‘Salo salo’ The Spirit of Sharing Food With Others

San Juanico Bridge connecting Samar Island to Leyte Island

In June 2018, I went back to Samar. During my short visit, I enjoyed the fresh, tropical food there. I wanted to share with you the top 10 foods I enjoyed during my trip. But most of all, I wanted to share the spirit of ‘salo salo’ that I’ve encountered, the generous spirit of breaking bread with others. This spirit of sharing with others permeates all the food and delicacies that I’ve enjoyed.


Anthony Bourdain enjoying Philippine street food (photo courtesy of National)

The late Anthony Bourdain, American celebrity chef and author also enjoyed Filipino food. But most of all, he also experienced the joy of ‘salo salo’, the joy of sharing food with colleagues, friends, and family. Yes, the fresh tropical fruits were delicious. Yes, the fresh fish and seafood were terrific. But what’s really memorable are the conversations and friendship shared with the meal.

(left to right) Evelyn Castillo, Maria Grace Adina school district supervisor, and Marlefe Lo, teacher prepares impromptu ‘salo salo’ during visit (June 2018)

This is the spirit of ‘salo salo’ – the spirit of giving and sharing of food with others.

‘Salo salo (sharing food with others)/ Top 10 Foods I Enjoyed In Samar:

(left to right) Dale Asis enjoying tuba palm wine with Evelyn Castillo and Marlefe Lo (June 2018)



10. ‘Tuba’ (palm wine)  – wine made from coconut and palm trees

‘Langka’ (jackfruit) related to breadfruit








9 – ‘Langka’ (jackfruit) a tropical fruit related to breadfruit. The ripe jackfruit has naturally sweet, subtle flavors. The flesh and seeds are also edible and sometimes cooked in coconut milk.





‘Saging’ bananas sold at a ‘sari sari’ (convenience store) in Giporlos, Samar


8 – ‘Saging’ (bananas). Bananas are found everywhere and it often comes in different sizes, shapes, and colors.

‘Biko’ sticky rice dessert served at a fiesta in Samar (June 2018)







7 – ‘Biko’ (sweet rice) dessert, made with sweet sticky rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. It is often topped with toasted, shredded coconut.





Marlefe Lo enjoyed picking guavas (June 2018)



6 – Fresh guavas right off the tree.

Evelyn Castillo checking out the mangoes (June 2018)








5 – Fresh mangoes ripened from the tree. It could not be any better than this.

Dale Asis holding fresh tuna caught in Guiuan Bay





4 – Fresh fish caught right off the bay.

Grilled, fresh fish in Guiuan, Samar (June 2018)








3 – ‘Inihaw’ (Grilled) Fish caught right off Guiuan Bay

Tinitim, local dessert made with cassava and brown sugar







2 – ‘Tinitim’, local dessert made with cassava and brown sugar

(left to right) Evelyn Castillo, Maria Grace Adina school district supervisor, and Marlefe Lo, teacher prepares impromptu ‘salo salo’ during my visit (June 2018)








1 – ‘Salo salo’ the spirit of sharing food with others is alive and well in Samar and the rest of the 7,000 islands of the Philippines.

TV food networks in the US celebrate the latest trendy cuisine or heralds the hottest celebrity chef. The Philippines celebrates ‘salo salo’, the community spirit of sharing and giving with others.The spirit of ‘salo salo’ is what makes food special – the spirit of giving and sharing of food with others.

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It’s Always Fiesta Time in the Philippines: A Lesson in Resiliency

Santacruzan, a religious historical pageant held in many towns usually in the month of May

Last June 2018, I went to visit Samar to check on the many projects the Bayanihan Foundation have donated there. In 2014, the region was hit hard by super typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit landfall. After the typhoon, the foundation responded quickly to help with the recovery efforts. During my visit, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all the books, computers, fishing nets, and many other donations are still being used today. I was really surprised by the colorful fiestas (festivals) happening in Samar and all throughout the 7,000 islands.

Santacruzan (a religious historical pageant) in Marabut, Samar

We were driving towards Giporlos, Samar and we passed by the highway an impromptu “Santacruzan,” a colorful pageant of young people dressed in colorful costumes. The festival is often held in many barangays (villages) where young people dressed up re-enacting the finding of the holy cross by Empress Helena in 336 AD. The Filipinos seem to know how to turn a boring historical fact in to a colorful fiesta.



The next day, Evelyn Castillo, Bayanihan Foundation Liaison and I visited the Giporlos Elementary School to check on the books and the computers we donated there a couple of years ago. During our unannounced visit, the principal, Oscar Sabarillo, and the school officials put together a potluck lunch during our surprise visit. All the sudden we had an impromptu lunch fiesta.

Before we left the school, the principal, Oscar Sabarillo, invited us to his town’s fiesta. So the following weekend, we went to another barangay (village) fiesta in Lawaan, Samar.

Town fiesta banner in Lawaan, Samar

We enjoyed a feast at the school principal’s home and at least 300 people were in and out of his house enjoying the lechon (roast pig). Evelyn, and her sister-in-law, Marlefe Lo, also joined in the festivities. I also had some tuba, an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree.

(left to right); Dale Asis enjoying tuba, palm wine at a town fiesta, with Evelyn Castillo and Marlefe Lo (June 2018)

I did not expect to be joining so many fiestas and impromptu parties during my visit. It seems hard to believe that Samar was hit hard by a devastating typhoon with the residents celebrating fiestas and enjoying life. What is really amazing are the residents’ ability to bounce back from adversity. The lesson of resiliency is an important lesson to be learned. But most of all, the Philippines and its 7,000 islands isn’t the Philippines without its colorful fiestas. It’s always fiesta time.

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Fisherfolk community in Guiuan, Samar: promoting sustainability

(left to right): (standing left) fisherman receiving fishing net provided as a microloan from Dale Asis (center) and Evelyn Castillo (standing right)

In 2014, the Bayanihan Foundation and the Worldwide Filipino Alliance (WFA) donated fishing nets to fisherfolk community in Samar right after the super typhoon Haiyan hit the island. Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest typhoons in recorded history to hit landfall.

Dale Asis enjoying Guiuan, Samar (June 2018)




In June 2018, I went back to Guiuan, Samar. I was completely surprised how the town has recovered so well from the super typhoon. Evelyn Castillo, the foundation’s Liaison and I visited a fisher folk community.

They named themselves Hook & Line Fishermen’s Association. I was impressed by the infrastructure they have put together. But most of all, they have not only incorporated economic livelihood for all the fisher folk members but also holistic sustainability measures to take care of the bay and the environment.

Freshly caught yellow tuna from Guiuan Bay



Evelyn and I even got to eat some freshly caught tuna right off the bay.

Dale Asis holding fresh tuna caught in Guiuan Bay

(Standing in the middle) Dale Asis and officers of the fisherfolk community in Guiuan, Samar


This fisherfolk community sets a fine example of “Bayanihan”, people working together for a common good, providing livelihood, and at the same time promoting environmental sustainability for the long-term and the good of the community.

Posted in climate change, Disaster Relief, Environmental conservation, environmental sustainability, Typhoon Haiyan | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s The Right Thing To Do: US Should Return the Bells of Balangiga

(left to right): Will Dix and Dale Asis attending the Chicago Philippine Consulate Philippine Independence Day event, June 14, 2018

On June 14,2018, Will Dix and I attended the Philippine Consulate of Chicago’s Philippine Independence Day event at the offices of the Philippine Consulate in Chicago. Will and I got to wear our barong, embroidered formal shirts and considered the national dress of the Philippines.

