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Archive for May, 2008

I am re-posting an article I wrote late last year about my cooking dilemma here in the UK. I am a vegetarian and these past few weeks, er, months, I have been craving for Pinoy veggies like kangkong and saluyot. These are not readily available here in our town and if they are, they can be quite expensive especially if I start converting or thinking of how we just used to “harvest” them from everywhere back in the Philippines.

I know a lot of Pinoys around the world can identify with this problem. To give you all a peek into the everyday concerns of a Filipino plucked out of her country into a foreign land, read on…

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Home is where…

Cooking is therapeutic to me. Aside from the necessity of dishing out nutritious food for the family, I cook because it heals me from my sadness and anger, boredom and apathy.

I do not follow procedures when I cook. I do not and can not cook the same dish with exactly the same taste twice. Procedures and measurements constrict me and therefore, limit my chances of benefiting anything from the whole process that is cooking. Whatever ingredients are available, I can whip up something edible and good tasting (at least according to my kids and husband – most of the time) out of them, regardless if there has ever been anything like it attempted by anyone before.

Ingredients are the main secrets in my cooking. As long as I have them, I’d be fine. A dash of this, a few slices of that, and a whole bunch of something else – that’s how I measure them. So far, I have not received any objection to the results.

Back home, I knew where to get all the ingredients I would need for my culinary adventures. It was easy then. Now that I am in the UK, it’s a different matter. The ingredients I took for granted as always within reach are nowhere to be found here. I brought some stuff over from the Philippines like Ajinomoto Ginisa Flavor Mix, Maggi and Knorr cubes, dried tengang daga, dried banana blossom and dried saffron (kasubha) for my lugaw or porridge. Not much for the active cook that I consider myself to be.

The rest that I used to cook with so often are not available here. Bagoong – well, I was able to buy a bottle of the boneless kind in a Filipino barrio fiesta at Milton Keynes last August. I am trying to be as economical as I can with it because the next barrio fiesta will not happen again until next year. Sometimes, I feel so helpless not being able to find kangkong, saluyot, tilapia or even pancit canton and miki at the supermarket down the road.

If I sulk, however, my family will starve – my kids have not yet adopted the English palate that go for stuff like shepherd’s pie, fish ‘n chips or pizza for lunch – those are just for their snacks. Well, they now like chips and baked chicken for dinner, but only because the chips (we call them French fries back home) are sprinkled with a dash of Ajinomoto Ginisa flavor mix. They still go for rice and a fish/vegetable/meat dish.

Besides, I want to feed them with home-cooked meals – not take-out pizza, fish n’ chips or pasta. I want them to grow up smelling food cooking in the kitchen. I want to fill their childhood with memories of sit-down evening meals. Most importantly, I want them to grow up eating Filipino food – well, at least most of the time.

So, I decided to be flexible, creative and adaptable in my cooking. I have substituted most of the vegetables that I used to cook with before, with whatever is available at the supermarket. Spinach takes the place of kangkong in my sinigang, aubergine takes the place of eggplant (actually, I do not see any difference between the two except the name) and some white pasta sauce takes the place of Magnolia All Purpose Cream for my special Pinoy spaghetti.

Just today, I cooked dinengdeng with ingredients that have come from at least four different countries. The bagoong is from my country, the okra from Jordan, the string beans from Kenya, the mushroom and spinach (which takes the place of malunggay) are UK-grown and the taro – only God and the supermarket operator know. Really, I saw the effect of the WTO right in my pot! I am thankful that these products have reached me from miles away.

Before we came over here, my husband warned me that my favorite vegetable, saluyot, is not available here. I was resigned to the fact that I will only be able to taste saluyot again when we can go home to the Philippines. One time, however, he brought me to this Indian market place where I saw saluyot being sold. Imagine my joy! I also saw other familiar vegetables like ampalaya and upo! They were quite expensive but we bought some. I will have to go back for more later on.

There is also this small Pinoy Foods store at the town mall where I can find some products we all miss having like Lucky Me Pancit Canton, bihon, longganisa, tocino, Datu Puti condiments and even junk foods like Nova, Piattos and others. Of course, they are more expensive than their prices in the Philippines. But really, who can complain?

