Sunday, May 25, 2014

1950’s Kitchen

   In the mid 50’s we lived in my grandmother's six unit apartment with my mother's siblings in the other units. My cousins were like my brothers and sisters. 

   Mom was the envy of her neighbors and relatives.  My Dad was a US Navy man and received dollar allotment whenever he was abroad.  Allotment meant a portion of her husband’s salary was sent to her directly by the US government.  We had two housemaids while other families had one or none.  She had an American kitchen in the middle of Pasay City.  That means a four burner GE electric range and a tall two door Frigidaire refrigerator, rare in the 50s.  

   My Dad came home for vacation once every two years or three.  Each time he brought home a kitchen gadget from America.  The first thing was the bread toaster.  The family only had loaf for occasions and did not need toasting, Mom called it pan-Americano.  We got fresh baked pandisal every morning from the corner store two doors away.  Pandisal does not fit in the toaster.  The toaster became a kitchen décor. 

   Next was a potato peeler.  Before that thing arrived we peeled everything with a knife.  A lot of demonstrations went on that day.  My Dad peeled everything he could lay his hands on from the fridge for example green papaya, potato, singkamas, etc.  The neighbors and family came to see about the marvelous new invention.  Another reason to envy Mom.  

Ice Cream Maker
   After the peeler came the ice cream maker.  It has a container that would churn the mixture of fruits, sugar and milk and create homemade ice cream.  After Dad left for his naval station Mom put the ice cream maker in storage.  It was too much trouble and expense to use.  Ice cream in the Philippines was brought to our door for 5 centavos a cone.

   Next was an electric can opener.  Dad demonstrated how to use the gadget.  He opened all the can goods in the pantry, even those that had a key one used to roll off a slice of the tin can to separate the top, like sardines and corned beef.  

   On another vacation, it was a pressure cooker.  This time no one came to look.  It wasn’t as magical as the potato peeler or electric can opener.  Again my Dad demonstrated how to use the pressure cooker.  Making sure my Mom understood perfectly that this thing could explode if not used correctly.  He said there has been some burn casualties, people who unlocked the lid too soon or did not follow instructions carefully.  I was watching the demonstration and got the message very clearly.  I grew up and never bought or used a pressure cooker in my life.  Even here in America I cook sinigang the old way, tenderizing meat by boiling in a regular pot rather than deal with my fear of a pressure cooker exploding.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Jeepney Dispatcher

   Vicky moved to Las Piñas when her sons were in high school.  She had an old black Beetle Volkswagen which they used only for family trips.  She preferred to take the jeepney going in and out of their village to the main road which has the malls, cinemas and a wet market.  

   In the madness of packing and resettling Vicky went to market without make-up with her hair simply tied at the back wearing shabby clothes.  The jeepney dispatcher whose job was to make sure the jeepneys were loaded and the passengers were properly lined up mistook her for a housemaid.  The man who had tattoos and homeless thin got friendly with Vicky.  She got friendly back.  Every time their path crossed they said hello.  Then the dispatcher started to ignore her.  She realized he must have seen her driving and realized she was not a housemaid and that he did not merit her friendship.  When Vicky saw the man with a little girl she found an opportunity to get reacquainted.  She stopped to complement the girl who turned out to be his daughter.  Their passing friendship was back on.

   When her sons saw their mother being friendly with the dispatcher they voiced their disapproval as soon as they got home.  The boys said the man looks like a criminal and might try to rob them.  Vicky said she didn’t share their opinion and thought the man meant no harm.  

   Some months later successive hold-ups have been reported along the jeepney route.  They said the robbers got on the jeepney from the passenger line.  The community got alarmed.  There was no telling which jeepney could be carrying robbers.  Then Vicky’s sons heard the dispatcher has been picked up as the mastermind.  

   As soon as they got home they lashed at her with their ‘We told you so!’.  They were surprised at their mother’s response.  She asked the boys “Have you ever been robbed on the jeepney ride home?”  To which they said “No.”  

   “Don’t you think we owe that to my befriending the dispatcher?”  

   To this day Vicky wonders whatever happened to the man and his little girl, wishing him well.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Email Ordered Wife – 2nd Edition

   The book, The Email Ordered Wife was launched in 2012.  In 2013 the person on whom the character named Gina was based went home to the Philippines for a vacation.  She got reunited with her treasure box which she entrusted her daughter-in-law Jenny to keep when she left for America.  In the box were letters.  The Second Edition now includes the content of those letters as the person on whom the character was based finally speaks for himself.  

