Thursday, November 20, 2008

Basketball and coconuts

Filipinos love basketball. Most of them have no clue who the Tigers, Red Wings, or Lions are, but they’ll almost certainly know the Pistons. International sports coverage is basketball, tennis, boxing, and Grand Prix racing. Ironically, Filipinos are too short to play basketball in the NBA. They do have their own pro leagues, but there are very few tall Filipinos, and certainly none NBA caliber, yet.

On Tuesday the annual basketball tournament started on the island. After a parade of teams, there were opening comments, prayers, and their national anthem. Then the games began. There are five teams participating, representing the Corregidor Foundation, Sun Cruises, the security guards and so forth. We stayed and watched the first game, which ended up about 21-6. The one team was taller and obviously more talented, and took advantage of a lot of fast breaks. Steve, at 6’ 5”, would tower over most of the players in the tournament. He’d also be the worst player on the court.

Earlier in the day we had our first Filipino-style coconut. Unlike in the States, where they are sold very ripe, here they are enjoyed while they are still quite young. The outer shell is still green. We were presented with one that had most of the outer shell cut off. The first thing that you do is drink the juice from it with a straw. We imagine that there was probably 8 to 12 ounces of juice inside. The taste is hard to describe, but it really is like unripe coconut juice if you can imagine that. Often it is sold in plastic bottles, is super-sweetened, and called buko (for young coconut, niyog [nee-YOHG]being the mature name) juice.

Steve took his new bolo, a cross between a machete and a Bowie knife, and cut the coconut in half. Then Steve and Marcia proceeded to eat the “meat,” which again tastes like unripe coconut. The meat is thinner than in the States, presumably because it still in the growing stages when it is harvested. It is also more difficult to remove the meat.

Filipinos use the meat and the juice in many of their dishes. We have already had both coconut chicken and fish, which are nice changes from the deep-fried chicken and fish which we seem to be served quite often. Both styles are delicious.

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