“Playful” Filipino Names

This whole nickname thing is not unique to my family…it is a pretty much a tradition for many Filipinos.

At the end of this post is a link to an article from Kate McGeown of BBC News with the introduction “Bizarre and often unflattering names are as quintessentially Filipino as the country’s Catholic faith, friendly smiles…”

And just when my older sister thought I would not show her nickname here on my blog…ooops…here it is:  Wally, Wals, Wallie-Wallie, or the Walliest of course.

Which I thought was pretty harmless when this nickname evolved about 24 years ago.

That was until we introduced her to Robert, my younger sister’s then fiancée, now husband, who is British.

And so it went something like

Robert…meet my sister Wally.   At which point he choked a little before he politely shook her hand and said, “nice to meet you Wally”.  Turns out a Wally is not so flattering a name to call someone where he is from.

And Wally is kind, and the most loving sister anyone can ask for, and I hope still —a forgiving sister— when she sees this post.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino is also known as Noynoy

Here is the link to the article “Playful Filipino Names Hard to Get Used To”.

Ever the current President has a nickname, Noynoy.

I would love to hear about your family’s nickname or if you have met Filipinos with interesting names or nicknames.

Nicest Nickname EVER

Our family has a tradition of nicknames…hardly anyone is called by their “given” name.

I have several nicknames for my grandsons too.

Last night, when I told 6-year old Jun I was going to call him something other than his usual nickname, he replied, ” I will call you something else now too, Lola”.

I said….oh….really Jun?  What will you call me?  And he said…… “Beautiful!'”.

His four-year old brother, Gabriel, not to be outdone, said,  “I will call you Beautiful too Lola….and I will call Opa (Grandpa) Beautiful….and I will call Tucker (our dog) Beautiful, and I will call Jun-Jun Beautiful too!

I’m sure Jun — and Gabriel — will forget my new nickname by today, but for the moment….how truly sweet, and the nicest nickname ever from a grandson.

Kate McGeown of BBC News wrote a great article on why Filipinos have unique nicknames — view the next post “Playful” Filipino Names” for more information.

What are nice or fun nicknames you have given to someone — — or given to you?

Beautiful California Central Coast Sunset 2011

Bob Staake’s Look! A Book!

~We are adding this book to our Favorites Page~

Look! A Book! By Bob Staake

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (February 1, 2011), 48 Pages.

My grandsons — especially 6-year-old Jun — are currently into “I Spy” types of books.  The boys really liked this book…and with a subtitle  “A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure”,  I could see why.

Right from the start, the boys were intrigued by the page style.  It starts out with 3 rhyming word lines and 3 punched holes on the page– that peeks into the next page.

They liked putting their fingers through the holes, then flipping the pages back and forth before settling in to search for the item they were supposed to find.

The pictures were terrific and there were many details — as you would expect — to make the find challenging.  This is the first book we have read by the writer / illustrator Bob Staake, who won a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book award in 2006.

The structure of the book kept 4-year-old Gabriel engaged to the very end…and both boys were disappointed that the book ended.

So it’s a good thing the author included another “finding” exercise at the end!  Which we did not have time for –but was a nice enticement to continue looking again the next day.

I remember when my daughter was a little girl, the “Where’s Waldo” book series were very popular and she had a few of those books—though I don’t remember the Waldo books having the fun rhyming words.

Great rhyming words are always a good feature for beginning readers — so in that sense, (plus the interesting punch through holes) this is a definite improvement from the Where’s Waldo series.

McDonalds Targeted Advertising Part 2

And there it was again…McDonalds advertising in a Philippine newspaper using English and Tagalog  (Tagalish?) words.   No burgers this time — which was on my original post on this topic  (click here to read).

Well…it must be working since there were now two half page McDonald ads in the main section of this particular Filipino newspaper.

One ad is for an Asian salad: “Tikman ang harmony ng nature sa bawat bowl” (Taste the harmony of nature in each bowl)

McDonalds Tagalog and English Ad for Asian Salad


And the other for McNuggets.


