Showing posts with label These islands I call Home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label These islands I call Home. Show all posts

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Rum, with its rich history and distinct flavor, holds a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos. The traditional techniques used in rum production in the Philippines have been passed down through generations, creating a unique and beloved spirit. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history, process, and cultural significance of rum production in the Philippines.

What is the History of Rum Production in the Philippines?

The history of rum production in the Philippines can be traced back to the early days of colonization. It is said that the early Filipino settlers were already producing a crude form of alcohol made from fermented sugar cane juice, long before the arrival of the Spaniards. However, it was the Spanish colonization that truly shaped the rum production techniques we know today.

What are the Early Beginnings of Rum in the Philippines?

Before the Spanish arrived, Filipino natives were already familiar with distillation processes, using bamboo tubes and clay pots to produce distilled spirits. The introduction of sugar cane by the Spanish opened up new possibilities for the production of rum.

As the Filipino natives experimented with different techniques, they discovered that fermenting sugar cane juice produced a potent and flavorful spirit. The process involved crushing the sugar cane stalks and extracting the juice, which was then left to ferment naturally. The resulting liquid was distilled using their traditional bamboo tubes and clay pots, creating a spirit with a distinct character.

These early rum producers in the Philippines were resourceful and innovative, using what was available to them. They would often add local herbs and spices to the fermentation process, infusing the rum with unique flavors and aromas. This experimentation led to the development of various regional styles of rum, each with its own distinct characteristics.

What is the Process of Rum Production?

The process of rum production in the Philippines is a blend of tradition and innovation. It begins with the extraction of sugarcane juice, followed by natural fermentation. This fermented liquid is then distilled using traditional methods, resulting in a spirit with a unique character. Local herbs and spices are often added, contributing to the diverse regional styles of Filipino rum. To explore and savor the flavors of Filipino rum, you can conveniently buy rum online in the Philippines at Discover the rich heritage of this exceptional spirit.

What are Distillation Techniques in Traditional Rum Making?

Once the sugar cane juice has been fermented, it undergoes distillation to separate the alcohol from impurities. Traditional Filipino rum makers often use copper stills, which help to refine the flavors and create a smooth spirit. The distillation process requires skill and precision, as the temperature and timing must be carefully controlled to produce the desired result.

Role of Aging in Rum Production

Aging is an essential phase in rum production, profoundly impacting the spirit's flavor, aroma, and color. As rum matures in wooden barrels, it absorbs compounds from the wood, introducing notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak. This interaction, combined with the evaporation of certain alcohols and the oxidation process, transforms raw distillate into a smooth, flavorful beverage that's rich in complexity.

Impact of Tropical Climate on Rum Aging

The tropical climate, characterized by high temperatures and humidity, accelerates the aging process of rum. This unique climate allows the spirit to interact with the oak barrels, extracting flavors and creating a more complex profile. The result is a rum that exhibits distinct tropical characteristics.

What are the Unique Characteristics of Filipino Rum?

Filipino rum, like its counterparts from various regions, carries a distinct profile shaped by its local environment, traditions, and production techniques. The warm tropical climate of the Philippines accelerates the aging process, allowing for a richer interaction between the rum and the oak barrels. This results in a spirit that often exhibits pronounced notes of caramel, vanilla, and tropical fruits. Traditional production methods, such as the use of native sugarcane varieties and copper stills, further refine its flavor. Combined with the island nation's rich history and culture, Filipino rum offers a unique, smooth, and complex taste that stands out in the world of spirits.

What is the Cultural Significance of Rum in the Philippines?

Rum holds a special place in Filipino culture, not only as a beloved spirit but also as a symbol of heritage and identity. It is deeply ingrained in celebrations, festivities, and everyday life.

Rum in Filipino Celebrations and Festivities

From fiestas to weddings, rum is an integral part of Filipino celebrations. It is served during joyful occasions, symbolizing the spirit of camaraderie and hospitality. The sharing of a glass of rum brings people together, fostering a sense of community and kinship.

