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Shining for half a century

Sinag: A Festival of Radiance showcases the CCP’s 50 years of excellence in the field of performing, literary, visual and multi media arts and its continuing partnership with its regional network




ARWIN Quiwa, a fifth generation artisan from a renowned family of lanternmakers. ORLY DAQUIPIL

In celebration of its 50th anniversary that begins this September, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) renews its partnership with the legendary craftsmen of San Fernando City, Pampanga, for a showcase of lights billed “Sinag: A Festival of Radiance,” slated to launch on 19 September, 7 p.m., at the CCP Front Lawn at the CCP Complex in Pasay City.

Every evening, until 5 January 2020, lanterns will glimmer in a light and sound spectacle that will delight passersby, tourists and visitors to the Complex. The annual lighting of the CCP facade, which started several years back, has become a beloved tradition which the community looks forward to each year.

The unique partnership of the CCP with San Fernando, celebrated the world over for the beauty and grandeur of its giant lanterns, is further enhanced by the art installation of award-winning multimedia artist Abdulmari “Toym” Imao Jr. and the Pampangan craftsmen from the renowned family of lantern makers, now led by fifth-generation artisan Arvin Quiwa.

Music for “Sinag: A Festival of Radiance” was specially commissioned by the CCP. National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera wrote the lyrics of “Pagdiwang sa Ginintuang Pagsilang” with music and orchestration by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab.

Imao’s installation, which will be placed at the CCP Front Lawn, will consist of a 20-feet, lantern-type sundial representing the role of arts and culture in society over time, as well as a reiteration of the CCP’s pursuit of “truth, goodness and beauty” in stylized Old Tagalog script or baybayin over the clouds on the facade. It will combine traditional arts with the magic of modern technology interacting with promenaders, offering pure enjoyment of the nightly spectacle.

“Sinag: A Festival of Radiance” showcases the CCP’s 50 years of excellence in the field of performing, literary, visual and multimedia arts and its continuing partnership with its regional network.
For more information, call the CCP through Renee Manay at 832-1125 local 1424.

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Vibrant passage through Manila history

Roel Hoang Manipon



The centerpiece of the Lagusnilad Underpass is the mural created by NCCA and Gerilya.

Passageways — tunnels, underpasses, bridges — have become spaces for commerce and, recently, for recreation and culture.

Otherwise regarded as structures to pass through, these utilitarian spaces, such as those in Manila, have become decrepit and dank for many years. The Lagusnilad Pedestrian Underpass, for instance, have been congested with all sorts of stalls like in a market place.

Built in 1963, the Lagusnilad Pedestrian Underpass, which connects Manila City Hall and Intramuros, is one of the oldest underpasses in the country, along with another nearby underpass, which also leads to Intramuros from the Metropolitan Theater of Manila and Mehan Garden. Lagusnilad primarily refers to the nearby vehicular underpass, that branches out to Taft Avenue and Padre Burgos Avenue.

The Lagusnilad Underpass became part of Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso’s cleaning, beautification and rehabilitation efforts for the historic city, particularly the Lawton area that includes Manila City Hall and several prominent structures.

In spite of the controversy it gained, the underpass was cleared of vendors and stalls, and cleaned. The rehabilitation began in November 2019 and cost P5 million — the amount said to have come from donations from private companies like Boysen Paints, as well as government agencies such as the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA).

The renovated underpass was unveiled on 24 August in a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Moreno and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna. It is in a modern style accented by Spanish colonial elements, designed by architect Antonio Toledo. Vertical gardens near the entrances greet passersby. Directions in the signage glow with light, translated in the Old Tagalog abugida or . The walls feature large, lit photographs of Manila tourist and historic spots such as the Santa Ana Church, the San Sebastian Cathedral, the Manila Post Office Building, and the Rizal Monument.

The underpass redevelopment was designed by architect Juanito Malaga, John Benedict Fallorina, Sean Patrick Ortiz and Leon Centeno Tuazon, all alumni of the University of Santo Tomas, in collaboration with Manila’s Department of Engineering and Public Works.

Raven Angel Rivota of the Far Eastern University, Edrian Garcia and John Leyson created the signs.

Aside from the design, persistent issues such as flooding have been addressed by the National Capital Region branch of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Security and vagrancy are handled by the Manila City Security Office and Department of Tourism, Culture and Arts of Manila. CCTV cameras were installed and are connected to the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office command center. An interactive information desk has also been set up.

