Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Don't drink the water

There have been a few times in my life when I've been told not to drink the water. Each time, I admit I expected it.

In 1996, on my first to trip to the Philippines as a teenager I was given that first taste of "third-world" living. My dad's family compound had a giant metal pump out front. It would take a few of us cousins to push on that burning metal handle (hot from standing out in the sun all day)  to get some fresh ground water. I remember how "fun" it was because it was so foreign to me. I remember how the water was good enough for them, but for some reason not good enough for me.

 "Bawal ang tubig sa poso. Sa plastic ka lang pwede uminom," my relatives warned.

We had to budget in the cost of bottled water just for my "sensitive" North American stomach. Today, the family water pump has run dry and sadly, I will never get to know how its water tasted.

Child pumps water in Bicol, Philippines
(Source: World Wildlife Fund blogs.wwf.org.uk)

The next time I was told not to drink the water it was 2008 on a trip up North to God's Lake. I recall the fresh air, the expanse of space, the summer sun, and hearing Cree uninterrupted. I visited a community without paved roads and running water. It's beautiful up North if you don't mind the isolation. It felt like Canada's parallel world to my corner of the Philippines.

"Don't drink the water. Drink the bottled water," I was warned. I didn't get it. What good was this North American stomach of mine?

Off-reserve resident Sharon Redsky serves Jobs Minister Kevin Chief water. Next to Chief is Shoal Lake 40 First Nation Erwin Redsky and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman. (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
For the first time in my entire Winnipeg life, I was told not to drink the water. It wasn't because someone from the city knocked on the door to say the neighborhood pipes needed working on. It was because our new Mayor said so. So last week, a precautionary boil water advisory was made just in case our city water had E.Coli. After a day, it was over. But, wow. What an inconvenience. What a reminder.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Everyone's talking racism. I guess it's my turn.

I promise this post won't be the typical one about racism.

Ever since Maclean's magazine outed Winnipeg as the "Where Canada's Racism Problem is at its Worst" there has been a number of blog posts, editorials, and reports that have come out.

Of all the perspectives that have come through, one will notice that the First Nations and Metis voice has taken the most prominence.  I was one of many who tuned in online to watch an emotional Mayor Bowman address the issue live (see video).  There were a number of leaders and advocates speaking out against missing and murdered indigenous women, violence, and poverty specifically. Even today, the provincial government has made a timely announcement about Phoenix Sinclair (watch the announcement).

The Winnipeg Free Press also published an article entitled "Newcomers Want to be Heard"  featuring an old classmate of mine, David Atem. The issue of race broadened to also include the "black" voice, specifically the African community (Immigrants from South Sudan and Nigeria were referenced in the article).

So, what about the Filipino-Canadian voice?

This is where I think this blog will sound a little different.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A revolutionary Pope in a very, very Catholic country: The RH Bill and Freedom of Speech

Pope Francis sat with children at a foundation that helps homeless kids in Manila on Jan. 16. (Source: Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)
The People’s Pope, Pope Francis, is in the Philippines. He set foot on Philippine soil to, no surprise here, throngs of devout Catholics. As a Catholic myself, I can sense the excitement all the way here from Canada.  I'm excited and hopeful his arrival will tir up some sense in the country.

There are a number of concerns embroiled between the Catholic Church and the Philippine state. (Insurmountable) poverty, environmental degradation, political violence and corruption are some of the obvious ones.  These concerns, I’m sure are ones our Latino Pope may already know all too well. But, nowhere is the discussion more contentious than the debate around the Filipina body and her reproductive health.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sandok and Pampanga's yummy -silog menu

Biya and Longsilog at
Pampanga Restaurant
I had breakfast this morning at Pampanga Restaurant.

It isn't everyday I get to enjoy a Filipino breakfast out, but this visit was spurned by a need to tie up some loose ends with our upcoming publication, Sandok.

This oral history/food culture/recipe book is (as I've mentioned) written by Manila to Manitoba researchers, Kezia Malabanan and Ma. Monica De Castro. In 2011, the authors set out to interview local restauranteurs and record their narratives on regionalism, immigration, and (of course) food culture. Tita Lourdes of Pampanga Restaurant is one of the five informants featured.

Nestled away on Henry Avenue in Winnipeg's downtown, Pampanga is best known for its Filipino breakfasts. This much is evident by the number of customers seated in the restaurant (beside its large banquet hall). The aroma of dried fish (tuyo), hearty Filipino meats (longanisa, tocino and tapa), garlic fried rice, and eggs resemble the Philippines in its own morning hours. The Filipino Channel streams the news in Tagalog on its numerous TVs and the murmur of Filipino dialects are punctuated with the slight clanging of utensils. Ordering breakfast is an adventure - especially if you like deciphering word combinations. So, what is a silog anyways?