Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Exotic Feast

My nephew celebrated his 14th birthday today. His father (my brother) brought over from Zamboanga City some exotic crustaceans for the dinner spread.

And so I had my first taste of the not-so-exotic-anymore steamed lobster (the last one I saw at a beach front resto in Boracay was so small it hardly filled up a small plate and cost P1,500!). Yum! It tasted like a crab only with a lot more meat and fiber.
My brother also brought home some live alupihang dagat ( tatampal, hipong dapa or mantis shrimp) in large mineral water bottles filled with seawater. He said these were caught by divers on the seafloor in Tawi-tawi. Alive, they look more like centipedes than mantises. They actually look like wide-bodied shrimps, hence hipong dapa much like the flounder is called isdang dapa. It taste like sinewy prawns.And lastly the curacha (NO, not the Rosanna Roces-starrer with the tag: Ang babaing walang pahinga). Curacha (so-called in Chavacano because it looked like a mutant cockroach -cucaracha) is the Red spanner/frog crab commonly found in the water of Zamboanga. It looks like a cooked/steamed elongated crab. It is fleshy and tastes like crab and prawn.

All these exotic crustaceans taste best with the coconut-based Alavar Sauce (formulated by a Zambo resto of the same name).

all photos here were downloaded from Google images.

Global Psyche: The Name Game (a reprint from Psychology Today)

Global Psyche: The Name Game
In the Philippines, quirky monikers stick—even government officials are fair game for nicknames.
Tara Bruno

The Philippines is a spirited place where locals don't think twice about calling a 60-year-old businessman Honey Boy. Or a beloved male professor Tatay—basically, dear old dad. In fact, it's perfectly acceptable (and not the least bit embarrassing) for Filipinos to take whimsical nicknames like Butterball, Boy Blue, or Pee-wee to the grave. "My cousin Kristina's face looked like a perfect circle when she was born, so her nickname became Bilog, which means round," says Ruth Aniceto, originally from Quezon City. "Even though it doesn't fit her anymore, she'll always be Bilog."

On this archipelago comprising more than 7,000 islands, even government officials are fair game for nicknames. Former president Corazon Aquino was widely known as Tita Cory—Aunt Cory—when the people agreed with her policies. When they didn't support her, they would call her Aling Cory, what one would call the old lady of the village.

And as if saying a name once just doesn't cut it, nicknames are often repeated to create multimonikers like Len-Len or Ning-Ning. Also, parents tend to pick names for their children that all begin with the same letter or adhere to themes, such as a family of fruits (Cherry Pie, Peachie, Apple) or Greek philosophers (Aristotle, Socrates, Homer). The more creative, the better.

Nicknames are helpful just to tell everyone apart. The island nation was a longtime colony of Spain and still maintains a heavy dose of Spanish culture. Nearly all Filipinos are Catholic, and most are named after popular patron saints or religious figures. That's a lot of Joses and Marias running around. "Since many of the same birth names are used, Filipinos want to instill individualism by finding the most unique name to identify a person," says Kathleen Angco-Vieweg, a professor of sociology at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Nicknaming also helps cope with hard times. The Philippines has a history of poverty and political corruption and has suffered natural disasters ranging from landslides and floods to volcanic eruptions and typhoons.

The country was ranked the world's most disaster-prone nation by the Brussels-based Center for Research and Epidemiology of Disasters. So Filipinos seek happiness in their intimate personal relationships. "It's important for Filipinos to feel a sense of community, and giving a person a nickname makes you feel closer to that person," says Joi Barrios, a professor of Filipino literature and languages at the University of the Philippines.

Filipinos try to laugh in the face of adversity by strengthening their communal bonds. "We are fun-loving and creative by nature," says Karla Villarin, who moved from Manila to New York. "Giving each other nicknames is an outlet for us."

Greatest Hits

Some nicknames have become more popular than others. Here are a few Filipino favorites:

  • Bing
  • Binky
  • Bo
  • Boy
  • Ching
  • Cookie
  • Ding
  • Dong
  • Girlie
  • NeNe
  • Jun-Jun
  • Wee-Wee

Psychology Today Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008


I just read Learning to Love Growing Old by Jere Daniel on the Psychology Today website. I want to share with you the research findings on wisdom:

A team of European researchers -- no surprise there -- has taken on the challenge to isolate the features of wisdom in clinical detail. From their ongoing studies of the aging mind, psychologists Paul B. Baltes and Ursula M. Staudinger, both of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, define wisdom:
  • It's an expertise that wraps information in the human context of life and relates it to generational and historical flow.
  • It is factual and procedural knowledge about the world and human affairs.
  • It mingles insight and judgment involving complex and uncertain matters of the human condition; there is an appreciation for and understanding of the uncertainties of life.
  • It involves a fine-tuned coordination of cognition, motivation, and emotion, knowledge about the self and other people and society.
  • It carries knowledge about strategies to manage the peaks and valleys of life.
  • It integrates past, present, and future.

