Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

The words “why are Filipinos like chameleons” showed up on my blog’s search engine terms recently.

Chameleon definition

Mixed-Up-Chameleon by Eric CarleI did not write an article (until now) that connected the two words — Filipino and chameleon — but I do write often about Filipinos and the Philippines, wildlife, and about a particular chameleon, as in the Eric Carle book that I read to my grandchildren, The Mixed-Up Chameleon.

Initially I thought the search words were funny.  Chameleons — a special kind of lizard — are not native to the Philippines.  And then I wondered what information was sought…was this inquiry and the string of words derogatory?

And are Filipinos like chameleons? We Filipinos do tend to blend in, don’t we?   We all speak English (very well — and most with a clear American accent) and since English is one of the most popular language in the world, all that much easier to blend in, right?

Aside from language, is it also because most Filipinos are Christians?  A Pew Research demographics study on global religion found that Christians are the most evenly dispersed around the world and represent the largest percentage among the world’s religion  (2.2 billion or 32% of the world’s majority religion) .

20_religionCountryMap from Pew Research

Graphic on majority religions by country from Pew Research. The Philippine archipelago has the most Christians among countries in Southeast Asia,

I am pretty sure that Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world — around 10% of the total population, and 2.2 million contract or Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) — according to Philippine government data.

  • When I lived in Germany in the mid 1980′s, one of the first things our landlord, Klaus, wanted to do was to introduce me to the Filipina married to a local German, in our town of Dudeldorf.
  • When we first immigrated to the United States and living in Portland, Maine (of all places, right, and not exactly a hotbed for Filipinos in America) my mother quickly found another Filipina living nearby who befriended us.

So,  super chameleons?  Able to survive in any environment, no matter where on the globe?  Or rather, is it more because we don’t stick out?  The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, so most Filipinos have Spanish last names.  Is this another way we blend, since our names are not so unusual?

A friend theorized that because the Philippines is a nation of islands (over 7,000 in case you did not know), Filipinos are accustomed to traveling beyond their own island to the next…and the next, so what is another 5,000 more miles?  It’s in our DNA!  Hmmmn, interesting, and maybe!

Are Filipinos everywhere because they like adventure, because Filipinos like to travel? Is it by necessity, for survival? Because we must…as a sacrifice to contribute financially for the greater good of the family?

In 1980, the Philippines scored higher than China, Thailand and Brazil on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Indicators (HDI). The most recent UN HDI report show these three countries now have higher HDI scores than the Philippines.  And after World War II, the only other country in Asia richer than the Philippines was Japan.

So what happened?  Could it be because the Philippine population has more than DOUBLED in the last 3 decades?.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, and according to United Nations GDP / per capita income data, over 40% of Filipinos live on less than $2 per day.

These days, I think Filipinos are everywhere primarily because of over population and because the economy cannot support the population…so by necessity.

Every year, millions of Filipinos have no choice but to leave their homeland to find work elsewhere.  Many work in the shipping industries (notice that when cruise lines, or container ships are in the news, often, there are Filipino crew members?)

The Philippines export nurses all over the world.  And most recently, our teachers, too.

It is easier to understand Filipino communities in neighboring countries like Australia, New Zealand, and especially Japan.  But Zambia?  ICELAND, The Isle of Mann?

Tropical Philippines web

Photo of banka (traditional Philippine outrigger boat) Lolako.com. From lush green tropics to….Scandinavia?

And how is it that Filipinos manage to survive, and even thrive in countries with climates and cultures so different from their homes?  And do we — the chameleons –  blend in no matter where we are  because it’s safer if others like us, accept us, include us in their, and what then becomes OUR community?  In Sweden alone, there are over 20 Filipino communities! (see Fincomlas Sweden)

I admire Filipino characteristics — our friendly, caring nature, resilience, our sense of humor, and strong commitment to family  — and yes, maybe the chameleon qualities in a positive sense.  But I do hope that in my lifetime, the majority of Filipinos who live and work overseas will be because of their own choice to do so, and not because they have no other choice.

This post was inspired by a search query on my blog, and turned emotional when I thought of families torn apart and separated for many years due to the economic needs of Filipinos.  I’ll continue to explore more on this topic, and of course to celebrate and remember our food and culture.

In the meantime, if you are a Filipino in a faraway place, please share your experience, or your family’s experience.  Do you think Filipinos are like chameleons?  If so, is this positive or a negative?

Related Lolako.com posts:

Another strange plane disappearance in Southeast Asia

The missing Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 passengers and crew has been on the news over the last few days.  It is hard to believe that a huge commercial airplane — in this day and age,  with our radars, satellites and modern technology — can just disappear without a trace.

