Undas is a major holiday that we observed as the “All Souls Day” (Nov. 2) in the Philippines.  It is celebrated along with All Saints Day (Nov. 1).  It is a Catholic tradition that was adapted from ancient Mexican rituals of honoring departed loved ones (um, I think).

During the Undas, families and clans reunite.  They go home to their respective hometowns or regions, clean and repaint the tombs of deceased relatives, and cook up a simple feast (usually kakanin or glutinous rice delicacies like biko) to take with them to the cemeteries. Families would have picnics by the graves or tombs, offer flowers or food, play cards, camp out, eat and pray.  On the downside, there would be lots of traffic jams along major highways and naturally, plenty of headaches and occasional petty traffic spats and squabbles.

Offering flowers, lit candles and prayers for Mommy (Oct. 30, 2008):


Picnicking on the memorial park grounds at night and watching out for shooting stars together with Sis, Doc, Pchi, Paw, Levic, and Lolo Daddy.

Traditional holiday food: Biko prepared at home, made from glutinous rice, sugar, and coconut milk:

I remember when we go to the memorial park way back in the 80’s to visit mama.  There were a lot more people back then.  There was generally a festive atmosphere at that time.  There were food stalls all around and many families would stay for hours and hours or set up huge tents on the grass so that they could camp overnight.

Now, I have noticed that the number of people visiting the park during the Undas have dwindled down considerably during the past years.  Or that if they do visit, they will stay for a short time, and then leave.  Or some visit ahead of time (like what we did) so as to avoid the traffic hassles and headaches.  Times are changing, I guess but I am pretty sure the tradition will continue to live on…  After all Undas is all about remembering.  As an Irish blessing goes: “May you never forget what is worth remembering nor ever remember what is best forgotten.” Nobody wants to be forgotten so let’s hope we all live a life that is worth remembering… Have a Safe and Happy Undas, Pinoys!

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I chanced upon the latest episode this morning (Oct. 17-Friday episode) of “Chelsea Lately” on etc.  One of Chelsea Handler’s usual panel guests was this head-shaven guy (don’t want to use the word ‘bald’) who had appeared in the show several times.   Their round-table conversation was about to end when I finally noticed something…

jokoy philippine jacketThe guy was sporting a jacket with design elements from the Philippine flag (left): the eight-rayed sun; the three stars; blue, red, yellow vertical lines across the chest with Baybayin script (ancient Filipino script) .  Hey! That’s a Pinoy jacket… i exclaimed… and it looks cool!  Who IS this guy?

But the guests left before i could catch his name.  So i consulted the all knowing Internet and finally found out that his name is Jo Koy.jokoy jay leno tonight show

Jo Koy is an American comic with Filipino blood.  He has appeared and performed in several shows (Apollo, Laugh Factory) and is one of the hard-working stars in the comedy world today.  He does make it a point to wear the Philippine flag on his shirt or jacket during some of his shows to announce his Filipino heritage.  He did just that when he guested on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 2006 (right) wherein he received a standing ovation after his stand-up routine.

Jo Koy (in Visayan means ‘joker’ or ‘joking’) with Jay Leno in 2006.

His decision to proudly wear the flag had to do with his upbringing, his Filipina mom and his beliefs and personal experiences (he doesn’t get it why a lot of Fil-ams in the US he encountered didn’t want to be known as Filipinos). I am posting some of his quotes here (first published in Discovering Pinoys magazine and posted in www.jokoy.com):

On why he wears the flag:

Because my mom’s. She’s so proud. Her name is Josie. She’s always active in the Filipino community and Filipino Chamber of Commerce. She always wanted to be around her fellow Pinoys. When my parents divorced, I took on more of my mom’s culture. I even told my dad when they got divorced; all I knew was my mom’s side of the family. When I first started doing stand-up 12 years ago, Filipinos weren’t so proud of being Pinoy, especially the young generation. So, that challenged me. I told myself, “If I ever have a chance to show it, I’m going to show it.” I hate it when people make fun of Filipinos in a derogatory way. I hate it even more when Filipinos do it themselves. When they dishonor Filipinos, they dishonor my mom, all my relatives and me.  Before my “Tonight Show” appearance, I shopped around looking for a Filipino flag patch to place on my jacket. My friend drove me around to numerous Filipino stores in search of one. Even though it took us a while, we didn’t give up.

