Category Archives: Philippines

On Philippine National Independence Day.


I was not able to celebrate our Independence Day together with other Filipinos last Sunday. Not that I do not want or not because I did not believe in it but there were some responsibilities that I needed to attend to.

Here is a brief history of the Philippines as I understood it.

The oldest fossil found in the Philippines is 22000 years old but it is believed that the islands has been inhabited 30000 years ago. The first settlers were the Negritos, Malayans and later Indos. Even before the first century, there was social and political structure in the islands. There was a group of people in the same area called Barangay and they have a chieftain called Datu.

10th Century. Regular trade with the Chinese and welcomed Chinese settlers
14th Century. Arabs introduced Islam to the South.
1521. First western visitor came, Ferdinand Magellan, who by the way fought with a Datu called Lapu-Lapu.
1543. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, a Spanish navigator named the islands “Las Islas Felipinas” in honor of Philip II of Spain.
1569. More agressive attacks by the Spaniards.
The Spanish ruled the islands until 1898. There was a brief interruption of the rule from 1762-1764. The Philippines was under the British for 2 years. There were small revolution going around for a long time. It was in the late 19th century when the filipino rebels became more organized.
12 June 1898. The flag of the Philippines was unveiled. Under the leadership of an american appointed president, Emilio Aguinaldo, declared the Philippine independence from Spain. Spain turned over the Philippines to America for 20 million dollars.
1899. Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolt against American Occupation. (And we thought they were helping!) The Filipino-American war lasted for more than 10 years. More than 600,000 filipinos died.
1942. The Japanese occuppied the Philippines until 1945.
04 June 1946. The United States granted our independence WITH STRINGS ATTACHED. They never really left.
1946-1961. The filipinos were celebrating independence day on 4th of July.
1962. President Diosdado Macapagal moved the Philippine Independence day to 12th of June.
4th of July was re-named Philippine-American friendship day.
1965. Ferdinand Marcos became president.
1986. Marcos was impeached and fled to the US. He stayed in Hawaii until he died. (please get the hint – Marcos has always been an american ally)
16 September 1991. Philippine Senate refused extension of lease to US Military & naval bases.

Honestly, I have never celebrated June 12 the way that I should as a filipino. During my younger days, you would see me on the streets with a group of people demonstrating on the 12th of June.

I am not anti-spanish, anti-japanese or anti-american. History is the way it is. But if you ask me, the philippines was independent on the 16th of September 1991, UNFORTUNATELY, not free from corrupt politicians.

Update: This is the comment of my friend, Gigi Samson on my post :

i think i have my own interpretation of philippine history, as any filipino would. some data would actually not concur with yours (case in point: every president who stepped in power has the backing of the white house, and ferdinand was just unfortunate to have been deserted by the latter in favor of cory when he was getting unpopular. )
some would even contest that philippine independence should be celebrated on july 4 instead of june 12. and yes, is the philippines ever free? a lot of questions. 🙂

of course, when i say “own interpretation,” what i meant was we tend to highlight parts of our history that we feel are relevant. i guess our ultimate responsibility as citizens is to update ourselves — history is evolving — and go back to it from time to time. our nation’s mistakes stem from the fact that most of us forget our history.

I agree with her completely when she said that every president who stepped in power has the backing of the white house and it is not only Marcos who was. I made Marcos as an example because he is the most popular of all our presidents, I assume, and also was under US protection when he fled from the Philippines. Thus, a very good example to show that we were never really free from US.

Filipino Talents

I have been living in Norway for 7 years now and I have not attended a single Filipino gathering until last weekend. I hope you do not take this in a negative way. Not that I do not like socializing with Filipinos in Norway, I just did not have the time and energy (getting old. Haha!). Here are some photos of the display of talents during the gathering.

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Filipinos in general love music. There was singing and dancing in the party. The program was entertaining especially for the Norwegian guests. I almost forgot, the food was SUPERB!!!!

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Filipinana & Barong Tagalog. These are 2 of our traditional clothes. Traditionally, these clothings are made of pineapple leaves or abaca silk. They are used in formal occassions.

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Me and friends (Dulce and Shiela)

By the way, there was an announcement at the party that a Filipino-Norwegian joined the Miss Norway this year. Her name is Kirby Ann Basken. She joined Miss Norway last year and landed second place. She also joined the Mutya ng Pilipinas 2006 and became Miss Asia Pacific International. and You might want to give your support by voting for her. Click here to vote.

Matter of Taste by Matthew Sutherland

I got this e-mail twice, from a friend and an aunt. Some of you may have even read this. It has probably been published on the web before and I told myself that I would not be posting too much words (let the people who can write do it) but I cannot help but post this.

