The photo that inspired me to find out what happened to the natural fiber rope trade, once dominated by Philippine “Manila Hemp”

While reading about the 2014 International Coastal Clean-up Day I came across this beach clean-up photo by Kip Evans.

plastic rope debris photo by Kip Evans

The image — and knowing something about ghost nets in our oceans — had me curious about marine trash washed up on the beach and remaining in our oceans, and specifically, when the world switched from using biodegradable natural fiber fish nets and ropes (photos below) to synthetic or plastic, petrochemical-based ropes.

In the process, I learned how the Philippine fiber, abaca, known as “Manila hemp” dominated the natural fiber rope industry starting in the mid 1800’s…

abaca hemp warehouse Manila late 1800s

Traders at abaca warehouse, Manila, Philippines late 1800’s. Bales of abaca are at bottom right of photograph. Photo source: The Philippine Islands by Ramon Reyes Lala via the Gutenberg website, published in 1898 by the Continental Publishing Company.

…and how a material invented in the 1930’s and originally designed as a fabric to replace women’s silk stockings signaled the decline of abaca / Manila hemp as a prime material for the natural rope and cordage industry.

Interested in a bit of history?  Link to the article on Native Leaf’s blog here (The switch from natural fiber abaca, hemp ropes to synthetic ropes).

Related Links:

Philippine President on Global Security, China and Climate Change

9023_aquino-jeremy1

Photo via Here & Now website: Jeremy Hobson speaks with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in Boston. (Samantha Fields/Here & Now)

Climate change is a reality.  The Philippines has experienced strange weather patterns over the last few years — typhoons in November / December when they normally end by September.

The November, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (called “Yolanda” in the Philippines) was the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record and one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

The Philippines is a member of the United Nations (UN) Commission on Climate Change, and President Benigno Aquino spoke at the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 2014.

The day before he spoke at the Summit, President Aquino was interviewed by Jeremy Hobson on the public radio program Here and Now

In case you missed it, here are links to the broadcast…worth a listen, covering global security and climate change as it relates to the Philippines and the U.S – Philippines relationship.

Interview excerpt:

On the threat of climate change for the Philippines

“If you look at the maps, especially for storms coming from the Pacific side, it seems like we’re a gateway to the rest of Asia.”

“For instance, Typhoon Haiyan. We don’t get typhoons in December. They normally end by September. A typhoon happening in October is considered a late event. Having a major typhoon in December (and this has happened for practically ever year that I’ve been in office) … is truly alarming to us.

“Even the planting cycles, which are really very dependent on weather — there seems to be a return to normal this year — but for the past few years they kept on changing, which affects the food security, not only for us, but for a whole range of other countries.”

Note: If you cannot play President Benigno Aquino’s interview from this page, link to the Here and Now program’s web page, here.

Is lip-pointing a learned or inherited trait? And by the way, it’s not exclusively Filipino…

Western style pointingPeople living in areas where the index or the “pointer” finger is the norm when pointing may think that this communication method is a universal gesture….but it is not.

According to the paper The Protean Pointing Gesture, lip-pointing — instead of finger-pointing — in one form or another is a method used not just among Filipinos, but also widely used by those living in other parts of Southeast Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Africa, and South America.

If you know Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who grew up in the Philippines, you will know what I mean by lip-pointing.  If you haven’t seen it, here is a great description from Lisa who blogs at mymovetothePhilippines.com:

Filipino lip pointing is actually more than just a simple puckering up. First there’s eye-to-eye contact, followed by variations of lip pursing, combined with a eyebrow, head and neck action, the execution of which all depends on the intention of the pointer.

Non-Filipinos who have observed this gesture find it confusing, and sometimes hilarious.  Foreigners should be wary of this practice.  A Filipina puckering her lips doesn’t necessarily mean she’s asking for a kiss.  She could just be pointing to something on your shoulder.  She might slap you in the face, if you misinterpret.

One of the most common reasons for lip pointing is to give quick directions, of which explaining verbally would take a longer time.

So, if you’re at a mall, and you ask a Filipino who’s carrying grocery bags up to his arms where the rest room is, he might purse his lips then extend his neck to the direction of the restroom in one smooth action.  Or he would purse his lips, lift his head up, and turn it to his left, which means: walk straight ahead, and make a left turn at the next corner. A head bobble before the head lift would mean pass two aisles down before making a left. If he over extends his neck, bends a bit, and stretches his lips outward, it means you’ve got a farther ways to walk.

