The Manila Boy from Kabul

By Najib Habib, February 2002
Whenever my Filipino friends and I get together to shoot the bull about the good old days, the topic of conversation inevitably drifts to how difficult it is to adapt to the culture of the country we now find ourselves living in: the strange food, the frosty nature of the natives, racism, feeling left out, how hard it is to find decent friends etc. I know the feeling, I experienced it as a hairy, light-skinned foreign-looking kid from central Asia growing up in that great capital of the Philippines, dizzying, dirty and beautiful Manila.
I arrived in the Philippines from Afghanistan a sprightly one year old, as my father was to begin work at an international lending institution then based in Pasay city, overlooking Manila Bays striking blue water and hypnotic sunset. He had been previously an Afghan government official serving the monarchy, ten years before the soviet invasion pushed the county into a long bloody civil war. I was enrolled in the Montessori school system in a large, converted pre-war house behind my Dads office. This was in contrast to the expatriate families who usually sent their kids to US curriculum international schools. It was in that school in Pasay where I started to learn to be pinoy.
No matter what one thinks, your mother culture still has a big influence on how you think and behave, despite living in a country for a long time. At home we practised Islam, spoke Dari, the Afghan language, ate authentic Afghan food prepared by my mother and adhered to Afghan traditions, but outside the home, it was a different ballgame. In an overwhelming Catholic country where the church is hugely influential, I was considered a strange sort of fellow, with bizarre dietary restrictions (‘What? You don’t pork barbecue and lechon ? You eat Lamb? Ugh! You don’t go to church? Why?’). I wasn’t an American or European, people that my classmates could easily identify and caricature, but I did get a fair share of being called’ bumbay’, sort of a derogatory term for people of Indian extraction who smell bad in the hot climate. As a result, I made sure I was always scrupulously clean, washed and perfumed, even up to this day, which now cause my female co-workers in London to regularly complement me on my cologne, and be an object of jealousy to my less-well scrubbed male friends.
As I grew older and hit college, a realisation was growing in me that despite my refusal to be identified as Filipino (we were Afghan after all, owners of a proud and long heritage), I had picked up a host of traits that would identify me as a pinoy, more specifically a ‘batang Manila’ (Manila boy). It came to a point that I knew certain parts of the capital like the back of my hand, all short cuts, legal and illegal. I knew where to find the best arroz caldo porridge at four AM, which was usually in a small street stall that jeepney drivers frequent, whose name to drop when you were caught by the manilas finest in a traffic violation, where to find the cheapest imported shoes, etc. When I went for further studies to the University of Santo Tomas in Quiapo, my speech went from the kind of false-American sing-song English spoken in the private schools across the capital (which, when I use in London, people assume I’m from the Caribbean) to a very hard, Sampaloc accented tagalog. It came to a point that when I spoke on the phone, people would think I was Sampaloc born and bred, but when they saw me in person, treated me as a novelty (‘ Hey, look how well this foreigner speaks tagalog, say something…’). My friends would joke: ‘ He’s more pinoy than us’. Now, my chief source of pleasure when I go to Filipino gatherings in the US or Europe is to speak straight Tagalog to people I meet, leaving them stunned and amazed. ‘You must be half Filipino!’ they exclaim. No, I think, just a product of my environment.
There was no denying it. Twenty-six years of living in Manila has had an indelible impact on me. The way I speak, my sense of humour, my cultural values and attitudes, not to mention my closest friends, are Filipino. This became very much apparent when I left the Philippines and moved abroad to London, where contact with a mass of diverse people of all cultures and colours forces you into a realisation of who you are. You become an amalgam of the places you’ve been, and people you know throughout your life. Hence, in spite of the British weather I dress habitually as if I’m going for stroll across Megamall: white polo shirt with rolled up sleeves, khakis, no socks. I still get bad cravings for bulalo, calamansi juice and of course, arroz caldo with a lot of paminta, though I married an Afghan, and cook both Filipino and Afghan food at home. Its not an easy burden to carry, being a product of two cultures, but I’ll tell you one thing, I feel it great honour to have lived in Manila, and I’m proud to say I’m a Filipino by heart.

Welcome

This website is for second-generation Filipinos living in the UK. It is where we explore our culture, identity and how we fit into British and Filipino society.

It is also where a group of us tell people about our projects for change.

The House that Was


By Fe C. Abogadie, September 2001


The year was 1972. I remember clearly. It was the same year that Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines. Just a few months before the proclamation of martial law, my parents, after years of deliberating and planning and saving, finally decided to replace our old nipa-and-bamboo house. They decided to replace it with one made of concrete and hardwood, with galvanized iron for roofing. This decision was to have a great impact on our lives.

Almost 30 years later, and on the other side of the world, I now remember that old house so vividly and with so much nostalgia. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I am afraid that the rapid urbanization of the Philippines is causing the disappearance of these traditional houses, and with it, a whole way of life. Practical reasons of course dictate that if you can afford it, it is better to build a concrete house. It is cheaper in the long term because it can withstand the heavy rains and typhoons so common in the Philippines. In many small villages in the countryside of course there are still these nipa-and-bamboo houses, but they are fast disappearing. Part of me is afraid that they are becoming "extinct". Part of me wants to remember happy memories of life spent in just such a house. Better put them in writing before memory fails.

The old house

The old house was the first house my parents owned after they got married. I remember it as a big house, but maybe it was "big" because I was just a child when I lived in it. To a child less than three feet tall, perhaps every house is big. Apparently there was a religious ceremony performed before the first shovel of soil was dug to construct the new house that was to replace it. Or there should have been, as it is believed to be bad luck if you do not have this blessing done before building a house. In any case, I was not there to witness it. I was at school. I don’t particularly remember my parents explaining to my siblings and me that the old house was going to be demolished that day. Maybe they did not want us to worry ourselves about it. I just remember that one day I went to school, just a 10-minute walk away, and when I came home for lunch there it was, the huge hole in the ground where the workers had erected the first pillar for the new house.

I learned later that in the process of constructing the new house, a few coconut trees had to be cut because they were in the way. I remember eating some of the "ubod", the fleshy topmost part that is the heart of the coconut palm. The "ubod" is rare, for a coconut tree is considered so valuable and is therefore not cut down unless for a very good reason. So the only time one can have "ubod" is when a typhoon has felled down some coconut trees, and yes, when coconut trees are felled down in the course of building a house.

