Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Deja Brew

Black as the devil, Hot as hell, Pure as an angel, Sweet as love.  

Surrendering to coffee is one of my life's pleasures, and sharing a cup of coffee with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent.  Sometimes a cup of coffee is more than just a cup of coffee.  Its familiar taste and aroma can take one back to childhood, to a place of comfort where a mother, an aunt or a grandparent served up kindness along with a rich, steaming mug of barako.

I always believe that as a baby, I was bottle-fed not with milk but with coffee.  Coffee molecules stir up my blood, stimulate my mind, and warm my heart.

Mornings would be unbearable without a cup of joe.  It is the lifeblood of nerds and book-lovers, my own antidote  for a hangover.  What's overtime without endless cups of coffee being refilled hour after hour after hour?  Office and showbiz gossips are humdrum without the brew being shared at the pantry.  This beverage keeps the workforce complacent on their journey to work despite the traffic and bad roads.

I remember the air of quiet anticipation in my grandmother's kitchen when I was a kid.  Native coffee or barako smelled like freshly ground heaven and was brewing 24/7...aunts and uncles and their friends were having coffee at all times.  Passionate debates took place at my grandmother's dining table over mugs of hot, black coffee.  Plans were concocted, ideas expounded, tempers cooled and fears were calmed.  I loved the fever of it all---voices rose and dissolved into sounds of hot steaming liquid being drank, all punctuated by hums of conversations.

Lola served us kids with a lighter brew and  always with a warning that strong coffee would stunt our growth.  My brothers and younger cousins would add steamed rice into their coffee while my sister and I would dip pandesal into our mugs.  The warmth and essence of my Lola's espresso was one of my childhood's flavorful indulgences.

my favorite coffee shop at Bonifacio High Street


Kare-Kare with spicy bagoong (shrimp paste) 

 "Edible, adj.: Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm." ~Ambrose Bierce

Posted for Food Quote

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Angel's Trumpet/Today's Flowers #1

Angel's Trumpet, Brugmansia

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."

~ Hans Christian Anderson

My first post for Today's Flowers

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nostalgia at Kissing Rocks

There is nothing special about this beach, in fact, I've never been here for almost two decades. But that weekend in  September after we buried our grandmother, my siblings, cousins and I, had a sentimental yearning to see the beach of our childhood. This is where we frolicked during summer vacations, learned how to swim, chased hermit crabs, watched sunsets and dreamed of the world beyond Guimaras Strait. This stretch of seashore was our playground, from the Kissing Rocks to this rustic resort.  On those rocks, our grandmother taught us how to harvest and eat freshly shucked rock oysters. 

Nothing has changed around here except for a wider beach erosion, and the  nipa huts got older. The simplicity of life here is achingly sweet and familiar.


Posted for hosted by Rose

Food Quote: Italian Sausage

Homemade Italian Sausages from Amici

"If you never try a new thing, how can you tell what it's like? It's men/women such as you that hamper the world's progress. Think of the man who first tried German sausage!" 

- Jerome K. Jerome

Posted for hosted by Arlene

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Everyday Life: Local Food

Theme:  Local Food

Gising-Gising, a spicy dish made of sauteed swamp cabbage (locally known as kangkong) stalks, shrimps and green chili peppers, simmered in coconut milk.

I cooked this dish at home inspired by the delicious Gising-Gising I had at Abe-Serendra.

Posted for Everyday Life ATW

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Memories from the big chair

Old houses remind me of my childhood at my grandmother’s house in Valladolid. It was an old Spanish house with a huge ballroom, big rooms with antique chairs, and wide windows overlooking the highway. I remember the echoes in that old house...the lingering traces of laughter, of my aunts playing mahjong on weekends, of my grandmother singing Besame Mucho, of fading footsteps, and the chatter of women-weavers on the ground floor.

"Hablon are hand-loomed textiles woven by women in Western Visayas who have the tradition of weaving for more than 150 years. Hablon fabrics come in muted colors and sometimes combined by silk threads."

The hablon-weavers were headed by an old woman, Tia Tonia, who fascinated me and my sister because of her bright red lips and black teeth. We watched Tia Tonia prepare her nganga (mama in Ilonggo), the ingredients of which were kept in a knotted hanky hidden under her chemise, delighted by the ritual. One afternoon, she taught me and my sister how to put together just the right amount of bonga (fruit of areca palm, a green-colored nut), buyo (leaf of betel piper vine) and a dash of lime to chew on and produce a blood-red juice that we gleefully spit out---checking who has the most vivid red spittle. Sharing betel chew with the women after the afternoon siesta was our bonding time---my sister and I felt like grown-ups!
...aside from assuaging hunger pangs, betel-chewing is believed to strengthen the teeth and gums. The Spanish chronicler Pigafetta, describing the customs of the islanders in the 16th century , wrote that “it is very cooling to the heart, and if they ceased to use it they would die.” The betel nut tradition once bound together Filipinos from the Cordilleras to Sulu. ~ from "Hidden in the Heart"

Everyday, there was a fiesta atmosphere in that house, with relatives and friends coming and going, guests at every meal. As a child of 8, there was always some corner in that house to be explored, to hideout and build my kingdoms of make-believe. The front staircase was my favorite place--- a grand 13-step staircase. Sitting on the steps, I would watch people come and go and listen to snippets of conversations; or listen in to afternoon soaps from a transistor radio the weavers were avidly tuned in to.

