Tempo

The mood for every situation is dictated by the individuals during the event and how they wanted it displayed for themselves and for those observing from the sidelines.

In our case, a subdued ambiance was in order, the gathering followed the norms dictated by tradition. To be frank though, not everything that transpired then was connected to sadness. There were lighthearted moments and a few funny incidents, too. Those welcome sidelights somewhat consoled our grieving hearts.

Take for example the food served to guests during the wake (a nine-day vigil). Most popular (and easiest to procure) are instant coffee mixes and biscuits. As hosts we needed not bother to provide complicated forms of refreshments: Mother chose a similar arrangement. Because I was a few days late (another long story), I was not included in the planning.

As soon as I arrived from the pier, I opened the big box of coconut-flavored homemade candies I brought along. Pre-ordered from an acquaintance who sell them for a living, I was sure they would be a hit, especially to children.

As small tokens of appreciation, Mother reserved half of them to be distributed to medical personnel who assisted her during Father’s hospitalization. I promised to bring more when I come back.

Quiet for most of the time, I listened to stories related to my Father’s life as revealed by relatives. But what caught my attention more was the sight of guests trying out the round-shaped, orange-sized and flat candies we served. If it was not a wake, I bet I would be doubling up with laughter seeing the difficulty some people had savoring the sweets.

“This is too hard for my taste!” a disgusted old man commented, revealing most of his teeth absent and lost long ago. Several tries later and the candy would not be divided in his mouth. He looked like a baby struggling with the pacifier.

“I never had this sweet candy before,” another remarked while licking hers instead of biting small parts bit by bit. She, too, was denied a perfect set of munching tools. Her ordeal could last much of the hour while the candy would only melt if she persisted.

“I can’t wait to finish mine,” an inventive fellow confessed, busy cutting his share with a knife. Like any Filipino, he would find another way to deal with a problem.

“Leave them alone!” a female voice ranted to the group. The old lady readily accepted her limitations and decided not to test her chewing power: she chose a cup of coffee and a small plate of biscuits instead.

I kept my peace and decided not to ruin my calm pose. Cold as ice is a description many people referred to my demeanor.

“It’s okay to smile, or even laugh.”

I did not recognize the person who uttered those words because there were numerous groups around me exchanging pleasantries and stories. Their animated conversations were spiced with quiet laughter and gaps of silence.

Well, he or she was correct, I had to admit. By then, I felt less guilty for having a sunnier disposition. It did not diminish whatsoever the genuine bereavement we shared.

More or less, I almost forgot why I brought those candies along in the first place. To be exact, the specialty was one of Father’s favorites.

Cultivate

A bit of sunshine, a bit of light rain, a bit of effort and a bit of time were added to the lack of power and lack of internet service, what did I get to accomplish? Plant vegetable seeds. 😀

Farming is not always hard work: it could be a lot of fun, too.

Three months ago, I joined the neighbors plant vegetables in their garden. (I did not plant at home because there were too many free-range chickens around. With their continuous search for worms and other insects, they scratched surfaces planted with vegetables.) Currently, all the vegetables are ready for personal consumption.

In the event I do not have something to pair with the plate of rice, I always go over to the neighbor’s garden and harvest some. With eggs ‘stolen’ from a nest of a laying hen, there are several variations of omelette that I cooked this week.

Let me see. Monday was bitter gourd omelette. I cut the fruit into thin slices and saute it with garlic and onions. I added the scrambled egg after a while. In five minutes, it was dinner time.

Tuesday, I used pechay (Chinese cabbage). With the leaves included, it looked more like green omelette.

Wednesday, it rained so I used sardines  in the omelette instead of vegetables. With cooked camote tops, the dish was complete.

Yesterday were eggplants. I peeled the skin of cooked eggplants, crushed them one by one with a spoon and dipped in a bowl of scrambled eggs. Individually, they were  fried in coconut oil,

No omelette today because the hen protested and pecked my hand so hard. The pain served me right for poaching her eggs. 😀

Instead, I had what I called vegetables rumble. Bitter gourd, eggplant, okra and squash were cooked together in coconut milk. I added two spoons of shrimp paste for flavor.

Overall, for the whole week, I estimated that I spent a hundred pesos (over two U.S. dollars) to buy ingredients that were not available at home.

Of course, some of my savings on food were spent on prepaid loads for internet service. I need to surf and blog, too. 😀

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Full

Fiesta, as we call it locally, is a religious celebration first and a food feast next. In a small community, every household prepares food for visitors. After the mass, people take the rounds to sample anything offered by hosts, much like a smorgasbord in a larger scale.