The old house was supported off the ground by a few main pillars made of wood from locally grown hardwood trees. On to these pillars were attached the framework of wood and bamboo that would support the floors, walls and roof. The flooring all throughout the house was made of polished bamboo slats strung close together with rattan strips. The walls and roof were made with nipa palms in thatched layers. The slat design of the flooring meant that the mountain and sea breezes were free to come and go through the floor, so the house interior was naturally cool. I have no memories of it being so hot back then. But then, many coconut and other fruit trees surrounded the house so there was much shade around.

The "pantaw" or front porch

The front entrance was through some bamboo stairs, perhaps 4 or 5 rungs, into a front porch called "pantaw" in Cebuano. The "pantaw" was spacious, certainly big enough for the laundry woman to do her ironing there. That was when ironing was done with the black flat iron using hot coals made from coconut shells (locally known as "uling"). The iron had a heavy bottom and a less heavy top to which a wooden handle was attached. The top part had a zigzagged edge so that when brought down over the bottom part, it formed several holes. The holes were important to let out the smoke. Ironing was much heavier work then, for every piece of clothing was made of cotton and made stiff with cassava starch. My mother, Nanay, told me that starching helped extend the longevity of the clothes. This was well and good but meant more work. For proper ironing, each item had to be sprayed with water first to make them pliant. Thus our laundry woman, Manang Nacia, whenever she had her ironing day, would have piles of clothes around her and the ironing board. Three piles of clothes: one pile for the starched clothes that still needed to be sprayed with water, another pile for the rolled clothes that had been wetted already, and a third pile for the freshly ironed ones. I should know, because Manang Nacia used to allow me to help her with the job as long as I did the piles correctly. I enjoyed very much the ritual of dipping my hands in the bowl of water, sprinkling the water evenly over each item, and then folding and rolling each item into a compact shape.

The "pantaw" was not only a work area. It was also the informal receiving room. When people dropped by for a chat, as was so commonly done then, they would be welcomed into the "pantaw". There were only a couple of chairs as far as I can remember. Most of the time, people would just sit on the floor or on the steps, with their feet extended out in a very relaxed manner. The "pantaw" too was a playroom, especially for my sister Lina and me. (My sister Lina and I were close playmates, for I was only 14 months older than she. In our family she was called Baby Lina. Nanay used to dress us in similar clothes and people would often ask if we were twins). We would lay out our toys in the "pantaw" and play house with our friends, who were also our neighbours. When it was raining, we had fun wetting our hair with the water dripping from the eaves of the nipa roofing.

The "sala" or the living room

From the "pantaw" there was a door leading to the "sala" or the main living room. Perhaps the "sala" was the biggest room in the house. As one enters it, immediately one would be in front of the altar, where one is confronted with images of the crucified Christ or the weeping Virgin Mary and, invariably, of scenes of hell and purgatory. Every house in those days had an altar like ours. It must have given young kids the scare of their lives to imagine themselves being banished to hell, just like those fallen angels, if they did so much as disobey their parents or do something really naughty. At least that was how the old folks back then would get the children to be obedient.

The "sala" was the scene of many incidents of my siblings and I kneeling before the altar. It was mostly my brother Dodong, my sister Baby Lina and myself. (Manoy Ne, our eldest, was already in high school two towns away so we would only see him on weekends, while our youngest, Dayon, was still a baby). Kneeling before the altar was our punishment for misdeeds – we were supposed to ask forgiveness for our sins. But we would just be quiet for the first few minutes and when Nanay went to another part of the house, we would end up poking and teasing each other again or end up either giggling or arguing again. As soon as we hear Nanay’s footsteps coming back, we would pretend again to be solemn before the altar. I wonder if today’s parents still discipline their kids this way.

In the evenings, the "sala" became our bedroom. There was a proper bedroom, just next to the "sala", but that was where my parents slept, together with our baby sister Dayon. Manoy Ne, Dodong, Baby Lina and I slept on the "sala" floor. We had a huge woven mat called "banig" that we would unroll on the floor for sleeping. The "banig" covered most of the "sala" area and on it we would spread our pillows and blankets before hanging the huge mosquito net. We hung the mosquito net by hooking its four corners, the "ears", on to nails hammered into the walls at appropriate locations. Hanging the mosquito net was a huge task, or so it seemed, for we would always argue as to whose turn it was to do it that night. Under the mosquito net, my siblings and I slept right next to each other, my brothers on one side, and my sister Lina and I on the other.

I remember this arrangement as great fun. In modern terms, this is like having a pajama party every night. In those days (and maybe still true nowadays) it was a real luxury to have separate bedrooms for each child so it was perfectly acceptable for several people to sleep together in one room. From a child’s perspective, this was the ultimate in security, for one did not sleep alone. My siblings and I used to play games even when we were already under the mosquito netting, ready for bed. What we loved the most of course was when my mother would read us bedtime stories, usually of fairy tales and of valiant heroes, or stories of good kids being rewarded great riches. There were also nights when our father would challenge us with riddles and we would always try ever so hard to guess the answers.

The "sala" had a wide window on one side, on the east side, to welcome the morning sun. Extending out from this window was a bamboo ledge about a foot wide, enclosed with some kind of a bamboo railing. One stormy day, in the early seventies, when typhoon Asiang was causing havoc and devastation throughout the islands, our baby sister Dayon was put outside on this ledge, in the rain, because she would not stop crying. She was having one of her notorious tantrums and she kept screaming even more while on the ledge. Her cries became mixed with the noise of the heavy rain and the howling winds, and I felt powerless to help her. To this day we still talk about this event, and still tease Dayon for her notorious temper.

The "sunog" or bedroom

The "sala" and the bedroom, which we called "sunog", were right next to each other, separated only by a thin wall of woven canvas made from a bamboo-like material. There was a "door" on each end of this dividing wall, and it was so easy to go in one door and come out the other. They were not really proper doors though, as there were no panels to open and close them. There were just floor-length curtains hanging on them which one pushed to the side to go through into the next room. In the bedroom was our only stand-alone wardrobe called "aparador". This was where my parents kept their valuables. This also contained the nice clothes and linens and towels, together with the necessary mothballs. The "aparador" had a mirror attached to the front side of its main door. Baby Lina and I used to admire ourselves before this mirror with our pretend long hair made from a towel draped over our heads. As little girls, we were never allowed long hair, because long hair would just be an invitation for head lice, according to Nanay. She said that Baby Lina and I could have long hair when we are big enough to make sure our hair was always clean. Of course this did not happen until much later so as little girls, we were always envious of other girls with long hair.

