Chocolates. I love how the mouth moves with the expression of the word. I love how the mouth pouts in the first syllable, how it opens and makes the cracking k sound, how the tip of the tongue touches the palate, creating the l sound and slowly creating a smile showing the teeth, as the tongue rests in the middle of the mouth. It’s funny how the whole mouth – the teeth, the lips, the tongue, everything – when combined together, could create such a beautiful word. Chocolates, I know, creates much pleasure as much as the ears take pleasure in listening to it when uttered.
I couldn’t remember a time when Krishelle, a childhood friend, ever missed a piece of Wiggles after lunch. Every after lunch, she would have me go with her outside the school for her daily dessert. Wiggles is a twisted colorful marshmallow coated in rich chocolate. It was nothing special, really, but I had seen how this small piece of sweets capped her lunchtime. She looked satisfied with it. Happy, even, that she always looked forward to its taste to cap her lunch for the day.
I was a witness of how this small twist of chocolate made her so happy and excited. She always offered me some and I just couldn’t refuse. I also wanted to feel the same delight she felt every single time she ate Wiggles. It was sweet like any other chocolates and there was actually nothing about it that was special at all. There was nothing extraordinary with the way the marshmallow complemented with the chocolate coating. I have tasted better marshmallows in chocolates before. And yet, she was happy. For us kids, that was all that mattered, then.
I saw how happy she was with every bite of the Wiggles. I became more and more interested that every time she bought her Wiggles I also bought a piece for myself. I tried to convince myself that I was beginning to love it but with every bite of the soft chocolate-covered mallows, there was nothing about it that made me excited as she was. I like it but perhaps not as much as she did. Through time, I learned to fake my excitement of buying another Wiggles. Yay! We’re done eating! Time for Wiggles! I tried to convince myself that I was excited. As a kid, I just didn’t want to be left out. My friend loved it so I felt that I should feel the same way, too.
When high school came though, chocolates meant something even more. For one reason or another, chocolates were associated with love. They were not mere lunch-cappers anymore. Guys give it to girls they liked. More than the sweet taste, it was the gesture that really mattered. The same heavenly feeling one gets after eating a scrumptious piece of chocolate was always thought to be the same with the fluttering feeling of falling in love.
I was a witness to young love. Some of my friends received flowers and a box of chocolates from some of the coolest guys in school, sometimes, on a normal school day, on their birthdays, or on the 14th of February. I saw them blush when they received the chocolates. Perhaps it was more like subtle happiness; I didn’t understand why they won’t show how happy they were. But I was certain they were happy. I saw the glow in their eyes.
And I really thought it was the chocolates that made them happy. But I didn’t know enough. Sometimes the cool guys would give them flowers, nothing else, not even chocolates but they would smile subtly still. When they received chocolates from some apparently uncool guys, they twitched. I couldn’t understand how people would be unhappy even when a full-sized cream chocolate bar was handed out to them for free. When I was a kid, it didn’t matter who gave the chocolates. Whether it was from a stranger or a close relative, free chocolates were heaven’s treat.
My first chocolates were the ones brought to us by our father in big Duty Free bags. He worked abroad for years ever since I was in kindergarten and we got used to him bringing imported chocolates every time he came home for vacation. We were always very excited to see him home, his clothes and traveling bags smelled differently better than how they smelled like when they were at home. Perhaps it was the smell of the country he was from. It smelled fresh, just how newly bought clothes and stuffed animals in malls smelled like.
Whenever he came home, our refrigerator would be filled with different kinds of chocolates – dark chocolates, milk chocolates, chocolates in boxes, chocolate bars, chocolates with peanuts, and chocolate candies inside a beautiful jewelry box.
They almost fill the whole refrigerator; sometimes even occupying the egg compartments. We needed to turn on the smaller refrigerator upstairs to make room for the other chocolates. We had a bountiful supply that lasted for months.
Whenever I looked back, it was not only the chocolates that filled my childhood with sweet memories. I remember being instructed to be more mindful with how we use electricity at home since my mother expected a higher electric bill with two refrigerators working. More chocolates meant lesser TV time, but it was never a problem for me. The luscious creaminess of bitter-sweet Hershey’s that melted inside the mouth coating the tongue was more than enough for an hour of sitting in front of the television watching Tom chase Jerry.
But my parents were extra strict about the goodies. Chocolates were only allowed as desserts after meals – or for some exception, we could have a bar for the whole family while watching TV. If it’s Toblerone, we only get two triangles each. I have always wanted more chocolate, just a little bit more to satisfy myself but I needed to wait for the next meal or for the next few hours to eat another bite. I nibbled at the piece of chocolate on my hand, taking small bites to make it last longer.
I grew up in a family that was tight-fisted, no matter how much we had. We were taught never to eat the chocolates on our own and without offering anyone at the house. We were not allowed to eat a whole bar in one sitting – just a little piece each time. At a young age, I was taught the value of patience, to take things slow and to not give up everything at once. The chocolate packs we had, which were supposed to only last a few weeks, lasted for months. We were extra prudent in consuming them. We had to be. Perhaps we all had the idea that my father wouldn’t be coming back abroad soon and it would be a longer time before we could restock imported chocolates again.
As I grew older, my craving for chocolates grew. In college, being left to live alone far from home, I thought I was in a better situation to eat more. I had all the chocolates that I could want and all that I could afford. Nobody could tell me I couldn’t eat more than two triangles of Toblerone. I started buying a whole mini-bar only for myself. Sometimes I get to consume the whole piece in one sitting and I felt so happy for myself.
During my first few months in college, I drowned myself in a variety of Goya Chocolates, just something to keep me away from the soft and gooey Cloud 9. I craved for something milkier with less caramel. Goya milk chocolate with almond nuts was one of my favorites. The crunch in every bite perfectly blended with the smooth, thick milk chocolate. So pure and sweet it almost hurt my throat. The Hershey’s and Skittles I had when I was a little kid were way, way better than Goya but being a college student with limited allowance, I learned to find alternatives. Gradually, I learned to love these alternatives.
Jennie graduated from University of the Philippines Mindanao, where she took up BA English (Creative Writing). She has been a fellow for Creative Non-Fiction to the 2016 UST National Writers Workshop. She now resides in General Santos City.