Batik, beer, and battles

Published September 3, 2022, 9:30 AM

by Carol RH Malasig

A week of culture and peace

BEAUTIES IN BATIK Indonesian ladies showcase a traditional dance at the Indonesian ambassador’s residence during a painting event for the ladies

Diplomatic spouses, members of the ASEAN Ladies Foundation, and the Museum Volunteers of the Philippines, as well as officials from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, got to experience the rich tradition of batik painting at the Indonesian ambassador’s residence on Aug. 27.

It was a Saturday, during a long weekend at that, yet the event was still well attended by ladies who were eager to learn about the ancient wax-resist dyeing technique from the island of Java. Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines, Lt. Gen. TNI (Ret.) Agus Widjojo, together with the head of Dharma Wanita Persatuan of the Indonesian Embassy in Manila, Madame Ranny Widjojo, welcomed the ladies to their home before handing everyone an apron and getting down to business.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried batik painting. During a posting in Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysians also practice the technique with their own batik designs, it was quite the popular activity at diplomatic events. What made this event different, however, was the use of a new, sustainable method. Niken Apriana, inventor of a new batik-making technique using gutta tamarind, was present at the event herself. “The purpose of this method is as an alternative material for environmentally-friendly batik creations,” said Apriana. She uses tamarind seed powder mixed with a type of vegetable fat in place of the wax. One uses this mixture to outline the fabric with one’s design of choice, letting it dry before painting over the design. When done properly, this natural substance is easily washed away to reveal the final patterns or drawings through crisp, white outlines.

BATIK WORKSHOP The new batik technique is said to be more eco-friendly and sustainable

Cultural performances and a fashion show by Citra Srikandi Indonesia were also some of the event’s highlights, along with the discovery of how two of my friends were skilled artists. Funny enough, both were seated on either side of me who has no ounce of painting skills whatsoever. Still, we all had a lot of fun and left wanting to take home all the batik on display.

War in Cities

SPOILS OF WAR Everyday possessions now tell a different story

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss Embassy recently concluded their two-week exhibit in Intramuros called “War in Cities.” The exhibit featured items found following the armed conflicts in Iraq and the Philippines, specifically from Marawi and Zamboanga.

A muddy teddy bear, a burned doll, and a woman’s handbag from Iraq. A crumpled metal fan and a handwritten poster helping kids translate Arabic words to English. A school desk and a bullet-riddled dish rack from Zamboanga. Everyday objects, once useful, that now tell a different, traumatic story. It takes years for cities to recover from conflict and it’s estimated that around 50 million people worldwide are currently suffering the horrific consequences of urban warfare.

CHAMPIONS OF IHL. Swiss Ambassador Alain Gaschen (left) and Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon at the ‘War in Cities’ exhibit

The exhibit ran for two weeks in commemoration of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) month. ICRC head of delegation in the Philippines, Boris Michel, noted how the Philippines has been consistently active in upholding the pillars of international humanitarian law. “IHL month is commemorated here because of Executive Order No. 134 (1999), which declared the 12th of August of each year as IHL Day in the Philippines,” Michel said. “In that EO, it was stated that the Philippines subscribes to the IHL principle that humanitarian aid must be given to all who are affected by armed conflict without discrimination.”

A muddy teddy bear, a burned doll, and a woman’s handbag from Iraq. A crumpled metal fan and a handwritten poster helping kids translate Arabic words to English. A school desk and a bullet-riddled dish rack from Zamboanga.

Former Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), echoed Michel’s sentiments during a chat with journalists while highlighting how the Philippines has always been open to victims of armed conflict and refugees from different parts of the world.

SWISS CONNECTION ICRC head of delegation Boris Michel (left) and Swiss ambassador to the Philippines Alain Gaschen

Swiss Ambassador Alain Gaschen shared that the ICRC couldn’t have picked a better venue. “Manila was the second most devastated city among the Allies after Warsaw,” he said, recounting the events that happened after World War II. “One hundred thousand civilians died in this conflict.” Despite the atrocities of war, armed conflict continues to this day. “We have an aggression of state against another sovereign state, violating the UN Charter and territorial integrity. We all have seen images of Bucha (Ukraine),” he said. “This is not only a gross violation of the IHL, but also a crime against humanity.”

Switzerland was among 40 countries to refer what’s happening in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court for investigation. They have also been active locally, supporting the Bangsamoro Peace Process in Mindanao.

Prost to Oktoberfest!

DRINK OF CHOICE Maß is the German word for a liter of beer in one, traditional mug. This one’s a slightly smaller version of that

As Munich gears up to bring back Oktoberfest after a two-year hiatus, so is Manila. The German Club is hosting the 82nd Oktoberfest at Solaire on Oct. 14 and 15 from 6 p.m. onwards.

Solaire VP for culinary, Chef Michael Dinges, hails from an area near Frankfurt so there’s that assurance that the dishes will most definitely be authentic. At the press preview, delicacies like spätzle, sausage salad, schnitzel, Schweinshaxe, weißwurst, and pretzels were on offer. There’s even my favorite dessert—the Kaiserschmarrn, a lightly sweetened pancake dish.

PROTEIN HEAVY It can’t be Oktoberfest without an abundance of sausages

But what really got me excited was seeing obatzda included in the cold cuts and cheese platter. It’s a Bavarian spiced cheese delicacy I’ve been trying to source in Manila ever since we moved back from Berlin in late 2020. It’s been almost two years and I’ve tried my hardest, even bugging my German friends to make it, to no avail—until now.

Of course, the event also gives you access to beer—lots of it—and a great excuse to wear a dirndl or lederhosen while dancing to some good old schlager. Tickets are now on sale over at Solaire’s website.