Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Still on Philippine history - the British occupation and the Silangs

I have mentioned to friends that perhaps there should also be a movie about an often overlooked if not forgotten part of Philippine history, which is the victory of the British over Spain back in 1762. While some sources refer to this as the British occupation of the Philippines, what the former actually succeeded in holding was an area (very) roughly the expanse of Metro Manila. The British managed to hold this area for only short of 2 years as they withdrew after an agreement between Britain, France and other nations involved in the Seven Years' War in Europe.

There were some interesting persons back then and there were no lack for heroes with a couple no less who are now remembered for their efforts against Spain back then - Diego and Gabriela Silang. I'm sure there will be actors and actresses who would be lobbying if not auditioning for these parts. Perhaps, too, and more likely, the story for such a film will be revolving around this couple. Is any film maker or producer up to the challenge in coming up with this movie?


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Still on Philippine history - looking back at the Philippine-American War and the elite in the Philippines

An important part of the movie on Antonio Luna is the depiction of the Philippine-American War that included atrocities made by the Americans as they invaded and subjugated the Philippines. This was no mere insurrection but a war for independence against foreign rule. The events leading to the war as well as events during and after the war are barely mentioned in many textbooks included those used in our schools. No, this is not a case of being revisionist like how China and Korea accuse Japan for atrocities during the latter's occupation of those countries in the last century. The events whether good or bad need to be part of what is being taught in our schools because that is part of our history and it is important from the perspective of setting the context for how our country and its systems came to be.

Inevitable would also be the depiction of what people did back then to cope with life under a new foreign ruler. How was it in the countrysides? How was it in the cities? Did our elite collaborate with the Americans? To what extent and for what? These are questions that will haunt many who are afraid to confront that past in part due to the pains of wounds that could be reopened and in part because of the complicity of our ancestors especially those who may be depicted as the villains in those times. Aguinaldo, Buencamino and Paterno, for example, are now seen in a different light after watching "Luna" but we also need to understand their circumstances rather than just immediately judge them for alleged actions including the attribution of the deaths of Bonifacio and Luna. 

In my case, I am also interested with the role of the elite and circumstances of what is considered the first Philippine Republic in what could have been the first attempt at Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the Philippines. Based on what I have read, it was a disaster and our elite basically held our government hostage to the opportunistic terms for funding the government. There are writings somewhere probably stating how these very same elite with prominent names quickly sided with the Americans as the latter offered better terms for them to flourish. Perhaps some of the favourable terms included lands that were seized from the friars that were turned over by the Americans and became part of certain haciendas and other expanses of land that seem to be owned by few families?


Saturday, September 26, 2015

6 years A.O. (After Ondoy)

It's now 6 years after Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana); that particularly destructive typhoon that brought down the heaviest rainfall we ever experienced (some say 100 year flood). We lost 1 of our 2 cars and were demoralized given our investment with what used to be our home back in 2009. Our housekeeper was so stressed and depressed (it was her first time to experience such an event) that we had her take a break for some time. Our pets were also distressed and it took a while before the two ventured downstairs as we were sure they could detect the smell of flood waters that lingered even after we cleaned up and disinfected our ground floor and surroundings.

We now live on literally higher ground. After saving up for a few years, we were able to build our new home. Our dogs moved in with us last year and soon our most wonderful blessing arrived and is enjoying her room at our home - safe from the floods of Ondoy and other typhoons that may bring in floods in the future. Our kasambahay Manang is also with us along with her son whose schooling we are supporting. They, too, are happy and it seems that we can all now look back at Ondoy and its floods jokingly. It is something we would rather not experience again and we hope our former neighbors will not experience again in the future.

Today is actually a sunny day, the weather is opposite to what we experienced this time of year the last 6 years. Perhaps this is climate change happening before our very eyes? There has not been a major tropical cyclone this year so far although there have been intense (torrential) rain episodes on many days the past months and news reports mention that the El Nino this year will threaten our water supply. One thing's for sure though. El Nino is usually followed by a year associated with bad weather and heavy rains. That is not a good thing to look forward to.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On Luna and critical thinking about history

The Clairvoyant and I watched the movie about Antonio Luna last weekend. We were very curious about it when it first featured on cinemas and could only read about the commentaries and reactions to the film. It is basically about Gen. Luna, a man who was a part of the propaganda movement in Spain among with Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena and his brother Juan Luna (to name the more prominent members of the movement). He returned to the Philippines at a time when Spain was in the process of being defeated by revolutionists with the aid of a small American force. With the agreement between Spain and the US ceding the archipelago for the then huge amount of 20 million US dollars, the revolutionists who declared independence in Cavite in 1898, soon found themselves at war with the US. Luna became a general of the fledgling Philippine armed forces and was tasked to lead forces to resist American expansion from Manila towards Central and Northern Luzon. To cut the story short (please watch the movie or get yourself a good history book), Luna was assassinated in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, ironically, by his own countrymen.