According to the study, finger-pointing is one of the first gestures a human baby uses to communicate, even before they can speak.  And this is seen everywhere and across cultures.  So does this mean lip-pointing is something one learns?

Lip Pointing learned or natural webBut if it is also common for people from a particular region of the world to lip-point (e.g., Southeast Asia) then is it possible that lip-pointing is also an inherited trait?

If my U.S.-born grandsons (who are part Filipino) decide to move and live in a country where lip-pointing is common, will they easily convert to this method?

Unfortunately, the question of whether lip pointing is an inherited or a learned behavior is not answered in the study, so we will have to wait for further research.

But what do you think…learned or inherited? After all, it is not easy to teach someone how to lip-point.

Speaking of more research, can they can also find out why Filipinos and Thais sniff kiss?

Philippine narket web

Scene from market in the Philippines. Hands full? No need to drop those market bags right away since you can just let the vendor know you want by lip-pointing.

I do wonder if modern Filipinos point less with their lips, and like the rest of the so-called WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) societies, switch exclusively to pointing with their index finger.  I hope not, as I find lip-pointing an endearing Filipino trait, and one I hope is kept by modern and future Filipinos.

For a funny take on Filipino lip-pointing, check out this YouTube video and Auntie Advice from the HappySlip Channel.

Unless with family, I rarely point with my lips now, compared to when I first immigrated to the U.S…so yes, I now point the WEIRD way.

If you are Filipino living outside the Philippines, do you still lip-point?

And oh wow, just in time for the 2014 Holiday Black Friday shopping, see this Wal-Mart ad targeting Asian Americans — specifically one in Tagalish featuring an actor who…yes indeed… points with his lips.

Liberated from laundry? Humanity and my take on this week’s photo challenge

We walked to the river carrying everything we needed to do the laundry…from the bundles of clothes and wash basins balanced on top of our heads, the bars of soap, the pot of rice, bananas and other food we will cook and eat while we wait for the warm sun to dry the clothes on the rocks.

This was laundry day when I was a kid and lived in the province (away from the city). Since my younger sister and I were still little, we played and splashed in the water while the other women in our household went about the task of washing clothes.

Fast forward decades later, I am  back to the Philippines, and while stopped over a bridge to take in the view, I look below and see a scene from my childhood…women washing clothes by the river.

Laundry day 3 web

I am nostalgic and remember the fun we had playing in the river during laundry day — rearranging rocks to form our own little swimming pools and creating dams to capture fish and freshwater shrimps.

Then I thought, wait….I am a grandmother now…why are these women STILL doing laundry this way?

My take on this week’s WordPress photo challenge are photos about something we share as modern humans..that is, we all wear clothes, and these clothes need to be washed.

Laundry day 2a web

How we go about doing laundry though is a symbol of how developed the area is where we live, and how much time is available to women.

Here in the US, over 80% of households have clothes washers (even almost a decade ago, based on the these stats from the US Department of Energy):

Percent clothes washer stats US

For poor households, over 60% still had clothes washers…and anyone can go to laundromat to wash clothes.

We take for granted the clean running water we have access to, and the machines that liberate us from tedious tasks, like washing clothes.

Laundry day 5 web

How often is this scene still repeated around the world daily?  Imagine how liberated human beings  — particularly women — can be, simply by having a  machine that we take for granted here in the US.

Laundry day 4 web

It may not be something we ever think about, but to me, how laundry is done around the world is an indicator of progress.

And the work towards eradicating poverty worldwide — so that everyone has access to the tools, and yes, machinery — to allow us more time to live a good life and express ourselves is part of what defines our humanity.

To see beautiful humanity inspired photographs and other imaginative takes on the challenge, visit the WordPress Photo Challenge Site. 

For more on why I think there is still so much poverty in my home country of the Philippines, see my post Chameleons: Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world.

Otters in the Philippines (Asian short-clawed otters)

I adore sea otters and have posted several articles / photos / videos about California sea otters on my blog.  Until recently — and although I grew up in the Philippines — I did not know there were otters in the Philippines, too.

California Sea Otter - Photo by my grandson (then 8 years old) Jun-Jun

California Sea Otter – Photo by my grandson (then 8 years old) Jun-Jun

It turns out that sea otters are found not only along the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean in North America but also in parts of Asia.

