and tiny meatballs, it was decent and satisfying. There's minor differences between the American and Filipino versions of the dish: the Filipino meatballs are made from pork (American one are, I think, beef); and, the Filipino noodles were rice noodles and hence had a slightly different texture.

Even later, I grabbed a few lumpia (not photographed). A fried egg-roll-type dish served with sweet and sour sauce, these were, oddly, more greasy inside than out. Still, I called them good, They were filled with peas, carrots, corn. The contents surprised me because I don't normally think of these as Asian vegetables.

As for the non-culinary aspects of the festival, the ordinary booths were pretty boring. Some promoted tourism and culture. A number offered real estate opportunities or mortgages. Local bay area banks, utilities, police forces, and financial institutions (including those offering money transfers) also had tables. I suppose the festival is a good opportunity to reach out to this community.

As for retailers, they were all themed. Although there weren't many, I'm sure for anything you wanted that's usually sold at a fair, a booth or two carried it.

Also, one booth was devoted to Filipino and Filipino-American history. It displayed Filipino art, old coins, flags, weapons, letters, and military uniforms (for Filipino units in the US army and Filipino troops commanded by the US military in joint operations). Some items had little binders explaining their significant and role. I wish more festivals had museum-type exhibits like this.

Other observations:

  • Interestingly, most of the performances (musical entertainment or dance) were in the rap and hip-hop vein.
  • There were more cops than I've seen at other festivals. I wonder why.
  • I learned pinoy is another term for Filipino.
I had extra time and I remembered the Indonesian Day Festival existed. As it was a short walk away, I decided to explore it. On the way, I noticed San Francisco's Cody's bookstore closed (San Francisco Chronicle article). Though I've never been in there, I'm sad to see it close because, closing so soon after Cody's Telegraph Avenue store, it may prophecy the death of independent bookstores.

Indonesian Day Festival
The Indonesian Day Festival was even tinier than the Filipino Festival. Located in Union Square, it had one musical stage and ten booths, half of which sold food and half sold items such as handbags, wooden sculptures, and drums. Since most of the Indonesian food for sale was heavy and I'd already had lunch, I decided to pass. Although I spent less than thirty minutes at the festival, it was a fun excursion--I got to see some Indonesian dancing and to read some interesting menus.

Aloha Festival in the Presidio

On Sunday, August 5, 2007, I fought traffic to get to the Presidio, paid for parking, then circled for twenty minutes looking for a space. After parking, I finally emerged from my car to explore San Francisco's Aloha Festival.

Although the Aloha Festival was themed as much as the Himalayan Festival, it didn't interest me as much. That's probably because the items on display at the Aloha Festival seemed less exotic to me. It could also be because the day was overcast, frequently misting, and therefore much less pleasant than the day I went to the Himalayan Festival. As such, I spent only a bit more than an hour exploring.

There wasn't much artwork on display. Only one booth, with photos of eye-catching skirt-wrapped women, caught my eye. Most booths sold clothing, hand bags, jewelry, jugs, or rugs. A few sold Hawaiian snacks and ingredients. Two booths sold ukuleles. There was even one booth that sold furniture.

The crowd mostly consisted of Asian Pacific Islanders. Judging by the clothes, Hawaiian shirts are for tourists, not natives. (I saw my first Hawaiian shirt only after I was halfway through the festival, and only two booths sold them.) Two people wore amusing t-shirts that reflect the style and culture of this festival:

  • We don't skinny dip; we chunky dip.
  • Sorry, I don't speak Spanish. I am Samoan.
I ate at the festival, of course. The food stands were well themed: Hawaiian food, Filipino food, snow cones, some Thai food, and one or two of the usual booths of grilled or deep-fried meats and garlic fries. I had:
  • some kalua pork: moist. pretty good
  • some lomi lomi salmon: I'd describe it as a tangy tomato salsa; I didn't notice any salmon.
  • a sashimi salad with onions: lively; quite good; the best item.
  • some macaroni salad with peas (!): bland and starchy and not good at all.
Later, I had some lumpia as a snack. They're like thin egg rolls, and were even served with sweet and sour sauce. The ones I had contained chicken. I tried to order a half-order but, as it was the end of the festival, the purveyor was generous and gave me a full order yet only charged me for half. They were pretty good, good enough that the dipping sauce was unnecessary, and good enough that I finished the order even though I knew I didn't need to eat all that food.

These pictures and movies capture moments and sights from the festival, some of which I didn't discuss above.

Presidio Officer's Club
After lunch and two-thirds of the way through exploring the festival, I knew I'd be done with the festival way too soon. (I had evening plans in the city and didn't want to have too much time to kill.) Hence, I decided to wander away, hunt for a real bathroom (not a porta-potty), and see what else was nearby. Eventually, I found myself at the Officer's Club/temporary Visitor's Center, an expansive Spanish colonial building.

