of forgotten ways and bygone days

 

Last February 25 was the 28th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, also known as People Power I, in Philippine history.  It happened from February 22 to 25, 1986. People gathered in the Epifanio De los Santos Avenue(EDSA) to topple the rule of then President, Ferdinand Marcos, dubbed a despot. The rest of the so-called civilized world hailed the event as a triumph of democracy, a glorious punch on totalitarianism. I was still in high school in the province, that time… Most Filipino bloggers have been born after that historic event, coincidentally. They have little or no idea what it was like to live under the Martial Law: an iron hand, so to speak…

 

image of EDSA I Revolution, in 1986

EDSA People Power Revolution unseated a dictator and enabled free press, once again… / filamfunk.blogspot.com

 

My first serious blog talks about life 30 plus years ago, life as it was lived in a barrio – far away and almost forgotten. My siblings, my contemporaries and I, walked a lot – kilometers and kilometers of fields and unpaved roads. There was no tap water then, no electricity and very little money. It was a tough life, to say the least.  It was a hunting and gathering kind of existence, just a little above. Well, our family had a concrete house – a proof, somehow, of a settled existence. We had clothes – hand-me-downs, ill-fitting ones, too worn out ones. Procuring rice was always a problem for us and eating fruits was a handy way to stave off hunger for the children, quite often. The stores in the area were few and literally, far between.

My siblings and I went to school, another difference, I suppose. We went to class, sometimes, with only avocados or ripe mangoes on our stomach; rice was costly. For lunch, rice and boiled native egg or rice and broiled dried herring. On certain days, it was rice and salt only. We made do… On weekends, we would cook bamboo shoots, banana shoots or banana heart in coconut milk, for our viands. These were staples, in our neck of the woods. We looked for mushrooms on the hills, on mornings of the rainy season. We gathered firewood, when freed from house chores and farm tasks. Ours was an agricultural community – rows and rows of rice and corn fields that saw peoples’ income flow in, only during harvest times.

 

It was a typical Third World scenario – of women balancing fruits and vegetables in woven bamboo containers over their heads (to catch the truck that would bring the produce to the towns and cities), of men on the way to or from the field (a machete or a cow in a leash, in hand) and, of children off to walk several kilometers (to run errands for their parents). It wasn’t Third World in my estimation then. Third World was a term I would only learn in college, at the state university in the metropolis. We knew there were things like Coca-Cola, Nescafe and Oreo biscuits, but we got to taste them rarely. When we did, it was at a rich relative’s house in the highway or at the town proper. We got to eat saltine crackers when sick – as a treat or a trick – to get well sooner, ahaha.

 

The Philippine strongman, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, was the Philippines' 10th president

The headline of the day on September 21, 1972/ newsinfo.inquirer.net

Martial Law was a term we heard from the adults. It meant people were expected to sleep earlier. Fathers and uncles who got drunk must sleep in the house of their drinking buddies and not be caught loitering in the streets. It meant a huge picture of the country’s president was hanging in every classroom. It meant, schoolchildren were to recite the Patriotic Oath (Pledge of Allegiance to the flag), after singing the country’s national anthem, during the flag ceremony. ML meant that we were to be fed Nutriban (a kind of unleavened bread) and Nutrinoodles during recess. Nutrifeeding was a project initiated by our famous First Lady, Imelda Marcos, to address malnutrition. Martial Law meant extension workers would be visiting the farms periodically – to give out seeds, piglets and advice to the farmers.

 

People were discouraged to talk about the government and the governance process during those years – 1972 to 1986 (Martial Law was officially lifted in 1981 but Pres. Marcos remained seated). Or, if necessary, conversations must be done in hush-hush tones. Government officials – from the provincial level down to the village level – were holding office permanently. As children, we did not know that things were so. We just knew that our town mayor was a man feared and deferred to and, he was in office since we were born and would be there indefinitely. To have him replaced was unthinkable. Government, for the people in my barrio, meant that every year, there would be vaccination at the village school. Also, the village chieftain must be informed of the birth of new children – so he could go to town and register their names at the municipal record office.

 

For most of the folks, life was simple, poor and almost unchanging. Dirt roads, bamboo bridges and improvised school houses were the norms, back then. At times, classes were held under the mango trees, true. Not having enough licensed teachers was also a constant problem in rural places, like ours. I also remember, there was a public artesian well – one for every 100 households – I think. Among the problems of our folks, water sourcing would stick to my mind, long after I have left the barrio. It loomed large, I guess, because agriculture was our folks’ livelihood. And, there was very little water. One could imagine, things were worse during the dry season. The queue in the artesian well was usually longer than the line of people buying breads, in the bakeries in town.

 

Verdand, rural countryside in the Philippines

Paving the roads in the barrios and connecting them to the towns and cities is an imperative in developing Philippines/ http://www.panoramio.com

 

In college, years later, most of the professors would use the term underdevelopment, to describe the rural situation I just outlined. They would say, it was due to the lack of technology and know-how plus, the problem of access to facilities and services. Likewise, there was the question of justice – how the folks are marginalized from the trading opportunities, how the bulk of commerce circulates only in the centers and how lack of infrastructures, in effect, isolates those communities. There was corruption – at the macro or national level of government – how the folks’ benefits and cash transfers are being spirited away from the coffers, to line the private pockets of those in office… I did not understand most of these, back then. The professors could as well be talking in Greek, I would hardly know the difference.

 

 

Cory Aquino, Senator Ninoy Aquino's widow was a symbol of protest, 28 years ago.

President Cory Aquino in her signature yellow dress, flashing the L (laban or fight!) sign in 1986.

Corazon Aquino would be ushered to the helm of power by the People Power event. She was the widow of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., the most vocal opposition leader during the Martial Law. Pres. Cory was the country’s first woman president and the first to address the U.S. Congress to report on how democracy has been restored, this side of the tropics. There, she pledged the restoration of the freedom of expression and assembly, as well as the freedom to trade, sans the cronyism that has been the practice, for almost two decades. President Aquino’s term of office would be plagued by instabilities and nine(9) coup d’etats. In an ironic twist of fate or, expectedly, she would be succeeded in office by a former general. Pres. Fidel Ramos was the country’s highest military officer, during the Martial Law. He was endorsed by Cory Aquino in the 1992 election.

 

 

Cory's only son, Noynoy

President NoyNoy Aquino, Phil. president elected in 2010. / http://www.allvoices.com

A well-known action star, Joseph Estrada, would be elected president in 1998, to be removed from office two and a half years later, in an event known as People Power II. The Vice-President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, would take over the Presidency and become the second woman to occupy the highest office in the land. Gloria Arroyo is the daughter of the country’s former president, Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, the man from whom Pres. Marcos wrestled the highest seat in 1965. Pres. Arroyo would seek legitimacy in the next election, 2004 – a contested and questioned poll. Thus, Pres. GMA would stay in office for nine(9) years. In 2010, 24 years after the EDSA People Power, things would come full circle – Pres. Corazon Aquino’s only son would be elected president. Benigno Aquino III or Pres. Noynoy, would occupy the highest office, in a continuing bid to align the Philippines towards the democratic ideals and bring the Filipinos closer to progress.

 

Ten (10) years after People Power or, starting 1996, roads would be paved in our town, including the barrio where I come from. Thus, children would no longer walk kilometers and kilometers to and from school. Tap water connections have been installed in the area much earlier, as well as electricity. There would be telephone lines, beginning 2000 and by 2010, there would be internet connections. Most of the facilities absent during my childhood would noticeably be present. Curiously, by mid-1990s, all the rice and corn fields there would be gone. Infrastructures seem to have been provided by the government, but agriculture and folks’ livelihoods seem to have been sidetracked. Even with concrete roads, electricity and phone lines already, the people in our place remain generally poor and malnourished. It is still a rustic place – women still balance vegetable bins on their heads and the stores in the area, still few and far between.

