Allison's Book Bag

Philippines Q&A with Leonora Hunter

Posted on: June 12, 2014

Map of Philippines

Map of Philippines

This week, I’m reviewing two nonfiction books about the Philippines. As part of expanding my knowledge past the general information in those books, I sat and talked for two hours with my step-mom who is originally from the Philippines. What follows isn’t an exact word-for-word transcript. Instead I compiled my notes to create Leonora’s answers. Thank you, Leonora, for your time!

ALLISON: Where did you live in the Philippines?

LEONORA: I grew up in the town of Mahayag, in the province of Zamboanga del Sur, and the island of Mindinao.

Families live in compounds. The houses are close to one another. My family lived near the river. Growing up, we bathed in it. We washed dishes in it and carried the dishes on our heads.

There are four public schools and one private school. The town has a supermarket. The vendors are outside, because the weather in the Philippines is warm. Activities like eating, playing games, and shopping are often done outside.

View from Leonora's childhood home

View from front of Leonora’s childhood home

ALLISON: What is the closest city? How far from it does your family live?

LEONORA: Pagadian City is the closest and is maybe a two-hour drive. We visit the city to shop. There’s nicer and newer stuff in the city, as well as a lot of look at. The lights are beautiful at night. You get to do things you can’t do at home like ride in escalators. They’re fun. We also used to visit to use the telephone or internet. Now my family all have cell phones.

Pagadian City

Pagadian City

ALLISON: How did your family get to and from the bigger areas?

LEONORA: When I grew up, my family used the bus or a jeepney. It would be packed! Now my relatives have their own motorcycles.

A Jeepney

A jeepney

ALLISON: What is the geography like where you lived?

LEONORA: My family had a flat rice field. It’s wet underneath when the rice grows and dry during harvest. We didn’t have the rice field that some others had on hills which require a certain irrigation system.

When we drove, we saw coconut trees and banana trees because it’s tropical. There are lots of mountains.

Leonora's childhood home

View from back of Leonora’s childhood home

ALLISON: How does the weather compare to Canada?

LEONORA: The weather here is cold. Yuck. I hate wearing a jacket! Here, I need layers to survive.

The weather in the Philippines is nice, even when it rains. You don’t need warmer clothes. The temperature is mostly mild and humid. It stays the same throughout the year.

ALLISON: What kind of bad weather or natural disasters did you get?

LEONORA: If it rains for three to five days, then there are floods. When I was small we used kerosene lamps, but later we got electricity and then we could get blackouts. There was an earthquake that shook the house but didn’t collapse it. We don’t have volcanos. Those are nearer to Manila.

ALLISON: What languages do you speak?

LEONORA: The Philippines has many dialects. My family speaks Cebuano and I learned English in school. My mom also taught me some English words before I attended school. She taught me by pointing out things and saying the English for them. Mostly, I learned animals and objects. At school, we learned nouns and verbs.



ALLISON: In one of the books I read, it said that students had gardens at school. Did you have one?

LEONORA: Yes, I had a garden. In it, I grew Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage) and radishes. You can have rice with either if you want and that would be your meal.

ALLISON: What were some common jobs in your area?

LEONORA: Domestic helper was common. Of course, some also worked in the grocery store. Then there was farm work. Rice needs to be planted and harvested. My family worked on the farm. I used to grind rice with my feet. One can get injured picking rice. I still have a leg injury. Hired help was often used on the farm.

ALLISON: What were some of your favorite foods?

LEONORA: We plant lots of stuff. There was Chinese grass, cocoa beans, coffee, eggplant, papaya, and squash. Anything you plant will grow. We always had lots of food to eat. We visited plantations of guava and mango. I ate lots of coconut and jackfruit. The latter you can cook for dinner or eat as fruit when it ripens.



ALLISON: In one of the books I read, it talked about popular foods….

