Category Archives: Host Family

You Know You Are Part of the Family When…

…They ask you to be part of the wedding.

On May 23, 2016 the youngest son of my host family was wed. The married couple of Prince and Roan asked John and I to serve as groomsman and bridesmaid in their wedding.

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The bride and groom: Roan & Prince

For the Famero family weddings are their specialty! My host mom owns a business making wedding invitations and party favors, while my host sister owns a dress shop selling wedding and formal gowns. Therefore no detail was forgotten in the creation of this incredible wedding!

The morning of preparations included hair, make up and photo taking at a local hotel. (I’m pretty sure I got dusted in whitening powder. Everyone is always trying to look lighter. ) This was followed by a Catholic church ceremony and a garden banquet reception. Filipino wedding traditions include a cord ceremony during the mass to symbolically bind the couple. Later during the reception there was a release of butterflies, doves, a prosperity dance where friends and family pin money to the bride and groom as they dance, and cake cutting.

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At the reception

John was somewhat surprised to learn that the intermission number he had been asked to play on ukulele was actually the mother/son father/daughter dance, however even this was a big success!

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John and Kuya Andrew perform for the mother/son father/daughter dance.

My favorite part was watching their wedding video put together by “Same Day Edit,” meaning footage of all of us from the morning preparations through the reception itself was debuted at the reception’s conclusion.

Another highlight was when the immediate family of the groom was asked to take a photo and John and I were included. It’s now been nearly two years that I have lived in the Famero home and they truly are my adopted family. (I usually say I am their imported daughter)

iMovie Videos

The kids in my host family are all future movie stars, directors, and producers! Below are links to four videos they made entirely on their own through iMovie software. Be prepared to laugh, dance, and travel to mystical lands as you meet the talented Maxine, Andrea, Coco, Miel, Zyrex, and baby Barry Lee in the following four films:

  1. Fun Never Ends

2. The 5-year-Old Agent

3. The Royal Cousins

4. The 1 Year Old Baby

All films were shot in the Famero house in Odiongan, Romblon, Philippines, where I live!

Balut

Featured on the TV show Fear Factor, balut, or a fertilized chicken egg, boiled and served to eat is the Popeye’s spinach of the Philippines, said to make you grow strong. If balut came with a nutritious facts label it would boast high quantities of protein, alongside a warning: may contain beak or small bits of feathers, hence the tendency for foreign visitors to squirm a little at the thought of consuming an embryonic chicken.

For John’s Despedida, or going away party, eating balut was a rite of passage.

John was really excited about this idea!
John was really excited about this idea!

Step 1: Crack the egg and peel away a bit of the shell so you can suck all of the warm juices out. Arguably the most delicious part!!

Notice Miel in the foreground enthusiastically sucking her balut juice. She was genuinely excited for the snack and hers disappeared before John had even removed the shell.
Notice Miel in the foreground enthusiastically sucking her balut juice. She was genuinely excited for the snack and hers disappeared before John had even removed his shell.

Step 2: Remove the rest of the eggshell and sprinkle salt.

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Step 3: Bon appétit! Eat the white and yellow parts avoid black or any feathered bits.

Delicious!
Delicious! I ate half of it too.

The white tastes similar to a hard-boiled egg but is more dense and tough. For all the apprehension prior to eating, fertilized chicken eggs are a challenge I would gladly accept if I ever find myself on Fear Factor. It was actually pretty tasty!

The remains
The remains

Superheroes & S’mores

Looking for a fun activity night for all ages?!

SUPERHEROES: Each participant got 10 balloons and an oversized long-sleeve shirt with instructions to transform themselves into a superhero.

A Clan of Heroes:
A Clan of Heroes: “The Fearless Fameros”
“Jaw-breaking John” demonstrating the Superhero Activity Challenge
Spiderman meets the Hulk for
Spiderman meets the Hulk for “Colossal Coco”

S’MORES: We took an intermission break from the evening’s movie premier showing of “The Incredibles” for a delicious merienda and simultaneous lesson in American culture: indoor s’mores!

The ingredients. While Americans pronounce
While Americans pronounce “Graham” as “Gram,” Filipinos say, “Gray-ham,” an important clarification when shopping for ingredients.
Fork-skewered mallows roasted over the stove… still tastes like a campfire
Fork-skewered mallows roasted over the stove… still tastes like a campfire
S'mores may have been the highlight of the night. We ate around 5-6 a piece.
S’mores may have been the highlight of the night. We ate around 5-6 a piece.