In 1962, during clear weather and calm seas, a flight originating from a Northern California U.S. Air Force base and destined for Vietnam also went missing, while en route from Guam to the Philippines to refuel.   The 5-year-old Lockheed L-1049 (Flying Tiger Line)  plane carried 93 U.S. Army Rangers, 3 Vietnamese nationals, 11 civilians, and 3 military passengers.

KLM_L-1049C_Constellation_at_Santa_Maria_(Azores)

Photo of Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner plane by Greg and Cindy via Wikipedia Commons / Flickr

The Lockheed plane crew did not issue distress signals after it left Guam, headed for Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Philippines.  And despite a search by the U.S. military covering over 200,000 square miles (520,000 square km), it was never seen or heard from again, disappearing without a trace.

But that was over 50 years ago, and our technology makes the world a smaller place now.  It does not seem possible that in 2014, a plane can simply disappear…

An international search effort to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane is ongoing, including help from the U.S. Navy and countries neighboring Malaysia (Southeast Asia).

Southeast-asia

Click on the map image to view Lolako.com post about countries in Southeast Asia

More mysterious aviation disappearances, here.

Philippine Eagle on the IUCN Redlist (critically endangered) and Species of the Day Feature

The Philippine Eagle is critically endangered, and has been on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red list since 1994.

Considered to the be largest bird in the world, the Philippine Eagle is endemic to the Philippines and is known to exist only in the islands of Mindanao, Leyte, Samar and eastern Luzon —  of the thousands of islands in the Philippine archipelago.

Endangered Philippine-Eagle-Close-up

Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com

The rapid decline of these magnificent birds — and official  national symbol of the Phillipines –  is mainly due to extensive deforestation and illegal logging in the Philippines.

Here is a link to quick facts on this magnificent bird, featured on the IUCN Red List Species of the Day feature: http://www.iucnredlist.org/sotdfiles/pithecophaga-jefferyi.pdf

For more on animals listed on the IUCN’s Red list of Threatened Species, visit the website at http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Related Lolako articles on the Philippine Eagle- Haring Ibon (King of Birds):

Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle

Post on the Philippine eagle video at ARKive.  ARKive’s mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

What countries are in Southeast Asia?

Until the 20th century, the area we now call Southeast Asia was referred to as the East Indies.

Most of us have heard the geographic term Southeast Asia…and have a general idea of where this area is.

A comment from Myra (who blogs at Itaga sa Bato) on my The Ethnic Food Aisle blog post sent me on this path to find out exactly what countries are included in the term Southeast Asia.

The orange-colored countries on the UN map below are countries considered to be in Southeast Asia.

UN Map via Wikipedia

And it turns out there are two parts to Southeast Asia — Mainland Southeast Asia and Maritime Southeast Asia.  Here is the wiki definition:

Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia.

The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.

Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: Mainland Southeast Asia, also known as Indochina, comprises Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia, and Maritime Southeast Asia comprises Brunei, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines, Christmas Island, and Singapore.

These countries, with the exception of East Timor, are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Established in 1967, ASEAN was founded by the countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

And to date, there are still Sovereignty issues over some islands in this area. See my earlier post related to China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam each claiming competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea – UNCLOS and the China-Philippine Standoff over Scarborough Shoal).

Typhoon “Bopha” Philippines

Here is a link to an article by BULLIT MARQUEZ on Huff Post World and the latest on the devastation caused by Typhoon “Bopha” in the Philippines.

The death toll has climbed past 500, and more than 310,000 people have lost their homes.

Sadly, there are again allegations of illegal mining activities that may have contributed to the flash floods in the hardest hit areas (New Bataan)..

Excerpts from Bullit Marquez’s article:

…The economic losses began to emerge Friday after export banana growers reported that 14,000 hectares (34,600 acres) of export banana plantations, equal to 18 percent of the total in Mindanao, were destroyed.

The Philippines is the world’s third-largest banana producer and exporter, supplying well-known brands such as Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte mainly to Japan and also to South Korea, China, New Zealand and the Middle East.

AP Photo/Bullit Marquez — An almost completely destroyed banana plantation is seen Friday Dec. 7, 2012 following Tuesday’s typhoon named “Bopha” which hit Nabunturan township, Compostela Valley in southern Philippines.

…Government geological hazard maps show that the farming town of New Bataan, population 45,000, was built in 1968 in an area classified as “highly susceptible to flooding and landslides.”

...Most of the casualties were killed in the valley surrounded by steep hills and crisscrossed by rivers. Flooding was so widespread here that places people thought were safe, including two emergency shelters, became among the deadliest.

Poverty is widespread in the Philippines, and the disaster highlights the risks that some take in living in dangerous areas in the hope of feeding their families.

“It’s not only an environmental issue, it’s also a poverty issue,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said. “The people would say, `We are better off here. At least we have food to eat or money to buy food, even if it is risky.’”

