One


In light of recent events in our country, I share this throwback of an instant favorite from the Banana Pancake Trail: Melaka, Malaysia.

Where you will find Catholic church ruins, Ramadan-observing Chinese merchants, Fookien-speaking Indians, a mix of Malay and Chinese cuisine called Nonya/Peranakan, Hainanese chicken, Indian curry, Indonesian Satay, a Portuguese settlement, a Dutch square, Hindu temples, mosques, a long list of noodle dishes, Taiwanese fried chicken, Portuguese egg tarts, Chinese popiah, and cendol and ice kacang, which is probably one of the roots of Filipino halo-halo.

And those are just the locals.

Now I’m no political nor historical expert, and I’m sure Malaysia has it’s own skeletons in its closet, and they probably have cases of regionalism and intolerance. But compared to them, we have a long way to go.

Unfortunately, we’re not culturally diverse, only culturally divided. And our country being an archipelago didn’t help.

We are crabs. We diss anything that’s not ‘ours’. We laugh at ‘weird’ bisaya accents but praise the Brit and Cali schwa, not realizing that all micro-cultures have accents and nuances of their own. We make fun of dialects, because the Visayan househelp said ‘libog’. And speaking of househelp, us Cebuanos can never hire a Manileña maid, because maids only come from the island provinces. And we won’t trust anyone from Mindanao, because they’re all terrorists. 

We look down on food that we don’t understand, like how they beat up a chicken in North Luzon to the point of hemorrhage and call it Pinikpikan. Bicol? Puro maanghang. Ilocano? Puro pinakbet. Cebu? Patis ang tawag nila sa toyo tapos pochero ang tawag nila sa bulalo. Davao? Eew, durian. You Instagram that fancy ‘authentic’ satay you’re devouring in that artisan food market, clueless that it’s typical barbecue in some parts of Mindanao. Satti, look it up. Look up kulma and pianggang while you’re at it, and realize that a version of Beef Rendang and Ayam Panggang is actually a daily carinderia item in Mindanao. And that Mindanao cuisine actually have more dimension, and have a better chance at going global, because Adobo is just salty and Kare-kare is bland.

And then we raise our placards saying we are one with (insert city here). Well bad news, we are not. We haven’t been ‘one’ in a long time and it’s sad. We are lost. Very lost. And days like these sometimes make me feel we are beyond repair. 

We can never be one with all this imperialsm. We can never be one if we think our region is better than the next. We can never be one with all the intolerance and stereotyping. We can never be one until we see each other as equals. 

We have a long way to go.

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Kapit Lang

Kapit lang, kapit lang.

 

Ilang beses ko nang sinabi.
Ilang beses ka na ring nakinig at sumunod.
Kahit gaano kabilis ang takbo ng buhay;
kahit gaano kabagal ang pagdating ng ginhawa;
kahit madalas ay masakit ang mga kasu-kasuhan sa puyat at trabaho;
kahit minsan kumakalam ang sikmura;
kumakapit ka pa rin.

 

Kapit lang, kapit lang.

 

Sa sigawang minsan ay inaabot ng bukangliwayway;
sa katahimikan matapos ang mahabang pagtatalo;
sa ngiti mo na nagsasabing “pinapatawad na kita, patawarin mo rin ako”;
sa mahigpit na hawak ng kamay mo na nagsasabing “mahal pa rin kita”;
sa dampi ng labi mo at sa init ng yakap mo;
at sa sigawan, katahimikan, ngiti, hawak, halik, at yakap;
ng susunod na pagtatalo.

 

Kapit lang, kapit lang.

 

Muli kong pakiusap;
muling nagdadasal na sana huli na ito;
muling umaasa na umayos na ang lahat sa wakas;
muling humingi ng palugit sa puso mo, na alam kong sawa nang kumapit.
Huwag ka sana mawalan ng pag-asa;
huwag din sana masimot ang sa akin;
dahil minsan parang malapit na.

 

Kapit lang; kapit lang

 

Salamat sa pagkapit.
Salamat sa pagtitiwala.
Salamat sa pag-ibig.
Kahit nandito pa rin tayo;
malayo sa doon na hinahangad.
Malungkot na hanggang ngayon pinapakapit pa rin kita.
Masaya na hanggang ngayon kumakapit ka pa rin.

An Open Letter to My Best Cook

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I think the problem was you were very close to Kuya Potch; and I was very close to him too. But the two of us had many question marks and exclamation points in between. To make things more interesting, I was born in the 80’s and You were a 90’s baby. And that mini generation gap meant I was almost ending my love for video games at the time of Ragnarok while you were just beginning yours.

You needed to move to Cebu because you were lost. You needed to find yourself. Guess what? I realized a part of me was lost too. Seven years of living away from you made me lose the brother and friend that I was to you and Potch. But now, I have found that person in me again. Thanks to you. And I know you found yourself too.

I am sad that you had to leave. Especially when I think of how great our last few nights of cooking side by side was. But I know you have your reasons.

If there was any time that I made you feel like I was disappointed at you, know this: I am ALWAYS proud of you and I have never and will never give up on you.

I am sorry for those times that I was expecting too much from you, it was only because I was impatient. Atat. Nagmamadali. Excited. Because I know you can handle it and I know you can do so much more. You can BE so much more. My only mistake was I did not allow you to do it at your own timing.

But I have seen you step up in the past few weeks. From where I stand, you have indeed found yourself and your passion in Cebu. And if you follow your heart, you will not be an engineer or an electrician the next time we see each other. You will be a chef.

Now, that may change and I respect that. But if it doesn’t (and I surely wish it doesn’t) and somehow you find yourself wearing a toque and holding a wok the next time we meet, then you’re on for a cook off. And may the best Pad Thai win.

I cannot wait to cook side by side you again. In the meantime, I would like to share with you one important tip:

Whether it’s Pad Thai, Beef Wellington, instant Pancit Canton, or a fried egg. There is only one secret ingredient to all dishes: LOVE.

Para Kay Mang Boy

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Malamang maraming paghuhugutan ang sulat na ito. We have too much history. Away-bati. Aso’t pusa. Lovehate.

I hated you for not being there. Maraming panahon na ikaw ang kailangan, hindi si Mommy. Noong unang beses na nangligaw ako (at nabasted). Ikaw dapat ang nagturo sa akin ng moves. Noong binubully ako sa school sa laki ng katawan kong ‘to. Dapat tinuruan mo akong makipag-sapakan. Noong bumagsak ako sa ilang subject. Noong naglayas ako. Noong gusto ko nang umayaw. Kulang yung si mommy lang at hindi niya kasalanan ‘yun. You should have been there. Pero wala ka.

I hated you for not being there even if you are. Linggo ka na nga lang nasa bahay, kung anu-ano pa inaatupag mo. TV. Pelikula. Inom. Inom. Inom. At marami pang inom. Nasa bahay ka nga, pero parang wala ka rin. Pumasok ka na lang sana sa trabaho.

I hated you for being there. Micro-managing everything in my life. Ganitong oras dapat gumising. Ganito ang tamang paghuhugas ng plato. Dapat walang watermarks ang kotse pag nililinisan (as if naman ang-ganda ng lumang box-type mo). Sa floodway ka na dumaan kasi hindi trapik (pero dalawang oras tayo ‘dun). Wag masyado mabilis ang takbo. Ang bagal mo naman. Ayusin mo pagtapak sa brake.

Pero ‘t*ng ina.

Anghirap pala maging “mabuting ama”. All those hours you “missed” being “there for us”, I am missing for my own children. Pagkatapos ng buong araw na pagkayod, mauubusan ka ng lakas. Gustuhin mo man makipaglambingan sa mga anak mo, o tulungan sila sa assignment nila, latang-lata ka na sa pagod. Simot. Partida pa sa akin kasi hindi pisikal ang trabaho ko. Ano kaya pakiramdam mo noon kada alas-kwatro pagkatapos mag-survey ng maraming bahay sa Tanay?

Tuwing after-shift o weekend, gusto mo lang mag-relax. Bumawi. Kung sa’yo, pag inom at TV, sa akin, blog at FB. At madalas namin pinag-aawayan ni BJ ang pagkalulong ko sa internet katulad ng pag-aaway niyo ni mommy noon sa pag-inom mo.

Mahal ko naman mga anak ko. Gagawin ko ang lahat para sa kanila. Kaya naman grabe ko sila i-push. Grabe ako maka-demand sa kanila. Parang ikaw lang sa akin noon. Gusto ko kasi maging maayos sila pag tanda nila.

Ngayon ko lang na-realize. Hindi mo ginusto at hindi mo kasalanan ang mga pagkukulang mo. Katulad sa mga pagkukulang ko sa mga anak ko. I’m not justifying what you did. You had your shortcomings. I also have mine. And I understand you more because of them.

Kinailangan kong maging ama para maintindihan ko ang pinagdaanan mo. At pinagdadaanan mo pa rin. Dahil hanggang ngayon hindi ka pa rin tumitigil sa pagiging ama.

