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Is it too hard to play fair?

A Cook's Diary

Is it too hard to play fair?

A funny thing happened when a fellow food blogger did some research on bulalo recipes in preparation for cooking his own. He found a recipe in The Manila Bulletin Online published in July, 2006. But, having read my food blog before, the words he read just seemed uncannily familiar. He scoured my archives, found my bulalo recipe published in December, 2003, and then e-mailed me. I’m not sure he wants his identity known; if I get his permission I will name him.

(Insert: Thank you, Marketman).

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I fully intended to submit this article as my op-ed column for Tuesday but, after thinking it though… This is PERSONAL and it wouldn’t be fair to involve Manila Standard Today (insert: on second thought, this gutter level of unprofessionalism should be a public concern). I must also say that I have full screenshots should the need for them arise.

Below is the bulalo recipe from The Manila Bulletin, as published in its Society section:

BULALAO (traditional beef shank soup)


750 grams bulalo (bone-in beef shank)
1 pc onion, whole
1 clove garlic
6 to 8 pcs peppercorns
salt to taste
2 bunches pechay (Chinese cabbage)
½ head cabbage (Napa variety)
250 grams potatoes
1 pc carrot


Cut the beef shank crosswise into 1 and ½-inch thick pieces. Place the beef shanks in a large casserole.

Cover with water. Add the whole onion, garlic (pierced in several places with a knife), and peppercorns.

Season with salt. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove the scum as it rises.

Lower the heat. Cover and simmer for two hours or until the beef is forktender. Alternately, cook the beef in a pressure cooker for 90 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the beef shanks and arrange them in individual soup bowls.

Strain the broth. Reheat to almost boiling. Peel the carrot and potatoes and chop into chunks. Core the cabbage and cook until tender.

Add the pechay last and cook for three more minutes. Scoop out all the vegetables from the broth. Arrange them around the bulalo in the soup bowls. Pour the hot broth over them. Serve at once.

Now here is my recipe published two and a half years earlier. Note the highlighted portions.


Ingredients :

750 g. of bulalo (bone-in beef shank)
1 whole onion
1 whole garlic
1 bay leaf
6-8 peppercorns
2 bunches of pechay (Chinese cabbage or pei tsai)
1/2 head of cabbage (Napa variety)
250 g. of potatoes
1 large carrot

Cooking procedure :

Have the grocer or meat vendor cut the shank crosswise into 1-1/2″thick pieces. The best way to do this is to have it cut with an electric meat saw.

Place the beef shanks in a large casserole. Cover with water. Add the whole onion, garlic (pierced in several places with a sharp pointed knife), bay leaf and peppercorns. Season with salt. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, removing scum as it rises. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for two hours or until the beef is fork-tender. Alternatively, pressure-cook for one hour and 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the beef shanks and arrange at the center of individual soup bowls. Strain the broth. Reheat to boiling point.

Peel the carrot and potatoes and cut into chunks. Core the cabbage and cut in half. Trim the ends of the pechay. Add the carrots to the broth and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add the potatoes and cabbage leaves and simmer for another 8-10 minutes. Lastly, add the pechay leaves and simmer for another 3 minutes.

Scoop the vegetables out and arrange around the bulalo. Pour in hot broth and serve at once.

Wow, isn’t that amazing? The reproduction of the words inside the parentheses is especially hilarious. Why, even adjectives and adverbs are the same! “Slotted spoon.” “Large casserole.” “Alternatively, pressure-cook…” Should I be thankful that instead of copying the phrase one hour and 30 minutes, “90 minutes” was substituted? Or that instead of 1 whole onion, it was “1 pc. onion, whole”? Or that in lieu of 1 whole garlic, it was “1 clove garlic”? Or that 6-8 peppercorns became “6 to 8 pcs. peppercorns”? And “250 grams of potatoes” instead of 250 g. of potatoes? Or that the last two instructions were reworded like a token of a joke? My, my, how utterly professional. The same exact ingredients except for the omission of the bay leaf. My goodness, even the recommended thickness of the beef shanks is exact to the last millimeter.

And here’s the punchline. It’s so pathetic that it’s almost genuinely funny. One whole garlic is not the same as one clove of garlic. Use one clove of garlic instead of one whole garlic for 750 grams of meat and it’s next to useless. That’s the problem when you publish recipes that aren’t yours and never cooked — ignorance shows through. And [expletives deleted], even my glaring mistakes were copied. The stupid fool who used my work did not even know that there are more than a dozen varieties of Chinese cabbage and the local repolyo is not entirely the same as the Napa cabbage — things I discovered long after I published the bulalo recipe in Pinoy Cook.

Oh, boy. As though it wasn’t enough that small time web site operators keep doing the same thing to me.

But here is really what bothers me. Was there any reason why The Manila Bulletin could not have simply asked my written permission to republish my work? When Bulletin’s Blog-o-Rama columnist Annalyn Jusay wrote an article about me on the heels of the 1st Philippine Blogging Summit in 2005, then asked for a copy of my speech and permission to publish it, she didn’t have to ask twice. I even supplied, per her request, the group photo that went with the article. FOR FREE. I should have demanded compensation but, in the end, I decided that my message, and the exposure that I felt Filipino bloggers deserved to get, meant far more than any amount of money.

I have communicated with Bulletin’s Technews editor Art Samaniego in the past and he knows I am a reasonable person to deal with. So, why couldn’t the people from the Society section ask my written permission? I MIGHT HAVE said yes IF they had been willing to give proper attribution.

So, what do I want now? Money? Money can never even remotely approximate the anguish and rage that I feel right now. Am I angling for a more lucrative writing post? Hell, no, I’m not interested. Do I want my work taken down from The Manila Bulletin Online? That will be a good start.

Do I want a public apology? That will be a good second step although, from experience, I know that newspapers are too snooty to admit their mistakes and apologize. Two food bloggers have been in this shithole before when their yema photos were published, without their knowledge and permission, in another national daily. And, just a few months ago, there was that article by Cathy Guballa Babao in The Philippine Daily Inquirer that said I merely “helped” put up Pinoy Moms Network when, in fact, it was my idea from the very start. She did interview me, you see, and still… Did I get even as much as an explanation?

So why didn’t I just write to The Manila Bulletin and demand that MY work be deleted from their site and settle all this quietly? All things considered…?? Because I need vindication as a blogger.

Cook, crafts enthusiast, photographer (at least, I'd like to think so!), researcher, reviewer, story teller and occasional geek. Read more about me, the cooks and the name of the blog.

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