The Loathsome Baki

The cane toad (Bufo marinus) is so common and ubiquitous in the Philippines that most people would think that it's a native of this country. In fact it was introduced into the country 73 years ago and had adapted so well that it can now be found in almost every corner of the country.

A number of these toads or frogs were imported from the Hawaii Sugar Planters' Association on Oahu, Hawaii to Manila in March 1934 and released in sugar plantations to control insect pests. Releases were also made in Negros in 1935-36, in Panay and Guimaras in 1936-39 and in 1949 they were taken to Cotabato. Some were taken from Dumaguete and released in Zamboanga City and Davao in the 1950s.

Whether the toads were successful in doing the job they were originally brought in to do or not was not known as there were no study or data available regarding their success or failure in controlling noxious insects.

However these toads themselves are poisonous and they eat almost anything that are small enough to fit in their mouths - insects, other frogs, small mammals and birds even the food people put out for their pets! They have poison glands behind their eyes from which a milky toxic secretion is produced when they are attacked or handled. This substance is dangerous to all species including humans. Contact with it causes burning in the eyes and hands and skin irritation in people, while ingestion could be fatal. Animals like cats and dogs, snakes and monitor lizards that eat or try to eat a cane toad often die of poisoning. Therefore it was thought that these aliens creatures kill many wild as well as domestic animals and may have caused the decline of many native animals both by devouring them and by their poison.

In Australia where cane toads were introduced for the same reasons in 1935, there are much evidence of the havoc they have wrecked on the native animals as well great nuisance to people. Much effort had been and is being spent in an unending battle to stop their spread in the whole
of Australia.
The Bisaya word for the Cane Toad, aka Marine Toad aka Gaint Toad/Frog is Baki. I wonder why the Tagalogs give it such a noble name - Palakang Nazareth??

Asam Pedas

Even for those from other parts of the planet, the red stuff in the photo requires no introduction, but those green fruits are called camias (kamias. kamyas) or iba in the Philippines and are incredibly sour, still some people enjoy them just like that – raw. In Malaysia they are called belimbing asam or sour belimbing to distinguish them from the sweet belimbing manis also known in English as starfruit. Camias does not have an English name but they are commonly referred to as Sour Carambola or even sometimes Sour Cucumber Tree (as the fruits do look like mini cucumbers! But fancy cucumbers growing on trees!). (Photo taken by Mee)

Aside from being eaten raw (!) camias is mainly added to dishes that need some sourness to it like in some fish recipes as well as in salads, pickles and some curries.

A favorite recipe of my mother is to make it into a kind of sambal (side dish) with pounded or ground-up dried shrimps. A quantity of camias is rouhly chopped up. A handful of finely cut garlic and shallot and lots of pounded red hot (pungent) chillis are fried in hot oil together with dried shrimps until fragrant. (At this stage get ready the handkerchief or tissues for the tears and sneezes!!) A small piece of lightly toasted and pounded belachan (Malaysian shrimp paste) may also be added for its flavor. The camias is put in together with the other ingredients last and the mixture sauteed until done. If a large quantity is made some of it may be put in jars and kept in the fridge until required.

Scientific name of camias is Averrhoa bilimbi.
Asampedas means sour and hot (pungent) in Malay.

Talking Cock!

...........................((•))K.......TOK TO GA UK ! !


When I was in primary school our English teacher taught us that the cow said "Moo!", the dog barked, "Bow-wow!", the duck said, "Quack!" and the cock crowed, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

Have you ever wondered what the cock says in other countries?

Well, in Malay it simply says "Kokok!", in Chinese Mandarin they hear him say, "Gou gou!", while to the Cantonese it's "gokogoko". The Thais insist that it says "ake-e-ake-ake!" The Indonesian: "Kikeriku!" which incredibly is almost the same as the Germans' "Kikeriki!".The Spaniards, "Kikiriki!" and the French: "Cocorico!" The Tagalogs in the northern Philippines say "Kokaok!"

I think nobody can beat the English, except maybe the Cebuano Bisayas who wake up in the morning to the tune of "Tok-to-ga-uk!"

Bisaya of Borneo

DO you know that there’s a small indigenous group of people called the Bisaya in Borneo? Many people think that they are decended from people from the Visayas who came here in ancient times but little is known of their history. However a comparison with Cebuano Bisaya vocabulary shows that the language bears few similarities, most of which are more related to Kadazan-Dusun and Murut of Sabah than the Bisaya of the Philippines.

These people live in an area shared between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak and the Sultanate of Brunei, with the majority of them in Sabah. The majority of the Bisaya in Sabah are Muslims engaged in wet rice planting while in Sarawak most of them practise a native religion and have their own ceremonies and festivals. Some of the Bisaya are converted to Christianity.

In Sabah the Bisaya celebrate the annual Harvest Festival together with the Kadazan-Dusuns, Muruts and other ethnic groups. On this ocassion members of all the different groups gather together dressed in their unique costumes at the appointed celebration ground performing cultural dances and songs and sharing with the rest of the population.

Photo shows young Sabah Bisayans in their predominantly black
during the 2005 Harvest Festival in Kota Kinabalu.

Dragonfly Haiku

ONE of my favourite haikus is by the 18th century Japanese poet Issa (一茶) (1763-1828) who writes many poems about the little living things that he sees every day - birds, frogs, snails, spiders and insects. There's hardly a tiny creature that Issa does not write about. Issa may not know how, but he does know that each of these creatures finds some kind of happiness in life:


aka tombô
kare mo yûbe ga
suki ja yara

The red dragonfly -
In some way or another
He likes the evening too.

To know what a haiku is here's a good link
Visit this super site to read more of Issa's haiku or to learn more about the great master

Cut vs. Uncut

Perhaps half the world’s male population are circumcised and the majority of those who undergo circumcision do it for their religious belief while the rest have it done to follow cultural tradition, for personal hygiene, and some out of medical necessity. Yet there are also some, perhaps only a small minority, who do it because they are into body-modification or enhancement (read “disfigurement”), as an extension of body-piercing, and other more extreme forms of self-multilation; also, there are those who solely seek to enhance their sexual performance.

Many studies conducted by social and medical bodies, both in the past and very recently indicated that circumcision helped in preventing or reducing sexually transmitted diseases including HIV-Aids. Health workers in highly affected areas of the world therefore encourage men and boys to undergo circumcision as part of their fight against these infectious diseases. However the pros and cons of this minor surgery are still equally and hotly debated.

Human nature being what it is, we naturally expect some followers of religions and sects that require circumcision to regard themselves as somehow superior to those who are uncut and whom they consider unpurified, calling them non-believers, kafirs, gentiles or other similar names, depending on who the name-callers are. It is however a little surprising that some cultures who practice it for essentially non-religious reasons have special words to describe those with naturally intact foreskins! A good example is the Bisaya word “Pisot” which simply means “uncircumcised” but which is almost always used rather unkindly or mockingly! (The Tagalog equavalent is “supot”).

The following Bisaya joke is a good illustration of such discrimination against foreskin!:

Asawa: Biyaan na' taka wah' kay pulus tapulan!

Bana: Suwaye buhaton na nimo maglas-las ko!

Asawa: Bot-bot! Mag LAS-LAS KA? hadlok gani ka patuli mag las-las pa? PISOT!

Wife: I’m leaving you, u r a lazy good-for-nothing!

Husband: If u do that I’ll cut my wrist!

Wife: What a joke! CUT YOUR WRIST? You are even afraid to to get circumcised, dare you cut your own wrist? You uncircumcised (PISOT)!

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Created by Eugene Villar.