View photos, videos and read the full article here...

Want to learn English — and on a budget?

How about studying English in the Philippines?  It turns out the Philippines is a great destination for students who want to learn how to speak English, and on a budget.

Skyline of the City of Manila, Philippines, seen from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, photo by Mike Gonzalez via Wikipedia

I have met several Koreans (from my grandsons’ Tae Kwon Do classes) who indeed took English classes in the Philippines.  While visiting Cebu, I was also surprised to see all the Korean restaurants and Korean signs, catering to the new population of English-learning students from Korea.

Photo from the Philippine Department of Tourism

Here is the excerpt from a BBC Philippines report from Kate McGeown:

The Philippines is fast becoming the world’s low-cost English language teacher – with rapid increases in overseas students coming to learn English or study in English-speaking universities.

There might be other countries that people think about as a classic place to learn English, such as the UK, the US or Australia.

But there is one key reason that they are switching to the Philippines. It’s much cheaper. And in the competitive market for language students, it means the Philippines is attracting people from countries such as Iran, Libya, Brazil and Russia.

“We have very competitive rates compared with other countries,” says English teacher, Jesy King, citing her school’s fees of $500 (£313) for a 60-hour class – about a third of the price of an equivalent course in the US or Canada.

Another major advantage is the accent.

Filipinos speak with a clear American accent – partly because the Philippines was a US colony for five decades, and partly because so many people here have spent time working in call centres that cater to a US market….

She adds…

The Philippines markets itself as being the third largest English-speaking nation – after the US and the UK – a fact proudly displayed on the Department of Tourism website. And in a way, that’s true. Most people speak at least rudimentary English, and the well-educated speak it fluently.

Yes indeed…here is that section from www.ExperiencePhilippines.org website:

Considered the third-largest English-speaking country in the world, the Philippines offers world-class facilities and services – excellent accommodations, fine restaurants, modern shopping centers and communication services, efficient congress and exhibition organizers and professional tour operators.

Photo from Philippine Department of Tourism

Click here to read Kate McGeown’s article, The Philippines: The world’s budget English teacher and video.

Common modes of transportation in more rural areas in the Philippines.

South & East China Sea disputes: On Point program with Tom Ashbrook

Today’s On Point radio show with Tom Ashbrook, focused on the High-Seas Showdown between China and its neighbors:

Way out across the Pacific, a long way from “legitimate rape” and American political campaigning, there’s a high stakes ocean real estate fight going on in the South China and East China Seas.  A string of impassioned quarrels over history and resources and sovereignty that could pull the United States onto dangerous terrain with the world’s rising superpower, China.

China makes wide claims over ocean turf and resources far from the mainland.  Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and more disagree.  And it is fired up right now.  This hour, On Point:  America, the Pacific, and the high seas showdown off China.

To listen to the show, play the audio link below, or click here to link to the On Point website.

Image provided by Voice of America

Need to catch up on the South China – West Philippine Sea disputes?  View related LolaKo posts:

One of the guests on the program is Graham Allison (Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University), discussing his recent Op-Ed article for the Financial Times – London “Avoiding Thucydides’ Trap”.  Article excerpt:

China’s increasingly aggressive posture towards the South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea is less important in itself than as a sign of things to come. For six decades after the second world war, an American “Pax Pacifica” has provided the security and economic framework within which Asian countries have produced the most rapid economic growth in history. However, having emerged as a great power that will overtake the US in the next decade to become the largest economy in the world, it is not surprising that China will demand revisions to the rules established by others.

…The defining question about global order in the decades ahead will be: can China and the US escape Thucydides’s trap? The historian’s metaphor reminds us of the dangers two parties face when a rising power rivals a ruling power – as Athens did in 5th century BC and Germany did at the end of the 19th century. Most such challenges have ended in war. Peaceful cases required huge adjustments in the attitudes and actions of the governments and the societies of both countries involved.

…The rapid emergence of any new power disturbs the status quo. In the 21st century, as Harvard University’s Commission on American National Interests has observed about China, “a diva of such proportions cannot enter the stage without effect”.

Never has a nation moved so far, so fast, up the international rankings on all dimensions of power. In a generation, a state whose gross domestic product was smaller than Spain’s has become the second-largest economy in the world.

If we were betting on the basis of history, the answer to the question about Thucydides’s trap appears obvious…. Click here to read the full article on the Belfer Center website.

San Francisco Pistahan Festival – August 2012

With the weather near perfect and the sunshine abundant, people came to Yerba Buena Gardens from near and far to enjoy the Pistahan Parade and Festival, and to support the largest celebration of the Filipino-American experience in the Western U.S.

Entertainment on the main stage as well as other venues at Yerba Buena were constant, and it seems there was something for everyone to see and to do.

