Roots & Wings | December 2020

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December 2020 Volume 10 Issue 6

Filipino Magazine in Europe



From the Editor


h, tell me you’ll try to remember on the darker days, Love is a compass.” Disney’s UK Christmas clip ignites nostalgia, even a tear or two to overseas Pinoys who miss home over Christmas and the New Year. Filipino’s love for family and traditions are sealed for posterity. So glad though, festive traditions carry on through streamed Simbang Gabi from Dec 16th, handmade parols lit balconies and windows, hearty Noche Buena spread on Christmas Eve and social network’s kwentuhan, selfies, and hugs! Flip through flowing pages of joyful, faithful Filipino traditions spanning from Antipolo’s Balay Belen and Casa Santa Museum to quilted ornaments from Jakarta; revisit holiday festivities in Vienna, Moscow and Prague, or food-connect with Tbilisi, Georgia through Rawmags’ Jennifer Fergesen who’s made us all proud for taking home 2 of 2020’s Plaridel awards. Want more? Mamas with hyper lil’ ones, do connect with Karin in Zurich. Lovers of literature join Maris as she retraced Dante Alighieri’s genius over 700 years of glory. Still no idea what to do this season? Scan Marthy’s holiday in interesting times for an idea or two. 2020 is uniquely different from bygone Christmases, you’d agree. But who and what we’re missing, stay valued and prized. As vibrant as Ge’s and Jess’s mag cover depicts, a merriest Christmas and a New Year of benevolent possibilities to all! Rooting for you from London, Cebu, Stockholm, Manila, Moscow, Reykjavík, Zurich, Brussels, Oslo, Vienna, Prague, and St Gallen, Switzerland Aimee, Apiong, Aya, Donna, Gloria, Jennifer, Lily, Louise, Lyndy, Marthy, Ralph, Rebecca, Rachel, and Betsy.


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Meet the Team

Betsy von Atzigen EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Rachel Hansen

Marthy Angue

Ralph Chan




Louise Baterna

Rebecca Garcia Urbancik

Jennifer Fergesen

Aya Sunga Askert

Lily C. Fen






Gloria Hernandez Grejalde

Aimee Alado -Blake

Lyndy Bagares

Donna Patricia Manio

Apiong Bagares






Aldo Nelbert Banaynal Contributor photo


Aldo is a photojournalist based in Cebu City. An artist at heart who loves photography, film making, travel and toys. His passions push him to go out of his comfort zone and his quirky view of the world allow him to present the world differently.

IG: @ALDOSAURUSREX or follow us on social media: Instagram @Rawmags Twitter @rawmags

Roots&Wings Roots&Wings Filipino Magazine in Europe

Published by Rachel Publishing Co.

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1 From our Family to yours, Dec 2020 Disney Christmas Advert page 06


2 Joyful, faithful Filipino Traditions, Moscow page 08

3 Filipino Christmas in Vienna page 13

4 Christmas in Prague page 16

5 A Holiday in Interesting Times page 18

6 Karin&Me, mompreneur page 20

7 Plaridel Awardee: RW Jennifer Fergesen page 24

8 Little Manila in Tbilisi, Georgia page 25

9 Art Auction for charity page 32

10 Hidden Gems of Antipolo page 34

11 On Dante’s Trail, Tuscany (Dante Alighieri, 700 years on) page 40




Nasa ibang bansa ka man, ang paskong pinoy pa rin ang favourite mo Illustration art: JV Totaùes Portraits and Art copyright Š2020




From our family to yours TAP IMAGE TO WATCH THE VIDEO

Words by Aimee Alado-Blake Image from Disney UK


hen Disney released in early November its Christmas advert for 2020 -From Our Family to Yours, it spread like wildfire all over the world not only amongst the Filipino communities but transcended peoples and cultures. It speaks of universal and relevant themes of tradition, of family togetherness and nostalgia. It resonates with almost everyone as we remain restricted from spending Christmas in the usual way with family and friends due to the ongoing pandemic.



The 3-minute short film animation features Filipino culture and tradition backed by the vocals of English singer-songwriter Sarah Faith Griffiths aka Griff with her original song entitled ‘Love is a Compass.’ The clip tells of a powerful story between a grandmother – Lola, in Filipino language and her granddaughter. It began in the 1940s Christmas in a Philippine village, showing Lola as a kid running towards her Tatay or father outside the streets of their house adorned by sparkling parols or lanterns. After she made mano to her Tatay, she received as gift a Mickey Mouse stuffed toy. Mano is an endearing gesture of respect for

one’s elders traditionally practised by Filipinos to this day. Fast forward to 2005s Christmas in the United Kingdom, Lola is showing the Mickey Mouse toy to her granddaughter and a parol kit, teaching her how to make one. This was a tradition between Lola and her granddaughter all those years until one day, the granddaughter, now a teenager, has outgrown the tradition. She preferred hanging out with friends rather than spending time to make parol with Lola. Then coming home from a night out with friends, the granddaughter saw the discarded Mickey Mouse on the floor with an ear ripped off. As she picked it up in an unlit room, her gaze

was suddenly fixated on the pictures of her family through the generations. She took the picture frame of Lola as a kid holding the toy, and suddenly came memories of special moments together. Lola woke up the next morning and while descending the stairs, her face and eyes lit up with joy and marveled at the parols that her granddaughter made. It transported her back to the village seeing all the parols literally filling the whole house. The final moment shows the granddaughter giving Lola a gift box containing the original toy with mended ear. The lyrics of the song as reproduced below, “Moments, they’ve been everything

And just like magic, can make the whole world sing That look in your eyes, oh, the joy it brings When I hold you and you hold me I know we’re not, not what we used to be But we carry so much history Put up my sails and I rode the wind That led me here to you, I’d do it all again I know it won’t always be the same Feelings don’t change, they never fade away When you’re far from home, it’s hard to know the way But it’s right there inside … And just like a compass That leads the way We may take the long road

But I’ll never fade When you’re lost I will guide you Oh, tell me you’ll try to Remember on the darker days Love is a compass” make a very compelling narrative that we are bound by tradition through the generations and act like a compass (of love) that will always bring us home to family, no matter what. And at least for now, when the uncertainties of the pandemic prevent us from being together and create moments of memory, ‘Love is a Compass,’ does guide us back to valued family and traditions. MERRY CHRISTMAS from our family to yours!