The following is from a British journalist stationed in the Philippines. His observations are so hilarious!!!! This was written in 1999.

Matter of Taste
by Matthew Sutherland

I have now been in this country for over six years, and consider myself in most respects well assimilated. However, there is one key step on the road to full asimilation, which I have yet to take, and that’s to eat BALUT.

The day any of you sees me eating balut, please call immigration and ask them to issue me a Filipino passport. Because at that point there will be no turning back. BALUT, for those still blissfully gnorant non-Pinoys out there, is a fertilized duck egg. It is commonly sold with salt in a piece of newspaper, much like English fish and chips, by street vendors usually after dark, presumably so you can’t see how gross it is. It’s meant to be an aphrodisiac, although I can’t imagine anything more likely to dispel sexual desire than crunching on a partially formed baby duck swimming in noxious fluid. The embryo in the egg comes in varying stages of development, but basically it is not considered macho to eat one without fully discernable feathers, beak, and claws. Some say these crunchy bits are the best. Others prefer just to drink th e so-called ‘soup’, the vile, pungent liquid that surrounds the aforementioned feathery fetus…excuse me; I have to go and throw up now. I’ll be back in a minute.

Food dominates the life of the Filipino. People here just love to eat. They eat at least eight times a day. These eight official meals are called, in order: breakfast, snacks, lunch, merienda, merienda ceyna, dinner, bedtime snacks and no-one-saw-me-take-that-cookie-from-the-fridge-so-it-doesn’t-count.

The short gaps in between these mealtimes are spent eating Sky Flakes from the open packet that sits on every desktop. You’re never far from food in the Philippines. If you doubt this, next time you’re driving home from work, try this game. See how long you can drive without seeing food and I don’t mean a distant restaurant, or a picture of food. I mean a man on the sidewalk frying fish balls, or a man walking through the traffic selling nuts or candy. I bet it’s less than one minute. Here ar e some other things I’ve noticed about food in the Philippines.

Firstly, a meal is not a meal without rice – even breakfast. In the UK, I could go a whole year without eating rice. Second, it’s impossible to drink without eating. A bottle of San Miguel just isn’t the same without gambas or beef tapa. Third, no one ventures more than two paces from their house without baon (food in small container) and a container of something cold to drink. You might as well ask a Filipino to leave home without his pants on. And lastly, where I come from, you eat with a knife and fork. Here, you eat with a spoon and fork. You try eating rice swimming in fish sauce with a knife. One really nice thing about Filipino food culture is that people always ask you to SHARE their food. In my office, if you catch anyone attacking their baon, they will always go, “Sir! KAIN TAYO!” (“Let’s eat!”). This confused me, until I realized that they didn’t actually expect me to sit down and start munching on their boneless bangus. In fact, the polite response is something like, “No thanks, I just ate.” But the principle is sound – if you have food on your plate, you are expected to share it, however hungry you are, with those who may be even hungrier. I think that’s great. In fact, this is frequently even taken one step further. Many Filipinos use “Have you eaten yet?” (“KUMAIN KA NA?”) as a general greeting, irrespective of time of day or location.

Some foreigners think Filipino food is fairly dull compared to other Asian cuisines. Actually lots of it is very good: Spicy dishes like Bicol Express(strange, a dish named after a train); anything cooked with coconut milk; anything KINILAW; and anything ADOBO. And it’s hard to beat the sheer wanto n, cholesterolic frenzy of a good old-fashioned LECHON de leche (roast pig)feast. Dig a pit, light a fire, add 50 pounds of animal fat on a stick, and cook until crisp. Mmm, mmm… you can actually feel your arteries constricting with each successive mouthful. I also share one key Pinoy trait —a sweet tooth. I am thus the only foreigner I know who does not complain about sweet bread, sweet burgers, sweet spaghetti, sweet banana ketchup, and so on. I am a man who likes to put jam on his pizza. Try it! It’s the weird food you want to avoid. In addition to duck fetus in the half-shell, items to avoid in the Philippines include pig’s blood soup (DINUGUAN); bull’s testicle soup, the strangely-named “SOUP NUMBER FIVE” (I dread to think what numbers one through four are); and the ubiquitous, stinky shrimp paste,BAGOONG, and it’s equally stinky sister, PATIS. Filipinos are so addicted to these latter items that they will even risk arrest or deportation tryin g to smuggle them into countries like Australia and the USA, which wisely ban the importation of items you can smell from more than 100 paces. Then there’s the small matter of the purple ice cream. I have never been able to get my brain around eating purple food; the ubiquitous UBE leaves me cold.

