Food

Pizza in the time of martial law

Who would’ve thought pizza and martial law could co-exist? Weirdly, in this ML, it does. It was one of those insanely hot days (I joked that the unforgiving hot weather is the reason I feel homesick). On such days, I don’t have the energy to cook. It’s too much physical work (that’s what heat does). With a book inside my bag, I went out instead to this place located further off on the highway. I ordered Pacific Love (meat and spam) pizza after the staff gave me a rundown of what’s in their Hawaiian-named pizzas. It was a late lunch, 1:30PM. There’s air-conditioning inside but I stayed outdoors where there was a strong cool breeze. I chose a corner and did my thing: people watch. There weren’t many people to see though as the place is a little out of the way still I could see the highway. Regardless, the ritual – restaging of something familiar – helps me adjust, to feel safe, to feel at home in my new community. I ate four slices and had the rest packed (for dinner!). I ordered my second mug of Americano and stayed until 3:30PM. I had a few things to do on my errand list before it got dark (by 6PM these days).
Food

“Allergies”

In a previous article, I mentioned about an ongoing experiment to identify the reason for my allergy to seafood. I wrote that my “seafood allergy” might actually be allergy to preservatives applied at various stages in the supply chain. Recently, I learned something more- that it might also be from ingesting contaminated seafood, or seafood contaminated with various diatoms (which tell about the quality of sea or marine water the seafood came from), viz.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning is caused by saxitoxins, a complex of neurotoxins produced by dinoflagellates which are assimilated and temporarily stored by bivalve mollusks such as mussels, clams and oysters.

Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning is caused by K. Brevis blooms also known as “red tides”.

Amnesic shellfish poisoning is caused by the phytoplanktonic diatom Pseudo-nitzchia multiseries which are the source of the toxic agent identified as domoic acid. This potent neurotoxin accumulates in mussels and clams that feed on toxic plankton during their bloom.

Diarrhetic shellfish poisoning is caused from ingesting mussels, scallops, clams and oysters contaminated with biotoxins produced by toxic marine dinoflagellates during their blooms in summer.

Azaspiracids shellfish poisoning is caused by azaspiracids, polyether marine toxins that accumulate in various shellfish species.

The fact that I’m not having any allergic reaction to the seafood here implies the marine waters here are relatively toxin- or diatom-free. Wow. I have to tell communities here this, just so to motivate them to not tire in maintaining their coasts and seas.


Literature review: Chee K Woo and Sami L Bahna, Not all shellfish “allergy” is allergy! 10 June 2011Clinical and Translational Allergy Journal, European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Food, People

What’s your ‘treat yourself’ wine?

tuba or coconut wine
Tuba (4-hour fermented coco wine). It’s brown-ish color is natural dye from the mangrove tree.

My host organization said I should join them in their team-building event, to take a break even if for a day from an incredible month of hyperactivity not to mention, of late, anxiety. They have done an extraordinary job of facilitating my work so far as well as my security in the areas. Of the latter, I know they’re trying to hold in their worries and desire to guard over me 24/7. As for myself, apart from dealing with work pressure, I’ve lately been bombarded with new experiences almost on a daily basis that there’s no time for me to reflect and understand how they benefit my own life. Also, out there in the areas, there’s such a wealth of information and lessons that it’s made it extraordinarily challenging for me to sift through and obtain what’s just needed for the work I’m doing. Then, the usual pressure from family and friends- wtf are you still there for? When they say that…I start to have doubts- yeah, how the hell did I end up here? which I don’t like. Sometimes when I’m in this mood I imagine I’m in one of my favorite places to be…only that I’m fully clothed you know in case my folks decided to forcibly fly in through the roof and get me by the ears, clothed or not. Is why bombs are loathed- they’re like our parents in hyperwar mode.

 

But seriously by joining my host organization in their activity I wanted to convey my appreciation and gratitude. They’re my second family here, and since my entry into their lives their days have become uncharacteristically hectic. I so owe them some slack.

The event took place by the wonderful sea, in an open community training center maintained by their partner-organization. When we arrived, the distinct smell of goat meat (it’s halal) wafted in the air. We were told there’ll be papaitan and kaldereta on the table- yum! This reminded me of similar gatherings in my areas of assignment when I was younger, also the reunions at my grandparents’ during my childhood. The men did most of the cooking.

