News – PH – Story in a Chinese New Year Dinner


My search for Hopia and history in Chinatown last weekend required prior research, curiosity, and imagination.I learned, for example, that what we outsiders know as Chinatown is made up of Binondo and San Nicolas – two districts separated by a polluted Estero To get from Binondo to San Nicolas you have to take the San Fernando or other bridges along the Estero

At one point between San Fernando and Divisoria there used to be a raft that people crossed, a short distance marked by a rope tied from one bank to the other. I saw this raft in a pre-war photo and was surprised to learn that it was still in operation until the 1980s I got on once and was amazed to find the passengers dropped their fare or even a bill and collected their change from a box in the middle of the raft An honesty system was in place, because the boatswain was busy pulling the raft back and forth this raft is just a memory now, but I see that for people who need to cross the pasig from Makati to Mandaluyong there is still something similar left to cross for free , take the Guadalupe Bridge, the JP Rizal Bridge or the new one near Rockwell Or you can cross a banca for a minimal fee on this transpo rtmittel im 21 Century reminds us not only of the life of earlier times, but also of the fact that as an archipelago nation we live in a country that is connected and not separated by water

My classroom history is enlivened by stories from my experience I encourage students to connect past and present using their research and imagination to find relevance that will make our classes memorable. I am concerned about the growing trend of using videos instead of the formal academic term paper with footnotes and bibliography required Formal term paper provides research, documentation and clear expression. Students who make a video do not even do research in the library or on the internet Rather, they will notify a “resource person” for an interview and get their job done with no effort

Chinese New Year always reminds me of a home economics major in my UP Diliman Rizal course in the 1980s that had not only solid research but a whole laurate based on which he cooked (or bought) , A Chinese New Year dinner was held at class, which Rizal attended in Hong Kong in 1888. This meal was entered in his diary as follows:

“17 February Friday Chinese Tea U-long tea is bitter and one of the best P3 per pound

“The table is ready; three saucers in front of each guest; the empty one is the largest – 8 centimeters (in diameter) with a china spoon; another, a smaller one, with soy sauce; and the third, even smaller, with a small cup for the wine; The tiny cup has a content of five to ten grams. There is a tablecloth and a fork with two prongs. In the middle there are small oranges, salted eggs, almonds and other seeds

“When each guest arrives, they are offered a cup of U-Long tea, the superior tea Chasan P10 a pound

“You start dinner with tea, then with dried fruits goose shrimp eggs meat shark fin [bird’s nest tender duck chicken with mushroom rays] chicken with ham shark belly

“Tea with four saucers of chicken with ginger fish head mushroom and pork with two plates of bun and tea”

The student provided plain tea, jasmine and u-long tea and explained the properties that made each tea good or better than the others He had no plates and cups to show and tell but explained in his newspaper, How these were He didn’t let go that easily and was at a loss when I asked why Rizal didn’t mention chopsticks I also inquired whether the salted egg indicated in the menu was a century black egg, a brown tea egg, or the local one salted egg with the red shell was

Why did Rizal have two chicken dishes? Chinese friends have a whole chicken (head and feet) for Chinese New Year, but Chinoys insist that chicken means hardship, as in “isang kahig, isang tuka”

As we tried the student’s kitchen and heard his review, I saw how he made Rizal relevant to the topic of housekeeping and how he learned about food in Chinese and Chinese culture, food isn’t just about eating, scratching under the surface, and we can appreciate food as a marker of culture, history and identity

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Dragon Dance, Chinese New Year, Philippines, Binondo, Dragon

News – PH – Story in a Chinese New Year dinner