Category Archives: philippines

Bread of salt and taste of home

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Pandesal. Brown paper bags of crunchy-yet-soft buns at breakfast and merienda, often accompanied by hot chocolate—or chocolate porridge, if I was really lucky.

If there is a type of bread in my heart, it is this. Not white bread or whole wheat or rye or flax. Not the focaccia we dipped into balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the Italian restaurant my family often went to. Not the banana breads or cornbreads W- and I have made.

Pan de sal. Bread of salt. 

Perhaps Laura Esquivel was on to something in Like Water for Chocolate. Food really is a language powerful beyond words.

I made pandesal for the first time. Fresh from the oven, they tasted of home.

I offered W- a piece. He had pandesal during our trips to the Philippines. I was glad he could relate to my memories.

There are places that sell pandesal in Toronto. I’ve never been to them. It’s different. Going out of my way to buy Filipino food? That’s something I might do if I get really homesick. Learning how to make the food of my memories? That fits. That helps me grow.

Now I can have pandesal any time I want. =) When we finish the 14 rolls I stashed in the freezer, I’m going to try this other recipe.

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Picture by W-

A night with the barkada

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I’m trying to figure out how to explain to other people what this barkada thing is like, but it’s hard.

I can’t explain how the conversation can flow so fast and funny over water and pizza. (And to think that other people drink alcohol to relax their inhibitions.)

In-jokes that still haven’t grown old, after all these years. New jokes and references. Politically incorrect humor mixed in with ideas and initiatives. Serious thoughts mixed in with crazy antics.

There’s something about critical mass and quick retorts that’s part of the magic of being in person.

It’s amazing being part of a group like this.

La-Z-Boy cinemas, massages, and seafood

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It’s not like a trip home to the Philippines means stocking up on cheap export overruns or taking advantage of pricing differences. Gadgets are more expensive here. Clothes are about the same price and I’m shifting towards sewing my own anyway, so I only buy comfortable styles that I’ve not been able to find in Canada. (Jockey V-neck shirts for ~CAD 5, yay.)

Instead, I make time for massages, facials, and movies watched from a La-Z-Boy. I drink all the mango shakes and fresh coconut juices I can get, enjoying the sweet coconut flesh for dessert. I fill up on riotous laughter with my barkada and stock up on memories with my family.

Globalization is funny when you’re here and there regularly. Stuff becomes less important, and experiences matter more.

Thoughts on the brain drain

The specter of brain drain has haunted me since high school. As students at Philippine Science High School—one of the best schools in the country, and publicly-funded at that—we were regularly reminded of our responsibilities as scholars of the nation. Our names were on hold lists at airports, and we needed to post bonds assuring our return before we travelled. Throughout university, too, I heard from frustrated teachers who’d seen their students settle down in far-off countries.

I decided that I could just as easily create opportunities in the Philippines as I could in North America. Although my alma mater and the competing schools I asked gently encouraged me to take my masters overseas so that I could learn, I resolved to come back and make things happen. I was really uncomfortable when some of the Filipino immigrants I met in Canada dismissed the Philippines and said it didn’t matter to them. I didn’t want to be like them.

Towards the end of my master’s degree, I fell in love with someone who could not move to the Philippines with me. So I chose love, even though it meant being away from family and old friends and becoming part of the brain drain I’d felt so strongly about. Besides, after having gone through the trouble of uprooting myself and making myself at home in an new environment, I wasn’t about to insist that someone else go through the same ordeal.

Still, there’s the occasional twinge of guilt, of uncertainty, of negotiating my identity between worlds. Not many people are caught in between like this—most people seem to have just embraced their new lives—so there aren’t that many people I can talk to. But the tension can be creative, too; it helps power my passion to make it easier for people to learn, collaborate, and lead from anywhere. That way, people don’t have to go through being between worlds like this unless they want to, and they can build roots more quickly if they do.

So it was good to read this analysis of brain drain from a magazine about foreign policy that concluded it wasn’t all that bad, and that it could even strengthen source countries.

I am not lost. I am not mis-placed. I am here, and I’m making things happen.

Taro

I joined other recent hires for an evening out that ended up at a bubble tea shop. I ordered taro bubble tea with tapioca. Someone asked me what taro was, and I paused as I tried to describe it to people who had never had taro before.

For me, taro bubble tea is wrapped up in all sorts of memories: standing in long lines to bubble tea shops as the craze swept through Manila, finding out that one of my university teachers was in a car accident because he jaywalked to buy a cup of bubble tea, going to Quickly with my sister and poking the thick straw through the taut plastic that was just added by their special cup-sealing machines, rolling my tongue around the spongy tapioca that took me back even further to innumerable glasses of sago’t gulaman quenching childhood thirsts.

I remember copying my sister after she ordered taro with large tapioca pearls. Years later, it’s still the flavour I return to.

“Taro?” I said. “They’re roots.”

Software as a service, high tech startup :: Morph Code :: Schedule of Events

Winston Damarillo is an all-around cool guy and a serial tech entrepreneur who wants to help more people start up tech companies in the Philippines. So he put together Mor.ph, and now Mor.ph is holding a bootcamp for aspiring tech entrepreneurs. It’s also a business competition, so if you win, you get funding, support, and mentoring. Good stuff. Kinda makes me wish I was based in Manila instead! ;)

Software as a service, high tech startup :: Morph Code :: Schedule of Events