Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gentle Reader's Double Posting

I'm an avid follower of the Miss Manners column in MSN.com. I make it a point to visit the site at around 3pm every Monday to get my weekly dose of advice from the grande dame of etiquette. Last year, I discovered Slate.com and its own etiquette advice column Dear Prudence and has been regularly checking the column ever since.

Two weeks ago, a Gentle Reader (what Miss Manners calls her letter-senders) asked for advice on whether to send a thank-you note for an offending wedding gift from her husband's relatives. Hubby's aunt and uncle gifted the newlyweds with a co-written book on marital infidelity along with a card inviting the newlyweds to attend and pay for one of their weekend seminars.

Last Friday, I came across exactly the same story in the Dear Prudence column.

Miss Manners and Prudence concur that Gentle Reader (or, in Dear Prudence's case, Insulted Bride) should still write her new aunt and uncle a thank-you note. Miss Manners suggests mentioning something along the lines of being sad for the other couples with troubled marriages, yet thankful for their own happiness. Prudence, more tongue-in-cheek, suggests mentioning that they hope that they don't ever have the occasion to use that wedding gift.

Aside from the varied treatments that the advice columnists have for the same scenario, what I found really amusing is that the bride wrote to at least two advice columnists about it! The bride was probably (1) looking for multiple viewpoints on the same issue; (2) in a hurry to solve her etiquette dilemma and decided to follow whichever columnist answers first; or (3) hoping that the offending aunt and uncle run across these columns and be chagrined about their faux pas.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting my etiquette advice fix again later this week. I hope I can again find a little gem just like Insulted Bride's dilemma.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The War at Home: An Interpretation

I was on my way to the office this morning when I came across an opinion poll in Unang Hirit (the bus I was riding has a TV set tuned in to GMA 7). Arnold Clavio and the UH gang were soliciting feedback via SMS on whether or not Filipinos should react to being called a "nation of servants." One texter replied "Id rather be called nation of servants, than be called the Land of Triads, illegal drugs and pirated CD's and DVD's."

Curious, I Googled the phrase "nation of servants" and located the article "The War at Home" written by Chip Tsao. (Note: As of this writing, the HK Magazine web page is inaccessible. The article is also located here.)

The article was written as a reaction of a "patriotic Chinese man" to the piece of legislation recently enacted by the Philippine government to affirm the country's sovereignty over the outlying islands in the Spratly chain and Scarborough shoal; China currently has a competing claim over both island chains.

To paraphrase, Chao does not mind the "insults" of larger and more powerful countries (such as Russia and Japan) against the Chinese (in the form of sinking a freighter ship by the Russians and the planting of the Japanese flag on Diaoyu Island) but he takes umbrage over the "blatant threat" from the Philippine congress "to send gunboats to the South China sea to defend the islands from China if necessary." He further writes "As a nation of servants, you don't flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter." He goes on to mention how he gave a stern lecture to his domestic assistant (read: domestic helper) Louisa, an international politics degree holder from the University of Manila, on how he would terminate her employment if war ever breaks out between the Philippines and China. He also mentions how friends make their Filipina maids say "China, Madam/Sir!" alound (ala "Sir, yes sir!") whenever the word "Spratly" is heard.

As his narrative goes from being naggingly offensive to absolutely absurd, it becomes clear that the article is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. It calls attention to China's exaggerated reactions (such as China's Foreign Ministry summoning a Philippine Embassy official to protest against the passing of the bill and the Chinese Embassy in Manila issuing statement that reiterates China's "indisputable sovereignty over these islands and their adjacent waters).

So why all the vitriol leveled at Chao? Couldn't we Filipinos identify a satirical piece when we see one? Can't we take a joke?

I think that it's simply because the plight of the Filipino domestic helpers abroad hits a highly sensitized nerve in all of us. Our Flor Contemplacions are always present at the back of our minds: that behind the dollar remittances that pay for this month's sack of rice, school tuition, a new house or even just a new PSP, a loved one is far away, toiling through God-knows-what. We all have heard stories of Filipino domestics who were verbally or physically abused by their employers. And these same domestics take a long time to leave their employers or even report the abuse, just because their family depends on their wages in order to survive.

Chao may have used his Louisa to illustrate how inconsequential the enacted legislation is but he also underscores our weakness as a nation. Really, how can a country so poor that it allows its citizens to work abroad as domestics take on China's military superiority? The same way Louisa can't argue with Chao's flawed logic despite her international politics degree.

I can't push others who were offended by Chao's comments to just laugh at the satire and get the joke. Because, really, what we as individuals and as a people endure and are willing to go through in order to feed our families is no laughing matter.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Kabab Place in Robinsons Pioneer

One of hubby's preferred cuisines is Mediterranean. I had a passing interest ever since I saw the "Kabab ni Bob" place in one of my favorite movies. However, when hubby discovered Behrouz in Metrowalk, he would always try to convince me to go there but I would often go halfheartedly because (1) the place didn't have a pleasant ambiance (the interior looked like a cheap cafeteria; plus, there's a talking parrot that caws while you eat) and (2) the prices were astronomical. Between the two of us, hubby and I would spend over P800!

I took advantage of my "pregnant wife privileges" and refused to eat there from the third month of pregnancy onwards but having given birth last December, I really didn't have any excuse anymore. Since then, knowing that hubby would sometimes crave for his kabab fix, I have been looking for an alternative to Behrouz.

I was in Robinsons Pioneer this afternoon with hubby, my kids and my in-laws and while I was strolling around, I came across a newly-opened Mediterranean resto called Pasha. Scanning their menu, I determined that their prices were reasonable so I resolved to suggest that we go there for dinner.

As expected, hubby welcomed my suggestion (with much enthusiasm!).

It turns out that Pasha is still on dry run. Their menu is not yet complete and the dining area downstairs from their main hall is still in disarray.

As for the food, we ordered Chicken Kabab Platter, Beef Kabab Platter and some shawarmas. The taste was pretty decent. I'm sure hubby appreciated the heat from the chilis. My baby girl Mica doesn't like spicy food so she ended up eating leftover spaghetti from our snack earlier in KFC. The bottomless Lipton Iced Tea they served was a perfect companion to all the spice. The presentation looked quite authentic (the kababs were alternated with tomatoes, peppers and onions in skewers which Behrouz does not even bother to do) and the mutabal was better than most I have tasted.

Best of all, though, is the price. Total bill for five people amounted to a little less than P900 (they applied a 10% introductory discount but for a meal for five at P180 per head is great!). The place could still work out some kinks (eg. the waiter got my brother-in-law's order wrong, the bill was pretty slow in arriving, etc.)

All in all, I would recommend Pasha as an alternative to pricier restos if you're craving your own kabab fix.