The connecting room

In effect, the "sala" was the centre of the house. On one side it led to the "pantaw", on another side was the front window while on a third side it led to the bedroom. On its fourth side, it led to some kind of a connecting room. We did not really call it a particular name; it was just the room between the "sala" and the kitchen. To one side of this room was a "lantay", probably the Filipino equivalent of a divan, except that ours was made of bamboo, quite wide, and was multi-purpose. The "lantay" was big enough to serve as a double bed for guests. During the day, it also served as a lounger for the adults or as another play area for us kids and our friends. On one wall of this room was a wide opening that led into some kind of a bay window, except that this one was permanently closed. This served as a storage area for all sorts of things, such as the big laundry basket, the big tin containers for rice, the boxes of shoes and Nanay’s sewing paraphernalia. This utility enclosure was hidden from public view by a pair of hanging curtains, and was therefore a favourite hiding place when we played hide-and-seek.

On the other side of the room was the true window, one that could be properly opened and closed with a bamboo panel locally called "sasa". It was propped open with a bamboo pole during the day and was pulled shut at night. From this window one could have a view overlooking the front yard, on which were a number of coconut, citrus and guava trees. One day I was sweeping this yard, being a helpful girl, when one of the young coconuts fell on my head. It was a coconut that had been partially eaten, most probably by a rat, and so had a hole on one end. From this hole poured out the coconut water that drenched me that fateful day. People in the neighbourhood said that the reason I’m smart is because something in my head fell in place just right when that coconut fell on top of my head. They claim it’s true – survivors of falling coconuts are smart people. As far as Nanay was concerned, I think she was just glad that I survived that incident. I, on the other hand, was totally shocked and just cried.

The "kusina" or the kitchen

The "kusina" or kitchen was on the other end of the connecting room, opposite the "sala". As a room it was fairly big, was rectangular in shape, and was really a combined dining room and kitchen. On one end of it was the dining table and on the other end was the cooking area called the "abu". I remember the "abu" as big and tall, for I had to stand on tiptoe to be on eye-level with its top surface. It was a 4-legged wooden structure a few feet tall and its surface was packed hard with ash. Evenly spaced on the top of the packed surface were two clay stoves. I think two stoves was a minimum; one stove for cooking the rice, and the other for cooking the fish, if one were to cook them simultaneously. We used dried coconut palms called "palwa" as firewood back then. This material gave a lot of soot so this meant that all of our pots were black on the outside. It didn’t matter, for most of our pots were made of clay anyway. No need to clean them on the outside, like we do now for iron or aluminium pots.

My parents, Nanay and Tatay, were true believers in the superiority of cooking in clay pots. They said the food cooked better and tasted better. Maybe they were right. I do remember the very pleasant smell of banana leaves cooking. These leaves were used to layer the bottom of the pot for cooking rice or fish, and protected them from burning. Sort of. How it really worked was that if the rice or the fish were on the point of being overcooked, one would smell the burnt banana leaves first. So the cook would rush to the pot to lower the fire before damage could be done to the rice or fish. It worked!

My mind now is full of memories of cooking in the "abu". During the time we lived in the old house, we always had a maid or two, for there were five kids altogether to take care of, and both my parents were working. The maid would usually do the cooking, except when we had "special dishes", when Nanay would take over. It is so funny to remember now that one of our so-called "special dishes" was the plain old pancakes, which we called "hotcakes" at the time. But for us, it really was special, for it was not so easy to find the ingredients then, ingredients like flour and margarine (for butter) and milk (Nanay used powdered milk). It was such a big event for us that we would gather around the "abu" and watch Nanay make the "hotcakes". In our neighbourhood, we were the first kids to taste "hotcakes". We thought we were pretty special.

Another one of our "special dishes" was the misua noodles cooked with canned sardines, usually prepared when there was a typhoon and fresh fish was not available. Back then, anything with canned sardines or canned mackerel was special. Maybe because it was such a rarity, and its taste was so different from the everyday fresh fishes that we took for granted.

In that "abu" in the old house, that was also where I learned to cook "sigay" from my brother Dodong. Although as kids Dodong and I used to fight a lot (for Dodong liked to bully me) we did have happy times together. One of them was getting a kind of small Cowrie shell called "sigay" (pronounced see-guy, with accent on the second syllable) from the local coral reef. The "sigay" shells were used for some games we played in the neighbourhood. Before we could play with them however, the shells had to be cooked properly, or they would smell really bad. Dodong showed me how to cook them using the bottom half of a broken clay pot, on the "abu" that I could barely reach.

Back in those days my family always had a cat. And it was a problem to keep the cat from the leftover food. Since we did not have a refrigerator (there was no electricity in several towns on our side of the province), we used to keep leftover food on top of the dining table, covered with a big woven bamboo contraption with holes. It was like an inverted basket. Normally the cat would not touch the rice and other starchy food, such as the cooked sweet potatoes and bananas. But fish was just irresistible to the cat. Without fail, it would get to any fish left on the table. The clever solution to the problem was a hanging basket over the area between the dining table and the "abu". That was the only safe area for the fish as far as the cat was concerned.

Meal times in the Philippines were, and continue to be, family times. Families eat together around a dining table. In our house, it was the rule that we should not leave food uneaten on our plates. Kids were not allowed to leave the table until they have eaten their portions. As a child, I must have been a picky eater, for I remember a number of occasions being left behind in the dining table. I remember very clearly too the maid pleading with me to finish eating, so she could clear the table. If I continued to delay, she would call Nanay, and Nanay would cajole me into eating what was on my plate. One evening, even Nanay failed at this, and so she called in Tatay. Thus happened my first lesson in the appreciation of fine fish. On this occasion, Tatay took a different approach to teaching me to appreciate food. He told me that the fish on my plate was of the finest kind. It was "first class", for it was caught just earlier that day using the "bobo". He explained to me what a "bobo" is. A "bobo" is a fish trap made of bamboo that the local fishermen would drop with a heavy weight in the deep sea and leave there for "harvesting" a week or so later. Because it was left in the deep sea, the "bobo" trapped only certain kinds of fish – the really big and tasty kind. I was so intrigued by this whole scenario that I could not help but sample this supposedly really fine fish. And indeed, Tatay was right! The fish really tasted fantastic! Since then I would often ask Nanay and Tatay if the fish we were having was from the "bobo". That was how I knew it had to be good. Thinking back now, maybe there were times when they told me it was from the "bobo", even when probably it was not, just so I would finish my portion of fish.

