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Making (and keeping) friends

In previous years, the observance of Philippine Independence Day usually involved the hosting of a program for overseas Filipino workers in Taipei and other cities hosting OFWs. There would usually be a formal reception to which Taiwanese officials, business people, and prominent Filipino residents were invited.

The workers’ program usually involved an exhibition basketball match among various workers’ organizations or even professional players invited from the Philippines, or else the viewing of a Pacquiao boxing bout, a talent show featuring entertainers “imported” from Manila as well as Taiwan-based groups, a raffle sponsored by telecom, remittance and shipping companies, with the entire program preceded by the celebration of a Mass.

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This year, though, says Amadito Perez, chair of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office which serves as a de facto “embassy” in Taiwan, the Meco officials are planning a much more low-key observance, with a focus on fostering unity and camaraderie among the thousands of Pinoys employed on the island.

Perhaps the focus on unity and unanimity among Filipinos is needed now in Taiwan more than ever, what with the still-simmering sentiments between Filipino and Taiwanese officials over the “encounter” off Batanes between a Taiwanese fishing boat and a vessel of the Philippine Coast Guard-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

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The latest news, says Perez, is that the two countries have each agreed to send an investigative team to look into the incident that resulted in the death of an elderly Taiwanese fisherman.

A Filipino resident in Taipei says he and other members of the community personally do not feel any tension or stress regarding the surge of anti-Filipino sentiment there. But in other cities, notably Kaohsiung, where a good number of OFWs are based, incidents of “snubbing” of Filipinos by restaurant workers and vendors and of street harassment of “Filipino-looking” pedestrians have been reported.

At the building housing the Meco offices, the news is that the owner and the other tenants have begun complaining about the “vigil” being carried on by Taiwanese media, with anyone entering or exiting the building, even those not remotely resembling Filipinos, hounded and harried by news people hungry for a sound bite.

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There may indeed be a “political” back-story to the rather heated rhetoric emanating from Taiwanese officialdom.

But while it makes sense for Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to squeeze as much political capital out of the incident as he can, all in the effort to boost his falling popularity rating, Filipino officials would do well to stop boasting about our own P-Noy’s high popularity and trust ratings.

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One thing has nothing to do with the other. A man has died, after all, and all our commiserating and the offer of restitution to his family will mean nothing if we posture as if this all boils down to popularity or political convenience.

How can we convince the Taiwanese of our sincerity? By offering our deepest sympathies to the family and showing our resolve to determine the circumstances behind the encounter and ensure justice is done and proper accountability is meted out.

As pointed out in an earlier column, the Philippines and Taiwan have had decades of good relations, and despite the “One China policy,” we have managed to establish mutually beneficial relations while respecting concerns about sovereignty and national dignity. We need all the friends we have made in the world, and keeping them is important.

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You can have your (cup)cake and eat it, too!

The daughter of a good friend, Sandra Castro Puno, has started a cupcake business that produces goodies that are good for you (healthwise) while satisfying not just your sweet tooth but even your aesthetic sense.

Steph Puno, the new cupcake mistress in town, is an Ateneo graduate who used to work in a bank but shifted her interests when she went to New York to take a course at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. The school, says Steph, “is dedicated to a more nutrition-centered and health-supportive style of cooking.” The cuisine and style of cooking taught at the Institute are “mostly-plant-based (though not limited to it) and trains chefs to cater to the individual’s dietary needs.”

While at the Natural Gourmet Institute, Steph trained with a number of progressive chefs and also did recipe testing for vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli in her recent desserts cookbook “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts” which came out last month. Credited for her work on the recipes, Steph says, “I was so happy to find my name in her cookbook!”

Coming home recently, Steph has started her own line of sweet and savory products. The bestsellers are her Salted Caramel and Espresso Walnut Cupcakes, as well as her pies like S’mores, Apple Pie, etc. “I offer gluten-free or vegan products upon request,” she says.

“Vegan” and “refined-sugar-free” may not be the most tempting of bakery come-ons, but Steph sent a box of six such Espresso Walnut Cupcakes and I must tell you, neither I nor members of my family could tell they were different from the usual calorie-buster treats.

Steph also specializes in theme cupcakes for a more personal touch for your family feasts and special occasions. I really like the cupcakes she made on the occasion of the “birthdays” of their family dogs, and they are the bomb! (You can send a photo of your dog/s or whatever subject you prefer, and Steph can replicate it in her cupcakes.)

Steph retails her cupcakes at P55 each for “regular” flavors, and P70 each for “special,” including vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, etc. She accepts a minimum order of six, preferably one day in advance. Send orders by e-mail to [email protected] or message her on Facebook.

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TAGS: At Large, conflict, Foreign Affairs and International Relations, MANILA, ofws, opinion, Philippine Independence Day, Rina Jimenez-David, Taiwan
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