LEONORA: Yes, we had rice at all three meals. We ate it with other stuff. Adobo (pork, beef, chicken) is the national food. I ate jackfruit. Halo-halo is popular. It’s fruit mixed with condensed milk, shaved ice, and gelatin. You can put an umbrella on top. Bangoes or milk fish is a silvery marine food fish and a delicacy.

Foods of the Philippines

Foods of the Philippines

ALLISON: What animals did you see growing up?

LEONORA: On the farm, we used water buffalo but now there are tractors. I used to ride on the water buffalo. We also had chicken, ducks, cows, pigs. They weren’t kept in a barn like here. Everything had a use. We sold the eggs of chicken and ducks. We killed the cows and pigs for food. Sometimes we ate them at celebrations. Some people have horses for transporting rice.

People might have dogs for pets but the dogs run loose. They don’t have tags like here. Dogs used to follow us to church. There’s no rule against it!

I haven’t see a tarsier (monkey), but I have seen flying lizards. There are crocodiles and snakes in the river. Going to the river alone was discouraged. Once I saw a boa constrictor behind our yard. Snakes often go inside homes for the warmth. I don’t like snakes! Relatives had birds nest in their yards.



ALLISON: What sports are popular?

LEONORA: We have outside basketball. It’s very popular. Each town has a tournament and the teams have t-shirts. We also have ladies’ volleyball. There are folk dances and celebration parades. Boxing is very important. Papa used to listen to it on the radio. If you’re a boxer, it’s like you’re president. Young people play a game called sipa. We don’t have a soccer ball and so they play sipa.

ALLISON: How did you spend your free time?

LEONORA: Because my parents were pastors, my schedule was going to school, helping on the farm, and taking care of the church. People would also visit our house and we’d take care of them.

We didn’t have comics or books. Our family couldn’t afford them.

A birthday celebration felt like a million dollars. You got lots of attention. People came to visit. There was a sermon and prayer. We ate lots of food.

Three years ago, Leonora returned to the Philippines for a visit. The Jeepney photo is a public domain image from Wikipedia. Otherwise all of the photos featured came from Leonora’s trip, including the one below of Leonora and her siblings. Thank you, Leonora!

Leonora (center) with her brother and sisters

Leonora (center) with her brother and sisters

15 Responses to "Philippines Q&A with Leonora Hunter"

Wonderful pics – the jeepney is cool and the food looks tasty!

A popular Filipino dish is adobe. As my step-mom often makes it during my visit with family, I can tell you that at least it is delicious. 🙂

I enjoyed your beautiful photos and interview about the Philippines. What an interesting place and culture! The next time I read a book set in the Philippines, I’ll have a much better mental picture of the setting.

Sometimes during my multiple interviews with my step-mom, I had to stop to look at photos to confirm I had the right idea of what a particular food dish, activity, or place looked like. Now like you I have a better visual image of the Philippines.

Thanks for sharing the Q & A and photos, giving us a glimpse and feel of the culture. Great post!


An interesting post, and great photos- it reminds me I should try jackfruit. I don’t think I’ve ever had it.

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten jackfruit either. However, thanks to my step-mom, I greatly enjoy guava and mango. 🙂

Thank you for sharing all of this information about the Philippines!

Here’s my Saturday Snapshot.

You’re welcome! Next week, I’ll follow-up with information about holidays in the Philippines. Sadly, I won’t have any photos to share.

Fascinating.My brother move to the Philippines 8 years ago. I visited two years ago and look forward to returning maybe next year or the year after. Your article bought memories back to life. Thank you.

Thanks for your post! What part of the Philippines does your brother live?

My brother and sister were able to visit the Philippines when my step-mom made her recent trip back. One day, my husband and I hope to go there too.

He is in las Pinas Manila at the moment but building a farm at Batangas down south from Manila city, its so beautiful there. I hope you get the chance to visit. The people are so kind.

Nice interview!

Thank you. I enjoyed learning more about Leonora’s home country.

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