A product of cultural and knowledge-based factors, rather than biologically based mechanics of the mind, wisdom accumulates with time -- but only among those who remain open to new experiences. If we must insist on outwitting the constraints of biology, then wisdom -- and not the scalpel -- is our thing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three Smiles

I was surprised to see a Ray Bradbury anthology which featured The Smile as the main story (see photo above). It's my experience that usually my favorite stories or songs don't get included in collections often called "The Best of . . ."

I first read The Smile in an anthology of Bradbury short stories, A Medicine for Melancholy. It was 1976. It wasn't the first one of Bradbury's that I've read (The October Country was). I was studying then at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman and one of my subjects that semester was Humanities under Prof. Brenda Fajardo. It was my first and major exposure to the Arts. Adding to the aesthetics was a classmate who sat beside me. She was that year's titleholder (for a national dairy products manufacturer) who made it to the cover of Mod Magazine. The smile lingering on her lipsticked lips every time we met in class was a soothing balm to the homesick teen in me. I also became the envy of our male classmates.

When our topic came to the paintings, Prof. Fajardo showed us lots and lots of slides of the Masters. One of them was Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. This painting reminded me that it figured in one unforgettable moment in our family in Gensan. One day, Mama was offered several posters mounted on plywood by an ambulant vendor. She chose the Mona Lisa and hung it among the family pictures on the wall in our living room. After closing our store for the night, Papa retired to the living room with his Chinese newspaper and magazines and noticed the poster. He went near it and examined it closely; his eyes darting from pictures of his and Mama's parents then back to the poster.

Unable to contain his curiosity any further, he called Mama to the living room. When she ambled next to him, he asked out loud: Emy, is she our relative? This question brought on guffaws from us kids while Mama smiled at Papa with a twinkle in her eyes.

On Saturdays, I would take the bus from UP to Quiapo and from there, walk to Avenida Avenue where bookstores like Goodwill, Alemars and National Bookstore were located adjacent to each other. And so I found a revolving rack of Bradbury books at National Bookstore. Out of the savings I made from the monthly allowance sent to me, I bought A Medicine for Melancholy because I was homesick and because of The Smile.

Back in the dorm with my roommates out on dates or home for the weekend, I made several sandwiches of canned sardines and sandwich spread and settled on my bunk to read The Smile.

The futuristic story (set in 2061) started with a description of a town square and a queue that was formed at 5 in the morning. In that line was a little boy named Tom. The line was filled with adults in shabby clothes. They were there, according to Grigsby, the man ahead of Tom, because
. . . it has to do with hate. Hate for everything in the Past
. . . how did we get in such a state, cities all junk, roads like jigsaws from bombs, and half the cornfields glowing with radio-activity at night? You hate whatever it was that got you all knocked down and ruined. That's human nature. Unthinking, maybe, but human nature anyway.
Part of the past scheduled for Hate was a painting. Curious, Tom said: They say she smiles. And when it came time for them to see the painting, Grigsby urged Tom to spit at it as he did.
The woman in the portrait smiled, serenely, secretly, at Tom, and he looked back at her, his heart beating, a kind of music in his ears.
It was a copy of the Mona Lisa and when the authorities announced that the crowd may begin its destruction, Tom joined in and was able to rip a small portion of the canvas. He watched it being torn to shreds, put in the mouth as if it was some food, its frame smashed to pieces. He ran home crying, holding in his hand the small piece of canvas.

Later in bed, still clutching the cloth, Tom felt the moonlight on him. In the faint light, he slowly opened his hand to look at the painted cloth.
All the world was asleep in the moonlight.
And there on his hand was the smile.
An hour later, as he was drowsy with sleep, he could still see the smile in the darkness, warm and gentle.

The Smile made me more appreciative of the Arts. So when Prof. Fajardo required us to write a paper on the local Arts scene, I decided to research on the komiks industry which brought me to Malabon to interview the legendary Mars Ravelo, creator of Darna and Dyesebel. Halfway through writing the paper, I was asked by my seatmate what I was researching on and so I told her. With her killer smile, she asked me if I could write a paper for her too. I told her I really didn't have the time since I was enrolled in 24 units and had to validate the subjects I took in a local college in Gensan. The smile died on her lips. Something also died in me that day. She never sat beside me again for the rest of the semester.

Having watched the Julia Roberts-starrer Mona Lisa Smile, read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and now reading Angus Trimble's A Brief History of the Smile bring back memories of three smiles to me: My seatmate's beguiling smile, Mama smiling at Papa and The Smile.

