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corner tree cafe

by JennyO on August 26, 2012

For those who have adopted a vegetarian diet, or are looking to try something new, Corner Tree Cafe offers vegetarian fine dining with a taste of Morocco and the Mediterranean.

The interiors are comfortably dim, with tealights at every table. Perfect for quiet tete-a-tetes.

A young author writes her novel by candlelight.

The Spanakopita is creamy inside and crunchy outside.

corner street cafe camote fries

Camote fries – not your usual.

corner street cafe vegetarian meat loaf

 Vegetarian meat loaf entree.

It’s interesting enough to try out. Corner Tree Cafe is at Miladay Building, 150 Jupiter Street, Makati.

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pop goes the world: holiday serenity

by JennyO on December 23, 2010

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 23 December 2010, Thursday

Holiday Serenity

Only in the Philippines, I think, is Christmas celebrated for practically an entire month. Work slows down by the first week of December. Malls, offices, and other public establishments evoke the holiday spirit by decorating, some lavishly, others simply, each according to their inclinations and capabilities.

Ayala Avenue this year is more brightly lit than ever before, with thousands of blazing white lights festooned like strings of  glowing pearls from the trees that line the center of the road, and damn the power bill because it all looks so splendid.

Ayala Avenue this Christmas 2010. Image here.

Shopping is always a favorite pastime of Filipinos, and especially so during this season, when cultural norms of gift-giving are observed. A person would sort the groups of people he knows into several categories – work (bosses, officemates, clients); friends (schoolmates, friends made elsewhere); family (immediate and others); and so on.

The nearest and dearest receive the most expensive presents, while officemates one isn’t close to get the gaily-packaged brownies or cookies bought in bulk from friends who “make negosyo” during the season. And so on. Hierarchy is a cultural meme, maybe even a survival imperative in our DNA, some thinkers suggest, and exerts influence even as we perform this pleasant chore.

It is a festive time, with food playing a major role in providing a sense of comfort and security and adding that extra fillip of extravagance that sets occasions like these apart from the ordinary.

When I was a child, Western fruit like apples, grapes, and oranges were to be had only at Christmas-time, along with chestnuts and walnuts which we cracked against door jambs. My mother made certain dishes only during the holidays – deep-dish one-crust apple pie sprinkled with parmesan cheese on top and fruit salad made with canned US Del Monte fruit cocktail that was mostly peaches, never the local kind that was mostly pineapples and made the salad too sour, and she would add a squeeze of calamansi to cut the sweetness. For an appetizer she would lay out plates of Edam cheese, some slices plain, others fried in butter.

Through the years, she’d mix up the menu, sometimes whipping up Caesar salad dressing from scratch with egg yolks, extra-virgin olive oil, and crushed peppercorns, while her entrees would include falling-off-the-bone roast crown of pork, fondue, beef stew, shrimp tempura, and one of my favorites, chicken marinated in Pepsi, ketchup, and secret spices then grilled over charcoal.

We lived in a series of small apartments that were easy to decorate, and my mother made sure that wherever we were, we always had a Christmas tree with ornaments and silver tinsel and colorfully-wrapped presents underneath, and garlands of evergreen with pine cones and red-and-gold ribbons on the walls.

I’ve kept up our family tradition of a tree. Mine is soft and warm and fuzzy with handmade quilted and cross-stitched ornaments from snail-mail swaps or bought at bazaars. No glitzy tinsel and metallic balls for us, just homespun decorations made with love.

Presents back then were simple – an Enid Blyton book, a kitchen playset, t-shirts. There were no electronic gadgets with their beep-boops and flashing lights distracting people from interacting with each other.

Today, with all the bustle and swirl of activity, the rampant commercialization by merchants, and the over-the-top keeping-up-with-the-neighbors, some might feel the need to slow down and find a quiet place.

Where is yours? It can be an actual location or inside your head. It is wherever one may retreat into calm and peace.

University of the Philippines professor emeritus Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo recently shared with us, her graduate students in creative writing, an essay she wrote titled “In Search of Stillness and Serenity.” In the piece she revisits all her quiet places in the different countries she’s  been to.