Rum as a Symbol of Filipino Heritage and Identity

Rum production in the Philippines is not just about the process and flavors; it is also about preserving and celebrating Filipino heritage. The craftsmanship and traditions passed down through generations reflect the resilience and ingenuity of the Filipino people. Filipino rum embodies a sense of pride and identity, showcasing the rich cultural tapestry of the country.


The traditional techniques of rum production in the Philippines have a long and storied history. From the early beginnings shaped by Spanish colonization to the unique flavors and cultural significance, Filipino rum remains a treasure that brings people together. The next time you savor a glass of Filipino rum, let it transport you to the tropical shores of the Philippines, where passion and tradition blend to create an exceptional spirit.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

If you are a parent with a child (or children) in college, you would have been wracking your brains trying to figure out how you will survive financially for the rest of the year. The first semester of School Year 2014-2015 has started for a majority of universities in Metro Manila and the budget crunch for parents has begun all over again.

It is a known fact that in the Philippines, a degree earned in a reputable university instantly assures the graduate of a good job later on. However, not every Filipino parent can afford to pay the tuition fee. Some parents planned ahead and bought an educational insurance plan for their children to pay for college fees. This group of parents is the ones who had disposable income when they were starting off as a family. However, a majority of parents are the ones who take on private loans, sell farmlands, or take on second jobs to make ends meet. As a popular Filipino saying goes - "Ayan lang ang kaya kong ipamana sa iyo, anak." ("That is the only inheritance I can give you, my child."), which is probably the reason why parents tend to give up everything for a child to get a college education. To give you an idea of how much tuition fees are, check on the infographic below. That is the cost per unit, so if your child enrolls in 21 units (or credits), you'd have to multiply that amount by 21. I am sure these figures are higher now, considering this infographic was based on 2014 statistics.

Infographic designed by Jonathan Asuncion, and reported by AJ Abando (

Before the K+12 program was implemented by the Department of Education, high school graduates in the Philippines were 15-17 years old on the average. Eager to enroll in college and sensitive to their family's financial standing, these kids try to find employment to help out. 

Here are their options:

1. Apply for a part time job. Great. Workers get a decent per hour rate. However, most businesses that employ student workers would require "at least two years of college education." 
My questions are:  (a) Why would you need at least two years of college education to flip burgers and clean tables? (b) Would you need college algebra to bag groceries or work in a department store as a sales clerk? I am not stereotyping, however, there are some businesses that really require this, together with tons of licenses, permits and documents.

If you’re pursuing an online course or study, it will be easier for you to work part-time without worrying about missing the lessons. Another great thing about getting a part-time job is that this option is open and available even before you start college, as students can enroll in online high schools and combine their studies with easy-to-get part-time jobs ideal for their age. This way, you can start saving money through high school before you apply for college, so you’ll have some money available before college starts. Of course, how much you can make while still in high school level may not be much, but it can go a long way to lessen your college financial burdens. 

2. Apply for a job in the college/university. When you’re doing those student tours Washington DC. See if there are any vacancies available. These are mostly clerical jobs - filing, typing, encoding. However, a grade point average should be maintained, and it does not pay much. You can perform a college search to find the right colleges to suit your job preferences. From there, you can seek a job and help out financially.

3. Offer tutorial lessons. Those students gifted with above average IQs can offer tutorials to their peers, high school students or grade school students in their neighborhood. 

4. Start a small business. They can save some of their allowances to use as a capital for a small business. They can sell goodies to their friends, like packed lunches, or cupcakes or homemade cookie cups. Those into arts and crafts can make things to hold gadgets in, like a pretty crocheted pouch, or make trendy loom bands.

5. The last and the best option they have is to study hard, get good grades and apply for a full academic scholarship. This way, they not only relieve their parents of the financial burden, they also bring pride and joy to the family. To see a child graduate with honors is one rewarding experience for parents. 

To conclude, I would want to applaud all parents out there, for their selfless work and sacrifice. I also throw up a prayer to God to bless all the college freshmen, that they take advantage of the privilege that has been given to them and to move forward to the future with gratefulness in their hearts. 

My dear children, go on and reach your dreams. 
Mama will always be here to support you in every way I can. 
That's my pinky promise!

Suggested readings:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Image Source: Wikimedia
If you have a small outdoor area and aren’t sure how to utilize the space well, there are many ways to enhance it, without breaking the bank. It’s all about being creative and working with what you’ve got. 