In short, I have embraced cooking in a foreign country with the same passion but with a few adjustments. I have accepted the limitations posed by being so far away from home. I also learned to appreciate whatever familiar ingredients I can find here. As a cook, this has made me grow more in my love for cooking and my focus as a cooking enthusiast. This has opened my eyes to the fact that nothing can stop me from doing what I love to do and from my mission to keep my family well-fed with nutritious, home-cooked and full-of-love cooking.

At the end of each day, when the sink is clean and the oven has cooled, I stand in my tiny kitchen and feel this pleasurable feeling come over me. Maybe it’s a feeling of contentment, sense of accomplishment or a combination of both – I don’t know.

They say “Home is where the heart is.” I say, “Home is where I can cook with pleasure.”

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It can now be officially said: I am an overseas Filipino worker or OFW. I have just been accepted as a part time clerk in our local hospital. In fact, I just had my induction last week. I work only part time because having no maid or nanny, I have the kids to look after in addition to the house chores (not to mention maintaining my two blogs).

Being the workaholic that I used to be, my life now is way too laid back. I work just three hours a day in a workplace not more than a three-minute walk from where we live. My work back then involved a lot of cerebral activities, I mean, using the mind all the time. Here, I have a job that accounts to nothing much but a mindless task.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining. I am getting for my three-hour daily shift more than what I worked for full-time back home. Not to mention the fact that I am now thankfully spared the horrors of endless traffic jams and bumpy FX rides.

In Manila, I used to wake up at 4:00 am everyday to cook my family’s meals for the whole day – breakfast, lunch plus my son’s packed lunch. Sure, I had a maid then, but I still did the cooking, groceries and marketing on weekends on top of keeping track of my kids’ school lessons. Then, I get home at around 7:30 pm and will not retire until 11:00 pm, only to wake up at 4:00 am again the following day…

Now, after sending the hubby off to work and taking the kids to school, I have five solid hours of blogging ecstacy, or television heaven or sleeping utopia – whatever, before I go to work in the afternoon. And this is where the difference in my life as a worker here and in the Philippines lies – the quality of life I get.

I used to be harried and stressed and toxic. Now, I get to do the things I love to do and at the same time, personally attend to my family. Work has now become just a diversion and a way to sustain the quality of life that I am getting. I would prefer to work more in order to earn more but at the moment, I am enjoying my transition into the British workplace and gaining all the experience and knowledge I need for me to survive in a more demanding and competitive job perhaps in London in the future.

I know I have what it takes to make it in that world-class city. After commuting for more than a decade in Manila traffic, I can stand the daily squeeze into London tubes to get to work and home on time. After working with the best minds the Philippines has to offer, I should be able to handle anything my prospective British bosses ask me to accomplish. After living in a city so hot temperatures can hit 37 or 38 degrees C, I should be thankful for the chilly, albeit cruel English weather as I wake up early mornings in the dead of winter to get to work. And last but not least, after working my a__ off in the Philippines and still not get enough to secure my family’s future, I sure can use with the enormous windfall a London job can offer.

But I am getting far way too ahead of myself. At the moment, I relish every moment of my being an OFW – an experience so new and at the same time humbling. Imagine, I now belong to that mass of Filipinos hailed as the Modern Heroes, sending billions of dollars home to keep the economy afloat, to feed our families, send our young ones to school and put a roof above their heads.

It is something I have never dreamt of becoming before, but something I feel proud of now. Me, working in the UK, making the most of every opportunity to secure a brighter future for my family, showing the Brits that Filipinos are world-class workers, sending money back home to my parents, loving every minute on the job. Now, that last one is something new to me (and I hope it stays that way) J.

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\"Our Family Reunited at Last\"

I wrote this article for my other blog in 2006, shortly after my husband left for the UK. I am sharing it in this blog for my new readers, and as a way to share my thoughts and feelings before I left the country. Your comments are welcome, everyone!

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My husband and I have been married for more than 10 years already – quite a feat these days, I believe. This we owe to the fact that we both share a deep connection with a common God. The God we worship wants us to be together and that has always been our conviction. So long as we worship our God, we will have to live by this conviction. There’s nothing I can complain about this arrangement as our marriage is tranquil and is a haven for both of us.

But there are some things in life that are bound to change and one of these is our comfortable arrangement of being together everyday, with very seldom physical separation from each other and our kids. But on June 1, 2006, my husband flew to the United Kingdom to work there as a Mobile CT Scan Technologist. It was the beginning of another phase of our lives – and the ending (thankfully, temporarily) of leisurely weekends and long FX rides going home on Fridays. For our kids, it marked a temporary respite from wrestling and boxing with their Papa.

