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Archive for August, 2008

MABUHAY ANG MGA PINOY!!!

I saw this in my email inbox. I want to share it with everyone because it had such a dramatic and intense impact on me. I have always felt for the children of the Philippines – those poor little angels begging in the streets of Metro Manila, those who play barefooted under the scorching heat of the sun in the provinces and even the diving children in Mindanao, who dive after coins thrown by boat passengers.

In my job as a development worker back when I was still there, I would ask mothers to let me carry their babies and I would take photographs of innocent children with that knowing look as we do community work. I just love them, really.

I feel for them and I fear for their future, given the grim reality that is Philippine politics. The children are the innocent victims and sadly, our leaders do not seem to care at all.

But I have faith in the resilience of the Filipinos. We are survivors. We are an ingenious people. And we start young being so, what with all the challenges that go with growing up in the Philippines.

Look at him, he is just one smart kid, isn’t he? Not even Michael Phelps has such cool swimming gear.

MABUHAY ANG MGA PINOY!!! 😀

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We all love long weekends, don’t we? I, for one, patiently wait for the next long weekend all year round. There are only a few within a year so you can understand how happy I am when it happens. So, I have been looking forward to this particular weekend because tomorrow is a bank holiday. We were able to go places and do things on Saturday and Sunday and still have tomorrow to rest.

My boys upon arrival at the Milton Keynes Barrio Fiesta with Philippine flags proudly flying in the background

My boys upon arrival at the Milton Keynes Barrio Fiesta with Philippine flags proudly flying in the background

But the main reason I was looking forward to this long weekend is because of the Barrio Fiesta we were scheduled to go to in Milton Keynes, which took place yesterday and today. I have so wanted to go because I longed to buy Filipino products from the various stalls – Lucky Me Pancit Canton, oyster sauce, ChocNut, Datu Puti soy sauce, bagoong – whatever! I considered buying anything that just remind me of home and that we remotely needed (or wanted).

Doing what I came to do - shopping!

Doing what I came to do - shopping!

So we went yesterday, Saturday (we were not able to go back today even if I secretly wanted to) and I really had a great time.

We met up with our friends Malou and Joel, Mrs. Reyes and her son Richard, a film maker who was involved in the filming of Sharon Cuneta’s blockbuster film Care Giver. Upon arrival at the fiesta site, hubby and I went to an acquaintance’s stall to buy the Pinoy items we needed/wanted. We went around with my friend Malou’s daughter, while my sons and Malou’s own two boys played.

Mrs Reyes owns a subdivision called Aurea Village in Alfonso, Cavite and she is aggressively marketing it among Filipinos here in the UK. Of course, hubby and I got one lot for ourselves on which we plan to build our vacation house later on, but that will be a separate post later.

So anyway, Mrs. Reyes rented a stall in the Milton Keynes Barrio Fiesta for Aurea Village and that was where we stayed yesterday. Malou, who is married to a Radiographer just like myself, also set up her own Avon and HerbaLife products on the side of the Aurea Village stall to sell some items.

Malou, myself and Mrs. Reyes enjoying the afternoon with halo-halo

Malou, myself and Mrs. Reyes enjoying the afternoon with halo-halo

We did some selling and promoting of Aurea Village. I noticed a lot of Pinays with British husbands in the fiesta and Mrs Reyes and her crew (that’s us!) were able to talk to a lot of them. I hope they will seriously consider investing in the subdivision as the area is an excellent holiday place indeed.

Then we also got to enjoy a spread of Pinoy goodies for lunch – munggo and laing (which I cooked especially for my friends) plus vegetarian lumpia and fried tilapia. It was a hearty meal. There is nothing more filling than a meal shared with good friends. We topped it off with halo-halo which I have been longing to eat (unfortunately, the halo-halo had chunky instead of fine ice and it was like eating pebbles).