 

I am unsure how EDSA People Power I has helped the people on the ground. Or, if many remember the event for what it was. People Power I was an attempt by the enlightened, the middle-class and the educated, to unseat a dictator and to widen the so-called democratic space of a struggling, developing country. Have things changed much in the Philippines? I really don’t know… I observe the children in our barrio and find that their ways are already different – from what people of my generation have known. They are less timid and are heavily influenced by what they see and hear on the television and the movies. Those kids are hardly aware of the 1986 event, so vivid in the minds of the Filipinos in their 50s. It was an affair that took place years, years ago – before they have been born. I also observe the children in the big city… Most of the city kids know EDSA as a highway, a busy one at that. In school, children across the country have been taught about the event. Yet, for them, People Power I was a street-party like activity that old folks – fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, grandpas and grandmas – went to.

 

EDSA's old name was Highway 54

EDSA highway, on any given day/ dzrhnews.com

 

Those four (4) days – people wore yellow shirts, yellow grafittis were thrown from the buildings in the metro and the celebration put into office, a Lady in Yellow. According to them, ‘Twas all yellow and merry. But all gone now. 🙂

 

Nins gave flowers to soldiers in the 1986 EDSA event, asking the latter to choose peace

Yellow was the color of protest in 1986. People trooped to EDSA, armed with flowers, prayer books and hope for a better future. / thelasallian.com

 

Hello, people! I apologize to all of you for being gone for about six years, ahaha. My right hand has been injured… It is alright now. At least I can tackle typing painlessly, these days. I am so sorry for being absent without notice. I hope things have been well for you during the interim, my dear readers. Cheers and hugs! 🙂

By the way, this article was written before the injury, in early March. It was a post-EDSA anniversary musing, hoho. I was hesitant to have it published then – too sentimental, too personal and too mushy, ahaha. However, things are still a bit busy on this end. Thus, it has seen print. In the future, I might write another post on the same subject matter, employing a different approach and maybe, in a more serious tone. I beg your pardon. 

So many things have happened, during my absence, hoho. For one, Pres. Barack Obama has been to the Philippines, yes. He delivered a speech and was wined, dined, photographed and fussed over, haha. I would have wanted to write about that. Maybe in the future, also… Am an Obama fan, is why, hahaha. 😉

It is already rainy season, over here. Typhoons have been all over the place! Very recently, there was typhoon Jose. Before him, it was typhoon Inday. Earlier, there was typhoon Henry. And prior, it was typhoon Glenda. That lady storm had a wide swath – exploring more than 10 provinces from the South to the North. It prided itself on having four (4) landfalls, uprooting hundred year-old trees and the eye of the storm, hitting the metro (Metro Manila) on the morning of July 16. Most of the towns hit are still without power two weeks after the devastation. The damage to properties was huge. However, human casualties was considerably low: 54. We must have learned some lessons from  supertyphoon Yolanda, we hope… 🙂

Folks, this site is open for guest posting. Send your article to onholdcynicism@yahoo.com. I hope you will be kind enough to oblige this blogger… ^_^ On this note, our next post will likely be from a fellow Filipina blogger. Hope you, guys, are keeping well. 🙂

 

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letting go

 

 

Happy, Happy Valentines to all! I heart you… 😉

 

Click here for the video of the Disney movie, Frozen soundtrack. And here, for the song lyrics. Thank you for watching. 😉

 

You spoke to me of love

 

You spoke to me of love –

how it found you one day

unaware, unprepared…

How it made you otherwise, glad.

 

You told me of its wonders

and pitfalls, the kind whispers

That seemed – nothing then…

just sweet, but not beyond recall.

 

You narrated how, it took you by surprise..

In a world of miseries and tears

the sun could shine, manage to shine…

Bask in cheers, quiet comforts, momentous joys.

 

Image of the countryside in Russia in the 1850s

Love speaks from the stillness and quiet of the night/ http://www.rte.ie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In your story, you said

you have not known happiness till then.

And the hoping and believing in that thing –

so abstract, called future.

 

And it would have been real

life-like, even…

In its simplicity and plainness – –

You two were made for each other.

 

Love is not complicated, according to you

It sorts, arranges, filters; it distills

Puts things in their… proper places

Lovers beside each other – love, between. 🙂

 

Image of Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in the movie, Love Story

The movie, Love Story, is a modern-day rendition of romanticism/ http://www.azcentral.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy, happy New Year to all! Hope 2013 was good to you and 2014 will even be better… 🙂 This was written a good while ago, as part of my  project on romanticism in the Tagalog sites, an attempt am unsure if I could finish, ahaha. Keep your fingers crossed for me, guys… 😉

 

Let’s indulge the romantics in us, here’s Jessie J with We Found Love

 

 

and Francis Lai‘s Where Do I Begin? on YouTube. Thanks for the visits and the love, hope you’re keeping well. 🙂

 

shining through

 

The outpouring of support to the victims of typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines from the different parts of the world, is quite unexpected, moving and heart-warming. It is as if the volunteers,  the rescuers and the donors – You – were trying to outdo the strength and the fury of the superstorm. You did not just extend money, goods and medicines. No. Your first-aid personnel and rescue teams came over promptly to help in the disaster areas, firsthand. Your governments likewise lent us helicopters, fast boats and planes: unasked. You did not just give us words of sympathy, condolences, prayers and well wishes. No. You sent over your hearts to enable the survivors to imagine –  life is worth living still. Thank you… Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay kayo! 🙂

Thank you for reminding us: Love is real. Respect is still alive. Community of people is not a thing of the past. And it seems to transcend borders, races, statuses, politics, religions, ways of life, technological divides, boundaries – human or otherwise. People of all ages, from all walks of life, of different persuasions – coming together at one moment, for the cause of easing sufferings, of fighting squalor on this end. Your quick and warm response gave us hope, at a time when it felt like giving up was the easier, if not the better, choice. Over here, our hearts are swelling from gratitude and appreciation. Your aid, your help, your faith have made us believe again: Humans are connected by an invisible, never-ending chain. This connection seems to say: Life must go on.

Image of a boy watching the sun rise in the Philippines

Another morning in the Philippines, amidst the troubles/ journals.worldnomads.com

It is a hard thing. To begin again. To start anew. To pick up the pieces of broken lives, floating dreams and shattered promises. To look to the future, to envision tomorrow and to make plans – again. To believe in the here and now. To reconnect to the world at large and to the self within. In the midst of the chaos, confusion and uncertainties. Through the darkness, in the depths of sorrow, the devastation surrounding. It is tough. But we must…

Beyond the drama of rising from the rubble and the ruins, the challenge of rebuilding looms large in the horizon for the Filipinos. Can we, as a people, gather the strength to rehabilitate, to restore, to found anew? Can we go beyond the nearsightedness of our politics, the pettiness of our squabbles and the divisiveness of our daily lives? Can we put in again clean water, food, houses, school buildings, markets, sanitation systems, livelihoods, jobs, churches, means of transport in the disaster-hit areas? Can we put back the smiles in the eyes of the children that have seen dangers, deaths and destruction, at close range?

 

There is a thousand reason to continually despair, to stay broken. There is a thousand and one reason, to hope. To believe, despite the odds, it pays to be around and alive. When the cameras are no longer there to inform the world how our streets look like, how the tragedy’s victims are coping and how our politicians are scampering to clean up the mess – it remains in our collective hands to deliver the goods of unity and progress. And we have not much to go by, truth be told… Except, at one time, one sad time, our SOS was heard by the world, forging oneness among various and differing people – to lend a hand unconditionally. We will always have that.