Philippine Independence Day June 12

The Philippines proclaimed its independence from its colonial masters, Spain and the US, on June 12, 1898. However, the country’s path to independence was complicated and arduous. Part of that fight for independence was the war between the Philippines and the US from 1898 to 1902. In 1901, the townsfolk of Balangiga, Samar launched one of the few successful surprise attacks against the Americans, claiming more than 40 US soldiers.  In reprisal, the US Army murdered every male over the age of 10 years in town during which the church bells were taken to Wyoming (For Whom The Balangiga Bells Toll, Huffington Post, April 2015).

Balangiga Church, Balangiga, Samar (June 2018 photo)

In 2018, it’s about time the US return the bells to Samar. The US should not keep them as war booty. On February 20, 2018, the US Ambassador to the Philippines even said, “that this would be the right thing to do” (ABS CBN News, February 20, 2018).

Balangiga statue depicting the Balangiga Massacre (June 2018)



On May 2018, I visited the Balangiga Church and the statue in front of the church plaza depicting the massacre. I was surprised myself to learn about this forgotten part of history (Ignacio, The Forbidden Book, 2004). I always thought the US was helpful and benevolent towards its former colony, the Philippines.

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)


In 1898, the conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the Spanish–American War.[15][16] The war was a continuation of the Philippine struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution. It is estimated that were 34,000 to 220,000 Philippine casualties with more civilians dying from disease and hunger brought about by war.

Depiction of Balangiga Massacre, painting at Tanuan, Batangas (August 2017)

At the end of the US Philippine War, soldiers of the 11th Infantry brought two church bells from Balangiga back to the base where they were stationed at the time—Fort D.A. Russell outside Cheyenne, now F.E. Warren Air Force Base. A third bell from the Balangiga church, owned by the 9th Infantry, remains at the U.S. Army’s Camp Red Cloud, Uijeongbu, South Korea. These bells need to go back home to Samar. It’s about time and the right thing to do.

The Church Bells of Balangiga currently in Ft. Russell, WY

The Church Bells of Balangiga in Ft. Russell, WY

In August 2018, I will travel back to Samar with young Filipino Americans as part of the 2018 NEXTGEN Program. I will take them to visit the Balangiga Church and let them know about this forgotten part of Philippine American history. And perhaps they would join me in the chorus to demand the return of the bells of Balangiga. It’s the right thing to do.

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Making a difference, providing clean water for hundreds of children

(far right) Rotarian Bob Newlon with Evelyn Castillo (far left) of Bayanihan Foundation in Barangay Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar

(far right) Rotarian Bob Newlon with Evelyn Castillo (middle) of Bayanihan Foundation in Barangay Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar (March 2016)

The Bayanihan Foundation made a difference in the remote village (barangay) of Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar by providing clean water and toilet facilities for hundreds of children as part of a day care center there.

On March 2016,  I traveled to rural Samar, Philippines with Rotary 6420 Past District Governor Bob Newlon from Oregon, Illinois. We went to barangay (village) Salvacion in Giporlos, overlooking Giporlos Bay in the southeastern tip of Samar island. Bob planned to install a unique toilet that does not use water. The village of Salvacion could certainly use a latrine or any infrastructure as it was one of the first areas hit by super-typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon in recorded history to hit landfall.

(bottom left) Evelyn Castillo and village leaders of Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar hike to visit the donated latrine and daycare center provided by the Bayanihan Foundation (June 2018)

On June 1, 2018, Evelyn Castillo, the Bayanihan Foundation Liaison, and I  traveled back to Barangay Salvacion in Giporlos and check on the planned latrine donation. The village captain and the community leaders were initially receptive of the unique waterless toilet but the village residents were not. They prefer to use the traditional toilet that uses water. However, the village leaders were quick to adapt to the situation and diverted the limited resources to build a traditional latrine and daycare center for the village children.

Donated latrine toilet and septic tank in Barangay Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar (June 2018)

The village leaders even put together a small reception of my return visit and presented Evelyn and I certificates of appreciation of the foundation’s efforts to help their village.

