Kipil and Paksiw for Mamay

Nonfiction by | October 15, 2017

My first memory of Tupi, South Cotabato was of a small room beside the kitchen of the old ancestral house. The kids were not allowed to play or make noises near the room where my grandfather Sotero, lived. The only time we would enter during visits was when we would mano upon arriving in the house and to mano again before we leave for home. Sotero was my mother’s father and the only grandparent I had the chance to touch, talk to, and serve meals for. My other grandparents died before I was born. We call Sotero Mamay because he was from Batangas and that was how grandchildren there called their grandfathers.

After World War 2, Mamay, together with my grandmother’s family, decided to move south to Mindanao where apparently things were safer and progress was more feasible than up in Luzon. Mamay was in his 20’s when they moved south. Back then, accumulation of land properties was easier and needed less legal processes. My grandfather found a land in South Cotabato just beside Dole Philippine’s pineapple plantation. During his time, hectares and hectares of vacant agricultural lands were there for the taking, no one owns them except a handful of huge companies including Dole Philippines.

The land he discovered looked more like a jungle compared to its neighboring pineapple plantation. He decided to clean the entire 18-hectare land with the help of his family. They cultivated the land, cut off unnecessary vines, and planted vegetables with their own bare hands. By simply cleaning the entire area that no one owned, it was implied Mamay was taking possession of it. It was that easy back then. But Dole Philippines saw how much potential the cleaned area had for their business, so they decided to plant pineapples on some specific areas that Mamay cleaned. They did that several times.

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Tablea Tales, Part 2

Nonfiction by | September 11, 2016

Tablea Tales, Part 1

I was 19 when I first experienced harvesting cacao fruits with my father. I realized it was my father’s first time to pluck cacao fruits off the tree as well. He was surprised how difficult it was to remove the fruits from their twigs. We discovered that the fruits were so attached with the tree that they just dry there hanging on the twig and only fall down when they were entirely black. The tree looked grim with all the hanging black, rotten cacaos. We plucked them off and threw them on the ground. It was as hard to remove as the fresh fruits.

My father rarely talked when we started harvesting and collecting the ripe cacao fruits. The only times he talked was when he would tell me to pick up the fruit that fell on the ground and put it on the huge plastic bag I was holding.  I was used to having imported chocolates in golden foils handed to me by my father when he would come home from work abroad. And after years of struggling overseas, here was my father with me in our backyard, harvesting yellowish cacao to add to the dozen I already had in my bag.

When I was a kid, I never wanted anything else but the chocolates father brought home almost every year. It didn’t matter then whether he was home for Christmas or not. We grew used to it. We grew used to having chocolates as a consolation for his long absence. But now as I was plucking off cacao with him, I realized I wanted him more than all the creamy, bitter-sweet chocolates combined. He had been away for years and I realized, as his calloused hands were struggling to pluck off some ripe cacao fruit, that there was nothing more beautiful than this moment.

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Tablea Tales, Part 1

Nonfiction by | September 4, 2016

Tablea Tales, Part 2

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.

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Chicken Tinola

Nonfiction by | May 17, 2015

We have more than twenty chickens in our backyard. Our compound is huge and we allot almost a third of it for the chickens. We have a net fence tied from our east side of the compound to the west, and the covered part was where all the chickens are left to roam, lay eggs, and eat. My father is never into cockfights and the chickens are actually there for the family’s entertainment—or something else to keep us busy.

The hens do not lay eggs regularly, and sometimes they get rotten before they even hatch because the hens are too lazy to even sit on them every day. We cannot sell their eggs, even the good ones, because they are never good enough as the eggs sold in the market place. The eggs are either allowed to hatch to new chicks or, sometimes when we forget to include eggs on the grocery list, our chickens’ eggs end up in the frying pan or in the refrigerator egg compartment.

We never have income generated from having these chickens around but when I notice that my parents goes to the chicken house first thing in the morning to feed them, I feel the importance of having the chickens with us. They are sort of chores my parents look forward to. And even if they do not smile or dance while they feed the chickens, I know it makes them happy to do it twice or thrice a day.

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