Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Observer Jonathan Cape Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2009

Here is the first panel of 'My White Dad', my entry for the Observer / Jonathan Cape / Comica Graphic Short Story prize 2009. Other panels to follow (cue needless exclamation mark) !

Thank you for viewing. I hope you liked it. Byeee.
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Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Other People's Children - Miguel

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Friday, 1 May 2009

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Guide To Babies Hairstyles

Type your summary here

Type rest of the post here
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Monday, 23 February 2009

Other People's Children

When presented with other people's children it can sometimes be difficult to know what to say. Read More......

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


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Monday, 24 November 2008

Burnt Rice

Eat it. It's burnt rice. A speciality which Filipinos call 'tutong'. No? Don't fancy it? Not even when it's served on a paper plate on top of a wicker paper plate holder?

Here's how to rescue burnt rice. It involves onion peel and is listed halfway down the page.

Actually tutong is pretty good when it's the crunchy, oily, savoury crust left at the bottom of a pan after cooking Paella or fried garlic rice.
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Filipina Women Are Genetically Programmed

. . . to give you a wicker paper plate holder. Whether you want one or not. And usually you don't. Because they do not add to your sex appeal in any way. They get really stressed about it and, like the opposite of pickpocketing, are always trying to slip these in to your belongings without you noticing. Very strange.
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Q: In the cartoon above a lady asks where the name 'Bong-bong' comes from. So where does it come from?

A: Lots of Filipino parents like to call their sons 'Bong-bong' because it sounds funny. Just saying it makes everybody laugh. And when you've got nine kids, you've got to find something to laugh about.

Famous Bong-bongs are the son of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and this spooky place in Australia.
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Saturday, 22 November 2008


I spent most of the late Seventies feeling travel sick in a coach full of noisy Filipinos. I remember my head bouncing on the coach seat's hard armrest. I remember the people-migraines induced by the quack quack quacking of the dozens of Filipina 'aunties' who circulated around the coach making 'chismis', that is, gossiping. They always employed their screechiest voices in order to pitch themselves above each other and the coach's engine. Every so often the English driver would shout, 'Shyuuuudup! I can't bloody hear myself think! I'm never bloody doing this again!', and they'd all titter politely and go quiet for a bit until they worked themselves up to the next crescendo and it all started again.

Maids and nurses rubbed shoulders with diplomats and beauty queens. As ever with Filipinos abroad, there were more women than men. We would tumble out of the coach at some scenic spot or other and out would come the vats of rice, garlicky fried chicken, noodles with smoked fish, crunchy pork crackling, chopped egg and lemon, roast pork with liver, vinegar and garlic sauce, and my favourite, macaroni salad with mayonnaise, chicken, tinned pineapple, pimento and sweetcorn. Well, I was nine.

After feasting, we rarely managed to walk anywhere. Anyone who made the few hundred yards to explore whatever monument we had come to visit was considered adventurous and a bit nosy.

Were those 'aunties', many of whom were single, others with their families far away in the Philippines, ever lonely? Did I imagine they were casting slightly envious looks at my mother who had her English husband and children with her instead of on the other side of the world?

Because we were one of the few families in the Philippine community I felt they wanted us to represent the ideal family. Often I would be singled out for how-daughters-should-behave type talks by women whose own daughters were back in Manila or Cebu or Davao. I remember being quite surly towards them, but they were always kind and sweet towards me.

I loathed being told how 'lucky' I was to have a family. I thought they were being sarcastic or stupid so I would spit something back like, 'What? I don't know what you mean!' then flounce off.

It was plain to see that our family was about as jolly as a stroll through an imploding thermonuclear reactor. That my dad was rude to my mother and cruel to us. But the Filipinas just smiled indulgently - and slightly enviously.

Now I know why. To them, any family was better than none. Some had lost their families in the war. Others had worked so hard all their lives they had never had the opportunity to meet a husband. The rest worked abroad, sometimes in places where they were treated badly, their whole lives, while their children grew up motherless back home.

Sometimes I imagine how my English friends would feel if forced to leave their children to work abroad for years at a stretch, perhaps in Saudi or somewhere else with an utterly alien culture.

