Thursday, December 14, 2006

There's no place like home (revised)

(Note: This post has been revised and updated. Changes and additions are written in italics.)

"Ok, Dorothy, just click those ruby slippers, follow your heart and say..."

Two days ago, I wrote about my fascination for snow and how I wished we have it here in our country so I could ski and make snow angels this Christmas. The post attracted a number of comments, most of which expressed appreciation for its candor and vivid descriptions of how we Filipinos celebrate the holiday season. Surprisingly, all of these comments were from people residing in the US.

In my 2 and a half months of blogging, I never thought nor imagined that my blog would be received by such a wide audience. And that a nurturing, open-minded host of diverse nationalities would adopt me as part of their blogging family.

For this, I am equally amused and flattered.

Let there be no mistake, I may be yearning for snow but I love being a Filipino. I am proud of the color of my skin and like Dorothy, I can say that there’s no place like home. There’s no place like the Philippine soil.

And so, it goes. I feel I have to do this. It is my responsibility – as a Filipino and as an adopted son to my blogging family, the only brown boy amidst white men and women - to tell you more about my beloved country.

If you really don’t care much about it, then stop reading. This post is not for you. But, if you are like me and a handful of people who would like to enrich their knowledge about different cultures, then by all means, carry on.

The Philippines is home to 7,1007 islands and some of nature’s greatest wonders. There’s the Rice Terraces, for instance, whom some tourists say, is the 8th wonder of the world. Carved by the Ifugaos using only their bare hands hundreds of years ago, the terraces from the rocky mountain of Banaue is about 4,000 feet above the sea level. The total outline of this architectural wonder, otherwise known as the "stairways to the sky" is about 13,500 miles long, or about half the globe's circumference and ten times the length of the Great Wall of China.

We are also home to the world’s smallest volcano - Taal Volcano, a 406-meter-high crater, described as "a crater within an island within a lake" because it stands as an island at Taal Lake.

And, the world’s largest eagle -, the Philippine eagle. Not to mention some of the world’s finest beaches like Boracay, Palawan, and Siargao, and a host of other species you can only find in the country.

Filipinos are generally, happy people. We smile, even when we have problems. We laugh, even at times of crisis. We crack jokes about our own trials and tribulations. Where else can you find a TV coverage of a flashflood where children riding in make-shift bancas wave at the camera in delight, grabbing their 15 minutes of fame, while their house is sinking underwater? We make jokes about “Erap”, (deposed President Joseph Estrada) even if he is listed as the 10th most corrupt leader in the world.

The Philippines is home to internationally-acclaimed talents. Here’s a list of famous celebrities who have Filipino blood running on their veins:

Theater: Lea Salonga, a Tony and Laurence Olivier awardee for her performance in Miss Saigon in Broadway.

Film: Dean Devlin (director/producer of Independence Day, Godzilla and The Patriot), Tia Carrere, Lou Diamond Philips, Phoebe Cates and Rob Schneider.

Music: Nicole Scherzinger (lead singer of Pussycat Dolls), of the Black Eyed Peas, Jasmine Trias (American Idol 3rd placer), Mutya Buena of Sugababes and Jocelyn Enriquez, Julio Iglesias Jr. and Enrique Iglesias.

Here’s another music trivia – did you know that Latina-American pop star Christina Aguilera lost to Filipina vocalist Josephine Roberto aka Banig during the International Star Search years ago? In a mid-1999 MTV chat, she said that competing against someone of Banig's age was "not fair." Banig was a few years younger then than Christina. Hmmm…

Sports: Manny Pacquiao (who has beaten almost all of Mexico’s toughest warriors on the boxing ring including Erik “El Terible” Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera), Efren “The magician” ‘Bata’ Reyes (who has conquered the World 9 ball billiards championship so many times, he has become a living legend), bowling olympian Paeng Nepomuceno, and Eugene Torre, the first ever international Grandmaster from Asia who won at the Chess Olympiad in Nice, France in 1974

Speaking of movies, did you know that a lot of your favorite Hollywood films were shot in the Philippines? Among them are: Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Missing In Action, The year of living dangerously, Thirteen Days, Born on the 4th of July, Brokedown Palace, An officer and a gentleman, and Hamburger Hill, among others.

Filipinos are a freedom-loving bunch. We were conquered, not once, not twice, but thrice! But our ancestors have always shown them that we Filipinos can really fight when our freedom is threatened.

First attempt was made by the Spaniards, led by no less than Ferdinand Magellan. It is also the reason why our country is called as such, as Magellan christened it after King Philip II of Spain. Unfortunately, it was also the last time he set foot on land, as brave Lapu-Lapu (a Filipino sultan or warrior) ended his life, also ending his circumnavigation of the globe.

The second was the Japanese, coinciding with World War 2. And the third, well, you guessed it right, the Americans. Though among the three, The Philippines lost on The Filipino-American Independence War from 1898 to 1902, and was colonized until 1946, when we regained our Independence.

It is in the Philippines where the first peaceful revolution began. The 1986 Edsa revolution is known worldwide as the first ever peaceful revolution. People fought soldiers, and blocked tanks using human barricades, holding hand in hand using only rosaries, flowers, and the power of prayer to oust the Marcos regime.

We are the first in Asia, to elect a female ruler. That's President Corazon Aquino, presiding the then fleeting Ferdinand Marcos. Right now, we have another female president in the presence of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who rose to power because of Edsa 2. That's right, folks, there was a sequel.

We invented some of the world’s greatest inventions. A Filipino, by the name of Eduardo San Juan, invented the moon buggy. That’s right, the one that Neil Armstrong and his crew used to land in the moon. We also invented the fluorescent lamp. Thomas Edison discovered the electric light bulb and the fluorescent lighting was thought up by Nikola Tesla. But the fluorescent lamp we use today was invented by Agapito Flores, a Filipino scientist. And of course, how can we forget Roberto Del Rosario? He, after all, is the inventor of the Karaoke Sing Along System. (See “Sing it like you mean it” post below).

Filipinos love food, period. We are, naturally hearty eaters. Aside from three square meals a day, we’ve snacks in between – meriendas at 9 am and 3 pm. And if we stay up late, we have midnight snacks as well. We cannot drink beer without “pulutan” or any food served. We are also fond of using condiments whenever we eat – there’s vinegar, “patis” or fish sauce, soy sauce, “bagoong” or shrimp paste, “Mang Tomas sarsa” or lechon gravy, and the likes. I myself cannot eat without patis, suka, toyo (soy sauce), seasoning and catsup near the dining table.

The Philippines is the third largest english-speaking nation, next to the US (of course) and the UK.

There you have it. Just a string of facts about us Filipinos and our beloved country. I’m sure there are a lot more out there that I am unaware of – side stories, heritage passed from one generation to the next, that I, nor the internet are fully unaware of. For now, however, this collection of info would do, so you could get to know us better.

“The world is a small place, and we are but tiny creatures roaming around, bumping along each other. Why then, don’t we introduce ourselves to one another?”

I hope you find this post even the slightest bit informative and entertaining.

Thank you all for reading.


Whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Thank you so much for sharing that! Some of it I knew but most of it I didn't and I appreciate you taking the time to inform me. I might have to hold Rob Schneider against you though. I really can't stand him.

skeet said...

I, for one, thank you for this. One of the most wonderufl things about living in Hawaii is the wonderful blend of cultures. I have Filipino neighbors and have learned a lot from them about their culture and especially about Filipino foods, but I know next to nothing about the country. I'm looking forward to the next installment!

And, in case you didn't know, we also claim Tia Carrere and Jasmine Trias. In the spirit of aloha, we will continue to allow the validity of your own claim. ;0)

russkal said...


Glad you like it. Can't blame you for Rob Schneider though, the guy's starred in a lot of tasteless comedies for sure.


You're welcome. So you're from Hawaii! Aloha! We sure have a lot of Pinoys there. And you're right, though they have Filipino blood in their veins, Tia Carrere and Jasmine Trias were both born and raised in Hawaii.

Whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I love the additions! I have seen pictures about the rice terraces before and found them fascinating. It's great to hear more about them. Again, thanks for sharing with us.

The Wizened Wizard said...

Thank you so much! I am way too ignorant about the world beyond my woods...

The rice terraces really impress me. Interesting that there are some similar (though much smaller, I believe) mountainous terraces in South America. If the earth could talk, it would speak a tale quite unknown to us white folks. The little volcano is neat too.

Now I will have to go have a look at my cookbook collection to see if I have any Philippino recipes that would be good for snacking on while singing karaoke! (Our mic's and speakers are about ten feet from where I sit).

Good post, Russkal.

Meander said...

oh wow! i am so impressed! this was so well had my interest from start to finish! this is one of the great things about blogging is that you can learn so much about different cultures. keep writing...we are reading!

Cinderella said...

Awesome.....Nicole from PCD is one talented lady! It was great of you to write about YOU, it's nice getting to know truly is.

Dirk_Star said...

Awesome post!

You've out done yourself!

What don't I know about your wonderful country now?

skeet said...

Ah! Even better with the additions. Mahalo!

russkal said...


The rice terraces is really a work of wonder. I've been there 2 summers ago and it was worth the looong trip.


Good to know you enjoy karaoke too. Maybe I can send you some Pinoy recipes to feast on while singing.


I'm just beginning to discover the power of blogging. Looking at it the other way around, I've learned a lot from your culture too, even if I haven't been there, just by reading your posts.


That Nicole is one foxy lady, isn't she? They just had a concert here in Manila, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch. Guess I'll have to be contented staring at her huge photo wearing a local brand's lingerie in a billboard.


Gee... a compliment coming from the Lord of the Blogger himself. I am flushed all over.


Mahalo to you too! Only I am sure what it means, but, it sounds nice so I'm using it.

Once again, thank you all for appreciating this post.

skeet said...

Mahalo = Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi russkal! We are Miriam College seniors conducting an exploratory thesis on the nature of blogging among Filipinos. As it is still a new topic, our study may be one of the first of its kind in the country.

You have passed our criteria to be one of the research participants in our study. Willing participants will be sent a few questions regarding their blogs (e.g. what motivates them) and will be asked to respond through e-mail. If you accept our invitation to be part of our thesis, we would appreciate you sending a blank email to

Thank you!

Dirk_Star said...

By the by, are those your red slippers?

russkal said...


Salamat. That's thank you in Filipino


"Willing participants will be sent a few questions regarding their blogs (e.g. what motivates them) and will be asked to respond through e-mail."

What? I don't even get to meet my interviewers? C'mon...

We can have midnight snacks while I answer your questions. Meander here can prepare some of her lovely tea to keep us awake. Won't you dear?


Don't be silly. Mine's made of glass and is size 13. Sshh... don't tell the evil step-sisters...

Kat said...

Oh what a neat post - thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you! :)

Dirk_Star said...

Congratulations on being a recipient of a 2006 Eddie Award.

The Wizened Wizard said...

Congratulations, fellow Eddie Awarder! Now wasn't that arduous revising worth it all? I hope we can all keep this fame from overwhelming us!

Carlo said...

Great post! You forgot about Dave Batista of the WWE. He's half-Filipino, half-Greek.

Dirk_Star said...

Merry Christmas!

I'll see you after the holiday.

russkal said...


Thanks for reminding me. Who could forget about the "Batista Bomb?"


Hold on... you should check my new post!

Pepper said...

What an education. I found your post very informative. I am putting it down on my list of places I would love to visit.

russkal said...


Thank you. Lemme know if your lil house on wheels is coming over, so I can cue the festivities.

Merry Christmas!