Tag Archives: philippines

Typhoon Ondoy weekend

I’m finally online. My ISP went down on Saturday afternoon, and I couldn’t get a signal on my mobile, so I spent most of the day reading or playing Ravenhearst. Around early evening my brother Dion told me to look outside.

Brown, muddy water had completely covered the street where our building was and water had reached the first step of our building. Some of the residents were outside, looking at it and talking with the security as to what could be done next. Others, who had cars, waded into the water to pull them to higher ground.

Later in the evening, the water had risen to the second step and was slowly creeping up the elevated parking areas. Around 9 pm, the water was about an inch or two the first step, which was level with the building lobby.

My brothers had gone down to buy some food from the store on the first floor. We had a small sack of rice that our parents brought (which they regularly do) so we were good. We managed to get some canned goods and water, and decided to stock up a bit just in case.

We could only look at the water outside and monitor its rising. Thankfully, the water stopped and began to decline around 10 or 11. One of the neighbors, desperate to get provisions, took a rubber raft (the one for kids) out to the grocery at the crossing. It was a spot of humor in a rather scary situation.

With my meager signal I managed to keep in touch with my dad, who went to Bambang earlier before leaving for Zambales. He was stuck in Bambang, but thankfully, dry and not in a flooded area. He stayed there til Sunday morning, and reached Zambales around 8 in the evening. My sister was also texting us, asking for updates.

I had also received some messages from friends and family about their situation. My mom told me that her siblings in Marikina had to evacuate their house and move to a neighbors as the water had submerged their home. My classmate had to flee with the family he was staying with as well. Last I heard they were at the evacuation center, so that’s good.

My brother was worried about his friends who lived near the creek and the river in our area. So far the news about them seemed to be ok.

Sunday noon Miks and I decided to check up on the situation at the Santolan/Manggahan crossing. Since there were no tricycles available we decided to walk as it wasn’t far. I figured that many of the drivers and their families were also affected and driving was the least of their worries that day.

Upon reaching the crossing, we saw this really long line at the Ever supermarket and Pan de Manila. Residents were stocking up on food and water as possibly 90% of the barangay was heavily affected. Since Miks and I weren’t really out to buy anything, we didn’t go to the supermarket. We just walked around trying to look for a place where we could have our cellphones reloaded with credits.

McDonald’s and Chowking were closed, so was Mercury Drug and the Mini Stop stores in the area. 711 was open but their shelves were literally empty of food. Julie’s Bakeshop was also not selling any bread but pandesal, and they were still baking it. We tried buying load but the stores that normally carried them said that all they had was Talk-n-Text and TM, services we don’t have.

One of the buildings at the corner had a basement parking and that was fully submerged. I saw a car floating in it and the water was already level with the street. Some men were trying to pump water out of it but with the size of their machine, it looks like it’ll take days.

On our way back, Miks ran into some of his friends, who updated us on the conditions of their other friends. Many of them, as expected, lost their homes and belongings. They told us that SM Marikina’s basement parking was really messed up, what with the Marikina river overflowing. One of the security guards lived in the area that was completely covered in water. He was here earlier and the residents gave what they can. I was glad that we could give something but I didn’t feel that it was enough.

Nunik was able to buy some groceries. The grocery store at Anonas wasn’t full, he said. It seems that since the area wasn’t really that affected, people weren’t in a hurry to buy supplies but for areas like ours, there’s a rush for them.

We were able to get updates from family who had Internet and cellphone service. Nunik was able to go to his shop and check on the status of various relatives. Some of them had their houses flooded, while others were stranded in various parts of the metro. My aunt and uncle were rescued earlier on and was recovering at another aunt’s house.

They weren’t able to save much of their belongings, which is really sad but I’m just so thankful that they are ok. A lot of their things can’t be replaced, like the old family pictures and mementos, but that is the least of our worries.

I also heard that one of my uncles (a cousin of my mom) succumbed to his illness last night. He was undergoing dialysis for his sickness and was going on a decline for the past few months. My prayers for him, his wife and kids, his father and his siblings.

Today, I decided to try and go to work today. I was worried because I had to pass Marcos Highway but although it was muddy, it was passable. Along the way, I saw some people cleaning out what’s left of their homes. From the train, I saw the damages as well. Marikina river had risen and many of the young trees on the banks were down. The roads level with it were also full of mud and debris.

