Kidapawan begins caring about its heritage!

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My hometown of Kidapawan’s Local government is finally paying attention to the town’s history and heritage! Mayor Joseph Evangelista recently set up a Culture and Arts Council, and  while still nebulous, one of their first projects is to revisit the historiography of the city.

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Bergonia’s 2004 book, the only existing history of Kidapawan

I had been working on my own for the past two years on rewriting Kidapawan history, slowly building up information to make five books. Kidapawan’s only history book, the 2004 book by Ferdinand Bergonia, is very informative but has severe deficiencies, both in actual information and in source citation (see my review of it in Ateneo de Davao’s Tambara). There was a serious need to build up on what Bergonia had started.

All the while I shared some of the information on the Kidapawan of the Past Facebook Page, hoping to slowly build up interest in the city’s history.

I and Vince Cuzon managed the FB page, and the both of us really started stimulating local interest in Kidapawan heritage with my 2010 write-up in the Davao Writers Guild’s Dagmay (coauthored with  Christian Cabagnot) about the Kiram Mansion, which had been demolished that year. Vince, who has a far wider local readership than I do, helped spread word about the building.

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What remains of the mansion is now getting more attention than it ever did since. It even looks like it’s being restored.

By accident I found out about the Culture and Arts Council and the efforts being done by the City Tourism Office (whose head, Mr Joey Recimilla, is a member of the Council). If I am to work with them my progress will be fast-tracked, perhaps by decades, with the help of the city government’s machinery!

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The city tourism office has been so serious about getting things started that they actually went on exploratory visits to see where the Council can begin its work.

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In one exploratory visit to the National Library, Ms Gillan Lonzaga of the Tourism Office found a 1952 book about Cotabato Province, which contained a write-up about Kidapawan (then only four years old) by the then-municipal councilor Lino Madrid.

Bergonia cited this document, but did not do justice to the information in it. The piece provided fascinating insight into Kidapawan at its early days of independence, and it answered a lot of crucial questions left unanswered by Bergonia. Most crucially it complicates the ‘highland spring’ etymology of the city’s name, as it makes no mention of the ‘tida’ from whence ‘kida’ is supposed to have come from. Madrid also resolved the name of the third Mayor of Kidapawan, Filomeno Blanco, whom Bergonia named ‘Filemon’ and ‘Filomeno’ at various points in his book. It also provides my only clue so far about his identity, as he is cited as owning a rice and corn mill in Baranggay Saguing, now Makilala.

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Among the possible directions the City Tourism Office found for the Culture and Arts Council – and one which thrilled me when I learned of it – is to come up with an inventory of cultural properties. One of the five books I was planning to write has actually been a coffee table book of Kidapawan’s heritage structures, including old houses and culturally significant structures and natural landmarks. Although far from complete, this inventory saves me so much time.

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The old shophouses that line the highway in downtown Kidapawan have also yet to be recognized.

On a worrying note, there are rumours that the old house beside the Saint Mary’s Academy – my mother says it belonged to the Rellen family – will be demolished now that the owner of Gaisano Kidapawan has purchased the property. The house is listed in the inventory as belonging to the Mojana family, and at over 50 years old actually qualifies as an Important Cultural Property under R.A. 1066. I’ll be looking into the matter more and will be doing all I can to make sure this does not become another Kiram Mansion tragedy.

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But perhaps the biggest plan their eyeing is to set up a museum! Commissioning anthropologists from the University of Southeastern Mindanao in Kabacan, they intended to begin this by initiating a study on the city’s culture and history. It’s a huge undertaking, and if I’ll be working with the ongoing efforts I will probably help here. I will definitely be doing all I can to help make sure this is a success!

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Along the way I also finally got a list of the awardees of the Kidapawan Heroes, which the city grants annually during the Cityhood anniversary. I’ll be writing a separate post about it here at a later date!

All these efforts to finally pay attention to Kidapawan’s heritage means the LGU will be dealing with existing National laws. These laws nevertheless have shortcomings, and I strongly think the city needs to make local legislation to complement them.

And if Kidapawan manages to craft local law for its history and heritage, it will be exemplary among the country’s local governments, even bettering nearby Davao (which continues to have poor maintenance of its heritage properties and promotion of local historical appreciation).

I have to say, the present LGU is objectively impressive.

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They’re even restoring the iconic pine trees in the highway island with saplings of the original pine tree, removing the Monkey Puzzle trees planted earlier to replace the trees that died. Alfonso Angeles Sr. would be pleased.


I Hate Basketball

I hate Basketball

It is the sport the Americans taught us Filipinos, displacing our traditional sports. It is a legacy of American Colonialism. Filipinos still obsess over it today like the little brown Americans that we are, keeping our worldview still strongly American-shaped. It is the sport that makes Filipinos think the Celtic people are from Boston.

