Thursday, September 28, 2017


Somehow I managed to escape spring allergies, but fall allergies sneaked in when I wasn’t watching and knocked me down a week. I took a nap every day when I came home from work. I just felt so exhausted! So, that’s why I spread out my dishes over a couple of days. 


I would've never really imagined that cooked rice in a bread would be good, but I was wrong.

On Sunday, I made Polish Rice Bread, or Pirog. I emptied my yeast packet into 4 Tbsp of warm water and set it off to the side. Then I brought 8 oz of milk, ½ c of caster sugar (I used baker’s sugar), and 6 Tbsp of butter just to the point of scalding it, and then I took it off the heat. I added in 2 beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt to the milk mixture. Then I slowly whisked in my 3 2/3 c of flour a little at a time. Once I got it to start to form a dough, I folded in my sultanas (I used golden raisins), kneading it until it became smooth. I put a little oil in the bottom of bowl and rolled the dough around in the oil. While this was resting for the next hour, I made the rice mixture. In a pan, I mixed 17 oz of milk, 4 Tbsp of baker’s sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 Tbsp of butter, and 6 oz of rice. I brought all of this to a boil and then turned the heat down until it was cooked soft, setting it to the side to cool. This rice tastes similar to what my mom used to make when I was a kid. When the dough was done resting, I punched it down and spread it out in a casserole dish. I poured the rice mixture down the center of the bread, spreading it out a little bit. Kind of like an envelope, I took the sides of the bread dough on all sides, and folded them to the center; the rice still showing in the center. Before I put it in the oven, I brushed the top with melted butter and sprinkled it with cinnamon. I let this bake at 375ºF for about 10 minutes and then lowered it to 350ºF for another 25-30 minutes. I really liked this bread; it almost reminded me of a bread pudding or rice pudding flavor. The sultanas were surprisingly my favorite part. It was flavorful and went really well with strong coffee (I’ve been on a Café Bustelo kick lately). 


This took so long to make that we were basically eating at 10pm at night.

Yesterday, I made Golabki, or Polish Cabbage Rolls. First I sauteed up some onion and garlic in a little bit of butter and set it off to the side when the onions looked transparent. In a smal bowl, I mixed together 2 eggs, some marjoram, some thyme, salt, and pepper. In a larger bowl, I mixed some ground beef (2 lbs was too much, probably 1 lb would’ve sufficed, and the recipe also suggested doing a beef/pork or beef/veal combo), cooked rice, onion, garlic, and egg mixture; I mixed everything together and set this off to the side. After I cored my cabbage, I took the leaves and blanched them in boiling water for a few minutes to make them pliable. I took them out and placed a little bit of the meat inside the cabbage leaf and folded it up. I placed all of the stuffed cabbage leaves in my casserole dish and layered them when I ran out of room. When I was done, I poured a large can of crushed tomatoes on top of the whole thing and topped it with a little oregano (I had used the last of my marjoram, so I had to make a quick substitution). Then I baked this at 350ºF for an hour and a half. I thought it was really good. I was afraid my cabbage leaves would fall apart, but they held together better than I thought they would. The flavor was good and not bland. I think it probably would’ve been better if I had a beef/pork mix, but maybe an idea for next time. 


Of course, I added broccoli and cheese. Of course I did.

And finally, I made Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogi. I started off making the dough by peeling and boiling 2 potatoes in salted water until they were soft. (I reserved half of the potatoes for the filling.) I mashed my potatoes and then added in my flour, cornstarch, and salt. In a smaller bowl, I whisked together some egg, sour cream, and butter and added it into the potato mixture, stirring until everything started to come together. I turned this out onto my floured pastry mat and kneaded it until most of the lumps were out and it was smooth. Using my rolling pin, I rolled this out and cut out circles until the dough was used up. Then I covered it with some wax paper while I made the filling. I used the other half of my potatoes and mashed them. In that same bowl, I also mixed in some goat cheese, finely diced onion (in lieu of shallots), an egg yolk, heavy whipping cream, a little thyme (I couldn’t find my sage), and a little salt and pepper. In the center of each dough circle, I put a large dollop of filling and folded it over halfway, pinching the edges. Then I dropped these (about 8-9 at a time) in boiling water for about 6-7 minutes. I really liked these quite a bit! They were filling and had a good flavor. I think I’d like to make these again and add in some bacon bits to the filling mixture. Then it would remind me of that French dish I made (Tarte Flambée).