The old house was a landmark that people would tell the bus driver where to get off. “Sa balay daku lang,” the conductor would yell at the driver, and the bus stopped in front of my grandmother’s house. Balay daku means big house. I would climb in my grandmother’s big chair by the window, count the buses that stopped by, and sometimes wave at some stranger who smiled from the bus window.
I miss that old house, with its cracked paint of yellow and green, latticed windows, and creaking doors. It was torn down when I was 13.  When I see an old house, I always wonder about its history...the people who lived there and those who left their scent and footprints.

Food Quote: Jelly Fish Salad

@ mirandablue

Cold Jelly Fish  Salad with Century Egg and Sesame Seeds

"I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime 'associates,' food, for me, has always been an adventure."

~ Anthony Bourdain

Posted for Food Quote

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Miranda: Where it all began

For my first Nostalgic Marveling, it is only appropriate that I start from where it all began.  When I  saw this photo in my archives, childhood memories came rushing in.  This is where I was born and lived until I was 11.  I went to a public elementary school here, about 200 meters away from my grandfather's house. And wherever I am in the world, I think of this place when I think of home.

I started school when I was four. I do not think it was because I was especially smart. But I think my parents wanted me out of the house because I asked too many weird questions. I remember being obsessed with the indentation between our nose and our lips. I overheard an aunt (my mother's cousin) saying that people with deeper indentation are tamawo---fairies who inhabit anthills, they pretend to be humans, attend church but leave before the benediction. So I examined everybody I see at home, in the bus, at the market, church, even the neighbors. And I would ask my elders if they agree that the fish vendor or the tricycle driver is a tamawo---his or her indentation is much deeper than ours.

Kindergarten school was my whole world. I loved my school uniform---a blue jumper and pink blouse with puffed sleeves, lace socks and black shiny shoes. My bag was full of crayons, papers and pencils and ten pieces of pandesal with my favorite palaman--peanut butter or Milkmaid condensed milk. My grandfather didn’t want me to have pocket money to school, worried that I might cross the street to buy something and be run over by a bus. I savored each day I spent in kindergarten…it was my little personal launch to a life of knowing, of discovery.

From then on, I discovered books, comic books, magazines. I guess my siblings and I were lucky because we grew up in a house full of books and reading materials, where people debate and argue about anything and everything at the dinner table. My aunts and uncles are all opinionated, my grandfather was the ringleader. And even kids were encouraged to join their debates. The only quiet member of the family  was my grandmother (she passed away last year at 96). A younger aunt would ask something about her physics assignment and everybody would tease her about how low her IQ is.

Then my grandfather would launch into his speech that we keep our interest in everything; that we’d be curious about how the natural world works and even if we know that a mystery may not be solved in our lifetime, we’ll try anyway. I don’t remember my grandfather's exact words but he was always passionate about not being afraid to walk your mind…that it is like the universe; it does not walk into a limit but it creates the space as it expands. He reminded all of us at the dinner table that we were all born with talents but what we do with them is yet undefined and will be our entire life’s work. He demanded that we seek where and how we can be most creative. To work hard and set our sights high but pay attention to the little things.

I learned from these debates that intelligence is only liberating if it frees yourself and perhaps others, of ignorance. If not, then it is just overbearing nuisance and therefore a curse, not just to me but to others. He wanted his children and grandchildren to work from a desire to discover and imagine how nature, in its many aspects, does its job of creation---one of the greatest pleasures of being human---worthy of any pursuit spanning entire lifetimes…or something to that effect.  Now, I think all these maybe were a combination of my grandfather's, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman’s wisdom.

We were all in awe of my grandfather (we called him Lolo Toñing, he passed away more than 20 years ago). People admired as well as feared him. He had a volatile temper and didn’t mince his words for the sake of anybody’s feelings. We called him Bonifacio behind his back because he always carried a bolo knife around. I realized when I was a bit older that he used it in tending to his crops; he turned into a farmer of some sorts after his retirement. He was a voracious reader, a coffee drinker, a smoker and a great storyteller to us kids…of his adventures, black magic, World War II and his encounters with Japanese soldiers, among others. One unforgettable story was the mandragona tree in Spain---where you take its deepest roots, then burn it at a crossroad where blood was once shed, kill a baby in the middle of that crossroad and you will see the devil face to face, even talk to him. Not exactly a bedtime story for kids…but I enjoyed it. I loved the feeling of my little heart thundering under my chest.

Lolo Toñing would sit in his bamboo lounge chair after dinner and  all of us kids would sit by the floor. Stories about aswangs (a generic term to all types of mythological creatures, ghost, witches, shape shifters, monsters) maranhig, santermo (St. Elmo's fire) were our nightly entertainment before going to bed---we had no TV. He told us about the kapre, a big black hairy creature smoking a huge cigar, and living in the old kapok tree at the backyard. During the full moon, I would nervously peep from the window hoping to see the kapre. I comforted myself and thought of it as our night guard, watching over us while we sleep.
One uncle entertained us with stories about Count Dracula,  about Indians and cowboys complete with sound effects and props from our grandmother's kitchen.  Another uncle taught us how to make interesting shadows on the wall using our hands, showed us how to eat oysters, and draw gunslingers.  I learned about constellations from my grandmother.  She also taught me my first big word when I was about 5---Diphtheria, after she saw me and my brother forcing a cat to look at the mid-day sun.

Things weren't perfect, not by far.  And sometimes nostalgia makes me sad.  But I believe that the stories from childhood set my sights on knowing and discovering so much more. I’m always curious and interested…haven’t lost the sense of wonder. I embrace the larger world with the march of my own mind.

"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions."

~ Albert Einstein

Posted for Nostalgic Marveling