The back porch and the "banggera"

The kitchen led into the back porch which had an elevated counter called a "banggera" that opened into the outside. The dish washing was done on the "banggera", using water that was fetched from the water pump at ground level. The back porch opened to the back stairs, about 5 or 6 rungs, slightly longer than the stairs in the front of the house. I should know, for I fell from those stairs once. Standing on top of those stairs one day, I had this sensation of falling down. To a little girl, it seemed such a very long distance from where I was standing to the bottom of the stairs. Before I knew it, indeed I was really down on the ground. Nanay and Tatay always told us to stay away from the stairs, but I had a streak of stubbornness in me.

One morning Baby Lina and I were sitting on the back stairs, just tickling each other and generally having fun. Suddenly, we decided to see who had a sweeter tongue. We then decided to taste each other’s tongue to find out for sure. We did so and ended up claiming that the other’s tongue was very bland, that one’s own tongue was much sweeter. Ah, those were fun and innocent times indeed!

The "silong" or under the house

Because the old house was supported off the ground by pillars, this meant that there was an area "under" the house that was not exactly underground. This area was called "silong". It was very useful as a general storage area. This was where Tatay kept the dried coconut palms and coconut husks that we used for firewood to keep them from the rain. Manoy Ne and Dodong kept their "sigay" shells here as well, when the"sigay" were not in season anymore (in those days, there was a seasonality to the games that the kids in the neighbourhood played). Dayon as a child was fed Magnolia brand milk and there was a huge mound of Magnolia milk tins under the house. One day a woman came to say she would buy the tins and we kids were all so happy to make money from such an unexpected source.

Not exactly in the "silong" but in the vicinity of the back yard was the Jetmatic water pump we called the "bomba". This pump gave us the water we drank as well as the water that we used for all our other needs. My parents said we were lucky that the water from our pump tasted nice and was not salty, because in fact we were not that far from the seashore. In our neighbourhood, we were the first one to have this kind of water pump and I was very proud. Many of our neighbours came and fetched water from our pump everyday, to use as their drinking water. We did not mind, for all our neighbours were also our friends. In fact, the "bomba" area was a social scene, where neighbours would gather together and gossip. It was also an open-air bathroom for my family. We would pump water into pails and use dippers made from recycled plastic gasoline containers to pour the water over our bodies. (This is how these dippers came to be called "caltex", from the gasoline brand "Caltex", in the same way that we used to refer to toothpaste as "colgate"). Adults would take a bath fully clothed while kids were totally naked. This made it easier for the grownups to scrub clean the little urchins.

Occasionally, there were people I didn’t know who came to fetch water from our pump. They brought along not the usual plastic or tin pails for the water but the hollowed bamboo poles that were open on one end but closed on the other. For the purpose of containing water, these bamboo poles had to be at least a few inches in diameter and a few feet in length. These people carried the poles on their shoulders, something that to me looked really hard work. I asked Nanay who those people were. She said they were "taga-bukid", literally from the mountains. They used the water from our pump as drinking water but for all their other water needs, they used rainwater. I imagined they lived so far away and had such a hard life, and wondered why. In my young mind, I wanted them to be one with us, in the village. I guess because I felt I had such a carefree life, I wanted everybody to have the same. I would always feel sorry if any one of my playmates could not join us because they had to take care of their younger siblings. Baby Lina and I solved this problem by going over to our playmates’ house and play there, together with the younger brothers and sisters that our friends were supposed to be taking care of. This was my first experience of babysitting.

In those days we had an outhouse, a separate small building for the toilet, on the far corner of the lot that my parents owned. It seemed so long ago now, those days when I could not go to the toilet alone. I had to have someone with me then, usually Nanay. It was only much later, when I was older, that it dawned on me that not every household in the village had a toilet.

New house, new life

So in 1972, when the old house gave way to the new, our lives changed as well, mine and that of my family. It is very tempting now to relate those changes to the political changes that were happening in the country then, with the imposition of martial law. But I was too young then to understand what martial law meant. I was just annoyed that suddenly the radio stations stopped broadcasting my favourite drama programs. Looking back now, maybe it was the case – maybe indeed, the changing of houses also marked the end of an innocent time.

On Studying in the UK

On Studying in the UK
by Arnel Jose Banas, Univ. of Warwick 1996-97

BEFORE LEAVING THE PHILIPPINES

  1. Be organised – this is probably one of the most important things to remember. You will be making lots of preparations in Manila before you leave and some adjustments once you arrive in the UK. Plan ahead. List down the things that you wish to do. Time management is essential. Remember to be realistic. You cannot say good-bye to all your friends and relatives.
  2. Do not bring the Philippines with you. You will only be away for about one year. You cannot possibly bring home. Just bring the essentials. You might end up with so many things to bring back with you.
  3. Bring some supplies and consumables – some of the items that your body is used to may not be available here. Or at least you may not know where to get them during your first few weeks. Bring some which will last you for a short while. This will also save your allowance as some items here could be expensive, eg bring something for your face and lips as it will be cold when you arrive. Prepare for autumn and winter.
  4. Bring a Filipino Recipe Book – This will be helpful in preparing some of your favorite recipes for yourself and your new friends who might request you to cook a Filipino dish or two. Also if you miss Pinoy food then you can make it yourself. If you do not know how to cook, do not worry. You will!
  5. Bring instant mixes like adobo (Mama Cita is recommended), menudo mixes, instant gata, sinigang. This may save you time when you want to cook. One way of saving your allowance is to cook your own food.
  6. Do not bring too many clothes. Bring some jackets or coats in preparation for the cold weather. You can buy some here at reasonable prices. I suggest bring some old clothes which you can throw away after your studies. The same thing with your shoes. Just bring some old pairs(and a pair of good ones also). Anyway by the time you finish I am sure you would have bought a new set of wardrobe. But bring some few good clothes as well as there will be parties (and dates). Some of these may be formal gatherings. It may be useful if you bring at least one piece of Filipino inspired clothing. If you intend to engage in sports, then bring some items which you will need.
  7. Bring ID pictures with you. You will need a few for some forms, visa applications etc. 1 x 1 and 2 x 2. Instant photos are expensive here.
  8. If you have an international credit card issued in the Philippines,bring it here as it might come in handy. But try not to use it in the UK as you might lose in the exchange rate. Besides payment will have to be made in Manila.
  9. If your course will require you to write essays, a thesis, or adissertation, bring some of the materials and references which you think you will use. It is possible that your library will not have all the materials you will need. It is helpful to read about your university and your course requirements and anticipate your needs. Start thinking about possible topics for your written projects.
  10. Bring your Philippine driver’s license.
  11. If you wish to send some cards and letters from the UK, I suggest that as early as now, prepare a list of all your relatives and friends whom you might correspond with while in the UK. Include their addresses, phones, e-mail, birthdays etc. Also, the names and other details of some possible contacts in Europe. This will save you the trouble and cost of finding out these details when you need them.
  12. Take care of your affairs in the Philippines. Like pay your insurance and credit card bills before leaving. Or make someone in charge of your private correspondence at home. Or prepare checks in advance for payments of your personal obligations.
  13. Just bring bags or luggages which you think you can manage.
  14. Bring some medicine which you think will be useful.
  15. If you wear eyeglasses, bring an extra pair. If you wear contact lenses, bring your supplies. They are expensive here.
  16. Bring some foreign currency or preferably travellers checks with you for emergency purposes.
  17. If you intend to go other countries like the US during your studies in the UK, it may be more convenient to apply for your visas in the Philippines.
  18. Read something about Philippine history, culture, arts, politics, geography etc. It does not speak well of a Filipino scholar or student who is ignorant about his/her own country.