Joyful, faithful Filipino Christmas Season beyond Philippine shores

Words by Gloria Hernandez Images by Aldo Banaynal

C TOP: MISA de GALLO Parishioners attend the midnight mass at Cebu Metropolitan Cathedrals while socially distanced. ­—ALDO NELBERT BANAYNAL



hristmas exemplifies Filipinos’ faith and resilience. It is also the most awaited and the longest feast to be celebrated in the Philippines. At the onset of the ber months, September first; the spirit of the yuletide season can be felt instantly. This is regardless of typhoons, volcano eruption, earthquake, and the pandemic. Filipinos start adorning their houses with colourful twinkling lights, hang the iconic star-shaped parol or lantern, raise up the Christmas tree, and set up the Belen, the nativity showing baby Jesus in the manger, Saints Mary and Joseph, the tree Kings, and the lambs. Business establishments also

redo their display windows with the holiday theme while radio and television stations begin the Christmas countdown. Streets are vibrant illuminated with more lights while Christmas carols can be heard at every corner. Customs and traditions Jesus is the reason for the season is not lost among the Filipinos, especially the Catholics in celebrating Christmas. Many attend and complete the Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo. It is a nine-day mass held at the break of the dawn that begins on December 16 and ends on December 24, the Christmas eve. And Simbang Gabi is not complete without the native delicacies like bibingka and the puto-bumbong. The aroma of the freshly cooked rice cakes entices the churchgoers to queue on

PAROL traditional Christmas lanterns made of paper can be seen hanging in trees in the plaza of Naga City-Cebu ­â€”ALDO NELBERT BANAYNAL

makeshift stalls or kariton to have their share of the steaming delicacies -- the perfect breakfast treats. They are usually downed with hot chocolate drink tablea or freshly brewed coffee, kapeng barako. (Bibingka is made of glutinous rice mixed with coconut milk. It is cooked in a pan with fire on the top and at the bottom. It is glazed with caramelized sugar and garnished with freshly grated coconut. Puto-bumbong is made with sticky purple rice stuffed in a thin bamboo tubes and steamed over earthen charcoal stove. It is glazed with margarine or butter and topped with freshly grated coconut and muscovado sugar.)

Adding upbeat to the long holiday celebration is the Filipinos musicality. At night, groups of youngsters, and at times elderlies, go house to house serenading the residents with

Christmas tunes. Karoling as it is called, is a practice unique in the Philippines. This tradition exhibits Filipinos hospitality and generosity. Carollers are given money as token and at times, they are invited inside the house to partake some merienda or snack. A tradition that goes down from generation to generation that is very much alive today is the Noche Buena or the Christmas Eve dinner. More than their religiosity, Filipinos are generally family oriented. Every member is gathered during the Noche Buena where they feast on roasted pig or litson, queso de bola, ham, atsara (pickled green papaya), and rice cakes. Desserts are either fruit salad or leche flan (egg custard). It is also during this time that the families exchange their gifts.



Meanwhile, New Year is an extended Christmas celebration among Filipinos. Playing Christmas carols do not stop until the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6 (or the first Sunday of the month). Going to church is also a tradition, people attend the evening mass on New Year’s Eve. Before the turn of the year, families are gathered to have their Media Noche, the late-night dinner. At the struck of 12, everyone goes out of the house to light the fireworks and make noises to welcome the new year. Old folks believe that the loud sounds will drive away the “bad lucks” of the past year. They also believe that it is best to open all windows and doors to allow fresh graces and blessings in. And all lights are also switched on to pave the way for brighter days ahead. 10


Holiday Attractions A country of more than 7,000 islands, anyone who wants to spend Christmas holiday in the Philippines has a wide selection of places to go to and attractions to choose from. Each town has its unique way of celebration showing diverse culture and traditions. One famous attraction is the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando, Pampanga. It is a yearly event that dates back in 1908. It showcases giant lanterns or parol in different shapes and colours that are meticulously and artistically crafted by local makers. The event is capped by choosing the most beautiful parol. People from all over the country troop to the province to buy their parols that are intricately made from capiz (mother of pearl) festooned with

PAROL MAKING CONTEST An inter barangay parol making competition in Toledo City, Cebu. Parol making competitions are common events all over the Philippines where schools, cities, even private companies compete for cash or bragging rights. — ­ ALDO NELBERT BANAYNAL

PAROL THEME A Christmas tree made of lighted lanterns in a commercial district in the town of Santa Fe, Bantayan islands in Cebu Province ­—ALDO NELBERT BANAYNAL



BELEN Shot during the lighting ceremony of A diorama display in a hotel in Cebu City who chose a Belen instead of the more common Christmas tree lighting ­—ALDO NELBERT BANAYNAL

coloured and dancing lights. Not to be missed is the Festival of Lights at the Ayala Triangle in Makati. The cosy park is turned into a magical land; the trees are decked with multicoloured lights that twinkle following the beat of lively Christmas carols. A walk along the stretch of Ayala Avenue takes you to wonderland. The street is prepped with a montage of Filipino culture and Christmas decorations enhanced by dancing and shimmering lights. An old-time attraction is the moving tableau at the Greenhills Shopping Center. People troop to the complex in San Juan City to watch the evening show that depicts Christmas stories. 12


The revitalized city of Manila offers attractions like the newly restored Jones Bridge, the historical Spanish Fort Santiago inside Intramuros, and the Rizal Park with its dancing fountain. Up north, the country’s summer capital Baguio City holds an annual Christmas Village at the Baguio Country Club. Throughout the Christmas season, the whole country is bustling with joy and merriment. Nothing, not even the pandemic, can deter the Filipinos from commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, the reason for the season.

Quilted Christmas balls

are ornaments made of cloth, laces, sequins, beads and bindis with back adhesives as bling. Images by Geralyn Evangelista

How & what’s it made A quilted Christmas ball is composed of a 2.5x2.5 inch (15x15cm) styroball, aida cloth, 45-60 pieces of 2x2 inch (10x10 cm) of decorative cloth, folded into triangles and pinned on to the ball by about 70-100 pins and about 3-5 meters of decorative ribbons, beads and sequins to complete the ornament. Materials are sourced from Crawford fabric market in Mumbai and batiks in Jakarta.


Pasko Ng Pilipino Pinoy Christmas in Austria Words by Ralph Chan Why is Christmas different this year? Christmas is known to be the time of the year when families and friends celebrate together. This year, however, a lot is different. We are currently experiencing the world’s largest health crisis. Christmas market(s) or as they say in Austria, Christkindlmarkt, are not allowed to open this year and on Christmas Eve we can only celebrate it with a limited number of loved ones. In addition to the health crisis, Vienna was hit by a terrorist attack. In both crises, many have lost their loved ones. This year’s Christmas season makes us therefore more reflective. Despite all the negativity that has been with us throughout the year, we do not allow these to snatch joy away from us. Notably because the Filipinos are known to celebrate the longest Christmas.

