Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Singer, Not the Song

Wisconsin Historical Images - Singer Advertising Card - Philippine Islands "Manila" (illustration based on an 1892 photograph)

Vivid! I still remember Mother's first Singer sewing machine in early 50s. Over the open cabinet of the machine she hummed Philippine folksongs; and when cabinet was closed and machine magically hidden, it became a table for her to write stories, poems and prayers. One day the one-toothed ogre caught my thumb, I let out a shriek and mother came to the rescue really worried. It was almost painless yet I was more amused by the crimson drop that slowly spurted out of my thumbnail.

The machine became her life. She patched, hemmed and created dresses for my siblings; and the only thing that worried her was sight of almost-empty wooden thread spools. The empties became wheels for my cardboard cars and airplanes.

Man, I was only about 5 or 6 when I playfully inserted a tennis ball inside the machine's wheel cage; mom was unaware and stepped hard on pedal that spun ball to my delight. Then ..gasp..I was shocked when ball wedged between a spoke and Titanic-kind of a brittle metal cage! It cracked and fell off! Mother turned white and let out a scream that would've blown a hole through ceiling and lifted corrugated iron roofing of our Pasay abode; LOL!)

Then Dad arrived home after a hard day of driving one of Manila's first Mercedes Benz taxi cabs (Manila Golden) and was fuming mad; but Nanay's hug shielded me while she explained to him that it still worked even without the safety cage.

At age 14, after briefly enrolling in a community tailoring course, I've sewn my first pair of pants. It wasn't easy but I felt like an engineer who stood on the edge of a just-finished Hoover Dam:)

However my romance with a flat, waxy, orange chalk that I used to draw patterns on cheap denim cloth ended as I thought there wasn't enough challenge in it; and I drifted to drawing comics. There was this eerie similarity in clothesmaking and drawing amateur comics. The principles that governed the elements that made storytelling flow smoothly and effectively remained the same.The intent, the yarn, patterns, colours, padding, anxiety, drama, texture, design, stitching and sometimes reverse engineering--it was delightfully visual but often cruelly formatted ; like a tight pair of jeans worn after a long winter hibernation; an anecdote I could wear but without busting the top waist button:).

In the 60's our eldest sister found office work at Singer in Port Area, Manila.

Ok Singer, let's call it quits;). Image above (Mother's First Singer) is one of new merbau experimental painting series I've been drawing from memory for the past year. Nowhere in my web search have I found anybody seriously using merbau (a natural, transluscent stain derived from merbau trees, (also called Ipil or Taal in the Philippines) as medium for painting due to the fact that merbau is only produced commercially to stain wooden furniture. Thus I believe I'm first to try this. It was very frustrating at first for it took me 8 layers to darken areas. It's like working on watercolours, although much more unpredictable. This natural stain is brilliant as it shows unique golden hues and streak when dry, unmatched by any polyemer or acrylic paint.

(Singer Sewing Machine photos from my web search)

more info here about top image

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We Are the World (sniff:(

Saw off CNN the beautiful memorial service for Michael Jackson. I was moved by Jermaine, him almost breaking up with his bold rendition of such a delicate song by Charlie Chaplin for dearest brother.

Here's my humble tribute to the Man (above). Rest In Peace MJ.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Adobo Scandal

Forget those video sex scandals, here's one that should need a Philippine Senate hearing:) and could make Mama Sita and Knorr squirm in horror.

Filipinos have cooked Adobo for more than three centuries and the dish has became globally popular through our hard-working Pinoy immigrants and overseas workers. As a matter of fact the dish (or the sauce) is now a highly commercialized and lucrative business earning motherland millions of pesos exporting canned Adobo-laced morsels and snacks.

But why on earth would a Filipino restaurateur in Sydney label the obviously Philippine National Dish something else?

It all started when a friend/cooking columnist recently reported in a local press group that she discovered in Stanmore (suburb east of Sydney) a Filipino restaurant (the name of which nary gives away the cultural background of the owner) that served Adobo but had labeled it as Pork In Soy Sauce! Asked why, he said it was for marketing purposes.

Here was my response to the group thread. You be the judge whether I'm just blowing it up and getting hyper-ventilated:) Well it really did touch a raw (rather cooked)nerve. My gastronomic tendons stretched tight upon learning of this cultural culinary slack right under our noses:


Excerpt from friend's email:
...."Just heard that there is a Filipino in Stanmore who owns a restaurant and serves ADOBO in the menu BUT calls it PORK IN SOY SAUCE. Asked why not use the word ADOBO. Answer is for MARKETING purpose kuno. How sad!"...

..and here's my knee-jerk email response:

.."Sad indeed about adobo being cooked and sold as a generic cuisine.
I really take it as an insult to all Australians of Filipino lineage especially when the culprits are
Filipinos themselves. How dare them cook something they owed our Spanish-influenced culinary tradition and not name it as such. 333 years written off by a generic label when a simple closed bracketed translation under the label adobo would have sufficed.

Of course, consumers have the right to know what they put in their mouths thus the need for description of what could be exotic dishes to them. Aussies don't go inside Filipino restaurants to eat Black Stump t-bones, do they?

Philippine Adobo (as different from the South American or Chinese varieties; e.g. above image:) is uniquely Filipino-styled from the Spanish adobado and to generically label it as pork with soy sauce trivializes the legacy of our cooking skills, the recipe, timing, amount of garlic, vinegar, salt, etc.

My oh my, a teaspoonful of soy sauce doesn't make the dish at all! (some don't even use toyo or soya sauce). May i ask, have we seen Italians sell pizza in this country labeling it as flat, round bread with a variety of toppings?

OMG, sino ba nagpapasok sa mga pinoy na iyan dito?! To translate: DKP (Diyos Ko Po), who let those Filipinos in? Har-har wonder if this adobo scandal shall intrigue Balitang Australia, Adobo Nation, Philippine news sites and blogs;-)

Hey Stanmore, wake up, grow up and boycott that joint before they label our sisig as chop-chop and kare-kare as oxtail & tripe swimming in peanut butter. Oh how I wish that Filipino restaurants in Sydney become successful and not even one of them mentally blacklisted or avoided by the community because of misguided labeling. It's never too late to correct mistakes.

Mabuhay ang Adobo, mabuhay ang mga lutuing Pinoy! (Long Live Adobo, long live Filipino cuisine!)

Here's a quick ditty I wrote to give you an idea of the name of that Filipino shop:)

Holy Mollie!
Cuddle me pink,
Owner is pork king
or the missing link:)

Enjoy Adobo everyone. Learn to cook (YouTube how-to's below) and relish the Philippine National Dish (without getting any heart trouble. Just make sure to exercise and knock off those extra cholesterol (which are naturally-occuring in our body anyway).

I can smell the garlic! Here's charming Travis with his Adobong Mah-nack;-)

Here's a brief history of adobo.