Don’t forget About Your Balcony

If you live in an apartment and haven’t got access to a garden, don’t overlook your balcony space. Just like you would a garden, think of it as a place to unwind, and add your own unique and personal touch. There are a number of ways to use a balcony, from relaxing with a book to entertaining guests. It’s an extension of your home that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.

Inject Some Greenery

There’s no reason why you can’t incorporate certain aspects of a garden when transforming your balcony space. Potted plants and flowers add vibrancy and color, helping to break up the monotony of concrete walls. Evergreens are the most practical type of plant, as they provide color all year round and are easy to look after. Japanese elms and Madagascar dragon trees are ideal for balconies. It’s worth investing in a decorative sturdy pot to enhance the overall look.

Create a Chill Out Zone

Without some form of outdoor furniture, your sanctuary will be lacking a much needed relaxation zone. For balconies, a long bench with padded cushions works well against the wall. Beanie bags are also fun for affordable vibrant seating. Prioritize furniture that’s light, and easy to move around or fold.  It’s important to durability into account too. For backyards with limited space, foldable chairs are a good idea, or use cushions on mats and moroccan pouffes. Foldout tables are perfect for entertaining in confined spaces.

Image by Flicker
Add a Splash of Color

Contrast against boring brick tones and concrete with vibrant decor. Ethnic style plastic floor mats are great for balconies, and allow you to sunbathe in privacy on hot summer days. For small patios and decking, accessorize with colourful textured cushions and throws. This creates a more intimate setting and utilizes your space better. They’re also super easy to rearrange.

Tame your Lawn

An overgrown lawn is going to overwhelm a small garden space. Your most convenient option is to purchase a quality lawn mower, or for small patches of grass, garden shears will do. For small patches of grass, make sure there’s no plants or trees creating shade and depriving your green patch of nutrients.

Make the most of Wall Space

For small gardens with no much room for planting, grow upward plants like vines or wall creepers. For balcony spaces, wind chimes are a great option for creating a peaceful ambience. Mosaic mirrors are also great for creating the illusion of more space. Walls are also an opportunity for lighting. Lanterns and LED sensors are just a few options you could choose from.

However you decide to transform your outdoor space, make sure it’s a reflection of your true individuality. It’s always fun to experiment with DIY projects and find new ways to get inventive. So don’t be afraid to get stuck in!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I have always wanted to travel to other places in the Philippines, however, several factors such as family responsibilities, work schedules, and financial constraints played a big factor and limited my travel escapades to nearby provinces in Luzon.

After a decade of working in the BPO industry, I was able to get a much deserved weekend in one of the world’s best islands – Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The beautiful island of Puerto Princesa, is located 591 kilometers (367 miles) from Manila. Flight time is approximately 75-90 minutes. Getting there by plane is faster than traveling from Quezon City to Makati by car! 

Planning for this trip was done months before, and we were fortunate enough to avail of discounted air fare. We chose a reasonably priced hotel in Palawan, close to the airport and made reservations too. Can you imagine the thrill we had as we counted the days to this memorable vacation? I just can’t describe how giddy with excitement we were when that day finally came.

We planned on maximizing our three day vacation. All of us agreed to go island hopping in Honda Bay. Starfish Island, Luli Island and Cowrie Island were on our list. We also planned on visiting popular restaurants to sample the local cuisine. Of course, a trip to Palawan won’t be complete without a visit to the Palawan Subterranean River National Park . That was on our itinerary too! 

Day 1

First leg of the trip was the moment we boarded the Cebu Pacific plane at NAIA Terminal 3 to the time we landed at the Puerto Princesa Airport. It took us an hour and 15 minutes. A short walk took us to the hotel where we unloaded our bags, showered and checked out the hotel amenities.

We asked the concierge if they could recommend some tour packages for our Honda Bay island hopping adventure, and they did provide us with a good deal. We paid for the tour package and secured our trip for the next day. Since we arrived mid-afternoon in Puerto Princesa, we decided to take a walk around the city and check out the restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. We came across this nice, cozy place called Kinabuch Grill and Bar. We checked out the menu and found lots of options to satisfy hungry tourists for a reasonable price. We had our dinner here. We got back to the hotel stuffed to our throats with delicious seafood, grilled pork and tuna belly!