(left) Barangay (village) leaders of Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar congratulate Evelyn Castillo (second from the right) and Dale Asis (right) of Bayanihan Foundation of their support of a latrine and septic tank for a daycare center in their village (June 2018)

A big thanks to Rotary 6420 Past District Governor Bob Newlon from Oregon, Illinois for travelling to Giporlos, Samar in 2016 and for trying out his waterless toilet invention there. In the end, his visit to Giporlos prompted the local village leaders to rally together and use the donated materials to build a proper toilet and septic tank as part of a day care center  in barangay Salvacion. The Bayanihan Foundation made a difference in this remote part of the world and provided clean water for hundreds of children there.

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Forgotten history Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Will history repeat itself?


On May 29, 2018, Public Broadcasting System (PBS) will broadcast a remarkable documentary, “The Chinese Exclusion Act” by Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu. This documentary film talks about the first and only federal legislation in US history ever to single out a specific race and nationality for exclusion from immigration and citizenship. With President Trump’s increasing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, will history repeat itself?

This almost forgotten piece of US legislation forms the basis of the US complex ambivalence towards immigration. It excluded the Chinese but later also excluded Filipinos and Asian immigrants altogether. By 1924, US immigration from “undesirable countries” came to a halt. Additional legislation including the National Origins Act would include immigration quotas mostly from Northern European countries.

On January 2018, President Trump said that he would like to welcome immigrants from Norway and not from shit hole countries (The Independent, January 2018). This sounds eerily familiar. Will history repeat itself?

“Anti-Chinese handbill, 1892” Poster. July 23, 1892. From Globe Rove: http://globerove.com/china/chinese-exclusion-act/1790#lightbox/0/ (accessed July 25, …

On May 6, 1882, President Chester Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers into the US that lasted for over 60 years. The Act affected the Chinese who had already settled in the US. All Chinese immigrants were excluded from U.S. citizenship.[11][12] Any Chinese who left the United States had to obtain certifications for reentry were also deemed illegal. After the Act’s passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in their new homes.[11]

On January 2017,  President Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The move sparked many protests and legal challenges. This ban seems eerily familiar, will history repeat itself?

Political cartoon: Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman, referring to the Chinese Exclusion Act. Image published in 19th century.

On 1875, just seven years before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the US passed quietly the Page Act. This law classified as “undesirable” any individual from Asia who was coming to America to be a forced laborer,  and any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. It immediately labeled all incoming immigrant women as potential “prostitutes”. However, the interrogation of Chinese women through the immigration process was so atrocious that differentiating “real” wives from prostitutes was virtually impossible (Wikipedia, Page Act of 1875). By 1882, immigration of Chinese women to the US came to a halt.

On September 2017, President Trump quietly ordered an end to the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation and Congress also refused to act to change the directive (New York Times, September 2017). More and more, these young undocumented youth are depicted as immoral and as a burden to society. Hmm, this move seems eerily familiar, will history repeat itself?

“This couldn’t come at a more important time in our country… because it tells a story, it tells our story. It shows what was done to our people, but it is also relevant to our present moment, and what is going on today, with anti-immigration laws and prejudices and what’s going on with the Muslim ban. They all have their roots, legally and politically in Chinese exclusion.”- Historian Mae Ngai at THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT screening.

Filipino Independence hero, Jose Rizal, said: “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to this destination.” I hope you will get a chance to view this remarkable documentary, “Chinese Exclusion Act“, that  is remarkably significant to today’s current events. WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF?

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Filipinos in the US: The Latest Demographic Trends

The following information and data in this post is from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Filipinos in the US (March 2018)

The Trump administration continues the drumbeat of tighter immigration controls in the US. How is this affecting Filipino migration to the US? I’ve listed the top 7 demographic trends and the latest Census numbers from the Migration Policy Institute:

  1. The United States remains the top migration destination of Filipinos worldwide. By far, the US is home to by far the largest number of Filipinos abroad. Other top destinations include Saudi Arabia (584,000), the United Arab Emirates (539,000), Canada (528,000), Japan (239,000), and Australia (233,000), according to mid-2017 United Nations Population Division estimates.

