Category Archives: About Filipina

My Balut Story: one Filipina’s way of eating a balut

Balut has always been a delicacy among Filipinos.  If you don’t know what balut is, it’s duck egg that has been incubated seventeen to twenty days such that there’s a developed fetus inside it and then boiled alive. Once you open it, and have seen the unhatched duckling in all it’s gory glory, you’d probably include it in your list of the worst gross out food you’ve ever seen.  This is probably why it’s sold at night in the Philippines.  So balut lovers won’t see what they’re eating.

I’m Filipina.  And I used to eat balut.  My American husband is still in disbelief how such a dainty woman could have had the stomach to eat this nasty stuff.  But then again, I am Filipino.

From my recollection, balut was actually pretty tasty.  I think this delicacy got so much flack because people focus more on the duck embryo, the part that makes it visually unappetizing.  But that is actually just one part of the balut.  There are actually four major parts: sabaw or broth; sisiw, or duck embryo; pula, or yolk; and puti, or egg white.

This exotic food of sorts had been famously featured in the reality show “Fear Factor” as one of the challenges.  From the show, viewers might think that the way to eat it is to peel and gobble.  But in the same way that there’s a technique to peeling and eating an artichoke, there’s also a technique to eating a balut.

The way I do it is to first wrap it with a napkin, or with the paper bag – usually an origami of recycled newspaper or phone book pages – that came with it, or even the lower part of my shirt,  as the egg is served hot off the vendor’s basket. I would then lightly tap either tip of the egg to see which end is hollow, and which end has the hard rubbery egg white.

I would crack a small hole on the hollow part, and take a whiff of it to see if it’s rotten.  If it smells funky, I’d ask for a replacement.  But if it smells “fresh”, I’d slowly sip the savory broth.  It’s hard to explain in not so many words the technique in sipping the broth, but the video clip below is dead on in showing how.

After emptying the egg of its broth, I then slowly peel off the shell until I get to either the yolk or the duck, which are usually side by side. Me, I prefer to eat the duck first because it’s less filling.  (And may I add that I’ve always eaten this part in the dark.) I would try first pouring it out to my mouth.  If that doesn’t work, I scoop it out using a piece of shell, or my fingers.

After that’s gone, I’d take a bite at the yolk after sprinkling a bit of rock salt provided by the vendor.  After that’s been consumed, I would chip away at the egg until I finally get to the the egg white. This part is usually tough.  If I’m lucky, the shell would come off easily and the egg white would be a chewable.  If it’s too hard, or the shell is difficult to peel off,  I’d either toss it or slowly scrape the surface by shaving it white against my lower teeth.

The last time I ate a balut was when I was around 9 years old.  On that last time, I asked the vendor to give me my usual preference of maliit na sisiw or a younger embryo.  But fate had it that I was never again eat another balut.  As unbeknownst to me, he gave me an older embryo.  That night, the streetlight was brighter than usual, the moon full and big, and the stars out in multitudes.   And I saw clearly what I was about to eat.

At first I was in disbelief.  It looked like a small dinosaur fossil but with feathers and a gelatinous eye.  Was this the thing that I had been eating all these years?  With a piece of shell, I poked it.  And out spilled a murky liquid and tiny  black chunks of internal organs.  It was all dark, except for a chunk that looked like a ball of white string which was its intestines. My reaction was immediate.  I threw up big time before I had the chance to toss it.  After that experience, my balut-eating days were over.

With all that said, anyone care to sample with me some delicious pork stew in coagulated blood sauce?  Or perhaps a bowl of shredded goat meat and liver stew in bile broth? Or a stick of barbecued chicken intestines? My treat!

How my American citizenship got me my worst date ever

As a single woman living in America, I was set up on a blind date by my sister and a friend of her co-worker.  I don’t even remember the guy’s name clearly.  I think it’s “Buboy”, or one of those uniquely Filipino nicknames that start with a “B”, like Bebot, or Butchoy.

He picked me up from my uncle’s house in San Francisco where I was staying.  And we drove to a restaurant at Half Moon Bay to have lunch. It turned out to be the worst date in my entire life for so many reasons.

First: Five minutes onto our trip to the restaurant, he already started talking about marriage. He kept saying, “I think it’s not important for a man and a woman to get to know each other very well before they get married, because it’s only after they get married that they really get to know each other.” It really made me feel so uncomfortable.