Philippine Map Source US State Department

Map Source: US Department of State

In the Philippines, otters live in the Palawan area, on the western part of the archipelago.

There is not much information about Philippine otters posted on-line, not even within the comprehensive National Geographic website.

And I could not find information on exactly how many otters are left in the wild in Palawan or anything else about their current status.

So far, here is what I did find:

From Arkive.org:

The Asian short-clawed otter has a large distribution, ranging from north-western and south-western India, through southern China (including Hainan) and the Malay Peninsula, to Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Riau Archipelago (Indonesia), and Palawan Island in the Philippines.

The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) list Asian sea otters in the “Threatened” category.  

Specifically, Asian sea otters are listed as “Vulnerable” under the IUCN Red list.

As with other wildlife vulnerable to or facing extinction in the Philippines, the threats to  otters include deforestation, pollution, humans destroying the otters and their natural habitats (e.g., turning mangroves into aquaculture farms).

Compared to the sea otters we see here on the central California coast, the Philippine otter is much smaller. This video from Diana J. Limjoco’s blog shows 3 young Philippine otters brought to her Palawan home by locals.

The otters on this video — like most otters — are truly adorable.  I am curious about how they are doing, especially health-wise living among the other domesticated pets in the household.

I am also curious if there is a program in the Philippines established to care for orphaned otters so they can be re-introduced back into the wild (as the topic of the film Saving Otter 501 — shown on the PBS show Nature).

In neighboring countries of Malaysia and Singapore, otters are totally protected by the government.  In the Philippines, Republic Act # 9147 (2001) prohibits the killing, collection, possession, and maltreatment of wildlife.

But if locals do not know about the R.A. 9147 law or how special and rare these creatures are, and if there is no funding to enforce the law or do public service announcements (PSAs), then the law is useless in terms of saving remaining Philippine otters.

There was a blog started by Philippine otter researchers called “Palawan Otters” (Lyca Sandrea G. Castro) but it may be abandoned as there were only a few post, and not any new information since last year.  I hope they are continuing their research and will post new information on the blog soon.  (NOTE – as of September, 2014, Ms. Castro has revived the blog — YAY!!! I have added the “protecting otters” poster from the Palawan Otters blog at the bottom of this post.)

Here is another video of Asian small-clawed otters at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand playing with a pebble, via Wikipedia commons.

When I think of poverty issues facing many Filipinos it seems that my interest and focus on endangered animals are inconsequential.  What is the point of learning about these animals and writing a blog post if they are so close to the edge of extinction.  What difference is it going to make…

I suppose there is always hope, and I am again reminded of the 1968 quote from Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum:

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”

Sometimes, endangered wildlife are killed simply due to a lack of understanding of their role in our ecosystem, or by necessity, caught for food…it is as basic as that, and goes back to poverty issues.

The same problems that cause wildlife to become extinct — pollution from pesticides, loss of their habitat due to illegal activities that degrade the environment — are issues that also make people vulnerable to other disasters. So I don’t think we have a choice…we have to learn about endangered wildlife and how their loss affects our ecosystem, and spread the word.  It can only improve our prospect for saving our environment and perhaps make the difference for future inhabitants of our planet.

UPDATE:  As I was getting ready to publish this post, I googled “Philippine Wildlife Act 9147 sea otters” and found a comprehensive paper written by Jeric Bocol Gonzalez titled Distribution Exploitation and Trade Dynamics of A.cinereus in Mainland Palawan, Philippines.  Published in 2010, the situation did not look promising for rare Philippine sea otters back then!  Does anyone have any new information since publication of Jeric’s thesis?

Otter Protection Photo from Palawan Otter Blog

Click on the photo to link to Palawan Otters blog

Other (Sea) Otter posts on LolaKo.com:

And for more about California sea otters, see The Otter Project. and the Monterey Bay Aquarium website page Sea Otters as Risk.

Related endangered wildlife posts:

LAST NOTE:  If you want more information about otters in other parts of the world, visit the IUCN’s Otter Specialist Group website (where I found Jeric Gonzalez’s paper).

Jose Antonio Vargas…and the upcoming Pistahan Festival

Jose-Antonio-Vargas-22Jose Antonio Vargas, a well-known activist for undocumented immigrants was recently detained at a Texas airport while reporting on the onslaught of minors crossing into the U.S. from Central America.