Present were well established companies promoting their products to the huge concentration of Filipino Americans at the festival, as well as non-profit organizations like Jeepney Projects, sharing information to the community on their mission to save the magnificent, and sadly, the critically endangered Philippine eagle.

Here are a few shots from my HTC Evo phone camera.  Yes, there was plenty of SUN and no fog at all in San Francisco for the Pistahan Festival weekend.

Members of the Kariktan Dance Company

Pictured above are Ana, Gabby, Samanta and Krisel, members of the Kariktan Dance Company – a non-profit group from Concord, California, promoting Philippine culture through dance and music.  They performed the Bulaklakan, a popular folk dance, as well as the Subli on the Pistahan Main Stage.

Earlier in the day, Mahea from the Paamano Eskrima Performing Arts group, based in Garden Grove, California, demonstrated their Eskrima skills.

Mahea has been active in Eskrima since she was 9 years old.

Eskrima — also known as Arnis — is a form of Philippine martial arts which emphasizes fighting with weapons (sticks, knives and blades).  It is one of only 4 official Philippine National Symbols.

Eskrima is the Filipino version of the Spanish word for fencing (esgrima).

Mahea, pictured in costume, also danced in the “Building Bridges” presentation on the main Pistahan Stage.

If you would like to see traditional Philippine folk dances, there are many videos on YouTube, from  groups promoting Philippine cultural traditions.

Here are other random crowd / festival participant photographs.  If you were at the event, please leave a comment.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge – the river merging with the sea

Here is my submission for the WordPress weekly photo challenge on the topic, merge.

Not fancy, simply nature, and the river merging with the sea.  Photos from the rocky shores of an island in the central Visayas region, Philippines.

Paddling the banka – outrigger boat — and passing the area where the river merges with the sea.

Bringing in fish catch

And so far, here are interpretations from other bloggers on the theme, merge

  1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge | Figments of a Dutchess
  2. Weekly Photo Challenge – Merge | Just Snaps
  3. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « Flickr Comments
  4. Weekly Photo Challenge – Merge | Chittle Chattle
  5. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge | Lonely Travelog
  6. weekly photo challenge : merge | bodhisattvaintraining
  7. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge | Bams’ Blog
  8. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge | Wind Against Current
  9. Travel Challenge;Merge « So where’s the snow?
  10. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge | My Sardinian Life | La Mia Vita Sarda
  11. Weekly Photo Challenge: MERGE | eagerexplorer
  12. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « warmhotchocolate
  13. (Sub)merging « Broken Light: A Photography Collective
  14. Merge on Panoramic « bukaningrat ™
  15. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « Gary Ng © Gnostec Photography
  16. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « e-Shibin
  17. Photo Challenge: Merge « Detours by Deepali
  18. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « Sin Polaris
  19. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge – Joy and Woe
  20. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge | Cardinal Guzman
  21. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « All Access Pass
  22. Weekly Photo Challenge – Merge « The Urge To Wander
  23. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « Wilderness Escapades
  24. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « What’s (in) the picture?
  25. Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge « Mike Hardisty Photography

Ube – now in waffles!

Why not?

At the Pistahan Festival in San Francisco this weekend, the catering company Pinx offered a new way to enjoy waffles.

Their clever twist on this classic food?  The addition of the beloved Filipino purple yam, the “ube”, presented with a caramelized syrup made with macapuno (sweetened strips of young coconut meat).

What did this Lola (grandmother) think?

Uber delicious ube waffles served up by Pinx Catering.

Come on…it’s got ube in it!  Ang sarap…delicious!  And I will add to our photo collection on the post, The Ube and Purple Filipino Food.

Winner of the 2011 San Francisco Street Food Festival contest, the Pinx motto is “Life is short…eat something memorable”.  I agree — and eat well too!

Check out their website and menu at www.PinxCatering.com.

Jose Antonio Vargas at the San Francisco Pistahan Parade and Festival

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and have an interest in Filipino culture, do plan to attend the Pistahan Parade and Festival this weekend.

Pistahan is a fantastic festival of Filipino Culture and Cuisine, celebrating its 19th year at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

From the Pistahan website:

On Saturday, August 11 the Pistahan Parade, with nearly 100 contingents, kicks off the festival! It begins at 11 a.m. on Beale Street, goes down Market Street, and ends at Folsom and Third streets. The grand marshals are Cheesa Laureta, a contestant on “The Voice ” comedian Joey Guila; Ali Ewoldt, who appeared on Broadway in “Les Miserables”; singer Meleana Brown from TV’s “Duets”; and Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented Filipino-American journalist who wrote a Time magazine cover story about his experiences trying to gain legal status in America.