I told him, “I think it is extremely important that a couple get to know each other very well before they get married, to know their similarities, work around their differences, and agree on some compromises.  Otherwise, the marriage could fall apart.”  He seemed not to hear me, and just kept going on and on about his view.   He didn’t appear to be interested at all on me, on what I do, my family, what I have to say.

Second: On our way there, he kept bragging that he was earning $60,000 a year, and that he works a second job for his uncle, earning an additional $25,000 – 30,000 a year.  But when we got to the restaurant, he ordered the cheapest item on the menu, a $4 side, and water.

I felt even more uncomfortable because I ordered first – a $7 entree, which was actually a median priced item, and a soda.  I offered to pay for my order, but he insisted on footing the bill.  After lunch, he put $1 on our table as tip for our waiter.  It was kind of embarrassing because that was not a standard tip.  So, as we were leaving, I discretely took out $2 from my purse, and placed it on our table.

Third: On our way back to San Francisco, he went on and on again not only about his thoughts on marriage, but also details of our marriage.  One of the more memorable conversation was this: “When we get married,  we would have 100 guests at our reception. 50 from your side and 50 from mine.  And if per plate is $25, I wonder much is the total?”

I volunteered the answer, “Twenty five hundred,” but he didn’t seem to hear me.  (And this is from someone who just said that it’s important for married people to listen to each other.)  So, I said, now in a louder voice, “Two thousand five hundred.”  For someone who claims to be an engineer, it took him a long time to get the product of 25 x 100. It was slowly becoming evident that this was turning out to be my worst date ever.

From all this talk about marriage and short-term engagements, I surmised that he was not a US citizen or permanent resident.  And I was right.  I asked a few questions, and found out his work visa was expiring in a couple of months. I guessed he probably learned from someone that I was an American citizen.  So, this date was all about him trying to get a green card.  I don’t know whether he was telling the truth about his salary or his being an engineer.  But at that point, I didn’t care to know.

We were nearing my uncle’s house when he asked me where I’d like to go out next time. In no way was I going to go out with him again.  But to make chit-chat, I told him, “It would be nice to go to the San Francisco Opera.”  He then said, “That would be great.  My grandmother likes watching soap operas.”

I thought he was joking (finally).  I was about to laugh and say, “That’s a good one,” but I stopped myself.  I looked at him, and he was straight-faced.  It wasn’t a joke.  Trying to compose myself, I told him, “There are lots of theaters in San Francisco.  Maybe we can see a play.”  He replied, “Sure.  I like basketball plays.”

The moment we reached my uncle’s house, I said goodbye, got out of the car, ran to the door, and never looked back.  I made excuses when he called and asked me out.  Eventually, he got the idea.

Why I wanted to become and American citizen, or reasons for acquiring a US citizenship

If you’re a naturalized American citizen, do you remember what your answer was to the immigration officer he asked you, “Why do you want to be an American Citizen?” I’m pretty sure that like the way a beauty contestant answers “world peace” to the question what she wishes for the world, you gave the default and “safest” answer to the immigration officer’s question:  “I want to have the right to vote.

But when I was asked the same question, the non-conformist in me blurted out, “I think it’s so cool to be able to work for the CIA or FBI. To do all the spy and secret agent stuff you see on tv and movies, like in “X-Files.”” Just kidding. The right to vote was my answer.

But truthfully, the main reason why I decided to get a US Citizenship was not for the right to vote but this: After the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Philippine peso dropped considerably against the dollar.  Renewing my green card had become too expensive, as a round trip ticket worth $900, about PhP25,000-27,000, was suddenly over PhP40,000. I still preferred to live in the Philippines, but I didn’t want to lose the privilege of going to back and forth to the US and working there without a lot of restrictions by not renewing my green card.  Getting an American citizenship was a cheaper way to keep that privilege.

I think that for most of those who applied for a US citizenship, including myself, the main motivation for getting a US citizenship was not the right to vote.  But whatever our top motivator was, from being able to petition a spouse to the US or to run for governor of California, we should still exercise the right to vote.  It’s our civic duty.  That and being a good citizen are the least we can do, considering we were given those other perks when we became Americans.