I posted about Mr. Vargas when he was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Pistahan Festival — a festival in San Francisco celebrating Filipino culture and cuisine.   Excerpt:

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.   Continue reading…

I am following his courageous work…and fears about him being deported (though always the possibility, and part of his reality) were allayed after reading the article from Mother Jones on 8 Reasons Why Jose Antonio Vargas Won’t Be Deported.  Made sense to me!

Pistahan-Fest-Young-Women

Members of the Kariktan Dance Company at the Pistahan Festival celebrating Filipino culture

And the post reminded me that the 2014 Pistahan Festival is coming up soon…

In case you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or nearby, Pistahan is the largest celebration of Filipino culture in the United States and worth attending.

Pistahan’s focus this year is the Visayan culture!

A huge and colorful parade kicks the festival off on August 9th, and the festival runs through August 10th at Yerba Buena Gardens — Moscone Convention Center area.  For parade schedule and festival information, visit Pistahan.net.

There are terrific performances and great food if you want to sample Filipino cuisine (the year we went, they had Pinx Catering serving up Ube Waffles).

More Filipino food related posts, here and post on Why Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world, here.

Mosquito bites and the chickungunya virus

A viral disease called chickungunya is now being spread by mosquitoes in the US.   Oh great…one more thing to worry about with mosquito bites.

Types of mosquitos spreading CHIKV virus

Chikungunya (CHIKV) is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Most common are the mosquito types on this photos (Aedes spp., predominantly Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus).  These mosquitos are the same type that spread dengue fever.  They bite in the daytime.  Photo via CDC website.

Have you heard about chickungunya?

The first outbreak of the disease was in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The name ‘chikungunya’ is from a word in the Kimakonde language (spoken in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique) that means “to become contorted” or “that which bends up”.

It describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.  Signs and symptoms also include a sudden start of fever often accompanied by joint pain. Other symptoms are muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days.

Most infected patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several weeks or months, or even years.  The good news is that deaths from chikungunya are rare.

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted

Countries where chikungunya virus transmitted – map via the US CDC

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chikungunya (CHIKVI) has occurred in Africa, Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

In late 2013, CHIKVI was found for the first time on islands in the Caribbean.

chik-inbound-english-tSince then, CHIKVI has been found in multiple countries or territories in the Caribbean, Central America, or South America, and now in the US.

NOTE: In California, the mosquito Aedes albopictus (one of the types that spread CHIKV) are found in Southern and Central California.

Its habitat are small containers and old tires.

As there are no known vaccine or medication, the CDC advice is to reduce your exposure by:

There are currently no antiviral medicines to treat the chikungunya virus. However, there are medicines to reduce the fever and pain experienced by those exposed to the virus.  For more details, visit the CDC’s website about chikungunya, here.

yellow fever mosquito

Photo via montereycountymosquito.com

Also visit Monterey County Mosquito website, here:  Excerpt:

The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti is a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses, and other diseases. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the thorax. The mosquito originated in Africa but is now found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world, now including many parts of California.

And by the way, there is also a measles outbreak now, which originated in the Philippines!  Over forty-thousand cases were reported in the Philippines between January to May, 2014.  More on the measles outbreak, here, including information on what travelers can do to protect themselves if traveling to the Philippines.

Blog post information source from the U.S. CDC and World Health Organization (WHO)

My encounter with a (not so scary) California snake

Backyard snake Monterey County CA 1

I’m sure my intense fear of snakes stems from an  encounter with a huge snake when I was around 5 years old.

We lived near a rice field in the province of Bulacan (Luzon island in the Philippines).

While I was in the outhouse (an outdoor bathroom) by myself, the snake crept inside through the gap between the bamboo door and the dirt floor.

I froze in fear, and then let out the loudest scream I could summon.  Shortly after, I heard my mother running towards me and then right outside the outhouse door.

I was too frightened to move and unhinge the door, so my mother had to break the door to get to me — and not so easy to do as she was in the late stage of being pregnant with my brother.

Perhaps because of my screaming, or maybe it was really interested or following something else, the snake was gone by the time my mother got through the door.

Rice Fields and mountain background

Rice fields in the Philippines, coconut trees and mountain backdrop. Photo Lolako.com

Since venomous sakes — including the Philippine spitting cobra, one of the most venomous snakes in the world — often hunt for rodents in rice fields near where we lived, a group of neighbors, with their machetes firmly in hand, formed a line at the rice fields behind the outhouse to look for the snake.  I can’t remember if they caught it.