Who knows? It might happen yet. And I know I could not cope half as well as those sweet and cheerful Filipina 'aunties' of mine.
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Wednesday, 19 November 2008


The Pandalady is here. She is in a friendly mood today.
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Monday, 17 November 2008

I Hate The Archers

This is me running to hit the radio with a frying pan because 'The Archers' is on again.

We all know that the lyrics to The Archers theme tune go,

Nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh up yer bum,
Nuh-nuh up yer bu--um,
Nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh up yer bum,
Twiddly up yer bum.

But how does the rest of it go? What are the missing words in the verse above? Any ideas?

Only the truly English like 'The Archers'. It's a DNA test. Being only half British, I am allergic to it. When the theme tune comes on I have a kind of epileptic fit where I find myself being hurled towards the radio shouting, 'No! No! No! No! **** OFF!' as my hand fumbles for the dial. And when I've wrenched the dial to 'OFF' I mutter, 'Nyeah, that stopped ya.' I cannot control any of this.

If you like 'The Archers', sorry, and as a treat here is a link to the chilled out It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit blog whose author Steve Stack knows where the theme tune comes from. If you are not English and have no idea what 'The Archers' is, here is a link to the very interesting which celebrates and debates all that is English culture - a subject many of us here are baffled and wryly amused by.

Altogether now, 'Ner-ner-ner-ner up yer bum!'
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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Surgery Free Tummy Tuck


Thursday, 13 November 2008


CLICK IMAGE for why we all love Scotland! Read More......

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

MYLEENE KLASS The Truth About Her Other Half

Are you watching Channel 4's 'Miss Naked Beauty' thinking, 'TV gold'? 'Or are you thinking, 'What is the point of this scary, horrible programme where the judges bully the cowering women contestants who file in front of them like pathetic prisoners waiting to hear whether they are about to shot? And why is that nice Myleene Klass involved in a show where women are routinely punished for coming across as 'too confident' . . . in the name of making women feel more confident? And why is Myleene Klass - along with all the other 'non-prisoner' women - wearing make up while hassling the prisoners not to, thereby making the show confusingly Kafka-esque? And is Myleene Klass half-something or other?'

The answer is, yes! She is half Filipina, or a 'mestiza', as they say over there. She is also what Filipinos call a 'dalaga', that is, a lovely young woman. I've created a quick Guide to Dalagas where you might get more of an insight.

Myleene is every Filipina mum's dream because she can play the piano. Let's face it, her fans probably favour Usher over Beethoven. But at least she sticks her bum out provocatively when she tinkles the keys, and at least she wears cute, dangly bracelet accessories which make watching her hands a bit less boring.

Award winning Myleene is a consummate business woman (very Filipina) and her business is about making herself liked. Look at the awards she has she won? There's The Daily Star's 'Yummy Mummy' Poll where she came runner up to Katie Price. And she was tops in the Bodyform Deo-Fresh Poll (yay that such a thing exists!) where women were asked to vote for their 'most confident celebrity role models'.

Apparently 80 per cent of women would like to be more confident (tip: if you say that in a really flat, moronic voice, it will make you laugh) , and their confident role models are the thoroughly liekable Myleene, Shazza Osbourne, Katie Price, Beth Ditto and Cherie Blair.

Now there's a reality TV show I could get stuck into, the super confident winners of the Bodyform poll stuck inside a lift for three months with no make up, no salaries and no deoderized pant liners to sustain them. Last one to crack wins. (Hey, TV Producer, that's my idea. Pay me, you limpet.) My money'd be on Beth Ditto.

By the way, if you're thinking Myleene only ever wins silly awards from sanitary towel manufacturers, for your information she's also recently won Cosmo's award for ‘Best Female Presenter of the Year’. OK, it's hardly the Nobel Peace Prize . . . but give the girl time. She'll get there.

So. Women like Myleene because she is confident and nice. And men like Myleene because she gets down to her undies for lads mags.

Now here is the clever part. You can't write Myleene off as just another talentless singer / model / yummy mummy/ reality TV contestant /whatever because canny Mylene keeps revealing new skills to impress us - there's the classical music, which is clarsy and brainy, but she's also (deep breath, fanfare) a baby clothes designer / baby book writer / a DJ and all those other boom-years girly career things. Stand by for the perfume, the low-cal salad dressings and the seat in parliament.