UERM and SM Sta. Mesa was also a mess. The underground parking of the mall was full of water.

Some of my co-workers didn’t go to work to deal with their homes. Even our boss wasn’t spared. I really feel so thankful that we were spared from any harm or less. Best thing we can do is help out. I’m seeing a lot of links on Facebook, Plurk and Twitter about how to help. Will pass them along.

Hello Dumaguete

I still managed to go around Dumaguete and see the sights, as well as taste their food and learn about the place. I had read up on it before I went, and I was given some tips on where to go by my online friend Zerisse, who is from Dumaguete. Still, nothing quite beats the actual experience.

On the plane again
The only time I’ve been in a plane was when I went to Cebu last 2006. The experience was truly amazing, from the moment I arrived at the airport until the plane landed in Mactan. I still felt excited, as giddy as any kid who still finds wonder in something so ordinary (though I think flying is not an ordinary thing).

I was disappointed that neither Lolo Sal nor I got a window seat. The plane (we took Philippine Airlines) was a small one, with three seats at either side. I was in the middle, and Lolo had the aisle seat so he could stretch a bit. Occasionally, I’d peek over my seatmate’s shoulder to the world outside.

The weather wasn’t good when we left. It was raining really hard since the morning, and the flight had been delayed for nearly thirty minutes: first, the call to board was about ten minutes late, while the weather hindered take off for nearly 20 minutes. There were already five planes behind us and two ahead before we were cleared.

Other than that. It was a rather quiet flight. When the captain announced that we were descending, I took a look outside and was surprised that the plane was flying very low above the sea. That had me worried because my previous experience with flying had us above land at that height. Soon, the water was so close, I nearly asked my seatmate “Kuya, wala pa ba lupa?” The next thing I knew, I felt the thud of the plane’s wheels as it hit the runway. I learned then that the Dumaguete airport’s runway starts/ends at the shore of the beach. Continue reading


I had often said that reunions should occur on happy moments, not on times when there is a loss. However, it is not often the case. My trip to Dumagete was just that. Though I was excited to visit my relatives and see the place, I wish that I had better reasons to be there.

I barely remember my great aunt, Lola Auring. I think I met her only once, when she was in Candelaria for my Lola Lilay’s funeral. I remember her children more, my aunt Marilyn and my uncle Melvin (who had also passed away not long after Lola Lilay) and I haven’t met any of my cousins from that side of the family.

So I was both excited and apprehensive.

The first cousins I met were my aunt Marilyn’s sons, Jun Jun and Biboy. When Tita texted me about who will pick us up from the airport, I was worried because I don’t know them from Adam. When we went out of the arrival area, Lolo immediately walked towards two young men I didn’t know, whereas I was trying to hold him back. Thank God he knew them.

At the funeral parlor, I greeted my aunts and another great aunt, Lolo’s youngest sister Juliet. I talked a bit with my aunts and uncles, who introduced me to more cousins.

What hit me the most was that these cousins of mine had strong similarities to my brothers. That’s when it dawned on to me that my lifelong belief that we got our looks either from the Banares side or the De La Llana side was shattered. A good chunk of it came from the Sales side, and it was rather amusing to note.

I must have stared at them for a long time. Jude looked uncannily like Dion, while several aunts said Carl and I share similarities around the eyes and cheekbones (though I think he looks like Nunik). Finally, I know where my cousin Jordan got his most distinct feature, because my cousin Neil has it too.

Amidst the sadness of the loss, I made discoveries. Perhaps this is the silver lining in the cloud.

Jumping into the fray of issues

You know, there’s something seriously wrong with this country if the media and the government officials take more time focusing on the Hayden-Katrina sex scandal than the The Great Book Blockade of the Philippines.

It shows that their priorities are very, very skewed. They care more about an actress and a doctor who in bad taste decided to video their sexual liaisons, versus local officials who have clearly violated an international treaty by taxing books and labeling fiction as “non-educational”. Some friends argued that there is also an issue here, of medical ethics, breach of privacy and the like, but the way that everyone — media, legislators, etc — are focusing on it makes it so wrong.