The Filipina Women’s Network and the Filipino American Arts Exposition are hosting a community networking and Filipino themed breakfast (with ingredients from Ramar Foods) and featuring a keynote speech by Jose Antonio Vargas.

Jose Antonio Vargas was part of the Washington Post team covering the Virginia Tech shootings, earning a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. Vargas profiled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker in 2010, and his articles on AIDS inspired the documentary, The Other City.

In 2011, Vargas became the “story” when he revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant, in an essay for The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Visit the Pistahan website for full details, including the parade route map, and the Pistahan and Bayanihan Stage schedules.

And…stop by Native Leaf’s booth and say hello — near the Pistahan Main Stage, on the Mission Street side of Yerba Buena Gardens.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wrong (and what is wrong with this Rattan Palm?)

The theme for this week’s photo challenge at the WordPress Daily Post — WRONG — is a tough one!  I settled on my rattan photos.

Rattan (Calamus) is sometimes mistaken for bamboo.  There is a big difference — bamboos are in the grass family of plants, and rattans are among the hundreds of types of palm plants.

Rattan canes are solid, while bamboos are hollow.  Both plants are used for making furniture, and strips of bamboo and rattan are also woven into wicker baskets and other handicrafts.  Wicker is the generic term for a woven fiber (usually natural plants), woven into functional items.

My sister and I bought some rattan rocking chairs for our mother while in the Philippines, and I took these photos of rattan plants.  I  took a few shots focused on the rattan spikes.

What is wrong with this rattan?

Rattan – Calamus, Philippines

It may be obvious to you now, but at the time, I did not notice that it had been hacked into, until I downloaded the photos.  I thought…oh no..my detail shot is marred and the palm was cut (though I thought it was good that it continued to grow).

Upon cropping and looking at it closer…it looks like only the leaf frond / branch was cut.  So it was I — who was wrong!

Like many situations in life, sometimes we need to take a closer look to really SEE something, right?

Close up of spikes – Rattan palm. Rattans have spikes to help it climb over other plants — like vines — and to deter animals from eating the plant.

So….the rattan palm continues on its growth and travel upwards.

Some rattan can grow over 150 feet! Can you follow the source of this rattan….from the top left corner to the bottom right, leading to the half-constructed “Nipa” Hut?

Fresh strips of rattan

Rattan canes and strips, stored in the ceiling area of the workshop — I love the pattern of the ceiling, from the woven palm leaves.

Kitty napping on a well-used, woven rattan chair.

Rattan Seedlings – propagation of rattan is only possible from fresh seeds.

Most of the world’s rattan grow in Indonesia, followed by the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Bangladesh.  Rattans help the overall ecosystem of forests, and unsustainable harvesting can be a problem.

We noted — at least in the area where we bought the rocking chairs — locals working with government programs to replant rattan in the area, and to help create a future plant and material source for the local handicraft industry.

Giant Pacific leatherback turtle washed up dead off island in central Philippines

Recently, a giant Pacific leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) washed up dead off the central Visayas island of Leyte, in the Philippines.

The endangered leatherback sea turtle is one of earth’s oldest species, and the largest reptile living on our planet.

Photo by Austin Don Perez for Bayan Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, via post by Iloed.C at www.skyscrapercity.com

It is sad to see, especially as leatherback turtle populations — along with many other types of sea turtles — have dramatically declined over the last 2 decades.  These turtles play an important role in thinning out jellyfish populations, and balancing our ocean’s ecosystem.

Hopefully, it died of old age or natural causes, and not because of accidentally ingesting plastic items and bags floating in our oceans — which it mistakes for jellyfish.

This turtle was estimated to weigh 600 kilos (1,323 lbs).

For more on these amazing creatures, please view my post: Monterey Bay and our connection to endangered leatherback sea turtles.

Last Friday, a 700 lb, leatherback turtle was also found near Monterey, California.  Link to photo of the turtle (and video footage) from local news provider, KTVU.com here. Excerpt:

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found at 3 p.m. that the turtle likely died from natural causes.  Officials transported the heavy sea animal to a marine research facility in Santa Cruz.

These turtles nests in Indonesia, then migrate all the way to Monterey Bay and other parts of the U.S. West Coast.  They take this 6,000 mile journey to feed on abundant jellyfish in our waters.

An article on the website BayNature.org indicated that Pacific leatherback turtles have been spotted in the coastal waters off central California — first in Monterey Bay, then by Santa Cruz, and then in Half Moon Bay.  The leatherbacks arrived earlier this year (compared to previous years), and so far, there have been 17 sightings, compared to a total of 23 sightings for all last year.  The article states that there is a lot of food for them here, and that in July, marine biologists reported the most abundant and dense jellyfish bloom seen in years.

