Saturday, 30 May 2009

Entry via Lexan

I found today's blog post by reading the post of another blogger who had read this and posted it to his blog in his Multiply site.

If you weren't able to follow that, never mind, just keep reading.

The blogger who posted it is named Lexan. I didn't know a polycarbonate resin could blog either, but that will all make sense to you once you've read this to the end. The initial writer has a style I'm sure many of you who appreciate my posts will enjoy.

So without further interference from me:

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 - UK

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 assimilation, 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 ignorant 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 the 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 are 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 wanton, 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 trying 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, Iam 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 think 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.

And that's from Lexan's blog.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Being a Filipino Celebrity

All seven thousand-plus islands of the Philippines are abuzz with the scandal of one doctor who videotaped his sexual trysts. Due to undue meddling by the church in public affairs here, the national senate is now "investigating" these leaked videos, all persons participating (knowingly or not) in them, and who leaked the videos over the internet, causing YouTube sensation Susan Boyle to become Susan-who? in less than a day.

Dr. Hayden Kho is a 6'2" celebrity doctor and fashion model who bedded many famous women, including actress Katrina Halili (seen here dancing with the good doctor)and his mentor, celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Vicky Belo.

The term hidden camera has been revamped, and is already hayden camera in the popular jargon.

Although it seems a friend of Kho's stole the videos from Kho's laptop and is spreading them online, the senate is not concerned with that. They want Kho's medical license stripped, and several provinces of the country are now forbidding him to enter. Despite the fact in a sense he is as much a victim as some of the women involved, he seems to be the one who will be left completely to blame, not the person (whoever it may be) who is posting these videos online.

This is hardly anything the national senate should be spending day after day investigating. After all, this is a group of people who busy themselves most days taking bribes, skimming profits for themselves off public works projects, getting kickbacks from businessmen they aid...and they're supposed to be investigating the morals of a guy who enjoys videotaping himself having sex? Really, all they are doing is watching one amateur porn flick after another every day and then bringing the man and women featured in each in for a Q&A session!

The videos have been viewed online many hundreds of thousands of times each.

The person posting them claims there's around forty videos in all and releases new ones every few days.

Let's see: A nation that proudly proclaims its Christianity is fixated on viewing the private sex acts of others and the senate is a very active participant in this. As much as I don't want to think it, I am quite certain the senate members are extremely envious of Dr. Kho, despite their calls to strip him of his license to practice and humiliate him further in public. They all want to be him. They all rush to the men's room with extra tissue in hand after each investigative session I'm sure.

But today attention was distracted from Dr. Kho.

No, Susan Boyle isn't here to sing. Although Davy Jones is going to have a concert here shortly.No! Not that Davy Jones!Yes, that Davy Jones. Although he looks more like this (add in some gray) now:He's no Susan Boyle, but I'm sure he'll pack 'em in at Araneta Center.

So what could distract all those Christians from their porn?

News of yet another celebrity sex scandal! And this one involves produce abuse!

Of course, this is completely a work of fiction in the same manner National Lampoon has been doing for decades and a number of websites have been for several years now. But it is diverting attention from Dr. Kho's problems today.

I'll warn you, this is quite a bit on the adult side:

Showbiz talk show host Jobert Sucaldito is recovering at the Capitol Medical Center in Quezon City after a successful emergency surgery to remove a large piece of cucumber that got stuck in his rectum, according to reports.

Sucaldito, one of the hosts of ABS-CBN’s “The Buzz,” reportedly met with the accident Sunday night and was rushed to the hospital after complaining of “extreme pain” in his bottom.

X-rays subsequently revealed that a broken piece of cucumber, about five inches in length, had gotten lodged into the lower end of his large intestine.

It was not immediately clear how the cucumber got there.

The surgeons who operated on Sucaldito were tight-lipped and refused to discuss his case with media, citing doctor-patient confidentiality. Oddly enough, they all looked like they were trying vainly to keep from laughing and refused to look reporters in the eye.