I am sure the many scenes from the movie will continue to generate a lot of discussions about the actions of many of our so-called heroes including the tragic case of Emilio Aguinaldo, who has been unlucky to live long enough to be involved in a number of controversies even after his failed First Republic. There are many who have questioned his leadership and even his qualities as a person given his alleged implications or involvements in the deaths of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna. More will continue to question Aguinaldo as a hero despite his legitimate contributions in the revolution and the war for independence.

I think the most important contribution of the film is its invitation for everyone who watched it to think critically about our history. Many of us tend to take our history for granted; accepting whatever are written in text books or what our teachers lectured in school. There is a saying that history is written by the victors and often those who are able to survive or live longer than the others involved in it. Much has been written about the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War that followed what is claimed as our independence from Spain. However, it is important that we understand the circumstances and the contexts underlying the actions of personalities at the time. What were their motivations? What and whose interests did they serve? Were there collusions or collaborations? Were certain persons misled or fooled, and were people dumb enough to have fallen for ruses or intrigues? Like many events involving personalities, perhaps only time can tell whether certain people will be absolved or redeemed based on careful analysis and an evidence-based process to ascertain heroism or villainy.


Sunday, September 20, 2015


I think one of our dogs have been a little jealous about our little Ally. Although both Barbi and Mocha have been allowed inside our home, it is usually Barbi (our old mixed breed) who is allowed indoors overnight. She is already more than 11 years old (about 80 in dog years) so she gets the preferential treatment over our Golden Retriever who is turning 2 in April next year. they have been trying to get our attention every single chance they have. But it is Mocha who has to make some 'sacrifice' staying at the service area. (She's got proper sleeping arrangements there and is not exposed to the elements.) Our previous dog Troy was always indoors at night. 

And so the wife thought we should already introduce our Ally to Barbi and Mocha. Barbi was okay and generally didn't mind our daughter's presence. Ally now often approaches and pets Barbi and we taught her to approach and stroke her gently so as not to surprise Barbi. Mocha is still young and would seem to be quite hyper whenever we are around and little Ally excites her as it seems Mocha sees her as a playmate. Ally was initially afraid of her but quickly learned that the dog is just super-malambing (to use a Filipino term). We try to walk around as much as possible with both Ally and Mocha. Our dog serves as our early warning against other dogs as well animals (there are many birds and small animals in our area where we have a lot of trees and other foliage around).

Mocha watching over the wife and daughter
Our retriever is territorial and we quickly discovered that her protectiveness of us extended to Ally as well. A male dog (a stray of sorts roaming around our village) happened to wander near us. Mocha spotted the dog in the distance and made her stance, barking loudly and making sure that the other dog knew she was aware of his presence and that the other dog should trot along quickly even without me shooing the dog. Ally and Mocha will grow up together and we think Mocha will eventually be Ally's dog (though we'll surely get her her own puppy once she's ready for that responsibility in a few years time).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chocolate review: Heidi Dark Espresso

Another Heidi bar I got from a trip to Clark is the Dark Espresso. It was a 'no-brainer' to pick up this bar as cocoa and coffee is a very compatible pairing. The Clairvoyant described the taste as exquisite and this may the most sophisticated among the Heidi dark chocolates we've sampled. I liked it slightly better than the black salt variant.

Heidi dark espresso
Information on the chocolate including the maker at the back.
Information at the back of the box indicates minimum cocoa to be at 50%
Also priced at 78 PHP per 80g bar, it is the same price as the other Heidi bars I've written about in this blog. Again, it is good value for money for a very good chocolate. It is sure to satisfy one's cravings for dark chocolate.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dinner out with friends

I would say that it is always a nice experience to go out for dinner with friends. It is an opportunity to enjoy good company with good food. The good company here are close friends and colleagues at our office, a research and extension center of the University of the Philippines Diliman. The good food is care of Lantaw along the SRP Highway in Cebu City. Everyone of us like to eat good food and especially the combination you will find in Filipino restaurants that include grilled food, seafood and a few bottles of beer. Of course, the best part of any dinner like this are the stories and laughter that help relieve stress at the end of the day as we all unwinded from Day 2 of the conference we are attending.