And that baby book isn't all puff. It is earnest, friendly and strangely compelling because she is so free with the personal info. She has revealed in somewhat regal fashion that, 'My husband and I maintain separate floors in our house.' Hopefully she won't regret revealing so much. But she seems pretty thick skinned (again, very Filipina), staggering to her feet like a punch drunk boxer after the Hear'say debacle while everyone was shouting, 'No! Stay down!'

If there have to be TV presenters, she has as much right as any. She's grateful for her inexplicable career reprieve after Hear'say. She's cheerful and, for many, a sparkling tonic as we head into recessionary times. The question is, do stars like her have a role in the bleak years ahead, or is she merely a last blingy twinkle at the end of the Boom Years' fireworks display?

I expect Myleene's antennae are quivering. That she can sense the impending seismic shift and is duly strategising on how to capitalise on it. She could be the poster girl for the Deflation Generation. She could have her own show, 'Myleene Makes Do' (no, not 'Myleene Makes Do-Do', thank you very much, and hey, TV Producer, don't you dare nick that one as well) where she shows poor, downtrodden people how to cobble together family meals from wormy apples and old trainers while wearing a home made bikini cut resourcefully out of carpet underlay she found in a skip. She'll keep everyone chipper with her survivor's spirit which of course is very Filipina, and she won't mention anything about her and hubby having whole floors to themselves ever again.

So what kind of a dalaga is she? At first I thought she was an Ultimate Dalaga crossed with a Tolerated Dalaga, you know, virtuous and piano playing but a bit tarty at the same time. But then remembered the abuse she got when Hear'say split in 2002, the comfort eating and the weight gain and thought, bless her, she's human, she's an Unacceptable Dalaga, too.

Ultimately however, Myleene is a businesswoman. An Acceptable Dalaga through and through. She hasn't got a career. She's got dozens. With unemployment in Britain expected to soar to 3 million by next the end of 2009, people might as well rock up to hers for a job because she's got plenty she might fancy sharing. I mean, surely she must be knackered what with baby Ava and all. And who knows, she might even be a teensy bit worried about over exposure?

Myleene's jobs:

Presenter of CNN's international movie show 'The Screening Room' (wow, an expert on film, as well?)

As of November 5th presenter of 'Ten Years Younger' replacing the one that looked like a boiled new potato (Eh? That's a bit of a leap isn't it? From the 'natural beauty' ethos of 'Miss Naked Beauty' to the surgery fest of 10 YY?)

DJ on Classic FM

Pianist and music compiler on 'Myleene's Music Series' albums

M & S model

Presenter of Last Choir Standing

Presenter of Saturday Night Divas 2

Host of Classical Brit Awards

Baby clothes designer


'Ambassador' for EMI Classics

Sort of 'ambassador' for London, accompanying Ken Livingstone to India last year to 'strengthen ties with the country'. (Did someone think she was half Indian or something? I mean, she's nice and everything but did India really need to meet Myleene Klass?)

And on top of this, all the appearances and openings and award ceremonies and charity PR spots she does as well. Phew!

In the same way that years ago 'Miss Saigon' musical star Leah Salonga was evoked by Filipino friends and family as the ultimate for me to aspire to, you can bet there are British Filipinas out there being told they should aim to be like Myleene. All I can say is, if Myleene is your role model, fine. If you don't understand why Myleene should be held up as a 'role model' just because she earns loads of money and you can't get away from her face on telly, radio, in magazines, newspapers, the shops, or even when you're in labour, that's normal. There is after all a constellation of scientists, athletes, writers and artists you may be much more enchanted by.

I'm sure that Myleene, the bright, confident, successful, well rounded dalaga that she is, would entirely agree.

