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.
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!!
Step 2: Remove the rest of the eggshell and sprinkle salt.
Step 3: Bon appétit! Eat the white and yellow parts avoid black or any feathered bits.
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!
“Bayang Magiliw…” meaning “beloved country” is the first line of the Philippine National Anthem entitled “Lupang Hinirang”. Any Filipino knows this national anthem by heart and can sing it on a moment’s notice. The anthem is sung at the start of any formal meeting or event and every Monday morning at my office, along with flag raising. Singing of the national anthem is done by the collective group, meaning that everyone actively sings (rather than mouthing ‘watermelon’ in the background like grade school chorus concerts).
This brought to attention some cultural differences during training, when all of us Peace Corps trainees were expected by Filipinos to follow their “Lupang Hinirang” with the Star-Spangled Banner as an honor to America. However, only an estimated 40% of all Americans can recite all of the words. And because our national anthem ranges three octaves it is particularly difficult to sing. Furthermore Filipinos never clap, following their anthem contrary to our American practice.
I have had many conversations in Tagalog where I explain these cultural differences to surprised Filipinos. American citizens do not know the words to their own national anthem?! And it is only sung at sports games!?!!
So for those of you now interested to learn more about our national anthem, here is a program from the Smithsonian Channel (http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/sc/web/show/3407072/a-star-spangled-story-battle-for-america), but feel free to find your own video on YouTube and practice singing to your computer to ensure that you fall within the 40% of anthem-capable Americans. Props to Nikki, my Canadian friend, for being able to sing O Canada on a moment’s notice. Finally, my younger sister Breanna is currently available to anyone requiring a national anthem vocalist at any upcoming parties, events or games!
SJ Byce as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. And Intern at CIEE Bonaire '17