On how Filipino/Asian culture influence his career:

Back in 1994, I was so sick of seeing people insult Asians. Even worse were Asians who insulted Asians. I wanted to say, “You know what, I am Asian, but I am funnier than you. I will make you laugh with whatever I will talk about. I do the stereotype stuff, but I do it in a way where it’s funny to everybody. I’m not insulting. I’m making awareness of it, but it’s funny. My main goal is not to bash. I want people to notice my talent and appreciate what I have to say.
Back when I was starting, the entertainment industry was not recognizing Asians, even in Hip Hop music. Look at Hip Hop now; we have Apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas, Chad Hugo of the Neptunes. Filipinos are involved and active in the Hip Hop culture and not only are we active, we are doing it big! Look at the Black Eyed Peas; they are amazing. Filipinos need to be aware. I’ve always been aware. Even back in the day, I always knew Lou Diamond Philips, Rob Schneider, and Tia Carrere were Filipinos. No one was making awareness of it. I never understood why. I did not get it. Kids now are more active and involved. I’m happy and proud of it. It’s great because everything I wasted in ’94 is happening now in 2006, which is 12 years later. I feel great about it. I wore the Filipino flag on my jacket when I appeared on the ”Tonight Show,” and I would have worn it well 12 years ago. Hopefully Filipinos will be proud to say they are Filipino rather than say they are “Hawaiian.” I don’t want anyone to be ashamed of his or her roots. Why do they say they’re “Hawaiian” anyway? I don’t tell people I’m “Californian” or “Navadian.” I am only half Filipino and I am proud to say I am Pinoy. Filipinos around me are just as proud as I am.

He does have a point.  Thankfully, a lot of Fil-ams in the States are now realizing it–that they are slowly becoming a growing force to be reckoned with in Hollywood: many of them are intelligent, and talented and could play a big role in the US entertainment industry soon.  They need to band together and go full blast.  I’m actually excited for them.

I also learned that Jo Koy’s coming to Manila to do a show with fellow Asian American comic Russel Peters on October 21 (that’s this Tuesday) at the NBC Fort. Good luck, Jo Koy and keep wearing that flag!

Here’s A Day in the Life of Jo Koy and his brand of comedy:

These are just more snapshots of what i saw and experienced in Indonesia–the art, culture, and some crazy moments:

Art, Koi, and Rain

…A country should take pride in its identity and culture. One way of doing this is to put up public statues, sculptures, and monuments that best speak of its history and heritage. And these should also be of fine quality and elegant taste, as well. Statues in Indonesia are everywhere from national symbolism to religious purposes. Left: An elegant neoclassical equestrian statue of their national hero, Javanese Prince Diponegoro at Monas Park.  Middle: a beautiful life-size statue of Hindu/Balinese Goddess Saraswati at the entrance of Rumah Mode.  Left: another life-size sculpture of a Hindu Goddess at the lobby of Hotel Panorama Lembang.

Artworks at the Art Market in Bay City. (Left) East meets West: a wooden statue of the Balinese mythological diety, Garuda, alongside Christianity’s Pieta; (Right) Indonesian artists depicting their way of life–from folk dances to everyday scenes of crowded trains.

(Left) I was thrilled to see lots of koi fishes in Bandung, in public parks and fountains.  Kung dito yan, ninakaw ko na sila! hehe.  (Right) Rain is also consistent, much to our chagrin.

….I like the details and elements that I see…even if they are just for decor, it speaks volumes about one’s culture and taste. (Left) Cute Keisja posing with a sign by the restroom at the hotel.  (Middle) Washing area at Rumah Mode. (Right)A ‘bilao’ slash light fixture.

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The Language

Bahasa sounds like Ilocano (that’s according to Ly who has been living there for two years and has acquired a fairly wide Bahasa vocabulary by now) because there are a lot of ‘J’ consonant sounds in the language.  She says it is easy to learn because we share the same Malay root words with them like: bunga means ‘flower;’ sakit means ‘sick’ and ‘timbangan’ (as the sign says on the left in a supermarket) means… ‘timbangan’ .

But of course, when out shopping in factory outlets (right), all you need to know is “Berapa harganya?” (Magkano?); “Mahal!” (Mahal!); “Mura!” (Mura!); “Boler tawar?” (puede tawad pa?) and my favorite: “Gratis!” (Free/Give-away!)

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Joblogs: Kalokohang Pinoy

Lighten up! Being too serious all the time can be bad for the health…So here comes the naughty part! Haha! I swear, all these things I found in Indonesia…this is only funny just for Pinoys…

(Left) Yummy “Pok__” Chicken Nuggets was our first meal.  Try it…you’ll like it!  (Middle) How about Pocky, you like?  It’s widely available in supermarkets….  (Right) What’s in a name? Find out this local celebrity’s name…just click on the pic and see.  😆

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Acknowledgments

Closing this series of posts on Indonesia (finally, tapos na po)…I can’t thank all my friends enough who were with me during this Indo vacay. Kung wala kayo naligaw siguro kami (jok!) …Kaya heto pa muli ang aking taus-pusong pasasalamat:

Ly and Ros: Thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to accommodate us.  You were all great and generous.  Your kindness and concern meant so much to us.  I hope you guys will live a full life and may God guide and bless the both of you where ever you guys go.

Den: Thanks for bearing with me during this trip.  I know that being with me 24/7 for one week requires patience and understanding.  You’re a great companion and friend.

Donna, Vince, Shem and Keisja: A wonderful family like yours deserve all the blessings in the world! Thank you for ‘adopting’ us for a short while…and for spoiling us rotten.  We don’t deserve it but we are forever indebted…

Terimah kasi…Godpeace…lovyaz!