If The Ground Could Speak

Mural on the grounds of Ston, on the Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia, August 29, 2014, (c) photo by Likeitiz

Mural on the grounds of Ston, on the Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia, August 29, 2014, (c) photo by Likeitiz

We joined friends for a trip to Croatia in the Summer of 2014. The Dalmatian Coast was in all its summertime splendor.  One of the towns we visited during a day trip was Ston, on the Peljesac Peninsula.

We spent some time walking around the town, with its old buildings and walkways. The walled fortress extends all the way up and around for about 5 kilometers. There were the saltworks, said to be one of the sources of high-quality sea salt in the world.

Map of Ston and the walled fortress, August 29, 2014, (c) Photo by Likeitiz

Map of Ston and the walled fortress, August 29, 2014, (c) Photo by Likeitiz

As we walked the grounds, I could not help but wonder, if the ground could speak, what stories would it tell? From the time of the Roman conquests B.C. through the Ottoman Empire, through various Croatian kings, Hungarian unions, through the tearing apart of the old Yugoslavia. Today, it is occupied mostly by families from Dubrovnik.

My hubby taking a break on a shaded walkway in Ston, Croatia, August 29, 2014, (c) Photo by Likeitiz

My hubby taking a break on a shaded walkway in Ston, Croatia. Notice how the wall extends all the way up that mountain.  August 29, 2014, (c) Photo by Likeitiz

I would recommend visiting the Dalmatian Coast. It is such a beautiful country with warm and accommodating people.

This post was inspired by Cheri Lucas Rowlands’ call to WordPress members for an interpretation of “Beneath Your Feet.”

Posted in Croatia, Daily Post Challenge, Dubrovnik, Ston, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Daughter Chronicles: A Confusing Term

IOWA CITY, IOWA - APRIL 3: Gay, lesbian and transgender activists react to the unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court earlier in the day recognizing same sex marriage as a civil right during a celebration on April 3, 2009 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images), www.hiffingtonpost.com

IOWA CITY, IOWA – APRIL 3: Gay, lesbian and transgender activists react to the unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court earlier in the day recognizing same-sex marriage as a civil right during a celebration on April 3, 2009 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images), http://www.huffingtonpost.com

I was on the way to work when I heard Monday morning’s segment from the Perspectives Series of KQED.  Clyde Wadsworth applauds Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the historic Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality (Obergefell v. Hodges). However, he has taken issue with the elderly justice’s portrayal of single people as “condemned to live in loneliness.”  Is it time to rally for the rights of those single by choice?  It is, after all, a personal freedom, regardless of religious or political affiliation.

When our daughter was a bubbly kindergarten student at St. George’s in Toronto, she received a gift of several different playing cards. They were all colorful, partly educational (think bright colors and illustrations for a game called Concentration), and mostly, for fun, to pass the time on say, a road trip or while staying indoors on a rainy day.  One deck of cards was for a game called “Old Maid.”  Our daughter had always expressed puzzlement over why there was only one card with a cartoon of a gray-haired bespectacled woman. She also used to jump with such glee when she ended up with the lone card. After all, the object of the game was NOT to end up with the “Old Maid” card. But to her, it was a winning card.

Old Maid playing cards, photo courtesy of www.landofnod.com

Old Maid playing cards, photo courtesy of http://www.landofnod.com

We tried to explain to her the societal construct behind the game. She refused to accept the explanation. Why would being old be a disadvantage? Why would you be a loser if you were a single woman? What if people did not want to be married? Or have children? They can still be happy, she reasoned. Her nanny, Rizza, who she was very fond of, was single, she pointed out. Rizza’s husband was with someone else. So Rizza was raising her children by herself. And, she’s doing just fine. So, there’s nothing wrong there, she would tell us, with much conviction.  We thought at the time that the complexities of life as one gets older may be too difficult to explain.

She also recalled some much admired aunts who have remained single (never married) and she wondered if they just never found the right person they wanted to spend their lives with or if they were happy coming and going as they pleased, unrestricted, untethered. All this from a thoughtful precocious four-year old!

She was right all along, of course. It was not long before the game fell out of favor and the set of cards somehow got misplaced and was forgotten. Over the years, we stopped seeing them in the neighborhood toy store. Someone out there must have come to the same conclusion as our daughter. It is after all, a cruel label that should be tossed into the world of the obsolete.

