Category: Manila

Global Christmas Lights – The Filipino Paról.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog (O (Old) Christmas Tree) about Christmas decorations and how we get them from storage in our loft/attics etc at the beginning of each Christmas season. We check the plugs and fuses of our old Christmas lights and see how many bulbs still work. I think the oldest lights I have are over 40 years old and we drape them around our 45-year-old Christmas tree I had when growing up.

Last Christmas when we were in the Philippines visiting our family, we saw amazing Christmas decorations and lights almost everywhere. We bought back from halfway around the globe, one particular Christmas decoration which is popular in the Philippines. It is called a  paról.

A paról is a star-shaped or star patterned lantern, the shape representing the Star of Bethlehem that guided The Three Kings to the birthplace and manger of Jesus. A paról can come in various sizes and designs/patterns as long as it is a five-pointed star shape and can be illuminated.  They are traditionally made out bamboo and paper. Nowadays they can be constructed from materials such as plastic, glass, thick strong polythene & light metal strips  They are illuminated by candles or electric light bulbs. paróls are traditional to Filipinos at Christmas as the Christmas tree is to us.  Modern electric/battery powered paróls can produce colourful complex patterns like some of our home Christmas lights.


Global Christmas Lights – The Filipino Paról.

Parol, photo by PH Morton +

Parol by PH Morton

 Paról Light in our NW London house!


Kangkong (Water Spinach)

Kangkong, photo by JMorton

Kangkong (Water Spinach)

I love kangkong, or  called water spinach English.

Kangkong is a green leafy aquatic vegetable which is rich in vitamins and nutrients.

They have long slender leaves attached to a hollow tubular stem which is crunchy or there is a bite to it. Yummy

They usually grow in anything watery plot, in fields, swamp, lakes, river or even in bogs.

I remember that they grew near a dike in the middle of our rice field when we were still living in Marag.

Kangkong can grow rather vigorously and needed a good trim to prevent them from overpowering the water surface.  Good thing they are so edible and delicious.

I remember going into the waist-high water in our field to gather the kangkong sprouts.  I almost had a near panic attack after a carabao leech decided to attach itself to my stomach. It took ages to remove it and it seems the more you pull at it the longer its body gets, truly elastic.  That still gives me the nightmare to date.

My father did smoke whenever he plowed the field.  He would use the burning ember of the cigarette to unhook any pesky leech.

Oops, back to kangkong, they are delicious in sinigang recipes as well as blanched and made into a salad with lots of chopped tomatoes and shallots with a good dash of fish sauce.

Rev Fr Luciano Ariel Felloni of Roman Catholic Diocese of Novaliches

Rev Fr Luciano Ariel Felloni of Roman Catholic Diocese of Novaliches

I came across of this rather remarkable man just a few weeks ago.  A friend shared  Father Luciano Felloni’s  link in Facebook.

I was really pleasantly surprised when I started playing the video.  The Father was talking in fluent Tagalog.  In fact he is so comfortable with the language that I think he talks the mother tongue better than yours truly.  (Before anyone mention about the malansang isda, I do love Tagalog and Ilocano but because I don’t get to speak them everyday for 30-odd years now, my fluency sometimes needs recharging!)  🙂

He said that he is more fluent in Tagalog than in English because he came from a country, where English is not the normal medium of instruction.

This handsome disciple of Jesus, is originally from Argentina, though his ancestors are pure Italians.

Father Felloni engagingly introduced himself as Tubong Argentina(born in Argentina), Dugong Italiano (with Italian {blood} ancestry), Pusong Pinoy (with a heart of a Filipino), Bulsang Ilocano (Ilocano pocket {Ilocanos are noted for being frugal with money}).

He has been in the Philippines for more than 20 years.

He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 26. He mentioned somewhere that he used to take a bus, public transport, with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a fellow Argentinian, who of course is now Pope Francis!

Fr Felloni was given his parish church in the Philippines at the age of 29.  The church was in Payatas, located in Quezon City.  Payatas is known for being a landfill, a dumpsite.  A smokey mountain of rubbish and trash, where poverty stricken Filipinos, both young and very old make a living by picking up a bit of plastic, paper, metal, useful woods and the occasional treasures to be had.

