Sunday, January 30, 2011

Food for Pride

Maharlika, in contemporary Tagalog, means nobility or aristocracy, though in pre-colonial Philippines, it referred to a lower class that served the datu or chieftain during times of war. The term gained its current connotation during the Marcos era when patriotism was promoted. Student of Philippine history and culture Paul Morrow writes
“Maharlika culture” was his (Marcos) propaganda tool for promoting nationalism during the days of the “New Society.” The word became very fashionable and was used in naming streets, buildings, banquet halls, villages and cultural groups. Marcos named a highway, a broadcast company and the reception area of MalacaƱang Palace, Maharlika. He even toyed with the idea of renaming the whole country as Maharlika.
However one would like to consider the word, it is with apparent pride that Nicole Ponseca, Enzo Lim and Miguel Trinidad named their pop-up restaurant in New York City's East Village Maharlika . They wanted to make Filipino cuisine available once more to Manhattanites and in a form worthy of the trendy and finicky. After all, Filipino food as offered by most places in the United States is not exactly the most attractive and distinctive.

As my childhood pal, George Gozum, gushed after our brunch
Possibly the best Filipino brunch I've had in NYC, because they really 'got' the concept of an American brunch, but with Filipino dishes that had a level of authenticity that few other pinoy restos in Manhattan achieved. And it was packed! Maharlika mastermind Nicole Ponseca's done it right.
The food is excellent. I had the Eggs Imelda, chef Trinidad's take on Eggs Florentine, with laing instead of spinach, underneath two poached eggs, on pan de sal, with grilled prawns and a sweet potato hash and side salad. The presentation is worthy of the woman of a thousand shoes.

Trinidad masterfully balances authenticity with creativity. The laing tasted as it should but rather than a gloppy green mess (think saag paneer), I got delicately julienned tarot leaves peeking underneath perfectly poached eggs. It was a brilliant combination - the creamy yolk tempered the heat of the laing.

George had sisig - pork ears and jowl, boiled, chopped then marinated - better known in Philippine beer gardens and ordinarily served sizzling and spattering on platters. He got his portion in a cast iron skillet topped with an egg.

Maharlika opened less than two week ago and has become the latest thing. It is packed not mainly by Filipinos seeking comfort in familiar tastes and smells, but by New Yorkers of various races and ethnicities. A Malaysian friend who has been a number of times since its opening had to settle for a seat at the bar since he had no reservations. Two gorgeous Carribean young women asked about the calamansi mimosa. A few tables over a mixed group of fashionistas tasted each other's plate.

I always believed that Filipino cuisine has its place in the food scene. Maharlika confirms my faith and pride. I hope that it's here to stay.

Photo by Yvette Santos Cuenco.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Off the chopping block

For my Feet in 2 Worlds post on immigrants and gay marriage in New York, I asked Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, for his response to skeptics of marriage equality efforts in the state.

I pointed out that some queer activists question the energy and resources put on passing gay marriage legislation by LGBT advocates and groups when queers of color face larger and more pressing problems like poverty, unemployment and inequality. Moreover, doubters object to the heteronormative nature of marriage which privileges the nuclear family over other kinds of families.

Evan sent me an email, part of which was quoted in the article. Here is his entire response:
The denial of the freedom to marry with all its tangible and intangible protections, consequences, and meaning hurts everyone -- not least because it is state-sponsored discrimination based on who we are and who we love, which is intolerable. But it falls harshest on those who are most vulnerable -- people dealing with illness, immigration status, low means, and other challenges -- because it means denial of an extraordinary safety-net that touches virtually every area of life from birth to death, with health and taxes and in between. What's more, the work to win the freedom to marry has spurred more progress across a variety of fronts we all care about -- non-discrimination laws, gender identity and youth protections, other forms of family recognition. Rather than imposing false either/or's on LGBT people, we should be working together for full equality and inclusion as well as enlarged possibilities for all, and ending the exclusion from marriage is a big part of, and engine, in that advance.
Personally, I am for marriage equality and support efforts to make it a reality at the state and federal levels. I nonetheless agree with queer activists who complain that little attention is given to the concerns and issues of those in the community who are of color, foreign, poor and transgressive of the predominant gay norm. Gaining the freedom to marry will be a boon to many lesbian and gay couples but not necessarily to those who need help most.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gay not same-sex please

Over the weekend, I tweeted
Stop using 'same-sex' - being lesbian or gay is more than just sex. Not to mention 'opposite-sex' simply sounds awkward.
Which promptly netted
@ErwindeLeon ?! "member of the opposite-sex" has been common use in Anglosphere society well before same-sex came to replace gay.
My tweet did get a few likes on Facebook from friends who understood where I am coming from.

I advocate the use of the word gay instead of same-sex when describing relationships, especially marriages, between two individuals who happen to be lesbian or gay.

Same-sex has the connotation that a relationship is purely sexual and reinforces the myth that queer folk, particularly gay men, are predatory and promiscuous (one simply has to turn on the television, go to the movies, or surf the Web to confirm that straight people can be no less predatory and promiscuous).

At the end of the day however, I strongly believe that marriage need not be categorized as gay or straight. Just marriage. Any society that purports to uphold the dignity and equality of all should allow its citizens the freedom to marry, regardless of gender orientation.

But if we must, then please use gay. Thanks.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Aye matey ... from the mouth of babes

Most Sundays, I sit behind this family with two funny and smart boys - one almost a teenager, the other, a precocious little one in pre-K. One of their dads sent me and my husband an email which reminds me why, aside from being the minister's spouse, I attend my church.
John and Erwin,

I have to share with you both a little vignette from G's bath time last night. He likes to play with little Playmobile figures in the bath-tub and we have several sets -- Vikings, knights, and pirates, some of which are larger than the others. As I was sitting there watching him play, he took one of the figures, dressed mainly in black garb, and told me that this one is "Father John" ... "I love Father John," he said. He then began to fish around in the water for another figure saying to himself, "Now I have to find Erwin ... I love Erwin, too, Daddy ... " He kept fishing, found one, placed him beside the Father John figurine and then said, grimacing, "It's Erwin so he needs to be a little shorter." Not able to find a "shorter" one, he found another very colorful, red, yellow and green pirate, put it beside Father John and announced "There, Father John and Erwin. ... I love them both very much." So, the two of you have ARRIVED ... you are now official inhabitants of G's bath-time Pantheon. Congratulations.

My heart is full knowing that I am the very colorful plastic pirate in a sweet child's world.