|The August issue of Esquire Magazine.|
My friend said one of the most pretentious people ever are those balikbayans, (Philippine-born newly-minted US citizens trying hard to fake the Stateside accent but hardly succeeding) who visit the country and does nothing but complain all about the heavy traffic, the heat, the taong-grasa (read: beggars) and compare the country’s situation with that of the U.S. I agree with my friend, but I still believe there are a few exceptions, of course.
I just read an article about “Why we love Manila,” it’s sort of an advocacy to bring back Manila to life. But if I had my way, I’d love to make it into “Why I love the Philippines” or “Why I am proud to be a Filipino”. I think that’s more sensible.
In fact, the said article made me reflect and think about my own answers to those two questions. When was the last time we said something good about a fellow Filipino, President Aquino asked in his last SONA. Or say something really positive about our country?
Despite of its many flaws, our country still had something else that other countries do not have. In the Philippines, you have porters to carry your luggage; you can work hard and afford a driver or a nanny to take care of your children. If you’re vain, our spas and salons here offer massage and other hair treatments for a tenth of the price abroad. Not to mention, it’s a whole lot cheaper to study here.
Have you guys read the latest issue of Esquire magazine? Yes, I am talking of their August issue. Sometimes it takes a foreigner to slap the truth on our faces. Esquire magazine fearless food editor Tom Parker Bowles (son of Camila Parker Bowles, thereby making him a stepson of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne) came to Manila before the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton with only a photographer.
|Esquire food editor Tom Parker Bowles|
In his article for the British edition of Esquire, Parker Bowles was candid about his friends’ initial reaction when he mentioned his decision that he’s flying to Manila. According to his friends, Manila’s “one of the grimmest cities in the world”.
“No one could understand why I’d fly all the way out to this tropical republic of 7,000 islands and spend my time in the capital! It was like going to Disneyland, only to waste the entire visit in the loos by the main gate. This was a city, I was told, to be endured with a hanky held firmly to one’s mouth, the sort of place that made Sodom and Gomorrah look like Marlow on a crisp autumnal morn. I was told that bodyguards were ‘essential’, that everyone carried guns, and had no compunction using them.
It was such a good thing that Parker Bowles trusted his instincts and concluded in the August issue of Esquire: “So why go to Manila? A city neither famed for its food or beauty, it’s not the most obvious choice for adventures gastronomic or aesthetic. But it was one of the few cities in Southeast Asia I knew next to nothing about. And for me, it’s always had a certain exotic, far-flung charm. The more people tried to put me off going, the more determined I became to tramp its streets.”
On tour in the Filipino capital, Esquire’s gallivanting gourmand encounters fried pigs’ heads, warm duck embryos among others. Parker Bowles even describes the dinner prepared by Margarita Fores as one that turned growing flirtation of Filipino food “into true love.” He was served with a lechon, “a great, shiny roast pig.” The pig seemingly coated in thin toffee, sits gleaming in the centre of the table,” Tom recalled. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever tried, full stop…I chew, my head in hog heaven.” And after trying Margarita’s sinigang, “stunningly clean, elegant and fresh tasting. And that sourness is just right. Simple, yet glorious.”
He ended his article by recalling wistfully, “As we drive back to the hotel, my belly full, and head stuffed with chat and goodwill, I look around. Yes, it’s a city with pockmarked face and horrible limp, a place of erroneous preconceptions. But it has a heart of gold. Like the kind beauty who’s fallen on hard times. Far more than a mere hub for the rest of the country, an archipelagic afterthought, Manila’s one hell of a capital city. It hums and throbs and buzzes and whirrs. Overlooked and underappreciated, it’s plucky survivor. You just have to look beyond the obvious, scratch away the generalisations and long-held cant. Just like the food. Visit Manila with those in the know. You can’t fail.
If foreigners like Parker Bowles appreciated what our country has to offer to the world, then why can’t we Filipinos? Let’s all ponder on it and maybe jot down a list on why being a Filipino is something we must all be proud of.