It is the sport major Filipino TV stations in the country choose to cover on prime time news, some game between one American basketball team against another American basketball team in far away America. It is the sport they choose to cover instead of business and economy, instead of arts and culture, instead of goings on in Mindanao. As they tell you that local news is not really that relevant, it is the sport they choose to dedicate an entire channel to.

It is the sport they make you play in school because it builds character, because a competitive sport that involves stealing some ball from one another and slamming it into a ring is a great way of developing good behaviour. Because Music, Arts, and Physical Education are all taught in basic education as one subject, and because the vast majority of Filipino teachers are illiterate in music and the arts, sports – Basketball – gets a disproportionately higher amount of attention.

Besides it’s a sport, a tasked-based lesson, no need to make students memorize the names of instruments or hard-to-pronounce names of French artists.

It is the sport they encourage you to play in school because you can get University scholarships by being good at it. Forget writing or drawing or playing an instrument. Heck, research papers don’t even get you as much financial assistance in school as basketball does.

It is the sport they encourage you to play even if your chances of making a career out of it in the Philippines are as slim as modeling. And all the while they tell you off for being a writer or artist because ‘you can’t make money out of art-art.’

But because there are a few who do succeed in the slim chance, they encourage you to play it anyway even as they crush your hopes of being a successful musician or painter. Play it well enough and they’ll make you into a model. Play it well long enough and they’ll elect you as Senator. Who cares about historians and novelists, Filipinos know it is the basketball players, actors, and boxers who make great legislators.

It is the sport they encourage you to play so you don’t do drugs. As if drug dependency is really all just a matter of distracting our stupid young people.

It is the sport the government encourages you to play to promote good health, even as tobacco and alcohol remain ridiculously affordable, and the air pollution – about which nothing is being done – is so bad it is easy to get bronchitis.

It is the sport of the cool kids, of the real boys, from the astigs in the kanto to the heartrobs in Arneow. The girls won’t cheer for you in high school no matter how good you are in chess, but shoot a few hoops and they’ll gladly lose their virginity to you on JS prom. It is the sport men like to pretend they’re good at to make up for their short penises.

Only dorks and faggots choose to stay in libraries and, like, not play basketball.

And so it is the sport the macho father forces on his son to sweat away the bayot out of him, and the sport the pot-bellied father in-law expects his prospective son in-law to know.

So whenever you ask me if I follow basketball, and even if I politely say I don’t know it too much you still push the topic, this is what I think about it.

I fucking hate basketball.


Laksa!

Laksa is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, the Malay world’s great contribution to world cuisine. Whether Lemak (with coconut gravy) or Assam (with sour soup), Laksa demonstrates the intensity that so pleases the Malay palate.

I’ve been to Singapore three times and to Malaysia four, and on each occasion I made it a point to try as many kinds of laksa as I can. Here are some of them.

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Geylang Laksa, the most typical form of the curry-style Lemak laksa, is touted as the best laksa in Singapore. It has an interesting history, dating back eighty years from an old man who sold laksa on the go along Geylang road.

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Penang Laksa is the most typical form of Assam laksa. This one is from a stall near Singapore’s Aljuneid station, and is the best Assam laksa I’ve had. The sour soup is rich and glorious with mackerel pulp

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The best curry laksa I’ve ever had is the Mee Kari from Nura Kasih, a stall in the food centre on the corner of Jalans Rajah Muda Abdul Aziz and Jalan Abdul Manan Nordin in Kuala Lumpur’s Kampung Bahru. What is known in Singapore as ‘laksa’ (curry laksa) is called ‘mee kari’ – curry noodles – in Malaysia, with the term ‘laksa’ being applied by default to some form of Assam laksa. In Malaysia too curry laksa is served with chicken, in contrast to Singapore’s seafood. The Mee Kari in Nurah Kasih is flavoured with star anise and cinnamon, with the whole spices served with the soup.

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Not all Lemak laksa has curry. Laksam, a kind of laksa distinct for its thick chunks of dough as noodles, does not have curry. Like most Malaysian laksa it’s served with slices of raw stringed beans, which can be unpleasant to the uninitiated.

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Johor laksa is a very particular kind of laksa. It is the most popular hybrid laksa, being both Lemak and Assam (with a sour coconut curry broth). But what makes it distinct is it uses spaghetti noodles.

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There’s a quirky stall along Singapore’s Balestier Road that sells Mee Hon Laksa, or laksa with rice vermicelli. It makes the rich coconut curry broth much more enjoyable because the thickness of the noodles is no obstruction. It’s almost like the broth was solidified.