Day 2

We are not really morning persons  but this day was different. We were all up early, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Amazing what a trip to Palawan can do! We met up with our tour guide in the hotel lobby. We boarded their van, together with other tourists. The drive from the hotel to the boat station in Honda Bay  took around an hour or so. The tour guides were very courteous. We were briefed about safety measures and before we boarded the boat, they checked if our life vests were properly secured. 

The tour took us to Cowrie Island first. This island has huts with thatched roofs for tourists to rest or to shield themselves from the bright sun. There are “bars” too where you can get refreshments. Of course, my children were not interested in those things. They dove into the clear water and had a great time swimming! 

Next stop was Starfish Island. How can I describe it? One word. Beautiful. I’ve never seen so many starfish before! My children had a great time. The waters were unbelievably clear and the beach was pristine! I enjoyed taking photos of the kids! We had our lunch here and we were served a buffet of grilled fish, seafood and pork belly. I loved the eggplant, mango and tomato salad, although I was not courageous enough to try the “Tamilok” or wood worm. My sons did, and they said it was a little gritty and tasted just like wood. 

The last island we visited was Luli Island. The name of the island, according to locals, is short for “Lulubog-Lilitaw,” (Sink and Rise). Visible only during low tide, this island is actually composed of sandbars. Huts have been built on these sandbars where tourists can take a rest and enjoy the view which is nothing else but stunning!

Weary from swimming, diving, and snorkeling, we boarded our boat at the end of the day to take us station. Our tour van was waiting for us there to take us back to the hotel. What an awesome experience we had!

Day 3

Our last full day in this beautiful Palawan. This was the day my children took a trip to the Palawan Subterranean National Park. I wanted to go to, but I have slight agoraphobia. Being in a dark, underground river, no matter how beautiful it may be is something I would rather leave to the more adventurous soul. Thank goodness my children are so brave. They came back with lots of photos and loads of stories to tell. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in souvenir shops, taking pictures, and of course, eating! We just can’t get enough of the fresh seafood! 

That evening, we started packing our bags for our early 9am flight back to Manila.
This has been the best vacation I’ve had in a long time and I am happy that it was worth every penny.
Here's our vacation video:

If I had the chance to travel to any destination in the Philippines, I’d choose Palawan again!
Hope to see you again, Palawan. You are our very own little slice of paradise.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I love my country, all 7,107 islands of it!

Filipino. That's what I am. 

Beautiful beaches, breath-taking sights, centuries old churches and structures, warm smiles and genuine hospitality.

Our people are resilient, able to rise up and smile despite frequent natural calamities. Family is of utmost importance, and every parent's goal is to see their children graduate with a college degree.

Although not every Filipino lives an idyllic life, it is the determination, the will to survive, and faith in God that keeps these descendants of the Malays moving forward.

I am sharing a short video with you. It shows our beautiful beaches and coastlines.

Visit my country if you can. It is an adventure you'll definitely treasure for life. 

Philippines – Like You've Never Seen It Before | DJI Phantom 3 4K | Osmo | 4K Video from JustOneWayTicket on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Filipinos have a great sense of humor. We manage to smile despite the numerous natural calamities that strike our country every so often. I remember one meme that says, "You're just a storm. I am a Filipino." 

True. You'd notice right away that Filipinos, compared to other Asians, always have a happy disposition. Not only that, I think we have the funniest signs ever. Here are my Top Ten funny signs I found on the web today:

1. A barber shop
Photo credit
2. A pet shop and grooming salon
Photo credit
3. A small town bakery named "Bread Pit"
Photo credit
4. A pharmacy in Northern Luzon
Photo credit
5. A shoe repair stand
Photo credit
6. A laundry shop
Photo credit
7. A street warning sign. Oh yes. This is definitely true. They are really slow.
Photo credit
8. Another street warning sign. Haha. 
Photo credit
9. A huge sign inside the church:
Photo credit
10. I had no idea there was a nudist beach resort in the Philippines! Haha.
Photo credit
So those are my Top Ten funny Filipino signs for today. There are a gazillion more. I guess I have to get back to the habit of taking a camera with me every time I go out. Who knows there might be a winner out there?