Members of Sucaldito’s household who declined to be named said they recovered the other half of the cucumber, also five inches in length, in Sucaldito’s bedroom.

They said it had “bite marks” and was in a “soggy” state.

Besides the cucumber, they said they also found “a bottle of Johnson’s baby oil, pictures of scantily clad men, and lots of tissue paper.”

Reached by phone, Sucaldito said he is fine and will be discharged from hospital soon. He explained that it was all an accident.

“Gumagawa kasi ako ng salad. Napaupo ako dun sa chair e meron palang pipino dun na patayo ang pusisyon. Basta, mabilis kasi ang mga pangyayari (I was making a salad. I sat on a chair but there was a cucumber there in an upright position. Everything just happened so fast)” he said.

In a related development, a group of vegan Filipinos is reportedly thinking of filing an abuse complaint against Sucaldito for allegedly molesting a harmless and defenseless vegetable.

OK. OK. Yeah, that was pretty tasteless.

But it did make you laugh.

And that's the news of Filipino celebrities for today. Now if they could only get the archbishop and the senators to stop hitting rewind on the Kho porn all day...

Friday, 22 May 2009

Incident on the MRT

Thursday Edson had an incident on the MRT very similar to one a friend, model, and fellow blogger, Wayne had several years ago. (Check out the link to read So She Screamed for a lively account of his incident. It's well worth the read!)

Edson was stepping out of the train when people pushing and shoving pushed him and his foot fell between the car and the platform. He fell with his leg hanging down in the space above the rails.

Wayne had his ankle twisted badly when his leg also fell between the car and platform of a NY subway train.

That's pretty much where the similarities end.

The difference is in who helped out when the incidents occurred.

Fortunately for Wayne, two people came to his aid; one to ensure the train did not begin to move, and one to see if he was OK.

An excerpt from his account:

I looked up, and saw a woman in her early 40's, came running toward me. Behind her, a man was following her.

Then I felt a sharp pain on my left knee... I looked down, just to find that my entire left leg in the gap between the train and the platform. Upon instinct, I used both of my arms to pull my body back... Pulling my leg out of the gap...

"STOP STOP! STOP!!!" The man behind the woman yelled, as he banged his fist on the windows of the train.

Just as I got my left leg out of the gap, I felt the grip of the woman on my right shoulder.

She too, was pulling me.

I turned to her...."Thank you... Thank you very much..."

The Lady: "Are you okay?"

"I... I think so...."

Unfortunately for Edson, the citizens of Manila do not seem to care that he could have lost his leg (or worse) if the train moved on.

The stereotypical simple, friendly, smiling Filipinos the tourism industry tries to exploit were nowhere to be found.

Friends here who heard the story replied:

Oh my...I may be Filipino, but mostly Pinoys are assholes that don't give a f**k. Yeah, times have changed---for the worst I'm afraid. Just being frank about my race. :( As a matter of fact, almost every time I'd assist a woman to go down from either a jeep or FX, she'd sneer at me and say "hmp!" Geeze!!! Ungrateful BITCHES! Filipina women do NOT know, much less appreciate, chivalry. Just goes to show how much the latter generation (and some oldies) of Filipinos have sunk as regards breeding, ethics, and manners.

That is the very bad part of the Filipinos. They are stupid when it comes to sharing their help. If they do not know the person, they will not make a move to help.

Oh no! I know the feeling. I once got dragged by the train a few years ago and nobody cared. It sucks...

I'd like to think that is not so true. Most of the people I know would extend a hand to help someone up off the ground if they'd fallen in a situation like that. A few friends who are doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, have all volunteered their services and/or advice; something that touches us deeply after how such an incident transpired.

Could the citizenry of metro Manila be so desensitized to seeing maimed, crippled, amputated, and deformed beggars sitting and limping about that to see another about to be created while they get to watch is as if it's a video game, where one can maim and kill (virtual) hundreds in a quest to earn points? Or is this a greater problem, reaching outside the metro area? Outside the Philippines to the rest of the world?