Here’s an excerpt, where she tells of an oasis of stillness in the mountains of war-ravaged Lebanon:

“I remember our being invited by Frieda, a member of Tony’s staff, to her family’s old villa in the small Druze town of Abey, up in the mountains. Her great-grandfather had been the village blacksmith and had built the house in the late 19th century. It had walls of thick stone, deep windows, a high, vaulted ceiling, beautiful rosewood furniture, hand-carved and inlaid with nakkar and mother-of-pearl, and lovely old rugs, lamps, pipes, copper coffee pots…

“Frieda walked us through a small forest of oak trees, to the olive orchards, where her father was cutting off large branches and putting them into baskets—the white (green) olives to be made into araq; the red, into vinegar; and the black (the sweetest of all), to eat as part of the traditional Lebanese mezze. And then we came to the olive press, and were offered some freshly baked Arabic bread to dip into the freshly pressed oil, which was delicious.

“And there was a serenity about the olive grove, and the day, and the village itself, which seemed far removed from the ceaseless strife that plagued Lebanon.”

In Philippine culture, the holidays are full of rituals to be observed and traditions to keep up, and we do these joyfully, because it is when the past connects and extends into the present that we feel the tug of the bonds of family, society, history, and culture that define and shape who we are.

Yet in the midst of the maelstrom remember to visit your quiet place, wherever it is, to rest, recharge, and reconnect with yourself and all that you are, and all that you can be.

Happy holidays from my home to yours, and I wish for you blessings of deep peace, utter happiness, and boundless love. ***

Olive oil and bread image here.

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philippine art at the ayala museum

by JennyO on November 17, 2010

Residents of Makati City are fortunate to have not one, but two top-class museums in the central business district. I visited the Yuchengco Museum with my PhD classmates and our professor a couple of months ago, enjoyed the experience very much, and decided to take my offspring on a trip to the other one – the Ayala Museum in Greenbelt Park.

The Zobel de Ayala family, a prominent one in Philippine business and society, are generous patrons of the arts; some members of the clan are artists themselves, notably Fernando Zobel (painting) and Jaime Zobel (photography). To sh0wcase and store their art collections, mostly of Philippine provenance, the family established this museum, a venue for sharing their beautiful possessions with the public.

The facade. The museum is connected by first- and second-floor walkways to Greenbelt mall at Ayala Center.

Painted metal sculptures grace the front courtyard.

The guards at the museum advised us to start our tour at the top floor, where tradeware in an array of colors was displayed – blue-and-white, celadon, and brown-and-white among them. There were many pottery items whose uses and functions seem strange to us now – tiny water droppers that barely hold a quarter cup of liquid and miniscule dishes among them. Other artifacts are now made in other materials, such as pen boxes.

Porcelain jars. Image from here.

After our tour of the porcelain, museum guards directed us to a dimly-lit section barred with steel. We entered with trepidation, and were told to sit in front of a dark screen. A switch was flipped, lights, sound, and video came on, and we were treated to a wonderfully-produced, well-written documentary – “Gold of Ancestors”. I won’t spoil it by giving away the narrative – I highly recommend you go see it.

After the show, more lights came on and we made the rounds of display cases filled with gold objects – jewelry, funerary masks, containers. By far the most spectacular piece was something that looked like a belt. From the flyer “Gold of Ancestors: Pre-Colonial Treasures in the Philippines”, written by Dr Florina H. Capistrano-Baker: “A magnificent gold halter…weighing almost four kilograms, is believed by some to be an upavita, or sacred thread. In traditional Hindu society, only members of the elite Brahmin class were entitled to wear an upavita after a purification ritual.”

The Sacred Thread: a magnificent item of jewelry, and a work of art. Image from here.

There were also paintings by Amorsolo and Luna. Of course my favorite was Luna’s “Lady at the Racetrack”.

Image from here.

We saw many other beautiful things in the museum’s collections – an exhibit of 19th century daily wear, heavily embroidered and quaintly tailored; a full suit of Jose Rizal’s everyday clothes; carabao horn salakots and top hats; intricate models of galleons and other sailing ships; and other curios.

