Everybody Makes Mistakes

“How intoxicating is the triumph of beauty, and how right it is to name it queen of the universe! How many courtiers, how many slaves, have submitted to it! But alas! Why must it be that what flatters our senses almost always deceives our souls?” Madame de Surin

“What is one big mistake that you’ve made in your life, and what did you do to make it right?” The famous question that cost her.

Her slightly shrill voice betrays her.  She sounds nervous but faintly hides it.  But who wouldn’t  be?

“You know what, Sir in my 22 years of existence I can say that there is nothing major major, I mean, problem that I have done in my life. Because I am very confident with my family, with the love that they are giving to me. So, thank you so much that I am here, thank you thank you so much.”

I watched the the video footage of this particular part where Mr. William Baldwin asked her that famous question.  This is what I observed.  Instead of taking a few seconds to ponder the question and contemplate on her answer, she enthusiastically addressed the crowd like a fake politician running for office, and then delivered her shallow answer.

A very simple question, yet she failed to deliver a meaningful answer.  An answer that would have showed her maturity and wisdom at the age of 22…  Instead she made herself appear as if she’s never made mistakes in her entire life; that she’s a perfect goddess.  And  because of this, most people believed, is what killed Maria Venus Raj chances to be crowned Miss Universe 2010.

Perhaps she’s not ready.

But I know I shouldn’t be too hard on Ms. Raj.  The fact that she made it to represent the Philippines on the Miss Universe Pageant, is already a big accomplishment.  And if her life story is true, she’s already accomplished what most beautiful women could only dreamed of accomplishing in their entire lives.

Though her answer reflects youth and immaturity.  Still young, indeed, so that she hasn’t experience the biggest hurdle in life.  She has yet to face her darkest hour, and feel the incinerating pain in her heart and soul.

But her answer is also a reminder of the attitude of most Filipinos.  There are exceptions, yes.  But we are a people whose true feelings about anything are never expressed – or revealed.  It is unnatural for us to openly express our anger and disgust.  To reveal our frailties and inadequacies.  To express our wants and desires.  We give hints, and we expect the other person to interpret our facial expressions and body language.  To understand our true feelings.  To see the truth behind the facade.

And this type of attitude  seems to be more prevalent among the poor and the uneducated.

This is a country where a YES is a NO and a NO is a YES.  We don’t like to admit that we don’t know anything, or that we are guilty of something.  So instead of admitting to our ignorance, we’d answer yes to a question we don’t understand or don’t know the answer to.  Because admitting to not know anything is far too embarrassing.

The word “hiya” which means “shame” “disgrace” and “humiliation” is rooted too deep in our culture.  And Pride.  Which all too often hinders us from developing our true potential; and of becoming the people we aspired to be.  We are never direct or upfront about what we want, or do not want.  We are wishy-washy.

Unless one is exposed to other culture, especially the western culture.  Where a direct answer is expected.  Only then, that one is inclined to change this attitude.  But change takes time.  And this type of attitude that’s been drilled into our soul since we were babies, takes many, many years to undo.

I know.

A typical Filipino would refuse a dinner invitation from a friend, even if he is hungry, have no money or can’t afford it, because accepting would be too embarrassing.  Again, that word “hiya” or shame and pride is at play here.

However, there is a catch.

We only exhibit this attitude towards people who do not know us very well.  A friend.  An acquaintance.  A colleague. A co-worker.

When it comes to family, especially immediate family, and among siblings, the attitude is completely different.  And again, more prevalent with the poor lower class.

There’s the “obligation” to financially help those who are less fortunate.  Guilt is always used.  It is used as a shameful device against a family member who has more, or they think has more.


I usually don’t pay attention to beauty pageants, except many years ago when I was a teenager.  When Ate Remy and I, my sister’s friend’s nanny, would sit in front of her small black and white television, inside a dark, cramped room, to watch the Miss Philippines’ beauty pageants.

An interesting fact that I discovered, while searching for information about Ms. Raj, is the increasing number of beauty contestants in the Philippines, vying for the coveted Miss Philippines’ title.  Most are mestizas.  Filipino girls mixed with white European or American Caucasian ancestry.

This shouldn’t surprise me.  Because Philippines is a country that worships mestizas and mestizos –  Filipinos of mixed race.  More specifically, Filipinos mixed with white European or American Caucasian race.

So Filipinos who lived abroad, and or have married foreigners, send their daughters back to the Philippines to enter beauty pageants, and or to become models and actors.  And because of the seeming bias to the meztizas or meztizos, they have a much greater chance of winning beauty pageants, or of becoming models and actors.  A chance they would not have had, had they pursue the same things here in the U.S. and Hollywood.

Maria Venus Raj caught my attention as I clicked through several articles about the 2010 Miss Universe.  As it was trending on Yahoo!