The lunch we had conveniently laid on an antique bilao

Our lunch conveniently laid on an antique bilao

Strolling around the premises of the fiesta site gave me a different feeling – a sense of belonging, if you like. The lively chatter of different Filipino languages – Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilocano, etc, made me feel so at home. The Philippine flags flying in the wind, the Philippine National Anthem played at the start of the program, the smell of different Pinoy foods wafting in the air (I could not help but notice how much Pinoys love their food as most of the stalls sold Pinoy cuisine in all its splendid variety) – everything just reminded me of who I am. I needed that after more than a year of adjusting in a foreign land trying so hard to conform and live up to something totally alien.

I didn’t even know I longed for such reminders until I had them yesterday. It was so good a feeling. I would have wanted to stay longer but we needed to go to a friend’s kid’s birthday party at 3:00 pm so we left our friends and the fiesta early.

I am looking forward to the next fiesta we will go to next month in London, God wiling, where there will be another promo blitz for Aurea Village. I will make the most of that opportunity and will stay as long as possible to bond with friends and meet new ones. It’s just a wonderful feeling to celebrate my Pinoy-hood, sharing a whole day with people of the same background, culture, beliefs and traditions. I can’t wait to experience and witness once again the Filipino’s lively approach to life, that ready smile, that shy but friendly countenance and that all-important love for food. Can’t wait, really.

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Maritz (Part V)

Part I can be found here (Then you can follow the links to each of the other parts).

That low point in Maritz’ new life in Germany was to be the pivotal event that led her and challenged her to chart a new destiny for her. Yes, she married for love and because of that love, followed her sweetheart half a world away from her home. But that did not mean that she would just waste away her youth, her time, her talents and skills waiting on her man and waiting for him to come home from work every night.

There was a time when she contemplated on leaving Germany and going back to her family – whom she was missing so terribly. But now, she is thankful that she did not succumb to the urge to run away then.

Up to that point and a few more months afterwards, dear hubby would give her monthly allowance for whatever she wanted to buy. But being her family’s breadwinner when she was single, she was not very comfortable with the idea of depending on her husband. In fact, she found it a torture! She could earn her own money, anyway. She was not an invalid and she had a college degree. She knew she had the right tools to earn a living – if only to affirm her own identity and independence.

She recognized what was keeping her from doing that: the language barrier. So, she enrolled in an intensive German course and within three months, she was conversing in German already! Her husband was pleasantly surprised! He must have been very proud of his persistent and determined wife. Her newly-acquired language boosted Maritz’ confidence since people started to talk to her already. She realized at that time that her hunch was correct all the while – people were aloof because they did not know how to communicate with her.

But that was not all. Going to her German classes opened up a whole new world of friends and possibilities for her. In the language course, she met other people in the same situation – learning German in order to get around and get by. Maritz realized she was not alone in her dilemma and that there is hope for her!

Her life took on a whole new perspective and renewed energy. All of a sudden she felt the same gush of exuberance to make it – just like when she was dead serious to make it as an entertainer. Perhaps, her earlier experiences like shedding her inhibitions and believing in herself prepared her for this challenge.

Finding renewed inspiration, she proceeded to getting a job for herself. She did not need the money to survive, but she needed to affirm herself, to legitimize her existence, and prove to herself that she can overcome these obstacles and find her happiness in that corner of the world. It was tough for her for the first year but deciding to take up German lessons and opening herself to the possibility of being employed again changed all that.

She was childless then (and now still, by choice, but that will be in the next part of this story) so there was nothing to hold her back from fulfilling her dreams, much like the same way she pursued her musical career. At first, her hubby was not so keen on her working but she persuaded him, justifying herself with the fact that they did not have children anyway, so what would she do with her time and her life?

So, after her year-long German course, she started looking for a job. Having done a lot of travelling to last a whole lifetime for only two years, and having a degree in Business Administration – Accounting, it was only natural for her to drift into the travel industry. When she got employed as a Bookkeeper in a travel agency, it was all systems go for Maritz. Her interview lasted only ten minutes and when she was said that she could start the next day, she was the happiest girl in the whole wide world.