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Katong Laksa is another uniquely Singaporean laksa. The chopsticks in this picture were never used, Katong laksa is distinct for having the noodles scissored into smaller pieces so the laksa can be eaten with only a spoon.

I hope to try all the kinds of Laksa out there, and as I try new ones this post will be updated!


Meeting Miguel Syjuco

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I finally got to meet the most successful Filipino writer in the world.

Miguel Syjuco was disarmingly friendly, as he had always been online. Perhaps it was the death threats.

The Man Asia prize winner came to Davao at a very politically charged time: a consistent critic of the Duterte administration, he has been very vocal with his concerns about the many victims of alleged Extrajudicial killings in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

When he confided on social media that friends were warning him about his safety as he entered the baluarte of a politician he publicly criticized, Syjuco received a barrage of death threats, which only seemed to confirm his friends’ concerns. I had assured him there was nothing to fear, and he went to Davao anyway.

I met and hosted him as a Duterte supporter, as one who has been so since I was young (I had urged our then mayor in this blog to run when he was not even making national news yet), and whose family is passionately pro-Duterte.

But above all that, I met him as a genuine fan: I had read Ilustrado some years ago, when the Cebuano writer Januar Yap gave me his copy, and was floored by the skill of its writing. I still believe it is the closest anyone has come to a Great Filipino Novel, and ought to be taught in all schools instead of Rizal.

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My now missing copy of Ilustrado. I lent it to someone and I forgot to whom. I had a shaky hand with this photo!

Miguel came over for four main reasons: to see Davao for himself (he had not been here since the 90s); to lay the groundwork for a possible project with Ateneo de Davao; to give a workshop to my old club in Ateneo, SALEM; and to chat with my ninong, DCPO director Alexander Tagum.

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Miguel with SALEM

In between excursions we would chat about politics, the Philippine literary scene, and some humorously bad jokes. He’d share personal struggles, his family’s not always successful foray into politics, and having to overcome the mob of pro-Duterte netizens who gang up on him.

In the lobby of the Marco Polo while he, I, and Nal had a drink on his first night, I joked that I hope he stayed safe, who else would win the Nobel for the Filipino people. He laughed it off with a National Artist’s name, though I was dead serious about him getting it. The only flaw Miguel Syjuco has as a writer is that he hasn’t written enough yet.

He has been saying he enjoyed Davao, though I feel he didn’t see as much as he should have. I’m hoping he finds time to return and see the Philippine Eagles.

Did we disagree while he was here? Surprisingly not much. What we learned early on online was that nobody is ever really entirely pro or anti anything. He wasn’t entirely critical of everything Duterte, as I was not entirely supportive of everything the President does.

We both agreed that the current climate of polarization, of painting everything black and white, is not productive for both sides and is unleashing a mob of hateful fanatics. Where the Duterte administration can improve with feedback, it turns a blind eye because all negative feedback is viewed with violent suspicion. Where it does good, the critics refuse to see because they only see the EJKs and a man who speaks nothing but murder.

And we both saw that while we stood on opposite sides of a political divide, we are linked together by a renewed passion for our country and its people.

On his last night while we lounged in the Marco’s lobby, a gunshot pierced the busy Davao evening. It turned out a guest who was surrendering his pistol to the guard accidentally fired a blank.

I asked, jokingly, if he thinks RJ Nieto had meant that as a warning.


An International Mention

 

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Well, this is unexpected.

While vacationing in Singapore, I found my name in a book in Books Kinokuniya. My ego purrs with delight as it is stroked.

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This is perhaps the most flattering rejection I have ever had. I sent a play for inclusion in Southeast Asian Plays, edited by Cheryl Robson and Aubrey Mellor and published by Aurora Metro Publications in the US. I didn’t get accepted, but it seems they acknowledged the writers who sent in submissions.

Normally, publicly accepting you were rejected would be unflattering. But this time it isn’t.

  • For one thing, I see my name in a book in Singapore. Beat that, HaveYouSeenThisGirl!
  • Then, the only Filipino to get in is Floy Quintos, and I don’t stand a chance against the likes of him
  • The other writers acknowledged were pretty accomplished writers too, so I’m in prestigious company

The least I could do in return, of course, is to promote the book. It’s available in most branches of Books Kinokuniya!

Every rejection should be like this!


Tea pairings

I have loved tea since I was young, and I was fortunate enough to have the chance to try diverse kinds of teas from around the world. Some varieties I was able to enjoy on a daily basis, enjoying cups as is or milked and sugared while having snacks. Over the years I ended up developing specific pairings for food which I found worked best with particular teas, and collectively they represent for me either the taste of home or of specific places.

