30 December 2006

glow and wonder

i remember having such a big appetite as a child. in spite of my father’s meager wages as a government lawyer, my mother (she had to quit her job as a public school teacher to raise me and my siblings) managed to find creative ways of feeding me regularly. however, because of budgetary constraints, i practically ate the same things from primary school to high school.

for breakfast, i normally consumed bowls of oatmeal as well as pan de sal with guava jelly. for lunch, i ate bistek tagalog (sirloin steak, filipino-style), dulong (dried anchovy fry), bangus (milkfish) or tocino (cured pork or bacon marinated in a sweet red sauce). for dinner, i greedily ate pork barbecue from a suki beside the tailoring shop along dapitan, between carola and don quijote streets. for dessert, i ate bananas or mongo beans dipped in evaporated milk with sugar. there were days when my parents could not provide me and my siblings with more sumptuous meals. duirng such occasions, we make do by boiling eggs and mixing these with fried rice.

in school, i was quite notorious for not buying my food at the school canteen. my family was really on a very tight budget. my parents were then sending some of my cousins to university. consequently, i was forced to bring baon to school. quite frequently, i had calamansi juice (acid orange, calamondin or panama orange) in a sealed tupperware glass and bread loaf with guava or peanut butter filling.

of course, there were occasional breaks in the routine. five apartment doors behind aling mameng’s store at the corner of dapitan and carola, i remember dropping by another store tended by an old lady selling a bilao of puto (rice muffins), kutsinta (sticky brown rice cake) and palitaw (glutinous rice mixture topped with sugar and sesame seeds). with the family helper, i carried several pieces of puto for my mother and siblings to take some pleasure in. then we washed the puto pieces away by drinking gazillions of freshly-squeezed calamansi juice.

other times, i would go to a small apartment unit beside the chinese store at the corner of dos castillas and pi y margal. the unit’s fa├žade became a haven of students from dominican school, university of santo tomas and ramon magsaysay high school the moment the make-shift store owner uncovered gargantuan pieces of home-cooked, sugar-coated and deep-fried turon (brown sugar-coated, deep fried banana spring rolls), banana cue (brown sugar-coated, deep fried bananas in skewers) and camote cue (brown sugar-coated, deep fried sweet potatoes in skewers). we also passed by the chinese store to soak up bottles of sarsi cola, sunta orange, rc cola, mirinda orange, teem, lem-o-lime, mountain dew or magnolia choco vim.

after playing siyato, soccer baseball (kickball; it's like baseball but you kick a soccer-sized ball instead of swinging a bat), tumbang preso, patintero, taguan (hide-and-seek) and agawan-base in the streets, my friends and i satisfied our craving for things cold and sweet by grabbing cones of cheese, chocolate or langka-flavored rolando ice cream from one of their roving carts. in college, i would learn from my upper class friends that i had actually devoured what they considered as dirty ice cream.

martial law in the philippines banned the importation of foreign food products. unless relatives from america sent bags of m & ms, hershey’s kisses and nestle crunch chocolates, i ate bars and cups of the local variety: goya, serg’s, swiss cups, choc nut, curly tops and flat tops. cheap as they were, i really enjoyed gobbling all of these after my classes.

as i got older, my family became more comfortable. as a result of his honesty and clean living, my father got promoted eventually as an assistant government corporate counsel for government-owned and controlled corporations. he held the rank of a judge. mother, on the other hand, worked for a major insurance company and was amply compensated because of her numerous corporate clients. my family came to travel quite extensively and i was finally introduced to the more luxurious outer space of fine dining bistros, cafes and restaurants.

these days, i often get invites to dine in restaurants my family couldn’t afford to hang around in when i was younger. wherever i go, a recollection of my childhood’s culinary repertoire continues to greet me with never-ending glow and wonder.

22 December 2006

canberra in christmas

it is summer in canberra. there are very few people during christmas. students go back to their hometowns. public servants take their break elsewhere. many residents actually go to sydney or melbourne. south coast proves to be a worthy alternative for others.

being the nerd that i am, i will be staying in canberra throughout the holidays. some friends have invited me to lunches and dinners but i politely turned down most of them. my thesis is my top priority. i shouldn’t be allowing the jitters to take over. i must stay, write and rewrite. i am really determined to return to manila soon.

as it turns out, some of my close friends here are staying put. i’ll be having christmas breakfast with two other friends somewhere in the city. michael and marlene will pick me up for a christmas lunch with their immediate family. on boxing day, university house student-residents will be having a barbie at the garden. i will also have ample time to call up my family in manila and friends all over.

fortunately, canberra centre has opened its huge extension. for a long time, civic wasn’t the city centre it was meant to be. as a result of the mall’s huge expansion, people are converging towards canberra centre for a great number of reasons. i love the new mall because it has finally opened a branch of borders (the huge international chain of bookstores) and dendy (a chain of cinemas showcasing independent films).

it will not be a bleak midsummer christmas, after all.


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ascending borders
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borders at canberra centre
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canberra from mt. ainslie
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canberra centre
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view of telstra tower while bushwalking in woden
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post office and bus terminal at jolimont centre
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restaurants, bars and cafes on melbourne building, along northbourne avenue
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sydney building, along northbourne avenue
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view of telstra tower from the civic bus interchange
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at the national gallery of australia
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shops at kingston
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the national film and sound archives
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australian national university seal outside the school of music
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the a.n.u. chancelry
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a.n.u. pauline griffin building
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possums having their tea at 3:00 a.m. outside a.n.u. coombs building

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a cockatoo blissfully observes the tea room, a.n.u. coombs building
(research school of social sciences/research school of pacific and asian studies)
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a.n.u. coombs building
(research school of social sciences/research school of pacific and asian studies)
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a.n.u. j. b. chifley library
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the path leading to a.n.u. w.k. hancock library
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the a.n.u. r.g. menzies asia pacific library
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a.n.u. union building and square
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a.n.u. school of music
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a.n.u. john curtin school of medical research
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a.n.u. university house
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a.n.u. school of art

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view of australian national university from black mountain
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a.n.u. university avenue

15 December 2006

graduation week at a.n.u.

optimism reigned supreme all over a.n.u. during the past few days. it's graduation week. a number of friends and acquaintances returned to canberra to attend the ceremonies and receive their diplomas from university officials.

my friend ashwin raj says that graduation fever affects everyone in the university in a positive sort of way. there's something exhilarating about misty-eyed parents, siblings, other family members and friends taking snap shots of the graduates across the university. i got infected by the bug so i ended up taking pictures all over campus.

last wednesday, we had the annual graduation dinner at the university house. we got even more excited because romanian sorin daniluc (a direct descendant of count dracula-just kidding), uni house’s student-fellow for a number of years, had just submitted his phd dissertation. considering how faithfully sorin had defended the interests of students when he sat as student-fellow and as member of several university-wide committees (as representative of the a.n.u. postgraduate students association), it amazes me how sorin managed to complete his dissertation rather unscathed.

i was quite impressed with the master of ceremonies during this year’s graduation festivities. names of graduates (particularly the non-anglo ones) were pronounced correctly for a change. actually, i expected this because a member of the graduation committee had called me up days ago to help them pronounce the names of graduating students from the philippines. i can only imagine the amount of effort the committee exerted to make sure that all graduates are properly introduced as they walk onstage. they must have called dozens of other phd students to verify the pronunciation of foreign-sounding names.

by sheer coincidence, i caught topnotch ateneo/u.p. alumna, former diplomat, now canberra-based lawyer marlene agmata-tucker minutes before she formally received her master of laws diploma during the late afternoon ceremony. she brought along her husband michael and daughter marian. i was so happy for marlene because she has been working full-time as a lawyer for the federal government while attending to her postgraduate studies. she is also a hands-on wife/mother and core group member of the philippine studies group at a.n.u.'s department of political and social change. her energy is just amazing. now i am pushing her to go for a phd. after saying this, she nearly fainted.

compared to graduation ceremonies at the university of the philippines (u.p.), australian ceremonies tend to be more laidback and understated. back home, we have animated performances from graduates and their friends, particularly those who come from the arts and humanities courses. at a.n.u., i didn’t see theatre groups, political activists and pep squad members reigning over and stealing the limelight from the graduates. for instance, what makes graduation at u.p. diliman’s college of arts and letters (up cal) more colorful is that only god knows what will happen next. the element of surprise has become integral to up cal ceremonies. you can’t even afford to blink because there’s drama and comedy happening even along the fringes.

still, graduation at a.n.u. has its own charm. while it closely resembles ceremonies at oxford or cambridge, a.n.u. has a very strong representation of colored and aboriginal people crossing the finish line. many of these graduates come from emerging families and economies. “ivy league” universities in america and elsewhere can possibly learn a thing or two from australia’s national university.

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while dressing up minutes before graduation dinner

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high table led by professor john richards (university house master and dean/director of the a.n.u. college of engineering and computer science) and his wife glenda during graduation dinner at the great hall

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orange pudding dessert

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i was talking when one of my friends took this shot during coffee and tea at starbucks in civic immediately after we all had dinner

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(kingston) canberra-based dentist michael tucker, daughter marian and michael's filipina-australian lawyer-wife marlene agmata-tucker minutes before marlene got her LLM degree from a.n.u.

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australia is so laidback:
someone left the graduation rites wearing his academic gown on a bike

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view of telstra tower from a.n.u. campus during graduation

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along the university avenue: graduates here come from all shapes and races