I’m already acquainted with the individuals there so I went around and joined in the conversation. Crowds is really a struggle for me although I can put a handle on this when it becomes a duty ie. work requires me to work the crowd. I could do it so well that people think I’m a go-getter. Ha! Besides, when you’re with village people, they scrutinize you with beetle eyes- they will right away pack off snobs or outsiders with no sense of humor. Once, I woke up in a depleted mood and no amount of self pep talk could elevate my mood. This showed through when I was facilitating a discussion with village women. Their faces reflected my mood. But I didn’t care. Then somebody said “no sense of humor” in reply to my question of what makes an effective volunteer. The body language of the other women screamed, oh my goodness. They were all looking at me like how children stare up at their parents when they knew they’ve crossed a no-no line, waiting for a punishment to come or not. The mental image tickled me and I laughed. The women’s bodies eased up a bit. Sense of humor is key to working well with villagers.

Then I moved into the hut where the men were cooking. Somebody asked if I wanted tuba. I said, yes sure. He handed me a cupful. And, it was unbelievably delicious- just the right sweetness and fermentation. The coconut juice had been collected very early that morning and fermented a few hours (it gets stronger the longer it’s fermented however 2-3 days would turn the juice to vinegar). Plus, I was told the container had been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, which explained why it tasted clean. I had two cups (which kind of alarmed them but I assured them that I have a high tolerance for alcohol). Then while watching them do their thing, we talked about local wines and drinks. This scene reminds me of my childhood during reunions, when I was usually with the men – my uncles and their cousins – watching whatever they were doing and listening to their talk. I have a few photos of those times (come to think of it, I haven’t asked who took the shots). So, growing up, I don’t know but I naturally gravitate toward the company of male friends and acquaintances. Their kind of talk is what I’m familiar with. But also because I find I can be my naturally straightforward self with them and nobody would take overt offense. Ha ha!

tuba and freshly caught prawns

We also had prawns, freshly caught and (for me) unbelievably cheap at just 150 a kilo! About seafood, all my life I’ve reacted after digesting it or at times even from merely touching it hence avoided it. But my host organization upon learning this were horrified. The areas teemed with seafood. So we experimented (anyway, I brought my meds). First, pusit small and large ones. And what do you know- no reaction at all not even a hint of an itch. I thought about it. Then it dawned on me. Could it be the preservatives (applied along the supply chain as it makes it’s way to, for instance, Baguio City) and not the seafood? I told my host organization this which excited them some more about our experiment. Next, crabs. I had no reaction after the first. Wow! So I ate another one. Nada. Then, the prawns. No reaction. Amazing! I really am sure now my allergic reactions were due to preservatives. Goodness, how much nutrients did I lose from avoiding seafood?

How did the team-building go? It turned out that was just a bluff. The event was actually a “formal” welcome to me. Soon as the dishes were cooked and laid out, one of the organization’s staff called everyone inside the center, and after the usual how are you all feeling today? talk she then announced the real reason for the gathering. Ha! You thought I was a birthday girl, too stunned at first to react. But, really, it was such a gift.

Soccer

3 for FCB!

In the midst of worries about the effects of martial law in the region, I did still have time to be updated with my football team. I’m thrilled about their three-straight Copa del Rey wins and stunning play. But, I’m also sad about Luis Enrique’s leaving. All the best ones leave sooner, noh? Nonetheless there’s still the team and future games to look forward to!

People, Poems and Quotes

“The Man Born To Farming”

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming, whose hands reach into the ground and sprout, to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn. His thought passes along the row ends like a mole. What miraculous seed has he swallowed that the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water descending in the dark?

watermelon harvest by thecolorofred

People, Politics Economics Society

Thoughts while watching an early morning banana boat ride

It was not yet nine in the morning but I guess that’s already late in the day for these beachgoers. I was meeting select people in this coastal village for a discussion about what they’re doing to make their community resilient. For many Filipinos, resilience is equated to “smiling or laughing though the world has crashed around them”.  This attitude is good but…only to an extent. Beyond a certain point, it’s avoidance, of sad realities around them- no basic infrastructures such as water systems, roads, sea walls, and if there are as for instance village health stations, they’re not staffed or equipped. Spending one’s free time on a banana boat is a personal choice, yes. But then the choice each and every Filipino make makes the nation. If everyone of us are on banana boats where does that lead all of us to? Filipinos need to be more conscious when making a choice especially at this time in our development when the nation needs more of it’s people to engage with planners and decisionmakers. We need to spend less time on banana boats and more time in public session halls, lobbying for quality basic infrastructures and services, for talk to be consistent with walk, for change to happen on the ground in the villages among families. Otherwise it’s the same hullaballoo all over again- the next generation inheriting redundant pile of to-dos we procrastinated on that our generation inherited from the last and so forth. Filipinos need to be generous.