Unfortunately, museum rules strictly prohibit photography of the collections and exhibits, which is very frustrating and annoying since other museums such as Yuchengco and the Getty and LACMA in Los Angeles allow it in certain areas. Ayala Museum even forbids photos in the lobby! Visitors who want a souvenir can only pose in front of a bizarre display of unrelated and not-to-scale stand-up figures off to one side of the lobby.  We hope the museum administrators will soon rethink this policy.

A visit to the museum’s gift shop yielded bookmarks, a tote bag, books, a metal pencase, and other little treasures. It’s a great way to spend a geekend afternoon.

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communication environment series part 2 – my manila: quiapo

by JennyO on September 27, 2010

This article is the second in a series of research studies about Philippine communication environments. See Part 1 for an introduction to the topic of the communication environment and its relationship to culture.

For his field trip requirement for our Communication Environment class in the second semester of 2010, College of St. Benilde’s Professor Rod Rivera revealed to us a nearly forgotten venue for films.

Quiapo’s Adult Theaters: Exposing the Underbelly of Philippine Cinema

From the premiere shopping area of prewar times to the 1950s, Quiapo has declined into a melange of depressed stores selling cheap merchandise. Here one browses for new and used goods on dusty shelves, rubbing elbows with working folk seeking bargains and the dressed-down middle class rooting out new-old stock items for collections and vintage gems like vinyl records and ukay clothes.

The surroundings are grim and depressing. Yet it is a vibrant and thriving hub of buying and selling, of coming and going.

Somewhere in this maelstrom of commerce  are the decayed remnants of a once-thriving entertainment center – the cinemas of Manila.

The  Architecture

The old movie theaters in this area have seen their glory days come and go. Many, judging from the style of architecture, date back to the 1950s and ’60s. To pull in the pesos and keep financially afloat, they screen R-rated movies that border on the X.

The facades,though dingy, are colorful, trying to attract with hand-lettered banners, printed promotional posters, and old-fashioned painted billboards. The latter are a surprise; I didn’t know they are still being made, as they are laborious to make and the art died out when the technology for computer-printed tarpaulins became more cost-effective.

One theater was tucked into a crumbling building. To reach it, one must walk a narrow passageway, subject to the scrutiny of people outside and inside the place. Thus, watching a film there involves making a conscious decision exposed to the public eye.

Along the entryway was a girlie bar, the photographs of its dancers displayed on a garishly-lit notice board.

“Like attracts like”, it’s been said, and that is true of this environment, where forms of carnal entertainment, from the physical to the celluloid versions are housed together in one building.

We ended up buying tickets to watch a film at Vista Cinema, a fairly decent place considering what the others looked like. The prices are not too far off those charged in malls, yet still less expensive by twenty or thirty pesos. By this tactic the owners hope to draw in people who might otherwise patronize the bigger chain cinemas.

The Theater-Goers

As befits the surroundings, the clientele are those looking for cheap thrills in the afternoon, or a quiet snooze in an dark, airconditioned cave. From what I could see in the flickering light, they were all men. It was quiet inside; no babies whining, no teenagers laughing. The silence was broken only by the drone of the film’s soundtrack, the hum of the airconditioner, and an occasional soft snore. It was a place for titillation, but also for relaxation – at least while we were there.

The Artifacts

The posters displayed outside the theater (see gallery pictures) bore the conventional double-entendre one-word titles reserved for what were called “bold” or “bomba” films – “Booking”, “Binyag”, “Pitas”. Most of them were indie-produced. Surprisingly, the film we saw was well-acted and well-written, the narrative rife with riveting twists and turns, for all that it was a formulaic tearjerker, with dark elements of poverty and homosexuality and death. Heterosexual lovemaking scenes were inserted almost at random, to satisfy the urges of its target audience. Were they edited out, the film could have been shown in any chain moviehouse.

Yet it is precisely the carnal content that keeps films like these confined to screenings in cold dark caverns like these in the heart of the city, ironically trapped by that which makes them profitable.

Click on a photo, and click again to see a full-size image.