Peace, Love, and Happiness to all!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A trip to a museum always guarantees a great time. It gives us the opportunity to travel back in time or marvel at the creative genius of the artists.

In Quezon City, Philippines, there is a museum that is a fun place to visit. The place is called Art In Island, a 3D museum that houses 50 murals created by Korean artists. These murals show depth when photographed at certain angles, and visitors can have a great time using these murals as backdrops for their selfie photos. It would seem like you are actually in the mural itself.

Art In Island is different from other museums because it is interactive and touching/photographing the murals are allowed and even encouraged by the museum staff. 

My sister and her daughter, together with some friends visited this unique museum recently. I wished I was able to go with them. It would have been so much fun!

Anyway, I am sharing some of the photos they took while they were there. 

My sister Rochelle and her mommy friends

So cool!

My 10 year old niece Tyra

She's naturally shy, but not today! Hahaha.

Amazing backdrops = Awesome photos!

Art in Island Museum is located at 175 15th Avenue, Baranggay Socorro, Quezon City. They are open Tuesdays to Sundays, and Holidays, from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm. Entrance fees are Php 500 (US$ 10.81) for adults, and Php 400 (US$ 8.65) for students. Children below 3 feet tall get free entrance. They also offer special discounts for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. 

If you are anywhere near the area, make sure to drop by for a one of a kind experience!

Check out their Facebook page too - and feel free to upload your photos!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

With all the strong earthquakes plaguing Nepal, it is not uncommon for Filipinos to worry about a similar scenario happening in the country.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region dotted with active volcanoes and numerous fault lines, therefore, every Filipino has had the experience of at least one major volcanic eruption and earthquakes in their entire lifetime.

Lately, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS) released the "Valley Fault System Atlas," an informative collection of maps depicting the exact location of the two segments of this active fault line. 

The West Valley Fault line is 100 kilometers long, traversing the Greater Metro Manila Area's cities of Quezon, Pasig, Marikina, Makati, Taguig and Muntinlupa; and portions of the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite. Movement along this fault line may generate a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

The East Valley Fault is a lot shorter, 10 kilometers in length, and traversing the municipalities of Montalban and San Mateo in Rizal Province. Activity along this fault line may generate a magnitude 6.2 earthquake.

According to the government agency, PHILVOLCS, the Valley Fault System is "ripe for movement" as studies have shown that the fault line shows activity every 400 to 600 years. The last time activity was recorded 357 years ago, in 1658.

Metro Manila is where close to 12 million people live, work and study. The seat of government, commercial districts, residential high rises and countless schools, colleges and universities are concentrated in this area. A magnitude 7.2 earthquake will definitely bring the entire nation to a standstill.

It is a fact that we have no control over the forces of nature, however, what we should have done in the past was better urban planning. Since that cannot be undone at the present time, the best we can do is to prepare for the worst and pray. This is going to be a lot easier to do if you already have a faith of course, and you might be looking at Living Church of God reviews with this in mind as we speak. The important thing however is just to find the worship that works for you, that you can turn to in exactly these kinds of situations. Pray incessantly.

If you have relatives and friends living in the Metro and would like to find out if their residence or place of work is near or directly above the fault line, click on the links below to find out.

I appreciate this on-going awareness campaign of the PHILVOLCS. I personally believe that this was done not to create paranoia or fear. It is to educate us about the probability of an earthquake and what we can do to survive it.

Keep Calm, Prepare, and Pray.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Philippines probably has the longest holiday season in the world. We usually feel the Christmas spirit in September and it carries on until a week after the New Year. Filipinos love the revelry of the New Year and despite being deeply religious, we still believe in traditions deeply rooted in pre-colonization tribal practices; in Chinese, Indian, and Spanish culture; and local folklore. Modern times have debunked most of these beliefs; however, some still take it to heart especially during New Year celebrations. I am guilty of some; I guess it won't hurt to follow the customs and traditions that have been handed down from generations. Most may seem silly, and you may have to experience a typical Filipino family New Year celebration to believe it. 