Holidays, Religion and Spirituality, society

Easter message on Good Friday

I’m one of those Catholics who don’t anymore observe Lent in the traditional sense. Because, can’t I live my entire life as a ‘sorry’ and at the same time a ‘thank you’ as well such that Lent, Easter, and Christmas are everyday experiences? Does that make me a bad Catholic? Anyway. In other words, while my family has been observing the week traditionally, I’ve been busy with work (I don’t get why government finds it a duty to declare a holiday as early as Wednesday when it merely sends people scurrying off to the beaches to gallivant in scanty clothing and such, or to reunions in their home provinces which for the most part is a subtle contest of who is the relative with more material riches this year? In the meantime, matters otherwise urgently needed by citizens are left behind. Is that the spirit of Lent? Work is a better penance, especially when it means other people’s lives become better as a result of timely actions. Besides, what about the citizens of other religions? Government, it being for all Filipinos, should stop declaring holidays favoring or upholding religious rites of just one group or sect. There’s already a standard that takes care of the process. With organizations, Catholic employees can just take it out on their paid vacation leaves (especially good for those who refuse to go on vacation just so it will be converted to cash at year end!). This is what it also means by separation of church and state.). On the other hand, there was practically no people and vehicle on the roads! I went to the capital on Good Friday and what bliss! EDSA and the streets were deprived of the usual offending noise, congestion, and vehicular traffic! Even the L/MRT was shut down. The capital was quiet, still, and peaceful. Everyday should be Good Friday!

In Makati, I met with my assigned mentor (in my volunteering work) who came all the way from across the world. Why she had to come is a longish story, but what I can say at the moment is I missed the two meetings, global and regional, held abroad due to unexpected difficulties with bureaucracy here. After weeks of papers and calls going back and forth, the agency decided to send instead their staff, my mentor, to me. She came just to train me in person for the research work. I couldn’t thank them enough (and felt so disappointed with my own government or should I say it’s workers who allowed pettiness to cloud their actions). My mentor, when I finally met her, is really old, maybe late 60s. But, she was spritely, cheerful, and game. Soon afterward I forgot all about my sadness over the circumstances of her travel.

She wanted to go around and explore the area. First, lunch. We found out that the malls were closed. So much for the food courts we planned to eat in. Practically all the restaurants were. What, Good Friday fasting is now a law? What if I’m a non-Catholic, or if one, I chose not to fast and I’m far away from my own kitchen? But thank God for the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean restaurants and the fastfood chains that were open. We hungry folks will be fed. Otherwise, lunch was to be a thousand peso per meal affair back at the hotel. That won’t feel like a Lenten meal will it?

We ended my training early and went to the nearby church, Saints Peter and Paul on DM Rivera in Poblacion. I’ve attempted twice before to visit after learning from locals that it’s a pilgrimage church but I wasn’t able to both times. I didn’t imagine then, how would I, that I’d be actually visiting the church on a Good Friday with a non-Catholic foreigner and my mentor at that.

Good Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church, Poblacion, Makati City
Built in 1620, the church is one of the oldest and most historical Catholic churches in the Philippines. It is under the Archdiocese of Manila. Declared a national cultural site by National Historical Commission in 1937. At first, one wonders how it came to be that the church is right in Makati’s red light district but one must know the area was a hacienda when the church was built. Photo credit: RLF at philippinecatholicchurches.blogspot.com
Good Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Church, Poblacion, Makati City
The altar is the original carved retabo The altar area also showcases a gallery of saints. When we went, the images were all covered up. On later reflection, I thought that it served às some kind of Lenten fasting for me. Not food but this, which is more painful to bear. Like, being deprived of your loved ones’ faces. I’m quite capable of going without muxh food or material comfort for days. I’m not as good at not knowing. Photo credit: RLF at philippinecatholicchurches.blogspot.com
Good Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Church, Poblacion, Makati City
The ivory image of Nuestra Senora de la Rosa, from Mexico, was enshrined in 1718 in the church from Mexico. It once held a reliquary containing a strand of hair of Mary. In 1899, during the Revolution, the reliquary as well as the ivory head and hands got destroyed. The latter were replaced with wooden replicas. Photo credit: RLF at philippinecatholicchurches.blogspot.com