At first, she was confined to just doing the books. If her struggles with the language proved almost overwhelming to her, they were nothing compared to the new challenges that faced her in the workplace. In Germany, she was not the little star people admired for her music anymore – she was just one of the employees. She had to learn everything by herself.

She learned to be as frank and direct as her colleagues. If she did not know something, she tried to discover it on her own, as people would frankly tell her that they got no time for her – it was not just the culture, you see. This might be shocking to Filipinos, who are always on the ready with a smile and a helping hand, particularly towards foreigners. But it is how things are in Germany and Maritz had to go along with the music.

Even on the homefront, Maritz had to come to terms with the same cultural trait. When she was still jobless, she would cook dinner for her hubby, only to be told that he was not hungry. He did not mean to hurt her – it was just plain German frankness and honesty. Tough, eh? But she married a German man she loved and she had to make those few adjustments. At first, she would just cry because of such blunt refusals and the hubby would be genuinely perplexed. Then, she learned to not “serve” him and just let him find his way to the kitchen if he was hungry. Now, it’s been reversed – it’s the hubby who serves her, he he he!

Anyway, after a year in the travel agency, she was presented by her boss with a form to fill up. She was being promoted to handle the whole Accounts and Finance Unit and the form was needed for her to be included as a signatory to company bank transactions! Not bad for someone who almost went home because she could not speak German just a few months earlier.

A month after she took on the new position, the company’s main Accountant got fired and Maritz found herself as the new Finance Officer. Another year thereafter, she started learning the reservation system and selling flights on her own initiative – though she was never expected to. Her boss noticed that and allowed her to be the Finance Officer and at the same time do sales.

Then her travels as part of her work started. It was like the dream happening all over again, only that this time, it was not her dream for her music but for travel that was coming true. She has free travel or familiarization trips and add to that her private holidays with her husband, we have one travel-spoiled lady!

Maritz’ life is nothing short of charmed. She got her second-best job and at the same time still pursued her love for music. Yes, because while she works fulltime in the travel industry, she sings on the side as well. Didn’t I mention that? But, oh! that will be for next time, ok?

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Maritz Part IV

If you haven’t read the previous chapters of this story, you can go to the first part and then follow the links for the succeeding ones.

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We have seen how Maritz reached her dream to be a singer and sent her two younger sisters to college in the process. We have also talked about her persistent suitor and how she came to finally “surrender” and admit that it was him she wanted to be married to.

So, on January 3, 1994, Maritz left Manila for Hamburg, Germany, a city with around 1.5 million people, to marry her German sailor. At 9:00 am that day, she arrived in what will become her second home – something of a drastic change from her two years of wandering lifestyle. During those two years, she was like a nomad – moving to where there was a gig for her, living in hotels and between airports. Now, it was all to end to give way to a more stable, regular and routinary existence. However, that does not mean life would be ordinary again. On the contrary, it was to even get better.

Maritz’ first impression of Hamburg was that of cold, gray and lifeless. It was snowing when she arrived and naturally, trees looked dead and streets were deserted. It was quiet, clean and peaceful, alright but right then and there, she was beginning to miss the busy, noisy, thickly populated streets of Manila. The place where she came from and the one she just arrived in couldn’t be more different from each other! Maritz’ predominant thought that time was: “Where in the world am I?”

Resilience and adaptability are key traits of Filipinos wherever you find them in the world and Maritz was no exception. She had to adjust to the culture and to the world-famous German precision. Maritz was just so amazed at how on-the-dot the Germans are – and very organized, disciplined and structured, too. Surely, no one can get any more efficient than the Germans and Maritz had to adapt or else…

Sadly, these traits also mean (at least in the eyes of our heroine) that they are cold and distant – oh! so very different from the friendly and warm people she left behind. For Maritz, accepting and learning to cope with that kind of reception from people was the most difficult thing to do during those early days of her life there.

Fortunately, her husband’s family was very good to her, which helped a lot in making her feel welcome and give here a sense of belonging. Though they could not communicate very well because she could not yet speak German and they could not speak English as well, the whole family welcomed her and tried hard to reach out to her.