Thanks to the Filipino immigrants who brought Christmas traditions from the Philippines with them to Austria, this has also had an impact on the way we celebrate Christmas here today. We realise that this as a time of love and for the family. Belen, Parol at iba pa The first preparations for the Christmas season begin with the so-called BER



The Quilt A quilt is a colourful patchwork that follows intricate, modern, or traditional design patterns in the fabric, or sometimes in its embroidery. It could be lightweight and breathable with padding between 2 layers or none, making it suitable for winter or spring seasons.

months (months ending with the suffix -BER). Many put their Christmas trees up in September, even before Halloween or All Souls’ Day happens. Filipinos love to decorate their home especially around Christmas season. In addition to the typical decorations such as Christmas lights, Santa Claus figures and much more, there are also some typical Filipino ornaments that beautify the homes. Here, one can often find a Belen. It is a creche that depicts the birth of Christ. Belen is derived from the Spanish name for Bethlehem and shows the baby Jesus in the manger, surrounded by the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the shepherds, their flock, the Magi and some animals towered by an angel, a star or both. Belen can be seen in homes, churches, schools, and even in office buildings. Those that are in official buildings are extravagantly decorated using different materials for the figures. Another typical Filipino ornament is the Parol (from the Spanish word farol), a star-shaped lantern that decorates Filipino houses and buildings every Christmas season. These lanterns represent the star that led the Magi, also known as the Three Kings, to Bethlehem. Parols are popular decorations in Filipino homes. Even in Vienna, there is also the possibility to



make parols yourself. Interested parties are taught by the artist group named Filipino Visual Artists in Austria. Children like to go house to house in small groups and sing Christmas carols, which is called caroling. Their instruments are very simply built, like tambourines with aluminium bottle stoppers strung on a piece of wire. With the traditional chant of “Namamasko po!” (“wishing you a merry Christmas”) children sing Christmas carols like “Maligayang Pasko” to homeowners and they reward them with coins. The children thank the homeowners with another Christmas carol by singing: “Thank you, thank you, ang babait ninyo (you are so nice), thank you!”. Another tradition is ManitaManito, which we know here in Europe as Engerl-Bengerl or Secret Santa. Family members, friends or work colleagues give each other a small gift. How religion influenced Filipino Christmas One of the religious traditions that is also lived here in Austria is Simbang Gabi (‘Dawn Mass’), a novena of morning masses from December 16– 24. The believers thereby show their devotion to God and the anticipation of the birth of Christ. A folk belief is that God grants a special wish of a devotee

The quilts and balls are inspired by crafters and quilters in a quilting group and as project of the international ladies’ organisation sold in bazaars to raise funds for various charities.

The Quilter Geraline Evangelista is a trailing spouse, who joins her corporate executive husband from country to country assignment. Born and raised in Iloilo, Ge completed law university in Manila. 25 years ago, they left the Philippines for Brussels. Before boarding their flight, she bought an electric sewing machine at the duty-free shop and that kicked off her hobby in sewing, quilting and anything craftsy.

who attends all nine masses. After the mass, families buy traditionally Filipino holiday dishes, local delicacies, including bibingka (rice flour and eggbased cake, cooked on the top and bottom with charcoal burners); puto bumbong (a purple, sticky rice delicacy steamed in bamboo tubes, buttered then sprinkled with brown sugar and shredded dried coconut meat). The last mass (‘Misa de Gallo’) is celebrated on Christmas Eve on December 24. After the visit, the traditional Noche Buena takes place where family members eat together around midnight. A traditional meal is served on the table like queso de bola (“ball of cheese”, which is made of edam sealed in red paraffin wax); tsokolate, noodles and pasta, fruit salad, pandesal, relleno and hamon (Christmas ham). Some families also open their gifts. Filipinos usually visit relatives of extended family, especially seniors, on Christmas Day. As a thank you, the senior gives children an aguinaldo (gift, present, bonus), which is often kept in a sealed envelope. After a week, Media Noche takes place at New Years’ Eve, where family members meet again and celebrate together. Unlike the Europeans, the Filipinos are pretty noisy on New

Year’s Eve. In addition to the typical fireworks, torotot or other instruments are used to greet the new year, because Filipinos believe that this will make the negativity of the past year disappear. Other customs include displaying 12 round fruits symbolising prosperity for the next 12 months, jumping at midnight, wearing clothes with polka dots, having coins in your pockets and opening all lights, windows and doors to the blessing the first day of the year to come in. The Christmas season officially ends with Epiphany on January 6. A traditional custom on this day is for children to leave their shoes out of the window or door so that the Three Kings can leave small gifts like candy or money. Our Christmas traditions are indeed important. They contribute to a feeling of comfort and belonging, strengthen values, create memories and offer the possibility to apologize or to say thank you. As Bureau Editor of Austria, I therefore wish everyone Maligayang Pasko at Isang Masaganang Manigong Bagong Taon! Frohe Weihnachten und ein erfolgreiches neues Jahr! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!




The most wonderful time of the year Christmas in the Czech Republic Words & images by Rebecca Urbančík Garcia




here is something magical about the holidays when cities start setting up decorations and lights. I instantly feel the warmth, joy, and excitement in the air. Ever since I was little, Christmases were spent between the Philippines, the US, or here in Europe wherever my parents got assigned. And since my husband is Czech, spending the holidays in the Czech Republic as well has naturally become more constant. That said, I am happy to share some of my favourite things and traditions when it comes to celebrating Christmas Czech style. In the Czech Republic, Christmas decorations do not start coming up until the start of Advent (not from the start of the “ber” months as usually done in the Philippines. A lot of people build nativity scenes on the first Sunday of Advent, as well as an Advent wreath to count down the four weeks of Advent Around the same time Christmas markets in city squares open, the largest is located in Old Town Square in Prague. If you have not visited Prague during the Christmas season, the Christmas market in Old Town Square is a must! It does get crowded though, so you will need to navigate your way through other eager visitors. The smell of freshly made Trdelník (a kind of spit cake or more commonly known as a chimney cake) rolled and topped with sugar and/or almonds, savoury delicacies such as halušky (soft noodles or dumplings), a bit like gnocchi served with cabbage and bacon bits, roasted Pražská šunk (Prague ham), which brings to mind a bit of roasted lechon, warm beverages such as mulled wine svařák (mead medovína) and much more fill the air of the city. Christmas in the Czech Republic is celebrated on the 24th of December Christmas Eve. There are a few legends and traditions related to this day. One example is the all-day fast until dinner so that one can see a golden piglet which represents good luck and wealth. I have never made it to skipping any meal during this day as there’s so much

