The long awaited, the PCV daydream, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the close of service (COS) trip.
PCVs spend the tougher days of service dreaming about the day PCV turns to RPCV and they finally get a little bit of cash to discover the region they’ve lived in for +2 years. So, upon finishing a scavenger hunt of paperwork to close out my volunteer contract with a few of my batchmates, the daydream was slowly becoming a reality. We got ready to ring the COS bell, a Peace Corps Philippines tradition, but for some reason the excitement of the future was somewhat dulled by the realization that we were all now finding ourselves unemployed and without health insurance…. After the final checks were made, and we all turned into RPCVs we sat in Peace Corps office, wondering what we were supposed to do next.
And after being coxed to leave the IRC by the air con turning off at 5, we wandered back to our hostel and in each other’s company, we pretended we were not freshly unemployed and played volunteer for a while.
But now, almost two weeks since ringing the bell, the dust has settled and I’ve realized that COS trip is a amalgamation of backpacking, job hunting, sightseeing, and attempting to have it all on a shoestring budget (and by have it all, I mean a COS trip, student loan payments, and life starting money for the states). Going from dollars to pesos was exciting! The return is a little nerve-wracking. However, for now I’ve got a few more conversions before I finally find U.S. Dollars in my wallet. My first step, the Indonesian Rupiah.
We had a quick trip in Indonesia, but as with any new place there’s so much to talk about! So, I’ve divided my time in Indonesia into 3 different stories. Island Hopping in Komodo, Diving in Penida, and Temples in Bali, all of which I’ll post through-out the week. Next week I’ll get to this weeks adventures in Malaysia, including diving in Sipadan, renowned as the best dive spot in the world!
There are certain experiences we’ve all had as Peace Corps Volunteers serving in the Philippines.
As I celebrate with my batch mates the closing of our two years of service, I wonder what sort of things we will forget about as we move on to the next chapter of our lives. What are those little things we’ve gotten so used to these past two years? What habits will we find hard to leave behind as we return home?
So here it is, my best approximation of what experiences we’ve all had through-out our time in the Philippines. This isn’t a static list so comment below and tell me what’s one thing you think all volunteers have experienced!
Happy early COS Batch Family!
10. You know FAR too much about your fellow batchmates’ bodily functions.
I don’t think this one qualifies as ‘something you didn’t notice you did here’ because it’s very obvious that we know way too much about each other’s medical history. At home you don’t really know about someone’s medical ailments unless it’s a cold or a flu you’re worried about catching. No one makes casual water cooler talk about the tapeworm they just passed, or the dengue fever they just got over. But here, sitting around a table at Pension, talking about the last time you pooped your pants or passed a parasite is pretty basic conversation, it practically comes right after asking how site is.
PCV 1: How’s site?
PCV 2: Good, did you pass that worm yet?
PCV 1: Yeah! Wanna see a picture?!
PCV 2: YES
9. You can identify a fellow PCV based solely on their water bottle.
PCV1: Did the guys from Leyte arrive yet?
PCV2: yeah I saw their water bottles in the lobby.
8. The couch in the Information Resources Center at the Peace Corps Office is the comfiest couch you’ve ever touched.
I don’t know where this couch came from, it’s probably so comfortable thanks to the generations of Peace Corps Volunteers who have napped on it before us. But it is so very comfortable and you can’t help but fall asleep a little whenever you sink back into it’s soft lumpy cushions.
7. You’re never further than an hour from a jaw-dropping gorgeous once in a lifetime paradise getaway spot…
…but because you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer and you live here, you’ve used the word ‘okay’ to describe this location.
Tourist: The sunsets here are AMAZING!
Jaded PCV: Yeah, tonight’s is okay.
6. You haven’t completely realized how much tagalog has infiltrated your regular speech until you have your first non-PCV visitor.
You: It’s bawal
5. The amount of acronyms you passively understand is a little disturbing.
4. Your proudest Peace Corps accomplishment is your impeccable budots form
Budots is a Filipino dance craze and as a Philippines PCV it is your duty to master the art of budots before you close your service.