1. As a child, I was "forced" to wear a shirt or a dress with a polka-dot design. It is believed to bring wealth and good luck for the coming year. This may be attributed to the Chinese' love for round things which signify infinity. When I asked my grandparents for the reason why I had to wear a polka-dot shirt, my grandparents would say that it symbolizes money. The dots were supposed to be coins. So then, the next year, I stopped wearing anything with polka-dots. I did not want coins, I wanted paper money! That is when I started wearing striped shirts.

2. New Year's Eve attires did not end with wearing polka-dots. It was also required that our New Year's Eve attire should be predominantly red. It was believed that the color red is for good luck. Again, another trait we have imbibed from the Chinese whose custom is to hand out little red envelopes or "hong pao" during New Year. When I was young, I didn't care much about what my parents or grandparents made me wear on New Year's Eve. I just hated the fact that our family pictures made us look like the Von Trapp Family Singers - all wearing the same design of clothes - red with polka dots.

3. It is strictly forbidden to spend on the first day of the New Year. We should get everything we need for the house or for personal use before the New Year. It is believed that spending on New Year's Day would mean losing money for the whole of the coming year. Do not be surprised to see Filipinos raiding the grocery store or the wet market. It is our time to "legally" hoard goods.

4. We have to make sure that once midnight strikes on New Year's Eve, we have money in our pockets. This is believed to ensure that we will have money all year round. There was a time that I knew I slipped a 500 peso bill in my pocket, only to find out that I lost it as I joined in the revelry of welcoming the New Year. For the years after that incident, I only kept coins in my pocket. After all, there were no set rules about how much you should carry in your pocket. 

5. To ensure that you would not go hungry in the coming year, it is a practice to fill the rice bin to the brim. Same goes with the salt and sugar containers. If you have a water reservoir, fill it too. Keep it full until after the first day of the New Year.

6. A fruit tray should be filled in 12 different kinds of fruit and placed in the center of the dinner table. This symbolizes 12 months of bountiful food for the family. My mother religiously abides by this practice. Come the second day of January, we would be "forced-fed" with the fruits that she bought. 

7. The family's New Year's Eve feast, called "Media Noche" (Midnight) is composed of dishes that are specially made, the result of hours and hours of labor in the kitchen. There are some requirements, though. There should always be something made out of sticky rice, to symbolize family togetherness. There should be fish, another custom inherited from the Chinese. Fish in Mandarin in called "yu" which also means "surplus" or "excess." Therefore, having fish on the dinner table on New Year would guarantee the family that they would have "more than enough." We are not supposed to have chicken or any winged animal. I have no idea where this tradition came from. It is believed that having chicken or turkey for New Year is bad luck because the family's finances or livelihood would just "fly away." Noodles are also a staple. This symbolizes long life.

8. Small clusters of grapes are hung on every window and door of the house. This is believed to welcome in good luck. When I was little, this was my grandmother's task. My cousin and I had the time of our lives standing on stools and grabbing a grape or two when grandma was not looking. Grapes are expensive in my side of the world and New Years was the time for us to indulge. 

9. One of the things I also looked forward to when I was a child was the "money shower." My grandparents, great aunts, and uncles would have bags of coins with them and say "Happy New Year!" while throwing a handful of coins for us little children to grab and keep for ourselves. They believed that doing this would mean money will continuously flow into the house. (Just like the Christian virtue of giving and sharing) These coins were considered "lucky" and were not to be spent. Good luck with that! Those coins were soon to be money for candy and chocolate bars.

10. All doors and windows must be kept open at midnight. This is believed to make the good luck come in. In a gated community, this would work, but not in areas where robbery is rampant. 

11. At the stroke of midnight, all children are supposed to jump up and down. We were told to take extra effort to jump as high as we can. The reason for this is that it is supposed to make us grow taller. I did believe in this and made sure I jumped like crazy on New Year's Eve. Did I grow tall? Nope. After all those years of jumping when I was a kid, I only grew to be 5 feet 1 1/2 inches. I wonder... if I didn't jump on New Year's eve when I was a kid, would I have been a dwarf?