I haven’t really said much about this, but being a book lover and firm believer that all books are educational, I am appalled at this. I believe that the best way to deal with the sex video thing would be quietly and quickly. Putting it in headlines is giving the issue attention that it doesn’t deserve, and is bringing the video to the attention of people who shouldn’t know about it in the first place like, uhm, THE CHILDREN?

We complain about the declining quality of education in the country, but for some reason we fail to see that we ourselves are the cause of why this is so. Lack of books, teachers and buildings aside, there are other means where one can get a good education. When I was a kid, TV was a tool for education and not just a mere entertainment box. My first English language lesson was courtesy of Sesame Street, which was aired over local free channels, and also taught me history (American, anyway), geography and even a bit of Spanish. Batibot was also a favorite, a Sesame-like show focusing on learning Filipino. English cartoons helped me be comfortable in speaking and understanding it, making me more open to reading books in that language.

Nowadays, such shows are available only on cable, and if on local, often dubbed into Tagalog.

By putting the video scandal in the fore of the news, we show not just the children that we find it more important, but we show the world that we don’t care much about breaking international treaties, but we do care more about an actress who got caught up in unfortunate circumstances. I haven’t seen the video, despite the availability of it over the Internet, and to quote blogger/writer Joey Alarilla, “Not because I’m being holier-than-thou, but because I simply have no interest in seeing it, just as I’ve never been curious about the other scandals before this.” Well said.

There is a way to fight the growing issue of scandal videos like this, to rally for justice for the people who are being taken advantage of, whose rights are being violated. But there is also a need to address how people twist the law for their own good, how they disregard it just to get their way, and isn’t the book blockade issue an abuse of our rights as well?

I appeal to everyone, not just Filipinos, to help us on this concern. Many of us are very outraged at the situation, not just the fact that books imports are being taxed at a very high price, but also on the fact that it’s not being paid attention to.

For more information, please check out the following links:
Timothy McSweeney – Dispatch 6: The Great Book Blockade of 2009
The Great Book Blockade Timeline (contains links to various readings as well, good resource)
Too Much Ado About Kho, Too Little On Things That Truly Matter
Filipino officials, bloggers weigh in on scandal
Great Philippine Book Blockade of 2009: What You Can Do
Twitter Book Blockade (I’m not a heavy Twitter user, but it helps)
Follow BookBlockade on Twitter

And for obvious reasons, I will not post links to the video. If you want to see it, you can search for it.

Being Pinoy through food

For a while now, I’ve been wondering what’s the best way to describe the Filipinos. When you watch travel shows, most countries can be easily identified by their food, their costumes, their speech.

When you say Filipino… well, I can say that a Pinoy will have his or her own definition depending on where they came from. The old debate of what should be the national language is still up in the air and possibly no closer to being resolved than say, getting a cure for the common cold.

Be that as it may, it’s always interesting to see foreigners react to the Philippines: either through a travel show such as Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” or Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods” (we’ll also be seeing Bobby Chin visit the country soon); or through various blogs and comments online. I once talked to a lady from one of the middle American states (Arkansas, I think) who asked me about the country and was apologizing because she thought we still lived very primitively.

I was amused yet somewhat insulted too, but readily answered “Ma’am, had we lived in trees, you wouldn’t be talking to me right now.” I proceeded to tell her about how we live in the city, how I’m updated about the series Lost, that I just had a Big Mac the other day and gave her some websites she could visit to learn more about us. She was also surprised to learn that I have never been out of the country and credited Sesame Street as a huge part of my English language education.

Granted there’s still a lot of not-so-good stuff about the Philippines (specifically politics, but then again, when is that a good thing anywhere?) but the good stuff is more than all worth it.

What is Filipino?

Anthony Bourdain asked this question to just about every person he met during the show, and more or less didn’t get a satisfactory answer until the end.

“Geography plays a prominent role in what you eat in the Philippines, maybe more so than in other places.”

I have to agree on this. Each region boasts of something that is way better than any other region’s even if you can find it there. For example, I’m a big fan of the Zambales mangoes, and am not ashamed to say that I don’t think Cebu mangoes outclass them. I’m not being rude, but basing it on my experience, especially since I grew up eating Zambales mangoes and not Cebu’s. I’m sure if it were the other way around, I’d be raving about Cebu’s mangoes right now.

Claude Tayag said, “You cannot be a Filipino first until you become Kapampangan first. Become yourself first.”