Rice-Field-Almost-Ready-for-Harvest

Many decades later…I am (understandably!) still afraid of snakes.  I am not fearful of spiders, or bees or most bugs really…but when I think of snakes and sharks...the feeling of fear is immediate.

And it turns out that even people without a conscious fear of snakes are wired to react fearfully to snakes because snakes were among the earliest threats and predators to human beings.

A few days ago, my 9-year-old grandson Jun found a 2 1/2 foot long snake skin in the backyard.  Fascinated, he was holding it stretched above his head when he came over to show me his find.

And this morning, as I was coming from the driveway, here is what I encountered…

Pacific Gopher Snake in Monterey County

I now know that snakes are important to our ecosystem...so instead of running away and screaming, I grabbed my camera and took a photo (thank you zoom lens) so I could learn more about this snake living near our home.

Pacific Gopher Snake range in California

A visit to the California Herps website’s picture gallery made it easy to identify the snake.

It is a Pacific Gopher snake and harmless to human beings.  It is found in a wide range in the state of California, as shown in red shade on the map at left.

Because gopher snakes are sometimes mistaken for more dangerous rattlesnakes, they are killed unnecessarily.

The California Herps website notes:

It is easy to avoid this mistake by learning to tell the difference between the two families of snakes as shown in these signs.

Unless you have experience handling venomous snakes, you should never handle a snake unless you are absolutely sure that it is not dangerous.

rattlesnake vs gopher snakeHere are some interesting snake facts:

Worldwide:

map of world distribution of snakes

map of world distribution of sea snakes and land snakes via Wikipedia

  • Snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica (see Life is short, but snakes are long blog post on the most widespread snakes in the world)
  • Most snake bites occur in agricultural and tropical regions
  • There are 3,000 known species of snakes — of which, only 15% are considered as dangerous to people.
  • Most snake related deaths occur in South Asia, with India reporting the most deaths of any country (this would make sense though, as India is the most populous country in South Asia).
  • Worldwide, snake bites are most common during the summer when people are outdoors and when snakes are most active

In the USA from the wanderingherpetologist.com

  • There are more casualties in the United States due to car accidents (37,594), lightning strikes (54), and dog attacks (21) each year than from venomous snakebites (5).
  • Approximately 7,000-8,000 people are envenomated each year in the United States but there is only an average of 5 casualties
  • In Texas alone, there were more casualties in 2005 from drowning (308), firearms/hunting (79), and venomous arthropods (16) than venomous snakebites.

In California

  • CaliforniaHerps.com- a guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California is a super website with loads of information, pictures and useful links.  Visit the page on what kind of reptiles and amphibians might live near your home and how to encourage them to stay there, by clicking here.

I am less fearful of snakes since I learned that most snakes are NOT dangerous to humans, and that most snake bites to humans are caused by snakes that are NOT venomous.

Remember though, unless you are a snake expert,  it is best to leave lots of room between you and any snake you may encounter…and don’t kill snakes!

Further reading and resources:

Related post about animals (and endangered animals) from Lola Jane (click on photo to link to article)

Sierran Tree Frog profilePost about the Sierran Tree Frog (photo by Lola Jane)

…It is comforting to know the little frogs survive in our backyard, despite the large presence of big business agriculture in our county (Monterey is the only county in the United States with more than 1 BILLION in annual vegetable sales).

 

Leatherback-turtle-found-dead-off-leyteAbout the Giant Pacific Leatherback Turtle and the connection between Indonesia / the Philippines and Monterey Bay, California)

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

 

Philippine-Eagle-Close-up-photo1On the critically endangered and magnificent Philippine eagle (Photograph by Klaus Nigge – www.nigge.com)  ...the Philippine Eagle, pithecophaga jefferyi – and referred to as “haring ibon” or king bird.  It is among the rarest and most powerful birds in the world.  In 1995, it was designated as the national bird as well as an official  symbol of the Philippines.

Shark-photo-Sean-Van-SommeranPost about Sharks!

The photo is of a 4,000 lb shark tagged in Santa Cruz, California and caught by accident in the Sea of Cortez area, Mexico.  Photo Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, contributed by Sean VanSommeran.