I had to be there myself. I had to be the father to realize that you were just doing fatherhood at the best of your ability and knowledge. And, considering the man I grew up to be, it’s not bad at all. Quits na tayo.

Hindi ko na hihintayin na mawala ka bago ko pa sabihin. I’m done with eulogies. You deserve to know and read how much I love you.

Salamat, Mang Boy. Happy Birthday!

P.S. Malapit na pala mag 20K maintenance yung Fortuner. Paki-deposit na lang po. 🙂

I Love You

When was the last time you said “I love you”?

I didn’t mean showing or expressing love, but literally saying it. Verbally. Words. From your mouth.

They say actions speak louder than words. Yes, I will always agree. But I know of many people – I included – who would be willing to pay unreal amounts just to hear those words. They will sell their soul to the devil if they have to.

Imagine yourself in love with someone who can somehow show it, but cannot say it. That is how many families with children with autism feel.

Sam would occasionally give us a hug. And immediately looks for us and holds our hand when it gets dark. Jared would occasionally give us a kiss, with both his palms holding our cheeks. He would also run to us first if something hurts. They would sometimes ‘adorably’ shove cereal in our mouths, which would have been completely annoying if it was from someone else.

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Yes, they probably love us and couldn’t live without us. But we have not, and probably will never hear them say those words. If someone approaches me someday and tells me he can make my children speak, my soul will be on sale.

Being regular people, we take many ‘small’ things for granted. We do not see the beauty of being able to think, speak, read, or write. We do not appreciate the fact that we could attend a rock concert, a street party, or even just a stroll in the mall, without being overwhelmed by the crowd, noise, lights, and colors. We don’t know that being able to brush our teeth will be considered a feat for some. We don’t even have a clue how our being potty-trained is much coveted by parents who has children with autism.

These, and more, are daily things that we take for granted. They seem too ‘normal’ to be noticed. But there are people out there who would love to see a tenth of what we are capable of doing.

If you are capable of reading this, good for you. If you are blessed with thought, be thankful. If you have the gift of speech, use it. I love you. Mahal kita. Say it. Because actions speak louder than words, but words still speak volumes.

So, when was the last time you said “I love you?”

Para Kay Nanay

Isang taon na pala ang nakalipas.

Hinahanap pa rin kita sa mga bibihirang pagkakataon na nakakadalaw ako sa Maynila. Tuwing papasok sa bahay, dumidiretso kaagad ako sa kwarto mo, handang magmano. ‘Yun na kasi ang nakasanayan – magmano muna kay Nanay at Tatay bago tumagay, bago makipaglaro sa mga pinsan, o bago mananghalian.

Ngunit sa aking pagpasok sa kwarto ay bumabalik ako sa reyalidad na wala ka na. Pareho sa pakiramdam nung naging isa na lang ang mamanuhan dahil sa pagkawala ni tatay. Angsaklap. Angsarap awayin ng malupit na panahon.

Tatambay ako sa garahe. Walang asado. Walang crispy pata. Walang lumpiang sariwa. Kung meron man, kahit parehong-pareho ang lasa ay iba pa rin. May kakaibang pait na matitikman sa pag-alala na hindi ikaw ang nagluto. Dahil sa mga pagkaing ito mo pinaramdam ang iyong pagmamahal sa aming lahat. Sa bawat subo, tikim, o kahit langhap man lang ng mga lutuing ito, na ipinamana mo sa iyong mga anak at manugang, ikaw ang aming naaalala.

Wala na ring sumasaway sa maingay na kwentuhan at kantahan sa inuman. Kahit abutin pa ng bukang-liwayway. Walang nakakapigil sa amin noon, kahit kapitbahay o baranggay. Pero pag si nanay na ang lumabas, magulo ang buhok at gusot ang daster, ligpit lahat. Di mo na kailangan magsalita. Tingin pa lang alam na. Walang pumapalag.

Ngayon kahit ano ibibigay ko, masilayan lang muli ang nanglilisik mong tingin sa alas dos ng madaling-araw; makatikim ng kahit nilagang itlog, basta ikaw ang nagluto; maihatid ka sa Ever Gotesco para makapag-bingo; mailibre ka sa Savory ng pancit bihon at manok; mahawakan lamang muli ang iyong kamay ng mas mahigpit, habang unti-unting inilalapit sa aking noo para magmano.

Pasensya na po, ‘Nay. Alam ko masaya kayo ni Tatay diyan sa langit. Miss na miss lang talaga kita. Miss na miss ka naming lahat. Hanggang sa muli nating pagkikita.