And lastly on the subject of weird food, beware: that KALDERETANG KAMBING (goat) could well be KALDERETANG ASO (dog)… The Filipino, of course, has a well-developed sense of food. Here’s a typical Pinoy food joke: “I’m on a seafood diet. “What’s a seafood diet?” “When I see food, I eat it!” Filipinos also eat strange bits of animals — the feet, the head, the guts, etc., usually barbecued on a stick. These have been given witty names, like “ADIDAS” (chicken’s feet); KURBATA” (either just chicken’s neck, or “neck and thigh” as in “neck-tie”); “WALKMAN” (pigs ears); “PAL” (chicken wings); “HELMET” (chicken head); “IUD” (chicken intestines), and BETAMAX” (video-cassette-like blocks of animal blood). Yum, yum. Bon appetit.”

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” — (Proverbs 22:1)

WHEN I arrived in the Philippines from the UK six years ago, one of the first cultural differences to strike me was names. The subject has provided a continuing source of amazement and amusement ever since. The first unusual thing, from an English perspective, is that everyone here has a nickname. In the staid and boring United Kingdom, we have nicknames in kindergarten, but when we move into adulthood we tend, I am glad to say, to lose them.

The second thing that struck me is that Philippine names for both girls and boys tend to be what we in the UK would regard as overbearingly cutesy for anyone over about five. Fifty-five-year-olds colleague put it. Where I come from, a boy with a nickname like Boy Blue or Honey Boy would be beaten to death at school by pre-adolescent bullies, and never make it to adulthood. So, probably, would girls with names like Babes, Lovely, Precious, Peachy or Apples. Yuk, ech ech. Here, however, no one bats an eyelid. Then I noticed how many people have what I have come to call “door-bell names”. These are nicknames that sound like -well, doorbells. There are millions of them. Bing, Bong, Ding, and Dong are some of the more common. They can be, and frequently are, used in even more door-bell-like combinations such as Bing-Bong, Ding-Dong, Ting-Ting, and so on. Even our newly appointed chief of police has a doorbell name Ping.

None of these doorbell names exist where I come from, and hence sound unusually amusing to my untutored foreign ear. Someone once told me that one of the Bings, when asked why he was called Bing , replied, “because my brother is called Bong”. Faultless logic. Dong, of course, is a particularly funny one for me, as where I come from “dong” is a slang word for well; perhaps “talong” is the best Tagalog equivalent.

Repeating names was another novelty to me, having never before encountered people with names like Len-Len, Let-Let, Mai-Mai, or Ning-Ning. The secretary I inherited on my arrival had an unusual one: Leck-Leck. Such names are then frequently further refined by using the “squared” symbol, as in Len2 or Mai2. This had me very confused for a while.

Then there is the trend for parents to stick to a theme when naming their children. This can be as simple as making them all begin with the same letter, as in Jun, Jimmy, Janice, and Joy. More imaginative parents shoot for more sophisticated forms of assonance or rhyme, as in Biboy, Boboy, Buboy, Baboy (notice the names get worse the more kids there are-best to be born early or you could end up being a Baboy). Even better, parents can create whole families of, say, desserts (Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Honey Pie) or flowers (Rose, Daffodil, Tulip). The main advantage of such combinations is that they look great painted across your trunk if you’re a cab driver. That’s another thing I’d never seen before coming to Manila — taxis with the driver’s kids’ names on the trunk.

Another whole eye-opening field for the foreign visitor is the phenomenon of the “composite” name. This includes names like Jejomar (for Jesus, Joseph and Mary), and the remarkable Luzviminda (for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, believe it or not). That’s a bit like me being called something like “Engscowani” (for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Between you and me, I’m glad I’m not. And how could I forget to mention the fabulous concept of the randomly inserted letter ‘h’. Quite what this device is supposed to achieve, I have not yet figured out, but I thin k it is designed to give a touch of class to an otherwise only averagely weird name. It results in creations like Jhun, Lhenn, Ghemma, and Jhimmy. Or how about Jhun-Jhun (Jhun2)?

How boring to come from a country like the UK full of people with names like John Smith. How wonderful to come from a country where imagination and exoticism rule the world of names. Even the towns here have weird names; my favorite is the unbelievably named town of Sexmoan (ironically close to Olongapo and Angeles). Where else in the world could that really be true? Where else in the world could the head of the Church really be called Cardinal Sin? Where else but the Philippines! Note: Philippines has a senator named Joker, and it is his legal name.