A mazurek is also a type of highly decorated cake, most likely named after the dance or the region it's from. It's too pretty to eat. But leave me alone with it for five minutes... 

I still think Polish looks like an incredibly hard language. There are so many consonants together and not enough vowels that it seems nearly impossible to pronounce. But as I was looking though YouTube comments on some videos I was watching on Polish music, someone had made a comment about why they use the term mazurka and not the Polish term mazurek. And while the Polish terms for some things may seem really hard to pronounce, this would be one case where it wouldn’t necessarily make much of a difference, I suppose. But it got me thinking of why we have an “English” version for names for things rather than respecting the original language (Rome in English vs. Roma in Italian). I don’t really have the time for a long historical linguistics explanation for this, but I wonder if using mazurek instead of mazurka or Roma instead of Rome would make me sound pretentious. Follow-up question: do I care?


Up next: Portugal

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Poland has had a long musical history with its origins starting around the 13th century. In the early centuries, much of their music was either tied to the church and religious music or it was created as court music.



During the Baroque period of the 16th and 17th centuries, many of the up-and-coming Polish composers studied from the Italian composers who were often considered more of an “expert.” These Italian composers also introduced opera to Poland as well, and a few composers tried to create Polish operas during the 17th and 18th centuries.



However, during this same time period, Poland began taking folk song and dance forms and working it into classical musical styles. It’s not uncommon for many composers during the late 1700s and 1800s to take on this approach as well (remember Jean Sibelius in Finland or Antonin Dvorak in Czechia?). By doing this, Polish composers gave us new musical forms such as the mazurka and the polonaise. Some of the more well-known composers from Poland include Fryderyk Chopin, Józef Elsner, Karol Szymanowski, Henryk Wieniawski, and others. 



Contrary to what I used to think, the polka is not considered one of the national dances of Poland (it's a Czech dance). Similar to certain styles of music, some dances that made it to “national dance” status include the Mazurka (of the Mazowsze region, in 3/4 time with accents on beats 2 or 3), Polonaise (for Polish nobility, in 3/4 time and partners don’t face each other), Krakowiak (of the Krakow region, in 2/4 time), Oberek (also of the Mazowsze region, in 3/4 timing and has twirls and lifts partners in the air), and the Kujawiak (of the Kujawy region, in 3/4 time, alternating between fast and slow). 



As far as modern music goes, there’s a very strong following in pop, rock, and heavy metal (and all of its subgenres), and it’s been especially so since the 1990s and the return to a more democratic society. There are quite a bit of different bands and groups in many different genres, but I only listened to a few that I pulled at random. First, I listened to a female pop musician called Doda. I actually liked her music, even if it was pop. There’s an edginess to it, like a cross between rock and pop. Another musician who is known in the same category is Margaret. She actually reminds me a little of Shakira at times.



I came across Marika, a singer who falls in the soul/funk/reggae category. She incorporates different styles into her music and sings in a number of languages: in the few songs I listened to, I heard Polish, Portuguese, and English.



The band Myslovitz is an alternative band that plays more of a chill style rock. To me, their music kind of reminded me of some of the stuff that alt-J puts out. I liked it. It sounds like it would be good to put on while you’re working or having dinner or chilling on a rainy day. I also listened to Happysad, which has a kind of quieter side in a similar sound. They also have some faster songs that have a bluesy, reggae, or even ska side to it too.



I listened to an album by Pablopavo i Ludziki. It has an interesting sound: the instrumental part seems more or less to range from jazz to rock, but sometimes it seems like they tried to put too many lyrics in a space that is too short for it.



There are actually a few hip-hop groups I came across. One of them I sampled is Kaliber 44. The music behind it seems to draw from acoustic instruments and some electronic music (using a lot of jazz) and looped. I liked their style. Now I typically don’t care for live albums, but I did listen to Pezet & Malolat’s live album. They have a kind of rap-rock thing going on. I’ve always liked this kind of sound; I bet they’re better if you’re actually there live with them. Abradab is another rap group that draws from a number of styles like jazz and rock. 