A lot of this is being taken out of context. Watching this particular part, I feel no offense when Claude Tayag said this. In fact, I can clearly understand what he meant. Many Pinoys belong to a specific region, with their parents and grandparents coming from the province. Myself is a product of the North with a bit of the South thrown in, so I’m more partial to places like Zambales, Pampanga, Baguio and… Bicol than anywhere else. Feed me something from other places and I’d say “Oh, that’s better in *insert place I love here*” This is were regionalism, a trait that is very much ingrained in every Pinoy. Wag na mag deny, dahil totoo naman ito di ba? We feel pride in where we come from, and we staunchly defend it.

What I feel that Claude is trying to say is the mere fact of embracing your roots — be you Kapampangan, Sambali, Cebuano, Bicolano, Davaeno — is the key to being Filipino. I don’t think it would be easy to define who we are if we don’t embrace who our ancestors are.

Face it, our country is one big melting pot, hugely influenced by Spanish and American culture. I always thought that if we weren’t heavily colonized by them, we’d be something like Malaysia or Thailand, given that we have similar roots, but since we were, well, this is who we are.

In fact, the way I see it, it’s a pretty much universal attitude. Anthony Bourdain said it, “I’m a New Yorker first, American second.” If you’ve watched so many travel and cooking shows like No Reservations, you’ll notice it. People, no matter where they live, are quick to say that their version of this food is better than any version you’ll find in their country… or anywhere else.

If anything, this episode of No Reservations would make you ask, “Who are the Pinoys, really?” I have long wondered why we didn’t have a culture where old traditions are very well preserved alongside the modern world. Look at the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans. Look at the Malaysians, the Thais and the Indonesians. Their past co-exists harmoniously with the present and when you ask their people who they are, they can tell you.

Perhaps I am not as lost as Augusto is, having grown up being aware of my roots, but there’s still the slight confusion of who my country is in the bigger scale of things.

Maybe, that’s what makes us who we are.

I say…
There’s so much I want to say about this episode of No Reservations. I mean, it’s about the Philippines! How can I not comment on just about every aspect of the program?

But I must practice restraint. I don’t want to end up babbling all over the place (which I am wont to do in many cases). I love, love, love this episode, not just because it’s about the Philippines, but also because Bourdain touched a chord in me about our country and its people. One thing I learned about watching No Reservations is that if it’s good, Tony will say so. If it isn’t, he’ll say it too.

Granted, many people have commented that Augusto feels so restrained and isn’t as enthusiastic as he was in his video — and that they could’ve done better. Yeah, we all have that thinking, but hey, Augusto sent his entry, he got picked. You didn’t. We are all critics, but it has it’s time and place. Bottomline, the crew got what the needed, Augusto got to go home and the Philippines is once again brought to the world’s attention but this time in a very good light.

I think that says a lot.

Tony Bourdain loves sisig. Heck, he just about loved everything he had, including the pinapaitan, which personally took me a long time to even partially like.

Yehey, no balut. Not all Filipinos eat balut *waves hand* but I do love the fried day old. Yay for chicken balls! Yay for dampa!

Calamansi FTW! Neil Gaiman mentioned it in his blog when he visited back in 2005.

He referred to Binondo as “the oldest Chinatown in the world”, which I’m sure got the nod of many Chinese-Filipinos. I’ve always wondered why it’s never been featured in any of the travel sites I’ve been to, especially since Ivan said it’s as old as the city, which makes it some hundreds of years old. I love Binondo. I often went there with my grandparents, where my grandfather is often mistaken for another Chinoy (even though he doesn’t speak a word of Chinese).

I had a great time watching the Cebu segment. I remember my first time going to Tabo-an. We went there hours before our flight back to Manila to buy some danggit. We didn’t know that the smell of the dried fish would stick to us. Needless to say, we sat in the plane hoping that we wouldn’t be kicked out by the pilot halfway over the ocean.

You can never go wrong with lechon. I think it’s safe to say that even vegetarians break a bit when they are faced with lechon (and if they don’t, I marvel at their self-control).

Photo from: No Reservations Facebook

Once again, I say, I want Anthony Bourdain’s job.

Interesting reads:
Anthony Bourdain’s Hierarchy of Pork
Colin on No Reservations Philippines He’s from Pennsylvania and reading his entry makes me want to find a way to send him some sisig.