Smily Phillines

They appreciate Scouse humour


In my brief experience so far, The Phillipines is  the smiliest place I have been to.  By nature I tend to smile a lot anyway -in the UK that could get me into trouble, if I was imprudent. In the ‘Big Smoke’ I had perfected the split-second-glance-away if my smile was misinterpreted and imminent danger threatened.  Here in Manila it just seems to set off more smiles – like a chain reaction.  Sure smiles can be insincere, or they can be to save face – but it is a nice change to the often surly streets of North London!  Maybe I will christen Manila – The Big Smile.   To top it all – a smiling policeman came over to me in the airport and offered me his pen, when I was doing my best jetlagged impression of a hapless foreigner trying to fill out my Embarkation Card.  He was armed so I did remember to give him his pen back – smile or no smile, the guy had a gun.

You may be suprised to hear the smile soon evaporated when I arrived at the Jesuit Residence.  A party was in full swing celebrating the ordination of new Jesuit deacons. I was warmly welcomed and ushered over to fill my plate with all sorts of delicious food. Sitting down, I  started to peel, what I assumed to be a hard boiled egg.  It was slightly alarming to see it was black in places, ‘Is this egg off?’ I asked a Vietnamese Jesuit…. ‘no its fine’ was the reply – so I bravely carried on – not wanting to lose face, aware that I was being scrutinised. ‘Strange it is also crunchy and quite tough’ – I thought.  I had stumbled upon Balut.  If you are squeamish stop reading….

Eggs with Legs

Balut, or ‘eggs with legs’, is considered a delicacy here and reserved for special occasions. It is basically a duck embryo…. I hadn’t done my homework… you are meant to season with salt, suck out the flavoursome soup, before starting the serious munching.  I made it half way before discreetly disposing of the remains. Since then the food has been very good – but that was my baptism of fire.  As one sage said – once you’ve crossed balut off your list, other exotic foods won’t seem quite so exotic.

The first thing I have eaten in the Phillipines!

Back to smiling – just a couple of things I have learnt from a brief bit of research.  Babys are born with the ability to smile – most behaviour is learnt visually, by watching and copying – not smiling. Even babies born blind smile.  A second related fact, babies smile in their sleep from birth, although it can take 4-6 weeks to do so awake. So smile – it uses less muscles than frowning and it is more attractive than makeup! Oh and smily people are more likely to get a job …. there are a few vacancies in the balut incubating trade here if anyone is interested.