I took a listen to O.S.T.R.’s album Zycie Po Smierci. He uses almost an electronic/trance sound mixed in but it’s still chill. I just really liked the style. I have no idea what he’s saying, but it really doesn’t matter. I’ll run the lyrics through Google Translate later. I look forward to listening to more of this.



Dezerter is one punk band that I found that I liked. They have kind of a lo-fi classic sound to them. However, they’re not afraid to pull a little bit of heavy metal sound into their songs as well. Cool Kids Of Death is another punk band that falls into this category as well. Another punk band I liked was LD 50.



And now we come to black metal. I’m not sure there’s a European country that doesn’t have some kind of metal band. The couple I listened to from Poland are Vesania and Graveland. While both were similar in styles with dark riffs and screaming, there was just something about Graveyard’s instrumentals that sounded better. The vocals on both sound like a smoker’s cough. But that’s the only part I don’t like about metal. Everything else is great. I also listened to Acid Drinkers, just because of the name of the band. Their vocals did retain a little bit of a melodic quality.



Up next: the food

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Many of Poland’s traditional arts are known around the world. One of the things that stands out is their elaborately decorated Easter eggs. The eggs are painted with either complete scenes or with complex geometric designs. Other eggs are drained and blown out and are then carved with very complicated looking, delicate designs. Kudos to the people who can do this without crushing the eggs. Some of them almost look like lace. 

Wood carving is also a common thing here as well. And nothing made of wood is off limits for a carver. Door frames, utensils, tools, sculptures, furniture, and whatever else they can find are fair game. Be careful who you lend your knives to, I guess. 

Paper cutting is also an art form that gained popularity during the early 20th century, only because colored paper wasn’t as readily available before then. People, mostly women, would cut designs and folk pictures out of paper and layer the colors. Although I bet they’re forever picking up tiny bits of scrap paper off the floor.

Felt art is an artform that’s making a comeback, apparently. I typically think of felt as in ornaments, bags, gloves, and hats, but they also make necklaces, shoes, blankets, and other things out of felt. Suddenly, I really need something felt.


Poland has a strong tradition in painting and other visual arts for a long time. Polish artists have kept up with the various artistic movements that were popular throughout Europe, yet adding their own flair to it. Some major names in the art world include Jan Matejko (military and political events), Jozef Chełmoński (Realism), Jacek Malczewski (Symbolism), Stanisław Wyspiański (Symbolism), Tadeusz Makowski (Cubism), Władysław Strzemiński (avant-garde, constructivism), and Henryk Stażewski (avant-garde, constructivism). Famous sculptors include Magdalena Abakanowicz, Katarzyna Kobro, Xawery Dunikowski, and Alina Szapocznikow.

by Jan Matejko -- I just saw this memed with a caption reading "ready for the holidays but still has finals."


Although most Polish literature is written in Polish, there are other writers who write in/have written in Belarusian, Ukrainian, Latin, Yiddish, Lithuanian, German, and even Esperanto (a constructed language created during the late 1800s by the Polish-Jewish ophthalmologist, L. L. Zamenhof). The earliest literary works did not come until after the spread of Christianity took hold. Most writings at this time were chiefly religious in nature.



As the Renaissance period developed, many foreign writers began to pour into Poland; the newly opened University of Kraków attracted many of the brightest minds all over Europe. Latin classics and poetry were viewed as the basis of a good education during the Baroque period, and as Poland entered the Enlightenment period, the country itself was heading in a downward spiral. Romanticism followed during the early part of the 1800s, which was largely built upon a sense of independence and nationalism. National poets became popular during this era. 


I'm down with this.

Related to the Romantic period is the period of Polish Positivism. It grew out of the failed uprising again the Russians in 1863, essentially pushing skepticism, reason, equal rights, and feminism. After WWI, new avant-garde styles developed out of the quickly changing climate of European culture and politics. However, most writers stopped writing freely during WWII. Many left for other countries; many of the ones who stayed were often involved in underground printing presses, reporting on resistance movements. When they were under Soviet control, all texts and literature were strictly censored. It wasn’t until after independence and into the transition to a democratic country did writers enjoy the freedom of the press again.


