Category Archives: Philippine History

Recipe for Kids

Polvoron is a traditional Filipino dessert that is very easy to make.  The main ingredients are flour, sugar, and powdered milk.  Butter binds them all together.  Philippines was colonized by Spain for 300 years, so it is no surprise that this tiny cake has Spanish origin.

As a teacher, I love making this in class because the only cooking involved is toasting flour that can easily be done days beforehand.  After all the ingredients are measured, the only thing left to do is to mix and mold.  If you’ve had any experience with children, you know why making this dessert with them is always an instant hit.

My mom used to make big batches of this “short bread”.  She would mix peanuts, cashews, or toasted pinipig (flattened immature glutinous rice) to give texture to the otherwise, melt-in-your-mouth dessert.

The trickiest part of this dish is knowing when the flour is toasted just right.   Over do it and the flour will taste bitter; under cook it and it won’t have the nutty taste of toasted flour.  My mom would say that the “nose knows” when the flour is cooked just right.

Aside from the flour turning golden brown, flour toasted perfectly would have a great smell that would spread through the whole house. She would ask me to go up to the second floor hallway of our house and stand just outside my bedroom door;  if I could smell it there, then the flour is ready.

My contribution to this traditional polvoron recipe is adding freeze-dried mangoes.  The hint of mango reminds me of summers in Manila.  I can’t enjoy  Zambales, Cebu, or even Guimaras mangoes (because we don’t get them here), but a hint of mango in my small polvoron cakes can tide me over until my next trip back to Manila.

Mango Polvoron

1 1/4 cup toasted flour (whole wheat or all purpose)

1 1/2 cups powdered milk

1/4 cup sugar (white or demerara)

1 cup butter, melted

generous 1/4 cup pinipig or rice krispies

1.7 oz or 48 grams freeze dried mangoes, crushed

Toast flour in a pan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to even the browning.  It may take around 45 minutes. DO NOT walk away while the flour is toasting.  Transfer toasted flour in a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Pour melted butter 1/3 cup at a time.  You can cut back on the butter once the mixture sticks together.

To shape the mixture into tiny cakes, use polvoron molder or a regular tablespoon for a simple finish. The polvoron will be less crumbly if refrigerated for about 10 minutes.

*The original recipe asks for 1/2 c sugar, I scaled it down to 1/4 cup because of the natural sweetness of the freeze dried mangoes.

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Star Wars and Real Wars

It has been a habit of my family to pack books during car rides. The size of our book bag depends on the length of the trip. For our 50-mile trip, our book bag was bursting at the seams.

My 2nd grade boy is quite interested in military machines. I am not thrilled with it, but I guess, all boys pass through this kind of phase. We have been trying to expose him to nonfiction books, so we thought that reading military books is a good way to get him interested.

He brought for the trip his Extreme Military Machines book (published by Discovery Communications, LLC 2011). As he was reciting interesting facts about Challenger 2, stealth bombers and stealth fighters, Humvee, Apache and Chinook helicopters, and nuclear bombs, our conversation in the car turned to Japan, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

Without scaring the children, but without lying either, I told them about the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. I shared with them that Japanese soldiers killed my lolo, my mom’s father, when they made their way to Lipa. My grandfather was an agriculturist/farmer. He was a civilian casualty.

Both kids immediately wanted to know how my lolo was killed. Before I could even say a word, my daughter instantly said, “Was he speared?”, “Did the soldiers use a machine gun?”

Did he say, ” I am inno-o-o-(cough, cough, cough)-cent.” And, then the spear went through him. Or did he say, ” I am not a sol- (gasp for breath)-dier”, and with his mouth open, he was killed?

My daughter has a knack for theatrics, so as she was role-playing in her car seat, her brother couldn’t help but laugh. Obviously, my lolo’s passing when his youngest was barely one, and my mom, the eldest at 15, is not a laughing matter.

I could not reprimand them for being insensitive.  They understand very little about death.   (*From ages 6-9 years old, researchers believe that children are fascinated with issues of mutilation, and very curious about what the body looks like when dead.)

I think my lolo was killed with a bayonet, but that, I kept to myself.

Eventually, I told the children that the Japanese left the Philippines. But not before Japan was devastated. Not before the Americans suffered huge casualties. And definitely, not before my ancestral home in Lipa was burned down after the whole town was torched. That story I will share with them at another time.

At the end of the day, they learned that in a war no one actually wins. Not even the country who claims to be victorious in the end.

We set out that morning to go to a Star Wars auction. I did not think that that trip would serve as a brief introduction to the ugliness of a real war.

*Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut Bereavement Program

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