good food around! Speaking of food, what does the menu look like? Typically, a Czech Christmas dinner consists of fish soup (carp), schnitzels with potato salad, and a plate of traditional Christmas cookies. Of course, each Czech family does a variation of this menu. My husband’s family serves pea soup, schnitzels (chicken and pork) and fried carp with potato salad, as well as traditional Christmas cookies. His babička (grandma) also makes apple and poppy seed strudel to add to our sweets list. (I’m getting hungry as I write this!) Once dinner is ready and you sit at Christmas table, you should not get up until the end of the meal. After dinner, the long-awaited moment finally comes — as the family, especially children wait for the sound of a bell telling them that Ježíšek (Baby Jesus) has come and left presents under the Christmas tree. After the gifts are opened, families usually attend midnight mass. On Christmas Day, the 25th as well as the 26th of December, families visit one another and spend time together. Christmas dinner and festivities in the Czech Republic remind of our Noche Buena in the Philippines, when all the delicious food of lechon, paella, ham and pandesal, lengua and native delicacies such as bibingka, putobungbung, kutchinta, sapin-sapin, maja blanca, make their way to an overflowing table. Family members gather around the dining table and enjoy each other’s company. Although physically far from the Philippines, the similarities of these Czech traditions and our typical Filipino Christmas celebrations remind me of my family and “home”. I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek into a typical Czech Christmas. Although 2020 has been a challenging year, Christmas is truly a magical time — so let us continue to make it a joyful and happy one. Veselé Vánoce! Merry Christmas! Maligayang Pasko!




A Holiday in Interesting Times Christmas and the New Year in spite of everything else in 2020

Words by Marthy Arguelles Angue


t hasn’t been an easy year. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, it’s very likely that these will be very familiar sentiments. Christmas and New Year’s Day have always been times for recollection and with the last twelve months as tumultuous as it was – starting with Taal threatening eruption in January and somehow going downhill from there –one might be excused to skip the holidays entirely and just hope 2021 would have decidedly different theme to it. Still, centuries of continuity provide a kind of momentum neither storm, nor plague, nor political unrest can withstand. Jose Mari Chan Memes began surfacing early in August this year as if the “Ber” months themselves had to be led in by their own month-long advent. Malls have decked themselves in shimmering lights in courageous defiance of economic uncertainty, quarantine-related business closures, and (perhaps) best practices in social distancing. Worn-out lip-service or not, Filipino Resiliency will have a Christmas Parol shining brightly on the last island left on the archipelago whatever December 2020 might bring. Of course, with our lavish traditions facing off against our grim present realities, celebrating a quintessentially Filipino Christmas will take a little bit of adjustment for many of us. Here are some of Roots and Wings’ tips on celebrating the Holiday Season this 2020. Reflect on what we’ll miss out on this year For those of us who tend to Christmas and New Years’ with friends and family, we will inevitably be missing out on a lot of the usual fare. Large family gatherings are illegal in many places in the World currently and what is a Filipino Christmas without gathering one’s large Filipino family? Rather than simply looking at whatever bright side there is to the occasion however, we would actually suggest indulging in a reflection of what is lost. Joyous feasting, grandiose gifts, the raucous laughter of loved ones – the loving thing this year is to avoid these things hopefully until next time. Of course, the objective isn’t to throw a pity party in lieu of the regular celebration. The idea is to distill for ourselves what we celebrate Christmas for.



Reflect on the reason for the season Not everyone is a devout Christian for Christmas. Many of us see these Holy Days and Nights as times to meditate on the mystery of Divine Incarnation – the Fullness of God Become Mortal Flesh and making a dwelling-place among us. Others might see it as a time to relive fold childhood memories or to spend time with family and friends. Christmas is a season that looms over the Spiritual and the Secular alike but a little reflection may reveal that what we value about it will be uniquely personal to us. It’s in the lyrics of your favorite carols; it’s in the moral of your favorite Christmas movies; it’s in the feeling you get tasting those dishes you might not be able to taste this year. Given the bustle of the season is largely mitigated this year, it may be a good time to slow down and wonder what we would have bustled for. What might it have said about us? Remember those who have lost the most this year To turn an old phrase, everyone suffered equally this year but some more equally than others. If you’re reading this on a charged phone under a dry ceiling without a suspicious cough or numb taste buds then it is certain that you’ve escaped at least some of the worst this year had to offer. How might the forcibly unemployed or the flood-swept, or the orphaned be celebrating Christmas this year and might this have something to do with us and what we believe the season stands for? Be creative with what’s important The best thing about clarifying your values is that life’s circumstances tend to be window dressing in comparison. If Christmas is a time of beatific vision into the Unfathomable Love of God then canceling Christmas Party plans can be an opportunity to focus on prayer and charity. If Christmas time is a time for connecting with far-flung family the instead of ignoring them for hours to cook and clean for your grand Noche Buena, you can use this time writing them deeply intimate and heart-felt emails. The thing about losing so much of the spectacle and bombast of a Traditional Filipino Christmas is that we also have a chance to circumvent all the obligatory noise that comes with it. If Christmas means something important to us, it should be important enough to adapt to challenging times. Joy, Defiant It will be the easiest thing in the world to say that happiness is all in the mind and that anyone can be happy with the right mindset. Knowing what so many people went through and lost this year, I would be forgiven for thinking this is – at best – crass and insensitive. There are very real reasons for many to be somber this Christmastime and no one should have to pretend to be happier than they are. However, it is a quintessentially Filipino yearning to seek joyous respite from the season and I believe that yearning is enough for many of us to find the Joy we seek. I just think that it will happen not by demanding for things to be the way they used to be. I believe that joy will be in finding what was actually good and actually beautiful about all of those Christmases past and realizing that 2020 has done nothing to tarnish the core of it. Hey, it might even be enough to make on hopeful for a brighter 2021.




