Pagpamalandong Matod sa Pinulongan


Omg. I am embarassed by my poor grasp of my very own language. I can explain. I picked-up and used Bisaya growing up. I use it to communicate with my family, friends and people in general. I did not learn it formally in school nor did I read Bisaya literature so my fluency is practical and conversational. English was what I learned in school. Like most Filipino students, I was exposed to English grammar and literature lessons. If I want to express emotion, I speak in Bisaya. With letters and formalities, English is the language of choice.

Last year, my mom brought a copy of a Bisaya magazine and I could not “read” it. There were too many words that were “deep” or seemed “antiquated” (but they’re not!). I realized that my vocabulary was SUPER limited. I could not believe that I spoke and grew up with a language but could not even appreciate an article or literary piece. Even this blog entry is in English. So I have taken up the challenge of expanding my Bisaya vocabulary with the help of Bisaya magazine and blogs that publish Visayan poems.


Philippine Languages

I once had a bet with my unknowing boss who said Tagalog was our language and the rest are dialects. I insisted we had 8 major languages and he vehemently disagreed. Of course I only bet when I’m sure. His was a common mistake.

Most people think of Philippine languages, that are not Tagalog, as dialects. Dialect is a variation of a language. Bisaya, Bikol, Waray, Hiligaynon, Pangasinense, Kampampangan, Ilocano are not variations of Tagalog. Always, I want to correct that mistake but don’t bother. Let me satisfy that itch:

The Philippines is an archipelagic country with diverse languages. We have 8 major languages: Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Pangasinense, Ilocano, Bikol and Kapampangan. Major only because these are spoken by huge chunks of the population. We actually have more than eight languages.

Those 8 languages are not mutually intelligible. I will not understand my grandfather if he speaks to me in Pangasinense. He will not understand my Bisaya either. Those are two different languages.

If I speak in Kagay-anon with someone who is from Bohol, we will be able to understand and have a conversation despite differences in pronunciation or a few terms because these are dialects of Bisaya. Just like a Batangueno will understand a Caviteno if they converse in their own dialect of the Tagalog language.

In the end, I won the bet and got myself a free bottle of wine.

Book Love: Memories of Philippine Kitchens

Philippine Kitchens Cover

I love a good coffee table book. I savor the feeling of the glossy pages and the heaviness of  the hardbound book in my hands. It’s a visual and tactile feast! They give me joy.


The first time I leafed through the pages of Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa-Dorotan and Remy Dorotan was three years ago. I was perusing the shelves of our city library for just the type of food book. There were many featuring cuisines from France, Spain, Japan but barely anything about the Philippines. So I got very excited when I found this one book that told our culinary stories! Last Christmas, my aunt gave the exact same to our family. Maybe aunts have some sort of ESP.


What I love most about it is the different family recipes the authors gathered from Luzon and Visayas. Being from Mindanao, I was only able to appreciate the diversity of Philippine cuisine when I studied in Quezon City. School trips brought me to different places in the North such as Lucban, Baguio, Pampanga.

Informative and personal, memories of taste are recounted. Native ingredients are reintroduced.


What keeps this book from being truly comprehensive about Philippine Kitchens is the lack of information on Mindanao food. The main focus was Luzon (Ilocos, Zambales, Bicol, Pampanga) and Visayas (Cebu and Bacolod).

Still it is very inspirational. They pose a simple question that garners a multitude of answers worth exploring: What are your food memories?

It is my dream to explore such memories of taste in Mindanao! There will be plenty to unearth and rediscover.

Book Love: Sky Blue After The Rain

Sky Blue After The Rain

I have little patience in so many things even in one I usually love to do: reading.

However, with some books, you are immediately grabbed by the story. I find myself having fun or feeling sad depending on how they go. I enjoy Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo’s writing. I love reading stories set in different places but there’s nothing like reading Philippine literature.

It could be set in the past or the present. The emotions and thoughts are much closer to home. I feel like I know what the authors are talking about. It adds a different dimension to my reading experience. That or vice versa where having read the book changes how I experience a place or a situation. Sky Blue After The Rain is a collection of such type of short stories.

I particularly liked Patriciang Payatot, The Pink Parasol and The Tree  of the Perfect Plum.  Some stories are relate-able, some just enjoyable to read but all of them encourage introspection. It makes me want to go back to religiously write on my journal again. Props to my sister who bought it! For a non-Filipino reader, it gives you insight on our culture, our every day thoughts and feelings and how we view things without giving you a Social Studies lesson.

It is published by the University of the Philippines Press so it may still be available there, otherwise there’s always Amazon.


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I wrote this with the intention of submitting it to the Doreen Fernandez Food Writing Contest. However, I was unable to finish and ended up editing and submitting it to World Nomad’s Passport and Plate Contest instead. It’s still up on their website along with other entries from all kinds of food lovers around the world. I am re-posting it here:

The magic of midday in a tropical country lies in the raucous rhythm of lunchtime. This recipe brings me back to my university days when people leave the classrooms and rush to hole-in-the-wall eateries to hide from the burning 38C heat. Voices and the clattering of utensils seem louder in the sweltering noon air. For a while, it’s as though students are always coming, and there wouldn’t be enough seats. After the heavy, greasy and meaty lunch, we unconsciously rub our tummies in satisfaction. For me, the last hurrah of this cheap yet enjoyable budget meal would be the saba con yielo. Though irreverently contained in a flimsy plastic cup and scooped with an equally flimsy plastic spoon, this chilled dessert is the perfect noontime refreshment. The boiled banana and tapioca soak in the sweetness of the syrup. Once cooled, the chilled milk is poured and crushed ice unceremoniously plunked in.
At some point, food has been taken to a level where it’s cooked for the emperor with a jaded palate. Yet recipes like this one takes me back to celebrating food’s simplicity. Sweetened saba is ordinary dessert fare in the Philippines. It is local, accessible and affordable. Its simplest version, without the tapioca, ice and milk, is enjoyed by Filipinos both on ordinary days and special occasions. I remember having it in one of my Anthropology field trips to Talim Island, Rizal (a town a few hours away from the country’s’ capital city, Manila). My classmates and I had lunch on one of the bamboo houses on stilts after swimming. Lunch was a feast of steamed rice on banana leaves, fried tilapia piled on a plate, crisp spring rolls, sinigang (sour soup), fresh deep red tomatoes and a bowl of calamansi (our local lemon). I ate to my heart’s content until I was full but not full enough to refuse the dessert: minatamis na saba. I ate it with delight as though it’s through this dessert that one ends a satisfying meal with gratefulness for a truly sweet life.

November Challenge: Choosing Not To Rush


lotus at Muzium di Sabah

Ever since I was little, Mama and Papa would ask me to sit beside them. I would be propped, cross-legged on a pillow to try to be still for a few minutes. It was always hard for me to stare slightly forward and do nothing except silently count 1 to 10 over and over again. I would get impatient. Little did I know that they were trying to instill in me the value of silence and settling my thoughts.
Even until now, I haven’t developed the practice where I do it every day. What I find though, especially this month, is that there are moments during the day when I pause and breathe deeply. I don’t necessarily stop crossing the street or whatever it is that I am doing. It’s an internal pause. I breathe slower and more deliberately. I would become aware of my scrunched brows and hunched shoulders. I don’t feel ecstatic or cheery. It’s a calm feeling as I “un-scrunch” and “un-hunch”. My personality is prone to obsessing and worrying and I feel that it has slowed some success from entering my life. Having these quiet moments remind me that obsessing won’t do me good and that there are more productive things to do while waiting.
Meditation is helpful and should be a part of life, like prayer. No one has to do it sitting down, cross legged all the time. It’s simply giving oneself space to relax, to let thoughts go by, to be still in this fast paced anxiety ridden world and to feel grateful that we can choose not to rush.

October Challenge: Declutter Desk, Declutter Life

my desk on better days

The 15-minute decluttering routine is some kind of a genius tool.

Sometimes it doesn’t work: You clear up the dining table. And ta-da, decluttering is done! That is it, check it off your list and you don’t feel the need to do anything afterwards.

Sometimes it really works: You start clearing your desk and it looks pristine but you check your watch and there’s still 10 minutes left. Taking the challenge seriously, you go to the washroom and see if you can clean up your counter too. The hairdryer, products are now neatly tucked in the right baskets, the clutter of lipstick containers and make up brushes is gone as they are now neatly arranged like pens in their dispensers. There’s still 5 minutes and you’re on a roll. You vacuum and before you know it, 15 minutes is up but the house looks nicer. You feel happy seeing your clear desk and realize Oh how lovely to sit down and finish that draft I was writing. And you do that. Then you feel like you’ve been sitting for a while and need to stretch. You see your clean vacuumed floor and think Oh I should stretch for a few minutes. So you search yoga on YouTube. You end up doing yoga for 30 minutes and another 30 minutes figuring out that Kpop dance you discovered. Voila. For less than half a day, you have cleaned your home, written something and exercised. It may not be the best day but it’s better than nothing and you’ve accomplished more than what you would normally have. Better than feeling down and unproductive, that’s for sure.

This, my friends, is how the 15-Minute Decluttering challenge was for me. It’s a tool and results depend on the person using it. Some days are better than others. I hope I discipline myself more to make it work. Life is still good.

Why A Strawberry Daiquiri is Like A Murder Mystery

My favorite TV shows aren’t so popular. At least not among my friends. It’s a good thing because I don’t have to care about them posting spoilers and complaints re: HIMYM, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black and GOT on my social media feed.

My kind of shows are murder mysteries especially period ones. I love Bones, Sherlock, Murdoch Mysteries and Hercule Poirot series. There’s just something about the protagonists in these stories: their intelligence, their powers of observation and their quirky personalities. Perhaps the quirkiest is Mr. Hercule Poirot. He is described as a short Frenchman Belgian with a distinct mustache and an egg shaped face. Watching the episodes is fun but reading the books prove to be even better. My mom bought a wack of them at a thrift store. A steal at 25 cents each! A wonderful steal! Can you tell I am as giddy as a child with candy?

image from

I’ve said before that short stories are a good introduction to an author if reading novels feel too cumbersome. In my opinion, mystery novels are amazing solutions to boredom and the need to finish a book. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries aren’t so long, less than 300 pages of a standard sized paperbound. I’d flip page after page excited to find out who the culprit was. Reading should be fun. We’ll occasionally pick up Dante’s Inferno, Marquez’s Memories of a Melancholy Whore or what have you. But really, I’d much rather read these mysteries. I mean if we weren’t trying to impress anyone, wouldn’t we order strawberry daiquiris all the time?*

*a guy from a daiquiri tutorial video said this and i can’t find his video anymore!