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communication environment series part 1 – my manila: seng guan temple

by JennyO on September 23, 2010

This article starts a series of research studies about Philippine communication environments.

I had seen its carved facade before, on a trip with fellow fountain pen collectors to look for pens in the wilds of downtown Manila. A drive-by along that street left me intrigued. I had no idea then that a year later, I would discover the wonder of the temple’s glittering, golden interior.

In this semester’s PhD Communication Environment class at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, our professor, Dr. Joey Lacson, said that it was best for us to learn about communication in different environments by actually visiting them. He and each of us students had to take the rest of the class to a place the others hadn’t visited before.

For her trip, Nina Villena chose to take us to Seng Guan temple in the heart of Binondo – a serendipitous random happenstance that opened my eyes and mind to a different side of my Manila.

From the outside, the temple looks like a hodgepodge of buildings that have sprouted in haphazard fashion through the years. But look closer to discover the wonderful things that abound inside.

The Communication Environment

Communication is, quite simply, the sharing of meaning. It always occurs within context, and this context is rooted in the environment. A person may use varying communication styles depending where she might be – for instance, she may use more formal and academic language while in class, and shift to a more informal way of speaking when with friends or at home.

The environment also conveys information that a person will organize and interpret to derive meaning. The semiotic model helps explain this process by conceiving data as a set of signs that bring up corresponding concepts in the mind. Signs may then be arranged into codes. Languages are examples of complex codes.

Non-verbal signs, touch (haptics), artifacts, and even space and distance (proxemics) may also be   part of a code that will impart meanings within a system of interrelated message senders and receivers.

A system cannot survive without its environment. An environment is active, and this activity creates further impact on the system. Since humans are always immersed in an environment, this reinforces the truism that it is impossible for people not to engage in communication wherever they may be.

Communication and Culture

Culture is “the complex collection of knowledge, folklore, language, rules, rituals, habits, lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs, and customs that link and give a common identity to a particular group of people at a specific point in time.” These elements that comprise a culture are constructed by society, meaning that negotiation takes place between the members of that society regarding the meanings attached to these elements until agreement is reached.

The relationship between communication and culture is complex and intertwined. Cultural elements, taken as artifacts along with their constructed meanings, form the communication environment. These artifacts may also be considered as “text”, the ‘what’ of communication that is observed and subjected to textual analysis so that the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of communication may be understood.

Consequently, any part of an environment may be studied as an artifact in order to derive and interpret meaning from it – meaning that can help the observer understand the context he is in, and guide his actions and responses within that environment.

Seng  Guan Temple: A Trove of Cross-Cultural Communication

The temple, established in 1936, espouses the Mahayana style of Buddhism, specifically that of the Pure Land sect. Part of the sect’s belief system is that nirvana (cessation of existence), the ultimate goal after countless cycles of life,  is no longer achievable during modern times, but that a way to heaven (the “Pure Land”) may still be achieved by good works and endlessly chanting the name of the Buddha – “Amitabha, Amitabha.”

The Architecture

The facade of the entrance is ornately carved in a style that is distinctly Chinese, exotic to eyes not exposed to the culture. There is no gate. The lack of a barrier at the entrance projects an aura of welcome reaches out to visitors and draws them in. Just within the entrance, a jolly Maitreya Buddha greets worshippers and visitors with a smile.

A stone lion, one of a pair, stands guard in front of the Buddha statue. The carving is deep and ornate, the subject a ‘cute’ mythological creature, inviting you to run your fingers over the runnels and recesses in the stone, and reach for the ball in the lion’s mouth. Again it is an artifact that beckons one to enter, approach, and touch.

Mr. Carlos Tan, who works at the temple, offered to be our tour guide and showed us around. Practically nothing was off limits; one feels a deep sense of acceptance for and tolerance of visitors, something that one does not readily experience in churches of other faiths. Although it is not stated directly, the license to explore comes with a common-sense caveat: the temple is a place of worship, and as such a visitor must conduct himself with proper respect for the place and its purpose.

The halls are wide and expansive, with high ceilings and spaces that entice one to roam around. Having an expanse of space is made possible by the practice of not providing seats for worshippers, only red-upholstered kneelers that are tucked away in small storage rooms on off-days.