Vendors are not allowed in the underpass, but a section has been reserved for Books from Underground, a popular and beloved stall of second-hand, inexpensive and even hard-to-find books. The bookstore was closed down during the clearing operations in July 2019, much to the chagrin of many people. It is returning in a renovated space to continue catering to book lovers, teachers and students.

The centerpiece of the refurbished Lagusnilad Underpass is a mural called Masigasig na Maynila (Vibrant Manila). In partnership with the City Government of Manila, Against All Ads, and Boysen Paints Philippines, the NCCA, through its Arts in Public Spaces program led by visual artist and former head of the NCCA National Committee on Visual Arts Egar Talusan Fernandez, commissioned the art collective Gerilya to create the artwork for the underpass.

Gerilya was formed in 2008 by Jano, Kube and Zap from the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City. The group is involved in various art endeavors and experimental ventures such as comics, street art, graffiti animation, fine art exhibitions and illustration commissions, and their works often highlight Philippine culture and history, political issues and themes of national identity, often using popular culture mediums and inspirations.

Gerilya members Marianne Rios, Jano Gonzales and Ianna Engano worked on the mural for three months. Their work aims to be a flowing panorama of Manila’s history.

Masigasig na Maynila is heavily inspired by National Artist Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco’s monumental oil-on-canvas mural Filipino Struggles Through History, especially its visual narrative technique of overlapping images. Also known as History of Manila, the series of paintings was commissioned by then Manila Mayor Antonio J. Villegas, created from 1962 to 1971, and was installed at the Bulwagang Katipunan, now Bulwagang Gat Antonio Villegas, at Manila City Hall. Declared a National Cultural Treasure, the mural was restored by the National Museum of the Philippines and has been on view at the Old Senate Session Hall of the National Museum of Fine Arts at the Old Legislative Building since 2018.

For Gerilya, making Masigasig na Maynila “is an opportunity to retell the rich history of Manila and that of the country by highlighting important points in the development of the city and the larger history of the nation from the pre-colonial times to the present.”

Accented with cultural symbols, the selected scenes from history are often the tumultuous ones — the pre-colonial times with images of an Islamic kingdom and trade with the Chinese; Spanish colonization; the execution of Jose Rizal; the Philippine-American War; the Japanese occupation; the First Quarter Storm and the struggles against the Marcos dictatorship; and the present day showing street scenes, the Malacañang Palace and doctors, nurses and other front-liners amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is important to impart to the next generations of Filipinos to have public art such as this. It will help them understand their roots, their sense of being and hopefully influence their becoming,” the art group said.

“One of the charms and delightful specificity of this space is its sense of utility and the variety of people making use of this passageway. It also reflects the diversity and the radical spread of its users — students, professionals, merchants, working class and Manila residents, tourists and transients all trying to survive the chaos, bustle and demands of modern life and thrive in this megacity,” explained the NCCA.

“With their artworks rendered in comics imagery, they always try to engage the sense of popular, immediate accessibility and what is known as pang-masa. Besides being a liminal space between two points, it also evokes a sense of fixity and fleetingness, and other contrasts that exist here much like the rest of the whole city. The tensions of the old and new, order and chaos. These are the spaces that appeal to Gerilya to create art: the busy and bustling places where people from all walks of life converge, linger and move together.”

With Masigasig na Maynila, the oft-ignored passageway transforms into a path of cultural enrichment.

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Top performers star in ‘Viva Voce’ series






Great music and inspiration continue to illuminate our lives through The Sunshine Place, a senior recreation center under the Felicidad Tan Sy Foundation, with Sunshine Classics, a series of online classical music concertos. Relax in your own home and enjoy timeless music anytime through The Sunshine Place: Senior Recreation Center’s YouTube Channel.

Viva Voce starts off the series on 1 to 15 October with pianist Mariel Ilusorio, soprano Anna Migallosm, and tenor Marvin Bautista in an online concerto of Broadway, opera and Filipino songs.

Migallos was born in the United States, educated in the Philippines, and earned her Master of Performance in Vocal Performance from the Royal College of Music in London. She has performed in the United Kingdom and in Asia.

Bautista developed a huge passion for music at a young age since he comes from a family of musicians. He joined Tining, Ang Koro ng Letran Calamba and later the Coro San Benildo, the resident chorale of De LaSalle-College of Saint Benilde.

With Coro, he joined many international competitions in China, the US, South Korea, Italy, and the UK where the group received awards. Bautista has appeared in several productions with the Viva Voice Lab, most recently Lucia di Lammermoor at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.