At first, it wasn’t her beauty that caught my attention, it was her last name Raj.  Raj is not a Filipino name. So my first thought was, hmmm… she must be half:  Filipino mixed with Arab ancestry.   And then I told myself: you shouldn’t be surprise.  Filipinos work and live around the world, most especially in the Middle East.  They work in different professions – domestic helpers, drivers, nurses, mechanics, engineers, etc.  So I was thinking:  maybe her mom married a rich man with Middle Eastern descent.  But with further Google on the internet, I find that my assumptions were only partly correct.

So, who is Maria Venus Raj?

Her beauty is mesmerizing and intoxicating. No doubt about that.  Extremely tall for a Filipino woman.  But the question remains.

Who is she?

Where is she from?

Why is her last name Raj?

Several videos and news articles written about her revealed this information:

Ms. Raj was born, out of wedlock, in Doha, Qatar to a Filipino mother and an Indian citizen father.  Her mother, Esther Bayonito, who worked in Qatar as a domestic helper, brought her home to the Philippines when she was merely an infant.  She was raised in the town of San Vicente, Batu, Camarines Sur.  She grew up in a nipa hut and her family is a tenant farmer, cultivating rice.

She is the youngest among five siblings.  (I am presuming her mother had four children before she left for Qatar.)

Her mother was too embarrassed to have born a child out-of-wedlock so that she asked her sister, Maria Venus’ aunt to register her daughter birth – as a child born in the Philippines with catholic parents.  (These facts got her dethroned.  But her powerful and moneyed supporters got her crown reinstated.)

How do you go from living in nipa to getting powerful connections?  That’s what I want to know.  Was it her intoxicating beauty that captivated all these people to her aid?

Her mother was offered $60,000 by a wealthy Arab for the child, a fact that both mother and daughter seems proud to reveal to the world.

She started joining beauty pageants since she was 17 years old.   Joined oratorical contest in high school, coached by her English teacher

Obtained college scholarship from Francis Papica Foundation.    Graduated Cum Laude with a Journalism degree from Bicol University – a prestigious university.

Several months ago, an Asian Journal correspondent, Joseph Pimentel asked her:  “how did you go from a farm girl to where you are now?”

She replied: “Yup, I grew up in a small farm. My parents are farmers. I walked along the rice paddy just to go to school or somewhere else. I did that for 21-22 years. It was a very simple life, not very extravagant. As long as I had my education and a job, life is okay but since winning Miss Philippines and representing the Philippines in the Miss Universe pageant, it’s like an entire different world. I have to be true to myself and try to fit in.”

She did not answer the question.  (It irritates me when people answer questions like the ever evading politicians.)

I think the answer would have been for her to list the specific steps, works, and sacrifices, both she and her family had to do in order for her to achieve her dreams: college education from a prestigious university and international beauty queen title.

How do you go from a poor farm girl to being friends, and connected with wealthy and powerful people, including politicians to rally behind you?

What about her formative years?  How was she raised?  Where there specific things her mother did for her or taught her which helped her become the woman that she is today?

Was she given special privileges because of her beauty?

If her story is true, then there are plenty of poor little girls out there who would want to know the answers to these questions.  Who would be inspired by her accomplishments so that they too can dream big!

But of course, they must meet the pre-requisite.  If they are dreaming of becoming Ms. Philippines, they better be mestizas.  And have the intelligence to back it up.

As for Maria Venus Raj.  I admired her display of confidence and courage.  I admire her audacity to transform herself from a mere farm girl who lived in Nipa Hut, to now an international beauty queen.

With her beauty, anything is possible.

I wouldn’t be surprise if she is pursued by international modeling agencies.

One thing is for sure.  She will have, if not already, an array of very wealthy suitors.  That’s expected of beautiful women.  Her only problem would be is choosing the best one.


Cook rice as you normally would, using a heavy bottomed pot or rice cooker.  If this is your first time cooking rice using over the stove top.  Follow the instruction below.

Rice that is cooked for the purpose of making fried rice is best cooked the night before.  Chilled in the refrigerator.  This is the key to a perfect fried rice.

If using a rice cooker, the rule of thumb, in my experience, is that the water is always half a cup more than the amount of rice being cooked.  For example, if I’m cooking 2 cups of rice, the water is going to be 2½ cups.  Now, the rice I’m referring here are long grains (Jasmine or Basmati) and short grains (Calrose, Nishiki and other Japanese rice.) This does not include sweet or glutinous rice which is never used for fried rice anyway.

For fried rice, long grains are best.  I prefer Jasmine or Milagrosa rice.  Long grains are less starchy and drier, while short grains tends to have more starch and wetter when cooked.

As for the meat, I have also used salted pork, which is most commonly available here in the South.  I’ve also used ham, Canadian bacon, other type of meat that can be cooked very rapidly, even shrimp.

Here is one of the many different ways to cook fried rice.

Easy Bacon Fried Rice


8 cups cooked rice (preferably cooled overnight)

5 thick slices bacon – chopped into one inch square.