In some parts of the world, the attitudes have not really changed. There are still the well-meaning barrio elders or doting grandmothers who would bluntly ask, in public, “Why are you not married yet?” To them, the default ideal state was perpetual marital bliss with children in tow.  Sometimes, this is followed by a diatribe of consequences such as graphic descriptions of biological deteriorations or a pathetic fate into obscurity unless a suitable life partner is found.

Perhaps, one more generation has to cycle for attitudes to really change.

Posted in Civil Unions, Marriage, Marriage Equality, same-sex marriage, Single by Choice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Saturday Postcard

Postcard that arrived in the mail, photo by Likeitiz

Postcard that arrived in the mail, photo by Likeitiz

The letter carrier brought a treat to our home today.  A postcard from Hawaii.  They remembered the ritual.  I’m fuzzy and warm all over. I’ve been hugged.

I have said time and again that hand writing little notes and mailing them out is fast becoming a lost art. But why does it still give such exquisite pleasure when it makes its way to one’s doorstep?

One can argue that it does not help the trees that have to die to create the cardboard. Nor does it alleviate the carbon footprint of transporting communications over land and sea.  Email or text or social media should suffice, right?  But does it?

I get the emails. I get the social media postings. But they are so fleeting.  One glance, then delete. Or forget. But a postcard in my hand or posted on the refrigerator door is a glance away from remembering the gesture. And the affection that surrounds it.

FB Postings of Hikes and Sunrises in Hawaii, photos by Wyatt Roy

FB Postings of Hikes and Sunrises in Hawaii, photos by Wyatt Roy

In this one practice, I make no excuses. Call me outdated, old-fashioned, even antiquated. I thoroughly enjoy receiving them! If this is one guilty pleasure I have to cling to resolutely  until I can’t possibly read anymore, well, I shall!

Posted in Handwritten Letter, Hawaii, Hiking, Postcards, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

About The Half Cookie

I did say that one day, we will talk about these events, such as addressing envelopes while considering travel tags and beach bags, and we might have a good laugh. So, I thought I might memorialize some of these for future laughs here.

I did not notice that you snuck away for a second from facing the printer with your laptop on your lap. I was still stuck with you holding your breath every time the printer rumbled efficiently until it spat out a properly formatted envelope. Or not.

There you were returning a little apologetically, head peeking in first, “Is it okay if I only took half a cookie? It’s so good but I know I should not take all of it.”

Of course it’s okay. How can it be not be?

Half Cookie photo courtesy of EatJxn Erin who reviewed the Cowboy cookie from Broad Street Bakery, Jackson, MS. See what it's about at:  http://eatjackson.com/blog/2014/06/12/cowboy-cookie/

Half Cookie photo courtesy of EatJxn Erin who reviewed the Cowboy cookie from Broad Street Bakery, Jackson, MS. See what it’s about at: http://eatjackson.com/blog/2014/06/12/cowboy-cookie/

But then, I wanted to add but refrained: I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into. You are about to marry a notoriously unconscionable chocolate candy taster!

Remember the box of chocolates that Forrest Gump used to carry while he waited at the bus stop?  Well, we get a couple of those a year from friends and business associates. At this house, whenever I get around to opening any of them, they have all been picked on, with rejects half eaten or nibbled on and returned to the box. Yes! Teeth marks and all!

You might think it’s cute now. Wait until you have to contend with rejected halves of chocolates the umpteenth time. I would recommend that you get to the boxes first!

As for the well-meaning friends and family who want to do this and that for you at this time in your life, I say, “Let them!”  We are always mindful that we should be generous givers. We also have to know how to be gracious receivers.

Posted in Family, Wedding, Wedding Invitations, Wedding Preparations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wolf Going, Gone!

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Posted in Betta Fish, Death, Illness, Pet Fish, Pets | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Daughter Chronicles: Of Beheaded Barbies and Blind Beanie Babies

Beheaded Barbie by Parker Yee, photo by Lily Yee

Beheaded Barbie by Parker Yee, photo by Lily Yee

I remember traveling to Europe with my mother and my sister, Manette, in the Spring of 1980. We had just graduated, she from high school and me from college. This was to be our graduation gift. We had joined a tour that was to begin in California This was to be our one and only experience in a tour group. We quickly learned that the regimented frenetic rush from one site to the next, staying long enough for a few camera clicks was just not our  idea of exploring the world.

The tour group was composed mostly of people my mother’s age, with a sprinkling of awkward teens like us. Through the trip, we oohed and ahhed over the sites, soaked up the foreign-ness of the culture and customs, and indulged on the varied cuisines. We also noticed some smaller details.