Father Luciano worked, supported and prayed with people like these for over 10 years.  He knew their problems, he knew how they live, he knew how they survive. He knew them alright!

He is a true Filipino at heart.

Lately he has been making noises against extensive summary killing of the drug addicted, the pedlars, pushers, etc. borne from Duterte’s  ‘War on Drugs’.

I hope this priest, with his heart in the right place, will not become one of the growing statistics of these summary killings that is still rampantly going on.


Father Felloni has a social media project of turning Christians into cybermissionaries. Every morning, with his Almusalita (this is a coupling of two Tagalog words: almusal meaning ‘breakfast’ and salita means ‘word’), he shares readings from the Holy Bible.

With his beautiful homilies, he wants those who loved the readings to like, share in our ‘wall’ and tag friends with his video in Facebook.  By doing so we can all be cybermissionaries and make the word of the Lord viral.

I have been religiously doing so. 🙂

This is the best sermon ever in Tagalog and this is done by the good Father Felloni.

As Father Felloni would say, if you like this video (blog) please like it, share it in your wall and tag your friends.  Let’s be all cybermissionaries by spreading the Word of God.

Max Restaurant Vs Aristocrat Restaurant

Max Restaurant Vs Aristocrat Restaurant

Before we left the Philippines we held von voyage parties and treated our family to a couple of dinners.

Prior to Marilou’s departure for Los Angeles, on 7th July, we went to Max Restaurant in Malate.  We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, the service was good and the venue was family-friendly.

The food was so good.  We had sinigang na hipon (there were lots of shrimps on the two pots provided, Max’ signature dish of fried chicken was delicious.  It was soft and moist in the inside and crispy at the outside.

The kare-kare was to die for.  It was so delicious in itself, the bagoong that went with it was almost redundant.

The fried pork bellies were so  crunchy and good portion.

The fried bangus came with the most sour vinegar I have ever tasted that it send me coughing for a little bit.  It was delicious though.

The glasses of pineapple juices were very much appreciated.

For afters we had a very cooling, very colourful buko pandan.

The amount of the food was too much for the nine of us that we had to have doggie bags for some of the leftovers.

Anyway fun and full stomachs were had by all.

On the eve of our own departure for London on the 12, we decided to bring the family we were living behind in the Philippines to Aristocrats Restaurant, also in Malate an adjacent to Max Restaurant.

I was feeling unwell then so I was unable to go.  Instead Peter went with the Family.

After the meal they came to the hotel full of negative comments about Aristocrats.

They said it was so different from Max.

The service was atrocious.  They had to remind the restaurant staff about their orders a few times.  The food was okay to be fair but nothing special.

I think Aristocrat has become a victim of its own success.  Once upon a time, it used to be the haunt of the moneyed class.

But due to Filipinos having more disposable income, there are more customers and potential customer wanting a bit of the Aristocrat’s reputation of long ago.  Unfortunately the staff can’t cope with the increase demand, thus the service is  now rudimentary.  The waiting staff appear rather indifferent.

Peter was so annoyed that he wished now that he did not leave any trip, as the waiters did not deserve any. 🙂 🙂 🙂

So if I have to choose which restaurant to go to?  I would definitely go for Max!

Tawas by Candle (Supernatural Healing)

Tawas by Candle, photo by JMorton

Tawas by Candle (Supernatural Healing)

This time round, our visit to the Philippines is more tumultuous than past vacations, for obvious reason that we came home because our mother had passed away.

All of us have suffered from some form of ailments, mostly stomach ache, diarrhoea, stomach bug related.

It became ridiculous the amount of time we spent in the toilet and despite medication like imodium, diatabs and the likes, we continue to suffer.

There is only one thing left, consult the great lady of Necodemus in Tondo.  Apparently she has a very long experience of curing people without the expense of money and time consulting medical doctors and hospitals.

This lady of Necodemus can diagnose using candles and a bowl of water.

Sometimes, she does not even have to see the patient or know the full name.

Anyway the first one to consult the Lady of Necodemus, was Marilou.  She had not been sleeping because of acute stomach ache and the constant need to go to toilet.