The interior of the ground floor, with three Buddha images flanked by fresh and faux flowers and offerings of fruit.

The hall on the second floor is even grander, decorated with carvings depicting scenes from the life of Sakyamuni (Gautama) Buddha. The statues are made of silk mache and are hollow. Everywhere, one sees the glint of gold and the vibrancy of red, colors that signify prosperity and happiness.

Largest and grandest of all is this hall just off the second level. It is airconditioned on days when services are held. The Buddha statues here are large and dominant, matching the scale of the room, meant to inspire awe and reverence.

The Artifacts

Inside the temple are many things that are unfamiliar to non-Buddhists but, taken in context, are obviously ritual items. There was a drum that a saffron-robed monk beat in time to the chanting of other monks and worshippers. There was a red book with gold Chinese characters stamped on its cover (sutras?). There was a stick-like object that rested on the books, something that looked like a fan or a paddle, cymbals through which yellow scarves were knotted, and cinnabar-red squat carved figures beside which were padded sticks. Were the figures struck with the sticks?

I deliberately refrained from asking Mr. Tan, preferring to experience the environment as an observer, and trying to derive meaning from what was familiar, and gauging the extent of the unfamiliar. In this instance, much was an unknown quantity.

There were always offertory tables positioned in front of the images. The tables are heavily carved, some gilded as well. The tables bear offerings of fruit and flowers, because according to Buddhist tenets, “Only vegetarian offerings are allowed,” said Mr. Tan.

The Worshippers

Through observing their stance and actions in context, it can be seen how worshippers convey their sense of faith and participate in the rituals of their religion. Two women knelt in front of the Maitreya Buddha’s image holding incense sticks and waving them while chanting Buddha’s name. At the same time, at the second floor hall, monks held a service for a deceased man. The relatives were all clad in white, their culture’s color of mourning. Since no seats are provided, worshippers either kneel or stand and chant along with the monks.

The chanting was atonal, in a language I was unfamiliar with (Chinese, presumably), and sounded utterly alien to my ears. For that reason I found it fascinating; language is not an insurmountable barrier to understanding, because all that is required is a translation. On that initial exposure, the impression I obtained from the chanting was a sense of immense antiquity, that these words had been sung in this manner for centuries, the ritual kept alive by devotion and strict adherence to tradition.

Off that hall was a room where the dead man’s picture was displayed. Red marks pocked the picture “so he can breathe,” someone explained. On an offertory table were sweetmeats in covered glass dishes and plenty of fruit. Red lamps were lit. Just outside that room, people rolled paper into the boat shape of ancient Chinese currency, paper money for the dead to use in the afterlife.

Paper printed with gold Chinese characters, rolled into the proper shape, symbolize money for use in the afterlife. To show respect for the deceased, sacks upon sacks of these are laboriously prepared.

After the service, the portraits are moved to the ancestor worship hall on the ground floor, to be displayed beside the pictures of deceased persons whose relatives are waiting for a memorial service to be held in their behalf. Offerings of canned fruit are arranged in front of them – fruit cocktail, peaches, lychees. Chinese are practical; fresh fruit, they say, will spoil.

A woman lights joss sticks that she places in a large bronze urn, one of several placed in each of the temple’s many halls. The air in the temple is fogged with the heavy fragrance of incense carrying prayers to Buddha.

Inside the ancestor hall are serried rows of shrines that carried pictures of the deceased. Some are ‘double’ shrines for couples. A picture placed in the shrine frame denotes that the person was deceased; a plain red backing, that the person the shrine is reserved for is still alive. A fee is charged by the temple for the storage of the shrines – the more prominent the position, the higher the fee. It costs around one hundred thousand pesos for a central location for a shrine.

From time to time, people entered the hall, knelt before the shrines, said a prayer or meditated, and lit joss sticks before leaving.