3. You’ll never get sick of the double take tryke drivers do when you’re vacationing and you hit them with the local language.
PCV: Magkano ang pamasahe, Kuya?
Them: MAROON ANG (insert local language here)?!
2. The kindness of the Filipino people is some of the most generous kindness you’ve ever experienced.
Whether it’s your host mom sending you with 2 bushels of bananas and 5 avocados for baon, or a stranger offering you their umbrella to shade you from the sun, the generosity here is overflowing and genuine.
1. Whether it’s a tryke, jeepney, or a PCV vacation…
“Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.”
– Flora Lewis
After my most recent Language Proficiency Interview, I started thinking about words in Bicol and Tagalog I’ve come to love. I like these words for a variety of reasons, I like how they relate to Filipino culture, I like that some of them have no direct English translation, and others have become such a part of my vocabulary I use them with Filipinos and Peace Corps Volunteers alike.
This means expensive and it’s probably the tagalog word most commonly used between Peace Corps Volunteers. No one knows when it started, but now it has become synonymous with expensive.
Example: I looked into that hostel but it’s mahal so I need to find a different option.
Lang means only or just but it’s used after the subject. So if something is only 20 pesos, it would be ‘20 pesos lang’. It’s a super easy word to just tack on to every day speech and it’s an easy way to ask for clarification.
You: Tag-pira ang pamasahae? (how much is the fare)
Me: 30 pesos
You: 30 pesos lang?
Me: Oo (yes)
This word doesn’t directly translate in English. It’s used to describe the light in your stomach, racing heart feeling. Most people have explained it to me as the way you feel when you see your crush, and I think the closest English translation would be what we call ‘having butterflies in your stomach’. Learning a new language, I’ve realized how much a language says about it’s associated culture and I believe this word is a perfect example. The Philippines loves love, and they have a lot of words to describe feelings of love that we don’t have in English.
Pronounced Ma-si-ram / Ma-sa-ra-p
The first (masiram) is Bicol and the second (masarap) is Tagalog, they both directly translate to delicious. While these words are directly used to describe the taste of food, I love these words because they’re often used to describe things other than food. They’re also used to describe when something is particularly refreshing. When a strong, cool breeze blows through on a hot day, it can be described as masarap or ‘sarap.
“‘sarap ang hangin”
Or when jumping into a cold pool on a hot day, the water can also be described as ‘masarap’
“Masarap ang tubig”
5. Ate, Kuya, Nanay
Pronounced: Ah-tay, Koo-yah, and Nah-n-aye
These words mean older sister, older brother, and mother respectively, but they’re not reserved only for those people. Ate and Kuya apply to everyone and anyone. The kids in my community call me Ate Chelsea, I call tryke drivers and jeep conductors ‘kuya’. It’s used a term to get someone’s attention but it’s more informal than ‘ma’am’. I would say the term ‘nanay’ is used more as a term of endearment. When an elder woman is getting off a jeep and has to walk crouched over to the exit, the jeep conductor might tell her ‘luway luway nanay’ (slowly, slowly, nanay). I like the use of these words because it reflects the closeness of community here. I know I will miss being called Ate Chelsea.
6. Salamat sa Dios
Pronounced: Sa-la-ma-t sah Di-o-s
The first time I heard the direct translation of this phrase was after I first met my counterpart. We took a taxi from our hotel to the bus station to go to my site for the first time. When we arrived safely at the bus station, she turned to me and said ‘Thanks God’. Since then, I’ve heard the tagalog phrase used whenever something favorable happens. For example, when the fans have been off all day because of a power outage and everyone is sweaty and uncomfortable. When the power suddenly flips back on and the fans come to life, people will sigh and say ‘Salamat sa Dios’
This is a small house lizard that I can say with confidence inhabits every home of the Philippines. They skitter across the walls chasing one another and the bugs. They are welcome house guests keeping away the mosquitos and cockroaches. Sometimes they fight with one another and make loud territorial clicking noises. When I still lived at my host family’s house, our cat had a bunch of kittens and when they were big enough they started pouncing on the butiki that skittered across the floor. One time, one of the kittens caught one by the tail and the lizard quickly detached it’s tail and took off. The tail kept wriggling and kept the kitten entertained while the butiki was able to escape! Evolution, one point; Kitten, zero.
