Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Uniquely Mixed

Most people in the Philippines save the few Chinese that remains with their ancestral Chinese surname or a few indigenous that keeps their own too, have Spanish surnames. A close local friend told me it is because at some point in history, a law was passed during the Spanish occupation that everyone should adopt a family name for easy administrative purposes, thus the names were coined since then, with Spanish influence of course. I personally like their names where one name reminded me of a tycoon, another of astronomy while one about a venturing girl.

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Asian in looks, with mixtures of Chinese and Malay with some little Spanish, Filipinos may have features ranging from chinky eyes (as how the locals call for those eye slits that Chinese are famous for – yes like mine), to big round eyes similar to the Malays and mix of brown and yellow skin. One thing which is frequent here though is that most Filipinos have small frames and low in stature, I felt immediately at home here being of somewhat similar, I have to admit. In fact, many here commented I look like a Filipina, and most people I met will converse with me in Tagalog (their local national language) naturally for the first time and I had countless taxi drivers insisting I look deceptively like a local. Maybe that is how I get to blend in easily, something I am quite thankful for.

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“There are Starbucks everywhere here!” I exclaimed as we walk passed one at an obscure highway stop.

“Yes, because we Filipinos,” B started explaining “want to live the American dream”

There is no doubt that many, if not all, Filipinos that have the American dream, and why not? In land of America it seems that anything is possible, it is where dreams go and be realized. It was said that long time ago, Philippines nearly became a part of America, just that war happened and the rest as they say, is history. Nevertheless, I do meet a lot of Filipinos who their heart is strongly rooted in their own homeland, who would willingly stay and grow the country, but sadly there are even more that look at, live by and dream of America.

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As you can see, as how Carlos Celdran aptly puts it, Filipinos are a mixture of sorts - Spanish in name, Asian in looks but American at heart, just like its most famous dessert halo-halo which literarily means mix-mix.


This icy dessert had reminded me of our Malaysian Ais Kacang, minus the the kacang (no kidding), where there is shaved ice drenched in condensed/evaporated milk or just milk and sugar and then mix in with various ingredients of sorts. The usual suspects are red mung beans, sugar palm (kaong), coconut sport (macapuno), jackfruit strips, purple yam (ube) paste, crushed young rice (pinipig), leche flan and caramelized banana. Some even say that it is not complete without a dollop of ube (yam) ice cream, and only ube flavour for the authenticity!

As we can see even the ingredients are mixtures of culture of red mung beans from the Chinese, leche flan from the Spaniards and shaved ice from the Americans (source from Wikipedia). From my 100 days stay there, I learn that, as ironic as it may sound, being a mixture of sorts and of no distinct identity is what makes Filipinos unique. Just like how the mixture of halo-halo that sort of make you think that the dessert couldn’t make up its mind on what it wants to be that makes it so uniquely delicious.

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One of the best authentic original halo-halo I tried (with nearly all the ingredients mentioned above) turns out to be from one of the famous chain restaurants in the Philippines – Chow King. (first picture above)

Chow King


Another variation of halo-halo (picture above), stripped down to nearly bare naked of essentials – leche flan, macapuno (coconut sport) and caramelized banana, was truly a league of its own for its really smooth shaven iced doused in creamy sweet milk and its minimal critical ingredients.

Razon’s of Guagua
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