Wisława Szymborska

There have been four Polish authors who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature: Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905), Władysław Reymont (1924), Czesław Miłosz (1980), and Wisława Szymborska (1996).


Up next: music and dance

Sunday, September 17, 2017


I am a big fan of James Michener’s novels. For those who don’t know his works, he writes epic novels that typically tell the history of a place, using the place as the central character in many cases. His style is more or less a mix of fictional characters and situations in the midst of actual historical characters and situations. So far, I’ve read Alaska, Covenant (about South Africa), Iberia, Mexico, Texas, and This Noble Land. My mom introduced me to him years ago and had read Poland not too long ago, and several months ago I found a copy of Poland at a used bookstore, but I haven’t had the chance to start it yet (thanks to the Outlander series and the hundreds of books I have on my shelf). 

The name Poland is named from the 8th century tribe of people called Polans. Also known as Polanie, it’s based on a Slavic word meaning “field.” However, in many languages, the name for Poland is a variation of Lechites, after the legendary leader of the Polans, Lech I. 

The country of Poland is located in north-central Europe. It is bordered by the Baltic Sea to the north, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to the north, Lithuania to the northeast, Belarus to the east, Ukraine to the southeast, Slovakia to the south, Czechia to the southwest [the new name of Czech Republic], and Germany to the west. Poland is known for its numerous lakes and the southern part of the country is highly mountainous.
University of Krakow
The earliest known peoples in this area were many distinct groups of Slavic people. In the years around 1000AD, many of these Slavic tribes began converting to Christianity and began to unite as one people. During the first few centuries after this, they went through many changes in government, religion, rulers, relationships with other countries, and military. The first university charter (University of Kraków) was established, and Poland luckily was mostly spared from the Black Death that ravaged much of Europe. Poland was largely a feudal state during the Middle Ages, and afterwards saw a Renaissance, including Nicolaus Copernicus’ theory that the sun was the center of the universe, not the earth. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was formed and took up quite a bit of Eastern Europe. They fought several conflicts with the Russians, the Ottoman Empire, and the Swedes. The 18th and 19th centuries saw many uprisings and conflicts that led to losses/gains in territory as well as changes in the government. Poland gained its independence again after WWI, but only to find itself in a war with Russia (again). Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, followed by Russia a couple weeks later. Poland suffered insurmountable devastation and death: nearly 1/5 of Poland’s population died during the war, and half of those were Polish Jews. After WWII, the Soviets still occupied Poland and turned it into a communist state. Although it was one of the more lenient communist countries, it remained so until 1989. Poland has made great strides economically and politically as it transitioned to a democratic nation during the 1990s and 2000s.   

With about 3.1 million people, Warsaw is Poland’s capital and largest city. This city was founded in 1323 on the banks of the Vistula River. Prior to WWII, it was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, that is, until the Nazis came in and destroyed most of it. By the end of the war, over 85% of the city’s buildings were destroyed and were rebuilt in the years and decades that followed. Today, it’s a major tourist destination and serves as an economic, cultural, media, governmental center – it also has the largest number of skyscrapers in the EU. But hey, does size really matter anyway?

Copernicus Science Center, Warsaw
After the fall of communism, Poland’s economy gained momentum as one of the fasted growing economies in the EU. It transitioned to a market-based economy and encouraged the privatization of businesses that were once state-owned. They have several strong agricultural exports as well as a number of other manufacturing-based products. Poland has established itself as a center for scientific research and development, and many international companies have set up R&D centers here. Poland also ranks high for tourism between its modern cities on the backdrop of beautiful scenery.  

Pope John Paul II
Although Poland is primarily Christian (and Roman Catholic at that), it was also the only country in Europe—back in 1264—that granted legal rights to Jews living there. Several other groups have settled in Poland over the years after having struggles in their own countries: Calvinists, Anabaptists, and atheists. Actually up until WWII, it was one of the more religiously tolerant areas of Europe. Things changed after the war. It’s still considered one of the most devout countries in Europe. And with 87% of the population as Catholic, the Catholic Church has only had one Polish Pope: Pope John Paul II.  