 

IN THE U.K.

  1. Open a bank account (accounts) promptly.
  2. It may be useful to apply for credit cards here. This will make your life more comfortable. You can use your credit cards even for small purchases. This way you do not have to carry cash with you all the time. You can probably even earn points with a lot of promotions. Some banks here even give cash and free phone calls (Midlands Bank) as long as you open an account with them. An advantage of having a credit card is that somebody keeps track of your expenses for you. This way you will be forced to keep your receipts! But pay your purchases in full all the time so you do not end up paying interest.
  3. KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. In the UK, it is easy to return and exchange items bought but there are times when they ask for the receipt. You can exchange and return an item bought in different parts of the country.
  4. Be wise in spending your money. You can use your savings for buying pasalubongs and in travelling around the UK or Europe.
  5. You may want to consider HOST. This is a scheme wherein foreign students are paired with a British family for a weekend. You need not go alone. You can apply with a friend. This can give you the chance to see other parts of the UK. However, you will shoulder your transportation expenses.
  6. Do apply for an ISIC card. You can get this at any STA Travel Agency. This will entitle you to discounts.
  7. Everywhere you go, bring your student ID and your NUS card. Always inquire for student discounts e.g. museums, gardens, exhibitions, department stores etc. Do this even outside UK!
  8. Keep a file of important letters and correspondence.
  9. Do have a social life. ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY!
  10. But do not forget why you are here as well. STUDY! STUDY! STUDY!
  11. You may find it useful to apply for a rail card and a coach card.
  12. For British Council scholars, co-ordinate with the BC or yourscholarship supervisor. There are items which can be reimbursed. Do not be shy to ask and be rejected.
  13. E-mails allow you to correspond for free. Use it!
  14. In sending letters, it is also cheaper to use aerogrammes. They come in packs.
  15. Try to control the urge of making phone calls. This can easily eat up your allowance.
  16. Control the urge to shop! There are big sales in the entire UK particularly right after Christmas and during.
  17. The UK is a country with a lot of beautiful natural sceneries. Try to see as much as you can.
  18. If you have the time and money, visit other countries as well.
  19. Do keep a diary for your appointments and other activities.
  20. Remember that shopping during the last 3 months of your stay entitles you to reimbursement of the VAT you paid for goods bought. Inquire from the stores where you make your purchases.

 

GOING BACK HOME

  1. You do not have to bring everything back with you. You can leave some items or give them away.
  2. Inquire in advance about sending things back home either by sea or air. There are Filipino forwarding companies usually based in London.
  3. SETTLE ALL YOUR BILLS. Some universities may not release your grades or certificates if there are debts which remain unpaid. The same thing with your bank and credit cards. Non-payment will not only give a bad impression of you but also of other Filipinos.

 

Palawan

By Richard Reyes, July 2001
"One of the first things that struck me about Palawan when I first arrived was how amazingly clean and tidy it was. The drive from the airport to the capital city of Puerto Princessa you couldn’t see a single piece of rubbish on the floor, not a can, a bottle or even a cigarette butt. In fact there were no people smoking or drinking on the streets, this was only allowed in the privacy your own home, bars, or restaurants. Whatever laws that had been passed by the local Government was certainly working – Palawan is the cleanest, peaceful, law abiding Island I have ever been to in the Philippines, it is just one of the things that set it apart from anywhere else. Having been here once you are bound to come back again and again, guaranteed – already I have been to Palawan three times."
Read the full article in archives:Palawan.

The Youth Need a Voice

By Monica Bains, June 2001

The Filipino Youth Forum met a mixed response from participants on Saturday the 9th June.

The forum took place at the Salvation Army Hall in Oxford Street, London. Mr Jay Ibot organised the event with the support and assistance of the Filipino Embassy and the Philippines Department of Tourism. The forum tried to address the concerns and interests of second and third generation Filipinos living abroad. A major theme was the preservation of national identity and culture. The event attracted Filipinos from as far a field as Canada, USA, Italy and France to make contributions about their experiences.

There was a one-hour delay and a low turnout, which resulted in one big group discussion after the break rather than the planned smaller group discussions.

Father Emile from Rome began the proceedings with a prayer marking the religious nature of Filipino culture. Ambassador Cesar Bautista then gave a talk on the importance of encouraging the community to preserve its culture. It was then followed by speeches made by the various group leaders representing Filipino youth from different countries.

Ambassador Bautista said he was very pleased with the seminar: "I think we had a good selection of participants here, not only from the UK but from the rest of the world."

The Ambassador said he believed the younger participants in the forum would make an active contribution and would bring up the most important issues.

He stressed that the Filipino youth must embrace its culture and values to succeed. He said: "I think that it is clear that they all share the need to improve their role in the society they live in. They need the values of Filipino culture and there is no need to be ashamed about it. They can aspire to be anything that they want if they are proud of their culture."