As we survey the damage wrought by the violent supertyphoon, we remember our brothers and sisters who likewise suffered and lost from nature’s wrath – the victims of the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, the victims of the Haiti quake in 2010 and the victims of the Japanese quake, tsunami and nuclear plant explosion in 2011. We remember and share your pains, as we know that you and the rest of the world, now share and feel ours. Apparently, the grounds that we walk on are connected, as well as the oceans that seem to separate us – across cities and continents. Certainly, there is only one nature that nurtures and cares for us, the same nature that periodically gets into a rage and challenges humanity’s mettle and forbearance.

 

Disasters do transform people, individually and collectively, in more ways than one… They may harden the hearts and sensibilities of some, as they may soften the hearts of others, on some far ends. We do not really know… Those of us not directly affected can only sympathize, encourage and to some extent, inspire and be inspired in return. Indeed, it may take months for the country to regain its economic position, years to rebuild and, generations to heal the wounds… We can count the houses and buildings destroyed and compute their costs. We can calculate the livelihoods and businesses lost, and do estimates and plans for recouping them. What we cannot account for, with precision, is the extent and degree of damage to lives, homes, communities – to the relationships torn, suddenly, apart.

The Philippine business sector and the planners have already put their heads together and come up with the figures. Reconstructing the typhoon damage will cost about 6 billion dollars or 250 billion, in peso terms. Said amount is about one-eight of our annual national budget. Yolanda’s effect on the country’s GDP performance or income, on the other hand, is projected at 4% at the most. Yet, these figures only map out the financial and the business aspects of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Chances are, they hardly make sense to the woman in Tacloban City who will commence her life after the debacle – minus her husband and six(6) children. It remains the task of the people closest to the victim and the rehabilitation teams on the ground, to help her struggle, cope and believe – again and anew.

 

In business, the resources initially put in to get a venture rolling is called capital outlay. In this case, we may call the donations – humankind’s goodwill. From institutions as big as the United Nations, as powerful as the Swiss Bank, as known as the CNN, as revered as the Arab royalty, as established as Coca-Cola, as popular as Randy Jackson and Pink, to the unknown American, French, English, German, Japanese, Australian, Korean, African, Indonesian, who donated via credit cards, to the lowly employee somewhere, who sent over the equivalent of a day’s wage – to the thousand children all over the globe – who skipped lunches and opened piggy banks, so they could send a couple of dollars to the children typhoon victims in the Philippines.

A convergence of efforts, big and small – from soldiers and doctors packing their bags to help directly, to the call center agent donating her shopping money, to the President of Switzerland manning a desk, in a frantic bid to raise money for the victims – this relief fund appears to be about…

 

This particular instance of altruism by the world is more than governments aiding another, in a time of distress. This is more than UN, coming to help a Third world nation, in its regular aid roll. This is more than America, extending a hand to its former colony. This is more than Hollywood celebrities, in another act… It is people and institutions, established companies and start-up, tiny ones, popular, public figures and private, unknown individuals – humbled enough by misfortune to recognize sufferings of fellow human beings, urging them, “It is not your place to forage in the wreckage, roofless and wet. Please stand up.” It is a human voice, saying, “My little help can make a difference in the life of another.” It is humanity believing in itself, individually and collectively: It can affect changes, it can turn things around.

Stop hunger, stop stealing, bury and honor the dead and, put roofs over the heads of the children. These are men’s ideals, for thousands of years… For the first time, everybody – from the CEO, to the supervisor, to the utility man – thought these principles doable. He can pitch in, he can make these happen.

 

This appears to be not so much about the amount, as the currency and the form in kind and services, in which the donations come. Taken together, the voluntary contributions has the potential to do a geometric progression, to effect changes in people’s lives in ways we cannot accurately predict. It is a bit higher than your traditional charity. It is more potent than your ordinary aid. And in a sense, it is somehow more powerful than your usual capital. This is not your regular equity, though they may look to some as such. This came from those who did not turn away from the need of others, people they hardly know — screaming help from islands, the names of which they learned, only a few days ago… It involves the intangibles, the ideals and hopes of the donors and givers. This donation is a package of concern, care and hope. It is empowering both to the givers and to those given.

When one finally does the Math, it would seem that the sum of money, pledges, goods and services extended and will be extended to the typhoon victims, is a fraction of the long-run need. The sheer extent of devastation – more than six thousand villages flattened and laid to waste – may look daunting, at first glance… Still, this package is of extraordinary import, as it is also the first time that fund-raising for a cause has reached this pitch, coverage, scale and magnitude. How do Filipinos, who are at the receiving end of this gift, look at this particular gesture of the world? As huge tranches of money, to be distributed as your regular dole-outs, via the maze of our bureaucratic procedures? As another patronage tool, to be distributed to the wards? As largesse, to be sprinted away by our politicians, in the course of performance of duties? As business contracts in the wings, from which a select few may make a killing? As windfall money, to be spent eagerly and without thinking? This fund is sitting atop 5,000 dead bodies and 11 million discontinued and broken lives…

 

In traditional aid to countries, there is what is called local counterpart – an equivalent sum or a significant percentage of – to be generated domestically, plus the manpower and the efforts of the beneficiary. This, on the premise that the receiver stands to gain more in the outcome. Perhaps, this instance, the same principle should apply… Not all of the relief are in cash form, but a significant part of it, in goods and services. Thus, foreign engineer volunteers will be coming to the Philippines – to help build houses that can withstand storms better and to put in new sewage and sewerage systems; environmental experts will be flying in, to help assess the typhoon’s damage to our watersheds and bio-diversity; and yes, foreign psychologists, too – to help the typhoon survivors process their pains and losses, and help them get their bearings back. These donations are not in cash, though they come with price tags and unarguably, necessary and important in a rehabilitation effort.

Lastly, the bulk of relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation (cash and projects) will be managed and handled by private organizations, institutions and individuals. These entities will likely stay around for a good number of years, to monitor the developments and assess the impacts of their campaigns and efforts – to the target individual, family and community beneficiaries on the ground. The government, for its part, must coordinate the efforts – public and private – in a cohesive and effective plan to reconstruct and rehabilitate the affected regions and rally the nation’s support to realize the endeavor’s medium and long-term goals. In the long run, the government’s role is to see to it that the influx of funds and resources or the cash flow generated by the disaster, will foster growth in the affected regions and redound to the benefit of the disaster-stricken citizens.

The Visayas region is a prime source of migrant labor, internal and external. Thus, perhaps, one of the long-run measures will be what percentage of its working population can get back on their feet after the disaster, to resume productive and relatively normal lives again.

 

Right now, many tend to view the donations as cash transfers or subsidies to be distributed pronto. They are, the first three (3) months up to maybe, six(6). At least, a considerable portion of the funds and goods that are entrusted and pass directly through the government’s hands must be used, in the short-run, to aid the victims to survive physically and concretely. The first and early phase of helping the survivors is focused on relief  – gathering, accounting for and seeing to it that they are alive, and putting in emergency measures on the ground. Mobilizing its social welfare arm (DSWD), the government must give out food, medicines and cash – without discrimination, elaborate scrutiny and long procedures.

Mobilizing its army and the local officials, it must search for and bury the dead, with all the haste it can muster. It must put the sick people and the traumatized in the hospitals, without delay. It must establish health centers, clinics and help desks in the disaster areas immediately, as it must ensure that sources of clean drinking water are available. The government must must likewise see to it that public markets are rebuilt promptly, the supply chain of basic goods in place and no hoarding and unfair pricing practices are happening in the disaster-affected areas. It must see to it that trade and commerce in the regions affected get back on business, in the soonest possible time. It must ensure that local governments at the municipality and city level resume office and function soonest. The national government cannot and must not take over the duties of the elected officials at the local level…

 

Allow me to be a pasaway (countercurrent) and say that it is not the government’s duty to provide jobs and to build houses for the people. It may do so, especially during extreme situations such as this one, but the cost at once limits the extent and length of time these can be done. Thus, it will be safe to assume, the jobs the government will create in the areas will be temporary, as well as the shelters.

