Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Sampaguita flower

White, dainty and fragrant, the small sampaguita flower is the national flower of the Philippines. Who made this tiny flower symbolize our country? History books are one in saying that then American Governor-General Frank Murphy declared the sampaguita to be our national flower because of its “popularity, ornamental value, fragrance, and the role it plays in the legends and traditions of the Filipino people.” So how did this flower become popular? And is the sampaguita truly endemic in the Philippines?

Researching on the sampaguita’s origins, you will come upon the fact that this flower came from India. In fact, the tradition of placing a garland on the neck of a visitor who arrives is of Indian origin. So how did it come to reach our islands and flourish here? Perhaps one sultry afternoon a trading boat from India beaches on one of our islands and decides to show off their merchandise, one of which was the sampaguita – as enchanting then as it is now – and people excitedly barter their wares in exchange.

The sampaguita embraced our land, made it her own and flourished. It is a testament to how truly wonderful our land is.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tasting summer

As the hot summer months come in there is a noticeable proliferation of signs slinging from gates all with the same words – “Halo-Halo 4 Sale.” Made of a mix of shaved ice, milk and different boiled, sugary beans, yams or coconut meat that is served in a tall glass or wide bowl, this famous summer dessert has made many or our days much cooler.

Generally there are two kinds of halo-halo, the ordinary and the special. The addition of a scoop (or two) of ice cream at the top of the mix is the only outward change to differentiate the halo-halo varieties. But when you mix all the ingredients together, the ice cream in the halo-halo truly makes this dessert special.

Next time you come across a store offering halo-halo, have a taste of cool summer by ordering one tall glass.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do you know Maria Leonora Teresa?

If you are familiar with the name Maria Leonora Teresa, most probably you are a child of the 70’s or a fan of Guy and Pip. Maria Leonora Teresa or MLT is a three-foot ceramic-face doll that belongs to the “loveteam” of Guy (Nora Aunor) and Pip (Tirso Cruz III). This doll was treated as the child of Guy and Pip by ardent admirers/fans. MLT (the doll’s nickname) had her own wardrobe, jewelry sets, combs and sunglasses. She even had her own shoes and make-up kit! All these were provided to the doll by sponsors and the fans of Guy and Pip.

Back then, people even wrote to the doll! Maria Leonora Teresa became almost as famous as the doll’s “parents.” MLT “answered back” the people’s letters through a komiks magazine which featured “her.” People were really devoted to MLT that when the editorials “written” by MLT came out urging people to help typhoon victims, truckloads of fans rode out to help, donating food and clothes.

There has been no other doll in the history of Philippine show business that has matched the popularity of Maria Leonora Teresa. How this doll became real in the eyes of the fans is a wonder that existed during those magical ‘70s – an age and time when anything was possible.

Monday, April 27, 2009

DARNA! The fighter with a heart for others

Almost all the kids (and former kids who have grown up) are familiar with Darna, the lady who defends the defenseless, fights against ordinary criminals and other enchanted beings that have extraordinary powers like her. Darna’s character and story was created by Mars Ravelo in the year 1950 for Pilipino Komiks. Beautiful and strong, kind-hearted and brave, she was a character that people wished to be real.

There have been several reel versions of Darna, with famous female actors taking on the role of this feisty Filipino superhero. People flocked to the movies, followed it on TV, and watched the komiks story come to life. And as Darna fought evil, kids and grown-ups alike swore at her enemies and cheered her on as she fought with her fists and feet, with some even getting-up from their seats as if they wanted to jump into the screen and fight along with her.

Darna’s popularity can probably be blamed, not only on her scanty costume, but also at the hope that she gave to the poor and victimized. Her character’s good heart, compassion for the poor and downtrodden, and her extraordinary powers which she used to help others is what people hope to see and experience in real life.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Joys of Jack en’ Poy

Whenever children gather, raucous laughter is heard along with lilting chant of “jack en poy, hale hale hoi, sino’ng matalo siyang unggoy!”

This hand game is used by the children as a preparation stage for the game they are about to play. Whether it is to segregate team members or to weed out the one who will play the “it”, this game is energetically played again and again and again.

All across Asia, children play this game but have different chants. Some even have additional hand movements (perhaps similar to ‘original’ additions to this game like “ulan,” “pako” and the most powerful, “Diyos”).

So when was the last time you played jack en’ poy? And most important, who were jack and poy? Did they ever exist?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Manny Pacquiao’s biggest challenge

What can make the whole Philippines crime-free for a few hours? Nothing can do this miracle except a title fight by the Philippine’s current boxing hero, Manny Pacquiao. Every time Pacquiao has a fight, there are fewer people out on the streets, less than a handful public utility vehicles plying their routes and everyone is glued to their TV sets or, if they have the money, at pay-per-view facilities that make a killing from hosting a live telecast of the fight.

On the evening of May 2 (May 3 in the Philippines), Manny Pacquiao is scheduled to fight the IBO and Ring Magazine Light Welterweight world title holder, Ricky Hatton. This 5 foot 7 inch Briton, who has never lost at his natural weight of 140 pounds, is one inch taller than Manny. Both Hatton and Pacquiao are power boxers, have hand speed and quick feet. Tickets to the fight are already sold out and pay-per-view outfits are already raking in sales.

This is the biggest boxing event of the year so far. And Filipinos around the world will surely be storming the heavens on Fight Night to seek God’s blessings for Manny Pacquiao.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Fiestas, weddings, birthdays and other joyful occasions are the perfect excuse to have a feast. But a feast is incomplete without the star – lechon. The lechon is the centerpiece of the feast. All the other viands, desserts and drinks are laid out and placed around it. The lechon enjoys the highest honor in the hierarchy of fiesta food, towering over lesser viands.

Traditionally, when you say lechon you mean roasted pig. Nowadays they also cook lechon manok and lechon baka. But the lechon baboy with its crispy skin and soft meat inside is incomparable. Legend states that the lechon was accidentally discovered one afternoon when a Chinese person who had pigs living at the base of his house left the gas lamp on. It broke, spread fire to the house and the pigs got roasted. The Chinese person, upon seeing his house burnt to the ground began to wail in despair – until he caught a whiff of a delicious aroma. When he went to check it out, he discovered that his pigs got roasted in the fire, tasted the crispy skin and got hooked (so did his neighbors) and there were a lot of burned houses that year.

Seriously, the lechon originated from China. Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao all have the best-tasting lechon. Which one is really the best is up to you to decide.