The Lady of Nicodemus, did her supernatural bit by letting the tears from a lit candle fall into a bowl of water.  The tears from the candle then started to form a shape.  Marilou’s one has so much indentations and protuberance that it could only be a man.  🙂 🙂  The Lady of Necodemus said that a man (living) had hexed (usog) Marilou.  The lady prescribed Marilou a drink of a pancit pancit tea.  It seemed to have worked as Marilou finally had her good night sleep denied to her during the last few days.

When I heard about this shenanigans, I was so intrigued that I sent Dayday to the Lady of Necodemus to diagnose Peter.  Dayday said that she would go after 6pm, to ensure the power of the Lady of Necodemus was more potent.  Who am I to argue?!!! 🙂

At exactly 6pm, Dayday went and spoke to the Lady.  After the candle ritual, it was found out that Peter had not been hexed by anyone because the candles formed a very smooth shape, pretty normal.  His stomach upset was due to dinuguan, eating lots of bloodied pork!  How did the lady know about this.  Again Peter was prescribed the pancit pancit tea and to eat grilled pork and tofu.  He has not followed the advice, ergo still he still suffers from mild to acute stomach ache!

Just then my brother, who said he does not believe in supernatural hokus pokus, said that his left eye had turned red.  He said it just happened and the only strange thing that happened to him that day was meeting a cat at a hotel room that is largely not reached or occupied by paying guest.  My brother was there to fix the air-conditioning system.

Anyway Alma went to the Lady of Necodemus, who by now was absolutely perplexed by the goings on in our house in Fullon. 🙂 🙂 🙂

The lady said that we or my family in Fullon is living with a dwende (supernatural little person) in the house and that it is better to keep him undisturbed as he is harmless. Woah!!!

Also my brother seemed to have offended the spirit in the hotel and therefore he had to make amends by offering a sacrifice of 3 cigarettes, a glass of beer, a plate of food place in the darkest corner of the house.  My brother also has to say heartfelt apology.

Believe it or not!

Nostalgic Trip to Sergio Osmena High School

Nostalgic Trip to Sergio Osmena High School

After buying a new bed at Maypajo early this afternoon, Marilou and I decided to go back for some memory lane trip at the nearby Gagalangin.

Alma, our sister-in-law, asked us several times if we knew where we were going.  Marilou and I confidently replied, “Of course, we know after all for 4 years we went to Osmena!” Smirk, smirk!!! 🙂

Now, we got out and lo and behold!, everything is different, there is now a McDonald where some lovely stationery shops were once located.  Still we walked confidently following a straight path to Osmena.

It was so hot today. Thank goodness for the umbrella Alma insisted we take, at least we had some sort of cover from the punishing sun.

We had been walking more than five minutes when our confidence started to ebb.  We can’t find Osmena High School.

Good thinking Marilou, decided to ask a kind-hearted lady, who said that Osmena HS is located near the market in Bulacan.  We asked her where the old one was?

She pointed to something near a bridge.  My mind must be going as I don’t remember a bridge near our old school.  Anyway we went to a building near the bridge but it did not look or feel like the old Osmena.  We asked someone again and was told that the old building was over there, pointing to some ambulance trucks.

Luckily we met a young man near the ambulance trucks and he pointed to an ongoing huge construction behind him.  He said that was the old Osmena, pointing directly to the signage next to it.  It sure said that the project is for Osmena High School.  He did say that was not true.  This building work is for Torres High School.

If this is the case, then it is coming in full circle.

I was told that Osmena High School was originally created to take in the overflow of students from Torres High School.

Marilou and I were a couple of intrepid alumni, no doubt about that.  We decided to investigate further and look into the new Osmena High School.

We were decidedly surprised to see a well maintained gated building.  Lovely potted plants were hanging in corridors.  There was even an outside auditorium.  A bust of Sergio Osmena prominently displayed in front of the Osmena building.

Though we also noted that the girls’ toilet needed renovation, it was still a far cry from the days when we were young students of Osmena.  We made do with a building with broken windows.  We do not have a gated building with a yard so we did our flag ceremony outside where anyone can see, overlooked by anyone who lived nearby.  We marched round and round the street for our Citizen Army Training (CAT).

