Sunday, 7 October 2012


A 22 pound dead bird covered in cheesecloth sitting atop a bed of Yukon gold potatoes lay still inside the oven.  Poor bird.  He lived a full life only to be murdered so a party of 17 can be fed as they celebrate what they are most thankful for. 

On this day, I run on a time and tested schedule.  In an hour I need to take the cheese cloth off the bird and switch the pan around. In 2 hours the potato gratin and sweet potato casserole will share oven space, while I concoct my special gravy, which every year seems to be the first to go. 

Close friends and family members will start arriving in 5 hours.  At this time I am ready to hit the bed, change into my jammies, and have the sweetest sleep of the year after being up at the crack of dawn.  But I don’t.

I manage my exhaustion with a nice hot shower, fresh clothes and a red lipstick.  I put on a smile and allow the women take over the kitchen as I consume my first cold bottle of Corona.

This is my Thanksgiving.  It started one year when the combined powers of Martha Stewart and Katie Brown came over me and I decided to host dinner and give thanks for my countless blessings.  My daughter’s godfather in his drunken state and happiness volunteered my house and my dishes to everyone and declared it an annual Thanksgiving tradition.  It has been 8 years.

I am exhausted.  Every year I vow that it is the last Thanksgiving dinner I am throwing.  I stare at the dead bird, and feel sorry for its demise. I silently thank the bird for allowing me to celebrate this tradition I have come to both detest and embrace. 

A dead bird is what I am grateful for this year.  And I contemplate on other unexpected things I give thanks for:

1.       My son’s uncanny ability to comprehend sarcastic humour and his perfectly round buttocks.  I am also amused at how at age 6 he can casually talk about my death and his plans thereafter. He makes me laugh, my son.
a year old

2.       My daughter’s dry wit, her brilliance and beautiful curly hair.  Most days she assumes the role of mother in my household.  When stressed, she vacuums the living room. And at 8, she still proudly shouts ‘I love you’ at school drop off in the presence of her peers.  I still rule.
3 years old here

3.       My unforgettable birthday party at Attivo this year.  People who matter in my life back in Manila all gathered one night and partied with me as I turned technically old.  I sang “The Warrior” backed with a punk band I adore.  Best night of the year.  Hands down.
Shooting at the walls of heartache.. bang bang!

4.       My MacBook Pro, iPhone and Google.  The biggest life lesson I face nowadays. Brought on by these.  I love it.  I abhor it.  But am very thankful.

5.       Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. Who needs a joint when 10 seconds into this song, I'm in my happy place.  Panic attacks be gone.

6.       New and returning bebsycakes clients.  I am still amazed I make people happy with how I do my cakes.  Cakes!

7.       Maria and from-the-gut laughs we share because of random stupid conversations only she and I can understand and appreciate.  Best girlfriend someone like me can have.

8.       Jon Stewart and his gifted writers. Why I LOL at 11 at night.

9.       My kick ass artisan Kitchen Aid mixer.  It deserves a thank you.

The oven dings.  It’s time for me to pour a bottle of Guinness on the dead bird.  This is my secret ingredient.  Makes for a killer gravy too.

I hope the next year brings forth more blessings that will make a 20 pound bird worth killing for.

Bye bye, birdie.

He's not amused, is he?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

They had us at Hola: A History Lesson

Fernāo Magalhaes was a nerd.  He was the son of the mayor in his native town, and as a boy, he studied map making and navigation.  In his 20’s he joined a Portuguese fleet, engaged in battle and in the process got himself wounded.  As a result, he walked the remainder of his life with a limp. While nursing his injury, he was falsely accused of illegal trading with the Moors and despite his services to Portugal,  Fernāo fell from the grace of the King.

Ferdinand Magellan
He eventually renounced his Portuguese nationality, and then pledged his allegiance and offered his navigational services to Spain, and took the name Ferdinand Magellan.  Because really, what were his other options?

In 1521, Magellan and his fleet of 5 ships came upon the Philippines and claimed all of her 7,107 islands for Mother Spain.  They weren’t really the first foreigners to arrive the archipelago seeing that Indians and Chinese were already trading with the natives, but first to claim to have discovered it.  These Spaniards were just too cheeky for their own good.

Naturally, the natives were greatly impressed with Magellan's circumnavigation project and very much in awe with this bunch of sweaty armor clad mestizos.  They smiled graciously and went for the beeline to be baptized. They gave up their land and proclaimed an unknown crazy man as their King who lived half way across the world.  Because as a people, we bow and say yes to whatever a white looking dude tells us to do. (Note sarcasm here. Actual historians, hold your hate mails.)