Mr Bautista said that it was the job of the community to help Filipino youth find their culture: "We have been trying to support them but this is not something we can initiate on our own. This must be initiated by the people themselves and we are here to support them."

A Canadian Filipino Youth Group member called Hose said: "It was interesting – we contributed a lot of things, especially about our culture."

However some said they were not pleased with the seminar. A source that did not want to be named said: "I was very disappointed. I don’t think that they addressed the right questions and basically as part organisers we were told that the structure would be different. What happened when we came here today it all changed. We prepared for this maybe two three months ago and soon as we came here it was out of our control there was a pretence that it was in our control but it wasn’t. The thing is that it’s a youth conference controlled by the older generations and who else is going to know things apart from us."

Retired nurse Mrs Lewes Bing Makado was one of many to make a speech. She discussed the experiences of Filipino youth in Germany.

Among the many solutions discussed she said youngsters needed to take more pride in being Filipino. She said: "The message of how to solve this problem of the youth in the world is that they themselves must know what it is to be a Filipino. They must learn to love being Filipino."

She said the erosion of national identity came about because the first generation Filipinos did not enforce traditional values on to their children. She said: "It happened because most Filipino’s who came abroad were workers. So most of them had no time for their children as they were too busy working."

Another speaker at the forum was Sales Manager Mark Villarosa. Mark said he was born in the Philippines, and came to the UK when he was 15 years of age.


He claimed that to succeed in Western society he had to compromise his Filipino identity:
"I had to take on the persona of a British person I have had to act the mode of what a Londoner is like – aggressive, ambitious. I think right now the level of success I have achieved is down to the fact that I was able to absorb a lot of this culture and become a part of it".

"The problem now is that I have had to let go of quite a few things. In the Philippines there is a strong cohesion of family you meet with them a lot. There is a lot of physical touch in terms of being with them that’s lost in a way here because its not in their culture."

As a solution for the future Mark said that young Filipinos should look to new technology as a way forward: "We are not only young and mobile but we are educated. We also don’t fit into the standard mode of what is traditionally Filipino. So I think that a good way to draw young Filipinos back into a sense of who they are is attract them in a way they understand and that’s why I mentioned technology."

"Posting information about youth movements is what’s needed. I think that is a good way in which we could galvanise the Filipino youth in London."

Mark said he was impressed with the Forum but felt that there was not enough attention placed on the youth: "I think it was the first one, which tried to discuss important issues concerning youth. I think there could have been a bit more emphasis on the young and our own experiences. What we need is to bring our youth together."

 

[Note: Bold text added for easier readability on the web.]

Related articles:

Being a young Filipino in London

By Jenna

Being a young Filipino girl, I have always been very busy, both academically and with extra curricular activities. Ever since the tender age of four I have been dancing many different types of dance, including Filipino cultural dances, flamenco, Polynesian, tap, ballet and modern dance. I’m very active in the Filipino community in London and attend many events to perform or to support the functions. Aside from my dancing I also sing and do fashion shows.

It may seem that all my time is taken up by my performing but I am also very active in school life. I divide my time equally between schoolwork and my other activities. I organise my time so I have my homework done before I go to rehearsals. It’s really a matter of adjusting to it. If you’re not organised with your time then you are bound to neglect your studies. But if you’re sensible enough to realise that you must have a balance of schoolwork and other activities then things will run smoothly.

Recently I was appointed as a Prefect in my school. This involves responsibility for other members of the school community and it gives you a chance of leadership. I have also received high grades at school, which my mother has been happy with. I am able to cope with everything with the help and support of my mother and friends. As I haven’t ever neglected my studies I have pursued my dancing and have carried on until now. I also have many friends, which I go out with and enjoy myself with. Just like any other teenage girl, we go out to the cinema and go shopping. I have been able to cope very well with what I do. It really depends on the person and if they know how to handle their time between school and other activities. If you know how to handle it then there isn’t a problem

Young Filipinos in Britain and Beyond

By Roann Tubalinal

It all started from when our parents decided to search for a better life. Escaping the market force of the Philippines, they looked for other means of living and found out that working abroad would be a better option. Most of them soon realised that living in a foreign country would guarantee the best opportunity for us. We ate, spoke, lived, and breathed like Filipinos though the air was cold, the sun ungenerous, and the society unfamiliar. Branded the so-called second generation Filipinos – some of us were flown across the seas; others were born in the UK, many by Western fathers. The environment may have been different but the Filipino culture remained incorporated in our daily doses of ‘PAYOS’ and ‘SERMONS’. Most would agree that we have the best of both worlds.

At present, young and talented Filipinos are emerging in fields such as entertainment and music, academia, business, and fashion. Alongside these, others chose different careers but are succeeding equally in their own areas of interest. It is evident that our generation has most certainly achieved something that our parents can only dream of. The ‘SERMONS’ and ‘PAYOS’ clearly worked for most of us. As we head to the future, our aims will vary but our directions should hopefully be the same. One thing is certain, the ‘FUTURE’ can only get better for young ‘PINOYS’ in Britain.

Finally, the population of Filipinos living in Britain is increasing rapidly; co-operation and support from each other can only be beneficial. Most would agree that the days of ‘CRAB MENTALITY’ have long been with us and should now come to its end. As our generation converge the two cultures (Filipino and British) it could only be an effective tool which will benefit the next generations to come. I am hopeful that the next century will be an era whereby issues such as prejudices, stereotyping, racism, and other forms of discriminations will be non-existent.

Debts of Good Will and Interpersonal Justice

Leonardo D. de Castro

"A debt of good will (utang na loob in Filipino) is incurred when a person becomes the beneficiary of significant assistance or favor given by another. Usually, the beneficiary is in acute need of the assistance given or favor granted. This provides an opportunity for the giving of help to serve as a vehicle for the expression of sympathy or concern. The debt could then be appreciated as one of good will because, by catering to another person’s pressing need, the benefactor is able to express positive dispositions towards the beneficiary. It is not merely the receipt of the assistance or favor that puts the recipient in a position of indebtedness."

Fill article: Debts of Good Will and Interpersonal Justice (Also archived)

Time of Gastronomic Anticipation

By Fe C. Abogadie

One thing I have in common with probably all Filipinos living abroad is the feeling of excitement and happy expectancy at the thought of going to the home country for a holiday. In my case, I go home once a year, usually during the Christmas season. Nothing beats spending Christmas in the Philippine islands, notwithstanding the heat and humidity, and even as we compare it to the dreamy winter wonderland we associate with Christmas in North America and Europe.