Once, I was pulled away from my field work by a friend to visit the town fiesta. He did emphasize that we would be there because of the free food.

I was reluctant at first due mainly to my aversion of eating at strangers’ houses. I could eat anywhere, even on the grass, as long as I was in my own turf.

After the fourth house, I was stuffed. I did manage to make my face shameless even though I could see the dagger looks of strangers who owned the houses we visited. I felt like a genuine freeloader.

On the contrary, my friend was enjoying himself. He did not care if people stared at his paper plate or when he came back for a second serving. He was an eating machine.

“Can we go home now?” I asked nearly burping in front of a beautiful lass. “I can’t take it anymore.”

“What’s the rush? I am not even halfway through.”

I thought my friend was joking. But I guess he was not because of the way he attacked the mountain-like contents of his plate. He was one hungry individual.

“You ate double of what I had,” I said incredulously, “and you say you’re still famished.”

He did not answer: his mouth was busy.

“I won’t go any further. This is my last stop.” I had to put my foot down so I could be spared from more embarrassment.

“One last house and we’re done,” he promised, raising his hand as if swearing an oath.

Of course, he broke his promise. We finished all the houses down the road.

When I thought he was already bloated, I was astounded by his next remark.

“Let’s go,” he said, having difficulty walking. “It’s nearly 12 noon. I don’t want to be late for lunch.”

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Modest

A Whisper says:

Simplicity could hide versatility.

Look closer for hidden talents.

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Substance

A Whisper says:

Can’t stay from you,

You make me lean!

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Tested

Sometimes there’s a scarcity of fish in the market, especially when there is a full moon. This causes even people living near the sea to search for something without tails and gills. 🙂

However, that was not my reason for deciding to trek to the coast. I needed the exercise. It’s that eating pure rice is not fun without the other ingredients besides fruits and vegetables to complete a meal.

The early morning walk was good. Invigorating. The air was cool and pure. The static life in the rural areas could be slow yet refreshing.

Four kilometers later, I already sensed the salty taste of air. The sound of waves reached my ears like echoes from playful waters caressing the sandy shore.

Swarms of people populated the beach like they were crabs looking for food. Crawling on their knees and scratching the sand with a stick or with bare hands, the object of their desires were the small shellfish that were washed ashore the night before.

While I stood in awe of the magnificent view, a neighbor called out to me and waved me to join him and his son. When I reached their spot, their small buckets were already half-filled with assorted shellfish.

Eager to go home with something to show for my effort, I began my own search. It looked so easy but as minutes passed without luck, I wished someone would offer me a hand.

To make it looked worse, the boy next to me was more fortunate. I had three wee shellfish to show while he had dug up bigger ones with apparent ease.

“Like to have a contest?” the kid asked me. He poured what was on his bucket to his father’s We had to start from scratch.

“Okay,” I accepted without blinking an eye.

Boy or not, I did not want to lose face. I had to outwit him and showed him how adults win always in the end.

The sun’s heat at mid-morning prevented us to stay for long. We had to move along.

So, to cut the story short, I lost to the boy. His father did not let the incident pass and ribbed me no end on the way home.

As consolation, the boy handed me his haul accompanied with a grin. Winning the battle made his day. He was magnanimous in victory.

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Playful

“I like it hot!”

This was the same opening dialogue I got from my first girl decades ago. 😀

Barely over the age of fifteen, I was automatically all ears as to what she really had in mind. The sensual expression alone sent mixed signals to my brain. To equate the phrase to sex was understandable at that age of adolescence.

I commanded myself, “hold that thought. Never presume and then assume the following events.” I even tried to banish the thought to keep myself in control.

“Close your eyes. Imagine your tongue.”

What! I imagined herself having a great time leading me on.

Naturally, I got excited. (Or, more like absolutely excited.)

“Nope! No peeking!” she admonished with bated breath.

I did not know what to do. My hormones were getting wild.

“Now! Open them!”

Before I could jump (not at her) with joy, I saw the table in front of me. Call me a what you would but I expected something out of the ordinary.

“Surprise!” she smiled angelically.

Oh, yes, I was surprised all right. Not the ‘real’ surprise I wanted though.

“So good!” I exclaimed, after a test taste. “I want it.”

(Thank God. I did not fumble my pronouns.)

“Want some more?” she asked while watching my face.

“Yes! Give it to me!”

Later, while I was on the sofa caressing my belly, I almost forgot what was the fuss all about. The chili-flavored meat sauce on top of freshly-cooked pasta erased all the mental gymnastics in my brain.

But it was quite clear: like her, I like it hot! 😀

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