After briefly wandering through the gift shop and the exhibits in hall about the Presidio's history, I found a special exhibit of Robert Cameron's photographs. The photographs are mostly of natural scenes, though some are of natural scenes corrupted by human structures. I really enjoyed the exhibit, partially because the prints were impressively large (often six feet by ten feet) and with good detail, and partially because upon entering we were given an interesting booklet. The booklet had commentary from the photographer about every picture. Yes, every picture. Sometimes he describes the message he tried to convey with the photograph; sometimes the text was simply an anecdote about something that happened to him in the process of attempting to take the picture.

One photo, taken where the Sacramento River flows into the bay, shows a neat effect: one can see a line across the water where the dirtier/siltier river water hits the clearer bay water.

He also has a good photo of climbers on El Capitan.

Some of the pictures are comments on the environment and consumerism: arrays of salt beds, abandoned old strip mines, piles of cars by a landfill, power plants with many smokestacks, and oases of lawns and golf greens in the middle of dessert (photographed in Los Angeles and Las Vegas). Mostly, however, the photographs are of the majesty of nature.

Alemany Farmers Market & Sutro Baths

On Saturday, August 4, 2007, a friend and I realized we needed ingredients for dinner. As it was early afternoon, most farmers markets were already closed. After a bit of research, I discovered the Alemany Farmers Market is open for most of Saturday. Hence, there we went.

The Alemany Farmers Market is a good size. Most in-season fruits or vegetables are carried by at least three or four stalls. The atmosphere, judging by when we went, is more relaxed than, say, the Ferry Building's or Mountain View's market. Perhaps it's the time of day we went. Perhaps it's that the market has fewer certificated organic farmers and thus attracts a smaller crowd. (The smaller crowd could also be because the fruit didn't seem as perfect as at other markets. I sampled many that seemed either under-ripe or over-ripe.) Perhaps it's the setting--the market is located in what appears to be an old bus parking lot. Perhaps it's the colorful murals of produce and of rural scenes on the walls behind each stand.

After the farmers market, we decided to spend some time along the coast. First, we re-acquainted ourselves with Sutro Baths, a cool old ruin I hadn't visited since a Game took me there many years ago. While at Sutro Baths, we discovered something new: puffy plants. On parts of the hills overlooking the baths, there were some bushes, three or four feet tall, with very soft leaves. They're so soft one can sit on them. It's like laying in an easy chair. No part of one's body touches the ground. The bushes are easy to grip, walk through, and climb, as long as one is comfortable taking a step without being able to see the ground due to the density of the branches. The bushes cushion each step, just as they do one's tush when sitting.

After being chased from our recliners by some bees, we finished exploring Sutro Baths, then took a walk along the beach, passing a huge number of resting birds and a small number of very active beach ultimate players.

Two BBQs -> No Weekend Street Fair

On both Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, 2007, I attended friends' birthday barbecues, one in Palo Alto and the other at Pomponio State Beach along highway one. Both were a lot of fun. Hence, I didn't plan to attend any street fairs this weekend. Indeed, I didn't even bother to see what the schedule looked like. Thus, I was very surprised when I left my apartment on Sunday morning and found a street fair two blocks from my building! Funny, funny things. It might've been there to torment/tempt me. But it failed: I think barbecues with friends are more fun...

Palo Alto Promenade

On Friday evening, July 20, 2007, I went to the Palo Alto Promenade. It was a street fair only in the sense that they closed the street to traffic; otherwise, there wasn't much besides a smattering of stages. There were practically no booths.

When I arrived, I did an exploratory stroll down University. It's nice walking down University Avenue with no cars and seeing what's changed and what's remained the same. I have mixed feelings about change. One part of me says, "there are new places to explore/try!" Another part says, "oy, there are new places that need exploring."

Along my walk, I noticed two big stages, one small one, and two street musicians. None played music I like. By the time I returned to the first stage, it had a new act, Groovy Judy, that appealed to me. I stayed and listened and grooved. The lead singer/guitarist, Groovy Judy, was dressed a flamboyant feathery pink suit and pink top hat; she was fun to watch. Groovy Judy's web page has interesting explanations about what inspired each song. She clearly cares about her lyrics and message.

When a friend arrived, we did another loop. The other big stage had a better band this time, though not good enough to make us stop for long.

I then got the opportunity to try one of those new places I spotted for dinner! :) It was quite good.

After dinner, joined by yet another friend, we did another circuit. We spotted a film projected on a screen, but couldn't hear it because the speakers were so bad. The big stage now had a not bad hip hop band on it.

In the amusing t-shirt category, I spotted someone wearing "my hockey mom can beat up your soccer mom".