Ilusorio was a first prize winner at the National Music Competitions for Young Artists Foundation, Inc. (NAMCYA) Piano Category A-II in 1985. Her musical studies included a Pre-College Diploma from the Juilliard School in New York and her Bachelor of Music Degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.

She resided in Germany for 10 years, where she studied with the eminent piano pedagogue, Prof. Arie Vardi, at the State Academy of Music in Hannover, and garnered several prizes in European competitions

She then moved to South Africa for nine years, continuing her career as a solo and chamber music performer. She became active in developing music in the Eastern Cape, where she started a local music competition.

She currently teaches privately as well as in St. Scholastica’s College, UST Conservatory of Music, and the Philippine High School for the Arts.

Ticket purchases are accepted until 15 October at 12 a.m. Once registered, an email will be sent to the registrant containing the program’s link. Link will be valid from 1 to 15 October. With one click, registrants can access the concert video as many times as they want. Music lovers may also want to check out the Sunshine Place’s piano and voice classes online.

The Sunshine Place is a venue for adults to live actively, through engaging in recreational classes and age-appropriate physical training programs.

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Beauty beyond norms





Witness how social media and its depiction of today’s concept of beauty affects the mental health of youth in Ang Natutulog na si Byuti, a contemporary dance performance that brings light to self-acceptance and self-love.

Ang Natutulog na si Byuti, a metaphorical retelling of the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, is the story of 15-year-old Beauty, whose pursuit of social media fame creates a confident online persona that masks her burgeoning inferiority complex, anxiety and body image issues.

At a time when the opinions of social media influencers and followers shape one’s perception of the self, this performance attempts to remind this generation’s youth of important values that go beyond aesthetics.

The adaptation is directed by former Ballet Philippines principal dancer Carissa Adea.

Written by homegrown talents and contemporary dancers Kayla Coseteng, Michelle Miranda and Princess Balido, the show is performed by the internationally acclaimed Saint Benilde Romancon Dance Company of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

Ang Natutulog na si Byuti is free and is open to the public. The premiere online performance is on 25 September at 6 p.m. Watch through the group’s official Facebook account at

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Five takeaways from Emmys night — RBG, ‘Friends’ and HBO

Agence France-Presse



Sunday’s Emmy Awards had a bit of everything, from tributes to late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to history made by the young actress Zendaya, to big wins for HBO.

Here are five key takeaways from the event, which honors the best in television:


Stars honor RBG

Host Jimmy Kimmel and several stars paid tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday after a long battle with cancer at age 87.

“On Friday, we lost a great American,” Kimmel said.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a compassionate and tireless champion of equality and justice. She said her legacy was to make her life a little better for people less fortunate than she.”

Regina King, who took home the award for best actress in a limited series for her role in HBO’s “Watchmen,” honored Ginsburg in her acceptance speech, saying “Rest in power, RBG.”

Uzo Aduba, who nabbed a supporting actress Emmy for FX limited series “Mrs America,” for her part described the feminist icon’s death as “absolutely devastating.”


Zendaya makes history

At 24, Zendaya on Sunday became the youngest winner in the lead actress in a drama series category for her searing breakthrough turn on “Euphoria.”

The actress won for her gritty portrayal of teenage drug addict Rue in HBO’s bleak drama that follows a group of high school students as they navigate drugs, sex, love, identity and trauma.

“I appreciate you so much, you’re my family,” said Zendaya, addressing Sam Levinson, creator of the controversial show, who based the series on his own battle with addiction.

“I’m so grateful for Rue. I’m so grateful that you trusted me with your story.”


HBO prospers without ‘Thrones’

HBO is used to winning the annual Emmys battle-of-the-networks, despite recent fierce competition from streaming upstart Netflix.

But if executives were worried about their first year without “Game of Thrones,” a behemoth that amassed a record 59 Emmys, it didn’t show.

Sunday proved that there is life beyond the dragons of Westeros for HBO, with “Succession” and “Watchmen” scoring big wins across the drama and limited series categories, plus “Euphoria” delivering a surprise bonus victory for young starlet Zendaya.

HBO ends this television year with a whopping 30 statuettes.

Netflix had to settle for 21 total, including just two handed out during the main broadcast — acting and director wins for dramas “Ozark” and “Unorthodox.”


‘Friends’ reunited

HBO’s own streaming service was meant to launch this summer with a much-hyped “Friends” reunion, which would have drawn new subscribers to the platform.