Karin&Me: Providing Parents with Peace Interviewed by Lily C. Fen Images by Karin&Me


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ena Verga - Danemar is an attorney - turned mompreneur. She’s the woman behind Karin&Me, a family business that helps parents remain calm while raising confident, resilient and inclusive kids. Hearing about her achievements as a lawyer and how the arrival of her daughter shifted her perspective sparked my curiosity. Below, I get to pick her brain about how Karin&Me came to be. How did your business begin? My Swedish-Filipina daughter inspired our business—I wanted her to grow up confident and inclusive. Before she was born, I was working in the field of international humanitarian and human rights law. Making a social impact without sacrificing time with my family was important to me. We wished to provide parents with a few minutes of peace, create a product that was compact enough for traveling. It also had to be sustainable and longlasting—an item that could be used for years and passed on from one child to another. It could be a toy and a confidence-builder. I’ve always loved doing arts and crafts, and Switzerland has had a tradition of supporting handmade products. The Quiet Book felt like a

natural choice. Each of its pages reflects our values as parents. For example, the Tic Tac Toe page encourages play and connection between parent and child. After market testing in 2018, Karin&Me was in full swing. We attended our first Christmas market as an exhibitor that year. Our first creation fortunately turned out to be our flagship product. Karin&Me has other items, but quiet books remain very popular. Anti-stress kits for parents came next. I knew from experience how beneficial reducing stress was through simple activities. We launched this collection in 2019 at the Zug Wellness Festival. Parents could focus on themselves for a few minutes a day through our creations. Clients surprised us by requesting these sets for their teenagers instead! Teens could practice mindfulness and regulate their stress and anxiety using our kits. We are also launching a Diversity and Inclusion kit to help parents begin the conversation on this subject. This set includes a bilingual book and a puzzle designed by Filipina creator, Dear Darie, as seen on Instagram. What makes you happy about your business? We receive numerous messages and testimonials from clients saying how

I was able to achieve a work-life balance that I never thought possible through Karin&Me.

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much they appreciate what we do, and such feedback serves our purpose. When possible, we outsource raw materials from the Philippines. Our calling cards are printed on plantable sheets (embedded with seeds) sourced from Cebu. Our anti-stress kits for employees of a research firm in Geneva came in abaca packaging sourced from Quezon. These choices of ours expose Filipino craftsmanship to the Swiss market. I was able to achieve a work-life balance that I never thought possible through Karin&Me. My business allows me time for my child as well as energy for my attorney duties in 22

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the Philippines. As a legal consultant of a global mobility firm in Manila, I oversee services required and troubleshoot issues for expatriates sent to the Philippines by their mother companies. That I myself am an expat reassures clients that I have a deep understanding of their challenges in relocating. I take on this role in the evenings before offices open in Manila. What was this CoVid year like for Karin&Me? It turned out to be a good year for Karin&Me since it strengthened our online presence. Physical stores were not available, and people turned to



internet shops. This year challenged us to be resilient and flexible in planning the future of our business. What is next for Karin&Me in 2021? We are launching our first crowdfunding campaign for a project on inclusion and diversity. I cannot divulge the details yet, but our followers on Instagram and members of our Progressive Parents Community will be the first ones to know. We aim to continue expanding our community and designing new products focused on resilience building and inclusion. This is our small contribution to creating a kinder world for our child and her generation.

How can we get ahold of your products? For whom are they recommended? Our products are available at Different members of the family can benefit. Our bestseller, The Quiet Book, helps toddlers learn motor skills and build self-confidence. It is recommended for children 1-5 years of age. Our anti-stress kits, which aim to promote mindfulness and regulate stress, are best for teens, young adults, and adults.


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Jennifer Fergesen Receives Two Plaridel Awards from the Philippine American Press Club FOR THE SECOND consecutive year, Roots & Wings magazine staff writer Jennifer Fergesen received the Plaridel Award for Best Food Story from the Philippine American Press Club. This year, she also received the Plaridel Award for International Reporting for her stories on the restaurants of the Filipino diaspora, which she continued to report remotely after the pandemic ground international travel to a halt. The story that received Best Food Story, originally published in Positively Filipino magazine, was reported during the summer of 2019, when Jennifer traveled to Georgia — a former Soviet nation that straddles Asia and Europe — to visit the country’s only Filipino restaurant. There, she learned the role that the nation plays in the imaginations of Filipino OFWs in the Middle East. We have reproduced the winning story in full in this issue.


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A Taste of Home in the Caucasus

Words & images by Jennifer Fergesen

Some of the most memorable meals of my life took place in Georgia, a former Soviet republic that straddles the boundary between Europe and Asia. The Russian author Alexander Pushkin, one of the many visitors who tumbled into love with the place, wrote that “every Georgian dish is a poem.� I ate enough in two weeks to fill an anthology. Food


7 Ivane Machabeli St. Tbilisi 0105, Georgia


TOP RIGHT: SVETITSKHOVELI CATHEDRAL in Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. PREVIOUS PAGE: SISIG is one of the most popular dishes at Little Manila, a Filipino restaurant in Tbilisi, Georgia. —JENNIFER FERGESEN/RAW MAGS




here was the dinner at a mountain lodge so far north I could see the Russian border from the upstairs window, where I unwittingly joined a supra: the ritualized yet joyous feast that forms the lynchpin of Georgian culture. Sitting alongside a multigenerational family like a poor relation, I listened to the tamada (toastmaster) compose extemporaneous odes to the mountains, to long life, to love — anything that could prompt the regalers to knock back glass after fiery glass of chacha (grape brandy). If there was anything more impressive than the family’s stomach for liquor, it was their appetite for khinkali, doughy purses of meat and broth like the heftier cousins of Chinese xiao long bao. The dumplings emerged

from the kitchen in mounds towering enough to threaten avalanche; at table, they disappeared almost as quickly as the steam that rose off them. Then there were the lingering meals — approximately described as lunch, though they stretched long into the afternoon — at the farmhouse of a friend who recently resumed his family’s centuries-old tradition of natural winemaking. Each bite of food coaxed new notes from the wine, complex as Georgia’s polyphonic folk music. We grazed on cheeses that tasted of the sun-baked fields where the cows and sheep had grazed; salads and pâtés of nuts and vegetables scattered with pomegranate seeds as if to tempt Persephone; and always khachapuri, a densely cheesy genre of breads that seems far too sybaritic to be eaten at

almost every meal. You could argue that these meals stuck in my memory as much for the scenery as for the food — the rugged mountains of the Caucasus, the Italianesque vineyards of the lowlands. But one of the most remarkable meals I had in Tbilisi, the capital, took place in a setting you’d be hard-pressed to call picturesque: the basement of an aging apartment building in the city’s nineteenth-century core. There, after much searching, I found Little Manila Hostel and its attached Grill & Resto, the country’s first and only Filipino restaurant. Little Manila Grill & Resto, which opened last spring, operates with some of the hush of a speakeasy. There’s no sign, just a cartoon of a jeepney printed on copy paper and stuck to one

“Bread, for Filipinos, it’s only for merienda. We cannot work without rice”