Then, her hubby started introducing her to his friends, where that coldness and distant attitude she observed among the people confronted her again in the face. The usual question they had was “Where and how did you meet?” They seemed to sum her up and look at her from head to toe. They seemed to not know what to make of her and it hurt Maritz so much to be treated that way. She was wondering if her inability to speak German was the reason why they did not want to talk to her.

One of the lowest points of her life happened not long after she arrived. While in a meeting of the Sailing Club where her husband serves as the president, Maritz was left to sit in one corner all to herself as nobody seemed interested to chat with her. The husband was busy presiding over the meeting so she was left to fend for herself, so to speak.

For someone who owns the stage when she performs and is used to attention, this was just too much to bear. She walked out of that place feeling so dejected and feeling really down. She was crying out of frustration. At that moment, she sorely missed her family and friends and the independent life she used to have. She did not know where she was going but she didn’t care. Then, she realized that as she walked and walked, she reached the woods and it was dark already. And she was lost. It took her husband three hours to find her. That was the first bitter experience Maritz would never forget.

Next post, we will witness how Maritz turned things around and made her life wonderful again.

PS,

Maritz traveled all the way from Hamburg, Germany to visit me the other weekend here in Luton, Bedfordshire, England and we had a great time catching up and eating the Filipino dishes I prepared for her. She stayed with some friends in a neighbouring town and they all came to our flat. It was nice to chat with fellow Filipinos again. The lively chatter was so relaxing to me.

Then, they all went shopping but left Maritz with me for a few hours. We had a great time catching up and simply reminiscing the old days. We just snuggled in the sofa and talked the time away.

Of course, I let her go only if she took some of the food I prepared for her so here, I packed some of the Igado and Laing which her friends liked as well.

Igado is native to our province of Cagayan. It is a pork dish with pork liver, peas and capsicum. This was how the dish I prepared for my friend looked like:

But this one was what Maritz liked the best: my saluyot (jute) dish. You shold have seen us enjoy it! We were like little girls given lollipops!

So, there you go. Til next post, my friends!

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Filipinos indeed have their own unique brand of humour – self-lacerating humour, that’s what it is. The following was sent to me via email by one of my friends here in the UK. Being the homesick expats that we are, anything about home is worth passing around – never mind that it’s self-lacerating by nature.

We put so much premium on “good English” so much so that when we see mistakes in the way the language is used, we tend to make it a laughing matter. Here in the UK, the British do not make fun of people who cannot speak good English – they understand that it’s a different language from a foreigner’s lingua franca. Besides, they also sound the same when they go to Spain with their rusty Spanish, or to France with their struggling French (well, not all of them but a lot of them).

But they are British and we are not so let us smile (and laugh at some points) and forget about the woes Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is causing our country and our people – let’s just read the following:

PINOY SIGNS

Well, it’s just a misspelled word, ok? It’s easy to get messed up what with the jeans brand “Jag” so popular in the country.

He wanted a waitress, ok. It’s now filled-up.

Now, this one is quite tricky to understand. But I think it means there’s a cashier to ask inside.

Oh, you get the meaning, right? Just text the guy for your questions.

Isn’t this a very encouraging signage? Who wouldn’t want to live in love?

Uh-oh, there’s a problem here.

Another problematic entrance.

Heed the warning, ‘tupid (Oh, I didn’t mean you, my dear readers)! It’s the thought that counts.

I can’t answer for this one. But at least, let’s admire them for their guts.

If you heard of the phrase; “Only in the Philippines..” you will understand that this is quite possible.



That’s very sweet, indeed!


I tell you, Pinoys are good at playing with words.


This is just about the most extensive dinner choices I have ever seen.

This sign makes me stiff.


Poor cockroaches. But with their population in the Philippines, they are far from total annihilation.


Yeah, so I see.

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So there you go, some signs that remind us of home and our own tenacious, resilient kababayans who boast of being the only English-speaking country in Asia. Hmmmm, makes me want to go home soooooon!

Note: All comments are mine.

