Sunday, November 23, 2008


I would like to greet myself (and my mom) a happy 1st year anniversary. Its been a year since I landed in Dubai and I'm still here alive, kicking, crazy (baliw) but happy.

I have felt how it is to be terribly homesick. Its a feeling I don't want anybody to experience but it did me good in a "big picture" kind of way.

I have good work, its not so stressful so it is good for me. I have new experiences; good, bad, crazy, scary, funny. I have new good friends as well - not as many as there is in Manila but they are good people. Most of all, I have new people in my life that have become important to me.

Happy 365th day! Cheers!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ang Malunggay

Malunggay-Taller than me. Our malunggay plant in the backyard. When you're living abroad you suddenly find yourself missing the things that you take for granted back home.

Unlike in the Philippines, you can't buy malunggay here. They are not sold in the market nor in the groceries. The first few months I've lived here I began to miss Philippine vegetables and one of them is the malunggay. I said to myself it'll probably be next year till I eat malunggay again. Then a tear rolled down my cheek. Just kidding haha! Then one day we found a malunggay tree hidden in a small street we call "secret road" because nobody knows that road except the people who live nearby. My dad plucked out a branch and planted it on the ground in the side of the house we live in. Its taller than me now. Soon we can harvest some of its leaves and cook some malunggay dishes.

Here are some dishes that use malunggay.

  • Ginisang Munggo (Green Mung Beans Soup)
  • Tinolang Manok (Chicken Stew with Papaya and Ginger)
  • Pinakbet (Mixed Vegetables with Shrimp Paste)
  • Laswa (Vegetable Soup)
  • Kinunot (Malunggay with Coconut milk and Shark Meat or Stingray Meat)
My favorite is Kinunot. Yes, shark meat - I eat shark, its not typo error. And because its a Bicolano dish it must have lots of chili on it for that extra spicy taste. Anghaaanng!

Apparently, malunggay is becoming famous as a vegetable. The Dept. of Education even encouraged the students to plant them in the school yard. See this article. Even celebrities promote eating malunggay now. There is even malunggay ice cream. I don't know if I'd try that. But you know me, I'll try anything hehe...

Yet even before all this hype I've always loved malunggay. Its a family favorite. I might even send a branch to my Aunt in California so she can plant it in her backyard. She misses malunggay like crazy! Wait... do they sell shark meat in California?

Photo caption: Taller than me. Our malunggay plant in the backyard.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Talking Languages

My editor who is very interested about the Filipino culture often asks me questions that make me realize who we really are as a nation. Here's one of our conversations aboard the car on the way to work.

“I guess most Filipinos can speak two languages; English, Tagalog and at least one dialect. I mean most Filipinos I know can. I know I can.”

“How come you guys can do that?”

“And I can understand two other dialects but I can’t speak them as fluently as the other one.”

“You guys are amazing. We Brits are so lazy – we only speak English.” (shaking head)

“Hmmm... Not really that amazing. I just grew up speaking and hearing them so there really was no effort on my part."

"Oh really."

"Oh by the way, I also understand a bit of Spanish.”

"Is it because you said you were colonized by the Spanish before?"

"Yes, 333 years! Dios mio!"

"My God!"

"Exactly!" (laugh) We lost our alphabet. We had our own before the Spanish came. After 300 years it disappeared. (suddenly serious) Spanish words got sort of assimilated into the Tagalog language."

"So how come you speak English?"

"Because after we were freed from the Spanish, the Americans colonized us for about 50 years more or less."

"You guys get colonized all the time!" (laugh)

"I guess we’re the favourite!" (laugh)

"Honestly, I don’t know what’s with us western people. We can’t help ourselves from colonizing lands we land on." (shaking head, eyes roll)

"I guess that’s why the way I use the language is so messed up."

"What do you mean?"

"Well when I was growing up, I learned my ABCs first before learning our own A-Ba-Ka-Da. I also hear Bicolano which is a dialect that my parents speak. Then in grade school I learned that a pretty big percentage of the Tagalog words we speak is actually Spanish. In high school and college we were forced to speak English all the time. After I graduated I worked with people from different parts of the Philippines and I had to learn some dialects to do my work properly. So now even if I wanted to - I can’t speak pure Tagalog. I can’t even write formal letters in Tagalog. That is something I’m not proud of. Shame on me!"

"Well, just look at it this way. The good thing about it all is you can speak English. While some people exert a lot of effort just to learn it, you guys already grew up speaking it. I mean we can’t deny it - in this present time it is an English world." (humble smile)

"I know! You can’t even code websites if you don’t know English. I mean HTML is written in English."

"There. You see."(smile)

"Oh, and HTML is another language I speak.. err I mean understand."

"Oh dear God! Enough already!" (eyes roll, laugh)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Switching Languages

Every morning.

7:30 a.m. at home

Mom: Pamahaw na kay badi gutumon ka na naman pag-abot mo sa opisina. Daghanun baga an pamahawan dun. Magugutumun ka liwat.
Me: Nahugak pa ako. Makape na hamok ako.

7:40 a.m. at the bus stop
Simplified English

Me: Hey, frend! This yurr dog? Cute eh! She bite?
Rajeev: Noh. This dog noh bite. Just barrk.
Me: Oh! My ride hirr. Me going olreddy.

7:45 a.m. in the car

Me: Hello! Good morning, boss. You look nice in that outfit.
Boss: Thanks! Sorry I got a bit late. I was waiting for a long distance call. So... How was your evening? What did you have for dinner?

7:55 a.m. at the office

Admin Asst: O bakit ang tagal ninyo? Traffic ba? Kumain ka na ba? Kumain na lng kayo diyan may tinapay diyan sa pantry.
Me: Sige gagawa na rin ako ng kape.

8:00 a.m. at my workstation

Pagal sini. Jaw hurrt olreddy. Exhausted from switching languages. Ayaw ko ng magsalita!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Just something I have to deal with

This morning Miss X, my editor, took me with her as her photographer to a press launch in Four Season’s golf club. Tag Heuer is introducing an Arab spokesperson. After the Burj al Arab experience wherein I got a few grams of gold as a giveaway inside the press kit I was expecting that Tag Heuer will give out watches. Sadly, we didn’t get any press kits this time as the venue was jam-packed with media people. But it was okay because we later found out that there were no watches inside those press kits. If there were I would’ve thrown myself to the man-made waterfalls on the golf course.

But watches and gold is not the reason why I’m writing about this post. I am writing this because today it felt strange that I’m here in this country doing this job and having these extravagant experiences. Sure, I've been to almost everywhere high and low in Manila. But lets face it - Manila is Manila and this is Dubai - one of the fastest growing tourist destination this century. Because of this job I get to go to these nice places and eat fancy food and receive extravagant gifts. It is unbelievable and I’m happy because I get to experience them. This is a one heck of a prosperous place, abundant with anything money can buy.

Sometimes it all gets to me and I can’t digest the reality that on the other side of the world there are people I know that sleep without even eating dinner because they don’t have the money for it. Some kids in the neighbourhood I grew up in quit school and are forced to work just to have enough money to buy food. I see food being served here, so expensive I just point it out on the menu because I can’t even pronounce the name. On some mornings I see loads of bread thrown away because they've exceeded their expiry date. I remember the children who go through Jollibee's garbage hoping to find a piece of fried chicken with enough meat on it.

My chest hurts when I think about this - that it is an unfair world.