Monday, 31 January 2005

Basta ra

Maradjaw Karadjaw dance depicting the christianisation of the
Mamanuas (natives) of Surigao during annual Bonok-bonok Festival.

It took me a long time and some head-splitting web-browsing to figure out the geo-political make-up of Chesterfield and Surigao (and SurNorte). Browsing the websites of my Surigao is like eating bihon with fork: twirling the noodles hoping the cook didn't forget to add some meat for flavor. There were a lot of facts, a lot in fact that after clicking the x button at the upper-right hand side of my window, I only realized that the site is not really meant for me, or for any Surigaonon, or for any ordinary Filipino, but for investors. Business people. Capitalists. Or foreigners, as locals generally call them. The mayor, in his Message on the site, said that "Our place offers you the best options for business, leisure and travel." and that "Surigao is one of the "Peace Cities" of the world and one of the Asia’s most livable cities."

I don't want to comment on that one, nor of the rest of the content of the website because it just reminds me of brochures, after all there is a link that tells whoever is visiting the site of their contact details. One thing the visitor will know and remember for sure is the face of the mayor and the governor.

Why I did this information-search in the first place is to attempt to do some comparisons of the two places although I know how illogical it sounds and how impossible it is. The composition of political units is spanish-american. There is no equivalent of borough and district or if there is, the meaning is totally different. However, I did some calculations with some help from K, B, and the online metric conversion and I hope I got these results right:

Surigao City: population density = 59 persons per hectare
Chesterfield: population density = 15 persons per hectare

These could mean anything like
a) All people from the barangays transferred to the city;
b) Women are prolific;
c) No wonder why there's always lots of people at the pier;
d) Four church masses every Sunday and additional twice daily is proof of overcrowding;
e) Flying voters are documented;
f) This is justification for the one-street-route-of-multicabs policy;
g) Additional trysikad and tricycles are necessary; or
h) I just got my calculations wrong; it should be the other way around.

Whatever it is, it makes the city alive and bustling. It makes it more exciting to go to Jollibee or Greenwich (I heared that there's another fastfood chain that just came up) and sit by the glass wall and be seen from outside. It makes it more fun to just sit by and watch people cross pedestrian lanes with on-the-face reminder of Php25.00 fine (or is it now Php50.00 pesos?) when crossing when red light is still on. It makes it more mouth-watering when at the end of a long hot day, everybody decides to go to the pier to eat the best ever saucy chicken barbeque at Carmen's or to the pantalan to have tinuya and kinilaw instead.

I have learned to love Chesterfield and enjoy two of its pubs but I still think of Surigao--and miss it, despite the content of its website.

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

English Meals

Lian's christening: reception at Gateway Hotel, Surigao.

The first meal I encountered when I arrived in England almost two years ago was a bowl of what seemed to me was dried cow food. It was like a left-over from a day's harvest of palay which turned rock-hard from moisture and the baking-heat of the mid-day sun. I looked at my father-in-law, who I only met less than 24 hours, and realised he wasn't joking, and in fact was eating the same thing as well. I demanded for an explanation from K. It was called Weetabix, which apparently could be eaten with sugar and milk or simply dry with a bit of butter or cheese. I didn't touch it but I knew from that moment that I was in for a stomach-churning food shock.

I decided to have coffee instead and looking at the breadbin, I was hopeful and positive that I could go through the morning without a hitch. As soon as my mouth closed for its first bite of a Warburton bread, I felt a well of tears descending my cheeks. The bread was dry and tasteless. K explained that it wasn't sweetened, unlike the bread I'm used to in the Philippines which could be eaten on its own even without the aid of butter, cheese, marmalade of jam. I remembered with longing the precious pan de sal and bohol and even the 'american bread' which is actually sliced bread that I can sandwich bihon with.

My incredulity was turned to hysterical laughter and embarassment as we started discussing how food should be eaten properly. K started to tell his parents that Surigaonons eat pasta sandwiched in two slices of bread, and that hotdogs are added, and that it is, again, like bread, sweetened. And worse, that pasta is cut into tiny pieces which is a crime, at least for the Italians.

I was quick to point out though that in Surigao, we eat fresh food all the time. Fish, meat, chicken, vegetables are all fresh (like an hour old sometimes) and that potatoes are considered veges which are usually cooked with meat in soup and not the main constant dish, like rice. The worst report of K was that Filipinos can eat with gusto with their bare hands. How they can manipulate their fingers to bring rice to the mouth was beyond him.

While all these discussions went on, I welcomed myself to the land of processed food. No blood, no bones. Just clean, ready to cook/ready to eat food.

I wonder where on earth I could find kinilaw na nukos.

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