Post-disaster scenario – the government’s duty is to shelter the children and see to it that they are fed and healthy, until such time that their families and surviving relatives are fit enough to work and provide for them. Likewise, it must make sure that schools are rebuilt and classes are resumed, as this is deemed crucial in facilitating normalcy for the children. The government’s role in job creation is to provide incentives for trade and commerce people, such that they will gravitate in the disaster-stricken areas and bring in employments. The government must signal the investors, through policies, tax incentives and short-term measures, that Leyte and Samar, the worst-hit centers, are growth areas. And they will likely be, as the bulk of the money, in the hands of the government and the private sector and donors, will be used for reconstruction of streets, bridges, public markets, school houses and homes.

 

The second and next phase of helping the Visayas will presumably be focused on reconstruction. Reconstruction will likely, largely be financed by the money, resources and efforts of the (private) donors, their local counterpart companies and organizations, with the help of NGOs and civic formations. The United Nations, for example, has already pledged to give fishing boats and start up capitals to small fishermen and small leasehold owners who are disaster victims. These will likely come in the form of direct grants or assistance, with the paper requirements probably shortened or minimized. The government, for its part, can also give out cash assistance for the first two years, plus open up loan windows for the farmers, fisherfolks and entrepreneurs, in order that they may put up and pursue their livelihoods again.

As the extent and depths of losses and destruction differ among families and across towns and villages, we can expect that the capacity and readiness to work, will also vary among the survivors. Thus, both the private and government arms involved in the effort, must make available various assistance menus and products (e.g., loan products) for the people.

 

Reconstruction is often proven to engender and bring growth in areas. Construction is the highest multiplier in most economies. But again, this sphere will likely be private sector-driven… The government’s role is to see to it that the procedures for doing them are in place and moving fast. More than that, it is duty-bound to inspire and coordinate the efforts and project long-term vision for the areas affected and the people therein. Voluntarism still plays a big part in the reconstruction phase. The national government arms that will be implementing projects on the ground in the disaster-hit areas will likely be line agencies, with minimal manpower at regional and town levels. They can very well employ the help of individuals in doing site visits, inventory and documentation of reports.

Likewise, reconstruction not only means setting up infrastructures, but also planting trees in the Visayas region. There are organizations and donors that have committed to doing this and they will likely employ the farmers and the locals. But private companies may and can incorporate this endeavor in their social responsibility programs, as partners.

 

The crucial phase is rehabilitation of the damaged areas and destroyed lives and communities. After surveying the damage and doing the inventory – houses, farms, stores, businesses, roads, private establishments and public facilities and infrastructures – those involved in the relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation program of the disaster-affected areas will likely sit down and decide what part of the effort can they take, deliver and how – given their organizations’ capacity, manpower, resources and commitment to the program.  They will likely set targets, deadlines and measures – quantitative and qualitative; short, medium and long-term goals. In a sense, rehabilitation starts at the early phase of helping the devastated population, and ends when the set goals have been met and evaluated. Some areas have been hit from villages, to towns and up to cities. Some areas have been struck at village level only, while others, up to municipalities.

Just by looking at the Google pics of Tacloban City, before and after Haiyan, it looks like that part of the Philippines, is to be rebuilt from the ground up. Architects, engineers, business people, community planners and community organizers, as well as civic organizations, will probably play a big role in envisioning a brand new and invigorated Tacloban and making it happen.

 

Philippines, as a country, is not only archipelagic and disaster-prone. About 10% of its adult population does not even earn three (3) dollars in a day and probably, 30% does not even earn the set minimum wage. The Visayas region, Samar in particular, is historically, traditionally poor and conflict-ridden. Perhaps, the business side of the Yolanda disaster is: This could be Samar’s chance to rebuild its agriculture on a stronger ground and bring its commerce to a higher gear. On the other hand, Tacloban City is a port. Thus, this rebuilding effort could be its opportunity to establish another, bigger and more modern business hub or center in Central Philippines. But perhaps, we must not also forget that the business people, the entrepreneurs and the professionals in the areas have also been hit badly by the disaster. Thus, the manpower for the effort will likely be composed of people who are also dislocated, tired and suffering from temporary or long-term setbacks.

 

The Philippine government’s role is to inspire the relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts – that it can be done, with enough or sparse funds, with adequate or insufficient manpower. Inspiring confidence and showing decisiveness is the government’s chief role in this first of a kind debacle and opportunity. It must inspire the donors, the investors, the international community, the overseas workers, the local business people, the mass of Filipino people not directly affected by the disaster and the people affected and badly-hit by Yolanda – make everybody believe that the impossible can be done that hope can be found in hopeless places and situations…

The government must have a blueprint of its impossible dream for the Visayas region that the people will believe, take as their own and see through to completion. Through the national economic planning (NEDA), trade (DTI) and agriculture (DA) arms,  the government must provide direction to the frontliners who will rebuild the disaster-stricken areas. With or without this disaster, the national government’s duty remains to be – governance of the whole country…

At the end of the day, or the years, or the decade – it remains the local citizens’ imperative to rebuild their family lives, communities and societies. The challenge and the stake to get up from the ground are higher for them – that is where they grew up, have lived, have buried their dead and that is the place and the community they hope to pass on to their children… After all, that is what the relief package of the world must be about, for the typhoon survivors to live, live for the world… And if possible, with grace and dignity – not foraging, not homeless, not waiting for the relief and pity of other people…

 

 

A lot can probably be said and supposed about supertyphoon Haiyan or Yolanda, and how it so moved, alarmed and touched people around the world to give help. Maybe it is the digital and interactive technology that enabled giving and donating easier and faster. Maybe it is the state-of-the-art broadcast, the wide reach of cable services and the availability of the CNN channel in most of the world’s urban centers. Maybe, it is people coming to terms with the reality of climate change as an urgent world issue. Maybe it is hearing the panic in the voices of Chris Ducker, Paula Hitchcock and Anderson Cooper as they were reporting live from the Philippines, right in the eye of the super storm, in an apocalypse-like setting – but not some movies directed by Steven Spielberg or Mel Gibson…

Maybe it is the sight of wet children asking for food. Or, the confused adults without the energy and means to bury the scattered dead. Maybe it is the extent of the devastation, in so short a period of time, shown through the TV screens. Maybe it is the sight of so many people utterly lost and miserable… Maybe it is all these and the realization that lives could be snapped out that fast and easily… In these hurried and callous times, millions of people all over the world saw another person’s sufferings as his own. And did something about it: They chose to give. We chose to give… Maybe not all about Haiyan pertains to destruction and misfortune. Maybe it is also about faith, faith in our connected and collective humanity. Maybe, the world felt the human species to be under siege and for a moment, understood – redeeming and saving the self is by recognizing and redeeming the other.

 

 

Image of a morning at El Nido Palawan

From the world, to this side of the tropics: love/ http://www.lonelyplanet.com

This week’s news already carry different headlines, as Haiyan’s survivors have started to labor in obscurity, picking up the pieces and beginning again, in these hard times. The rest of the world will carry on, as before, perhaps …

But maybe, in the future, it will be recalled that at one point, the Filipinos’ misfortune, this side of the tropics, gave the world the courage to give openly and willingly… This gift of compassion, in turn, gave us the wherewithal and the strength to start again, press on and meet life – with its violent quakes, pounding rains and merciless winds.

And the intersection of that single act of generosity and acceptance, can perhaps be called – humanity’s collective soulshining through… 🙂

 

 

 


 

 

In the ring of fire

 

Top of Tuesday’s news was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the island of Bohol, 562 kilometers, south of Manila. The tremors reached onto nearby Cebu, destroying churches, hospitals and other structures. Bohol is a top tourist destination famous for its pristine waters, Chocolate Hills and the world-renowned Loboc Children’s Choir. The church where the children regularly sing, collapsed. The Basilica del Sto. Nino in Cebu, the oldest Catholic church in the Philippines, was also badly damaged.