Also see comparison of shark attacks vs. lightning fatalities on the US Coast

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”
— Baba Dioum

Champurrado to Champorado: origin of a favorite Filipino breakfast

In the Philippines, champorado is a chocolate, riced-based porridge typically eaten for breakfast.  In Mexico, champurrado is a chocolate-based drink (made with masa — lime treated corn dough, or corn flour) also served for breakfast.

champorado Filipino style

Champorado is typically eaten at breakfast but can also be served for dessert

The common ingredient is chocolate — but which version came first?

The answer is the Mexican champurrado, as the cacao trees (source of chocolate) grown in the Philippines originally came from Mexico.  And the connection, of course, is that Mexico and the Philippines were colonies of Spain.

Some of the most popular fruits and plants common in the Philippines —  avocados, pineapples, cashews, guyabano — are native to Latin American countries and arrived in the Philippines via the galleon ships from Mexico during the colonial era.  Rice and fruits like the carambola (star apple) and mangoes were transported from the Philippines to Mexico.

Champorado is a breakfast favorite of my oldest grandson, Jun.  Because there is a lot of stirring involved, he knows it is a special request breakfast and that his Lola has to wake up a little earlier to have it ready before school time.

As with many Filipino sweets, making champorado requires just a handful of ingredients.  Philippine chocolate tablets are the traditional ingredient, but we use cocoa powder in our version.  Recipe:

Philippine Champorado ingriedients w

  • 1 cup of sticky rice – usually marked “Sweet Rice” sourced mainly from Thailand, or the Philippine brands marked “Malagkit”
  • Water & Milk – start with 4 and 1/2 cups of water to cook the rice into a porridge (I add a cup of low-fat milk to the mixture when the porridge is almost done, and depending on the consistency you like, you can add more milk and water)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – use from 1/2 cup or add more to your liking.  We keep a container of Trader Joe’s brand on hand, sourced from Columbia.
  • Brown sugar can be added during the porridge cooking process or served with the bowl of champorado.

Rinse, then cook the rice with the water over low heat, then gradually add the cocoa powder to make the porridge.  I add the milk and brown sugar when the rice softens and is almost cooked.  Watch over and stir the mixture often.  The champorado is done when the rice is mushy and cooked through.

In the Philippines, champorado is sometimes eaten with salted dried fish (tuyo), as Filipinos love mixing salty and sweet flavors.

For more about chocolate, see Most Craved Food post here, or click on the photo below.

Cacao Photo Group

Cacao tree growing next to a house in the Philippines, bottom photo are cacao seeds drying, and cacao seeds for sale at the market, Central Philippines. Photos Lolako.com

And a little on the early history of chocolate in the Philippines, said to be introduced by missionaries from Mexico in the late 1600’s.  Excerpt from the book “The Philippine Islands”, published in 1898…

The trees are usually planted in gardens near the house, and the chocolate-paste is made at home. A small quantity of the bean is sent annually to Spain; and there is a chocolate factory in Manila for the benefit of those that do not care to trouble themselves with either the growth of the fruit or the preparation of the kernel. The oil of the cocoa is used also for lighting the houses and streets.

It is impossible to find better chocolate than that made by the friars of the Philippines. Special pains are taken with the cacao tree, which is planted in the orchards and gardens of the monasteries, and in the manufacture of the paste and in the making of the beverage.

At Mexican eateries, here is how champurrado is sold (paired with tamales — so, except for the chocolate, completely different from Philippine champorado):

White King brand instant champorado web

White King brand instant champorado mix

Do you make homemade champorado or champurrado?

Or have you bought the instant type Filipino champorado mix at your local Filipino store (like the type pictured at left by White King)?  And if so, was the taste comparable to homemade champorado?

What are your favorite Filipino chocolate related memories?

More food posts from Lolalako.com:

Old photo and update to “Most Craved Food in the World” article

I updated the post “Most Craved Food in the World” after finding this interesting photo in a book about the Philippines, via the Gutenberg website and another old book published in digitized format from Google.

Chocolate maker

Photo from the book “The Philippine Islands” from the Gutenberg website, by Ramon Reyes Lala, published in 1898 by the Continental Publishing Company.  He is rolling out a paste (that is later dried into tablets) of what we now know as the most craved food in the world.

Click on the photo above to link to the updated article…

I love finding these interesting books on-line!

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, especially Korea and 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.

asean-logoThese 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.  In 1984, Brunei Darussalam joined, followed by Viet Nam on in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999, making up the current ten Member States of ASEAN.

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.