I once accidentally confused binuton (a glutinous rice snack) with butiki and my host family still won’t let me live it down because it sounded like I said I wanted to eat lizards.
8. Palay, Bigas, Kanin, Tipo
Prounounced: Pal-aye, Bee-gas, Ka-nin, Tee-po
The Philippines has a bunch of different words for different types and conditions for rice! I like these words because it’s a reflection of how important rice is here. Are there any English words that behave this way? Something Americans use different words to describe different details or conditions of one subject that other languages would just use one word to describe? If you think of one, leave it in the comments!
Palay is unmilled rice
Bigas is milled rice
Kain is cooked rice
Tipo is burnt rice
9. Niyog, Buko, Copra, Nata de coco, Gata, Lambanog
Pronounced: Nee-y-og, Boo-ko, Ko-pra, Na-ta de ko-ko, Gaa-ta, Lam-ba-nog
What do all these words have in common? They’re all words for coconut!
Niyog is a mature coconut.
Buko is green coconut that is not yet fully ripened. At this stage the coconut contains coconut water, or buko juice. Sometimes entire coconuts are sold on the side of the road. A kuya will cut off the top so you can drink all of the buko juice. When you’re finished with the juice, they’ll cut it in half for you and fashion a spoon out of the piece they cut off the top earlier. Then you use the coconut spoon to scrape the sides of the middle for the buko meat. Buko and buko juice is one of the food items I will absolutely miss the most. The coconut water in the USA just CANNOT compare with juice from a fresh coconut!
Copra is dried coconut. Whenever things need drying they’re laid out on the sides of the road in the Philippine sun. So, it’s not uncommon to pass sections of the street covered in copra (usually there is still a narrow lane for vehicles) drying out. You can usually smell these areas before you see them because they have a pungent, somewhat sour, smell. When the copra is done drying the meat is used for coconut oil.
Nata de coco- fermented coconut water (Wikipedia) the coconut water gels together when fermented and creates a jelly that is used in buko salad, a filipino dessert.
Gata is coconut milk which you can get fresh at any filipino market, however it may not come how you expect it to. The inside of the ripe coconut is shredded and put into a bag. You use this to make coconut milk by pouring hot water over it and squeezing the pulp with your hands. Then you drain the milk from the pulp, and viola you have gata!
Lambanog has been explained to me as coconut wine, but I believe it’s closer to a spirit than a wine (EDIT: Lambanog is a distilled coconut spirit, Thanks Kenny!). It’s made of fermented sap from coconut flowers or palms and it is a strong but cheap alcohol, commonly drank in tagay circles on the beach.
This is a style of drinking where people sit in a circle with a bottle of alcohol, wine, or beer, in the middle. They then pass around one cup. The person who has the cup pours a little into the cup, finishes it, and passes it to the next person who repeats the process. In the Philippines this is primarily used to describe this method of drinking, but between my batchmates and I we use it to describe consuming almost anything in this, one serving-pass it on, fashion.
Example: Wanna tagay the last slice of pizza?
What’s your favorite word (in any language!) and why? Post it in the comments below!
For my first story let’s go back to the beginning…
The beginning of service can be A LOT. Every day is a neurological overload because, whether you notice it or not, culture completely saturates every aspect of our lives. I didn’t realize this until long after I went through the overwhelming days of culture shock. But everything we do, from your reaction to someone sneezing, the way you get someone’s attention, to your reflexive action to pick up a certain utensil to eat your breakfast with, it’s all rooted in your cultural background.
I spent every day having my reactive behaviors being picked apart. I spent the other half of the day trying to figure out the inner workings of what would be my home for the next 2+ years. On top of that, I was simultaneously trying to pick out words I recognized from the conversations occurring around me and attempting to participate without completely embarrassing myself. Some of the jokes made in those first couple weeks, I didn’t understand until a full YEAR later. Which brings me to my first story.
