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!