Mr Tan also showed us pairs of red, kidney-shaped wooden blocks used in divination, a practice that dates back to China’s prehistory, when animal entrails were used to predict the future and reveal answers to questions. One throws the blocks up in the air; depending on how they fall, the answer to the devotee’s query is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

He often used the Tagalog word misa – as in Catholic Mass – to refer to their services. It may be the word actually used by Filipino Buddhists, or it may have been his way of making concepts easy for non-Buddhists to understand.

Overall, though I could not interpret a great deal of the information I was picking up from my surroundings, I understood enough and connected it with previously-read or gleaned facts and materials that enriched my appreciation of this particular environment.

I came away refreshed in spirit by the aura of peace and tranquility permeating every fragrant corner of the temple, fascinated by its art and history, and above all deeply appreciative of the warm welcome and acceptance extended by Mr. Tan and the others at the temple.

The Seng Guan Temple is along Narra Street, near Jose Abad Santos Street, Manila.

Click on a photo, and click again to see a full-size image.

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my manila: ongpin and recto

by JennyO on August 28, 2010

Sometime last year I went with some penfriends to old Manila to look for NOS (new old stock) fountain pens and ink. It’s a part of the city that is the oldest, and consequently the one being consumed by inner-city decay.

Yet along its streets life thrives. Commerce is booming. There are interesting things to see – and buy. Come take a look at what we found. (Click on each picture, then click again to see full size.)

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where to stay in manila when there isn’t room in the family nipa hut

by JennyO on July 23, 2010

When my sisters – one based in Dubai and the other in the US – came to Manila early this month for a three-week vacation, one of the concerns that arose was accommodation – where could they stay that is comfortable, affordable, and safe?

Filipinos, as long as they have room, open up their homes to friends and family. Hotels are too expensive especially for extended stays and families believe in staying together. I would have loved for my sisters to stay with me, but my two daughters and I, along with my househelper, her son, and her niece, live in a one-bedroom unit above a disused horseracing stable – not the best arrangements for guests. Luckily, we have an aunt who insisted that my sisters stay in her capacious “empty-nest” home.

Then a cousin from another side of the family popped up in Facebook chat to ask the same thing – “Where can I stay when I come to Manila in September?”

This time I flexed my muscles and exerted my ultra-buff mouse-clicking finger to do some research:

  1. For short stays, try an affordable hotel: gohotels.ph, which promises a “place for every Juan”. The earlier you book, the cheaper the rate.

2.  For transient and extended stays, why not rent a fully-furnished room, apartment, or house? Check out roomrent.ph. This is a service provided both for tourists and property owners. The home page shows several excellent property lists sorted by cities (Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, etc.) and by access to public transportation (LRT 1 and 2, MRT). There is a wide range of places (condos, flats, houses) and prices that will suit anyone’s tastes and budgets. For the impecunious traveler, there are also options for bedspace and flat-sharing.

Twin beds and aircon? Looks good. One of the rooms at www.roomrent.ph.

Hotels are, well, hotels. Rental units are cheaper and provide more space, privacy, and freedom. When my Dubai-based sister had my eldest daughter and me over to visit her in 2000, she rented a condo for our stay. She said that renting a unit rather than booking into a hotel was the preferred option for many Filipinos and others looking to make the most of their money.

Conversely, a high-school classmate who came to Manila last December with his family chose to check into a house-for-rent run by a religious organization affiliated with our school. Other friends from college have booked at the PCED Hostel at the University of the Philippines. They cite ease, convenience, and less hassle for their Manila-based families as their reasons for not staying at the old ancestral manse.

But what if you do not have easy access to places like those? That’s why I like the concept of roomrent.ph because before the Internet, word-of-mouth and the newspaper classifieds were the only places to look for rental units, and it took a lot of phone-calling to narrow down choices.

At this website, you have an entire database of properties, all arranged and sorted to make decisions easier. As the site gets more public awareness, more property owners will be posting about what they have available, to offer even more options for the traveler.

One of the rooms offered at www.roomrent.ph

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pop goes the world: one family, many cultures

by JennyO on July 16, 2010

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 15 July 2010, Thursday

One Family, Many Cultures

Baguio City – It is lovely this time of the year in the City of Pines, Luzon’s “Summer Capital”. I am here with my two daughters, ages 18 and 12, and my two sisters, whose ages I will not disclose for fear of reprisal.