We as Filipinos are known for our hospitality, as evidenced by travel books and websites. It must have started here.  We're so hospitable we gave our land away. It would've been crass not to.

Battle of Mactan, 1521
Not everyone took to the Spaniards, though.  A native tribal chief warrior, Lapu-Lapu, was not impressed with the foreigners and refused to be the vassal of Spain.  Magellan and his men wanted to give him a lesson, went after him, but in the end, got their asses resoundingly whopped.

My friend XabiWanKenobi assumed that Magellan died from a disease during transit back to Spain.  This is historically incorrect.  He was killed in battle by the great Lapu-Lapu from Mactan, Cebu.

There is little known fact about the great Philippine hero Lapu-Lapu, which coincidentally is also the name of a type of fish.

Years ago I attended a film workshop by a brilliant Filipino filmmaker with metal plates in his head.  Noel Lim went off topic and discussed his own theory about Magellan and Lapu-Lapu. 

Magellan is peddling ashore one morning and a giant fish jumps out of the water and devours him.  “What the heck was that?” cry his men.  “Lapu-lapu!” a native onlooker answers.

The Spaniards head back to their Motherland and report their commander’s untimely demise.

“Who killed Magellan?” the King asks.  “Lapu-Lapu.”, they say.

“Who is this Lapu-Lapu?”

His men look at each other in silence, contemplating on their beloved leader now reduced to fish shit in the bottom of the ocean. The most loyal in the group speaks up, “Um…err…he was a fierce tribal warrior! Yeah, yeah…that’s right…he was so big and strong!”

Because of Noel’s genius as a writer and filmmaker, I’m sticking to this story as historical fact.  It has more pizazz.

Anyway, the Spaniards came back a few years later, this time bringing with them mean chubby friars and converted everyone into guilt-ridden Christians. They overstayed their welcome for more than 300 years.

That’s how ‘Shit, coño dude!’ came to be.

Friday, 5 October 2012

No Pork on my Fork

“I don’t eat meat. I’m not a carnival.” –Filipina Supermodel Melanie Marquez

If you’re eating and almost snorted out food from your nose when you read that, chances are we could be really good friends.  You’re also most likely Filipino who went to an all-girl Catholic high school with an English teacher so strict the mere mention of her name, you immediately stand or sit up straight from your habitual slouched posture.

Former Miss International Melanie Marquez is a self-confessed Madame Malapropism.  She says the funniest and ridiculous statements with such earnestness and conviction.  Things that make you go, “HUH?!?!” And then laugh out loud.

She was in tears during an interview about her brother who was accused of beating up his then girlfriend, a presidential daughter.  “Don’t judge my brother.  He’s not a book.”

See, the objective is there.  She spontaneously experiments with the English language and transforms it into something complex, wrong yet wonderful for us to hear.

She has always been a punch line of every joke and a favorite water cooler topic every time she appears on live tv.  But she embraces it.  She does not apologize for her lack of linguistic knowledge.  She talks and goes on with so much passion and in the process entertains a huge chunk of her audience anticipating the next ‘Melanism’ that will be quoted and beaten to death.

An unsolicited advice to a young upcoming actress Nikki Valdez:  “Nikki, you’re so talented! You should move to the States! You will sell hotcakes!”

A complaint to a pushy reporter: “Ang dami mong tanong! (You have so many questions!) You’re so questionable!”

Response to her harsh critics: “I won’t stoop down to my level.”

At a talk show after her break-up with Derek Dee, Melanie was asked if she had some words for Derek's mother, whom she partly blamed for the separation: "Oo nga,  pero i-English-in ko para maintindihan niya." (I will say it in English so she'll understand.)   She looked into the camera and, with the
 peremptoriness of royalty, said, "And to you, Mrs Dee, I have 2 
words for you:  Ang labo mo!"  (sorry, non-Tagalog speaking peeps, the humor here is untranslatable)

Non-Filipinos think it’s mean.  That we are snobs for laughing at someone’s disability.  Screw you.  You don’t get it.  We’re not laughing AT her.  Nor are we laughing with her for in her world, she is profoundly articulate.  It’s the absurdity wrapped in a tall beautiful woman with the most fabulous “long-legged” the world has ever seen.

Filipinos are mean to each other that way.  But we all still end up laughing our heads off together in the end.

I end this post with Melanie's acceptance speech after winning the Best Actress Award one year.  "Ito na po ang pinakamaligayang Pasko at Manigong Taon sa inyong lahat!"
(This is undoubtedly my merriest Christmas and a happy new year to you all!)

(Disoriented much.)

Photo credit: Angel on Fire