When you first arrive at site you have to do a bunch of ‘courtesy calls’. These are basic introductions to the important people in your new community. I did courtesy calls with my counterpart to my mayor, SB (Sangguniang Bayan), Home barangay Capitan and council, among others. During each of these, I used these basic lines of my local language:
Marhay na Aga. [Good Morning]
Ako po si Chelsea [I am Chelsea]
Peace Corps Volunteer ako [I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer]
Nagta-trabaho ako ni coastal resource management [I work in coastal resource management]
Baynte-dos anyos na ako [I’m twenty-two]
Taga-New York ako [I’m from New York]
Nakaistar ako sa Trece Martirez [I live in Trece Martirez]
Then I would be asked a few follow up questions I didn’t understand, would wrap it up with a strong ‘Salamat po’ [Thank you] and head out. My counterpart would talk to my officemates and tease me for my language skills, I couldn’t understand most of it, but she would focus on the way I pronounced ‘ako’. I didn’t really hear the difference but I also wasn’t brave enough to ask. So, I let it go and quietly studied language, tediously watching what I would choose to voice out-loud.
Fast forward a year later, I was a resource volunteer for the new batch of volunteers.
This meant I got to attend their community-based training. This is where new volunteers live in a community with host families and attend daily classes that focus on a range of topics such as language, culture, coastal resource management, safety and security, and medical. During one of the technical coastal resource management sessions we took a trip to a neighboring municipality to visit a fisherfolk organization. At this meeting they got to practice that beloved introduction they would learn to recite on command at their permanent sites.
I had gone through similar training and so I just sat back and watched the new trainees practice their language skills…that was when I heard it.
The harsher longer vowel sounds, where the vowel says its own name, are more common in American dialects. These don’t exist in Filipinos dialects. The letter ‘a’ is more commonly pronounced as ‘ă’ rather than ‘ā’. However, as a fresh little volunteer stubbornly sticking to my American accent, I was still using the harsher longer ‘ā’ sound in my introductions when I first got to site. Which, as a resource volunteer with a year of service under my belt, I will admit sounds very funny.
I just glanced at my last blog post and it was nearly 5 months ago! I lost my momentum there for a while. Hopefully my plan for the next two months will make up for leaving you all in the dark for so long! Check it out…
Nearly two years ago, we were given this neat little piece of paper that enumerated each part of service. Each one of our conferences was on there with however many months at site sat between them. But no matter how close it drew, Close of Service Conference always seemed like a distant event. The last Peace Corps Philippines Conference I would attend in my service. Even as we pulled up to the same hotel for the last time. The one we were at for our Work Partners Conference in September 2016 and our Mid-Service Training in October 2017, all I could think was ‘there’s no way it’s almost been two whole years!’
Of course, it absolutely has. So, we walked into the same hall for our ‘Welcome Dinner’ and as we looked at the chairs and tables arranged in the center of the room, we noticed how our group had shrunk over the past two years. We went from a group of +70 individuals at our Staging Event in Los Angeles to now just 35 tough cookies** at our last Peace Corps Philippines Conference.
**We had a few interrupted service cookies who had to end their service early for a variety of reasons but would have made it to COS Conference had Peace Corps allowed them to!
While we waited for our Training Director to make his opening remarks, we all peeked over at the dinner buffet. Sir Boni always tries to treat us to some western style food at these gatherings, to give us a little taste of home. Let me tell you we were NOT disappointed by a pizza pie the size of a small child AND a burrito/taco bar.
The next three days were spent eating cheese, discussing the end of service, talking about what life might be like when we return to America, and of course, celebrating having made it to the final countdown. On the last day staff surprised us with confetti cannons and balloons. COS Conference in it’s entirety made me realize this two-year adventure is quickly drawing to a close.
Picture Credit: Jessica Schulte
I’ve spent roughly 700 days in the Philippines up to this point. THE longest amount of time I’ve spent outside the United States in my entire life. When I signed up for this trip just about 2 and a half years ago, that was all I knew I was bound to achieve when it was all over. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, or how to even begin to imagine what I would be like at the end of this experience.