Flamingo Puzzle Art

The final product
The final product

Last week I gave my family a challenge: each member received a small piece of a photo I had taken from the other side of the globe, along with a blank piece of white paper. Each individual was to redraw their photo piece to the size of the white paper, but in secret! Once everyone finished we would assemble the drawing and discover the contents of the photo.

The photo was taken during my semester in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We discovered an injured flamingo, subsequently dubbed Jerome, near the island airport. We suspected Jerome had been attacked by one of the many feral dogs on South Caicos Island. Taped and nursed back to health from the comforts of our groundskeeper’s shower, Jerome made a full recovery and was released back to his flock. Although one leg was an unfortunate lost casualty of the art project, I currently have a lifesize version of Jerome hanging on my bedroom door.

Flamingos are found in Central and South American and some parts of Africa, which is why even once the photo was pieced together many mistook it for an ostrich, a more familiar bird. Unlike the heavy, solitary ostrich, flamingos are hugely loyal to their flock and also capable of flying. The pink hue of their feathers comes from pigments in brine shrimp that the birds scoop up with their hooked bills. Bristles inside the bill allow them to filter these small crustaceans as well as other mollusks, insects, and some plants from the water. The male and female flamingos both contribute to feeding the young, whose favorite meal is crop milk, rich in fat and protein this milk is produced in the adult digestive tract and regurgitated into the mouth of a chick.

This project was a lesson in art and zoology, but not without reward. The participants each received one US dollar for participation. This novel prize is equivalent to 44 Philippine pesos, enough to purchase lunch from the local Filipino cantina.

My host family with their prize: $1 coming from America!
My host family with their prize: $1 coming from America!

Happy 25th Birthday!!!

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The celebration with my host family complete with a huge birthday banner.
The celebration with my host family complete with a huge birthday banner.

On the day of my birthday, a Wednesday, my entire office spent the day cooking an elaborate and delicious meal which we then enjoyed at the Fish Ponds, where I frequently help with aquaculture field work.

I learned how to kill, de-feather, chop and cook a chicken - this chicken!
I learned how to kill, de-feather, chop and cook a chicken – this chicken!
Cooking meal does not mean removing it from the bone, that is the task of the eater. And chicken's feet are a delicacy here and were included in my bday stew.
Cooking a chicken does not mean removing it from the bone, that is the task of the eater. And chicken’s feet are a delicacy here and were included in my bday stew. Notice the cell phones in the background. Free time here is spent playing games on phones. Filipinos may eat chicken’s feet, but some parts of life are not so different!
We seined these fish from our fish ponds. Then I learned how to gutt them. Fish are cooked whole, thus it is also the responsibility of the eater to separate meat from tiny fish bones.
We seined these fish from our fish ponds. Then I learned how to gutt them. Fish are cooked whole, thus it is also the responsibility of the eater to separate meat from tiny fish bones.
This was the freshest meal I have ever eaten: a chicken I killed, fish I caught and gutted, vegetables collected on site at our garden. The furthest items were from the local market, yet still grown within Odiongan.
This was the freshest meal I have ever eaten: a chicken I killed, fish I caught and gutted, vegetables collected on site at our garden. The furthest items were from the local market, yet still grown within Odiongan.
The Office Celebration!! (The second huge pot is full of rice, a meal is not a meal in the Philippines without rice - quite literally because a Filipino will instead regard it as a snack and be hungry for more food shortly after)
The Office Celebration!! (The second huge pot is full of rice, a meal is not a meal in the Philippines without rice – quite literally because a Filipino will instead regard it as a snack and be hungry for more food shortly after)
Finally, many thanks to my fellow PC Volunteers who decorated my room with fish and filled my bed with a balloon ocean.
Finally, many thanks to my fellow PC Volunteers who decorated my room with fish and filled my bed with a balloon ocean.

Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero

Yoga!!
Yoga!!

