April in The Philippines: The Bible Dedication

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I said bye to the diving group at Manila airport and hopped onto a connecting flight to Puerto Princesa. Just as I settled into my seat, there was an announcement asking for volunteers to be offloaded. They’d be given a nice hotel room and flown out to Puerto Princesa on the next flight out the next day. On top of that, they’d get a return ticket to anywhere in the Visayas (Cebu area) as compensation. I was very sorely tempted by that, but sadly kept my seat as I had to be in Puerto Princesa that very day for a bible dedication.

You see, my church had been supporting a missionary who was involved in some translation work for the villagers on Cagayancillo, a tiny remote island somewhere in the large expanse between Palawan and Luzon in the Sulu sea. They’d recently finished translating the New Testament and were holding a dedication ceremony to which lots of overseas supporters were invited. Now, how often do you get to witness something like this while on holiday? I stayed put in my seat.

As we walked across the tarmac to the Puerto Princesa arrival terminal, a military brass band complete with saxophonist serenaded us. Apparently the mayor of Puerto Princesa had arrived in town straight from an overseas junket just to grace the bible dedication! It was great to come in at the same time as the mayor and receive the mayoral welcome.

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Michael, our missionary-translator, was kind enough to meet me at the airport despite being one of the busy stars of the dedication. He whisked me straight to the hall where the event was held. Soon enough, the mayor himself appeared and gave a congratulatory speech.

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Then came some very touching homespun performances by the talented Kagayanens. Here’s the band playing some haunting Kagayanen melodies, complete with rain shakers and local guitars. I wish I had a proper recording of it instead of snatches of it on the video function on my crappy camera.

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After that, there was a bit of a pantomime/sketch that showed the journey of the Kagayanens and their everyday life, complete with cute props of traditional boats and cooking implements.

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I’m sure there was some sort of praying and dedication stuff happening, but I forget. The rest of the activities were lots more fun! The best part of the dedication ceremony was the end, when the band starting jamming and two by two the villagers got up to dance. It was really sweet how very soon a lot of the overseas visitors soon joined in, many pulled up to dance by an enthusiastic local.

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Later that evening, the mayor hosted the supporters (us) for a lovely dinner and cultural performance at the hotel. Now, a cultural performance put up by the mayor of the island can’t be beat. It was top notch, full of colour and talent. Again, I wished my camera didn’t let me down. This shot was the best I got because they actually stayed still to pose for pictures here. At least you can make out the colourful costumes. Moral of the story? You’ve got to be there yourself in person.

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The best part of the whole dinner party was the mayor giving out rain shakers and personally thanking each guest (including me!) for coming all this way for the bible dedication. It was a sincere gesture from someone who genuinely seemed to care about his constituents, even those in the remotest corner of his remote island.

Quick Eats: Sugee Custard

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It was the Ramadan period. DC and I were driving to our favourite dive shop when we saw sugee custard being sold by the side of the road. It was the one next to Zam Zam (good for murtabak, not for biriyani), I suspect it’s New Victory Restaurant. In another one of our fits of greed, we slowed down and did one of those clandestine drug deal-type swaps. Except that it was just money for custard.

Luckily the car park was just the next block away. If not I don’t know how we’d be fighting over it and driving (DC though, not me) at the same time. I only just managed to snap this shot in the dimly lit car park before we wolfed it all down. The custard was just the right sweetness and was smooth and silky, studded with soft little beads of sugee (semolina). Having had poor renditions of raisin and almond in the past, this version restored my faith in the combination.

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Exactly how good was it? After our visit to the dive shop, DC promptly dragged me back across the road and bought two more tubs for his parents. Now that Ramadan is over, I hope for your sake that they’re still selling it.

New Victory Restaurant
No. 701 & 703 North Bridge Road (Opp. to Sultan Mosque)
Singapore 198677
Tel: 62986955 / 62983502

[edit: DC confirmed that it’s indeed New Victory!]

Tangerine Konnyaku

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Still on my quest to use tangerines for cooking and not straight up eating, I tried another variation on konnyaku. This one needs a bit of work not just with the zesting and juicing but also peeling the little suckers. Think about how good it’ll taste and how you used natural ingredients for it instead of artificial flavour and colour.

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Ingredients:

4 konnyaku moulds
10 mini tangerines, sectioned
750 ml water
zest of 5 tangerines
juice of the 5 tangerines (about 200 ml)
juice of ½ a lemon
10 g (1 pack) konnyaku powder
180 g sugar

Method:

  1. Prepare the konnyaku moulds by placing 3 sections of mini tangerine in each compartment.
  2. Combine the water and zest in a pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Strain out the zest and put it back on the heat. Add the citrus juices and bring to a boil.
  4. Stir the sugar and konnyaku powder in a bowl, making sure the powder is well mixed into the sugar.
  5. Add to the boiling mixture and stir till smooth.
  6. Fill the moulds with the jelly mixture and leave to cool.
  7. Transfer to fridge for at least 2 hours.
  8. Unmould and serve.

Makes 32 jellies.

Note: If you can’t find mini tangerines, use canned ones. They’re mighty fine too. Plus, none of the hassle of peeling and sectioning them.