If you reading this from the Philippines and have more information on the leatherback turtle that washed up off the Leyte coast, please comment.  Thank you.  – Lola Jane

For related pollution and conservation topics, please visit Lolako posts: 10 ways to rise above plastics, Trash vortex now the size of Texas, and 12 minutes, on plastic bag bans.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The “Ube” and Purple Filipino Food

The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge on the Daily Post is the color Purple.

I thought about food again…specifically Filipino food, as I was already working on a purple food post.

Indian Eggplant at Moss Landing, California Market Stall

There are many food in shades of purple. There is the eggplant of course, and grapes, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, purple basil, onions — which we call red, but really is often the same shade as purple cabbages.

Boy behind “red” onions at his family’s vegetable market stall, Philippines

Purple shade foods — beets and onions — for sale at the Old Monterey Farmers Market

However, when it comes to purple foods, I think Filipino food wins in the “most” category.  This is all thanks to the ube — pronounced “ou-beh” — a type of purple yam from the Philippines.

Filipinos are accustomed to purple food from the flavor and coloring of ube — and it must be ingrained in us.  Ube flavored food varies from a light shade of lavender to a deep, dark purple.  It does not matter the shade as I think I can speak for most Filipinos and Filipino-Americans here, that when we see purple or an ube-shade of food, we immediately think…oh look, purple…yes, it’s ube…its good….get it….eat it!

The purple ube by itself is a health food, with anti-oxidant properties.   But perhaps how we prepare it in the Philippines — whipped with milk and sugars, or stuffed in breads, cooked with biko or other rice flour based desserts — takes away its health benefits.  Or maybe there is still enough ube in there to count for something…

Here are some of my ube food photos.  It is common to see these at San Francisco Bay Area Filipino grocery stores and eateries.

Pan de ube — bread stuffed with the purple yam jam!

Philippine sticky rice with coconut dessert “Biko” plain (brown) and purple ube flavored.

Philippine “kakanin” or snack food called Puto, in plain white, or purple, ube flavored.

“Sapin-sapin” a type of layered, sticky, rice flour based snack food and dessert, ube flavored

It is also common to find ube flavored drinks, ice creams and ube snacks at  Filipino eateries, and even fast-food restaurants. This is from Chow-King, advertising halo-halo (an icy treat that translates to “mix-mix”). Click on the photo for Lolako’s Halo-Halo post.

Woman selling snacks contained in banana leaves, at the market, Philippines. The tube shaped items are filled with sticky rice cooked in coconut milk, then steamed. The cupcake looking items are “puto”, a fermented rice flour sweet snack, also cooked inside a banana leaf. You can see purple, or ube flavored ones along with the yellow and pink putos.  Click on photo for more on the Philippine banana-wrapped snack foods.

Ube flavored snack contained in banana leaves

The food snack and Chinese style pastry  “Hopia” typically has yellow mung beans, but lately I have seen these with ube flavored filling, too!

Purple Yam is available in a powdered format, if you want to add a natural food coloring (and some ube flavors) to your food.

Jeff made pan de sal — a traditional breakfast bread in the Philippines — with ube, using this brand of powdered ube.

The recipe is from Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s cookbook, Memories of Philippine Kitchens. They are owners of the restaurant Purple Yam, in Brooklyn, New York.

Homemade ube pan de sal with store-bought ube spread.

Booth at Pistahan Festival in San Francisco – August 2012

Ube Waffles with caramelized macapuno (coconut) syrup by Pinx (www.PinxCatering.com)

Philippine ube “flower bread”

Picture is a small dish of super purple, ube “halaya”…sweet favorite of grated and mashed ube, cooked with milk (cooked by stirring, then stir, stir and then more stirring).  It is usually topped with bits of coconut curd.

What do you think?  Way too strange or…I’ll try that!

Related links:

Purple yam, Dioscorea alata (in cross-section above courtesy Deepugn – via blog In the Company of Plants and Rocks)

 

Blog post “Will the real yam please stand up”, from the blog, In the Company of Plants and Rocks.

Excerpt…Plants of the genus Dioscorea, the true yams, are perennial vines.  The yams themselves are root tubers…

 

 

Ube Flavor Ice Cream from Magnolia – Ramar Foods Intl.

 

 

Lolako’s Purple yam…or corn and cheese ice cream…anyone? On the unique, ice cream flavors from the Philippines.

Philippine Eagle Video at ARKive

Shared by artist David Tomb, a video of the magnificent Philippine Eagle, on the ARKive website.  I will add the link to the post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine eagle (currently LolaKo.com’s most viewed post).

Click here to view the 1 minute video, especially if you are not yet familiar with this beautiful — and simply awesome — eagle.  There are 11 Philippine eagle videos on this site.

I’ve seen many photographs of the Philippine eagle, and I am continually amazed at the expressions I see on these images.