It has become a habit of mine to anticipate my holiday by making a mental list of the things I will do once I get there. This usually consists of taking care of personal business, visiting friends and relatives, doing some shopping and sightseeing, but most of all, of eating all the food that I miss during the rest of the year when I am not living there. The latter is the most fun part.

Sometimes I worry that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food. I know people who couldn’t care less what they’ll have for dinner any day. These people eat to live. But me, it’s almost as if I live to eat. But I know that I’m not alone in this because I have friends who are as passionate as I am about food. These friends and I really enjoy eating. And I do not mean gluttony. I mean eating so that one derives the utmost pleasure from even the smallest amount of food. This means being adventurous enough to try anything new and being open minded to the many different cuisines one encounters. Globalization has made it possible to obtain in the local supermarket many ingredients once considered highly exotic. Thus the proliferation of many ethnic restaurants in major cities such as London and New York.

Having lived the past ten years of my life away from the Philippines, my recollection of Filipino food is always associated with specific memories of life back home. Invariably these are memories from way back, when I was a child growing up in a small fishing village in one of the Visayan islands. It is usually around the months of August and September, when I find myself pausing at work here in London and having fantasies about the food I will eat back home. Others may think this is pathetic and bordering on the obsessive. But this keeps me going, because the thought of Filipino food brings back happy memories and consequently a smile to my face. A Swedish friend once told me that whenever I talk about food, my eyes glow. That should give you an idea just what an important part food plays in my life. A few years ago, I sent my parents a list of things I wanted to eat when I got home for the holidays. They very gamely obtained everything on the list except for one item. And so here I am again making a mental list of the food I expect to eat when I go home in a few months. I am restricting this list to the seafood which I love the most, or else I’ll take up several more pages of space.

The typical fare of the coastal communities in the Visayas islands understandably consists mostly of seafood and local vegetables in addition to the staple which is rice. The seafood includes not just the usual fishes, but also the different kinds of seaweeds and seashells, octopus, squid, shrimps, sea urchins, crabs, and others. Other people might cringe at the thought of eating these creatures. Not me. I cannot get enough of these things. It is indeed very unfortunate that these are very expensive and difficult to obtain in London. As I often tell friends, I can happily eat rice and seafood everyday, no problem.

In the village where I grew up, when the day’s catch is more than enough, people have three ways of preserving the surplus fish: salting, sundrying and smoking. Salting is done usually to the small fishes such as "bolinao" (anchovies) and "mungpung" (these look like anchovy fry) to make "ginamos" (similar to the "bagoong" in Ilocano). Each family would usually have its own jar of home-made "ginamos". I remember the conversations among the housewives, exchanging tips on how to make the best "ginamos" in town. Apparently, not only does one have to start with fresh fish, the critical thing is the proportion of salt to fish and also knowing when the "ginamos" is ready, which can take from several days to a few weeks. My mother never made her own "ginamos" but my aunt used to give us some. There are specific names given to different types of "ginamos", depending on the state of preservation of the fish. My favorite kind is the "maos na" (literally "limp already"), when the fish is almost disintegrated. If the "ginamos" is very well made, it should give a nice smell at this stage, so nice you want to use it to make a dipping sauce. In my family, we would use it to make a dipping sauce for fried fish, especially "bariles" (tuna), "tuwas" (red snapper) or "tikab" (mackerel). We would cut up some fresh "kalamansi" (the local lime fruit; see Newsweek issue of 31 August 1998, London edition, page 6) and mix the juice with the "ginamos" to give just the right mix of saltiness and sourness. You have to dip the fish into the sauce with your bare hands, bring it to your plate to roll with a ball of rice and voila! You have the perfect mouthful! And it just would not taste the same if you use a spoon and a fork. I tell you, we in the islands really know how to enjoy eating!

Sundrying is another way to preserve the surplus fish. The fishermen have mat-like screens made of thin bamboo slats strung together. These mats are laid on top of table-like structures made of bamboo, a few feet high, and usually located in the open area near the beach where one gets the best of both the sun and the wind. "Labtingaw" is the term used to refer to one-day old dried fish. I don’t know why but the "labtingaw" are always in great demand, especially by the old folks. Maybe because the taste of partially dried fish is peculiarly delicious, so different from anything else I have eaten. The fishes most commonly dried are the small ones such as "bolinao", "mungpung", "karabalyas" (silver fishes with yellow fins) and "mangsi" (sardines). Some of the fishes with thick flesh such as mackerel are sundried as well but first they have to be split lengthwise on one side but not all the way through. The fleshy half is stretched out, the fish degutted, and one ends up with an opened-up fish. This makes the sundrying process more efficient and the fish gets dried more quickly.

My favorites among the dried fishes are the anchovies, the "mungpung" and the "danggit" (sorry, I do not know the English term for this). The danggit is not very common in our area and we have to buy them already dried from the neighboring towns. The danggit is typically only a few inches in length, has thin flesh and a lot of bones. But it is traditionally split open and then sundried so the dried fish is really very thin. This is why my dad always insists that the danggit be fried right, or it doesn’t taste good at all. This means frying it in hot oil for just a few seconds. When fried right, the whole danggit can be eaten; head, tail and all. If overfried, one ends up with something that tastes like charcoal and this may turn people off danggit forever, which is such a pity because it is one of the most tasty of the dried fishes. Danggit is probably the fish equivalent of the durian fruit, because both "smell like hell, but taste like heaven" (again, see Newsweek issue of 31 August 1998, London edition, page 6). Here in London, I have a stock of dried danggit that my mom sent me. Unfortunately, I can only cook them when my flatmates are away on holiday. Frying danggit gives this horrible smell that I don’t cook danggit when my flatmates are around out of consideration for their sensibilities. But in a few months I will be home and then I can have danggit as often as I want and not worry about offending people with their smell.