One sister, Aileen, has been based in Dubai for the last 16 years. The other, Tiffany, was born in Manila but moved to California’s Bay Area when she was four. This is her first visit to the land of her birth in 15 years.

Aileen and I finished our education in local schools and did not get to travel abroad until after college. While we bear the mind-broadening effects of education and travel, still we are Pinoy to the core, thoroughly acculturated with Philippine values and norms, and aware of its traditions and rituals, in particular those of the urban area we grew up in – Manila.

Aileen is more traditionally Filipino than I am in her observance of rules and rituals that I prefer to ignore. She believes one should not sleep in, even on weekends. She insists that everyone must take at least one bath a day, no matter how cold it is, nor sleep right after a shower with wet hair. She tells Tiffany not to wash her hands in cold water as she might get pasma and asks her why she eats with only a fork and not a spoon too.

My mother and stepfather imbued Tiffany with traditional Filipino values – respect for elders, the importance of family, the significance of a good education. They have The Filipino Channel at home; Tiffany watched P-Noy’s inauguration before stepping on her Manila-bound Philippine Airlines flight. She watches Mom cook dried fish and eat egg with bagoong from a jar. Uncle Joe has instructed her to bring back Hizon’s ensaymada, the kind with grated queso de bola on top.

Not having grown up in Pilipinas, she cannot speak Tagalog nor Ilonggo though she can understand a sentence or two here and there in both languages. She is clueless about the Filipino way of doing things and wonders why motorists here weave dangerously in and out of their lanes, who Kris Aquino is and why she seems to have such a big impact on Philippine society, and what pasma is and why she should care.

My daughters, who grew up exposed to American culture on TV and the internet and in books, straddle the divide between cultures. They are at ease with their Tita Tiffy’s American twang and respect Tita Aya’s strict insistence on routine.

They are the true multiculturalists in the family, who understand the nuances of both mindsets and may at times act as ‘interpreters’, having the learning advantages of mass media, education, and travel in addition to meeting and interacting with people who are from or have been exposed to other cultures.

Alex, the elder, studies at De La Salle University, where she counts Koreans, Japanese, Indians, and Italians among her classmates and professors; online, she has Australian and American friends. Her best friend, Penelope moved to Singapore recently and chats with her often about her experiences and life in general there. Erika has classmates who grew up in Indonesia, Japan, and the US.

Their fondness for Japanese anime and Korean pop music has inspired them to study those languages. Now they speak and read a little in both, as well as being aware of the various differences in societal mindsets stemming from the country’s particular culture.

The kids cosplay (costume + roleplay) their favorite characters from “Hetalia”, a Japanese anime.

With the overseas foreign worker phenomenon growing even more as Filipinos seek economic opportunities unavailable at home, there is an expanded awareness of foreign cultures that did not exist 15 years ago to the current extent.

Now Aileen, having spent the past two decades in Dubai, can tell the difference between nationals of different Western, Asian, and Arabic-speaking countries from their accents and dress. She can easily switch between British and American speech codes, saying, “Has the lorry delivered the telly to your flat yet? No? Bloody hell! ” and in the next breath “Yeah, the old TV in your apartment sucks like a Hoover. I know, right?”

Yet the norms and values that guide her behavior are Filipino. She works beyond office hours to finish a task. Before she makes a decision, she assesses its possible effects on her family, which is her priority. She keeps snacks in her desk because God forbid that she or anyone else in her sphere go hungry.

My sister at Versailles – “a transformative experience,” she says.

When Aileen and I were growing up, we received knowledge about other cultures primarily from mass media. The younger generations have the added advantages of advances in communication technology, the shared narratives of the experiences of family and friends who work and live abroad, and friendships with people from other countries in the flesh and online to create the “mental model”, as theorist Peter Senge calls it, that is the lens through which they look at the world – a multicultural lens.