It’s been a long bumpy road getting here and looking back at the stories I’ve chosen to share here with you all, I’ve realized there are plenty of stories I haven’t told. Either due to their passing too quickly, or just accepting them as a part of daily life. So, in my last two months of service, I’d like to retell those stories I’ve omitted. The stories that have slipped through the cracks but are no less important to the wholeness of my time here in the Philippines. Some will be short, and some will be lengthier, but I hope to post about one a week up until my COS date in August.
The period of time after Halloween and before Thanksgiving in the United States is a grey area. It’s not quite Christmas, but it’s also no longer that spooky pre-Halloween time. We all know those eager Christmas junkies that break out their Christmas decor on November 1, and can be heard humming holiday carols at all times of the day. The ladder, is the group of people who aren’t quite ready to embrace the ‘most wonderful time of the year’.
In my opinion, Christmas starts right after everyone has filled themselves to the brim with Thanksgiving dessert and the whole family settles into the couch and to watch the movie ‘Elf’.
So for those not quite ready to let Fall go, here is a post-Halloween article about the ghost and ghouls that haunt the Philippines.
In America we have things like vampires, ghosts, bigfoot, demons and spirits. And we all know at least one or two good ghost stories. Whether we’ve experienced the supernatural ourselves, or we’re relaying a story we heard from a friend, there’s nothing quite like a spooky tale that sends chills down your spine. The Philippines is no different! There are ghosts and ghouls that haunt this corner of the world too. I could explain them all, but I think this video does them more justice than I ever could:
The supernatural world is still alive and active in the Philippines, there are precautions to be taken in order to limit your vulnerability to the hurtful spirits. Like saying ‘tabi tabi po’ when passing by an area well known for Encantado (american equivalent would be a fairy). If you do find yourself effected, healers can be found in every City, Municipality, Barangay, and Situ. They are the ones that can heal ailments that cannot be cured by doctors or medicine. When I was sick a few months ago, the first thing I was asked was if I had offended anyone, as they may have put a curse on me. A quick diagnosis by Nanay determined I was ‘really sick talaga’ and had not been cursed.
But now that it’s drawing closer and closer to Christmas (and there’s no Thanksgiving to perpetuate the Fall) the spooky stories are being put away for next season, and the Christmas trees are being decorated with tinsel and lights. Hopefully I’ll spend my last Christmas in the Philippines in Casiguran, and not consolidated for another Typhoon!
If there’s one conversation that is surprisingly similar whether I’m in the United States, or the Philippines, it’s about where I’m from.
[In the United States]
Stranger: Where are you from?
Me: I’m from New York
Stranger: The city?
Me: No, I’m from upstate
Stranger: Oh like Syracuse?
Me: Umm, not quite that far upstate…
[In the Philippines]
Friendly Ate: Taga-saan ka? (Where are you from?)
Me: Taga New York ako. (I’m from New York)
Friendly Ate: aaaaahhyyeee New York City?! The Big Apple?!
Me: haha, uhhh actually dai sa New York City. Malaking an New York. (Not the city, New York is big)
Friendly Ate: ah okay, pirang an oras sa city? (how many hours to the city?)
Me: siguro cero o duwang oras. (one or two hours)
[Friendly Ate still thinks I’m from the city because an hour jeep ride doesn’t get you very far in the Philippines]
To be fair, the United States is huge. Even Americans find it difficult not to generalize when it comes to understanding where someone is from. For New Yorkers who aren’t from the city though, this can be a bit of a sore spot.
So, here are some pictures to help paint a clearer picture of where I’m from.
Small Town USA
Small Town USA
My favorite apple Orchard
St Mary’s Catholic Church
Where I’m from can be referred to as ‘Small Town USA’. There are no skyscrapers, no subways, no busy sidewalks and certainly no yellow taxi cabs. I live among farms, orchards, and forests on the outskirts of a few small towns. These towns have certain features that you may not find in the city, but are nonetheless, iconic to New York.
Fresh produce at Roe’s Orchards
Apples Apples Everywhere!