Wednesday morning’s report said the number of casualties was less than 100. By the evening, news announced more than 140 dead bodies found and still counting. It has been raining very badly for days in most parts of the country, making the disaster bigger, darker and more confusing. Rescue and relief operations are ongoing. Movement of the tectonic plates, geological experts explain the disaster’s cause. The Bohol-Cebu quake was pronounced worse than the 2010 Haiti quake and is said to be 32 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb.

The August 2012 Samar quake was 7.6 in Richter scale, but that disaster left only a few casualties. The 1990 Northern Luzon earthquake was 7.9 in magnitude, with 1,621 on its death toll  (I was a teenager in the metropolis that time, tremors reached Metro Manila and for two months, we lived in fear – observing cracks in the wall and on the streets as we went along our routines).Topping the  list of worst quakes was the 1976 earthquake in Mindanao, one that had a tsunami in its wake – death toll was 4,791. Unfortunately, we do get a lot of natural disasters around these parts, thanks to our rather exciting location: in the center of the world’s Ring of Fire, hoho. 🙂

 

Image of Bohol's wide waterways

Part of Bohol’s allure is for tourists to take a boat ride along its wide rivers, surrounded by verdant hills and mountains/ travelexplorebeyond.com

 

Image of Bohol's famous Chocolate Hills

Bohol is known for its Chocolate Hills, a series of mounds that grace the island’s spectacular landscape/ de.paperblog.com

 

Image of the Loboc Children's Choir from the Bohol island, Philippines

The famous Loboc Children’s Choir showcasing the island of Bohol in the background/ faxiamen.com

 

Image of tarsiers on the island of Bohol

The biggest population of Philippine tarsier, one of the smallest primates, can be found in Bohol/ en.wikipedia.org

 

I was in El Nido, Palawan the first time, last September. El Nido is another top tourist destination in the Philippines, known for its clear water and gigantic limestone rock formations, similar to the Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It was a pit stop in the Amazing Race reality show and the last scene in the latest installment of the Bourne Legacy series (a paradise-like island where the escaping movie couple, Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz, found themselves). My sister and I were there for five days, but we did not see much. The coastguards would not allow tours of the islands and the beaches: Philippines was then in the middle of a supertyphoon, Odette. We spent most of our time by the door of our hotel that was conveniently beachfront, with the giant sea waves lashing the shore and the windblown talisay leaves flying in our faces. For days, we felt marooned in the island said to be one of the country’s best.

On our last day, the supertyphoon has already landed, the coastguards allowed several groups to venture out nearby. We did get to see some of the gigantic limestone rocks, 13 to 15 million years in the making. From our boat, the cliffs look like ancient cathedrals – dark, foreboding, uninhabited. Dark blue waters with huge, undulating waves, against the gargantuan rocky mountains – untamed nature, up close, live. They take one’s breath away and leave one speechless. And, we weren’t in the choicest parts of El Nido yet…

We had a swim in a beach several kilometers away from the town and were served a sumptuous lunch. Then, on to another beach in another giant rock shelter, close by. As our boat was inching towards the shore, a storm hit. It was my second time to experience a sudden and violent cyclone in the open seas. The rain was pounding, the wind was merciless and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We were actually in an islet, somewhere in the Bacuit archipelago, just a few kilometers away from Malampaya. All tourists in the five boats that made that trip ran for cover, by the shore. There really was nowhere for us to go. We were like rodents scattered in different parts of the shore, ravaged by the storm, about to be carried away by the giant waves, almost…

 

Image of one of El Nido's beaches in Palawan

The dark cliffs of El Nido have withstood raging storms for millions of years/ togiexplorer.com

 

Living in the Philippines is quite exciting. Soon as you’re thinking you’ve had it bad, you open the TV or your computer and immediately, news of disasters greet you. Hardly a month passes by without a catastrophe visiting our group of islands – storms, floods, earthquakes, landslides or sometimes, a combination of. And these do not include the man-made disasters, my friends… The politicians in our country are always busy, needless to say. It’s a tough job telling and assuring the people, the constituents, to hang on – tomorrow, life will be kinder.

It’s also rough for the public school teachers and their pupils – every calamity spells ruined classrooms, changes in class schedules and begging politicians and rich donors for money — for the reconstruction of the damaged facilities. Of course, farming is usually badly hit and every year, agricultural output slides down. There is still a huge market for the insurance of small farms, leaseholds and fish pens: It begs to be in the top priority. Still, corruption at various levels manage to thrive and how…

The country’s previous administration is currently being investigated – for appropriating privately funds in billions – earmarked for farmer victims of previous typhoons. Hope the current batch of politicians, local and national, will not make hay out of the Bohol-Cebu tragedy. And hopefully, the peoples’ attention and concern for the disaster’s victims will extend beyond the days when said episode is top of the Yahoo News or Twitter’s trending topic.

I don’t know… From my experience, it is not really the gravity of the misfortune that causes a victim severe setbacks, but seeing and feeling the apathy of others who know about the big, consequential disaster, but treat it much like yesterday’s news. 🙂

 

Image of the historic church in Bohol destroyed by the October quake

Bohol’s Loboc church collapsed/bbc.co.uk

 

Image of Bohol folks fleeing after the earthquake

Century-old structures were not spared in the Bohol quake, people are still nervous about aftershocks/ in.news.yahoo.com

 

Image of a road badly hit by the quake in Bohol

Several roads in Bohol have been damaged and impassable/ abc.net.au

 

Image of a building wall that collapsed on a van in Cebu, Philippines

The neighboring Cebu City was also badly hit/ bbc.co.uk

 

Image of nurses attending to the injured in one of the worst quakes that hit the Philippines

Attending to the sick and the injured first/ headlineasia.com

 

More than 1,200 aftershocks have been recorded since the original 30-second earthquake occurred. Authorities count 10 historic churches as badly damaged, as well as several hospitals and around 400, 000 families affected. Property damage estimate was placed at Php80 million, while the government has, so far, allocated Php98 million emergency and relief operations fund. Rescue operations are still ongoing, for the hundreds injured and missing in the tragic Bohol-Cebu quake.

 

Did I say that we, Filipinos, are a resilient lot? Disasters and all, we do manage to come around. More or less… 😉 🙂

 

Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.

Laurence J. Peter

 

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.

William James

 

One likes people much better when they’re battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.

Virginia Woolf

 

It is the task of a good man to help those in misfortune.

Sophocles

 

Source: http://brainyquotes.com

 

Two movie industries

 

When the famous Hollywood director, Quentin Tarantino came over to the Philippines in 2007, it was a dream come true, he said so in interviews. He was here for more than a week in August, six years ago, attending the Cinemalaya Film Festival and the Tarantino Film Festival, both held at the Gateway Cinema in Quezon City. Cinemalaya means free cinema and its festival is held annually to celebrate and honor the makers and actors behind low-budget, independent film ventures in the country.

 

Image of director Tarantino at the Golden Globe Awards

Multi-awarded director Quentin Tarantino directed the films, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill/ http://www.eonline.com

The Tarantino Festival, on the other hand, was organized in honor of the celebrated director, featuring movies Tarantino wrote and/or directed, screening of international, multi-awarded films and a week-long workshop in screenplay, cinematography and technical aspects of film-making. Gateway is a high-end mall with a movie house in Quezon City. The cinema was newly-opened that time, making it the best venue for a relatively high profile, colorful event.