Sign in Polish and Belarusian
The official language is Polish, part of the Slavic family of languages. I read on a very questionable article a few years ago that listed which languages are hardest to learn for English-speakers, and Polish was listed as the number-one hardest language. And without studying it, I agree. It just LOOKS hard. If Polish were a meme, it would say, “You think German had too many consonants next to each other? Hold my beer.” Anyway, they also granted an ethnic minority status to several languages: Kashubian, German, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, Rusyn, Czech, Slovak, and Yiddish.

I realize after mentioning that I’m looking for Polish recipes how large of a Polish population there is in the US. I regret that when we lived in Chicago, we never made it to the Polish section of the city to eat. Maybe this fall or winter, we can take a trip back up there to check it out. However, I was amazed that several people offered up recipes that are popular in their half-Polish or part-Polish families. Many of these seem vaguely family to my part-German family, so I know it’s gonna be fantastic. But if I make everything that sounds good, I’d never get to the end of this blog.

Up next: art and literature

Monday, September 11, 2017


Well, this was a weird week. Last weekend was Labor Day, so we had a three-day weekend. And for a short week, it lasted at least a month. Seeing how I knew this weekend was going to be super busy, I made two of my recipes on Labor Day when I wasn’t doing anything. My weekends in September and October are pretty busy with ethnic fests and fall fests and arts fests galore. Yesterday was Scottish Fest (and yes, I tried the haggis). 

Not too bad and was pretty filling.

So, last weekend, I made two dishes. The first one was Pork and Shrimp Pancit. I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t think my recipe was quite as specific as I needed it to be. I bought a package of rice noodles, but I didn’t know if this is made with straight noodles or the vermicelli kind. So, I went with the straight noodles. I soaked my noodles in warm water for about 20 minutes and then drained them. In my large skillet, I sautéed my noodles but they were still a little stiff, so I added some water to see if I could get them softer. I removed them when I thought they were ready, adding a tad more oil to the skillet and sautéed my onion, garlic, ginger, and shrimp (I used cooked salad shrimp) and ground pork that I cooked and divided in half between this dish and the next (I actually just bought some bratwursts and removed the casings). Once I mixed those together and let it sauté for a few minutes, I added in my bok choy, soy sauce (in lieu of oyster sauce), crushed red pepper, and chicken broth and let it simmer until the bok choy was wilted. Then I spooned this mixture over my noodles and topped with some chopped green onions. I thought it had the potential to be really good, and it was pretty tasty. I just wondered if I got the right noodles. Mine were still a little stiff and chewy, like they weren’t cooked long enough. I think if the noodles were cooked differently and not according to this recipe, it would’ve turned out better. But it wasn’t bad.

I feel like every Filipina grandmother is shaking their head at me.
The second dish I made was lumpia, a dish widely known in Philippine cuisine and similar to spring rolls. However, mine didn’t turn out anything like what I thought it was supposed to be. I started out making the filling. I had already cooked the pork earlier and set it off to the side. In the same skillet, I sautéed the minced garlic and onion before stirring in the pork, green onions, cabbage and carrots (I found a bag of Southern-style cole slaw which contains the shredded cabbage and carrots, so that saved me some time). Then I added in a little salt and pepper, garlic powder, and soy sauce. Once it had sautéed for another minute, I took it off the heat and set it to the side. Here’s where I think I messed up. I couldn’t find lumpia wrappers, and the closest thing I could find where I was shopping was springroll wraps. But I’ve never worked with these before. These were waxy and had to be dipped in warm water before you could use them. I tried putting the filling in the middle, but then I had no idea how to roll them. Every single one of them was completely different, fat and miserable looking. But I tried frying them anyway, and most of them burst apart. So, it was a minor disaster. However, they still tasted good, especially with a little hoisin sauce. Somewhere, there’s a deep existential story here. 