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

GUIDE TO DALAGAS: Part Four, Ugly Filipina! The Unacceptable Dalaga

I could have drawn my teen self thinner but who would I be kidding? My blubber was the result of all the irresistible food my Filipina mother (a great cook, we're talking kare kare, prawn and pumpkin coconut curry, roast pork, paella and pancit - and that would just be lunch!) shovelled at us in place of the love and attention we really needed. I guess after all she had been through, she didn't have much left to give.
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Friday, 7 November 2008

GUIDE TO DALAGAS: Part three, the Tolerated Dalaga


Having a 'beautipull ee-gerl' like this for a daughter is more than merely tolerated by Philippine parents. Okay, she's a bit tarty but she's hotter than their friends' daughters, so they love it! It means that they by default are, or at least were once, hot, too. AND they might get a rich son-in-law thrown into the bargain as long as their sultry daughter doesn't turn out to be a 'T-Bird' as my mother used to say.
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Thursday, 6 November 2008

GUIDE TO DALAGAS: Part two, the Acceptable Dalaga

Despite Asia being so amazing and beautiful and creative and crazy, most people tend to lean toward being really corporate and boring-- SORRY! I mean, straight and er, into business. As far as I can tell, corporate is the most common type of young Filipina woman. So next time you watch smiling, barefoot native girls in vivid traditional costumes dancing the Tinikling or Pandanggo Sa Ilaw, remember they probably work for Amex or HSBC for their day jobs.

Actually when we used to dance the Pandanggo Sa Ilaw it looked more like this - only these cute kids are way better!
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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

What Your Filipina Mother Will Give You For Christmas

This is what your Filipina mum will give you for Christmas. You will hide it at the back of the cupboard because the white hipster half of you finds it too craftsy and granny-ish to be put anywhere near the dinner table. Until one day you find it again and decide to give it to charity . . . but you change your mind because it means so much to your Filipina Mum. It's made of pina, for God's sake! That's pineapple fibre and it takes skilled craftsmen to make it. So you put it back in the cupboard and forget about it until one day you get it out and go, 'Hm, its quite nice actually,' and you use it. Congratulations! You are officially old! Haha! Read More......

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

GUIDE TO DALAGAS: Part one, the Ultimate Dalaga


When I was about seven, I would catch my Uncle Ponce (no, not 'ponce', it's pronounced 'pon-say') and various aunties giving me a certain kind of reptilian smile and then passing knowing looks between themselves.

Then they would gurgle, 'Oooh, dalaga!' in a low amused tone that made my tomboyish seven year old self squirm.

'Dalaga means lovely young lady* in Tagalog,' they told me, adding, 'All the boys will like you when you are a dalaga!'

Looking round at the Filipino boys I knew, Ging-ging, Cashmir and Earl Rolls Royce, who spent most of their time creating ever ruder hand signs to be directed solely at me, I decided that a dalaga was the last thing I wanted to be. But I grew up and couldn't escape my fate. Over the next few posts I'll give you my guide to the choices of dalaga that are available.

* Afterthought: well they weren't going to say, 'Hot, sexy, Filipina babe', were they. Read More......

Friday, 31 October 2008



The first members of the Filipino community arrived in London in the late 1940's and early 50's and fell in love. Back home, any building as tall and grand as Marble Arch or Buckingham Palace had been bombed to rubble and there was little to compare to the thoroughly civilised and, to them, exotic pleasures of a ride on a red double decker bus to Derry & Toms department store, or a day at Ascot, or a night of Latin rhythms and film-star spotting at Edmundo Ros' Dinner and Supper Club in Regent Street.

But something was missing. And it wasn't until they went on forays to Scotland that they realised what it was. London was missing any signs of ethnicity or roots. And Filipinos love to see the land and the manifestations of its natives' love of it: handmade crafts, bizarre native costumes, horrible regional foods, and strange songs and dances preferably containing animal sounds and the possibility of severe injury were all things they could relate to.

London had jellied eels and Pearly Kings, and indeed the real Royal Family complete with guards who had bearskin hats and funny walks, but in Scotland they found, through a culture very different to their own, a real connection.
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Saturday, 25 October 2008

My English Dad The Jazzer

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Friday, 24 October 2008

HAPA FAMILIES: My Mother The Filipina

CLICK ON IMAGE. Note the crazy Filipina catchphrase!