12. Lastly, it is a rule that no one must be asleep at the stroke of midnight. In my family, even babies are lifted out of their cribs to join in the festivities. The reason for this is supposedly so that no one would be left out in receiving blessings of good luck and good fortune. 

Christmas and New Year's are two big Filipino family celebrations. It is the time to bond with family members we rarely see. It is the season to feast on sumptuous food and share stories about life. It is giving, sharing and togetherness. It is all about smiles, laughter, and cheer.. even if I have to wear polka dots. 

Have a Blessed New Year everyone! Don't forget to say a prayer of thanks to God for the graces we received for the past year and for giving us the blessing of another New Year!

Monday, November 3, 2014

I was born on a cold November night, on a Friday the 13th. In 10 days, I will be celebrating another birthday. What makes this more special than all the other birthdays? Because I have found  a deeper meaning in life. I now find joy in the sunrise. I wake up and thank God that I am alive! I stand in awe watching the sunset. Another day done, accomplished my tasks, but have I made someone's life better? Have I taken care of God's creation? 

For the next 10 days, I will be paying more attention to things that I used to consider mundane.

Today I mark the countdown to my birthday. Today is Day 10. I took a leisurely walk around the neighborhood and took pictures of stray cats.

Why cats? Because I pity the poor creatures. They seek shelter from the sun's heat under parked vehicles and wait for people to take their trash out before they can have a meal. I am not an avid cat lover, but I do have a feeding dish outside our house where I put table scraps for the stray cats to eat. 

Without much ado, here are my neighborhood friends:

This kitty cat seems to be wondering why I wanted to take a picture of her.

This cat was scared and ready to take off!

My neighbor's "resident" stray cat.

Now this cat even posed for the camera!
Tomorrow will be another day for me to see the beauty of the world, and I cannot thank God enough for all the blessings!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Proudly Filipino, Uniquely Filipino

Filipinos are an inter-racial mix of different cultures that came to our shores to trade, live or colonize. The original inhabitants of our islands were the Malays. They engaged in business with the Chinese, Dutch, Indian, and other cultures long, long before the country was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.Since then, we have been colonized by the Spanish, Japanese and Americans. So, here we are. Distinctly called Filipinos but bearing a tiny bit of the different races that came and called our islands their home.

In this present time, you would always find a Filipino anywhere in the world. Most of them are contract workers while others have found a new home in a another country. Despite this migrant flow, Filipinos have never lost their distinct traits or habits regardless of where they are in the world. Some of them amusing, some are just uniquely Filipino.

Respect for elders: 
"Pagmamano" - This is the act of taking the hand of an elder, putting in on your forehead while you assume a slightly bowed position. This is a gesture of respect and submission to an elder person. To initiate this act, you would say "Mano po" ("Your hand, please") and the elder would in turn say "Kaawaan ka ng Diyos" ("God have mercy on you" or God Bless you.") Although this is not commonly seen in children born and raised in the big cities, it is still a common practice in the homes of families who kept this tradition alive. 


Calling an elder by their first name is not allowed. We use certain terms to convey respect. Someone a few years older than us is called "Kuya" (elder brother) or "Ate" (elder sister). If a person is old enough to be your parent, a prefix is attached to their name, hence they may be called "Tito" (Uncle) or "Tita" (Aunt), even if you do not have any  blood relations with them. Those who are in their 70s or 80s are everybody's grandparents. They are "Lolo" ("Grandpa") and "Lola" ("Grandma") to the entire community.

We use the words "po" and "opo" when conversing with people who are older than us. There is no exact English translation to these two words. It is used to convey respect. Example. "Salamat" is "Thank you," compared to "Salamat po" which is "Thank you," said with respect.     

Non-verbal response:
Pointing with the lips is body language that is very Filipino. The lips are puckered and used like a finger to point to a direction or thing. I have no idea how this came to be. Maybe because the Filipinos in the earlier centuries had both their hands too busy with work that they used their lips to point. That could be one reason, I am not really sure. So remember, when asking a Filipino for directions and we start to pucker their lips and turn our heads, we are not asking for a kiss. We are pointing you to the direction you asked for. 