Totally delicious. I can see why this is so popular. Slightly sweet -- it goes perfectly with strong coffee.
So, today I made my bread: pandesal. I was heading out to a picnic and thought I’d cross two things off at one time. So, I started this out by mixing my yeast in with my warm milk and adding in 2 tsp of sugar. I set it off to the side for 5-10 minutes. Then I mixed 4 ½ c of all-purpose flour and 1 ½ tsp of salt. I was supposed to use part all-purpose flour and part bread flour, but… I didn’t do that. In a separate bowl, I mixed the yeast mixture with 1/3 c sugar, 3 Tbsp of softened butter, and 2 eggs that were slightly beaten. Once all of that was mixed together, I slowly poured in my flour a little at a time and stirred until it came together as a dough. I rolled it in a little oil and covered it for an hour. After that time, I kneaded it a little and formed it into 24 rolls, rolling each one in bread crumbs. After baking it in a 350ºF oven for 18-20 minutes (or until it starts to look golden brown), I took it out and let it cool. I liked these. The outside was hard, but the insides were soft and were actually almost sweet. I tried putting hummus on it, but I didn’t like that so much. Jams or jellies, on the other hand, would be much better.

And one day, she'll catch that light that moved across the carpet.
Because I spread this meal out, I didn’t really get a photo of the whole meal together. So, here’s a picture of my cat, Morocco. She hates to be picked up and usually sits on top of my printer giving me judgmental looks while I write. She’s my biggest critic and hates her job as my writers block escape. Her goals in life are to be fed and be left the hell alone to contemplate the problems of the world. But then again, those are some of my goals, too. This is why we get along so well.

Up next: Poland

Saturday, September 9, 2017


The music from the Philippines has its origins in a number of musical traditions: indigenous music, Asian, Spanish, Latin American, and American music. 

A lot of the traditional musical styles are similar to that of Indonesia and Malaysia. One of the main styles they’re known for is gong music. There’s a couple different kinds of gong music: one is called gangsà, or flat gongs. It’s usually played in groups is the Islamic and animist communities of the southern regions of the country. The other kind is kulintang, which is a racked gong chime. These are also played in ensembles and are distantly related to he gamelan music of Indonesia. 

Spanish music also has a great influence on their music, which is understandable considering that the Spanish controlled the Philippines for over three centuries. Many folk tunes are borrowed from the Spanish but with Tagalog or other local languages used for the lyrics. Rondalla is a type of music with origins in the Iberian Peninsula and uses instruments like guitars, double basses, mandolins, and drums. The Harana and Kundiman are lyrical songs that grew in popularity during the 1920s. It starts out in a minor key, switches to a major one halfway through and is based on the rhythms of a habanera.

There are a couple of dances that are well known in the Philippines. The Cariñosa is often considered the national dance. Its key element is its use of the fan and handkerchief as an expression of the loving nature of courtship. The Cariñosa has ties to both Mexican dances and traditional dances of the Visayas and Mindanao regions of the Philippines. Another dance is the Tinikling dance, which involves two performers hitting bamboo poles while another dancer(s) dance over the poles.

So, as far as modern musical groups go, I listened to several on Spotify. The first one I listened to was Eraserheads. They have an interesting sound. It’s almost like a cross between rock with some electronic elements. They used a variety of different sounds from what sounded like an organ and electric piano to different guitars. After listening to several songs, I’m still not sure what I think of it. I kind of like it, but it’s not quite what I was expecting.

Another band I listened to is Parokya Ni Edgar. They sound like they came straight from the 1990s. Acoustic guitar and catchy riffs make this something that I can get behind. I’m not sure what they’re saying most of the time, except the times when he sings in English. It’s not overly complicated music, but it’s decent. The band Rivermaya is another group who plays in a similar style.

Razorback has a harder sound, which I was immediately drawn to. I actually really liked what I heard. Their playing was tight, and the vocals had a certain edge to it that fit the style of music. Definitely on my list to go back and listen to. Wolfgang and Greyhoundz are two other bands that fall in this category, except Greyhoundz uses more of a rap-metal style. 

Slapshock is clearly in the metal category, complete with screaming and everything. However, they reprieve themselves with melodic lines intermixed between the screaming. I really liked these guys, actually.

Joey Ayala’s music seems to be based on traditional music, with harmonious vocals and acoustic instruments. Grace Nono is another one who falls into the traditional category; however, her music has much more of a Spanish influence to it. 

I did come across some hip-hop groups. The first one I listened to is Gloc 9. The background music is catchy, but the vocal style almost reminds me of reggaeton. Andrew E. is another one, but his music sounds more like a club mix but with a Latin flair to it. It was pretty catchy, though. Definitely sounds like party music. 

