Snapshots: Scenes from home

There are really very simple things I look forward to when going back to the Philippines – bonding with my big family, eating fresh food (literally just caught from the sea or plucked from the garden) and breathing in the fresh air of my island home.

Europe is a completely different world, especially the big cities. Most people are not connected to the ground anymore. The modern life here is too abundant and everything is shoved to us in huge quantities – from the food that we buy from the supermarkets to the clothes that we wear. We don’t know where they are coming from anymore or what it took for these products to reach us.

At the risk of sounding condescending, I think that when we disconnect ourselves from the ground, we care less, in all aspects of life including caring for Mother Nature to our personal relationships.

I am lucky to be born in a small island where the bond between the people and the ground is very strong. I’ve seen how the rice on my plate was planted, harvested and processed, experienced it myself even. Some of my clothes, especially uniforms were not store bought but were made by trusted mananahi (tailors), we fetched water from the river before we even had running water on our kitchen. We raised (and killed and ate) our own chickens and pigs. When you grow up in an environment like this, you tend to waste less because you know the hardships required to provide you with these things. Until now, it pains me to throw away spoiled rice.

Life in the city is too easy, everything is within reach. I have to admit, I enjoy the luxuries of city life maybe a little more than I should. Going back home regularly serves as a reminder that I came from a very humble home and my life should remain as humble as it was. That was one of the lessons that my parents instilled in me when I was young.

I miss Marinduque.

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She is one of my favourite aunts. In this photo she told me that that mountain peak where the clouds hangs is a part of the land that we own in that village. She said she used to dig kamote (sweet potatoes) there with her siblings. I always know that when I grow old or if my European life fails, I’d always have that piece of land to go back to.
This river was so precious to my childhood. I swam here, caught fish, fetched water, wash the clothes, played with my friends and learned to bike. Not on the river but on the banks. My cousins would push me, while riding the bike, to the banks so that I would learn how to break. Thankfully I did not break a bone, just had some scratches on my face. There used to be a huge guava field near here but when the tragic Marcopper mining accident happened, life was almost wiped out in this river.
This river was so precious to my childhood. I swam here, caught fish, fetched water, washed the laundry, played with my friends and learned to bike. Not on the river but on the banks. My cousins would push me, while riding the bike, to the banks so that I would learn how to break. Thankfully I did not break a bone but just some scratches on my face. There used to be a huge guava field near here but when the tragic Marcopper mining accident happened, life was almost wiped out in this river.
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This is my aunt’s and my mother’s old home. I spent a great deal of summer vacations in this house, having fun in the trees and the surroundings exactly the way that these boys (my nephews) do in this photo.
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One of my older cousins hacking coconuts for me. Fresh coconut meat and juice are a luxury in Europe, even more expensive that H&M clothes.
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We have a lot of coconut trees so we don’t eat the meat when it becomes tough. We make them into bukayo or buko (young coconut) salad.
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We still have streams and hot springs where you can drink the water straight from the ground.
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This young boy was busy playing with the peelings of kamansi (breadfruit). This vegetable looks very much like langka and we cook this with coconut milk and pairs it with fried fish. It grows in abundance in the province sometimes the neighbours just give it away.
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Yes that is a dead pig being shaved with tiny Gillette blades so that the skin would be smooth when it becomes lechon.
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Not the pig in the previous photo. This one was a black pig, more delicious, more expensive and only killed for really special occasions.
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We make our own ice candy back when I was a kid, a healthy kind if I may boast. One part evaporated milk, a little condense milk, vanilla extract and shredded fruit, whatever is in season. My aunt and I used mango, coconut and avocados. My job was to help in funneling the mixture into the bag and sell them in the barrios together with my best friend Kathyrine. Whatever I earn, I used it to rent comic books or buy snacks like halo-halo and banana cue while watching a paliga basketball game.
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I cooked in this traditional stove a lot when I was young. The stove was made from cement and we used dried coconut husks for fire. Back in the day, we would sahing (dried pili resins) as kindle. Food cooked in wood or in this case, coconut husks, with the aid of sahing has a particular aroma that you never forget.
My aunt's old kitchen. There would always be sahing hanging on the right side of this kitchen.
My aunt’s old kitchen. There would always be sahing hanging on the right side of this kitchen.
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The perya was a part of my childhood as much as fiestas. There cannot be a town fiesta without a perya. It is the Philippine version of the Dutch kermis.

Going to the dry and wet market were always in the schedule whenever I am home. I prefer to go to the market everyday to buy the ingredients for the day's meal. Then walk or take the tricycle back home.

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Fresh fish, one batch in the morning and another in the afternoon. That woman in red apron had been selling in that stall for as long as I can remember. My father and I are her suki.
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My mother made steak dish from this beautiful fish – soy sauce, onions, salt and pepper. No additional ingredients needed.
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I am not religious but I go to our church and pray every time I am in Marinduque. I would light candle, say a prayer of gratitude and ask for protection for the ones I love and mostly to reminisce about the Sundays I and my sister go to town to attend mass. We live in the barrio and we look forward to Sundays in town and then eating our aunt’s puto (rice cake) and dinuguan (diced porked cooked in pig’s blood) after the nass. That’s my cousin, photobombing me.
Carvings on the church door.
Carvings on the church door.
In elementary and high school. another "job" that I had was typing term papers and school reports. It was my mother's little business and she was a very good typist. I learned typing from a traditional typewriter like this. She trained me not to look at the keyboard but at the papers. I hated it when I had to use "touch and go". Have you ever used a Touch and Go before?
I had another “job” in elementary and high school, typing term papers and school reports. It was my mother’s little business and she was a very good typist. I learned typing from a traditional typewriter like this. She trained me not to look at the keyboard but at the papers. I hated it when I had to use “touch and go”. Have you ever used a Touch and Go before?

All photos by Robin Kuijs.

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