Don Palmero




of the sidewalk-level windows. When you’re walking past, the jeepney is closer to your feet than to your eyes, and disorientingly similar to the tuktuk logo of the Thai restaurant next door — similar enough that I walked into the latter first. I stared bemused at the Buddhist icons on the walls and wondered if the Filipino hostel and restaurant I’d heard about had already gone out of business, the menu converted to a more marketable cuisine. I was pacing the sidewalk, clutching a takeaway order of Tuk Tuk pad thai that I’d ordered in desperation, when I heard a man speaking Ilonggo into his cell phone. He was the chef, Don Palmero —



ready to whip up my first Filipino meal after a week of khachapuri and to tell me about the long and winding route the Little Manila jeepney took to Tbilisi. “Bread, for Filipinos, it’s only for merienda. We cannot work without rice,” said Don, in the cheery, muralcovered space that serves as Little Manila Hostel’s dining room. The restaurant is open to the public, but it primarily serves guests of the hostel, most of whom are Filipino OFWs based in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The hostel company, which has another location in Armenia, runs tours that include samplings of local specialties like churchkhela, walnuts encased in grape candy, and mtsvadi,

KHINKALI Georgian Khinkali are similar to Chinese soup dumplings­—JENNIFER FERGESEN/ RAW MAGS

grilled meat skewers that echo the smoky pork barbecue of Philippine streets. When the guests return to the hostel after a long day of sightseeing, though, they often crave a taste of home. There are no fusion inventions here, no adobo khinkali or ensaymada topped with sheep cheese. While Filipino restaurants in cities with few Filipinos tend to stick to the simple and the easily-explained — lumpia, pancit, fried rice — Little Manila anticipates the deeper, more obscure desires of the far-flung diaspora. The menu, hand-painted on the wall, reads like a homesick word association game. It starts with staple silogs, wanders towards humble tinola and bulalo and reaches as far as regional specialties like Bicol Express and the bitter papaitan of Ilocos. But most Filipinos that come here are looking for one product: pork. They may initially be disappointed by the paper menu, which has categories for “beef” and “chicken” but none for the other white meat. This is a habit carried over from the Muslim-majority GCC countries where many Little Manila guests hold residence. (Don and Little Manila owner Nante Marilag also arrived in Georgia via the Gulf; they became friends while living in the same building in Dubai.) In Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which respectively host 24% and 16% of all Filipino OFWs, eating pork is difficult at best, a deportation-worthy crime at worst. Georgia is a majority Orthodox Christian country with no stigma against animals that do not chew the cud. Still, the waitress still lists the pork dishes quickly, under her breath, as if they might be contraband here after all. There’s sisig, sinigang na baboy, lechon kawali; a hulking crispy pata served in a ring of crudités like the centerpiece of a medieval feast. A mother-daughter pair, sitting behind me, listened patiently to the pork options and then ordered all of them. They were Filipinos

from strictly anti-pork Saudia Arabia, the waitress confided as they tore into the pork knuckle, visiting Little Manila for the second time in as many days. I ordered the sisig, which the waitress said was the most popular dish — about as dense a porcine experience as you can fit on one plate. It came draped demurely in a veil of fried egg, zigzagged with mayonnaise like a brown paper package tied up with strings. And indeed, it ended up being one of my favorite things. “Pork in Georgia is very, very delicious,” Don told me, and I knew it. I’d eaten Georgian pork mingling meekly with beef in khinkali, stewed with potatoes in goulash-like souzi, grilled with no adornment but salt and a sauce of sour plums. I did not know, however, how delicious it could be in Filipino food, so much of which is designed to coax out the diversity of flavors and textures that a pig can contain in its body. There are few dishes that showcase this virtuosity better than sisig, traditionally punctuated with the cartilaginous bits that surround a pig’s skull and smoothed out with the brain inside. At Little Manila, the sisig leans towards lean meat rather than organs and skin, the better to highlight the yielding tenderness and free-range flavor of the local pork. The crunch of onions replaces cartilage, while chicken liver provides the creamy body and ferric depth of brain. Each bite contains the sweet-savory suspension of spices, titrated to maximum pungency, that could only belong to Filipino food. “My aim here is really to bring the Filipino taste to Georgia,” said Don, “to share Filipino taste with local people and other nationalities.” That’s no easy task in Tbilisi. Georgia has few Asian grocery stores and none specializing in Filipino ingredients, so Don has no access to the shelf-stable exports and instant mixes that prop up Filipino kitchens across the global diaspora. Some of the supermarkets carry canned coconut milk, but it’s so expensive that



SHATILI, an ancient fortified village near the border with Chechnya..­—JENNIFER FERGESEN/RAW MAGS

The TV at Little Manila often plays videos from the travel YouTuber Mark Wiens.­—JENNIFER FERGESEN/RAW MAGS



Don no longer serves Bicol Express. Don has taken on the project of rebuilding “Filipino taste” from the ground up, layering local ingredients until they alchemize into the flavors of home. In the process, he has accidentally — and inevitably — stumbled into some of the techniques of his adopted region’s cuisine. His sinigang, soured with lemon, bears a resemblance to chikhirtma, a Georgian lemon-chicken soup. His papaitan gets its bitter kick from dried lemon peel, a common ingredient in nearby Iran. Next, he wants to standardize his recipes with precise measurements, a process he learned from the highend restaurants where he worked in Korea and Dubai, and to elevate the restaurant’s atmosphere and presentation. “Maybe, after five years, some Georgian people will come and eat here in our restaurant,” he said. “Maybe, in God’s grace.” His ambition highlights Little Manila’s idiosyncratic place in the global Filipino diaspora. As it currently operates, the restaurant isn’t designed to introduce locals to Filipino cuisine, nor does it primarily serve Filipinos who live in Georgia. (There aren’t many of those — about 25 households, according to the Consulate General of the Philippines in Tbilisi — in part because the volatile Georgian lari offers few incentives for economic migrants.) Its clientele are almost exclusively Filipino tourists. Little Manila only exists in Tbilisi because of a coalescence of bureaucratic and geographic coincidences, a product of the precarious, loophole-bound nature of OFW life. Compared to Western countries, Georgia’s borders are relatively open to Filipino passport holders; those with residence visas for GCC or OECD countries receive a visa on arrival, while those without can get an e-visa online for just $20 (no sponsors or interviews required). There are cheap and frequent flights to Tbilisi from

many GCC countries, where jobseeking Filipinos often operate on visit visas that require leaving the country every 30 to 90 days. Georgia is also one of the few Christian countries in the region. OFWs are savvy about the travel options that their documents allow, Don told me. “When we’re abroad, some Filipinos are working for a long time,” he said. “Sometimes they’re trying to change the weather, change their mood. The answer is: travel anywhere they can easily get a visa.” Don is enjoying the change in weather that came with accepting this Tbilisi gig, a favor to his friend Nante. A longtime mountain biker, he finds Georgia’s green, spring-studded trails a revelation after years pedaling through the deserts around Dubai. When I met him in August, he had been in the country for three months and still wore the rose-tinted glasses of a newcomer. “You don’t have anything bad to say about this country,” he said. “Life here is very, very light. You can live happily here with peace of mind.” But he has a zen attitude towards the fate of Little Manila Grill & Resto. “If we have a future here, then we’ll do it here,” he said. “If not, we’ll return back.” Return where? That’s up in the air. Don listed Iloilo, Japan or Switzerland as his next possible stops; Nante will continue hopping between Armenia, Manila, Dubai and Abu Dhabi whether or not Little Manila succeeds in Tbilisi. It’s all par for the course for two longtime members of the OFW community, a tribe trained to see the opportunities behind borders like a kind of x-ray vision. One thing’s for sure: wherever he goes, Don will find a way to cook Filipino food, even when surrounded by culinary traditions as rich and unique as Georgia’s. “We have Filipino food since we are birthed,” he explained. “We have to have it. It’s just our nature.”

