And As Long As I've Got My Suit and Tie

Bongga! Tell a Pilipino crowd to get dressed up for a party, and you’ll find us doing just that... and some. 

I had the pleasure of attending this year’s An Evening In Manila, a black tie affair hosted by Maharlika Filipino Moderno and Jeepney Filipino Gastropub that celebrated Philippine independence and benefitted one of my absolute favorite organizations, ARK (Advancement for Rural Kids). For one night in late May, a mansion on the Upper East Side in New York City was the setting for a showcase of amazing Pilipino-inspired hors d’oeuvres, networking with the who’s who among advocates and social do-gooders within the Pilipino community, and some “get outta my way, that DJ is playing my sooooongggg”-type of dancing.

The crowd was not only raising money to fund feeding programs in rural communities in the Philippines, but also raising the bar when it came to fashion and style. There was a competition for best dressed male and female of the night, and that might have influenced some outfits but I must say, that was one handsome room. See for yourself.

At the last minute, I ditched the bow tie I was planning to wear that night for a piece that was buried within all my other ties. I remembered I had this one neck piece that I bought to wear with the barong I wore to my high school senior prom (yup, that happened). I really don’t remember the last time I had worn it, mostly because it’s an odd-looking piece that doesn’t really go with anything. I always thought it was simple yet loud, classy yet eccentric, bold yet endearing. A single white pearl sat in the middle of it, almost acting as the period in the fashion statement that the neckpiece itself was.


I truly believe that fashion and style have the power to tell stories, and there is always thought, whether conscious or subconscious, that goes into the clothes one picks to wear on any given day. On that night, I suppose that neck piece was a cool thing to wear to a Pilipino-themed event. I mean, the Philippines is the “pearl of the orient” after all, right? Yet, thinking about it more after, I’d like to think that it was a bit more than that.

Just as the neckpiece was buried underneath all the other ties I have, sometimes our Pilipino-ness gets buried too. I know for me, it often times does. It’s always there, yet over time, our environments and situations cover it up. We adapt, we assimilate, we fit in. That’s not a bad thing at all - in fact, I think these are totally essential to growing as a person, but I think the part that gets lost most times is: we remember. In the words of Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal:

Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.


"He who does not look back from where he came will never reach his destination."

We don’t need to be waving Philippine flags, but I think that getting in touch with our Pilipino-ness every now and then is always good. It’s not all of who we are, but certainly a part of who we are, and it’s something that we should remember and celebrate. Whether it’s making a quick stop to Maharlika or Jeepney for a reminder of what your lola’s cooking tastes like, watching a documentary or reading an essay on immigration legislation, or even trying to incorporate cool Pinoy fashion elements into your style, it’s a way to remember.

Maybe hold off on the Ifugao loincloths for Casual Friday at the office though. No one's trying to remember seeing you in that.

(Suit and Tie by author)

#PIHealth: A Call to Action for Improving Health in the Philippines

Note from the editor: Today's story is a guest post by Kathleen Cabangon. A major issue that the Philippines faces is health and healthcare. Around one-quarter of families in the Philippines live below the poverty threshold, reflecting broad social inequity and other social challenges. Cities are becoming more crowded and polluted due to increased migration from rural areas; cost of living has increased due to inflation making food more expensive; and access to clean water supplies is more uncertain compared to a generation ago. Despite the Philippines’ economic and political progress in the new millennia, inequity in the public health sector exacerbate challenges in morbidity and mortality and put at risk the well-being and lives of many Filipinos.

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Acknowledging the growing concerns in health, the Philippine government is expected to provide universal health care for its citizens by 2016. An article published earlier this year by the World Bank, “Achieving Universal Health Care in the Philippines,” described the current state of the health care system:

“While the Philippines has made considerable progress in the health sector over the previous decades, several important challenges remain. Poor households’ health outcomes were three to four times worse than middle class families’ and the poor lacked proper financial protection from debt accrued from out-of-pocket health expenses. To alleviate poverty, the government prioritized enrolling poor households in the national health insurance program and ensuring they had adequate access to quality health services and financial protection.”

My interest in health issues began while I was an intern at Advancement for Rural Kids (ARK). ARK developed an amazing feeding program: just $15/day feeds one child for an entire year. This program was backed up by statistical data which showed the shift. With this, I began to draw the conclusion that without proper access to food or health care, success was virtually impossible. For example, imagine all the times you were sick and unable to work. Being ill essentially put a “stop” on your ability to produce and be active. There is a direct correlation between productivity and one’s state of health. We can further push that idea to say that for some in the Philippines, the notion of productivity becomes an obstacle because they do not have the necessary health care to remain healthy. Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 3.40.14 AM So why? Why should we care? Personally, I feel an inherent need to give back in any way that I can to the Filipino community and one way I fulfill that need is by writing this blog post. My role is to give a voice to the people who are voiceless and to expose the hardships Filipinos face, day in and day out. It is a shame that even for a nation with infinite potential like the United States, that inequities such as poverty and access to health are still unsettled issues for the country. Public hospital facilities should be beyond what they are now and should mirror the city’s aims towards growth. The prices of medicines in the Philippines are among the highest in the world—certainly too high in relation to household incomes of most Filipinos. Given the high prices, most medicines are beyond the paying capacity of most Filipinos. Thus, the state of health in the Philippines calls for attention from the government, but most importantly from its citizens, where citizen awareness of the issues is the primary catalyst for change.

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Tell us your thoughts on these issues via Twitter using our hashtag, #PIHealth. And follow @unipronow and @uni_issues for daily updates on issues like these.