The music of Somedaydream has more electronic elements to it, and while a few are more instrumental, most are mixed with pop-style vocals, like David Guetta-esque I suppose. The style of each song can vary, but it makes for a good listen, though. 

Up next: the food

Thursday, September 7, 2017


One of the earliest forms of art found in the Philippines is pottery. Pottery was a key element for advancing a society because it allowed people to store and cook food. Early pottery was made with clay, and they created a variety of pots and containers for a number of purposes from food preparations (cooking, eating, storing food) to ceremonial uses (urns). Over time, the styles and decorations changed on each pot. 

Filipino women are also skilled in weaving. Some of the materials they use in traditional weaving are the fibers from pineapple, cotton, bark cloth, and abaca (the same material that also gives us Manila folders). Depending on what they are making, woven baskets, mats, cloth, rugs, hats, and other items were commonly made. 

by Fernando Amorsolo
After the Spanish arrived, they introduced European-style painting. In the beginning, the Spanish brought along quite a few religious paintings and used them to teach the islanders about Christianity. In turn, they also taught them how to paint. At first, the Filipinos painted in the same style that the Spanish taught them: only Christian/religious paintings. But around the 19th century, certain Filipino artists who were wealthier than others began to branch out and break tradition: they introduced secular paintings like Filipino landscapes and Filipino subject, not European Christian themes. They began to paint themselves, their culture, and their land. And as war hit their country during the 20th century, they used painting and art as a means of expression to deal with the pain and destruction of their country.
by Elito Circa -- because a painting of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao painted in human blood is exactly what the world was missing.
A few artists of note include Elito Circa (folk artist who paints with human hair, blood, and body fluids), Juan Luna (painter, sculptor, political activist during 19th century Philippine Revolution), Benedicto Cabrera (famous painter, known as BenCab), Fernando Amorsolo (famous painter of portraits and landscapes), David Medalla (sculpture, performance art, installation, kinetic art), Augusto Arbizo (artist, painter, curator), Rey Paz Contreras (sculptor, famous for using recycled materials), Félix Hidalgo (famous painter of 19th century), Malang (cartoonist, illustrator, painter), Ang Kiukok (painter, worked in cubism, surrealism, expressionism), Lito Mayo (graphic artist, print maker, sculptor, art professor), and Anita Magsaysay-Ho (counted as one of the major painters in the Philippines—and only female included in the “greats” list).
by Anita Magsaysay-Ho
Of the earliest forms of literature, epic stories were one of the primary forms of storytelling. Most of these stories were told by word of mouth and passed down from generation to generation. Some of the wealthier families were able to afford to have these stories transcribed down. One of the more famous epic stories is Darangen, a story that originated from the Maranao people of the southern island Mindanao.

Although I imagine there was a certain amount of literature produced during the years the Spanish controlled the country, most of the canon of modern literature was created after the United States took over. As Filipino writers witnessed the transformation to a new colonial period, much of the literature during the first few decades were in response to the Spanish-controlled times. As the 20th century progressed, the Modernismo genre took a prominent role, steeped in the literary traditions of Latin America.

Notable authors include Estrella Alfon, Francisco Arcellana, Liwayway Arceo, Jose Garcia Villa, Peter Solis Nery, F. Sionil José, Francisco Balagtas,  Lualhati Bautista, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Nick Joaquin, and N.V.M. Gonzáles.

Up next: music and dance

Monday, September 4, 2017


When I was in elementary school, we were given pen pals. I got one from the Philippines, and we wrote back and forth for years. I would always send her little things like pennies, keychains, whatever I could fit in an envelope that didn’t weigh much. She would send me little things like shells, little paper beads and stuff like that. Occasionally, I’d send her a dollar or something. We wrote back and forth for years. In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted, and it was the second largest eruption of the 20th century. It spewed more particulate in the air since the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 (I was super fascinated by this event after I read Twenty-One Balloons). I never heard from her afterwards. 

The islands were given its current name by the Spanish, who arrived during the mid-1500s. They named them after King Phillip II of Spain. It had changed names several times, but nothing too incredibly far from this name. After WWII, it officially became the Republic of the Philippines. 