Summer reading '08

Summer is here once again! Time for leisurely reading to be done either near a body of water (a pail of water will do just fine!) or on my hammock. Here's my partial reading list:

Rewrites - A memoir by Neil SimonThe Adventures of English - Biography of a Language by Melvin Bragg
Star Wars Vault - I intend to get lost in this trivia/memorabilia-filled large book which my friend Jay Cunanan-Canlas bought for meBatman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank MillerThe Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
DC Comics: A celebration of the world's favorite comic book heroes by Les DanielsSeveral issues of Philippine Genre Stories (PGS) and Story Philippines and Volumes 2 & 3 of Speculative Fiction

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Easter Sunday is the day of redemption. The hope of redemption, celebrated on Christmas day marking the birth of the Savior, is realized on the third day after Jesus died on the cross, redeeming us from our sins.

As a child, I remembered God as the awe- and fear-inspiring One. Matakot ka sa Diyos!

In high school religion classes, I met the compassionate Son of God. Jesus, the shepherd who will leave the herd in search of the missing sheep.

In college, I got tired of the Campus Crusade for Christ people who bugged anyone and everyone on campus with their Have you accepted the Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?

In the 70s, I was enthralled by Sister Janet Mead's only Billboard hit with the pop version of Our Father and got high on the Brother Sun, Sister Moon (a film by Franco Zefferilli) soundtrack by hippie singer Donovan.

Jingle Chordbook Magazine with namesake Gilbert Guillermo as Editor came out with Desiderata as the poster flipside of its guitar chord guide pull-out. Since then, I have adopted Desiderata as a significant part of the foundations of my personal values and principles. I will never tire reading and meditating on it.

After reading the Holy Bible several times in religion and literature classes, I learned the rudiments of faith and acquired knowledge of its context. As a Single for Christ, I rediscovered and reread the Holy Bible with God's grace. Since then, I reread it as the Word of God. And I am humbled every time.

More than Christmastime, I look forward to Eastertime because for me, it is the START of a NEW LIFE. A time to start with a new slate - learning from my past and arming myself with the Words of God and Desiderata to survive a new life in a very uncertain present.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Life is colored by our choices

We have heard and read this countless times: Life is what we make it. Some people go through their lives blaming everything and everyone (except themselves) for whatever happens to their lives. Until they run out of things and people to blame. But by then it may be too late to realize that God will not be asking them - What have others done with your life? but what have YOU done with the gift of life I gave YOU?

Life is full of choices. You only need to make one (at a time). Right or wrong, it's a choice you make. Live with it. If others can't live with it, it's their choice. People try to maneuver your life according to where they think it should be led when it's their lives they should lead instead. Bullies try to make your life miserable because they want it to be more so than theirs (so they can feel better about themselves).

Leading your life is like looking for a book to read. Like life's choices, there are myriads of books to choose from. There are books that once read, you want to keep forever. Some books are good for one reading; some for always. Some books you borrow to find out if you will like them; some you borrow only to return them if they're not to your liking. Some books are so good you share them so others can partake of them.

Bullies are like some directors who adapt a book into film which turns out to be totally different or awful from the original. Friends are like some directors who adapt a book into film which makes it look like the original is literature.

How will YOU write the book of your life? Will it turn out to be a trashy novel or a mishmash of adventures and misadventures or literature? Will your book of life be kept in a dusty bin or cherished forever and always?

Sunday, March 16, 2008


There are times when my bookhaunts in local secondhand bookshops would come up with very slim pickings. When this happens, I turn to Ebay.ph to satisfy my booklust. However, the desire to smell the aroma of brand new book still overwhelms me. And so I travel to Davao City (6 hours round trip by bus) to trawl the selections at two branches of National Book Store.

When the net I cast does not come up with the books on my wishlist, I try to look for them online direct from the sites maintained by NBS, Fully Booked, Powerbooks, Booksale, Anvil. Suffice it to say that these sites are not friendly (NBS used to offer online orders with payment and pick-up done at a branch near you, now it requires you to have a Globe simcard to send Gcash!, Others require credit card charges - what's wrong with depositing cash payment to their bank accounts? Others don't ship orders at all. Sigh!) I ordered online from Anvil last year and tried again early this year, until now, no reply. Nada! Emboldened by a feature on A Different Bookstore in Globe's entrepreurship magazine, I emailed the lady owner about how I can order books from their store. That was last month and I still have to get a reply from her. Sigh!!!

Now this brings me to my experience with ordering online two types of publications: Story Philippines and Philippine Genre Stories. A friend, Dom Cimafranca, alerted me to the MExpress site where I could order them. Wow! Two birds in one shot! And so I registered and ordered several issues. To complete the transaction, I was instructed to make the payment to the nearest LBC branch using the order code and tracking issued to me, after which my order would be shipped through LBC too.