For some reason, smoking as a way of preserving surplus fish is done only with certain kinds of fish. I remember smoked "mangko" (small tuna) and smoked "karabalyas" but not much else besides. In fact, when I think of smoked fish, I always think of smoked "mangko". When I am home on holiday and would request my dad to buy some smoked fish, he knows without me telling him that I mean the smoked "mangko". He also knows what I want to make out of it, which is my favorite vegetable dish, the "utan". "Utan" is probably our unofficial village dish, and is a stew of commonly available local vegetables flavoured with fish (either dried or smoked or fried). In our house, our "utan" usually has "malunggay" (horseradish) leaves, "bago" leaves, tomatoes, onions, lemongrass and flavoured with flakes of smoked "mangko" and "patis" (fish sauce). A common variation is the use of dried anchovies or fried mackerel instead of the smoked "mangko". Eating this dish gives me a very healthy feeling. It is very nutritious and full of flavour. And there is that satisfying feeling that comes from cooking vegetables that were grown in one’s own backyard. Somehow, this makes me feel very close to nature and is such a contrast to my lifestyle in London.

The people in my village, especially the men, are fond of "kinilaw", a dish of raw fish, usually tuna, flavoured with coconut wine vinegar, ginger, onion, salt and pepper and coconut milk. As a child I never liked this dish. In my family, it was only the men who went for this with gusto. Lately however, I have acquired the taste for it and now I look forward to having some "kinilaw" soon. This dish is often eaten by the villagers to go with the beer and the "tuba" (the local wine made from coconut sap) during their drinking sessions.

Another favorite of mine that I look forward to eating is the "tahong" (mussels). Because of its relatively easy availability here in London (most supermarkets and fishmongers sell them), I don’t miss mussels as much as the other seafood items. But I like the way we cook it at home in the Philippines, just sauteing it in hot oil with garlic, onions and ginger, adding a bit of water, some green onion leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Eating it freshly cooked and savouring the soup causes one to perspire even more in the tropical heat. Last December unfortunately, my mom did not want us to buy any mussels because of the red tide scare. Apparently, a number of fatalities had been reported from eating contaminated shellfish. I hope that this time around, there will be no red tide to spoil my eating pleasure.

"Guso" (a kind of seaweed) is another favorite that I had eaten only in the Philippines. This is commonly available in my island and is very cheap. We usually just cut the seaweed into small pieces, blanch it in boiling water and make it into a salad with chopped onions, ginger and tomatoes and flavour it with "patis" and coconut wine vinegar. Some people add a tiny bit of sugar to enhance the taste. This makes a very good appetizer or a side dish.

There is one dish that is becoming more and more rare, at least in my village. I am referring to the stuffed crab cooked in coconut milk. When I was a little girl, this was a special treat, because even then it was not an everyday fare. It was always expensive, maybe because it is very laborious to make. And apparently one has to use a particular kind of crab, not just any kind, to make this dish. I have never actually seen this dish made but I can imagine that it must be a labour of love. First, one has to take the meat out of the crab shell and cook it with some seasoning and pieces of young and tender coconut meat. Then this whole mixture is put back into the crab shell as stuffing, and the whole crab assembled again, using strips of banana leaves to tie together the pieces if necessary. Usually there will be more stuffing than can fit back into the shell. This extra stuffing is wrapped in banana leaves and shaped into rectangles which are tied closed with strips of banana leaves to prevent them from opening during the cooking. Then both the crabs and the banana-wrapped stuffing are cooked together in coconut milk to the point where all the water is evaporated and only the extracted coconut oil remains. The taste of the stuffing is heavenly, especially when eaten with rice! I particularly enjoy taking out the stuffing from the shell with my bare hands. I remember that when I was a little girl, there was only one lady in our village who made this dish for sale. She was my grandmother’s friend. She owned a little "sari-sari" store where my grandmother used to buy her daily supply of "tuba". Both she and my grandmother are gone now, but I will always remember those days when my grandmother would ask me to buy some tuba from this lady’s store. On those occasions when she had the stuffed crabs for sale, I would gaze longingly at the crabs on display then rush back home to plead with my mom to buy us some for lunch. It was always for lunch because it was believed that to eat anything with coconut milk for dinner is not good for the stomach. I am not sure if there are still people in my village who make this dish. It is one of my fears that the customary passing on from mothers to daughters of family recipes may not have happened, especially in this case, and it will be a great loss indeed. I will have to remember to ask the old folks in the village so I can learn to cook this dish myself.

There is one thing I haven’t eaten for years and years and I’m really hoping to eat it when I go home this December. It is squid in all its black squid ink glory. The squid commonly available in the UK is already degutted and de-skinned, looking white and very uninteresting. I like squid best when it’s cooked with its ink sac. The ink gives the sauce a distinctive flavor. Many years ago, my brothers and I used to tease each other as to who has the blackest mouth and teeth after eating squid. When the squid is fresh straight from the sea, one does not have to do much to bring out its flavour. It can be plainly boiled quickly in water with onions, tomatoes and lemongrass, and flavoured with salt and pepper. The simplicity of this dish brings out the hint of sweetness of the fresh squid. Or the squid can be sauteed briefly in vegetable oil, with garlic and onions, flavored with soy sauce, "kalamansi" juice, salt and pepper. But my favorite way to cook squid is to broil it quickly over charcoal after seasoning it with a bit of salt. Then the squid can be sliced into bite-sized pieces and dipped in coconut wine vinegar with a bit of salt. Some people prefer their dipping sauce to have crushed garlic and some chili pepper. I always eat this with cold rice. And this has to be with bare hands. This tastes even better if you lick the tangy flavor from your fingers. As the Visayans would say, "Lami gyud kaayo!" ("This tastes really good!").

It is only recently that I re-discovered the pleasure of eating with bare hands. As a little girl I used to be embarrassed that many people in my village used bare hands to eat. I thought nothing could be more pleasing to look at than people eating with proper spoons and forks. And as an adult I found it interesting and fun to use the many different kinds of spoons and forks, not to mention knives, at formal dinners. But now I realize that eating in the home islands, especially in the beaches, where the sea breeze is constantly blowing and the seafood is always fresh, is most pleasurable when done with bare hands. Nothing can be more effective in making people relax and shed off their inhibitions. Consequently, people will find eating a lot more pleasurable, maybe even a bit of a sensual experience. Of course there is a time and place for everything but now I have resolved that next time I’m home and my family goes on a picnic to the beach, I will use my bare hands to eat. And I will make the special request that we use banana bracks or leaves as plates. This brings back memories of when I was a little girl and the whole community would celebrate St. John’s day in June by everyone going swimming. Everyone went, without exception. It was like a fluvial fiesta. And people prepared a lot of food and brought them to the beach where everyone shared food. We would eat with banana bracks for plates and use our bare hands. I have decided that I don’t have to wait for St. John’s day to eat this way. I cannot wait!