We were in time for the Mass. The place was jampacked but we took our place at the front. We had to stand though. I looked around. Statues were wrapped up in purple cloth. I wondered why. Only later did I realize, crazy me, my Carmelite sister-friends will get my throat for this, that it’s what’s done on such a day. Also, at the reading of the Gospel, I was about to make the customary sign of the Cross but saw in time that no one around me was doing it. Then I realized the Gospel was the Passion Play. I put down my hand. I felt my face burning. We were really near the altar and you know the all-seeing priests. I blame my lack of sleep from an all-night travel. Ha ha!

While they were doing the drama, I reflected on things. Like, how many centuries have Catholics here been reading and listening to the persecution and death of Christ yet how is it that norms in Philippine society then as now are more or less the same? Injustice. Disregard of others. Incongrous divide between rich and poor. Destructive power structures. Nothing much has changed. How is it that we have not become any wiser for others? This is the question that’s trying to catch up with us.
The sermon centred on the meaning of death, for Jesus and individuals. I reflected on this too. The archbishop said death is painful and we fear it. That is exactly the challenge of the Gospel on us. The undignified death of Christ is for me a call to put to death injustice, disregard of others, the divide between rich and poor, power that enable this culture to continue; and, put in place the opposite of death- life, love. We are called to confront our fear of the pain of death. It’s the only way to cross to the other side which is life. Jesus sweated blood in anticipation of the pains in his death. Still he chose to walk toward it. Why, we ask? But don’t we know? It’s love.

Then the bishop said Good Friday was the birth of the Church. But funnily as it happens, forms of injustice, disregard of others, the divide between rich and poor, destructive power structures are also perpetuated by the institution. Church officials as well are not spared from the call to confront their fear of the pain in putting a stop to these.

We left toward the end of the sermon (sorry, all-seeing priests) as my mentor has a scheduled Skype conference. Back at her hotel, I said my thanks once again and she reassured me of her support and wished me safety. I felt truly loved in that moment. Then we said our farewell.

That was how Good Friday went for me this year. The church visit, visita iglesia in a sense, was unplanned but the Gospel message was spot on. It summed up my experiences of the day – what good is it to die on the cross when there’s no love behind it? what good is observing traditional practices (of Lent and Easter) when we don’t have love to go with it? Such won’t transform ourselves or anybody. It is love that will and being open in order to allow it to re-form and trans-form oneself. I understand now what our Mother Superior said when I asked her if doing xxx is good or bad. She told me, it “depends on your motivation, what’s in your heart as you do it”. I didn’t understand her statement then and was too proud to ask what does that mean? I saw the world as just black and white. Life is indeed full of surprises.

People

To volunteer or not to volunteer

Bayanihan or volunteering
I saw this at the restaurant where Victory Liner makes a stop. It depicts the act of bayanihan, a Tagalog term for Filipinos helping one another especially during crises.

I have decided to be a volunteer for most of this year. I’ve been growing toward this aspect of service a year now. I was supposed to be deployed internationally last year but I retracted because of personal safety concerns. Last year as we know had been hell in international security and I wasn’t prepared to be in unstable areas without full compensation. Ha ha! But, I guess, when it’s for you it’s for you. It’s going to come at you no matter how you dodge it.

The question posed to me by the organization was, what made you decide to volunteer? Well, looking back, my story has been of gradual awareness and readiness.

In my 20s, colleagues, after completing their contracts (in development work) went overseas for volunteer work. They were young and overseas was the next step. They were deployed in countries like Tibet, Kenya, Congo. I was urged to join them, but volunteering never entered my mind. In the communities, I had been both fascinated and filled with respect for the local people especially women already multiple-burdened who volunteered for our organization and helped facilitate it’s work. But volunteering didn’t mean anything to me personally. I couldn’t see myself as selfless as the locals were. ‘Volunteer’ didn’t appeal to me.