With hard-earned cash on hand, I went to the nearest of three LBC branches only to be told they were too busy accepting pera padala and cargoes and so may-I-please-go-to-any-of-their-two-mall-branches. At the first mall branch, I told the crew that I need to make an MExpress payment for my online order and showed them the order code and tracking. After glancing at the code and tracking, they gave me a strange look and said: Sir, please go to our branch at the second mall, we don't know anything about this.

Flaring up, I told them I felt like a ball being tossed from one branch to another. I also felt like a buyer trying to convince a fruit vendor s/he is selling mangoes of which s/he's not aware of. And so they made a phone call and were promptly told that indeed LBC accepts such a payment. Giving me a sheepish and apologetic look, the cashier accepted my payment.

A simple memo from LBC management would have alerted their employees of new services offered. And to think, LBC is supposed to accept payments for online orders for picture-printing, Gardenia bread, etc.!

I made a call to MExpress about my LBC experience and I have informed Kenneth Yu, the publisher of Philippine Genre Stories about it. Both told me they would relay my feedback to LBC.

Now I have several issues of Story Philippines and Philippine Genre Stories containing excellent stories to tide me over the Holy Week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuna Salad Bunwich - Not Available in Tuna Capital of the Philippines!

When I go to this Donut shop (with 3 branches) in Gensan, I always order the tangy, fresh tasting Tuna Salad Bunwich. However in the last two years, I started getting this reply: Sorry Sir, it's not available. And I always asked how could that happen?

No Tuna Salad Bunwich available in Gensan, the Tuna Capital of the Philippines? Unthinkable! With all types of tuna products readily available in Gensan - fresh (raw), blast-frozen, canned (chunks, flakes, in brine, in oil, etc.) - how in the name of Poseidon could this happen? Irony of ironies!

I've been tirelessly giving feedback to the Donut shop crew and supervisors, but obviously it has fallen on intentionally-deaf ears. What a shame! Sayang! As a general (how we people of Gensan call ourselves), I am proud to live in the Tuna Capital of the Philippines and I enjoy (albeit terribly missing it) a simple meal of Tuna Salad Bunwich. It would indeed be a shock to me if I find out that the tuna used in the bunwich is not even sourced from Gensan! And I would have been put to shame (not to mention becoming the laughingstock) if I brought friends along to dine on the chronically-unavailable Tuna Salad Bunwich. Paging the Gensan City Tourism people! Paging the Donut shop franchise holder!

(Photo from southbound.ph)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

NSPC 2008 at Koronadal City

The National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) is THE competition for campus journalists coming from the 17 regions of the country. This national competition is held in two mediums (English & Filipino), two levels (Elementary and Secondary) and two categories (Individual and Group). Group contests involve school papers while the individual category is competed in by news, editorial, feature, and sports writers, copyreaders/headline writers, editorial cartoonists and photojournalists.

The NSPC was held recently on February 18-22 at Koronadal City with South Cotabato as the host division. This is the second time the NSPC was hosted by SoCot; the first being in 1994. It was my privilege to serve as lecturer and evaluator for the secondary level of the Copyreading & Headline Writing competition.

This is my third time to be a national evaluator for NSPC. The first was during the NSPC held in General Santos City in 2002 and the second in NSPC in Caraga Region in 2005.

I was well aware of what happened to the scheduled NSPC to be hosted by SoCot in 1993. Then DECS Secretary Armand Fabella decided to change the venue to Baguio City when a bombing incident occurred in nearby Sultan Kudarat. This was made a week before the scheduled event in spite of the fact that everyone and everything in SoCot were prepared for the hosting. So when the Valentine's Day bombings happened prior to the NSPC in Caraga Region, I volunteered to serve as an alternate evaluator in case some judge from Metro Manila canceled. Sure enough, somebody backed out and I was immediately called in as replacement.

A Metro Manila-based school paper adviser and officer of the national school paper advisers' association, upon learning that I would be serving as an alternate evaluator, gave me a tongue-lashing in front of a lot of people at the Surigao Provincial Capitol and accused me of bias- blah-blah-blah (surprisingly, when Gensan hosted the NSPC in 2002, she had no complaints at all about my being a judge and to think I was based in Gensan). As practised, NSPC entries are rated using blind evaluation, meaning, the judges don't know who wrote the entries they're rating since these are identified only through control numbers assigned after the competition. So what bias-blah-blah-blah was this haughty school paper adviser talking about? Anyway, I'm sure those who witnessed the incident only had one conclusion: the adviser must have failed her GMRC (Good Manners and Right Conduct) class in elementary. I had the go-signal to serve as an alternate judge from the DepEd Caraga Regional Director and DepEd Head Office officials-in-charge and that's all that mattered to me.