 

Gateway was therefore flooded with local directors, movie actors, writers and film enthusiasts from all over the country for a week. During the event, Tarantino said that he has high admiration for Filipino directors, notably those who made films in the 50s and 60s. The period is known as the golden era of the Philippine movie industry, by the way. It is said that ours made headway first, long before India’s Bollywood, ahaha… 🙂

 

Image of director Quentin Tarantino with his admired directors

Direk Tarantino with some of his admired Filipino directors during the film festival – Derek Romero, Derek Santiago and Derek Aguiluz/ http://www.pep.ph

 

Director Tarantino told stories, him working in a video shop before entering Hollywood and spending considerable amount of time watching the films of respected Filipino directors Eddie Romero, Gerry de Leon, Pablo Suarez and  Cirio Santiago… Directors Eddie Romero and Cirio Santiago were present in the festival. The former was a handsome actor and director in the old days but during the festival, one cannot help but notice, the director has considerably aged. The latter was a staunch businessman, known for his B-movies for international release, ahaha. Director Quentin proudly admitted that Death Proof  was a rip-off of Santiago’s early film, The Muthers.

 

What I remember about the Tarantino films are, the blood and gore, the unapologetic sex scenes and, the way the movie creator brings on screen the minds of the crime perpetrators. The comfort room or the “commode,” as it is usually called in the Tarantino movies, is usually highlighted in his films. Often, there are bodies lying around – violated, mutilated and bloodied in the most horrible manner imaginable. And Director Quentin’s films, are usually about how things got that messy.

 

 

Or, how cold, calculating and “objective” the murderer was. Tarantino films often imply that we have the murderer in us… Thus, when I saw the famed director at Gateway, I was amazed at how relaxed and open he appeared and sounded. And, he is bigger (physically) than I thought… 🙂 He narrated stories about the Filipino films he has seen, the length he went through to get copies, haha, and he was lovable with his knowledge of Filipino actors and actresses – old and new, the famous and the obscure. He did and do watch our movies, interestingly…

 

Director Tarantino said that he thinks, there are two movie industries in the Philippines: the mainstream and the indie. The mainstream generally makes lighter-themed, big budgeted, starred in by known actors, tackles safe issues and makes more money. The indie, on the other hand, tackles high- risk themes, are low-budgeted, starred in by actors with less or no projects  but, dares into less-traveled spheres of the film genre, even as the creators hardly make any money, ahaha.

According to the Hollywood director, it is Filipino indie films that offer quality and get awards in the international and regional film festivals. For him, the Filipino indie films have the potential in the international market, but why don’t the Filipino movie-going public patronize them? It was raised in the open forum:  The commercial aspect of film making in the Philippines usually get the upper hand, as the movie-going public is more inclined to pay for and watch films that offer escape and entertainment. The issue was tackled, but in the end, Derek Tarantino was still puzzled and asking, ahaha.

 

Image of known director, Gil Portes

Derek Gil Portes has written and directed many films, both mainstream and indie/ mwww.angkulet.com

There were so many known personalities in the week-long activity. There, I saw Dereks Tikoy Aguiluz, Wenn Deramas, Manny Valera, Gil Portes, Adolf Alix, Jr and the former vocalist of the famous band, Eraserhead’s Ely Buendia (with his wife), ahaha. In one of the movie screenings, the third of the Julie Delpy series, I sat next to Derek Gil Portes, hoho… The director looked and sounded bored, ahaha. After the movie, we had a light talk, asked me if I enjoyed the film. I said, yes, somehow… I mean, the third isn’t as good as the first two (Before Sunset, Before Sunrise), but pleasant enough. He gave me a look that seemed to say, I had much to learn as a film viewer, haha.

 

But Derek Gil Portes was nice and courteous, nicer than what one would ordinarily expect from a director who has made movies that earned awards and accolades, here and abroad. Well, am blabbering… All am saying, the recent weekend was a long one for us (Friday was holiday, to celebrate the end of Ramadan) and for the first time in four months, I got the chance to visit some blogs and watch a couple of indie films at Cinema One via the local cable. ‘Twas  uneventful, rainy and the storm sure provided us more than the usual darkness and unremitting amount of rain, hehehe … 😉

 

 

* Small Voices is a film directed by Gil Portes, about a teacher assigned in a remote barrio. 

 

Let’s have a fishy conversation…

 

Hello, people… 🙂 As I said before, Philippines is an aquatic country. Ours is a big grouping of islands and islets. We’re literally surrounded by water, just like Winnie the Pooh after the rain, hehe. The sad part, of course, is the fact that yours truly hails from an almost landlocked village. I would really have wanted to be born and raised in a place where one rises to the sound of the sea waves in the morning. That must have been cool. I mean, that is cool! Imagine, most seas are right beside mountains… So, if one’s by the sea, the mountain is likely, surely near or across. Two wonders of nature to nurture a child’s curious body and mind, eh… 😉

 

Image of a beach resort in Palawan, Philippines

The mountain and the sea always look after each other/ sarahrotzinthephilippines.blogspot.com

 

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to see fishermen on the shore, doing what the apostles in the Bible were doing – arranging the fish nets so the fishing vessels could sail to the open seas. I was fascinated, nay, mesmerized, at what they were doing – making sure the nets are okay, all the equipment and tools are in and pushing the boat from the dock area to the sea… That was group work – lots of coordination, happy shouting and silent understanding among sunburned people. They seemed to love the muscle work required, the camaraderie among men and the smell and feel of the sea. There really were years of my life when I wished I could live among sea-faring people.

 

Image of a fishing boat docked

The “banca,” a type of fishing boat common in the Philippine coastal villages/ http://www.panoramio.com

 

Anyway, if I were to be born again and in the Philippines at that, I would wish it to be in a village by the sea. At some points, I questioned why I was given birth in a watery country and yet, there isn’t even a river in our place, ahaha. There’s a creek nearby, though and my siblings, cousins and I had to make do – playing with silt, catching small crabs and removing moss from rock boulders. And, lying down the creek bed, allowing water to clean our bodies and relax our nasty spirits. I would later study high school in the city and the visits to the creek would be cut short, shorter than anticipated. In the new setting, there would be tap water, that’s the big news. 😉

 

Before I was enrolled in the first grade, I had the chance to visit my uncle’s fishpond in the nearby province. Along with my cousins, I was brought to the area during harvest season. There were thousands of fish still moving, squirming, struggling inside the nets. They were how the poet Neruda described them: silvery. I think that was also how Hemingway described those creatures – the bounty of the sea… Except, those fishes did not come from the big, wide, open sea. They came from the nearby lake. And, the fingerlings or fry were the cultivated kind – Uncle had a fish nursery. Anyway,’ twas fun to see them alive, close and too personal… I did not sleep well for four nights after the episode, haha. I remembered the eyes of the fishes, seeming to ask for my help… I did not eat fish my whole elementary years, that’s how bad… 🙂

 

Image of men harvesting fish in a pond in the Philippines

Harvesting the bounty of fresh waters, live fish inside a net in a fish cage/ islandtrecker.com

 

Anyway, that was a long time ago. In high school, I would eventually learn to eat fish again… In the Philippines, the fish ordinarily eaten by our folks are the small kinds, people – anywhere from 50 grams to two kilos in weight. The world’s smallest fish (half an inch in length) can be found here, by the way, in Taal lake… The big and fancy fishes are for the moneyed people, the cultured folks and those with culinary schooling, ahaha. Actually, we don’t have many big fishes. The huge, giant ones are mostly tunas – the big-eye tuna (Thunnus obesus), and the yellow fin tuna (Thunnus alalungga) from the Batangas bay and even bigger ones, from General Santos city.

