Imelda Marcos’ Wardrobe Not Historic Treasure, Philippine Government Says

Imelda MarcosThe vast and famous wardrobe of former first lady Imelda Marcos has been declared historically insignificant, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

The wife of Philippine president/dictator Ferdinand Marcos was noted for her elaborate gowns and shoes, none of which she appeared to ever wear twice. When they fled the country after a popular uprising in 1986, news cameras descended on their palace, to find hundreds of pairs of shoes and whole rooms stocked with dresses and accessories.

Her lavish collection became a symbol of corruption and callousness in a country faced with serious poverty.

Many of the clothes ended up in the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila, where they languished in a storeroom. The collection included hundreds of gowns and at least 1,220 pairs of shoes.

Now the government has issued a statements saying that the collection has been damaged by termites and soaked by water that came through a leaky roof during a monsoon last month. There are no plans to save the clothes, however, as the vast majority have “no historical significance.”

The only exceptions are a few gowns made by famous Philippine designers. Some 800 pairs of Marcos’ shoes are still preserved in the Shoe Museum in Marikina, a traditional center of shoe making in the country.

Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. Imelda Marcos returned to the Philippines and managed to get out of most of the criminal charges leveled against her. She has unsuccessfully run for various political offices.

[Photo courtesy U.S. Government]

How To Eat A Fertilized Duck Egg

The first time I ate a fertilized duck egg was at a Vietnamese restaurant in New York City three years ago. I was headed to Vietnam in a few months and knew I’d be writing about something food related, so I spent the run-up to the trip eating as much Vietnamese food as I could. When I saw balut, as fertilized duck eggs are often referred to, on the menu, I knew I had to try it. But as if the chef expected no one to order balut, my dining companion and I were informed they were out of it. “You want us to go get some,” the server said, daring us. We called their bluff and soon enough someone from the restaurant was making a fertilized duck egg run to Chinatown. A few minutes later, the eggs were presented to my dining companion and I.


They weren’t good. They weren’t bad, either. If you closed your eyes and didn’t look at the little dead baby partially formed fetus duck pinched between your chopsticks you’d just think you were eating something very egg-y. My dining companion went for seconds but I think he was just showing off at this point.

I thought I’d sworn off eating duck fetuses but a few months later, there I was in Saigon, doing a story on Vietnamese-born New York chef and prolific restaurateur Michael ‘Bao’ Huynh for a New York Times travel article. The mission seemed easy enough: just go where he goes and eat what he eats. The rub, though, was that he was eating congealed pigs blood, rats, snakes and, of course, those fermented duck eggs.
I looked around and watched happy families inserting the aborted partially formed duckling carcasses into their mouths. I figured out there was a five-step system to eating balut:

1) Crack the top of the egg with a spoon.

2) Sip the broth from the hole in the top of the egg.
3) Enlarge the opening to bite off the boiled, cooked yoke.
4) Pull out the partially formed duck and eat it. Yum.
5) Go into the bathroom and vomit.

I’ll admit balut wasn’t my favorite – even rat was better – but one has to do such things in the name of journalism. Right? You don’t, of course, have to go all the way to Asia to eat balut. That Vietnamese restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side where I first ate a duck fetus is long gone. But there’s a new place proudly serving balut in New York City. The Filipino restaurant in the East Village called Maharlika. Or you can just stop by the very first balut eating contest on Saturday August 25 at 3 p.m., taking place at the Dekalb Market in Brooklyn, where 10 brave eaters will try to eat as many fertilized duck eggs in five minutes. It’ll be five minutes of unborn-duck-eating glory!

Nicole Ponseca, owner of Maharlika and sponsor of the eating contest, said, “Our goal is to push Filipino food forward. We’re the third largest minority in the US behind Mexicans and Chinese. But no one knows our food.” She added, “Some people ask why we’re putting balut on the menu. It might turn people off. But we have to be proud of our food. And I want it to cross over.”

Anyone want to meet me for some balut?

Photo Of The Day: Jomalig Island

As temperatures in New York City rise to a sweltering 90 degrees, my mind can’t help but wander to the beach – particularly this secluded strip on Jomalig Island, the easternmost part of the Philippines‘ Quezon province. With no airports, no hotels and few amenities, this destination is the epitome of “off-the-beaten-path,” as Flickr user Galwin notes in his description for today’s Photo of the Day. It appears to be a far cry from summer in the city, that’s for sure.

Does a photo of your favorite secluded beach belong here? Upload your travel shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Grilling Around The Globe: A Memorial Day Photo Tribute

Where there’s smoke, there’s barbecue – and there’s no better time than Memorial Day to light that grill. This year, instead of the same old, same old post on burgers, food safety and how not to burn the patio down, I thought I’d offer a photo tribute to grilling in all of its glorious permutations around the globe.

