10 Things I miss from the Philippines

After 6 years in Germany, I have also started to call this nook in the world home. I have to admit that life here is pretty good. And easy. Easy because people do what is expected of them and the need to second guess intentions or readiness or plans is eliminated because people just do what they say they would do. Plans take place even if it snows. The Pedia Clinic opens the phone lines at 8am, just like what the machine says it would. Government offices keep their word: documents reach me within the promised 1-2 weeks. Also, I can leave the flat without bringing a cent and still have fun: the playgrounds, the river, some fountains, the zoo (not free but a whole year ticket is very cheap) and my afternoon plans for the kids are met! I bring a bottle of water, some crackers, a banana and that is enough to keep them full until dinner. It is easy.

Now in comparison to my memory of our last family vacation in the Philippines 3 years ago, every time we left the house, we needed at least 200 Pesos (5€) and that didn’t even get us far. The traffic was horrendous, the heat was biting (but in this crazy April weather, I want some sun! Everyday!) Nonetheless, the Philippines is still a beautiful place to visit and there are simply things there that cannot be replicated with ease here in Europe.

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That small signage on the left side of the pic is the only one I have of a sari sari store. I can only read “store” in it.

1. The Sari-Sari Store.

Life saver! This is everyone’s go-to place for the immediate ingredients that are missing in the kitchen: sugar, a pinch of salt, pepper, 10ml soy sauce, etc., all for a peso! I’m lucky that where we live here, the asia shop is just across the street. I have friends who have to ride the tram to come to town to buy their supplies of toyo, suka, mama sita, tanglad, lumpia wrapper, luya, tawgi, etc.

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Motorela in Camiguin

2. Motorela, Tri-sikad, Habal Habal

Yes, they are the biggest source of traffic back there but every time I come out of Aldi (our Gaisano equivalent) carrying 2-3 heavy bags of groceries and have to walk the next 2 blocks to get home, I can’t help but wish a Tri-Sikad was waiting outside and that I could just get in to one and pay the driver 10Php (,20€). When I was 27 weeks pregnant with Zoe, I experienced a sudden sharp pain on the right side of my stomach. I called my family doctor to ask for an appointment. I had to walk to the tram stop to get to the clinic. The tram obviously didn’t stop right in front of the building, I had to walk 200-500 meters to get there. While this is by no means a huge distance, I was in pain, every step felt like a step closer to death. When the doctor saw me and told me it was just a case of gas, I was insistent that it was more than that. I decided to go see my Gynecologist. Again rode the tram to get there. When I got there, she confirmed that the baby was fine and couldn’t do anything more for me but if it really hurt like shit, I should go to the hospital. I walked to the hospital because no tram goes there! When I got there I was told I was at the wrong hospital. I cried. It was that painful and I could no longer take a step. All the while I was thinking if only there was a Motorela to hail and ‘pakyaw’ to get me to all the places I needed to be. The receptionist panicked when she saw my tears and called a cab for me to bring me to the right hospital. When I got there, the surgeon said my appendix was inflamed and that they needed to operate it before it ruptured and could poison both me and the baby. Imagine what a motorela could do in this situation?!

3. BananaQ, Ginanggang, Toron, Maruya, Mantiquilla, Linatikan

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My attempt at making Toron with nangka from a can!

All yummy versions of Banana! Too annoying to make here, the Bananas are usually not the right kind (they usually have the plantains from Columbia), no nangka for the toron, etc… Sometimes a friend of mine would go through the hassle of making some and I would invite myself over and bring home some to savor in the next few days.

4. BBQ, Isaw, and the like

We have a grill season here so all the grill meats are only available in mid spring until early fall. If you want to grill on any given day (like the middle of winter) you risk the ire of your neighbor plus you need to go to town to the bigger grocery stores to get the pork belly cuts that is NECESSARY to every barbecue party!

5. Sisig and Red Horse

While Germany is the home of the beer (I think) and almost every town has its own brew, nothing beats the tagay sessions on some street corner in the Philippines. While I may have graduated from drinking on the street and would really prefer the living room or backyard of a friend’s place, the tagay rounds are still my prefered form of drinking session. And the sisig that everyone digs into when the tipsy sensation takes place.

6. The Beach

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My favorite beach in the whole wide world, the whole coast of Bantayan!

White sand, black sand, grey sand, it doesn’t matter. The Philippine waters are simply the best. Ok, to claim that would mean that I would have to have a good point of comparison and while I am not as well-travelled as I would like to think, I still KNOW that the beaches of Camiguin, Siargao, Talikod, Bohol, Dumaguete, Bantayan, Malapascua, Camotes, Apo, Siquijor, El Nido, Coron are better than the North Sea, the beaches in Corfu, Croatia, Bali and yes even Sardinia (very beautiful but nothing compared to El Nido).

7. Anything Guinataan! Puso sa Saging, Talong, Nangka

When I was pregnant I cried so hard because no one can make the Guinataang Puso sa Saging for me. My friend finally said that she would try but when we couldn’t find any banana blossom in all of the asia shops in town, our appetite soured at the thought of having to settle for the canned ones from Thailand.

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My second attempt at making lechon. I ordered the meat from the butcher at 10€ per kilo!

8. Lechon!!!

While I have successfully tried to make an oven baked one, it obviously doesn’t stand a chance against those from home, sigh… Yes, I put in the tanglad, all the spices and herbs, and when my friends are all gathered in my kitchen devouring it with rice and spicy sawsawan and glasses of coke, it tastes and feels just like being back on the islands, when everyone has gone, I still think of how else to tweak it to give the pig a better taste.

9. Halo-Halo, Binignit, Maja Blanca, Cassava Cake, Biko, Puto, Suman

True, many of my Filipinas can make these, the fact that I have to annoy them to be able to have some is kinda annoying. The ease of just having them in Cogon early in the morning for less than a hundred pesos (1,50€) is what makes it a comfort food.

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My daughter eating a mango like the natives 😉 the ONLY way to do it!

10. Mangoes and Buko!

Some German friends have dissed Filipino food and I can understand that, bagoong is certainly an acquired taste, liempo can be too much for those who prefer salads and a slice of whole wheat bread and a slice or two of lyoner. But no one has ever dissed Philippine Mangoes (the ripe ones though 😉 ) Every mango should taste like ours! A yellow mango from Thailand costs 8,99€! A pregnant Filipina friend of mine bravely turned away from a mango in some asia shop in Basel, Switzerland when she saw that it cost 11 CHF (Swiss Francs, rounghly 10€, roughly 500Php).

And Buko! I can’t even explain it to my German friends here. There’s this shop here that sells bio/organic goods and one of them that is a huge hit really is this coconut juice in tetra packs which costs 2€ (~100Php) and man did it taste like shit! I was so excited to try it only to be really disappointed, and it showed in my face, my friend who recommended it highly was embarrassed. I was like, “This is NOT coconut water!”

11. My Mom (and Dad)

My parents are at number 11 because they’re not things 😉 I don’t know when I started to just really, really love them. I mean, I’ve always loved them and there was a time when I have to love them but when did this voluntary love start and this honest want to be with them and talk to them and just hang out with them? I miss them.

6 Comments

  • Leah April 17, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Beautiful post Dens! and number 11– agghh! I cried a little – it was when my sister worked abroad, we started saying “i love you’s” to each other. I miss her.

    Reply
    • Darna
      Darna April 19, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      same with me Leigh! having Danie taught me and my family to be more vocal and bring far away taught us to be even more…

      Reply
  • Aimee April 12, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    I cried a little at #11! ☺ Good post Dens. I miss you!

    Reply
    • Darna
      Darna April 13, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      I miss you too Aim! I miss my mom and my dad too. And all our senseless and “sensefull” talks.

      Reply
  • Abigail April 12, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    Beautiful post dens! I too miss the philippines and have burned my finger trying to recreate the minantikaang saging sa eskina. we are a bit spoiled in FL we get mangoes from south america that are the closest to the guadalupe mangoes for $8 a box (16 pcs in a box)

    Reply
    • Darna
      Darna April 13, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks Gail! And my goodness what a great deal on the mangoes! We do have some here from Brazil and while they’re not bad at all, they’re the “you-can’t-mango-float-out-of-them” kind… I will make Mantiquilla soon Gail! And Sylvanias! And fresh lumpia!

      Reply

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