Photo by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com of Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jeffery), captive, Philippine Eagle Center, Davao, Mindanao, Philippines

Related Links:

Lola Jane’s post Haring Ibon: The magnificent and critically endangered Philippine Eagle

ARKive (www.ARKive.com) - whose mission is promoting the conservation of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery.

“A vast treasury of wildlife images has been steadily accumulating over the past century, yet no one has known its full extent – or indeed its gaps – and no one has had a comprehensive way of gaining access to it. ARKive will put that right, and it will be an invaluable tool for all concerned with the well-being of the natural world.”

Sir David Attenborough -Wildscreen Patron

Philippines sends banana trade mission to Middle East and Europe

From a report by Louella D. Desiderio – PhilStar.com:

MANILA, Philippines – The government has sent a trade mission to the Middle East and Europe as it seeks to find new markets for the country’s bananas and even as it still intends to increase shipments to China, trade officials said.

“We have a banana mission to the Middle East and Europe. They left Saturday,” Trade undersecretary Cristino Panlilio said in a press conference yesterday.

He said the trade mission was sent to Abu Dhabi and Dubai since these are where the trading centers of the Middle East are located.

The trade mission, he said, would also go to Italy and in Brussels.  More here

Don’t put all your bananas in one basket

So…all those rotten bananas from the China export mess taught Philippine banana exporters a lesson.

Banana Plantation, Photo Source: www.freshplaza.com

A lesson that reminds me of the insurance industry terms, risk management and risk separation, or…. don’t put all your eggs — and bananas — in one basket.

After Japan, China was the 2nd largest market for Philippine banana exports.

In mid-May, China impounded Philippine bananas and instituted strict quarantine measures — which many suspect was really due to the ongoing disputes over the Scarborough Shoals, in the South China / West Philippine Sea.

Philippine banana exporters realized that they cannot rely on just a few export markets, and the industry is now looking at other markets, like Pakistan and countries in the Middle East.

And the good news, the Department of Agriculture announced that Dole Philippines is sending its first ever shipment of Cavendish bananas to the USA.  Cavendish are the common type of banana sold at grocery stores.

Bananas at the grocery store

Ecuador is picking up the Philippine banana import void to China.  Though halfway around the world from China, Ecuador’s government is providing a subsidy for their China-bound banana exports, to give their producers a price advantage.

Did you know…bananas are the 2nd top commodity by weight (after furniture) in all container shipments arriving at USA ports?  For more, view the post “What’s in the Box”.

Top 10 banana producing nations
(in million metric tons)
 India* 26.2
 Philippines 9.0
 China 8.2
 Ecuador 7.6
 Brazil 7.2
 Indonesia 6.3
 Mexico 2.2
 Costa Rica 2.1
 Colombia 2.0
 Thailand 1.5
World total 95.6
Via Wikipedia-Source 2009 data-Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
*Note: Although India leads in banana production, most of it is for domestic consumption and not for export.

Related banana links:

Fresh Plaza – Global Fresh Produce and Banana News

All about bananas, from Wikipedia

Lolako’s “What’s in the Box” - Top Commodity, by weight, arriving in U.S. container ports

Bananas – Philippines

Clever line from Philippines Today columnist Fred G. Gabot…“save the sagging saging, Sir“.

Saging is the Tagalog (Philippine national language) word for bananas.  It is pronounced something like sah-ging — the ging part rhymes with ring.

I heard about the Dole banana plantations in the Mindanao region, but prior to this post, I did not know that the Philippines is among the top nations growing and exporting bananas…how about you?

Population Philippines: Too many mouths to feed?

The program “Marketplace” featured a series of reports on food challenges we will face as the world population continues to grow. There are 7 billion people living on the planet today, and according to the United Nations, there will be another 2 billion by the middle of this century.

The Marketplace program, Food for 9 Billion, is a collaboration of Marketplace, Homeland Productions, PBS NEWSHOUR and the Center for Investigative Reporting.  It examines the challenge of feeding the world at a time of growing population, shrinking land and water resources, climate changes and rising food and energy prices.

The Philippines — where more than 2 million babies are born every year — is one of the countries featured in the program series.  The report by Sam Eaton starts:

There’s a saying in the Philippines, “pantawid gutom.” It means to “cross the hunger.” When a family can’t afford rice, they’ll water down a pack of instant noodles or feed their  babies brown sugar dissolved in water to ease the hunger pangs. The fact that this saying even exists should tell you something about what it means to be poor here. Clarissa Canayong is 42 years old. She has 10 surviving children — the youngest only a year old. And she lives in an urban Manila slum called Vitas, at the edge of a garbage dump.

Population growth among the poor in the Philippines, where birth control remains largely out of reach, is about four times higher than the rest of the country.
- Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Click here to listen to the radio broadcast, and to view the related videos and photos for the series (http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/food-9-billion/philippines-too-many-mouths).