Eating Habits:
For the first time traveler to the Philippines, you would want to try restaurants that do not give you a spoon, a fork, or a knife. You have to eat with your hands. Eating without the use of utensils is a skill we learn as children. Get a piece of meat, a few vegetable slices and rice. Form it into a small mound, pick it up with your fingers and use your thumb to push it in your mouth. Its that easy. A true Filipino picnic is having a bamboo table lined with banana leaves and all the rice and meat, fish and vegetables are piled on top of it. You find a space and just dig in! I miss this so much.

Filipinos have 6 meals a day. Yes, you read it right. SIX. These six meals are breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and the late evening snack. It would just make someone wonder why the population is not obese. As the saying goes, "Filipinos eat not because they are hungry but because it is time to eat." 

The love for food is even incorporated in the common greeting. People from other countries would start a conversation with "How are you?" This is not true when Filipinos greet each other. We would start a conversation with "Kumain ka na ba?" ("Have you eaten?").

It is also a fact that no household in the Philippines is without garlic. It is a kitchen emergency to run out of garlic! We use it for everything - in our dishes, in fried rice, in eggs and salads, in dips. A few months ago, the prices of garlic skyrocketed and that was a major cause of concern. Now that the prices are back to normal, we can once again use generous amounts garlic in everything! 

Aside from our staple food which is rice, we always have a sauce or dip with our meals. It could be as simple as catsup or vinegar or it could be specially made, like different kinds of gravy. The everyday dip that goes well with any dish is a combination of soy sauce, lemon juice and bird's eye chili pepper. My husband is Caucasian and he thinks it is weird to always have some kind of dip with a meal, but I explain to him that it gives the rice some flavor. 

The National Past Time:
Dubbed as the "National Past time of the Philippines," the videoke is present in most, if not all Filipino gatherings. We just love to sing! Whether you have a good singing voice or not, it is the company of family and friends (plus beer and bar chow) that makes videoke an enjoyable activity. We either rent the machine or head over to a videoke bar. 

Filipinos are clannish.
Compared to our western counterparts, the Filipino family has more than just a mother, a father and their children in the household. We have an aunt, an uncle, a niece, a nephew, grandparents, a cousin, even a great aunt or great uncle. We do not necessarily have one of each, however, we do have at least one in our household. It has its financial benefits, because the more people in the household, the more there are who will split the utility bills with you. It is just a bit of a hassle when it comes to privacy. The extended family also allows us to save on costs to have a baby sitter or a live-in nurse for the elders.

Faith and superstition.
Filipinos are deeply religious. We are the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia. If the parents can afford it, the children are sent to Catholic schools to guarantee a good education and religious upbringing. However, the superstitious beliefs have never waned. We still think a black cat brings bad luck, just the same as breaking a mirror. Two siblings cannot get married in the same year. We arrange furniture in the house to conform with norms, like the stairs should not have 13 steps, a mirror should not face the bed, and the masters bedroom should face the east. I grew up in an extended family and although I know there is no scientific basis to believe in all these, I still had to follow because the elders know best. 

We are waterproof.
The country gets battered by up to twenty (20) tropical cyclones a year and that means flood, flood and more flood. We have learned to live with it. When I was a college student at the University of Santo Tomas, there was no email blast and no cellphones. I had to listen to the early morning news to wait for class suspension. If there was none, then I had to brave the rain and flood to get to school. My children have to go through the same experience every time there is a storm, however, they are now better informed through text and email blasts from the University. 

In some areas in the metro, flooding can be unimaginable. Half an hour of heavy downpour can bring about floods that are knee-deep, waist deep or even chest deep! The city of Marikina is always under threat of the river overflowing its banks. We live near Marikina and we can hear the warning sirens when the river swells. That siren is the notification for the residents to evacuate to higher ground immediately. We are lucky that we live in a higher part of Quezon City. If we get flooded in our area, I am pretty much sure that the whole city of Marikina is underwater.

All these disasters have not affected the naturally jovial spirit of the Filipino. We still find it in ourselves to smile and find humor in the situation. We pick ourselves up and rebuild. Life has to go on. An great way to describe our spirit is shown in the meme below: 

I was born and raised in the Philippines. 
I love my brown skin and dark hair. 
I love my people. 
I love my country.