Betty’s Country Kitchen, a local diner
Smiling faces at Betty’s Country Kitchen!
A few of these features include Apple Orchards, Pizzerias, and Diners; and in preparation for my visit home these were all on my ‘to do’ list.
Visiting my favorite apple orchard for it’s crunchy sweet corn, the crisp juicy apples, and the ripe delicious blueberries. Luckily, I came home in the correct season when the orchard was open! In New York we can’t harvest these fruits and vegetables all year around because we have such drastic seasons. Most fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest at some point during the summer, or the beginning of fall.
Eat as much New York Pizza as I possibly could. Each small town I’m surrounded by has at least one pizzeria (if not 2 or 3). Truthfully, I had forgotten just how good New York Pizza was!
Eating at a diner. Diners are unique to the Northeast, and Midwest USA. They have a wide selection of food, and you can eat whatever you want at any time of day. In the mood for pasta at 6am? You’ve got it. Feeling like pancakes at 9pm? Still on the menu! ALSO, most diners are open 24/7 making it a perfect late night road trip stop. The diner featured above has a warm and welcoming feel to it, and has become the heart of my hometown.
And of course, what’s home without family!
My Grandpa makes the best steak!
Me and my sister Tiffany at our cousin’s wedding
My best friend, I avoca-don’t know what I would do without her.
My dog Maisy is not too happy about me leaving again
My baby sister Quinn at her brand new college
Besides getting to visit my favorite state, I also got to see a bunch of my favorite people (and canines!). Not all of them were in New York but a bit of travel was well worth seeing their smiling faces after over a year of living in the Philippines.
My last New York feast for another year, with my favorite faces around the table!
Penny the new addition to the Fowler Family. She’s an odd pup
My beautiful cousins
A quick stop to Florida to visit family and friends!
We’ve been friends for almost 20 years, a trip to NY wouldn’t be complete without seeing Gabi.
After an unforgettable two weeks home, 77 hours of travel, countless hugs and laughs, enough pizza, cheese, and bagels to get me through another year, and about 40 kilos of pasalubong, I’m back in the Philippines once again!
Trading the brisk breeze of my New York, for the humid habagat of my Philippines.
This month is all about my home province. Almost every weekend I was able to experience corners of my province with my officemates and fellow Peace Corps volunteers. Beautiful beaches, and stunning wildlife, southern Bicol has got it all!
Just a few kuyas hanging out in the shade in front of a beautiful waterfront vista, enjoying the shade on a hot day. The summer months may be the hottest months, but they’re also the months most popular for sightseeing and traveling.
2. I do live on an island…
I’m never too far from a gorgeous beach.
3.Tour ni Sorsogon
My mayor took my entire LGU on a tour of the province this past month. Barcelona was one of our last stops.
4. Street Meats
Down skinny city streets there are food stands squished together, one right after the next. These stands are surrounded by crowds of people picking up a quick merienda before continuing on their way. Common street foods include adidas (chicken feet), chicken isaw (chicken intestines), kwek-kwek (hard boiled and fried quail eggs), banana-cue (fried and sugared banana), and lumpia (similar to spring rolls)
5. ‘Local Guide ako’
This month I helped out showing visitors around our bay. As we cruised along I talked about our mangrove forests and species of mangrove we were passing. 9 months here and I’ve earned the badge of ‘local guide’.
6. Tahong or Asian Green Mussels
One of our most prominent exports is tahong, or Asian green mussels. These mussels are grown on to bamboo sticks under the water. Tahong operators dove down and brought up the growing mussels for our visitors to look at.
The whale shark is locally known as the ‘butanding’. Butanding watching is one of the most well known tourist destinations in my province. Being here for 9 months I have often been asked if I have seen the butanding yet. Now I can finally say YES! What an amazing experience! Swimming with the largest fish in the ocean through water thick with plankton. His giant mouth could easily fit a full grown human being, but lucky for us he would rather feed on the tiny plankton. His little eyeball followed me as my stubby human legs kicked hard to keep up with his lazy giant tail sways. This particular shark was only around 5m long. He was accompany by 5 or 6 remoras suctioned to his skin, picking up a free ride on this gentle giant.
8. My Favorite Place To Be, Under the Sea
If SCUBA tanks didn’t have limitations I’m not sure you could ever convince me to come to the surface, especially in a place like Donsol. Donsol is in my top two as far as dive sites go. So much interesting life; seahorses, nudibranchs, sea snakes, manta rays, feather stars, and colorful walls of soft corals. If anyone knows someone working on a pair of human gills, let me know.
9. The Alien Feather Star
Feather stars are one of the most interesting looking critters. They are in the same phylum as the starfish, Echinodermata. Normally these animals are attached to some sort of substrate, either a rock, or large coral. However, if they aren’t getting enough food, or if that place becomes unfavorable for another reason, they can move to a different spot. We were lucky enough to see a few of them swimming. Their arms, usually used for filter feeding, quickly pulse downward through the water propelling the animal off the ground and upward. Here’s a clip by Nat Geo of the mystifying swimming feather star. One of my new favorite animals.
Nudibranchs are sea slugs, but they are much more interesting than that name implies. There are 3,000 species of these colorful Gastropods and new species are identified almost daily. The term Nudibranch means ‘naked gills’. It’s given this name because the feathery appendages seen on its back are its gills. These critters are incredibly diverse coming in all shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns.
That’s all for this month! I hope you learned something new about marine life and are more motivated than ever to come visit me here in the Philippines.
Similar many other traditions in filipino culture, this is a fun and light-hearted activity that takes place at many family reunions, and fiestas.
The Boodle Fight is a style of eating. As a Philippine Military Academy tradition, cadets would gather around a long table of foods arranged on top of banana leaves and eat together ‘kamayan’ or with your hands. This tradition is said to perpetuate oneness, and equality, as soldiers of different ranks would partake in one boodle fight. Haphazardly, a boodle fight is also every person for themselves as the food is ‘fought’ over until not a grain of rice remains!
So how does one survive a boodle fight? Having participated in three this past week, consider me your personal spirit guide on all things boodle fight related.
First things first, battle field preparation
The table arrangement is very important. The table must be long enough to accommodate an entire platoon of family and friends, but also must be wide enough to hold plenty of rice, ulam (main dish), soups, sauces, and fruits.
Once you are content with your table arrangement, all of the tables must be dressed with banana leaves. Don’t worry about not having enough to cover the table, there’s always a nearby banana tree with some leaves to spare if you’re running short.
Second, What’s a Boodle Fight Without Food?
Of course you MUST have food. Be sure to cook plenty of rice as this will run down the table in two thick lines. Have plenty of rice on reserve to replenish throughout the boodle.
Most of the boodle fight food is prepared on a grill over charcoal. The grill requires two Ates. While one person grills, the other fans the coals and the chefs because the Philippine summer is MAINIT-ON (the hottest). Of course not all of the ulams are prepared over the grill, a stew or two is usually on the table as well. Be sure to have plenty of ulam options, but also be wary of your table’s carrying capacity.
FINALLY, THE SET-UP
Each ‘section’ of the boodle fight table must have equal reachability to all the different types of ulam. This gets particularly tricky when you have to fit 6 different ulams, as well as sauces and fruits, all within the reachability margin. But don’t despair, it is possible. It may take a few rounds of rearranging, but it is possible to fit various ulams, soups, sauces, and fruits between the two rows of rice.
TIPS: BOODLE FIGHT ETIQUETTE
There are a few ‘do’s and don’ts’ that go along with boodle fighting.
First, do not start early.
The food may look delicious, but you must not start a second before the person in charge says so. Keep those hands ‘taas-on an kamay!’ (hands up high!)
Second, do not switch spots.
This is highly frowned upon (and why it’s so important that all the different ulams are equally reachable from every spot).
Third, when you’re finished clear out!
Move out the way for the next round of hungry fighters!
Finally, have fun and stuff your face!
No one leaves a boodle fight ‘gutom’ (hungry).
To my Filipino readers, post in the comments section any steps, tips, or tricks, I may have missed!