Here in Baguio City, the weather is cooler than in Manila and Tiffany is grateful for the respite from the lowlands’ humidity. Aileen says it must be much like that in San Francisco, and wouldn’t she like to live here instead? Tiffany smiles, because it’s not just the climate that will induce her to stay. Would she be able to adjust? How long will it take her to learn the language and norms so that she can fit into this society better?

My daughters shrug and say, “What’s the problem?” For them, there is none. Their knowledge of different cultures and ability to compare and analyze them gives them a broader picture of the world, making them global citizens while remaining Filipino at the core.

I dig my spoon into a jar of sweet sticky Good Shepherd ube jam and marvel how the confluence of cultures resulted in these four women, my family. I wonder where the coming years will take us.

One thing I am sure of – we are Filipino, and we carry that identity embedded in our heart and soul. ***

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hotdog: manila

by JennyO on June 24, 2010

[youtube JEJjaHeSsB4&feature=related]

In celebration of the 439th anniversary of my hometown, 24 June 2010. Maligayang Araw ng Maynila!

Hotdog – “Manila”

Maraming beses na kitang nilayasan / Iniwanan at iba’ang pinuntahan / Parang bababeng ang hirap talagang malimutan / Ikaw lamang ang aking laging binabalikan

(Quiapo Quiapo Quiapo, isa na lang ah, aalis na. Para!) Manila…

I keep coming back to Manila / Simply no place like Manila / Manila, I’m coming home

I walked the streets of San Francisco / I’ve tried the rides in Disneyland / Dated a million girls in Sydney / Somehow I feel like I don’t belong

Hinahanap hanap kita Manila / Ang ingay mong kay sarap sa tenga / Mga jeepney mong nagliliparan / Mga babae mong naggagandahan / Take me back in your arms Manila / And promise me you’ll never let go / Promise me you’ll never let go

Manila, Manila / Miss you like hell, Manila / No place in the world like Manila / I’m coming home to stay…

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the pelikan demon

by JennyO on June 20, 2010

Pelikan is a German brand of fine writing instruments established in 1838 by chemist Carl Hornemann, who initially concocted and sold inks and pigments in 1832. Another chemist, Gunther Wagner, took over the company in 1871 and adopted his family’s emblem, the pelican, as the company symbol in 1878.

In 1996, most of the company shares were acquired by a Malaysian holding firm. However, Pelikan pens are still made at the company plant 30 miles east of Hanover, Germany.

Pelikan continues its centuries-long tradition of quality and craftsmanship with the creation of limited edition pieces such as the 205 Traditional series Blue Demonstrator.

The Pelikan 205 Traditional series Blue Demonstrator (center) with a Sailor Pro-Colors Violet (top) and a Pilot Custom 74 Demonstrator (below).

Demonstrators, as their name suggests, allow you to see the mechanisms of the pens, as well as how much ink you have left, ensuring that you won’t run out in the middle of a sentence or a particularly effusive flourish.

Peli 205 blue demon writing sample in a Yeah! notebook with Diamine Cerise ink.

The pelican-beak-shaped clip, fittings, and ornamental rings are chromium-plated, with a built-in converter-style fill system, also called a plunger mechanism. It’s comfortably sized at 4.14 inches long capped, 5.13 inches long posted.

Available nib sizes are EF, F, M, and B. This one’s an F. The nib is hand-crafted and hand-polished stainless steel, strong and robust, yet with a hint of spring that allows a bit of play in line variation.

Pelikan pens are not distributed in Manila. Try buying online.

The pen is filled by dipping in an ink bottle and twisting the plunger mechanism from the bottom. This makes ink stain the section (the area just after the nib), which is why many collectors, such as myself, dislike inking demonstrators. But it looks pretty when filled.

The blue Peli demon rests on a Yeah! notebook, purchased at National Bookstore in Rockwell. A Moleskine knock-off – see elastic along the side – it is inexpensive and well-made, the paper creamy with no feathering and minimal show-through. Yeah!

The blue Peli demon and a Parker Jade Duofold rest on a Green Apple notebook (review to come in a future post) as they survey the shelves at the Boni High Street Fully Booked store.

The Peli’s clip is beak-shaped and has eyes (left). The Parker Duofold’s nib is gold and flexy. More on that next time.

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