I have not, until now, volunteered formally. I have only been helping people in my immediate surroundings such as helping elderly folks in my barangay with their grocery bags or colleagues in need with their work. As a freelance consultant for some time now, I voluntarily don’t ask for my full fees from organizations I knew didn’t have much financially or when it involves a cause I personally believe in. Beyond the private sphere, I’ve not much to show for (public) volunteerism. As I got older, however, growing in experience, knowledge, skills, emotional maturity, and confidence, I felt myself becoming more and more psychologically ready to give of myself in a more public way. The key factor for me here is ‘psychologically ready’.

“Wow,” the officer listening to my story said, “that’s a word.” It is. That’s how I feel about volunteering now. In a sense it’s like my personal journey toward becoming more generous. I guess it’s similar to being in love or getting married. When one is ready, and you’ll know the time, one is more able to give of oneself fully and completely and to appreciate the other as fully and completely. And, like love or marriage, I’m venturing in with an open mind.

In my next post, I’ll write about my initial realizations from my first steps toward volunteering.

Everything Baguio, Technology

Let’s bring back a walkable downtown

walkable downtown Session Road, Baguio CitySunday off-peak season traffic (also when people stay at home or opt to leave their cars at home or take a day off from driving preferring to walk about) in downtown Baguio. This is the Baguio that my and earlier generations grew up in. One feels the immediate effect of such on the payche- one feels happier, lighter, peaceful. Also, as the air is immediately cleaner, lungs take a rest from having to work doubletime in order to purify what we breathe in. For today’s City residents, old (lest they’ve forgotten) as well as new, this is the image of a car-less or less-car Session Road. We don’t need to debate what ‘car-less’ or ‘less car’ looks like. What is needed is a plan to actually make the downtown walkable. We have to understand though that ‘walkable’ also means developing the suburbs (and LISTT towns) as a strategy to direct traffic as well as people outside of downtown Baguio (congestion in downtown Baguio has gone the way similar to that of Metro Manila wherein image-building and investments hence development were concentrated in the Metropolitan). And we don’t have to look very far for a plan- there are lots of masteral studies on this in the universities (here). And we don’t have to look very far for a plan- there are lots of masteral studies on this in the universities (here) that students (professionals) invested their knowledge, time, and money in. What City Hall needs to do is to talk and sustain a relationship with the universities.

Food, Humor

Happy national breakfast day!

national breakfast day at StarbucksThe event is McDonald’s, but for some reason branches in Baguio have not reached out to their customers earlier and openly hence the poor turn out. I got irritated when the crew who approached me trying to “sell” the PHP49 coupon of hash browns and coffee(?) couldn’t explain to me the mechanics well. I don’t get this grumpy easily but having fasted the night before and having let out blood first thing that morning probably had messed up my body chemistry. So I gave him back the coupons and told him and the cashier I bloody want BREAKFAST not a hash brown or a muffin. Somehow that got everybody behind the counter laughing – perhaps the way I spoke – which eased my conscience a bit.

Then afterward I had dessert at Starbucks, for the reason that McDo doesn’t have hot chocolate. So yeah- my side of the story on such a day. McDonalds (franchise owners) has to step up standardization of customers’ brand experience across the country. Staying true to it’s advertisements, the same level of quality in service and products regardless of location, in Jolo or in Makati City, should be in place.

I’ve been inside plenty of branches across the country and my experience of the brand in each was far from standard. Such impacts on the overall brand quality. The question in the mind of the customer is, what makes this or that branch stand out from the rest? if there are branches that meet the McDonalds standards, how come it’s not happening in all?

People

Women rock at today’s PMA graduation

Philippine Military Academy graduation today and what’s unique this year is it’s “ruled” by females. The valedictorian is a woman. Eight of the top ten graduates are women. There were 63 women graduating cadets in all, the biggest since the Academy accepted the first women cadets ten years ago.

Each has their own journey story to the Academy, like this ex-housemaid who eventually found out that her career is really in the military. A dramatic transition. Wow!

​https://youtu.be/J0biYT4MJ-w

On Arirang cable channel recently, it featured a young South Korean woman who voluntarily joined the government’s mandatory military training. Her father, a military man, challenges her to not just be a soldier who is a woman but a woman who is a soldier. I was struck by that statement which I recalled again today. The next step I guess for these inspiring women cadet graduates is figuring out how to be successful at both. All the best to them!