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What Screams Christmas: Queso de Bola

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A lot of people have flocked into the nearest supermarket for the Christmas season. Mama wasn’t fazed by a number of people flocking the shelves, as it was another normal grocery day. She slowly handpicked the ingredients and other goodies that she needed for our family gathering, as she hums to the tune of Andy Williams, which she heard over the radio. The store slowly grew crowded as if ants were coming, left and right, scrambling for food.

It was Christmas Eve. Not even a trace of cold air had touched the city. Not even a trace of rainfall. Only the sun’s warmth and light kept the busy city alive during the month. The sidewalks were filled with people, walking past the humongous facades. Car horns were heard everywhere as well. Every supermarket has mothers and their children, spending time picking what the children want from the shelves. As for Mama, all she brought were her shopping list, her posh Louis Vuitton bag, and her love for her youngest son.

As she trotted along the Christmas themed shelves, pushing the heavy shopping cart, she quickly remembered what she didn’t put on her shopping list.

Queso de Bola. My childhood fancy.

I remember when my paternal grandma used to send me one of those every Christmas Eve when she came home from the province. I could not forget how that big ball of Edam cheese, wrapped in deep crimson, tasted. It was properly aged, awash with mild pungency and chunkiness beyond compare. It was total bliss to the palate.

Mama then picked one and neatly placed it in her cart. Then, a long line of Christmas shoppers greeted her from the rows of cashiers. Other shoppers slithered through the crowd like snakes passing through.

A lady in her late fifties, with short, blond hair and wrinkly skin, along with her husband and children, fell in line behind and greeted her.

“Julie! Long time no see ah!” she spoke with a Fookien accent.

Mama then switched to their usual Fookien dialect. Auntie Cynthia and Mama were high school classmates before. They stayed in contact for years when cellphones are continually innovating and are the norm. It seemed like they haven’t met for months since last year’s reunion party.

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“Where’s your son, by the way? Didn’t you always take him all the time?”

“Well…”

I was lying on my sickbed, sweating, zipping my sweater as the pain in my head grew more excruciating. This bad fever had me for days and the medicine the doctor prescribed did not really work at all. Light behind heavy, billowing clouds passed through the tinted glass of our sliding balcony door, behind the peach and white colored curtains. Beside me was a coffee table made of mahogany and a marbled top, and placed there are my leftovers, a pitcher of water and my medicine.

I sighed. If only Grandma was still here.

But her very old age and a serious sickness led her to an untimely fate. It was a long time that she brought those special queso de bolas from the province. More than a decade, in fact, that my craving for Queso de Bola has ended ever since.

It was six in the evening. I heard someone unlocking our door. Following the unlocking sound is the clinking of the chimes as the door opens.

Mama got home with lots of grocery bags, along with Papa, who drove her to the supermarket and back home.
She then brought along slices of bread to my room and, surprisingly, the particular Queso de Bola that Grandma always bought. I did not know that they were being imported here in the city. She did not mind the leftovers as she swaps them with the bread and the ball of cheese.

“Are you hungry?”

I still feel full, but I nodded. As she opened the tough red packaging, she sliced the cheese in half, then a small thin slice using the bread knife. She placed it atop of the bread slice, folded it, and gave it to me.
There was this sense of nostalgia as I take the first bite. It was the same old taste as the last time I have enjoyed it with Grandma. I could not control my facial muscles as I ended up with a small grin on the face.

I was 14 back then.

Photo Courtesy of EnglishChannel.Com

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Marcos is still not a hero

After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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MARTIAL LAW ANNIVERSARY 2018. (Photo by Christine Annemarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb)

When we look a few years back, we remember that one of the biggest political controversies we have encountered is Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani. The rites were private and intimate for the family and he was also given a 21-gun salute. Is this 21-gun salute an ode to the 21 years that Marcos has ruled as a kleptocratic dictator? This event has garnered negative criticism since a number of Filipinos don’t consider Marcos as a hero. It may have given peace to Marcos’ family, but it caused the victims of the Marcos rule to remember a grim chapter in their lives.

A few days into the present year, Bongbong Marcos sent out a statement calling for the revision of history books used in the academe, which he deems are only teaching the students lies about what his father, former President Marcos, has done. He believed that those from the opposition are in control of the data in published materials, that’s why it is so against his father. He also claimed that the contents of these textbooks were just used as propaganda against their family and that the allegations that his father was a thief and murderer were never proven. The thing is, if these allegations weren’t true, then why was the Presidential Commission on Good Governance recovering money from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth? 

During Marcos’ rule, Proclamation 1081 gave the military power to arrest, detain, and execute those who are standing up against the government or those who are pushing other people to do so. A proclamation like this is set to violate a series of human rights, and yet it went on for several dreadful years. According to Amnesty International, about 70,00 people were imprisoned and 34,000 were tortured under Marcos’ term. 

In 1991, Marcos was found guilty by the US Federal Court system of ‘crimes against humanity,’ which covered torture, summary executions, and forced disappearances. The Philippine Constabulary was the law enforcing body during those times and was notorious for being liable for numerous human rights violations. Take the case of Dr. Juan Escandor, a Radiation specialist from the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital, who was involved in nationalist initiatives and even founded a leftist student organization, was killed by constabulary troopers that ended in a crossfire. Though authorities say that he died due to the gunfight, his autopsies show signs of torture, with his skull emptied and filled with trash, plastic bags, rags, and underwear, and his brain placed inside his stomach cavity. 

Bongbong Marcos has always justified his father’s ways. Although he acknowledged the numerous human rights violations that were committed during his father’s regime, he says that people should also remember the numerous projects his father launched, which includes thousands of kilometers of roads built, progressive agricultural policies, power generation, and the highest literacy rate in Asia. However, could these projects ever compensate for the pain inflicted on the victims of Martial Law? Even if the Marcoses’ contributions to the country are worthy of acknowledgment, it is not a valid argument to be used to push the people to leave their dreadful experiences in obscurity. Marcos apologists can’t tell others to just ‘move on’ because failing to acknowledge the people’s grievances during Martial Law is purely insensitive.  You can’t just tell people to forget such inhumane acts brought about by a leader they all trusted to lead them through progress. 

Recently, it was shared to the public that House Bill No. 7137 was approved to declare September 11 as ‘President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day’ in Ilocos Norte, which aims to honor the late dictator. Senate President Vicente Sotto III then said that bills with local applications like this are usually easily approved in Senate hearings. This, in turn, has sparked controversy and garnered criticism from the people.

Members of different rights groups and numerous people have expressed their disapproval of this bill. They say that this bill encourages the alteration of narratives of the dark days of Philippine history under Martial Law during the Marcos regime and that it practically promotes the invalidation of what people went through during the strongman rule.

We ought to #NeverForget the numerous accounts of torture and abuse that normal Filipinos went through. In case one forgets, the Twitter account @PangulongMarcos is devoted to tweeting daily on whether Marcos is a hero today.

The approval of this bill not only pushes to erase the kafkaesque events in our history that took place during Martial Law, but it also neglects the loss of the people who mourned for the loved ones that they lost in an all-out battle against the provisions of a power-hungry government that only sought to assert dominion over the people it ought to serve. It also makes us look at tyranny straight in the eye and just be resilient about it, without being able to #ResistTyranny. After everything that has been, is Marcos still your idol?

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Why “Pinoy Pride” exists in online Filipino culture

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereño/TomasinoWeb

Filipinos entering the foray of different online media allowed for Filipino culture to gain an even larger audience, but it inevitably exposes aspects that would otherwise only be seen within our borders.

Emman Nimedez and Lloyd Cadena’s passing has shown how impactful online media has become for the youth. While traditional media like TV and radio broadcasting maintains the largest audience in our country, we have slowly crept into the online world with the rising presence of Filipino personalities. Though this puts our heritage on a much larger stage, it has unfortunately exposed the pitfalls in our society. Any Filipino browsing comment sections on their favorite social media and video platforms will have inevitably seen the words “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” on their screen at least once, usually bearing a negative connotation. How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

“Peenoise” was a term originally coined by online users within gaming communities to refer to Filipinos who are considered to be toxic in-game. Now, it is generally used to describe Filipinos who exhibit toxic behavior online, such as trolls or bullies. On the other hand, Pinoy Pride is another aspect of “peenoise” that is less aggravating but is much more reflective of who we are as a society. Pinoy Pride revolves around being endlessly proud of a Filipino personality for achieving something that led to global notoriety. 

How have Filipinos managed to set themselves apart so negatively online that it yielded such labels on online platforms?

These behaviors, ironically enough, could be coming from the Filipinos’ prioritization of family values. The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture. Our innateness to find “kababayans” and treat them like family could both be a blessing and a curse in situations where we band together to defend our identity. This is even exploited in media channels that release “Filipino-themed” videos where personalities would experience Philippine culture or would have a part-Filipino cast member be the center of the content.

Another aspect that could be contributing to these online behaviors is the lingering effects of crab mentality in our society. As this blog puts it, we are quick to throw praise and be proud of our own people once they achieve success, but are also quick to call something “cheap” if it has not achieved prominence. But this even goes beyond Filipino artists as any individual who has the slightest hints of being Filipino is quickly embraced and celebrated as if they were our own. We like living through other people’s success as if they were one of our own, yet we pay no heed to those still climbing the ladder and even go as far as ridiculing them for their efforts. 

The toxic “peenoise” that flock and bash personalities misinterpreting the culture are the same ones that gather in posts which have the slightest hint of Filipino culture.

Finally, these attitudes don’t really hinge on being Filipino, but rather being Filipino outside of the Philippines. Pinoy Pride only begins to matter once something done by a Filipino gets recognized outside of the Philippines. This can be attributed to the Filipino’s “American dream” or the notion that the ultimate goal as a Filipino is to make it outside of the Philippines. 

If we ask most college students what their goals are after graduation, it will probably be about building their careers until they can go abroad. Whether it’s nurses, teachers, or artists, they’re usually aiming for a career outside the country and for good reason. The same professions would normally be paid less here, not to mention having to work harder just to get paid half of what they would’ve made had they gone off to work abroad. 

A few weeks ago, a wave of posts took Facebook by storm as Filipinos started sharing images from Harvard and placing either themselves in the context of being Harvard students or Harvard being a university in the Philippines. While this short-lived trend was merely humorous for most, it shows how we ultimately aspire to live a life outside the country rather than to flourish within it. It shows the condition which we live in and how we’ve had to make do with subpar standards in our country.

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better. They hinge on the strong family ties Filipinos are known to have which, while bringing a strong sense of unity, also brings to light the aforementioned “crab mentality” that some tend to have. Ultimately, it comes down to the desire to live a better life than what our current social and political situation allows. 

In summary, the “peenoise” and “Pinoy Pride” attitudes that Filipinos are showing online is not about patriotism, but rather defensiveness and the desire to live better.

Much like how we’ve stood out in beauty pageants and boxing, we also stand out as audiences but in an unflattering light. While such behaviors do not necessarily include all Filipinos, these do exist in our online space. We have the ability to change this and, while we cannot enforce it onto others, starting with ourselves can be a huge step in the right direction. Rather than embodying the bad sides of our culture, we can showcase our most prominent characteristic: bayanihan.

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Cramming Playlist: Buzzer Beats

Yeah, it’s big brain time.

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Artwork by Ayeesha Panotolan

The most dreadful time of the semester is here and with it comes every student’s best friend: cramming. We all know that it’s an ineffective and unhealthy way to retain information. Yet, we still choose to condense weeks worth of lectures into hours of late night study sessions because it somehow still gets the job done. 

Studying in the wee hours of the morning means you need something to keep you and your brain awake and functioning. Below, we’ve compiled a playlist that will surely get those neurons firing as you burn the midnight oil.

 

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