Sa’ Georgia! December 25th 20:00 Christmas tree lighting and music 21: 00-23: 00 Dj Beka Eloshvili third soul December 26th 20: 00-21: 00 Band “Evening Project” 21: 00-23: 00 DJ Zurab Chkonia (zurkin) December 27th 20: 00-21: 00 Georgian Pop Stars 21:00 -23: 00 DJ Giorgi Erikashvili (ericsson) December 28 20: 00-21: 00 Georgian Pop Stars 21: 00-23: 00 DJ Sandro Khvedeliani (khvedeliani) December 29 20: 00-21: 00 Georgian Pop Stars 21: 00-23: 00 DJ Nika Japaridze (nika J) December 30th 20: 00-21: 00 Georgian Pop Stars 21: 00-23: 00 DJ Shotiko Tsverava (sumo) December 31 23:00 New Year’s Gala Concert / Music Show “One In One” January 1st 21: 00-22: 00 MAX THE SAX 22: 00-00: 00 DJ Nika Janelidze (skalitzer) January 2 20: 00-21: 00 David Iluridze Band 21: 00-23: 00 DJ Misho Gochitashvili January 3 20: 00-21: 00 group new one 21: 00-23: 00 DJ Sando Jorbenadze (dj sendnudes) BROUGHT TO YOU BY Food



Art for a cause JV Totañes Portraits and Art My art, your help, their hope. Let’s help each other. Lately another typhoon hit the Philippines during the peak of the pandemic. Two typhoons hit Luzon within one week - typhoons Rolly & Ulysses. Let’s work together. Help me. Share this painting for a cause.

A total of 2,074,301 individuals or 523,871 families were affected by the typhoon. Ulysses also left P2.14 billion agricultural damage in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, Bicol Region, and CAR; and P482.85 million damage to infrastructure in Ilocos Region, Mimaropa, and Bicol Region. Figures on casualties may still change when the agency issues its situation report for the day, including updates on the extent of damage on other sectors and areas. ­–CNN PHILIPPINES



HUSTLE AND BUSTLE acrylic on cavas with frame 50cm x 60cm at 450 euros. All proceeds will be donated to the chosen charity that will help our beloved Philippines affected by the typhoons —JV Totañes Portraits and Art




Christmas Gems of Antipolo Words by Rebecca Torres Images by Ma. Crizelda Arambulo


ntipolo City in the province of Rizal in the Philippines is well known as a pilgrimage site of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Antipolo Cathedral) with millions of devotees visiting and paying homage especially during the month of May. Aside from the Antipolo Cathedral, Antipolo City has its Christmas gems, the Casa Santa Museum and Balay Belen, offering local and foreign visitors with a unique experience of being surrounded by thousands of Santa Claus in different shapes and sizes and colourful Christmas themed memorabilia and viewing hundreds of creatively crafted Belens or nativity sets from around the world.



Casa Santa Museum Casa Santa (House of Santa) Museum, located in the Jardin de Miramar in Antipolo, was opened in December 2004 by Ms. Edna del Rosario, showcasing her collection of over 1,000 Santa Claus and Christmas themed memorabilia since 1994. Since then, the collection grew to over 3,500 pieces originating from 90 countries, many sourced from the Philippines, USA, Germany, and Rothenburg’s all year round Christmas village and as far north as Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, Finland, the “official” hometown of Santa Claus. The interesting pieces in the collection are a sculpture by Michael Cacnio of a small Santa “Bomb” as head and mounted in a sculptured brass body of Santa, a lacquered hand painted horse rider from a small town in Russia near the Volga River and the representational Santa painting from Myanmar of their Buddhist heavenly God dressed like



Santa with cap and beard. Coca Cola’s 6-pc. Santa is just 1.5 cm in height and is the smallest in the collection. There is also a hand painted eggshell collection, the biggest of which is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a Swarovski, the most expensive one, purchased from Amsterdam. The most unique and priceless of the collection is a fern trunk from Baguio City, Philippines with 30 different faces of Santa hand painted by Aleli Vengua in its nodes. Also, the Old Man Forest Santa is an unusual, one-of-a-kind piece, which was carved from a trunk in Colorado, USA. Casa Santa was a family weekend vacation house in Antipolo which was later converted to a museum. The numerous Santa Claus and Christmas themed collections are displayed in rooms all over the house - in the living room, dining room, bathroom, bedroom and playroom, the latter being the children’s favourite. Muralist Alfred Galvez painted a flying Santa on a sleigh with gifts on a superimposed window from the trusses of the museum’s high ceiling. The museum also has a Christmas themed Lego collection and a Christmas village. The latest addition in 2019, are the Grinch’s room and the Christmas Toy Factory showing Santa’s elves in action creating toys, created by Giacomo Tierra, an Italian craftsman specializing in woodworks and wood carving. Casa Santa provides its visitors the joy of appreciating these unique Christmas memorabilia and Santa Claus pieces, educating them about Christmas traditions and culture around the world and providing the wonderful experience of the magic of Christmas all year round.





Balay Belen Balay Belen (Home of Bethlehem or nativity scene) was opened in the Casa Santa Museum last 2017 showcasing the amazing collection of Ms. Gloria Reyes, which comprise the 300 miniature to table model nativity scenes from all over the world. The first in the collection is the Hummel porcelain figurine set from Germany, considered an heirloom as this was acquired in 1965 or 55 years ago and passed on to Ms. Reyes by her mother in 1990. Another special nativity set is Susan Lordi’s handcarved Willow Tree sculptures, a gift from the daughter of Ms. Reyes, which took several Christmases and birthdays to complete. The nativity sets or the manger scene exhibited in Balay Belen came from North America (Canada, USA, and Mexico), Central and South America (Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia, among others), Europe (Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Poland, Eastern Europe), Africa (Ethiopia, Egypt, Turkey, Cameroon), Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore) and Australia, Aside from the nativity sets, five dioramas are displayed in the Hall of Continents designed by Giocomo Tierra from Italy. These are Australia, Asia, South America, Europe and Africa depicting the different miniature landmarks and interesting sites in each continent such as the windmills of Holland, the Great Wall of China and the grand Pyramids of Egypt. The impressive nativity scenes of Balay Belen presents the creative and artistic rendition of the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger on Christmas Day by different cultures from all over the world. The universality of the Christmas message is conveyed, of love, peace, and goodwill to all “the greatest story ever told.”