A few ladies washed their hair only every so often. They timed these tasks when the hotel we would stay in had a salon. Their hair was always perfectly coiffed. You have to understand, we came from a tropical country, where it was not unheard of to shower more than once a day.

They repeated their clothes!  Living in a suitcase forced you to do that. We learned we had to wear our jeans more than once before we washed them on the tub at night. Again, in the tropics, we just could not do that without risking the social faux pas of body odor preceding us. What’s more, when you wash your clothes, they are usually dry within that morning from the heat. So, there is no excuse. But, not in the temperate climates, we learned.

Hummel Figurine Titled Sunshower, Original MI Hummel Collection, as seen on www.cuckooclocks.com

Hummel Figurine Titled Sunshower, Original MI Hummel Collection, as seen on http://www.cuckooclocks.com

They collected all sorts of things. Hummel figurines, demitasse spoons with the town or country’s emblem, key chains, fridge magnets, or whatever else was peddled by the tourist traps that draped around the major sites.

I had often wondered what happened after the gush of discovery, the lining up to pay, and the lugging around in suitcases. Over the years, I have been privy to a few kitchens and family rooms adorned with these memorabilia.

I have repeatedly asked to myself, “Then what?”

What does one do with these things? These collectibles? I am reminded of Roz Chast’s memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, which is about taking care of her elderly parents on their last few years. She talked about having to close their apartment when they were finally moved to assisted living, but not before Roz had the gargantuan task of organizing, discarding, sorting, and discarding about 70 years of pack rats’ lives.

Vintage Fine Silver Demitasse Souvenir Spoon, as seen on www.ebay.ie

Vintage Fine Silver Demitasse Souvenir Spoon, as seen on http://www.ebay.ie

In the 31 years that I have been married, I did make a few attempts at collecting something. I figured it made for interesting conversation. I rationalized it would make for a novel side preoccupation, one I could call my own. I had collected vintage stamps and coins when I was in high school. (I was disappointed to hear later that my mother had given the entire collection away when she packed our home in Manila to renovate our house. I had married and moved to Toronto by then.) It all started when I found an old Japanese-made English teapot in an antiques store near Haliburton, Ontario.

I discovered that I was an efficient collector. It did not take long to accumulate a significant number of tea pots. I thought of how I might want to display them. But my abhorrence for the cluttered look prevented me. And so, I stopped. Cold.

I started asking myself, “What will happen to the teapots when I’m gone? My daughter would not care for so many. She likes tea, but not this much.  Also, most homes have hot water dispensers now. So having to go through all that trouble to fill a kettle, boil the water and all that has become unnecessary.

Close up shot of a massive Barbie sculpture as featured on Huffington Post, Photo by Sculpture By The Sea.

Close up shot of a massive Barbie sculpture as featured on Huffington Post, Photo by Sculpture By The Sea.

When our daughter was growing up, she received a Barbie doll as a present. This was soon followed by another from a well-meaning relative who lived far away. Pretty soon, she had a few she could line up on a table. Some were considered “premium” for the outfit they were wearing. There were two I recalled that had the word “collectible” on their boxes. None of these mattered. Soon, all the Barbies were naked. And headless. The tiaras and other adornments were nowhere to be found. So much for this collection.

And then there were the cute huggable Beanie Babies. I learned that some families held parties just for the purpose of showing these accumulated cuddlies. They did fill our daughter’s bed for a brief period. Then they became soldiers in combat or imaginary hostages needing rescue missions. Needless to say, a few became casualties of war. There were those who came back sans limb, eyes, ears, or whiskers. So much for that collection too!

A whole lot of Beanie Babies as features in thingsifoundatthethriftstore.wordpress.com, titled Plight of the Beanie Babies

A whole lot of Beanie Babies as features in thingsifoundatthethriftstore.wordpress.com, titled Plight of the Beanie Babies

What happens when the world is overrun with beheaded Barbies, beanie babies with missing limbs, or discarded demitasse spoons? Can all the landfills of the world ever accommodate them once they have worn out their welcome?  Would we need such expansive living spaces if we did not hoard so much?

I had said in my welcome to 2015 post that I would live the next 365 days with two important realizations. Well, here’s a third one that I started soon after I wrote that post. Simplify. Cull. De-clutter. De-bulk.

At first, it seemed like such a daunting task. But when I broke it down to one cabinet or drawer at a time, it became doable. Not insurmountable. And believe me! You could not imagine some of the things I found. My let’s-find-you-a-new-home pile was neck and neck with the recycle pile.