   The Second Edition of The Email Ordered Wife was published in April of 2014.  It included a Filipino custom that was particular with the province of Cavite called “ubusan ng lahi.”  It meant if a family member is killed, the surviving family members don’t go to the authorities but takes out one in the killer’s family and the cycle goes on till no one is left standing in both families. 

   In the Epilogue, a puzzling dream was unraveled by events that occurred between the first edition’s publication and the second edition, a time frame of approximately 18 months.  The dream came to her some 14 years prior.  

   Hence the Second Edition is more than an edition.  It is an addendum to a story of  star-crossed lovers spanning 35 years and two continents.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cousin Rey – The Mountain Climber

   My father was stationed for a couple of years in Subic Bay, Olongapo City, Zambales.  It was 1959 when my cousin Rey spent his summer vacation with us.   He was 15 and I was 7.  

   The street where we lived was a dead end.   A mountain stood at the end of it, steep and green like a mysterious giant.   At a time when there was no television or video games to keep the children home, cousin Rey was intrigued by the mountain.  There was none of it in Pasay City where he came from.   He wanted to climb it but he has never climbed a mountain before.   He wasn't sure he wanted to do it alone. Since he was new in the neighborhood he had no one to take with him except me, little me and a girl at that.  He would be in trouble with my parents if we fell off or some wildlife bit us.  It was a big responsibility for a boy of 15 but it was an adventure of a lifetime.  

   I wanted to climb with him.  I didn't give the mountain a thought till cousin Rey told me he planned on climbing.  Like any 7 year old I had no doubt we could do it and that it would be safe and easy.  I convinced cousin Rey, fed his curiosity.  

   Cousin Rey was encouraged.  We planned on it.  Mountain climbing would take some hours so we scheduled it for when my parents would be busy and not miss us.  We didn’t need gears like real mountain climbers.  Jeans and slippers were fine.  

   When we got to the foot of the mountain there was no pathway, no stairway of any sort just dirt with vegetation going up from the ground where we stood.  Cousin Rey started to survey for a first step up which led to the next.  He held on to trees to keep our footing with his right hand and gripped my hand with his left.  There were some spots where my feet did not cooperate.  On those spots Cousin Rey lifted me up to the next level.  

   When we got to the top I could feel my 15 year old cousin Rey felt like a full grown man.  Mainly because I felt like a full grown woman at 7.  We savored the view from the top.  We could see all the way to the edge of Olongapo where the ocean starts.  

   Coming down the mountain was more difficult than we thought.  Gravity pulled us down before each step could set on the ground.  We encountered a wild dog and I was terrified but cousin Rey was used to dealing with dogs.  His family always had one.  We got some scrapes and bumps but those were our trophies.  

   It was an unforgettable moment.  Not only because of the bragging value of the exercise but we grew a bond few relatives got the chance to share.  That bond would last a lifetime and extend to our children.  Cousin Rey and I agreed to keep our mountain climbing a secret to save us from spanking by our parents.  This is the first time I am telling this story.  To this day our parents, three of whom have died never heard of it.

See also:
Remembering Cousin Rey 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Fighter’s Mom

   As seen by those who caught the latest Pacquiao vs. Bradley fight on HBO, Pacquiao was called a force of nature.  At the end of the fight, when he was declared a winner Pacquiao’s mother joined him in the ring and rightly so.  Pacquiao was raised by a Filipina to be that “force of nature” with 56 wins (38 knockouts, 18 decisions) under his belt.  

   After Bradley gave her son a head butt in the last round as what seems to be a futile attempt to get even for losing the fight Pacquiao’s mother gave Bradley a hug in a show of sportsmanship few mothers can do.  I applaud Manny not only for keeping his mother in his life as few successful men have done but most of all sharing his success with her as rare boxers have done up on that ring.  

   Was it easy to watch her son get punched?  Surely not for any mom.  Manny Pacquiao has become a politician in his country.  That should have been enough for any mom to lobby for boxing retirement, a career change for a more physically safe future.  Pacquiao’s mom knew his winning every fight is for the Filipino people back in those islands.  The fighter’s success brings more pride and joy to the nation than any of his fellow congressmen most of whom are busy lining up their pockets with public funds.  Pacquiao’s slim physique fuels his swift punches, his foot work like a dance.  However it is his humble demeanor that makes the man a representative of his nation.  That and having a mother who is not shy to climb that boxing ring and claim her fifteen minutes of fame as a reward for the lifelong job of raising her son to be a winner.  

   To a Filipina motherhood  is not just a responsibility handed by fate.  Motherhood is a gift from God and should not be taken for granted.  Most Filipinas despite being a breadwinner with their right hand chart the life of their sons and daughters with their left.  It’s a thankless job but someone’s got to do it. 

Post Script:
   She has found a man! Let's be happy for her.