But the planned, unscripted show featuring the six stars of the popular 1990s sitcom has been delayed indefinitely, with Los Angeles under tough coronavirus-related restrictions.

On Sunday, the show’s three female leads — Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow — dialed in from Aniston’s “home” to the apparent surprise of Emmys host Jimmy Kimmel.

“Of course, I am (here). We live together,” joked Cox.

“Yeah, we’ve been roommates since 1994,” Aniston chimed in.

“Where else would I live?” added Kudrow.


Virtual Emmys zoom onward

Anyone who has suffered endless, technically-challenged Zoom calls during lockdown will have questioned the wisdom of hosting a prestigious awards ceremony while relying on dozens of remote video calls.

Listing 2020’s many miseries in his opening monologue, host Kimmel inserted “Zoom school” alongside “division, injustice, disease… disaster and death.”

But the internet connections ran smoothly throughout, surprising and even disappointing those predicting a high-tech car crash on the night.

“Everything went off flawlessly from a technical point of view,” Deadline said in its review of the night, which it nonetheless dubbed a “sadly stilted ceremony.”

“To all the winners tonight and all the nominees, I’ll see you guys at the sad Zoom after-party,” Kimmel signed off. “Meeting ID: 459 956 7155. Stay safe.”

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Second chance at life

When you’re in a dark place, with no end in sight, your mind can give you a lot of depressing thoughts. I now understand those who experienced panic and anxiety attacks. Everything weighs down on you.





COVID-19 survivor Wilbert “Wil” Tolentino.

“I am a COVID-19 survivor, and a lucky one at that!” declared entrepreneur Wilbert “Wil” Tolentino after a grueling fortnight at St. Luke’s Medical Center Quezon City. He is now on the road to full recovery, and living his second chance at life.

Wil’s ordeal started after suffering from sore eyes. A physician friend told him what to do, while also warning him it could be a symptom of COVID-19. After a swab test in a private diagnostic center, he was relieved the result was negative.

When he felt back and chest pains, however, he had another swab test two days later in another clinic, just to be sure. When the results came, he was aghast to find that he tested positive.

He went into solitary confinement and started ingesting Chinese herbal remedies. He even stayed away from his three-year-old son Willard so the kid won’t be contaminated.

When his condition did not get any better, he went to a hospital and sought treatment. “I had a difficult time breathing. It looked like I was heaving every time I gasped for air. Heaviness filled my chest,” said Wil.

He was diagnosed with COVID-19 and a severe case of pneumonia, plus a condition known clinically as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Wil was intubated for the next three days in the intensive care unit.

“I hardly slept while the tubes were attached to my mouth. It felt like a soup ladle was shoved down my windpipe. It was not a nice feeling. And the whir of the machines only made me feel worse,” he recalled.

During hospital confinement, what made him hold on were the well-wishes of family and friends, aside from fervent prayers of his own. At one low point, he told close friends and relatives that, should he succumb to the disease, his son Willard will be left in the care of his brothers.

“When you’re in a dark place, with no end in sight, your mind can give you a lot of depressing thoughts. I now understand those who experienced panic and anxiety attacks. Everything weighs down on you,” he said.

When the worst was finally over, he mentioned all the doctors and medical professionals as curative catalysts who helped him survive.

In recognition and appreciation of the Filipino front-liners’ undying service to COVID-19 patients, most especially his co-survivors, Wil has invited medical professionals and workers to participate in “The Front-liners Online Challenge” in which five of the most compelling stories of hope and bravery will receive cash prizes.

All they need to do is check out the contest’s mechanics on Wil’s Facebook page (Wilbert Tolentino) and look for the specific Sir Wil online challenge, as there are several choices.

Wil’s two-week hospital stay has made him value life and allowed him to focus on the more important things, like faith in the Almighty.

As a COVID-19 survivor, he is now an advocate of spreading awareness to help curb the rise of infections. “For instance, I would like to emphasize that people should never wear face masks with built-in fans like what I used to wear. The fans suck in airborne viruses into the mask, which the wearer eventually breathes in.”

Wil is also donating blood for St. Luke’s or the Red Cross’ supply of convalescent plasma.

Wil likewise hopes to erase the stigma on those who have tested positive, but most specially the survivors. A number have been evicted from their rented houses.

And as one who have gone through anxiety and depression, he wants to help patients get through the dark days towards full recovery.

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A houseful of ‘suman’




SUMAN goes well with a hot cup of sikwate-a Filipino chocolate made from tablea (ground cacao beans).

In a country where rice is life, it’s no surprise that a favorite snack of Filipinos is suman, a hand-rolled, sticky rice cake wrapped in banana and palm leaves.

We’ve come across varieties of suman all over the archipelago. There’s tupig in Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan, suman pinipig in Bulacan, suman moron and budbod in the Visayas, and pintos in Mindanao — which have different preparations and sizes, and certain ingredients added.

But what makes the suman of Misamis Occidental — specifically the ones made by the Clarin House of Suman — different from the others? That’s what we sought to find out on a trip to the town of Clarin.


House that OTOP built
Clarin House of Suman was founded in 2009 through the one town, one product (OTOP) initiative of the government to boost community-driven industries that make locally sourced products.

It gained prominence when it was invited to the international food event Madrid Fusion Manila in 2017.

What makes Clarin’s suman different is its fusion of diverse flavors. Currently it offers 20 flavors — including the classic plain suman, as well as ube, langka, mango, pineapple, chocolate, cheese, yema, latik, buko and even durian.

PUTO Maya, another traditional Filipino snack perfect as a ‘pasalubong.’


Honestly, an old favorite of mine has been the chocolate budbod suman in Dumaguete. But I’ll have to add Clarin’s tablea suman as a new preference.

But there won’t be a house of suman without a suman factory. Like a kid visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate plant, we giddily observed around 20 suman makers as they mixed and battered ingredients, hand-rolled sticky rice and wrapped them in banana leaves.

Every day, the suman makers make 3,000 to 5,000 suman pieces that are sold out before closing time. Now that’s a box-office hit.

Travelers passing through the Ozamis-Oroquieta National Highway won’t miss the green-painted Clarin House of Suman. Aside from this specialty, there were other pasalubong goods for family and friends.

I bought a dozen suman and a couple of packs of tablea.

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Celebrity chef mom presents US pork recipes





CHEF mom Rosebud Benitez prefers cooking with high-quality US pork.

Celebrity chef mom Rosebud Benitez presents a meal plan for the stay-at-home lifestyle with US Pork, Eats the Best, a new e-cooking series on her YouTube channel.

Featuring US pork as the main ingredient of the recipes, Rosebud highlights the importance of cooking a high-quality, wholesome product.

In the first two episodes, she demonstrates her recipes for US Pork Belly Casserole and US Pork Spareribs Sinigang with Watermelon — both good for every family occasion.

“What I love about US pork is that the pigs are grain-fed, which means they have high-quality, delicious meat. As a chef, using US pork is also more convenient with its consistent primal and new pork cuts,” says Rosebud.


Brought to the Philippines by local meat importers, US pork undergoes stringent food safety standards monitored by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Another USDA agency, the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, also checks and operates livestock health and welfare programs. Both agencies are recognized by the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture and the National Meat Inspection Service.

US pork is nutrient-rich with a relatively low calorific value. Aside from providing protein, pork contains important vitamins and minerals and serves as a primary source of Vitamins B6, B12, niacin, and riboflavin, and is a good source of iron.

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Singapore Food Fest delights online





CHEF Ming Tan, the managing partner of the Slake Collective, introduces and explains the ingredients that come with his Hokkien Mee kit that were made available during the Singapore Food Festival 2020 that allowed people to create this signature Singaporean dish at home and elevate their dining experience. PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE SINGAPORE FOOD FESTIVAL

The Singapore Food Festival (SFF) was held online with its delightful offers despite the pandemic. This year’s edition continued to showcase local culinary and F&B talents who have been pursuing their passion and inspiring the foodie spirit among its followers.

Singapore has a multi-ethnic culture that is well represented in its varied and colorful dishes — from Chicken Rice to Nasi Lemak, Roti Prata to Claypot Rice — each with its own distinct flavors and tastes.

With the theme “Rediscover the Foodie in You,” the Singapore Tourism Board’s SFF 2020 brought together more than 25 F&B partners who converged to serve up gastronomic experiences that allowed audiences to watch the festival at home.

Held across two weekends in August, the SFF featured online food tours, live masterclasses, chef collaborations, food bundles and limited-edition food merchandise.

Ruby Liu, Singapore Tourism Board’s Philippines area director, said: “As we took the Singapore Food Festival online for the first time, we wanted foodies the world over to rediscover Singaporean cuisine from wherever they may be. This year’s programming truly had something for everyone, blending the joy of feasting with interactive and engaging experiences, especially with the live masterclasses and virtual food tours.”



Filipino chef Margarita Forés collaborated with Singaporean chef Ming Tan in preparing Hokkien Mee, a noodle dish using prawn stock; and Chicken Claypot Rice, a well-loved rice casserole, live from their respective countries. The two culinary celebrities led the festival’s master class dubbed 2Fast, 2Delicious—Hokks & Clay by Slake (Singapore) x Cibo (Philippines),
Forés, voted Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016, is the owner of restaurants Cibo, Lusso, Grace Park, and signature caterer Cibo di Marghi.

Tan is the managing partner of the Slake Collective which includes homegrown brands like KIAP and Tokidon, as well as the consultant chef for JAM at Siri House, and is the part of Channel News Asia’s top-rating series “For Food’s Sake.”

By utilizing Slake’s Damn Easy Hokkien Mee and On-the-Spot Claypot Rice kits, Tan and Forés showed how easy it is to prepare signature Singapore dishes — under 15 minutes.

The chefs also shared some of their personal flavor secrets — showing everyone how anyone at home can level up their home dining experience.

For her Hokkien Mee interpretation, Forés ingeniously added pork belly, chicharon, crispy fish, river prawn and talangka or crab fat for a tangy Filipino touch. For her Claypot Rice, Filipino chorizo gave it a distinct and delectable taste.

Tan’s take on Hokkien Mee added blow-torched soy-marinated pork shabu with crispy fish and calamansi. For his Claypot Rice, goose liver sausage, lap cheong, and aged chai poh were wonderful flavor additions.



Noting the cuisine similarities in their respective countries, Tan said: “Filipino cuisine, like Singaporean cuisine, enjoys strong flavors and we like our sour things, too” and that the two cultures “have similar taste preferences, use similar ingredients like herbs and spices.”

For her part, Forés said that “the similarities are more evident with food with strong Malay influences from the South of the Philippines like curries and Rendangs.”

She added: “The Chinese slant in Singaporean dishes is something you can find in both countries.”

As these two acclaimed chefs demonstrated through their culinary creations, Singapore and the Philippines have much in common food-wise. These similarities help in bolstering cultural ties, forging closer bonds fostered in the kitchen and over the dining table.

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Fifty San Mateos in Mindanao




THE author enjoys the greenery in pleasant San Mateo City, California, USA in 2016. PHOTOGRAPH BY LOUISE ABEZA FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE

The 21st of September is the feast day of St. Matthew or San Mateo. He is mentioned in books of the New Testament of the Holy Scriptures as one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. One scene in the Bible said Matthew was sitting in a tax collector’s place when Jesus chanced upon him. The encounter led Matthew to be a follower of Jesus.

With information technology, it would be great if people from all walks of life and from different cultures and religions would take an interest in St. Matthew and his deeds.

In 2016, I was blessed to have been invited by my high school best friend to stay with her and her family in San Mateo City, San Mateo County in California, USA. I had the opportunity to work for two months as math and reading teacher in Serramonte Kumon Math and Reading Center in Daly City, San Mateo County (south of San Francisco).

San Mateo is the third smallest county in California. Its hilly terrain makes the place so charming, as varieties of plants and flowers deck the upside and downside of the residential areas, as well as the commercial districts.

Since the county forms part of the San Francisco Bay area, the climate in San Mateo is very pleasant from March to June, which happened to be the months I was there.

Flying back to Manila on 5 June, I thought about the newly elected Philippine President who hails from Mindanao. I had cast my vote for the May 2016 elections via the Philippine consulate in San Francisco.

Mindanao has a land area of 97,530 square kilometers.

San Mateo County in California — where I had an enriching experience (notwithstanding the nitty gritty of daily novel challenges – has a land area of 1,927 square kilometers.

If taxes are properly used in government projects that will really benefit Filipinos, the Philippines, in the future, can have 50 San Mateos in Mindanao.

I now think of my former Filipino primary students in Serramonte Kumon Math and Reading Center. They might one day decide to be engineers and help build the infrastructures in a peaceful and progressive Mindanao.

As we celebrate St. Matthew’s feast day, let us not forget that governments in any corner of the world rely on taxes to provide for the needs of their people. Taxes, however, become an unpleasant, unwelcome burden if they go to the pockets of unscrupulous public officials or are wasted on projects of poor standards or on superfluous ones.

Through the intercession of St. Matthew, may the taxpayers, tax collectors, tax users and tax beneficiaries be inspired to be patriotic enough to give their honest share in making the Philippines a haven of peace and prosperity.

May the dream of 50 San Mateos in Mindanao be a reachable star.

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