I confess to taking some liberties, and adding a few methods that don’t call for an open flame. The Hawaiian imu is a familiar site to luau lovers; it’s a pit filled with hot rocks that effectively roasts the food (in this instance, pork). The curanto from the Chilean archipelago of Chiloe is also Polynesian in origin (hailing from Easter Island, or Rapa Nui) and operates on the same principle, but also includes shellfish and potato cakes called milcao and chapaleles. Spit-roasted suckling pig, whether it’s Filipino lechon or Cajun cochon de lait, by any other name would taste as succulent.

Argentina remains the indisputable holy grail of grilling but plenty of other countries utilize fire –indirectly or not – to cook food, including Japan, Morocco, Turkey, Vietnam and Australia. Enjoy the slideshow and don’t forget to wipe your mouth.

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Vagabond Tales: Are Plastic Bottles Becoming A Natural Resource?

The island of Mabul, Malaysia, is not big. In fact, it’s tiny. You can walk around it in 45 minutes.

A popular destination for scuba divers, visitors to this remote island off the coast of Borneo frequently pass the time by diving the offshore reefs or lounging beneath a coconut palm – pretty taxing stuff really.

While digging into a good book from the confines of a hammock is all well and good, few visitors, I noticed, actually take the time to get out and explore the island. In the hour or so it took me to meander the circumference of the tropical sand spit, I encountered a grand total of zero other tourists.

Zero.

This is not to say the beaches were empty – far from it. All along the shoreline local fishermen mended their nets and rolled canoes on logs in an effort to extract them from the turquoise waters. As the fishermen went about their daily tasks, others sat shirtless and cross-legged on the sand, methodically hacking into coconuts with machetes that had seen their fair share of husks.

All of this activity is to be expected on an island with only two natural resources, those of course being fish and coconuts.Interspersed among the workers, however, was something that set in motion a line of thinking, which has haunted me for the past three years. There, on the trash-strewn shores of Mabul, hordes of young school-aged children ran dutifully around the island sifting through the plastic-lined shoreline and stuffing the bottles they found into tattered burlap bags.

No, this wasn’t Malaysia’s version of a nationwide beach cleanup.

Rather, these children had been sent out to collect the plastic bottles so they could be used around the home.

Ever wondered how you grow a vegetable garden on an island made of nothing but sand? Cut a plastic bottle lengthwise, fill it with imported soil or dirt, plant some seeds in it, and hang it on your balcony. Voila. Vegetable garden.

How about creating a fishing net? Instead of using expensive styrofoam floats which need to be imported, why not just use the buoyant plastic bottles, which are imported by the drifting ocean currents?

Watching these groups of 5-year-old children gather bags of plastic bottles from the shore, I realized that in some twisted stretch of irony, for these children who don’t know otherwise, these plastic bottles are essentially a natural resource much the same as coconuts.

Need to mend a net? Need to plant a garden? Need to carry fresh water? Go down to the shore and gather some bottles.

As someone who is staunchly anti-plastics and an advocate for their removal from global commerce, this was an eye-opening variable I had never considered.

What if plastics and marine debris are (for a select number of impoverished cPlastic bottle fishing netoastal communities around the globe) actually providing a resource and considered to be good?

Environmentally conflicted I tabled the thought and buried it down deep. This past November, however, I spotted an outdoor lamp on the island of Boracay in the Philippines with a lampshade made from an empty two-liter coke bottle (pictured above) and the counter-intuitive thought resurfaced.

Not more than two weeks later, while exploring the backside of Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) off the coast of Cambodia, I happened upon this fishing net which had been strung together on the shore. Here, again, were the plastic bottles in abundance used as floats for holding up the net. In a flashback to Mabul, here, in a village numbering no more than 25 people, were two young boys wandering the shoreline and collecting plastic bottles.

So after all of these sightings am I still an advocate for the elimination of plastics? Yes. Are plastics one of the largest elements of marine debris threatening our oceans and marine species? Yes. Are plastics petroleum based and do they contribute to the world’s addiction to fossil fuels? Yes.

Nevertheless, as we here in the West fret about marine debris and oceanic garbage patches the size of Texas, I think about a mother in Mabul growing tomatoes out of a coke bottle; I conjure up a fisherman in Cambodia feeding his family with gear made from a flotilla of empty Evians.

I wonder if, by some chance, we as a civilization are able to clean up our oceans and ditch the addiction to plastics. Will a generation of islanders in forgotten corners of the Pacific tell their children stories of a day when plastics were abundant and easy to come by?

I sure hope not, but the point has been raised nevertheless.

Want more travel stories? Read more of the “Vagabond Taleshere