When my mother arrived in 1954, she looked up at the elm trees outside her Kensington office and wondered where all their leaves had gone. She asked a passer by if the trees had died. He told her it was winter and that the leaves would grow back in the spring and she decided this was where she would spend the rest of her life. Coming from her Davao jungle plantation where it was a relentless green blur, ground to sky, all year round, she fell in love with this place where change and possibility were written into every season. The invigorating cold allowed her to feel sharply alive. After work, she and her friends, used to the dragging, debilitating heat of the Philippines, would run laughing into the streets, pretending to smoke cigarettes by blowing Parisian style breaths into the freezing air.

She was one of the first Filipinos in Britain and, along with several other attractive female co-workers from their government office, found herself feted in the newspapers. In her black and ivory silk gowns and long gloves, she looked like a dark orchid, and from her winsome smile and flashing eyes in the photographs, you could see she revelled in the attention.

It was a long way from the Philippines, still devastated by war with Japan. Only ten years before, Manila had suffered more casualties than Hiroshima and my mother, separated from her parents, had been on the run from death camps and cannibal tribesmen in the Mindanao mountains.

Now in London, the pretty, educated, twenty three year old felt like she had stumbled into a Hollywood film about a native princess at the court of the Queen of England. Especially when the Queen actually did invite her and her friends to tea at Buckingham Palace.

After meeting the queen, she began to favour kilts and matronly, old battle axe style formal dresses. These bloomed with pussycat bows and garish prints which from far away looked floral, but often in close up would reveal themselves to be insane gilt horses leaping in regal military contretemps. After marrying the Englishman who became my father, the prints became even more tumultuous, perhaps reflecting her state of mind.

She was happy when gambling or eating with friends. But at home with us and my father she could be depressed and sometimes violent. I accepted this because I loved her and I knew she was lashing out at something that didn't have anything to do with me. But she was never going to figure that out. Her inner life remained intact like the virgin jungle she roamed as a child; dark, dangerous, but habitable enough if she stuck to the safe paths and didn't disturb the wildlife.
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He could have been reduced to a pair of darting eyes. Or jittery hands smoothing down a wispy comb-over, shielding the raw, obscene bald patch. My dad's life was a Bayeux tapestry timeline of skirmishes with eczema and the anger and the paintings and the anger and the jazz and the anger and the skiing and the anger and the half finished house and the anger and then the sheer release of the thrice weekly squash matches at the local council gym where he was known as a cheat and a shouty nutcase.

My English dad probably wouldn't have found an English woman who'd have put up with him. Luckily he found my Filipina mother to whom his eccentricity did not translate.

He gave up grooming when he lost his snazzy advertising job in the 70's. As a two fingers up at an industry he considered to be all about 'looking like a twerp' and 'brown nosing the boss', the Yves St. Laurent ties were bundled into a bin bag in the loft while the Savile Row suits were shoved to the back of the wardrobe for me to scavenge during my gig-going teen years. For the next thirty years he simply wore whatever my mother brought back from the Philippines; lurid batik shirts hand printed by hallucinating tribesmen, fake designer sportswear, and even children's clothes if he could squeeze into them. If it was free, he'd get into it somehow.

He wore a chunky titanium bracelet which he hated because he thought it was a queer magnet. Of course it wasn't. But his Village People Construction worker moustache was. Nonetheless, he wore the bracelet because it was free. Plus its magnetic biorhythms cured rheumatism, cancer and B.O.. At least that is what the Manila market vendor told my mother when she bought it, and somehow she managed to filter out the fact he wasn't a millionaire but was in reality standing flip-flop deep in fish guts and dog's urine in a rotten palenke (market).

During the 1970's recession dad rationed our toilet paper down to two pieces per day. Soon my mother protested, 'Por God's sake! Eeben two is not enup por one wee-wee.' Of course, he pounced on how she still got her fs and ps mixed up after living in England all these years and cited her office answerphone message of 'Please leeb a messads apter the beef' as damning evidence. Then a cartoon cloud fight of brooms and crockery ensued until he ran off to recoup in the rusting Hillman Imp and smoke his pipe. My mother seemed to win all the battles. But she lost the war.

Are all white men who marry Filipinas a bit odd? Or are the Filipinas who get together with white guys odd, too?
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Mestizaland is partly made up, partly for real.