Yelly Writes

Thoughts of Lent

I grew up going to church every Sunday.  I will even go as far as to say that I have 2 home churches, one that I grew up in and one where I grew up spiritually in.  I went to Sunday school.  I sang in the children’s choir.  I eventually taught Sunday school and daily vacation church school.  My summers were spent in church and I was there nearly everyday!  I sang in the church chancel choir and completely immersed myself in all the church activities.  I spent so much time in church that I think it would be natural for me to miss church at Easter.

I think it’s fair to say that Easter is one of the busiest weeks in the Christian calendar, apart from Christmas.  Funnily enough, there is a Filipino term (Pasko ng Pagkabuhay) which translated means Christmas of the Resurrection.  We start counting down to this week from Ash Wednesday.  But it all starts unfolding on Palm Sunday, when Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem with a Palm Sunday service.  The Catholics in the Philippines have their beautifully woven palm fronds blessed in church and they display this in their homes, mostly on their windows.  I grew up in a Methodist church and while we didn’t have the blessing of palm fronds, children of the Sunday school class came into the church waving their palms to re-enact Jesus’ triumphant entry.  This Sunday also marks the beginning of a very busy week.

I remember choir rehearsals in earnest because we would be singing during a series of services.  Our church usually had a service for the last supper where we would have the washing of the feet ceremony.  Our minister and members of the church would recreate the moment when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in a display of his humility and servanthood.  We would have a communion service to commemorate the last time Jesus broke bread with his followers before his death and when he foretold of Judas’ betrayal.

One service that is closest to my heart is the Seven Last Words on Good Friday.  We start off the service at one o’clock in the afternoon.  We have seven speakers, a mixture of lay members and ministers, all speaking about the biblical basis of Jesus’ seven last statements.  Interspersed with the short sermons are songs by the choir.  The choir chronicles the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life with songs commemorating the kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ journey carrying the cross through the Via Dolorosa, His nailing on the cross, His message to His disciple entrusting his mother into his care and His subsequent surrender of His spirit and His life into His Father’s hands.  Each song that we sings makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end because all the songs just underline the great sacrifice that The Lord undertook to save the world.  And because the songs paint a picture of how it was to be there, it just shakes me down to my foundations.  What it must have felt to be there!

We usually finish at three o’clock which is popularly believed to be the time of his death.  After all the speakers have finished their messages, and the choir have sung all their songs, the church is stripped as a sign of mourning.  Because Christ is dead and we are bereft without His divine presence.

Black Saturday is usually celebrated in silence, in contemplation.  Nothing really happens on a Saturday.  But the choir does try to sneak in a few hours of practice because we do have a sunrise service and an Easter Sunday service to sing in.

Easter Sunday is celebrated in so many ways.  But my favourite is a sunrise start.  We have an Easter sunrise service where messages of hope, joy and salvation resound in the sermons and the songs from the choir.  As a Christian, it is lovely to greet the brand new rays of the sun with the reassurance that Christ is not dead, He is alive and sitting at His Father’s right hand and waiting to come back for all of us.  We have an Easter Sunday service (yes, after the sunrise service, which is usually an ecumenical service with all the Christian churches in our community) that finishes with a lovely (and very traditional) Easter egg hunt for the children.

While I will enjoy the odd chocolate bunny and the occasional chocolate egg, and enjoy the bank holiday and the respite from the rat race,  the reason for the season will always resonate in my heart.  I will always know that Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s ascension to heaven.  It is the fulfillment of the promises in the Bible.

Easter will always bring me hope, joy and a wonderful reminder of my salvation by Christ, but I will always feel a twinge in my heart because I will be missing my church family and the fellowship of Christians that I grew up with.  It is always wonderful to celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promises with like-minded individuals.

Fairview Park United Methodist Church - photo credit: Matt de Guzman
Fairview Park United Methodist Church – photo credit: Matt de Guzman
Yelly Eats

Machang Time!

I’ve always loved Chinese food.  Mainly because Filipino food has deep Chinese cuisine roots and most Filipinos can claim some sort of Chinese ancestry.  One of my favourites is dim sum.  I love siu mai, or what we call siomai, char siu pao or siopao asado in Filipino and pancit, which is, essentially chow mein.  But one of the things I missed the most is what is called machang.  It was a curiousity for me when I was little.  It was this little pyramid that stood on the counters of the Maxim’s restaurants we used to frequent.  I thought they were little packages wrapped up in banana leaf.  Later on, when I worked up the courage to ask the waiting staff at Maxim’s, they kindly explained to me that it wasn’t a banana leaf wrapped around this delicious sticky rice triangle, but lotus leaf.

When I moved to London, it was fairly easy to get them…if I travelled to Chinatown in London.  And as was the case most of the time, it necessitated my learning how to cook this little dish that I loved so much.  I found a recipe that boasted that it was leafless lotus-leaf rice.  I thought it would be great to try it because if it tastes the same without the lotus leaf, well, then it would be definitely worth learning as lotus leaf wasn’t the easiest thing to come by in these parts of Blighty!

After several attempts, I am proud to say that I’ve managed to perfect my version of machang rice.  So if you’re one of the glutinous rice fans as well but can’t find them nearby, you’ll find that this is a dead-easy version.  If I remember my mother’s cupboard stocks, the only probably difficult thing to get is the Chinese rice wine and maybe Chinese sausage.  But the rest are relatively accessible.  Hey, if I can get these things in England, am sure you can get it in Manila! 🙂

Here’s the recipe:

Leafless Lotus-Leaf Glutinous Rice with Chicken and Chinese SausageIngredients

  • 300g glutinous rice
  • 400g chicken skinless thigh fillets, deboned and cubed
  • 200g chinese sausage, cut into small disks
  • 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder (or 2 cloves garlic crushed)
  • 75g dried chinese mushrooms
  • 3 liters chicken stock
  • 1 liter boiling water


  1. Pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms and soak for 3 hours.  The mushrooms will expand and soften.  Once the water is cool chop the mushrooms into slivers.  Put aside.  Save the water as well.
  2. Saute the chinese sausage until the edges crisp up slightly.  Add the chicken and sautee until chicken pieces become white in colour.  Add garlic powder, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sugar and pepper. Allow chicken pieces to absorb the flavours and add the mushroom water.  Cover pan and simmer for 10minutes.
  3. Add the glutinous rice.  Allow the rice to absorb the liquid.
  4. Transfer the rice mixture to a rice cooker and mix in the chicken stock.  Cook until the rice has expanded and all the liquid has been absorbed.

Serves 4 as a main dish, or 6 as a side dish.