Here are some of these pairings. I will attach pictures when I get to eat the said pairings again

20170409_230749*Earl Grey (as is or milked), with bread with nutella and butter

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Kaya toast in Taunggyi

*Xifeng Longjing, or Bilouchun, or Shan tea with Lahpet Hmwe, with kaya toast

*Oolong (Fujian or Taiwanese Tie Guanyin), or Houjicha, with Bongbong’s Piyaya

 

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On the plate clockwise from top: Mastic lokum, espasol from Marbel, Davao Ticoy, Rose lokum

*Tra Sen, or Earl Grey unmilked, with Davao Star Bakeshoppe Ticoy, Kidapawan (or Marbel) Espasol, and Rahat Lokum (Rose and/or mastic)

*Milked Stewarts Strawberry flavoured tea, with Nissin butter coconut biscuits

 

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On the plate, clockwise from top: cookies and cream, pinipig, peanut, and ube polvorons, soan papdi, small and big almond cookies, Goldilocks plain polvoron. I didn’t have tea with this one

*Milked Ceylon, or milked Masala Chai, or plain milk, with Polvoron, Macanese almond cookies, and Soan Papdi

*Lapsang Souchong, with lechon or any oily pork dish

*Lady Grey, with bread, butter and marmalade

 

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*Biluochun, with boiled mung bean with milk and sugar

*Pu Erh, with Spanish sardines and mayo-ketchup, or any fish dish

*Milked Masala Chai (plain or Twinnings Hazelnut), with bread, butter, and dulce de leche

*Milked Ceylon, or milked Irish Breakfast (as is or Portuguese style: with cinnamon and nutmeg), with  butter toast

*Genmai cha, with rice and raw egg flavoured with soy sauce (tamago-kakegohan)

*Sencha, with bread, mayonnaise, and shredded nori, or anything with nori

 

Some pairings I associate with places I go to, and when I get back there I make it a point to eat this combination again

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*Teh Tarik, or bandung, with kaya toast, for Singapore

 

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The tea is not pictured

*Shan Tea with Lahpet Hmwe, with Monpyarlu, for Myanmar

 

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*Shan tea with Lahpet Hmwe, with toasted bread, butter, and Pa’oh Strawberry Jam, also for Myanmar

 

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*Tra Sen, with plum blossom flavoured Banh Khao, for Vietnam

 

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*Tra Sen, with Banh Com, also for Vietnam


Old Galay Family Pictures

My cousin Jeff scanned some old family pictures for me for the Kidapawan of the Past Facebook Page.Most of them are of my grandfather’s house in Lanao, about which I once made a blogpost here already.

They’re quite intriguing, giving a glimpse into the past of my family, one of the oldest in Kidapawan.

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The house as viewed from my great grandfather’s house, taken sometime in the 1970s. This picture is intriguing because it shows that the terrace wasn’t always there.

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Two pictures of my mother’s family in the house. On the top picture from the left is my grandfather, my mother, my titas Ate Christie and Ate Yayan, my uncle kuya Eric, and my grandmother. On the bottom picture the family is on the dining table. The space where the dining table is here is now the house’s living room.

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A view of the lawn. I did not know there was a small hut in the middle of the grass before.

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My mother says my grandfather often lounged in the hut, which he surrounded with his flowers

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A picture of the lawn, a bit later (probably in the late 80s or early 90s). My grandfather collecting orchids later on

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The house’s grotto, now expanded by my uncle. I did not know a Yucca tree grew there once

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A much later view of the grotto

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Pictures of my mother’s early family with my great grandparents. On the above picture, my mother and uncle (my two titas had not been born yet) pose with my great grandparents and my great uncle Eugenio J,r or kuya Chito (standing, Left back). On the lower picture my mother, uncle, and ate Christie pose with my great grandparents, my great grandmother Brigida, and my great Grandfather Eugenio Sr (the first Galay in Kidapawan)

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The extended Galay family. I didn’t know my great aunt ninang Ludy, seated beside my great grandfather, was so pretty. My mother is to the far left standing

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My grandparents used to run a small store. Now the store is the location of Galor Pasalubong Center, owned by my great-uncle

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The store stands just in front of my great grandfather’s old house

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My grandmother was from Manila and ran away from home to marry her UST school mate in faraway Kidapawan. This photo, taken during the wedding, did not have any of her relatives.

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My grandparents served as godparents to the wedding of one of my favourite teachers in highschool, professor Damian Albete, and his wife the NDKC registrar ma’am Cora.

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My grandfather, with the then Mayor of Kidapawan, Augosto Gana, as he was sworn in as Baranggay Chairman of Lanao. The Galays are notoriously apolitical, and this is the only time someone in the family entered politics. He didn’t like his time as chairman, and he ended up resigning before his term ended.