The Philippines are a group of over 7600 islands in South Asia. Taiwan lies directly north of the island chain; Palau is to the east; Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei lie to the south and southwest; Vietnam is to the west; and China lies to the northwest. The South China Sea stands between the Philippines and mainland Asia; the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea stand between them and Indonesia and Malaysia; and the Philippine Sea is between these islands and other Pacific Islands to the east, extending up to Japan. Because of its proximity to the equator, it stays warm all year round and has a tropical climate. And because of its location along the Ring of Fire, they experience frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. 

One of the earliest peoples to call this group of islands their home was the Negritos, who are thought to have originally come from Africa. Other Austronesians from China, Taiwan, and elsewhere throughout southeastern Asia began to settle there later on. For the most part, each island or group of islands were pretty isolated and independent from each other, like island states. They traded with Indonesian, Malaysians, Chinese, Japanese, and other Pacific Islanders. Eventually Indian and Arab traders arrived and set up small ruling territories as Hindu and Islamic states during the 14-16th centuries. In the early 1500s, the Spanish arrived to expand Christianity and claim the land for Spain. Of course, the Spanish had to put up a fight to be there. And even after they established new trading partners with Latin America, they put down quite a few revolts and fought with the Moros (Muslim rebels) for hundreds of years. As a result of the 1898 Treaty of Paris negotiated after the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Islands were handed over to the US. The US did manage to suppress some of these rebellious states and was given Commonwealth status in 1935. The Japanese invaded during WWII, and the Bataan Death March was considered one of the most tragic loss of life events during the war (est. 5600-18,000 American and Philippine POW deaths). By the end of the war, it’s estimated more than a million Filipinos have died. After the war, the US recognized its independence, and it became a part of the UN. However, they have had trouble with stability in government. During Corazon Aquino’s term as president, the US finally abandoned their military base (something we should do everywhere). Today, their controversial president Rodrigo Duterte continues to make the headlines over his aggressive War on Drugs policies.

The capital city is Manila, located on the northern island of Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines). The name may refer to the phrase “place where there are flowering mangrove trees.” Located on Manila Bay, it’s one of the densest cities in the world. It has many examples of European-style architecture along with one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. The city has a modernity that rivals other major cities while still holding on to its traditional shops and restaurants. 

The Philippines are transitioning from an agricultural based economy to one that’s based on industry and services. They are strong exporters of fruits, coconut oil, copper products, petroleum products, garments, and electronic equipment (including semiconductors). They are also really expanding their science and technology sectors. After WWII, the Philippines had one of the strongest economies in Asia, behind Japan. Since then, they’ve went through some recessions and growth. Goldman Sachs considered the Philippines as one of the Next Eleven economies.

Although it’s listed as a secular state on the book, the majority religion is Christianity. Nearly 80% follow Catholicism (as introduced by the Spanish), and around 10% follow Protestantism (as introduced by the Americans). There is a significant number of Muslims (10%) living in the Philippines, mostly living in a couple of states. There are also Buddhists, Baha’is, Hindus, Jews, and followers of traditional religions. 

Both Filipino (Tagalog) and English are listed as official languages. There are actually 186 languages in the Philippines, but only 182 of those are still spoken (four of those have died off). Chavacano is a Spanish Creole that was spoken there. Because it was part of Spain for so long, Spanish used to be a lingua franca, but it has since lost that status. However, there are still quite a few Spanish loan words in the Filipino language that are still used today. Arabic is used mainly in Islamic Schools, and a number of other languages are taught as foreign languages.

Cell phone advertisement in the Philippines.
There are so many things about the Philippines that make it stand out, well, on one of those “little known facts that have a great impact” kind of level. The yoyo has its roots as a Filipino hunting weapon. The antibiotic erythromycin was created in 1949 by a Filipino doctor who worked for Eli Lilly and has saved the lives of millions of people who are allergic to penicillin. Filipinos also text more than the US and Europe combined (I’d get along well here). And if you think we push the Christmas season, you’d probably scream if you knew some Filipinos start their celebrations in September – a retailer’s dreamland (or nightmare, depending on how you look at it).

Up next: art and literature