When I lived in Japan, I would see television shows that often staged scenarios to see how Japanese people would react to someone in trouble and stage like scenarios in other parts of the world in an effort to study how different cultures react to the same situations. One I remember had a woman sobbing uncontrollably in a public space; one a foreigner in Tokyo, a Japanese woman in Moscow, and a Japanese woman in San Francisco. Muscovites allowed her to weep for just a few minutes before coming to her aid. In San Francisco, she waited around ten minutes before someone came to help. In Tokyo, the foreign woman wept and sobbed until she couldn't act it out any longer. Of course, in Japan, to be viewed publicly in a position of weakness is to lose face. The Japanese idea is to ignore the troubled person so that person will not feel as if they have lost face. The basic concept is that ignorance of another's weakness or trouble is politeness in the Japanese culture. As much as that may be the case, even then I doubt the Japanese would prefer to see someone lose a leg or life over them losing face.

In the end Edson sustained less physical injury than Wayne. Just a bruise on his left leg is all the damage done. Wayne had a big blue cast on his ankle for long afterwards which provided great fodder for his blogging...and his whimsical illustration skills. Here is one in his series of what he had to go through in taking a bath:
Um, no...there will be blog posts with like illustrations from Edson. A simple bruise doesn't lend itself as well to such entertaining Lucy-like situations!


Some of you may have seen my business card or seen the picture on it in my website,

Whether you did or not, here is what it looks like:

Many, many, many people thought that was me and that I am Filipino. (Nothing could be further off than that...I have 3/4 Irish and 1/4 German ancestry, and they all migrated to America in the nineteenth century.)

The very handsome face you see in the image above belongs to John San Juan, a wonderful guy from NYC, and he came to visit the Philippines last week, giving us the chance to see each other for the first time since our shoot back in October of 2006. (This should end the confusion and quash any delusions I may have had that I could say we are twins!) We only had a few precious hours in Greenbelt to spend together, but it was time very well spent. Reunions from such great distances don't happen very often, and it is important to make the most of them.

Were it not for my hectic shoot schedule, I would have found time for another session with John, as he's even better built now than he was three years ago. (Well, so am I, not that it shows....hahaha!)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Extra Gravy?

Filipinos love their brown gravy.

If they're eating fried chicken, it is always with rice and brown gravy. Lots of it.

Wednesday night Edson had a chicken roll at Tsoko Nut. It is served with rice and a small cup which contains, at most, about two to three tablespoons of gravy. That's hardly enough to get through half your meal, even if you don't slather gravy all over it!

Anyway, that night the gravy had the consistency of a thick paste. Gravy should be more saucy and actually have a pourable quality; hence the existence of gravy pourers. One shouldn't be required to eat it with a fork, as one might choose to eat applesauce. A spoon was wholly unnecessary for this gravy as none of it could run through the prongs of a fork.

Well, Edson ran out of gravy halfway through his meal and called to one of the servers for more.

Ten pesos, sir, was the reply.

Ten pesos for another few teaspoons of gravy?

Jollibee, McDonalds, and KFC all have free gravy refills for their diners.

Here, the server immediately apologized, it was ten pesos.

Here's the receipt to prove it:
Now Tsoko Nut's food is very good, and we will come back. But tacky charges such as this do blemish an otherwise great place to eat.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


The headline of Friday's Philippine Daily Inquirer read: Pacquiao Defies WHO - Ring legend due Friday amid A(H1N1) alert

OK, the guy is a great boxer. And he's had to defy incredible odds just growing up here in the Philippines to get where he is today. But the headline is rather ridiculous. There were, after all, several hundred other passengers aboard the plane he boarded to return to the Philippines. Weren't they defying the WHO as well?

Tens of thousands of people arrive in the Philippines every day, but from the headline you'd think he was the only one. Why don't they just announce his return free of contrived drama?