Figure 1. Filipino Immigrant Population in the United States, 1980-2016 (courtesy of Migration Policy Institute MPI)

Sources: Data from U.S. Census Bureau 2010 and 2016 American Community Surveys (ACS), and Campbell J. Gibson and Kay Jung, “Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-2000” (Working Paper no. 81, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, February 2006), available online.

2. California remains the highest concentration of Filipinos in the US

44 percent of Filipinos in the US live in California,  followed distantly by Hawaii (6 percent). The next four most populous states are Texas, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey. These four states are home to 19 percent of the Filipino population collectively.

3.  Los Angeles and San Diego counties continue to be the top destination of many Filipinos in the US

The top four counties by Filipino concentration were Los Angeles and San Diego counties in California, Honolulu County in Hawaii, and Clark County in Nevada. Together these counties accounted for 26 percent of Filipinos in the United States.

Figure 2. Top States of Residence for Filipinos in the United States, 2012-16 (courtesy of Migration Policy Institute)

Source: MPI tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2012-16 ACS.

4. Los Angeles continues to have the largest Filipino concentration in the US. As of 2012-16, the U.S. cities with the largest number of Filipinos were the greater Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York metropolitan areas, accounting for almost 1/3 of all  Filipinos living in the US.

Figure: Top Metropolitan Areas of Residence for Filipinos in the United States, 2012-16 (courtesy of Migration Policy Institute)

Source: MPI tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2012-16 ACS.

5. Filipinos in the US continue to obtain lawful permanent resident status through family reunification channels but many still remain undocumented. Today, most Filipinos in the United States who obtain lawful permanent residence (LPR status, also known as getting a green card) do so through family reunification channels, either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family sponsored channels.

However, from 2010-2014, approximately 188,000 were undocumented, according to Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates, comprising less than 2 percent of the 11 million unauthorized population in the US. Many also get green cards through employment preferences.

6. Filipinos in the US are aging. Is Filipino migration to the US slowing down?

In 2016, Filipinos were older than the overall foreign and U.S.-born populations. The Filipino median age was 50 years, compared to 44 years for all immigrants and 36 years for native-born. Is this due to the slowing down of Filipino migration to the US?  Meanwhile, Filipinos were more likely than the native-born but somewhat less likely than the overall foreign-born to be of working age.

7. Most Filipinos in the US entered before 2000. Compared to all immigrants, Filipinos are more likely to have arrived before 2000. The largest share of Filipinos, approximately 59 percent, arrived prior to 2000, followed by 26 percent coming between 2000 and 2009, and 16 percent in 2010 or later (see below).  Is Filipino migration to the US peaked in 2000? Is  the slowing down of migration due to the improving economy in the Philippines? Or is it due to the anti-immigrant sentiment of the current Trump administration that’s attracting less Filipinos to migrate? Or is it about something else?

Figure: Filipinos and All Immigrants in the United States by Period of Arrival, 2016

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 as they are rounded to the nearest whole number.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2016 ACS.

 Migration Policy Institute Sources

Gibson, Campbell J. and Kay Jung. 2006. Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-2000. Working Paper no. 81, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, February 2006. Available online.

United Nations Population Division. N.d. International Migrant Stock by Destination and Origin. Accessed March 1, 2018. Available online.

U.S. Census Bureau. N.d. 2016 American Community Survey (ACS). American FactFinder. Accessed March 1, 2018. Available online.

—. 2017. 2016 American Community Survey. Access from Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 7.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2017. Available online.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 2018. DACA Population Data, January 31, 2018. Available online.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics. 2017. 2016 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Washington, DC: DHS Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

World Bank Prospects Group. 2017. Annual Remittances Data, October 2017 update. Available online.

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