4 – 5 garlic cloves – peeled and minced

1 medium onion – chopped

2 large eggs – lightly scrambled, and season with a pinch of salt and black pepper

½ tsp. coarse sea salt or kosher salt (less if using regular salt)

¼ – ½ tsp. ground black pepper

3 TBSPs. soy sauce

4 stalks green onions – chopped – white part and green part separated.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, and add the chopped bacon.  Stir constantly until slightly crispy and grease or fat has been rendered from the bacon.  Remove the bacon to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease into a glass cup.  Set aside.

Pour the scrambled eggs into the hot skillet with bacon grease.  Let one side cook for two or three minutes.  Flip to the other side and cook for additional minute.  (It’s like cooking a crepe or a pancake.)  Remove eggs onto the same plate of bacon.

Pour about 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease back into the Hot skillet.

Stir in garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Push to the side.

Stir in chopped onion and the while part of the green onions.  Stir fry for 2 minutes or until onions are translucent.  Push to the side.

Loosen the rice with spatula and add it into skillet.  Stir to combine all the ingredients.  (The best way to do this is to use 2 wooden spoons/spatulas, using both hands.)

Keep stirring until the rice is fully heated through, about 10 minutes.  Add the bacon and eggs, breaking eggs into small pieces.  Stir until combined.

Sprinkle salt and ground black pepper over the rice.  Stir to combine.

Drizzle the soy sauce over the rice, one tablespoon at a time. Stir so that the soy sauce is well distributed.

Taste to see if additional soy sauce and black pepper is needed.

Stir in the remaining chopped green onions.  Stir for a minute or two.  Serve warm.

Serve by itself as breakfast, a light snack or a side dish.

Fried Rice with bacon

Fried Rice with Salt Pork

Shrimp Fried Rice.  Here, i broke the rule of using only chilled cooked rice.  That is why the fried rice looks a bit sticky.  The fried rice still taste good, just not a perfect texture like it should be.

How to Cooking Rice over the Stove Top?

Measure 3 cups of long grain rice.  Preferably Jasmine or Basmati into a 4 quart heavy bottomed pot with a top or cover.

Wash rice and drain. Do this about three or four times, or until the water is fairly clear.  Pour the rice into a strainer. Pour washed rice back into the pot.

Add 4½ cups filtered water to the rice.  (The rule of thumb is 1½ cup of water per cup of rice for a drier cooked rice.)

Cover the pot and bring rice to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and keep boiling for about 15 – 20 minutes or until all rice is absorbed.  Turn off heat but keep the pot tightly covered for another 10 minutes.  The rice should be cooked by now.  If so, loosen the rice with a spatula – a wooden spatula is best so that the grain kept intact.  Transfer cooked rice into a plastic container or you can leave it in the pot and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Of course, if you plan to use the cooked rice as a side dish for another meal, instead of using it for fried rice.  Serve it immediately while hot.

Tess’ Kitchen Secrets:

#1 – To attain the perfect fried rice, even better than most Chinese restaurants, chill the cooked rice in the refrigerator overnight.

#2 – You can add finely chopped carrots or green peas to the fried rice for color.  Simply saute the carrots and green peas with the onions, before adding the cooled rice.

Enjoy and Happy Cooking!

Tess Harris

6 thoughts on “Everybody Makes Mistakes

  1. I was watching the Miss Universe pageant acouple weeks ago. And yes, I heard her response to that question. I like to watch pageants for all the excitement going on. Years ago, they used to ask the reminding 5 ladies the SAME question. Had them in a sound proof booth til it was their turn. Was asked the question, and didn’t know how the others answered. I find this to be the fairest way to do things. Then someone doesn’t have any advantage over another. Maybe it’s the sign of the times.

    How fitting you posting a recipe for rice, with Miss Philippines family in the rice farming business. Two of my favorite take-outs are Fried Rice and Lo Mein Noodles. Never tried making Fried Rice, but thanks for the tips. I’m an Uncle Ben’s converted brand rice user (takes 20 minutes to cook). I could see the starchiness of this rice vs the kind you recommend. What I like about Fried Rice & Lo Mein, it’s a meal in itself. Contains the starch, meat, and vegetables, all in one. Thanks for the terrific posting Tess. I found it to be very interesting reading! 🙂

    • Thanks Tess!

      Yeah. You’re right. I didn’t even realize that they used to have the girls inside a booth, until you said it here. I remember it now.

      I can see why you like Uncle Ben’s Rice. Because it’s uncomplicated to make.

      I’ve been cooking rice since I was six years old… so cooking it the old fashioned way, even without the rice cooker, is a normal thing for me. 🙂

      Thanks again, Tess!

  2. I’m not gunna make this a long comment incase it doesn’t post again like last time…LOL. Just want to say this is a very interesting post Tess. She may not have answered the question the way others wanted her to but she is a beautiful girl & she is smart…..she will have no problems in life as long as she continues to be herself & nothing more.

    I suck at making rice…..if it wasn’t for 5 Minutes rice I would never eat rice 🙂 that stuff is the best. I like your recipes for the rice with the bacon…..gotta try that.

    Have a gr8 weekend 🙂

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