On Dante’s Trail

A Travelogue by Maris Gavino


00 years on, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) remains Italy’s greatest poet of the 13th century and father of the Italian language. What better way for me to celebrate than write a travelogue of a 12-day thematic trip inspired by his epic, The Divine Comedy. This initiative not only made me read his noble works in depth but also visualize the places mentioned in the epic. It started in the Casentino District of Eastern Tuscany, crossing Florence, the central part and onward to the Western part of the Maremma District.



The cities I visited in Tuscany are mentioned in the cantos of INFERNO and PURGATORY. As I followed Dante’s trail, I got to know him, not only as a poet but also, as a thinker, an opinionist and a politician in his own right. His imagination and expressions are very much true today. I learned that human tendencies and realities are the same throughout the centuries and will always be. Notably similar during the ancient 13th century and today is the state of political parties and divisions within the parties themselves. The parties then were the Guelfs and the Ghibellines spread throughout the regions of

Tuscany and Romagna in central Italy. They were of Germanic origin and offsprings of the Hapsburg empire that ruled Europe at that time. The Guelfs of Florence were further divided into the whites and the blacks. Dante was an acclaimed supporter of the white Guelfs. As a result, he was kicked out by the Black Guelfs and exiled from his native Florence. He stayed instead in east Tuscany, in the Casentino Valley, and in neighbouring Romagna in Ravenna where he died in 1321. Casentino District is a valley expanding from Southeast Tuscany that borders the Romagna Region in the north. “The rivulets that from the verdant hills of Casentino descend into the Arno, making their channels cool and moist, stand constantly before me, and not in vain, for the image of them dries me up far more than the disease which from my visage wears the flesh.” Inferno XXX Castle of Count Guido Guidi hosted Dante as guest in 1310, situated in the town of Poppi in Casentino. Located on top of a hill, as was usual for castles and fortresses, it could be spotted about 5 kilometers away. Today, the castle is the town’s main attraction. The Guidi noble family, leaders of the Ghibellines, were particularly important and respected in Tuscany and Romagna regions. It is worth mentioning that Count Guido was adviser of the then very powerful Pope. The Castle proved to be special. Unlike many others, it is intact and stands robust in its original structure. What was interesting to me is the library that houses a collection of valuable medieval books and manuscripts. It boasts of a tower bell that still rings at 12 noon daily. Equally remarkable are the well-preserved frescoes that adorn

“O My Florence, thou indeed mayst, rejoice at this digression which touches thee not, thanks to thy people that reasons so well.” Dante


the royal rooms. It has a prison cell deep like a well and made up of several levels. These were allotted to those punished depending on the gravity of the crime. The lowest ground floor was the grimmest and darkest. “A narrow hole within the mew, which from me has the title of Faminem and in which others yet must be shut up, had through its opening already shown me several moons when I slept the evil sleep that rent for me the curtain of the future.” Canto XXXIII, Inferno

Dante Alighieri statue next to Santa Croce church, Florence (Italy), 1865, Enrico Pazzi

Florence, birthplace of Dante in the year 1265. “O MY Florence, thou indeed mayst, rejoice at this digression which touches thee not, thanks to thy people that reasons so well.” Canto VI, Purgatory I have visited Florence countless times, however for the first time appreciated the beautiful city seen through a historic lens. The city faithfully reveres places relevant to Dante’s life - his birth house, school, and the Santa Croce Church where he and his family frequented, now turned



into museums. In addition, excerpts from Dante’s epic are etched on slabs set on building walls along the ancient narrow streets. As I walked around the city and like an Easter egg hunt, I had fun looking for these slabs on building walls and reading excerpts from the Divine Comedy. Santa Fiora in the MAREMMA district, west of Tuscany Region “Come, cruel one, come, and see the oppression of thy nobles and tend their sores, and thou shalt see Santafior how secure it is.” Canto VI, Purgatory Dante accused Albert and Rudolf Hapsburg to have abandoned Tuscany



which was then part of their empire. In the epic, he alluded to them as responsible for ruining Tuscany, like Santa Fiora, degraded and the local people victims of an unfortunate destiny. Ironically, Santa Fiora today is voted one of the most beautiful towns of Italy, having an idyllic setting located midlevel from the mountain (Monte Amiata) and the Mediterranean Sea. It is covered by a forest of chestnut and olive trees and abounds in normal and thermal spring water. Santa Fiora’s cultural club presented an afternoon of ancient poetry recital that featured the Divine Comedy. The three actors impersonating Dante, Virgil and Beatrice moved around the old town reciting by heart potent verses of the epic. Virgil and Beatrice are significant characters in the Divine

Comedy who accompanied Dante in his travel from Purgatory to Paradise. It aptly concluded my thematic trip. This extraordinary trip during an extraordinary period may serve as inspiration for future extraordinary tourists. I felt fortunate to be able to do the trip despite the pandemic as the Italian government urged people to travel and revive the tourism industry, even offering subsidies. A fitting closure to this essay is an invocation to the All Maker from Dante’s brilliant work. “So that our being thus, from threshold unto threshold throughout the realm, is a joy to all the realm to the King, who draweth our wills to what he willeth; And his will is our peace; it is that sea to which all moves that it createth and the nature maketh.” Paradise, Canto III.



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Roots&Wings Associate Editor Marthy Angue has been with the magazine since 2015 after a whirlwind exploration of Europe’s diverse Filipino communities. The son of OFWs, a former child immigrant, and a Creative Outsourcing professional, the story of “the International Filipino” is a central theme in Marthy’s life. He took that theme further this year,

As a writer and designer, Marthy has cut an eclectic professional path. In 2011, he co-founded and branded Gunship Revolution one of South East Asia’s most trusted Digital Art providers. He has worked on award-winning campaigns for brands ranging from Nissin to Bayer, has been included in an anthology of new Filipino poetry by late National Artist Cirilo Bautista, and had a hand setting up the 75th anniversary of the MacArthur Landings in Leyte. His most current personal project, an explorable, interactive map of the Philippines has garnered him an accreditation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

having been appointed an Officer of the Philippine Foreign Service December this year. Literary


You might not be home this Christmas but the filipino christmas spirit is always in your heart wherever you are.