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Maritz (Part III)

You might want to read Part I and Part II first.

Love on the Go and a Forgotten Promise

And so it happened that Maritz was traipsing around the world, wherever her music took her. Following close behind was her German boyfriend whenever he had the chance to go see her – Thailand, Manila, Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia, Bahrain, etc.

This is the most unusual if not bizarre long distance relationship I have ever known. Every three months, for two years, while she travelled with her band, she would be visited by the guy. Then, he would go back to Germany to resume his normal life until it was time to go see his sweetheart again. Five times, he travelled to Manila to see her before Maritz finally saw that he was the one. Oh, and he burned the lines, too. Yes, he called up Maritz long distance everyday. It didn’t matter where she was. If that did not spell commitment in bold letters, I don’t know what does.

Only a patient and determined man would be able to pull off such a demanding (financially and physically) relationship. Surely, while things were going steadily stronger between them, the anxiety of separation and constant moving would have been a cause of concern.

So, how did he pop the question to Maritz? That, in itself was one interesting event in their story.

One time, there was a special occasion in the hotel where they were performing and since Maritz was not sure up to what time their gig would be, she told him to just wait for her call, instead of him calling her. They were in Holiday Inn Bahrain, that time.

There is an American base near that hotel and so, there were a lot of Filipino and American fans and admirers of the band. They were there to watch the show every night. At that time, they were the best band in Bahrain, having won the Bahrain “Battle of the Bands” – the first Filipino Band who achieved such a feat. It was always the British bands who took the top prize. Winning brought with it not only fame but also a lot of opportunities to perform. They were always invited to perform and they were like celebrities that time. Maritz was having an awful lot of fun.

So, our heroine was having fun and it came to pass that she forgot all about her promise to call him up. That made the guy nervous, really, really panicky – thinking that his ladylove has forgotten all about him in faraway Germany. A week later, he would be knocking on her hotel room door.

The following day, they are already at the gold souk (a sort of a marketplace in the Middle East) to shop for an engagement ring and a wedding ring at the same time. The guy did not believe in a very long engagement (wink and smile). In Maritz’ own words: “I couldn’t escape anymore, so that’s it. Bye Bahrain, bye Band! There I had to end the first chapter of my singing career.

Meeting the Manugang (Filipino word for son- or daughter-in-law)

Maritz is a Roman Catholic and so the guy had to convert to the faith before they could get a date for their church wedding. I’m sure it was not easy for him to take it all in – new faith, alien culture, new extended Filipino family, but love prevails most of the time and so, marrying her would mean him embracing not only her but also her family and her faith.

Before finally agreeing to marry him, being the traditional, conservative Filipina that she is, Maritz was adamant that her groom should go meet her family in her hometown. The bride-to-be was impressed that he agreed to go. That willingness all the more endeared him to our heroine.

One funny story that stands out from Maritz’ recollection of the events leading up to their wedding was the first meeting of the groom and his mom-in-law-to-be (MILTB). The MILTB is very, very religious. Her first question was: “Do you believe in God?” The guy, being German, frankly and directly said “No” – no inhibitions, no second thoughts. It was not going on very well then.

The MILTB was shocked beyond words! Filipinos are generally religious and God-fearing. Meeting a Caucasian man for the first time who unashamedly admits that he does not believe in God is shocking enough. But to think that he is planning on marrying your daughter is way beyond shocking, if I must say.

At this, point, Maritz left me to my own imagination’s devices so I guess, they agreed to set aside the issue of faith for the time being and get on with becoming man and wife. But she points out that the guy respects her religion and all the rituals Maritz does in relation to practicing her faith like lighting a candle and giving a simple offering in remembrance of her Dad.

Moving on from that shaky start, the two got married and Marita Daludado became Mrs. Mohr, who is now better known as Maritz Moore. In 1994, she arrived in Germany to start her new life in a new country and with more exciting possibilities. She easily fulfilled her dreams as a single woman and an artist. How will she fare as a married woman, this time? Will she have the chance to sing again? Watch out for the next big thing in Maritz’ life.

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