 

Tunas from the Batangas area are generally smaller and are sold in nearby provinces and in Metro Manila. GenSan city, on the other hand, is said to be the country’s tuna basin. Gen San port (and market) captures the biggest, the gigantic tunas (Thunnus albacares), aside from the big-eye and the yellow fin. The prime catch from the Sarangani Bay and from the nearby, wider, open seas in the South, make their way to GenSan market and are traditionally sold to U.S. and Japan to meet the demands for sushi, sashimi and other raw fish dishes of classy restaurants…

 

Image of tuna catch on display at the rack, in Gen San City

Gen. Santos City tuna catch, one fine day/ news.mindanao.com

 

Image of tunas on the display rack at Gen San's fishport

An ordinary morning at Gen. San’s fishport/ http://www.skyscrapercity.com

 

Gen. Santos city, by the way, is in Mindanao, down South. Locally, the Saranggani tuna is also called the barilis. The GenSan tuna maybe renowned, here and abroad, but the local tuna industry, has yet to make inroads… There is still a long way to go, before GenSan becomes a prosperous city, it seems… Manny Pacquaio, the world-famous boxer, is Sarangani’s representative, by the way. Or, as the people put it, “Congressman Manny, idol!” 😉

 

Image of a man carrying a big yellow fin tuna

From the sea on its way to the fish port, Gen San giant fish catch/ http://www.bubblews.com

 

Image of a yellow fin tuna sliced tomake sushi

One could see nature’s creative design, in the lines inside the giant sea creature/ tagadavao.wordpress.com

 

Around here, most people eat the head and the tail part of the fish, excuse me, my dear foreign readers…  Usually, Filipinos eat the eyes of the fish, tooIt’s not just the Greeks, folks. 😉 And, fish eyes are yummy. Of course, it’s an acquired taste… ^_^ By the way, in the big supermarkets, the fishes sold there are also packaged nicely – sans the head, the tail and the innards, hehe. Most are sold as fillets… In the wet markets, the fishes are sold cleaned and sliced (by the kilos) or whole  and uncleaned (by piece, yet weighted).

 

About three years ago, sibling and I had the chance to watch a British reality show where the producers tried to introduce the participants to the food industry in U.K. They made the contestants trace the supply chain of the processed food products found in the shelves of big supermarkets. They were brought to several countries in Asia – to learn firsthand how to dress chickens in the factory, haha, to catch shrimps in the ditches and to see up close that fishes originally had tails and heads, so unlike the ones in the supermarkets… 🙂 Most of the participants had a change of heart afterwards. It was shown in the end – how they became better young adults, more appreciative of their parents… 🙂

 

 

Anyway, folks, let me introduce to you the famous fishes in my country –

 

Image of the mackerel patronized in Philipppine households

Mackerel is a staple in the ordinary Filipino diet/ http://www.untvweb.com

Galunggong or mackerel is the poor man’s almost daily fare, around here. There are five varieties of fresh mackerel common in the wet markets in the Philippines. The most sought after is the round, elongated one – the horse mackerel (Decapterus maruadsi) or the roundscad. The other famous variety is the wide, striped mackerel, also known as the Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) or alumahan. Galunggong generally comes as your small fish, 100 grams a piece, on the average. Or, 10 to 12 pieces of mackerel in a kilo – enough for two meals – for a family of six. 🙂

 

Image of mature kamyas on trees

Kamyas is a sour fruit for seasoning and fermentation of fish dishes/ http://www.pinoyecofarmer.com

It is often said that the quality of life of the Filipinos is measured by the price of the galunggong in the market, haha. Personally, I was not acquainted with galunggong, until I went to the metropolis for college (We have small tunas in the province and those were what we bought when we had money. Most days, running on a tight budget, we got the other smaller fishes, available only locally). By the way, galunggong is traditionally salted, boiled and cooked with garlic, onions, ginger and kamyas. The dish is known as “pinaksiw na galunggong.”Or, sometimes, just salt, plain vinegar and some tomatoes… This dish is known as “pinangat.”

 

Image of pinaksiw na galunggong on a plate

Mackerel, boiled with salt and vinegar, is delicious when eaten with plain rice/ http://www.paphaofurniture.com

 

Image of fried galunggong with tomatoes and salted eggs

Fried galunggong goes well with salted egg and fresh tomato/ halieskitchen.blogspot.com

Galunggong has indeed stuck with the Pinoys, through thick and thin. This rather small fish has seen the Filipino people through the post-American republic, the crisis of the 70’s, almost two decades of dictatorship and post-EDSA hardships… For ordinary lunch, the galunggong is usually fried and served with sauteed or steamed vegetables, together with ample amount of rice, hohoho… 😉 Around here, one would hear tales from middle-class and rich Filipinos – how galunggong has seen them though difficult days… ^^

 

 

Bangus or milkfish (Chanos chanos) is our national fish, one of our country’s symbols… Milkfish or bangus is a bony kind of fish (has two dorsal spines and 13-17 dorsal rays) , silver in color, has a small mouth and no teeth, ahaha. It is  a marine, freshwater animal, found along continental shelves and islands (No wonder we have plenty of it ;)). Indeed, many coastal villages in the country have bangus… It is said that milkfish aquaculture originated in the Philippines, 800 years ago and was spread over the Indo-Pacific rim. Filipinos breed and raise milkfish several ways – in saline ponds, in fish pens and in cages (at sea).

 

Image of a milkfish

Milkfish, also known as bangus, is the Philippine national fish/ http://www.tateh.com

 

The milkfish is a much bigger fish than the ordinary mackerel. Say, twice to 15 times bigger… Thus, it is also priced higher and is considered city people’s regular viand. By the way, bangus is another product that our country exports in bulk, by the tons… Most of the supply come from the Central Luzon area – in the provinces of Pangasinan, Bulacan and Pampanga… Bangus products are traditionally sold fresh, smoked or fermented. In the recent decades, they also come bottled, canned and frozen. By the way, one product stands out: Philippines’ “boneless bangus” or deboned milkfish, available in supermarkets here and also abroad.

 

Image of bangus fish inside a pale, typical market scene in the Phils.

Bangus is available in most markets, on any given day/ lakbaypilipinas.com

Cooked milkfish is available in almost all eating places around here – in fancy restaurants, fastfoods, office canteens and in the roadside eateries… Just like the galunggong, it is usually prepared “pinaksiw.” Pinaksiw is fresh catch bangus, salted and fermented with vinegar, with some ginger, ampalaya (bitter gourd) and eggplants tossed in. It is well-liked among the Pinoys. Its sour-spicy taste brings out the fish’s natural flavor.

 

The other famous preparation is “sinigang.” Sinigang is a lot like the pinaksiw, minus the ginger, and there is more soup in the dish and more vegetables, haha. It has more more tomatoes, kamyas and tamarind and thus, tastes sour-spicy in a good way. 😉 It is the all-around, all-time dish preparation of the Filipinos – there is protein in the fish, and vitamins and minerals, in the generous proportion of vegetables and green leaves, not present in other dish preparations.