McDonalds Tagalog and English Advertising - Chicken Nuggets

And so again, I am curious how the ad folks choose which words to use in English and which in Tagalog?  Do you think it is how the sentence sounds mixed up…or is it just more challenging to translate some words from Tagalog to English?

Here are the text details —

As far as translation for the McNuggets Ad at least…Filipinos do like their dipping sauces with certain foods (sawsawan) so it is not like there is not an equivalent word in Tagalog.

Strangely, I did like reading the following mixed words:

  • Ito ang big picture (here is the big picture)…and
  • Everybody say, “Saaaaarap” (Everybody say “Deeeeelicious”).

Though at the same time, I still wonder — and don’t know what to make of this mash-up of the two languages.  Is it to make Filipinos feel, well……included?  Attention Filipinos in America: McDonalds can speak (some of) your language!  And wants your fast-food dollars.

Well maybe the ad is working on me, or I am just getting hungry.    Or I like big pictures.  Or I really just like saying “Saaaaaarap!”

What do you think of these Tagalog and English ads?

Book – I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!

~ We added this book to our Favorites page ~

Six year old Jun was already familiar with this book– from his teacher’s classroom.

And it is how I came across the book, during my last day of volunteer time.   I still find it hard to believe that the school year is over!

My task that day was to watch over a group of kids while they watercolor painted — on paper– a drawing of their arm.  They must have recently read the book…

This book is about a little boy who gets into big trouble when caught painting on places he is not supposed to, like the floor, the ceiling, the walls etc.

His Mom yells “Ya Ain’t a-Gonna Paint No More!” and puts away his paints and brushes, far away —or at least she thought—inside the closet’s top shelf.

With his dog’s help and a makeshift stair/ladder, the boy gets his paints and brushes back,  and proceeds to paint his body, one body part at a time.  He paints his dog too.

The rhyming words were great to guess what body part the boy will next paint.  The illustration is fun — black and white until the boy paints— and then so vibrant that it seems the paint may still be wet.

Jun remembered the picture with the painted hand, and before we turned the page warned me it was “scary”.  We turned the page to a picture of a face (on the hand) with ants crawling into the mouth.  He said, “See Lola…I told you!”

He then he declared prior to the painted leg picture page that it was going to be BEAUTIFUL…and it was.

Four year old Gabriel enjoyed it too, though he was more quite than usual. Maybe he was tired, or remembered that he was recently in trouble for taking a green Sharpie pen and writing on the stair and hallway walls.  Oh oh…

By Karen Beaumont and Illustrated by David Catrow.  Published in 2005 by Harcourt.

Potato ABC’s

Product Ingredients lists: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Sunflower Cottonseed, Soybean and/or Canola), Yellow Corn Flour, Sea Salt, Dextrose, Methycellulose, Onion, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Natural Flavoring

I saw this potato product in the frozen aisle section.  I know…most of us are busy and look for convenient foods, but Potato ABC’s really?

Some may think…this is brilliant!  Gets kids to eat their potatoes and learn their alphabet too!

As for me….I think this is ridiculous.

Is it really necessary to take the humble and delicious potato and turn them into ABC’s?

After all, most homes with children already have ABC bath toys, ABC puzzles, ABC books….

In the process of looking up the ingredients “Methycellulose” and “Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate”, I found an excellent website called FoodFacts.com.

They have a food rating system based on the product ingredients (you can even look up products based on the UPC Code).  Especially helpful for those with food allergies.

Interested in how these ABC Tater Tots rate?  Click on to the website link here.

A simple way we prepare potatoes in our home is to chop in quarters or wedge shapes, toss in olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper and parmesan cheese.  Roast in the oven….EASY.

And no methycellulose or sodium acid pyrophoshate needed.  Our grandchildren love roasted sweet potatoes too…same method, just leave out oregano and cheese, or bake, mash like regular potatoes.

Most Populous Countries and by Continent

Can you guess where the Philippines ranks in terms of world population?

