In the ancient days, before email and social media, we had penpals -- strangers from other countries we exchanged handwritten or typed letters with via snail mail. I myself had two, a girl from Japan and a boy from Sweden. We went as far as sending pictures and exchanging stamps for our respective collections, but both correspondence fizzled because I lost interest and stopped writing back. Not so Rey de la Cruz, who carried on a penpal friendship with a woman from Finland named Satu, for 51 years. In "Dear Satu: Letters Tell the Story of Our Lives," Rey tells us how he and Satu finally met and became even closer friends. They now exchange emails, although occasionally, for old times sake, they would switch back to air mails. A heartwarming story of a lasting friendship that only few can manage.

Another Hometown story, this time about San Juan, Metro Manila where Dr. Senen "Sonny" Siasoco grew up in his physician-grandfather's house across the street from the famous Pinaglabanan monument. As he narrates in "My Lolo's House," their balcony was where Philippine presidents spoke from during the annual commemoration rites. The house held some other attractions and historic provenance, that Dr. Siasoco humorously shares. 

Our feature last week on Nora Aunor triggered some where-are-they-now questions on social media. So if you're wondering what has happened to Hilda Koronel, Boots Anson-Roa and songstress Becca Godinez, the answer as provided by contributor Cathy Sanchez Babao is: they're all happily married and in love. Here are some Read Agains:

Second Springs

That's Amore

And, in case you missed them, here are some links to interesting stories from various publications, to keep you In The Know: 

The silent hero behind the Philippines' case vs China

Sacramento district can’t find enough teachers, so it turns to Philippines for help

How the Philippines managed to lose a potential world chess champion in Wesley So

Inside The Mind Of The Young CEO Who Introduced The Break-Up Leave

These Michael Cinco Gowns Are So Unbelievably Pretty, They Left Us Totally Speechless!

Our Happy Home Cook recipe this week is a favorite merienda fare, Ginataang Mais from Judy Ann Santos' cookbook.

And for our Video of the Week: the Guardian UK reports on Filipina domestic workers being abused by their employers in London and the women's efforts to organize.


Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino


"The Timeless Nora Aunor" is appropriately the title of our lead feature this week, which focuses on the single most influential superstar in Philippine entertainment for the past 50 years. San Francisco-based film expert Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr., who has followed Nora Aunor's life and career meticulously, expertly encapsulates her triumphs and challenges -- certainly no mean feat since the superstar's trajectory is as fraught with drama as her roles have been.

Likewise, emerging triumphant from a long-drawn, turbulent legal case, the century-old (almost) Philippine Women's University (PWU) is all set to "build the scaffolding" for its next hundred years, as its current president, Dr. Francisco "Kiko" Benitez, puts it. Lyca Benitez-Brown, the university's media director, writes about the crown jewel of her distinguished clan's commitment to education, women and the nation.

We sent out a call for Hometown stories and the response has been gratifying (keep 'em coming, dear readers). Here's the first in our series: "In Search of the Cupang I Used to Know," where Ed Maranan, one of the most awarded Filipino writers of all time, tells us why his hometown, Cupang, Batangas, means a lot to him. 

For our Happy Home Cook this week: vegan chicharon is really not an oxymoron as our vegan chef, Richgail Enriquez, shares.

For our In The Know links this week:

Human Trafficking Survivor Speaks Out

26 Filipino Words Now Officially Part Of The English Language

Mr. Wash SyCip @96

The problematic portrayal of Filipinos on American TV

Why even the millennials must know the imprint of Luis Ma. Araneta

For our Video of the Week, the singer formerly known as Charice Pempengco makes her singing debut as Jake Zyrus on ASAP.

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino

Coconut, Chess and a Pork Shortage

With summer already scorching most of the western hemisphere, how about making some Buko-Pandan Gelatin, our Happy Home Cook feature for this week. The recipe which we reprinted (with permission) from the excellent cookbook, Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, calls for real young coconuts; but you can use the very popular coconut juice from tetrapacks or bottles, and frozen buko (young coconut) strips that you can easily get from Asian stores. This is where you can also buy pandan flavoring. However you will do it, Buko-Pandan Gelatin should bring back happy memories of Philippine summers.

And speaking of memories, PF Correspondent Myles A. Garcia dug up some hilarious/crazy ones in his piece, "The Wacky 1978 Chess World Championship" held in Baguio City at the height of martial law. The lead characters in that zany event were chess masters Anatoly Karpov and Victor Korchnoi plus Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. You get the idea.

Philippine-based PF Correspondent Rene M. Astudillo reports on the pork shortage in the Philippines and how the main ingredient for sisig or adobo that Filipinos constantly order may not actually come from homegrown pigs but imported from somewhere else.

So you will always be In The Know, here are some timely and must-read links to stories from other publications:

The Tragedy of Marawi for a Chastened Duterte

Whatever Happened to Manny Pacquiao?

3 Filipinos on Forbes list of philanthropists

This Filipino Dish Is So Good It Might Make You Sing

Sugar Pie DeSanto’s Delicious Soul

For our Video of the Week, Periscope Films released a 1950s travelogue on the Philippines produced by Northwest Orient Airlines for its passengers.

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino