To His Royal Highness who sits on the Chrysanthemum Throne,
Let me take the pleasure of sending you a word and your imperial army that the most delicious earthling is due to arrive in your splendid land and noble empire anytime soon. In so doing, your gracious directive and decree is hereby in order which your dwellers have to ensure:
First requirement: Ensure that the delicate flowers that signify the welcome of spring season in your dynasty will be in its full bloom. The delicious earthling would like to witness this incredible phenomenon.
Second requirement: Your land being at the zone of the planet’s ring of fire must ensure that no tectonic-shaking circumstance must take place at any time during the length of stay of the delicious earthling. The delicious visitor hates the feeling of disequilibrium and whirling sensation.
Last and final requirement: Your kingdom is known to have preposterous fees and sky-rocketing prices. The delicious earthling plans to trade his wealth and richness with your abundant commercialized treasures. In other words, he plans to go on shopping! Therefore, ensure to assess and lower down the financial value of your land’s commodities during the delicious earthling’s stay. Otherwise, the delicious earthling will carry with him tons of Ma-Ling (canned luncheon meat) and large boxes of ensaymada (sugar-sprinkled buttered pastry bread).
Your Comrade in Wealth,
The Delicious Earthling
Dahil malamig dun, magbabaon din ako ng Kopiko tri-in-wan copi.
The benefit of being with your mother is that you are allowed to simply be yourself and say whatever you like to the point of throwing tantrums. That is what I exhibited when my family was travelling back to Manila after an overnight stay at the hometown of my father in Pangasinan last weekend.
And as usual, just like any rural adventure that my family would carry out from time to time, Nengkoy never fails to stop over and shop at the local palengke (wet and public market) of the rural place we visit. Our journey would not be complete without Nengkoy buying the local produce of the province or the countryside we visit – bushy-tailed vegetables, freshly caught fishes, newly slaughtered meat, brightly colored fruits as well as local indigenous delicacies. She wouldn’t just buy a piece or two just to satisfy her shopping passion. She would buy tons of it!!!
This usually makes me cranky and grouchy. This is because I and the whole family need to spend considerable amount of time at the border and perimeters of the wet market doing nothing but wait while Nengkoy finish her procurement. My considerate and selfless brothers and sisters are so used to Nengkoy’s habit they would sometimes join her in penetrating the labyrinthine passageways of the palengke to locate the freshest produce and help her out carry the loads of her purchases. I, at all times refuse to join the pack but instead just wait and wait and wait. Did I already say that I impatiently wait?
Anyway, while we were in Manaoag, Nengkoy purchased local delicacies of Pangasinan: bags of puto calasiao (local rice cakes of Calasiao, Pangasinan) and tupig (charcoal-grilled glutinous rice and grated coconut wrapped in banana leaves).
While we were in Dagupan, she purchased tubs-full of fresh bangus (milk fish), oysters, large shrimps, a bag full of mangoes and large bottles of the local bagoong (a brown, murky yet tasty sauce made from fermented tiny fishes).
We also made a stopover in Villasis where she bought heaps and oodles of locally grown vegetables – malunggay (fruits of moringa tree), talong (eggplants), sibuyas-pula (tiny red onions), bawang (garlic), kalabasa (pumpkin), and even bouquets of bulaklak ng kalabasa (squash blossoms).
All throughout these panic purchasing moments, I did nothing but wait and complain. Grrr! We literally could no longer move inside the car for it was full of the local produce of Pangasinan. Out of madness, I even cried out loud to everybody inside the vehicle traversing the highways of North Luzon on our way back to Manila that we are already like “Umaandar na Bulanglang!” (a rolling Bulanglang – a stew made of fish and mixed vegetables seasoned with bagoong that originated from northern Luzon).
Pagdating sa bahay ni Nengkoy, ako din naman ang kumain ng mga yon. ‘Yan si Nengkoy walang kupas. At ako, walang pasensya.
Every time I read a novel, there is a natural drift for me to form the physical appearance of the characters in my mind. The physical characteristics of novel-characters are formed in my subconscious through the writer’s intricate ability to describe.
Last Thursday, as I watched the film adaptation of the Suzanne Collins movie The Hunger Games, I was surprised to find out that the physical appearance of the cast closely resembles the look of the characters that was formed in my wits when I was reading the novel.
Surprisingly, the actors chosen to play their respective roles in the movie bears close resemblance to the ones formed in my mind. Case in point was the lead actress who played the role of Katniss Everdeen, though in my often flaky imagination she is supposed to be 2-size smaller in body frame and a little bit shorter. This is because she is supposed to come from a poor and food-deprived district.
But I was so shocked in disbelief when the actor who played the character of Peeta Melark appears exactly like the one formed in my imagination when I was reading the novel years ago. I felt like being the very casting director of the movie when I saw him on the big screen being first introduced and announced as the male “tribute” (participant) in the 74th Hunger Games. The color of the eyes, the hair style, the skin tone, the facial features, the body frame, the lips and the smile was exactly the same. Even the length of his eye brows!!!
Though I adore Lenny Kravitz, his physical appearance unfortunately is not the one that was contoured in my sagacious circumspect. I was actually looking forward on how Kravitz would play the role of Cinna, the fashion stylist, responsible in creating Katniss to be dubbed as “The Girl On Fire” in the novel. However, Kravitz looks (along with his acting and demeanor in the film) for me was too subdued. Cinna for me is supposed to be flamboyant, flashy and splashy similar to that of the judge in America’s Next Top Model series – Ms. J Alexander.
I don’t intend to write a critic about the movie (I hope not to violate this intention). But nevertheless, I believe the movie is still a faithful representation of the amazing novel. Besides it is understandable that you cannot cram the entire book into a 2.5-hour movie. The first book of The Hunger Games series is just too much to be created only for a single movie.
Devotees from around the world would usually go to the magnanimously divine Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag to ask for a holy intercession. I did not. After travelling more than 200 kilometers by land from Manila to Manaoag, Pangasinan and as soon as we settled on the seats of the church the only thought and prayer I did was to thank God and the miraculous Lady of Manaoag for the health, wealth and happiness of my family.
Imadyin? Pinapasok ang demonyito kong ito sa loob ng simbahan? Hahaha!
Abundantly lined-up are red plastic bags hanging on the branches of massive trees at the edge of a long stretch of highway in Tarlac contains a local fruit. My family on our way to Manaoag Pangasinan last Saturday noticed and initially wondered what those red plastic bags contains. Until one of us realized that it contains Camachile being sold by the local folks right under the shade of the trees.
I haven’t tasted Camachile so I told my siblings inside the vehicle that I wanted to buy and savor its taste. But when I told them this, we already passed Tarlac and no vendor is in sight. Nengkoy however explained that it is okay since Camachile is actually not a tasty fruit variant. She added that I will not actually like it. But on our way back to Manila the following day, I insisted on buying and hopefully enjoy the taste of the fruit for the first time which is considered rare for a city dweller like me.
My brother-in-law considerately stopped the vehicle when we were along the highway stretch of Moncada Tarlac to purchase two full plastic bags. Each bag cost twenty-five pesos. I gave Kuya Bogis (my brother seated at the front seat of the car) sixty pesos to hand over to the lady vendor for two bags of Camachile and told him to tell the vendor to keep the change. Nengkoy gave me her usual indescribable stare to express her disgust on why she was not given the chance to practice her price-haggling-skills. When we continued our journey back to Manila she told everyone inside the vehicle that price haggling is supposed to be done to lower down the price of the item being purchased and not to swell it higher which I, according to her, unacceptably just did. Nengkoy of course is just being her usual self! That was the moment that I told everyone that I won’t give them even a little piece in case I liked it.
When I excitedly opened one bag of Camachile, I was surprised to find that all of the fruit’s skin crusts were cracked open. In full shock I shouted and asked them that this may no longer be edible since the fruit’s edible meat has been exposed! Everyone laughed because of my stupidity and explained that the crusts are expected to be naturally open to signify that the meat is already ripe and could already be devoured.
With full gentleness, I picked one fruit and took off the seed beneath the white meat. I chose the one whose skin crust has turned red expecting it to be sweet. But when I placed it in my mouth and chewed it, the only words that came out of my mouth was, “Ay! Lasang papel!!!” (It tasted like paper!). Nengkoy and the rest of the pack broke a big laugh.
Nengkoy then told me “I told you so…” and practically started her usual litany by saying that sixty pesos could have purchased a kilo of sweet ripe mangoes in Villasis Pangasinan and that I was such a bull headed monster for not listening to her. With my insistence I again tried another Camachille expecting a sweeter version but to no avail. That was the moment I offered everyone inside the car to have Camachile as their snack while we headed back to Manila. Some took a little piece, tasted it and by no means asked for another one.
A lot of contemporary studies reveal that the cause of this generation’s obesity is due to modern technology. People nowadays has very limited physical activities for they spend considerable amounts of their time in front of a computer or a state-of-the-art gadget. Add to this are the sizeable amount of growth hormones injected on various foodstuff which the people of today consumes – noxious fried chickens, lard infested French fries, vein-blocking hamburgers and the likes.
But let me add another imposing reason why the citizens nowadays are plump, corpulent and overweight. This is because bunot is no longer available in the market. The ever reliable coconut husk commonly known as bunot used to polish our household floorings may it be made from cement, of natural stone or of fine timber virtually vanished and seems to have been wiped out in all our nearby stores.
No thanks to the invention of electric-run floor polishers, floor washing robots, wood polishing chemical formulas and lamella-layered veneer flooring tiles because we no longer exert the physically demanding effort of polishing manually our floors.
Polishing the floors then was such a calorie-burning episode! First, is to sweep the floor to get rid of dusts and small boulders that may be present on the floor. Then, manually wiping the floors with bars of floor wax using a cloth, then, setting it for a couple of minutes for the wax to dry up. Then, the severely demanding “pagbubunot” or pushing back and forth the coconut husk against the floor lodged at the palm of your foot and using the other foot to firmly step on the floor to maintain balance. To maintain the multiple polishing movements of the legs and feet, the arms and shoulders needs to be of the opposite swaying movement while the body’s torso needs to maintain a 90 degree angle against the horizontal floor. Polishing is done using your foot and your leg pushing the bunot back and forth until the desired gloss and shiny-ness of the floor has been achieved. Describing and writing how “pagbubunot” is done already makes me sweat!!!
I suppose bunot is basically one of the reasons why the generations in the past are sexier, leaner and are well in shape even if there were no expensive fitness centers in the past and liposuction procedures were yet to be invented. Possessing a plump belly and flabby humps were something that is rather rare among the populace in the past.
So, if every citizen on this planet wants to keep fit and wants to achieve a lean, slim and sexy body, I propose that “bunot” be reintroduced back in all our nearby retail stores. Besides, it’s earth-friendly, ecologically conservative, green and biodegradable.
Nengkoy wished that her 75th birthday be held and celebrated in the vast coconut plantation estate that was converted into a tourist destination located south of Metro Manila. True enough, her wish was made into a reality when Nengkoy, twenty seven crazy members of my family and I trooped to Villa Escudero Plantation & Resort on her birthday.
Every member of my family was treated with a 2-day glimpse of a typical life of rural Philippines. Upon arrival we were served with refreshing “gulaman” as a welcome drink. After which, the whole pack were led to the magnificent museum that houses the marvelous antique and unique collections of the Escuderos. There were all forms of Catholic statues and statuettes. We saw an overwhelming array of Filipino costumes, jars, vases, indigenous forest hunting gears, stuffed Pinoy-once-endemic fauna and other eclectic treasures made, found and discovered in the Philippines. I was particularly was astonished by the collection of authentic handwritten letters of Philippines’ National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal displayed in that marvelous museum.
After feasting our eyes to the overwhelming collections found in the museum, we were then taken for a ride on a carabao-drawn cart for a tour around the vast resort. Seated at the end of the cart were two resort staffs in traditional Filipino clothes. One played the guitar while the other sang traditional Filipino songs while the cart was being drawn to lead us to checked-in at our respective nipa-like villas built right at the edge of a serene lake. The villas were reminiscent of a traditional Filipino house called “Bahay Kubo”.
We then immediately proceeded to one of the highlights of our stay. The scrumptious buffet lunch served and eaten al fresco style few meters away from the base of a waterfall. Still typical of a Filipino dining set-up, we ate on native bamboo-craft-woven plates with banana leaf as its lining and our soup bowls were coconut shells! Breakable chinaware was non-existent! Flowing water on the ground touching and lashing our feet add up to the delicious dining experience.
An hour after lunch, we then headed to one of the resort’s pavilions where a Filipino cultural dance display is being held. The show featured various ethnic and colonially influenced Filipino dances performed by the employees of the resort. The costumes, the music, the colors, the graceful dance moves were all but a rewarding add-on during our stay in Villa Escudero.
After the show, we proceeded to our assigned villa for a short afternoon rest. The villa is not equipped with TV, sound system and not even an internet. All you got is the refreshingly beautiful scenery of what the old Philippines were plus the melodious sound of birds lurking around the area.
Later in the afternoon, majority of us lined up to get our respective paddles plus a life vest for we did a little of rowing at the pristine lake using an old-fashioned kayak in the form of a bamboo raft. While we do the rowing, other members of the family were busy trying to catch live fish from the lake or just busy lazing around. In the same afternoon, a number of employees of the resort serenaded Nengkoy at the villa singing a couple of Kundiman songs plus of course the classic birthday song in Tagalog version.
Dinner buffet was served inside an elegant pavilion. This is the moment when Nengkoy was greeted by the singers performing during dinner time and was surprised when a birthday cake was brought to her table for her to make a wish and blow the candle. After which, the rest of the night was spent bonding and chitchatting before everybody hit the sack with smiles on our faces.
Our stay and adventure in Villa Escudero to celebrate Nengkoy’s 75th birthday is no doubt one of my family’s memorable experiences! I actually don’t know how to end this writing. But one thing is for sure Villa Escudero is one authentic representation of Filipino pride, culture and extravaganza.
It made me want to dance the Tinikling as sang by the 50’s circa Pinay diva, Sylvia La Torre…