World Population by Continent and Top 10 most Populated Countries

Not quite in the top 10 but almost…Philippines is at #12 in the world population ranking, in between Mexico (#11) and Vietnam (#13).

South Korea’s recycling success

With most cities or municipalities providing receptacles for recyclables, I  still don’t understand why there are still those who do not recycle.  I suppose if the cost of trash containers (and garbage pick up) increased by 50%, that would get more attention for recycling.

Photo from scottchan's portfolio, www.freedigitalphotos.net

South Korea is now way into the “green” movement — but it was not so a few decades ago.   As the country got very rich, people had lots of money to buy lots of stuff, and as a result, lots of stuff needed to be thrown away.

But because the country had limited landfill space (which is not the case here in the USA), they pretty much had no choice but to institute strict recycling policies.

In South Korea,  it is free to recycle waste, and anything else that must be disposed of or headed to the landfill is charged a fee based on the quantity.

The country went from producing enormous amounts of trash to a culture of  recycling and a more “green” mindset.

Here is a link to an interesting and humorous article from a BBC correspondent’s experience with South Korea’s enthusiasm for recycling.

Philippines, Indonesia…and Rice

This is an update to my blog post titled “Why does the Philippines have to import rice to feed its people” (March 2011).

There is something just very basic and comforting about being able to produce enough of a staple food…like rice…to feed the population.

A 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated the Philippines was the largest importer of rice in the world.

Several months ago there were rumors about a 2011 rice shortage in the Philippines (which government officials blamed on rice traders trying to manipulate market prices).

It seems the Philippines is producing more rice, but still not enough for the population, and so continues to import rice.

An ABS CBN news article featured an interview with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.  What I found interesting in the article is Mr. Alcala’s “revelation” that Indonesia has overtaken the Philippines as the top rice importer in the world.

“Indonesia has imported 1.5 million metric tons, tayo at 860. One-third nalang ang inorder natin kaysa sa inimport natin last year.” (Indonesia has imported 1.5 million metric tons, and we are at 860.  We have ordered only 1/3 compared to last year’s import).

So is it just me…but did they miss the obvious here?

  • Indonesia’s population, according to the World Bank data is about 230 million.
  • The Philippine’s population according to the latest UN data is at 93.6 million.

Though there is an improvement, there really is no bragging rights here just because Indonesia imports more rice.  If you look at the ratio of the population to what is being imported, the Philippines STILL imports more rice to feed its people compared to Indonesia.  It is  just less this year, so that in itself is the improvement.

The report states that “Alcala is confident the Philippines will soon be self-sufficient in rice, and may even be able to export rice in 2 years’ time”.

Newly Planted Rice Fields - Philippines

If you are in the rice industry, I would be interested in your thoughts on this prediction, and the self-sufficiency path for rice in the Philippines.

Thank you. ~Lola Jane

Tiniest Teenager

A (tiny) article in today’s newspaper, with the caption “Filipino teenager is world’s smallest man” caught my eye.

And not small as in, say…. 3 foot 9″ or something like that.  Nope.  The McClatchy News Service article states:

It seems Junrey I. Balawing, 17, is expected to be confirmed today by Guinness World Records as the world’s shortest man.  According to local health officials in the province of Zamboanga del Norte on the southern island of Mindanao, the teenager, whose 18th birthday is today…..is 24-and-a-quarter inches tall, about the size of a 1-year-old…

Here is the link to an article from BBC News about Junrey.  His father says that he stopped growing at 2 years old, though his 3 other siblings are all of normal size.

Banana Leaves and Sweets

My six year old grandson, Jun, and I were eating cassava cake at a local Filipino restaurant.  He asked what was underneath…and could he eat it? I told him it was a banana leaf and no, you don’t eat it.  He pulled off the leaf strips, smelled it…and then bit into it.  “Hmmmmm….” he said quizzically.

I thought of other foods where banana leaves are used, and how much banana leaves are a part of island and Filipino cooking — and my childhood food memories.

Banana Plant with Fruit – the entire leaf (huge!) is harvested, rib removed and cut into squares for Suman or smaller as a container for Puto

In the Philippines, snack foods are wrapped in banana leaves, used as a bottom, or to contain sweets prior to baking or steaming…sort of like cupcake paper or cupcake foils.  The difference is that the banana leaves impart a flavor when cooked.. so it is really a part of the recipe.

Puto and suman are popular sweet treats that use banana leaves.  As with many recipes, there are regional variations, and in the central Visayas, muffin-shaped putos are made from fermented rice flour.

Contained in Banana Leaf, Filipino “Puto” sold at the Palenke (Market)

When we were little, suman was a snack treat we often ate.  It is typically made from sticky rice half-cooked with  coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed to finish the cooking process.

During Christmas, suman was served with rich and dark hot chocolate drinks, using freshly ground cacao beans.   We would peel the banana leaf off the suman, and if freshly steamed, take in the aroma — before dunking it in our chocolate drinks.

Filipino Suman – Sticky Rice and Coconut Milk wrapped in banana leaves and steamed

Like puto, suman has many varieties depending on family and region, and can also be made from grated cassava root — one of my favorite type of suman.

I like the fibrous texture of cassava suman, and sweetened with sugar and coconut milk…it is so delicious!  Sometimes chocolate is swirled into the mix prior to wrapping in banana leaves, or the center is filled with sweetened ground peanuts.

I also remember eating suman wrapped in palm leaf, but mostly the ones our family made were wrapped in banana leaves. So, essentially the word suman is a generic name for an assortment of tube or rectangle shaped, leaf-wrapped, steamed food (typically sweet or served with sweet dipping sauce).

During past trips to the Philippines, it seems there was always someone (kind and sweet)—like our Nanay Lucing or our Auntie Terling— who made batches of suman for us.  We enjoyed the treats while there, and then a fresh batch was made right before our departure to the U.S. to take with us.   Sadly, our Nanay Lucing has passed away, and though our Auntie Terling still seems young and beautiful to me,  I have to accept that she is nearing her mid-seventies and is not as energetic as before.

At our last trip, my sister and I purchased our Suman at the market from these women.

Wrapped in Banana Leaves, Suman and Puto for Sale at the Market

It occurs to me that it is now OUR turn to keep alive food traditions that we enjoyed from our childhood.  So…I better make sure my sisters and I know how to make suman if I want to keep this tradition for grandsons Jun and Gabriel.

My cousin Ate Violeta and her daughter Jady stayed with us during their visit to California.  Ate Violeta is an excellent cook and showed us how to make biko — another popular coconut milk and sticky rice treat.

Jun and Gabriel loved eating Ate Violeta’s Biko and it did not last long in our household …even the extra batch we put in the freezer “for later” soon vanished.

Biko is often what Jun will choose when we get a snack at the Filipino restaurant after his Tae Kwon Do lessons (though lately he has looked for Cassava Cake and has also been enjoying Ginataan – sweet potato, bananas, jackfruit, tapioca and rice balls stewed in coconut milk).

Well…with all this good banana leaf memories…I will definitely make Suman (and hot chocolate) a holiday tradition for the boys.  And though I don’t have the ease of lopping off fresh banana leaves from my backyard, I have no excuses really.  It is pretty easy to get banana leaves in the U.S. —- the leaf sheets are sold frozen at most Asian markets.

Frozen Banana Leaves — squares or rounds — are sold at most Asian Stores or Filipino Stores in the San Francisco Bay Area

And hopefully Jun and Gabriel will have pleasant memories associated with banana leaves…just like their Lola.

Please do comment and tell us your banana leaf memories, or favorite food wrapped in banana leaves.

Note:  Banana leaves are available at most Asian Markets — in the frozen food aisles — and is almost always available (also frozen) at Filipino Markets and mini stores.

Lola Jane’s Filipino Food related posts: