Of Being a Filipino and Some Skills that Help me Enjoy FREEDOM

June 12 marks the Philippines’ 119 years of independence. Since this day is intended to celebrate Filipino’s hard-fought FREEDOM (whether it may be taken from a positive or negative perspective), here are some reasons why I am still thankful that I am a Filipino. Living for almost half a decade overseas makes me realize how hard it is to be a foreigner because I have too much freedom to do what I want

Living for almost half a decade overseas makes me realize how hard it is to be a foreigner because I have too much freedom to do what I want. Having too many options of which values to apply or cultural boundaries to set can be really confusing. My stay abroad allows me to deal with my innate Filipino culture and the integration of another foreign culture. So let me share some Filipino skills that help me enjoy the freedom that I have today.

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ENGLISH 101

We are NOT English native speakers but given the fact that all of us learn English since we were just babies, help us to communicate with all people around the world. This is a strong asset in traveling and landing a position in a multinational/ foreign company.

HOME COOKING

Wherever you are in the world, the best stories are shared over a sumptuous meal. Name a Filipino dish and we can make a way to make it happen regardless if there is a missing ingredient. Cooking does not only fill our stomach but it also connects us to home.

TOTAL PERFORMER

Events pave the way to every Filipino to shine by singing their hearts out or even dance like there is no tomorrow. It is more fun to party in the Philippines and Filipinos take that spirit as we put our 100% energy to sing videoke or dance to any beat.

LAUGHTER IS THE MEDICINE

When life happens, Filipinos have that super magical power to still smile or laugh amidst adversity. Many foreigners can’t even understand and they have an impression that we are not taking the situation seriously. But hey! We deal with problems head on but can we just smile for a while and tell ourselves that everything will be alright?

KEEP IN TOUCH

No matter how many cities you visited or how many dishes you have eaten, nothing beats a long conversation over Skype, Viber, Whatsapp or any other new technology with our friends or family. Filipinos are friendly and hospitable but what makes us different is we really mean it. It is easy to be friends with us and no matter where we are we will find ways to connect.

LOVE UNTIL IT HURTS

Filipinos love a lot. I am not just pertaining to romantic love but also if we open our house, we treat you as a part of our family. We give more than what we have. Same goes for a relationship, we always try to exhaust our freedom to give everything until we don’t have anything left for ourselves.

I think the freedom that we have right now is so enormous that we might be abusing the same freedom that our ancestors have fought for. Instead of uniting and enjoying what we have, there are some detrimental effects not only in the Philippines but how the world view us as well. It makes me think about what is our collective Filipino identity given the freedom that we have today?

“The identity of the Filipino today is of a person asking what is his identity.”
Nick Joaquín, Culture and History

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Mung Bean Soup

During the Lenten season, my grandmother would always prepare Ginisang Munggo or Mung Bean Soup. We usually eat this every Friday, because we believe that it is a part of fasting. Not eating meat (chicken, pork, or beef)  can be considered as a part of one’s repentance or sacrifice. Since this is the first Friday of Lent, I try  to recreate this tradition by cooking my own version of this dish.

Ginisang Munggo  or Mung Bean Soup

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  • 2 pieces       tomato
  • 2 pieces       onion
  • 5 cloves        garlic
  • 1 plate           fresh Spinach
  • 100 grams   small shrimp
  • 200 gram     Mung Bean
  • smoked mackerel
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika powder (sweet)
  • olive oil

Boil the Mung Beans with water. Usually, it takes around 1 hour or more to make it soft. Others also soak the beans first for 30 minutes to an hour before boiling them.

In another pot, put olive oil and sauté chopped onions and garlic. Add  the shrimps and tomatoes. You may also want to put a pinch of salt, pepper, and paprika powder to taste.

After  2- 3 minutes, pour the pre-boiled beans to the pot  and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, or paprika powder depending on your preferred taste. Turn off the heat and put the washed spinach  and stir the soup.

Serve hot and put smoked Mackerel as your topping.

 

Year of Yes

“She (Cristina Yang) has learned to not let go of the pieces of herself that she needs in order to be what someone else wants. She’s learned not to compromise. She’s learned not to settle. She’s learned, as difficult as it is, how to be her own sun” (Rhimes 56).

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From the writer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and the producer of How to Get Away with Murder, Shonda Rhimes’ book  Year of Yes allows people from various races and nationalities to understand and confront their deepest personal issues and experiences.

Considering that all of her shows are successful, Rhimes narrates how she conquers her stage fright, inhibitions, and other fears.  I commend how honest and straightforward she is in this book. She shares with her readers her support system, previous problems, and some convictions (about marriage and motherhood) that other people might find different.

“I had no idea why I was unhappy, no specific moment or reason to point to. I just knew it was true…. I was shut down. I was tired. I was afraid. Small. Quiet” (26).

“Being a mother isn’t a job. It’s who someone is” (107).

“Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one no at a time….Losing yourself  happens one pound at a time”(141).

These challenges that she was facing back then, are the same challenges that each person can relate to. In effect, she introduces the premise of saying “yes” to all the opportunities that are coming on her way.

“If I’m going to say YES… I might as well say yes to being me…. I am going to say yes to everything that scares me” (70).

“This Yes is about giving yourself the permission to shift the focus of what is a priority from what’s good for you over to what makes you feel good” (123).

However, a person can never really say “yes” all the time. She emphasizes the right balance on having the courage to  say “yes” and the bravery to say “no”. I agree with her that there are some people or requests that we also need to refuse in our lives. No matter how difficult, it is just for our own “peace.”

“I can certainly feel the difference. I’m trying to take up as much space as I need to take up. To not make myself smaller in order to make someone else feel better. I’m allowing myself to shamelessly and comfortably be the loudest voice in the room” (200).

“Because it’s not merely about surrounding myself with people who treat me well. It’s also about surrounding myself with people whose self-worth, self-respect and values inspire me to elevate my own behavior” (258).

I bought this book, expecting that she would somehow give her strategy in writing her television series’ plot twist or surprising climax. Instead, she chooses to introduce herself and  through sharing her experiences on how she rose to be who she is today, this gives inspiration to all readers. Her writing style provides a lot of snippets or different stories then she weaves them perfectly and coherently. In the end, this gives the readers our own “aha!” or “now, it makes sense” moments.

“Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be…. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than” (286).

Do You Want to Study in Germany?

Many people have been asking me; how can I afford to study here in Europe? Do I have a scholarship or how did I ever  begin the whole application process? To answer all these questions, I’ve decided to write this article.

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Honestly, studying in Europe is like a roller coaster ride. Of course, there are a lot of paperworks and aside from that, you also need to be emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, and mentally prepared. Here are some information that might guide you throughout your decision making process.

  • Do you really need or want to study a Master’s degree program abroad?

Do you feel jaded in your current work? Do you want to learn more because you feel that you don’t have any career growth?

Yes, it is the reality of being a yuppie (young professional), but you really need to make sure whether studying a master’s program is the solution to your current dilemma.  I put need and want in the question because there are a lot of motivations for needing and wanting the specific program.   There are some people who apply for a job right after their undergraduate program so that they can have enough work experience, and they can also earn money. However, some professions entail a good salary package if you have a higher educational degree. So by having a Master’s diploma, this gives you enough leverage to compete in the job market. For others, they continue taking the Masters program right after their Bachelor’s because they still want to figure out what they will do after their studies. It’s like strengthening their skills set before plunging to the real world.

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Studying a Masters program is like a commitment. It is demanding in terms of readings, presentations, and papers.  As an Asian studying in Europe, it is far more challenging since foreign students should also learn the  language of the country where they want to study. It might not be needed in English courses, but it is recommended so you can communicate with the people around you.

If you are 100% sure that you’re up to the challenge, then here’s the next step.

  • What is your target program and where?

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I suggest to make a list of possible Master’s degree programs which spark your interest. As you go through this list, try to search on Google which universities offer these programs. In this way, you can get an idea about where you will study, the requirements needed for your application, and the cost of your tuition fee.

There are a lot of news articles about Germany stating that all universities don’t ask for any tuition fees. I would just clarify that this does not mean that you will not have to pay anything for your studies.

There are still some private universities that asks for tuition fees. However, most of the universities in Germany only ask for “a semester contribution,” which includes the transportation ticket for the whole semester.  In the university website, you can also see the breakdown of this cost and the amount may vary depending where you will study in Germany.

There are also some regions which don’t recognized some of Asian diplomas. I experienced that the head of the program already had accepted me, but the International Office rejected my application.

Remember! This is not the end of the world if ever you experience this, even though we cannot escape the fact that it is really tough to look for a region or a university who will credit your Bachelor’s degree as a Bachelor’s degree and not a High School diploma.

Aside from that, you also need to look at your Transcript of Records. Some universities also verify if you took a certain number of units to be considered in your desired Master’s program. This means that if ever you graduated with a Bachelor of Science and you want to have a Master’s in Humanities it might be difficult to get a spot.

This is just my experience and I don’t want to generalize. So what I can suggest is  contact the University directly if you’re interested to apply.  It wouldn’t harm if you send an email directly to the program coordinator and ask whether you are qualified to apply for their Master’s program.

  • Uni-Assist to the rescue!

Some of the universities in Germany use Uni-Assist to handle all applications. This means that you can’t submit all your documents to the University directly, instead they will refer you to Uni-Assist.  You need to sign up in their system and look for the program that you want to apply for. You can also see in their website; how much you need to pay for the processing.  What I like about Uni-Assist is that, they also convert your grades based on the German system.

  • Scholarship

DAAD and Erasmus Mundus are the two famous scholarship institutions that you can look up to.  They also offer specific programs from specific Universities. It means that you need to choose from their list.  They also have specific guidelines or rules based on your nationality or region.

 I’ve tried to apply for Erasmus, but the application is really competitive. If ever, you did not make it for the scholarship program, then you can also ask whether they can still consider your application without the scholarship. This means that you need to pay for your tuition fee or look for sponsors.

  • Wait for your Acceptance Letter 

Once you have submitted all the requirements to the University or other institutions such as Uni-Assist etc., you need to wait for the acceptance or rejection letter. If you are accepted, then they will give you all the necessary information on how to process your visa so you don’t need to worry about that.

One thing that I’ve learned from this experience is to do your own research. What I’ve experienced might be different compared to what you will experience in the future. Rules change and you can’t always expect that the results will always be the same. Second, apply for more than one university. As what we always say in any raffle draws- the more entries you send the more chances of winning. It goes the same with University applications. I think it is necessary to have one or two options or fallback. Third, pray! It works 🙂

Do you have any similar experience in Germany? Let me know what you think!

Gymnastics in Germany

Before, I used to associate Gymnastics to a girl performing some stunts with ribbons. However, my experiences in Germany widen my knowledge about this sport, thus it offers a lot more than what I knew.

Just last Saturday, Novermber 21, I witnessed how TV Herbolzheim beat TSV Buttenwiesen. This last competition for the season placed them on the second place out of 8 teams from Germany. The categories involved floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. What is inspiring about being a spectator of this event is that you can really see how disciplined, dedicated, and committed the gymnasts are. Although most of them are students and professionals, they still find time to train every week and compete mostly on weekends.

Here are some  of the highlights of  the said event.

 

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Aside from competitions and weekly trainings, they also perform in private and public events. Last February 2014, I  had the privilege to perform with TVH in Herbolzheim’s Prunk und Narrensitzung- a celebration related to Fasnacht or more popularly known as Carnival. Here is the video.

 

Beef Giniling with a Twist

Pork or Beef Giniling is one of the famous dishes in the Philippines. It is usually eaten with rice and served as a main course in Fiestas or other special celebrations. Somehow, it can be compared with the Spanish dish, Picadillo and its ingredients vary based on different regions. Now, I will be sharing another version of this famous dish.  If you are tired of eating Giniling or ground meat, then you can use your creativity here in this new dish!

Beef Giniling with a Twist (Ground Beef with a Twist)

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  • 1/2 kilo             ground beef
  • 5 large              potatoes, cubed
  • 2 pieces           carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves           garlic, minced
  • 2 pieces           onions
  • 3 large              bell peppers
  • 3 pieces           tomatoes, minced
  • 1 small can       corn
  • 1 can                red beans
  • 3 tablespoons   tomato ketchup
  •                          grated quick melt cheese
  •                          salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

-Slice the uppermost part of the bell pepper. Make sure to scrape all its seeds or the white part inside.  Set aside.

-Usually, I boil the mashed ground beef in a separate pot to make sure that it is really cooked. In this way, I can also add salt and pepper based on my desired taste.

-Fry the cubed potatoes in a separate pan and  set aside.

This is it! Let’s cook!

In a pan, sauté the onion and garlic. When you see that the onion is already caramelized, add the minced tomatoes.  Then, put the ground beef in the pan. Sauté for around 1 minute.

Put the other ingredients such as the minced carrots, corn, and red beans. You may also put the tomato ketchup, salt, and pepper to enrich the dish’s flavor. Add a cup of water and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Let’s bake!

After that, put the sautéed meat in the bell peppers. Add the grated quick melt cheese on top. For 30 minutes, baked in a 350 degree oven.

Served with fried potatoes!

Enjoy your meal!

Craftival: A Craft Beer Festival

Germany has been known as the land of overflowing beer.

There are a lot of famous events as well as products that have been popular worldwide- there’s the world-renowned Oktoberfest, ubiquitous biergartens or giant beer mugs- that anyone would somehow closely associate with the German culture. Here, you can find different types of beer and most especially they are sold in an affordable price. Now,who can even resist drinking beer in this country?

Last August 8, Craftival was opened as the first craft beer festival in Freiburg. Beer companies came from Freiburg, Schwanau, Mahlberg, Strasbourg, Basel, and Tettnang just to offer and let the public try their products. It is the most interesting beer festival that I’ve attended so far. All just needed to pay 2 Euros for the entrance fee and the staff also charged 4 Euros for the Craftival Bier Menu.

 They gave a checklist that allowed people to know more about the companies which were participating on the said event.

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Ready. Set. Go! DRINK!!!!

Since it was very hot that day, the weather set the atmosphere for people to sit on the bench and talk to each other. There was also a great musician who performed and set the relaxing ambiance.2015-08-28 15.19.222015-08-28 15.16.17

As one walked from one booth to another, everyone can find some interesting products to buy.

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Bîrtel and other booths also offer free finger food. 

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Most of the booths asked drinkers about the flavors that they prefer. They offered wide variety of choices.

Look at what they can do with the beer bottles! For all the drunks out there, please do something creative out of the bottles that you’ve finished instead of breaking them and leaving them scattered along the streets.

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There was a booth which offered some products like lamp, containers etc. out of beer bottles.

Aside from drinking, there were also other delectable meals that everyone can buy.

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Streat Kitchen’s Cheeseburger. You will never say no in every bite.

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Grilled Ribs! This was served with french fries.

The most unique drink that I discovered here is the beer cocktail. They put some herbs and stones (yes stones!) in your drink.  I thought that stones are just used for filtering  but they put stones as an alternative for ice. They helped the cocktail stay cool for some minutes.

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This one was a little sweeter.

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This flavor was a little bit strong for me.

The event was quite cool because you can get the chance to try a lot of drinks as well as you can also meet different people from various parts of the globe.  Definitely, there should be another Craftival next year!

Prost!