My kids and I had different reactions to my hubby’s departure that day. My youngest, who was ecstatic when we boarded my sister’s car to the airport because he thought we were just going out for fun, was shocked, speechless and on the verge of tears when he finally realized that Papa boarded a plane to go to the UK. He was so quiet on our way home. My older son was less discreet with his grief as he was openly crying and saying to me he won’t have a Papa to greet on Father’s Day. As for myself, well, I did not get to cry until I entered our room upon arriving from the airport and finding a deep and profound absence of somebody so dear.

We have survived the first month, by the grace of God and we are taking each day at a time. Technology has been most useful in bridging the distance as we regularly text, call and email each other. During the first five days of his stay in a hotel where he was billeted until he has been formally inducted, he would call the house up to four times a day – thanks to a generous telephone allowance from his company. He would cry over the phone and I would do my best to sound strong. Somehow, his homesickness has eased and he is now busy working.

We plan to join him next year. Meanwhile, I am doing my best to play the role of a dutiful OFW’s wife by being faithful and true (as if I have reason not to be so!), by being an efficient NaTay (both Nanay & Tatay) to our kids and being a good steward of his earnings. We are both determined to be debt free by his third month there. From then on, we would not allow ourselves to be financially indebted to anybody again.

Thanks to a much generous pay for his expertise, we can now easily achieve this. However, nothing comes for free these days. And what high a price we have to pay for it: enduring the separation and exerting vigilant effort not to blow this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of making it big – for our family, our country and God’s glory!

Ah! the life of an OFW’s wife!

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It’s been almost two years since my husband left the country and we have joined him here in the UK already. We were able to achieve our goal of being debt-free a few months after his departure and we are now saving any disposable income as we remain adamant about not being indebted ever again.

In my next post, I will share about my feelings and thoughts about being an OFW myself. Til next post, guys!

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This funny anecdote was forwarded to me via email and I thought it is apt to post it here because it perfectly illustrates the ingenuity and adaptability of Filipinos. Also, it reflects something that is distinctly Filipino; self-lacerating humour. We Pinoys have this penchant for humour at our own expense. More than that, we laugh at things that sometimes we should be shy about or that should be considered shameful.

But we laugh at them because it is a coping mechanism for most of us. For others, it’s a tacit agreement that these things are beyond us to change and we might as well use it for our entertainment as a nation. Whatever, I hope everyone gets a good laugh out of this one. Read on…

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Bill Gates organized an enormous session to recruit a new Chairman for Microsoft Europe. Five thousand candidates assembled in a large room. One candidate was MARIO DIMAYUGA.

Bill Gates: “Thank you for coming. Those who do not know JAVA may leave.”

Two thousand people left the room.

MARIO said to himself, “I do not know JAVA but I have nothing to lose if I stay. I’ll give it a try.”

Bill Gates: “Candidates who never had experience of managing more than 100 people may leave.”

Two thousand people left the room.

Mario said to himself, “I never managed anybody but myself but I have nothing to lose if I stay. What can happen to me?” So he stayed.

Bill Gates: “Candidates who do not have management diplomas may leave.”

Five hundred people left the room.

Mario said to himself, “I left school at 15 but what have I got to lose?” So he stayed in the room.

Lastly, Bill Gates asked the candidates who do not speak Serbo-Croat to leave.

Four hundred and 98 people left the room.

Mario says to himself, “I do not speak one word of Serbo-Croat but what do I have to lose?” So he stayed and found himself with one other candidate.

Everyone else had gone.

Bill Gates joined them and said “Apparently you two are the only candidates who speak Serbo-Croat, so I’d now like to hear you converse in that language.”

Calmly, Mario turned to the other candidate and said, “Kumusta ka, pare ko?” (How are you, my friend?)

The other candidate answered, “Mabuti naman, ikaw?” (I am good, and you?)

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Surely, only Filipinos would have thought of pulling that trick! It may not be true, and it may be a bit appalling to think that we could be that cheeky, but at the end of the day, to me, it’s all about making life more bearable by finding something to laugh about. For us Pinoys, it’s usually us that we laugh about.

Unemployment rate is so high in our country and there is no harm in imagining that we can easily outwit Bill Gates to employ us, he he he! Til next post, guys!