Check out my newest video with my host family here in Romblon entitled, “Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero” which means “An Evening with the Famero Family.” From my experience the most common evening activity in middle class Filipino families is watching TV. Soap operas are very popular as are singing competition shows similar to American Idol. The soap operas are in Tagalog, however many commercials are in English. I asked a Filipino about this and apparently it would take too long to say the same things in Tagalog. Although the TV is always on in my home as well, I have not had any time to partake in the tv dramas. My family seems to share my energy and many evenings we have instead found ourselves ballroom dancing, doing yoga or playing music. I teach yoga in exchange for lessons in swing, cha cha, and other forms of dancing. Watch my youtube video to see our family in action. I also brought some uno cards with me from the States and they have been a big hit for the young kids in my extended family.

More Yoga!!!
More Yoga!!!

Here is the translation for the Tagalog song we play together in the video entitled Bahay Kubo:

My Nepa Hut, even though it’s small

With varied plants around

Turnips and eggplant

Winged beans and peanut

String bean, hyacinth bean, lima bean

White melon, sponge gourd

White pumpkin and squash

And also there is more

Radishes, mustard

Onion, tomato

Garlic and ginger

And all around are sesame seeds.

This song is extremely appropriate to my life here in the Philippines because I am always eating fresh, delicious, cooked vegetables. Some interesting foods include ampalaya, a very bitter, green vegetable and papaya if cooked before it ripens is served green with other vegetables. I am also a huge fan of malunggay, small green leaves used in teas or soups packed with vitamins and minerals.

Many thanks to my host brother Andrew for letting me borrow this bike. I ride it everywhere!
Many thanks to my host brother Andrew for letting me borrow this bike. I ride it everywhere!

Slacklining

Mommy Jean, the slacklining pro!!!
Mommy Jean, the slacklining pro!!!

Slacklining refers to the activity of walking on a 1-2 inch wide flat rope a few feet off the ground (or higher dependent on personal confidence), utilizing both physical and mental finesse to maintain balance. This past time was first invented in 1979 by a pair of rock climbers. It is quickly becoming popular throughout the US especially within college campuses and among the rock climbing community. Worldwide slacklining is gaining a following and each year the most highly skills athletes come together to compete for the WorldCup title. These slacklining professionals can perform nearly any trick feasible on a trampoline on this 2 inch wide line. Check out the pros in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MdDobR65Oo

My own skills consist of walking on the line, jumping, turning around, and sitting down, however even this takes much practice as most people simply work on standing for more than 5 seconds. This past weekend I introduced slacklining to my host family and it was a huge hit!

If you want to order your own slackline the website theclymb.com generally has discounts but the cost of a Gibbon line generally ranges from $50-$100 depending on length.

Host Family

With my host mom Irajean Famero or Mommy Jean
With my host mom Irajean Famero or Mommy Jean

My host family here is Romblon is absolutely wonderful! My host mom who coincidentally shares the same name, Jean, as my mother in the States, is a retired school teacher. Together with her husband, Daddy Barry, they have 5 grown children. Two of which live here in Odiongan with their own families.

We had a special dinner last week with three representatives from the Peace Corps office who visited us in our home. Below is a photo of our family and the wonderful feast they prepared for our guests.

The Famero Family
The Famero Family

Later that evening I had the first showing of a family video entitled, “Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero” or “An Evening with the Famero Family.” I have been trying unsuccessfully to load the video to youtube, however a slow internet connection has hindered my progress. Keep watching my blog and hopefully soon!

Sharing the family video in our living room
Sharing the family video in our living room

Homestay

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I have moved in with my host family in Sabang, Morong, Bataan. And my Tita Rose is really sweet and cooks amazing Filipino food. There is no internet in Sabang, so my updates will be few and far between until I transfer to my permanent site in late September. I still do not know where I will be placed but am hoping to utilize my technical skills in the water. I have been snorkeling just off the beach in Sabang and the marine life here is incredible! At the moment I am sitting in a large mall, impressive even when compared to those frequented in the States, utilizing Starbucks internet. In Sabang, population ~6,000, Starbucks itself is a novelty and life is much simpler. I am extremely fortunate as Tita Rose speaks wonderful English and has a very nice home, in which I have my own room. Each morning I have Tagalog language class a few steps from the beach and in the afternoon we do technical training sessions. Today we visited a large fish market to learn what types of fish are sold as well as the local names and relative prices. Tonight will be a fish fry dinner!