We were the poor relation of Torres High then, that can’t be said now.  And yet looking at the rankings of high schools in the Philippines, Torres High School ranks at #88 while Osmena is not in the list of the 220 tops.  🙂  What has happened?!!!

Taxi Vs Jeepney Vs Sidecar (Philippines)

Taxi Vs Jeepney Vs Sidecar (Philippines)

We have been going everywhere using taxi services, Uber mainly and once, Grab. A couple of times, we rode a jeepney but got a bit of a fright!

For economic sense, riding jeepney is the best choice but sometimes it can be daunting.  Especially when riding with rather suspect looking individuals/passengers.

Marilou, Dayday, Peter and I rode a jeepney travelling from Munoz to Tayuman.  There were a couple of men, one was coughing incessantly in a very threathening way, the other went to sit behind the driver as soon as some passengers got out.

The atmosphere turned rather dark and I was frightened for Peter, being a foreigner, with obviously expensive camera nonchalantly taking photos after photos on the moving jeepney.  He was ignoring my eye contact/signal as he was busy with his activity, which made me more nervous.  I was thinking which would I use as a weapon, my shoes or handbag or both as I have two hands?!!! 🙂

As soon as we got to Tayuman, the man sitting behind the driver suddenly barked “walang bababa” (no one’s going down). Thankfully Peter do not understand Tagalog and quite quick to  get out of the hot jeepney.  We thank our lucky star that we were lucky!  However, Peter got a bit frightened  and now refuses to ride a jeepney, which he once loved.

I don’t want to be negative about jeepneys; they are very cheap but we did really get a real scare.

Taxis are in umbrage with regards to Uber and Grab.  They think that Uber and Grab are taking away their business by offering cheaper fares.  Often taxis would negotiate a price rather than use the metre.  And the friendlier the driver, the more he expect extra tips.  I noticed also that they do not have SatNav and expected the passenger to know where they are going and ask for direction.  This unbalances me sometimes as I am rather weak in giving direction. 🙂

Uber are really reliable.  They are permanently connected to their control and navigation.  Of course they have situations as well.  We order an Uber once, who still has passengers.  We saw the plate number of our allotted  car and I thought it was going away, I don’t want to be charged for someone else using our uber account.  We ran after the car shouting for it to stop.  It did and the driver profusely apologised.  He said that he was just dropping off the passenger and was coming back to us.  Well we did not know that as my Uber account said our driver had arrived, but went without us.

Grab is a Southeast Asian Uber-like taxi service.  Reliable also just like Uber.

Sidecars are growing closed to my heart.  They are the most convenient as you can hail them anywhere, which means they can be a source of traffic to the road.  The drivers are energetic and friendly and lovely to Peter.  They can’t do enough for him, trying their rather fluent English with Peter, the Englishman.

Duterte @ Manila Hotel

The President’s chopper, photo by PH Morton

Manila Hotel, photo by PH Morton

Duterte @ Manila Hotel

I was so annoyed when we finally got to our hotel.  We were staying at the Manila Hotel.

Almost halfway the long drive of Manila Hotel, our uber was stopped.  Apparently it can no longer go past that point as the President, Rodrigo Duterte, was currently at the hotel attending the 2017 ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nation) conference.

It was a muggy night and rather dark everywhere.  So I complained that it was unfair to hold a meeting in an expensive hotel and putting customers out who paid good money.  I suggested, why not hold major conference in CCP or PICC or even Folk Arts Theatre?!!!

I have to say the hotel security guards as well as the presidential guards were all politeness and apologies.

We walked all the way to H20 hotel and then to Manila Hotel by foot in the dark!!!

Along the way, we noticed a helicopter, which was heavily guarded.

So again, I went mental about too much expense when Malacanan Palace, the official residence of the First Family of the Philippines, was just around the corner.

Peter very sagely reminded me of the horrendous traffic in Roxas Boulevard.  The President would have been seating in traffic for too much time that he probably doesn’t have from his busy schedule.

Ooopps, Peter was so right.

A chopper is the best presidential tool to overcome ‘tanginang’ traffic!!!  🙂

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