More than a quarter of the Philippines’ population lives in poverty — many in conditions similar to these.
- Sam Eaton/Marketplace

Related LolaKo.com links (click to view article):

Living with the dead

Earlier this year, my friend sent this link of a poignant video from London-based Stefan Werc, about Filipinos who live among the dead at the Navotas cemetery.

It is interesting to see all the religious objects in the shacks.  Religion and faith may be what sustains one’s spirit, and to have hope, despite living in these conditions.  But sadly, religion — at least in the Philippines –  is also what stands in the way of reproductive rights legislation…needed to help solve overpopulation, and subsequent poverty issues.

How bleak and sad do living conditions have to get?  Would the fact that people live in cemeteries confirm we have huge problems in the Philippines with poverty and overpopulation?

Will churches house, feed, and take care of these people?  It is obvious that they cannot.  I implore leaders to have compassion and stop blocking family planning initiatives, and let those who need it most — the poor — have access to family planning programs.

Above and Below from Stefan Werc on Vimeo.

See also, related articles:

Lola Jane’s A Demographic Riddle: Do women bear fewer children because a country is prosperous, or does a country’s economy grow when women have fewer children?

Lola Jane’s International Human Development Indicators (HDI) United Nations Report and where the Philippines stands in human development between 1980 to 2011 (compared to countries like Brazil, Thailand and Egypt).

The Filipino Scribe – Blogger and freelance writer Mark Pere Madrona’s blog post on the Philippines’ Reproductive Health(RH) bill:  Passing RH bill is our priority, PH tells UN rights body

On the “burden of civilization’s excess” and 5gyres.org

Found via the website 5gyres.org, another disturbing photograph on plastic trash problems in the Philippines, taken last year after the floods related to Ondoy.

At first glance…the road?  No, it is a river of floating plastics and other debris. It is no wonder parts of our planet’s ocean are turning into plastic soup

Photo by Francis R. Malasig via 5gyres.org

Excerpt from the accompanying blog post by Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres, and words from Marcus Eriksen, Executive Director of 5gyres.org:

The people at the end of the road, that we sometimes forget exist, bear the burden of civilization’s excess. 

The developing world wants the affluence and convenience of the west, but the infrastructure for waste management does not exist. 

Our collective conscience cannot tolerate the synthetic chemistry of our industrial and technological advances to become the burden of our poorest communities or reside in the bodies of our children, yet today everyone carries this chemical legacy. 

The producers of plastics have an obligation to plan for the post-consumer life of their product, all the way to the end.  If you want to clean the 5 gyres in the ocean of plastic waste, then give your time and funds to those that clean up these watersheds, where plastic hurts people.  And more importantly, to those legislative advocates that prevent the proliferation of plastic pollution throughout society. 

To reach the people at the end of the road, we have to begin our work there and work backwards to ourselves.

Marcus Eriksen’s words — especially “the burden of civilization’s excess” — resonated with me.  And yes, of course…those from developing nations want what everyone else wants.

Sometimes, new plastic “stuff” replaced functional items used in the home…like those now ubiquitous stacking, plastic chairs, that have replaced native, local bamboo or woven rattan chairs.  It seemed convenient, and cheap…until we learned about the problems with plastic trash.  Then we realized, oh-oh…maybe it is not so good, if we consider the loss of income to the locals who use to build a lot more bamboo and rattan chairs, and indeed, as we find out the “true cost” of all this cheap plastic stuff.

We know that unlike bamboo and rattan chairs that biodegrades back to earth, there are not always collection systems for broken plastic chairs, broken buckets and planganas (basins for washing clothes), broken plastic totes, etc.

Where will this used or broken plastic trash end up…oh right, see photo above.

It is a problem indeed, with the ever growing population of the Philippines — now the 12th most populous on our planet, in need of even more stuff.   In an archipelago nation like the Philippines, uncontrolled trash is always just a few short breaths away from the sea, at the next big rainfall or during typhoon season.

How do we manage all this plastic garbage?  Do we get plastics manufacturers or those who import plastics to have a plan to dispose of plastic trash?  Should the manufacturers be required to take it back?

Can we consider a moratorium on plastics until a solution is found or at least, until the infrastructure is in place to deal with, and to recycle these items?

Unlike most communities in the Western world, many areas in the Philippines still do not have established waste management or recycling programs, so when that plastic chair breaks, it is just more trash — the scary kind of trash that sticks around for a very long time.

One way or another, this uncontrolled plastic trash already affects us.  When it ends up in one of the trash vortex, or when we eat seafood that have eaten bits of our plastic trash, or through the extinction of species directly related to our actions…or our failure to take action.

See Also – Lolako’s Category Archives: Philippine related environment and conservation topics