 

Image of packaged boneless bangus from the Philipppines

Philippine boneless bangus is a delicacy, exported in several countries/ http://www.morefoodadventures.com

By the way, the milkfish is another food I would learn to eat only upon coming to the big city… A tip, dear people:  The best part of the bangus is its belly, haha. Sinigang na belly usually costs more in restaurants, too… As an aside, the cheeks of the bangus is another soft, yummy part. To these days, the younger sister and I quarrel who gets to eat the cheeks… Actually, she always asks me if I’d be good enough to let her eat the cheeks of the bangus in my plate, haha. ^^

 

Lastly and not- to- be- missed bangus preparations: the daing and the relyeno. Daing means the fish will be cut in half and spread, for the whole fish to be fried crisply. It is famous for breakfast in the Philippines. Most Filipinos returning to the country from abroad have that in their wish list, ahaha…  Relyeno, on the other hand, is stuffed bangus – the bangus meat would be taken out, ground and mixed with vegetables and spices – to be put back inside the fish again, before frying or steaming. With rice, relyenong bangus is heavenly… 😉

 

Image of daing na bangus over a pasta dish

Daing na bangus goes well with rice or pasta, and vegetables/ centurytuna.ph

Image of stuffed bangus also known as relyeno

Relyenong bangus is a treat/ http://www.philamfood.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of tilapia fish being prepared for lunch

Tilapia is grown and cultivated several ways in different parts of the Philippines/ thenaa.net

Another common fish around here is the tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Tilapia is another fresh-water creature and abounds in the country – in coastal areas, on fish ponds and even in homes with big backyards. In the last four decades, tilapia-raising has become a huge industry in the Philippines, much like the breeding and spawning of bangus… Philippine tilapia has also become an export product – cleaned and packaged or, in fillet form. Tilapia is another bony fish, unfortunately, and requires  meticulous preparation, before serving… Well, if there is boneless bangus, there is also boneless tilapia, ahaha. 😉

 

As a dish, tilapia is available in the backstreet eateries, as well as, in the expensive restaurants in the Philippines. It may come in its usual fried form or “ginataan.” Ginataan means cooked with salt, coconut milk, ginger, garlic and some leafy vegetables and eggplants. The dish is quite popular – tasty, soft and a bit spicy. It is often eaten with plain rice – lots of, haha… 😉

 

Image of tilapia cooked with coconut milk and vegetables

Ginataang tilapia, with rice – a fave lunch among the Pinoys/ luckymom2009.wordpress.com

 

In the recent months, I’ve come across tilapia served in certain restaurants – so carefully prepared and so nicely served, they are barely recognizable as our ordinary tilapia. They are excellent, thanks to the chefs who never stop innovating – to bring the common tilapia, before the watchful eyes and the discerning palates of the world… 🙂

 

Image of tilapia fillet, with lemon and butter

The tilapia, in the hands of seasoned chefs/ http://www.ifood.tv

Just saying, I have watched TV shows that show the tilapia as a pet fish or a garden-type fish, like the koi. Or, simply kept as ornamentals – in certain states in the U.S., in Japan and in some cities in Europe… This phenomenon has left me wondering about the peculiarities of cultures. You know, an edible fish that is not eaten by folks, but kept as decor or, something to afford variety in nature? Ah, am still wondering, hahaha. 😉

 

Image of fried tilapia

Tilapia, cooked and served the traditional Filipino way/ http://www.atasteofmylife.com

 

Our last fish is the tulingan (Auxis rochei). Tulingan or bullet tuna is also a staple fish in the Philippines. Am including it in the article for a very biased reason:  It is my favorite fish. 😉 Tulingan is different from the huge tunas as it is rather small – 300 grams a piece on the average. Otherwise, just like the giant tuna, its fins are black and it has no scales.

 

Image of fresh tulingan or bullet tuna in the wet market

Bullet tuna or tulingan is among the smallest in its family and abounds in the tropics/ http://www.ictioterm.es

 

Bullet tuna is available in the market most of the time and is affordable … I have cooked and eaten this fish countless number of times, am too partial, ahaha. My fave part is the black lining in its mid part – the fish cod. My favorite preparation is “sinaing.” Sinaing means boiling the cleaned and salted fish – over low and slow fire for several hours – with water, garlic and a few pieces of chili. It is very tasty, soft and the dish could be stored for a few days – without refrigeration.

 

Image of cooked small tuna, a local fave among the Tagalogs

Over at our place, sinaing na tulingan is cooked for five to 20 hours/ recipe.foohta.com

In my family, most members are also fond of the tulingan. But unlike me who profess that I could eat tulingan as viand with two plates of rice almost everyday, haha, they want the fish deep-fried or ginataan or broiled, on certain days and occasions. Anyway, each to his taste, or, weirdness… 🙂

 

Anyway, tulingan has a close relative, known as the “tambakol.” The tambakol (Thunnus alalungga) is three to ten times bigger than the tulingan, yet about ten times smaller than the giant tunas for export. Tambakol is even tastier than the tulingan and its meat is tender – a good pork substitute for Spanish-influenced dishes. When bought fresh, tambakol is excellent for raw fish dishes and served on special occasions in my province… Somehow, tambakol is considered the better-off cousin of the bullet tuna… 😉

 

Image of fresh tambakol

Tambakol, fresh catch from the Southern Tagalog region/ http://www.flickriver.com

 

Image of ginataang tambakol, sliced thinly

Tambakol is a local delicacy/ fnbshareknowledge. blogspot. com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of fried tambakol

Tambakol could be fried then, sauteed with vegetables/ tinkeravenue.wordpress.com

 

Image of an skipjack tuna

The skipjack tuna or gulyasan is less tasty than the tambakol or even the tulingan/ fooduniversity.com

But tambakol is more expensive and often not available, unless one goes to the wet market very early, haha. At odd hours, one would come across “gulyasan,” or skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), the striped tuna favored in Japan and the Maldives. But for the Pinoys, or at least for the market-going folks like me, the striped tuna is considered the poor relative of tambakol and tulingan. However, fish vendors in the market usually pass it off as bullet tuna, to the unfamiliar. ^^

 

Generally, I would say that the ordinary Filipinos’ fish preference leans towards group fishes – mackerels and tunas – that abound in our oceans and tropical seas. There are only few healthy rivers around here, healthy enough to be able to host ample supply of fish and aquatic animals. But occasionally, we also do have some trouts and fly fishes in our wet markets. In the fancy restaurants, of course, there are different kinds – salmons, soles, seabass and tuna – prepared tastefully and served elegantly. Ahaha, that is, for folks  with more discriminating palates and deeper pockets, hohoho. For the ordinary Pinoys, fish is commonly fried or steamed and eaten with a slew of plain, white, steaming rice… 🙂

 

We are a fish-eating people, am afraid. Methinks the British folks would envy us for that… 😉

 

Image of a coastal area in Sothern Luzon Philippines

A bay area in Southern Luzon, a hill and a sea/ http://www.panoramio.com

 

Some facts:

 

The Philippines is an archipelago, composed of 7,107 islands.

The country has a territorial marine area of 2, 200, 000 square kilometers. 

The Philippine tuna (export) industry brings in roughly PhP14 billion or US$337,719 annually (2010 data). It accounts for 12% of the country’s total fish production.

The Philippines is currently the 7th among the world’s top tuna producers. Philippines was 6th in 2008 and 4th in 2004.

General Santos City is called the tuna capital of the Philippines, where the bulk of tuna catch are taken before they are sold to international fishing companies for processing and shipment abroad and to buyers for distribution to different domestic markets.

The bulk of tuna fishing activities are concentrated at Moro Gulf, Davao Gulf, Celebes Sea, Sulu Sea, east coast of Samar and Western Luzon. Some fishing activities are also done at South China Sea during summer.  

Tuna industry reports state that the Philippine waters is relatively overfished for sashimi-grade tuna or tuna for export. They claim that the fishermen have to venture farther and longer in the open seas to be able to catch huge tunas.

Reports have it, however, that the yellow fin tuna for the local market increased by 25% as of June, 2013.

The sashimi grade tuna for export is priced $9 to $10 a kilo on the average while huge tunas for the local market is priced between $6 to $8 a kilo. 

There are six (6) kinds of tuna commonly found in our territorial waters – in the oceans, shelves and municipal shorelines. 

The 1992-1994 Tuna Research Project, however, recorded 21 different tunas in Philippine waters, including the migratory kinds.

Commercial fishing of tuna employ the ringnetting method, purse seining and the traditional payao method. 

Municipal fishing or small-scale tuna fishing in the Philippines still use handlines and gillnets.

There are three kinds of fishing in the country: commercial, municipal and aquaculture. Each kind contributes roughly one-third to the fish industry.

The biggest catch or production of commercial fishing is usually mackerel, geared to meet the demand of sardines factories.

 

Thank you very much for reading, all the best to you, guys… 🙂