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This blog was created with the sole intent of showcasing Pinoy good-ness and talented-ness and survivor-ness around the world. So, it is only fitting that I make mention of Diosdado “Dado” Banatao here. For most Filipinos, the name is unfamiliar. But for the powers-that-be populating Silicon Valley, the man is the brilliant billionaire – the first-ever and the only Filipino so far to have attained that status, who has made and continue to make, significant contributions to the growth of information and communication technology.

Watch a Feature About Dado

I “discovered” this guy almost two years ago, when I was scouring the net for some possible good-hearted individuals or corporations willing to sponsor my mom’s struggling private school in the Philippines. During my endless searches in the internet, the name of Mr. Banatao came up. Well, I could not find a way to contact him to ask for his help, but I came to know him better by reading articles about him.

I was inspired and amazed to read about his accomplishments and contributions to information and communication technology. To put it in a nutshell, he is partly responsible for making computers affordable for ordinary people. He worked on several IT technologies that are now part of our ordinary computing life. If the following accomplishment of this Cagayano-Filipino is not amazing to you, I don’t know what is:

  1. First single-chip, 16-bit microprocessor-based calculator (while at Commodore in 1976)
  2. First 10-Mbit Ethernet CMOS with silicon coupler data-link control and transreceiver chip; got 3Com into the Ethernet PC add-in card business (while at Seeq in early 1980s)
  3. First system logic chip set for the PC-XT and the PC-AT (while at Mostron in 1984 and Chips and Technologies in 1985)
  4. First enhanced graphics adapter chip set (while at Chips and Technologies in 1985)
  5. Pioneered local bus concept for PC (while at S3 in 1989)
  6. First Windows accelerator chip (while at S3 in 1990)
  7. Chips and Technologies – initially acquired by Intel, now an Asilent Telechnologies brand.

Source: WikiPedia

As you can see, he is a trailblazer, an inventor, a genius! I am so proud that one of our own race was used to come up with all these things, some of which I cannot even begin to fathom. At the same time, I also wonder what good could he have done had he not left the Philippines…

Mr. Diosdado “Dado” Banatao was born in the town of Iguig, Cagayan Valley (my home province, too!) in 1946. He is a member of the Ytawes minority group of Cagayan.

He graduated cum laude from the Mapua Institute of Technology in Manila and also holds an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. He is currently the Managing Partner of Tallwood Venture Capital, a firm that encourages bright minds to nurture their ideas and translate them into things that are useful and helpful. He is also involved in other corporations and businesses. From that poor little boy who went to a public school in Iguig, he has come a long way indeed. To know more about him, click here or search his name in the internet and you will be given a lot of write-ups about this brilliant man.

Dado Banatao plays as hard as he works, too. He splurges on big-time toys only seriously moneyed boys can afford – planes and expensive cars. His first job as a professional was as a pilot with Philippine Airlines before he transferred to Boeing in the US. His family lives in the US now and they are all involved with the Filipino communities there. He and his wife Maria are givers – they never fail to give back for all the blessings that they received and because, according to Dado, he came from humble beginnings, too. His children are all achievers and that must really be a source of pride for this kababayan and his wife.

I am sure there are more Dado Banataos back in the Philippines. I hope that like him, they will also be brave enough to follow their dreams and work harder to make them into reality.

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Charice!

Charice Pempengco is a phenomenal talent who has captured the world’s attention. She is a very young girl with a mature projection when performing onstage. Of course, it is a well-known fact that Filipinos are musically-talented. But Charice upped the description a little bit by infusing charm, conviction and confidence into every performance, and thereby giving the world a glimpse of what Filipino performers can truly offer.

This girl is going places, I believe. Let us all support her in our prayers and root for her in all her performances and guestings anywhere in the world. She is set to appear in Oprah on May 12. She has been on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in the US already, London’s Paul O’Grady Show (only last month!) and of course, Star King in Korea – where she was first shown performing her trademark “And I am Telling You I’m not Going” song . In all her appearances, she never failed to captivate her audiences. Her website can be found here, where you can keep track of her career. For a quick look at how fast her star is rising, watch this news clip about her on E. Live.

We have Lea Salonga in the world music scene and we might just have another bright and talented girl joining her to showcase Filipino talent and showmanship for years to come. Charice, we wish you all the best and wherever your dreams will take you, do not forget your country and your people because you are one of the reasons why we can all walk tall anywhere in the world.

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