A toast before our food was arrived


Friday, September 11, 2015

Drab and dry conference

I'm back in Cebu to attend an international conference. So far it has been a bit of a disappointment mixed with some amusement. I say disappointment because this has so much potential from the time it was pitched in Taipei back in 2013 by a group of the local affiliate society, most of whom didn't deliver on their commitment. Those who were disappointments include the mayor of this city who backed out after pledging his support as host of the conference - one of the biggest factors for the international society's Board of Directors deciding to award Cebu City the 20th anniversary conference. There was also almost no support from the national transportation agency, whose top officials are known (or shall I say notorious) for their (non)performance with respect to transport infrastructure development.

Other disappointments are certain officials of the local society including past presidents who basically didn't exert any effort to support the organization of the conference. If this conference would be the basis for evaluating their performance (that sadly could also be tied to the local society's performance the past 15 years) then I would probably give them a mediocre rating. I feel sad for the current president and his sidekick as they had been handed a conference that seem to be doomed from the time of the turnover as the previous president practically did nothing to prepare for the conference including zero fundraising.

The opening program was drab, boring and basically a patch up work. The speakers originally expected to deliver their remarks were no-shows and the local society leadership had to make some urgent, last minute calls to save whatever could be of the opening program. The result was a very quick opening ceremony. It didn't help that the cultural presentation by a local university partner of the lead university put on a somewhat odd dance routine with what was claimed as something Cebuano of old did at the end of the day. It turned out to be a "face palm" moment that left a lot of us in disbelief if not shock. 

The morning event basically set the tone for the day. I heard that the press conference had some embarrassing moments. There were a lot of no-shows during the afternoon technical sessions. Then there was the welcome dinner that was not much in terms of the program with the local university partner continuing to baffle the participants with their odd performances. This time, what was billed as traditional songs were a medley of pop songs sung in a stylized and awkward manner.

I hope the succeeding days will be better. After today, it seems that the conference has nowhere to go but up. The closing ceremony, hopefully, can save whatever it could of this conference of which much was expected. At least, the top official of the national science and technology agency has been confirmed and will be delivering his speech. There will also be the awards and the announcement for the hosts of the next conference. 

Right now, I will only have my fingers crossed and maybe even knock on wood. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Matam-ih, Clark Freeport

We were looking for a new place to eat at one time we were in the Clark Freeport in Pampanga. One friend suggested that we try one restaurant we have spotted on our way to meetings with Clark Development Corporation (CDC). Matam-ih is supposed to mean 'masarap' or good-tasting. The food at the restaurant was good and the service was also good with the staff knowledgeable about the menu and attentive to customers. They have their own version of singing waiters, which we were told were popular with tourists. The prices were also reasonable and won't leave you feeling for a hole in your pocket. I guess it the place would be perfect for meetings and big groups as it is spacious and the food servings are suitable for sharing.

The restaurant's "command center" where the orders are submitted. Behind it is the kitchen.
Interesting elaborate lamp set-up at the main building of the restaurant
Table set-up inside the restaurant's spacious interior
This one doesn't need a description or explanation
Another gazebo type structure for more private dining for groups
Adobong pusit (squid)
Kalderetang kambing (goat meat stew)
Rice wrapped in banana leaf (apparently it was cooked while wrapped in the same leaf)
Roasted chicken, Kapampangan style
Inihaw na liempo (barbecued pork belly)
Their corn soup is really good and "comfort food" instantly came to my mind.
A look inside one of the gazebos
A look inside another one of the gazebos
The center piece is a cast full of handicrafts
I would recommend Matam-ih for those looking to eat good Filipino food at Clark. Parking is accessible via the side street from M.A. Roxas Highway.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Memories of Troy

It's been a year since our beloved Labrador Retriever Troy passed away. He was a loving creature who always expressed his appreciation and love in many ways including giving us licks in the face or just being there when we come home tired from work. He was a happy dog.

Troy loved bananas

He also loved the outdoors
I just wanted to remember Troy as he deserved to be remembered. All the happy memories with Troy will not be forgotten and we have many tales to tell our little Ally about the big black dog that roamed our home with our other dog Barbie. :)