Fait Accompli! Debulked, de-cluttered, and simplified my closet!

Fait Accompli! Debulked, de-cluttered, and simplified my closet!

And, after each reorganized closet, ahh! The satisfaction!

P.S. I can’t help but wonder. I keep hearing about how, in spite of the U.S. Economy supposedly emerging from the abyss, with jobs available again, retailers for durable goods are still complaining. The GDP has still not improved. Could it be that the seemingly insatiable appetite for ownership of any and all merchandise dangled in front of us has finally waned? Has America gotten over the nouveau riche proclivities? Certainly, our children’s’ generation thinks nothing of all these trappings. Theirs is the generation that shares almost everything. Goodwill store finds are vintage. Mismatched table ware is au courant.  Most don’t even want nor see the need to own their own vehicle. There’s always Uber or Lyft to take them places. I envy their lack of attachment.

Posted in Family, Memoir, Memorabilia, mother-daughter relationship, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beau Among the Daffodils

It’s been a few days since I got back from my long trip. On the night I arrived, it was quite dark by the time we drove into our driveway.

Daffodils all blooming in our front yard. (C) Photo Credit Likeitiz

Daffodils all blooming in our front yard. (C) Photo Credit Likeitiz

The next morning, over coffee, my hubby asked, “Have you seen your flowers yet, Hon? They’re all blooming outside.”

Daffodils along our driveway, Photo Credit Likeitiz

Daffodils along our driveway, Photo Credit Likeitiz

True enough, my daffodils were in full bloom. The buds were starting to come out when we left late in February. I was concerned about the premature sprouting, which was encouraged by our unseasonable warm winter. I was afraid of a sudden frost that might just choke them. But, here they are!

Beau among the Daffodils, Photo Credit Likeitiz

Beau among the Daffodils, Photo Credit Likeitiz

Even Beau has been walking around looking at the bright beauties with much curiosity. I can’t blame him. They are a sight to behold. Ah, indeed, Spring is here.

Posted in daffodils, Flowers, spring | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

An Open Letter To My High School Friends

I’m back in my comfortable home in California and finally able to sit in front of my computer after putting away the luggage and its contents. Please forgive me if I have chosen to meander into philosophical musings.

Dinner at Sugi Japanese Restaurant, Greenbelt 3, Makati City, Philippines, February 27, 2015, with Cynthia CuUnjient-Bunag, Baby Goyena-Herrera, Tessa Gana-Cadiz, Loudette Zaragoza-Banson, Candy Monserrat-Blaylock, Ito Martinez-Gruet, Binggay Benares-Fragante, Mary-Ann Yee-OrtizLuis

Dinner at Sugi Japanese Restaurant, Greenbelt 3, Makati City, Philippines, February 27, 2015, with Cynthia CuUnjieng-Bunag, Baby Goyena-Herrera, Tessa Gana-Cadiz, Loudette Zaragoza-Banson, Candy Monserrat-Blaylock, Ito Martinez-Gruet, Binggay Benares-Fragante, and Mary-Ann Yee-OrtizLuis

After more than 30 years of living in another continent, I’m grateful that circumstances have required me to return to Manila more often in the recent years. My parents are getting older. They have been spending more time in Manila. My work responsibilities have changed. There are meetings to attend and people to interact with at the parent company there. With each journey, I have reconnected with old friends, thanks to some very inclusive and persistent classmates!

They say that sibling bonds are unique. More than our bond with our parents, our spouses, or our children. No other relation is so cradle-to-grave than siblings. It’s a connection that is lifelong and when you meet after a long absence, you can pick up right from where you left off.  I can say the same for childhood friends.

Post New Year's Brunch at Carmel Mission Ranch Restaurant, with Freddy and Baby Herrera, January 2015

Post New Year’s Brunch at Carmel Mission Ranch Restaurant, with Freddy and Baby Herrera, January 2015

You see, we all witnessed one another’s becoming. We all went through our childhood then adolescent awkward stages: the white socks neatly folded at three inches above the ankle and worn with shiny mary-janes, the giggly girl-talks, or the late night confessions of heart-thumping crushes. The hasty notes passed discreetly from hand to hand as Ms. Fredeswinda wrote on the blackboard. The raised knowing brows over Mrs. Magtaas’ “Is it not, class? Is it not?” (Did she really expect a response? I remember this now with great fondness.) We shared each other’s first periods with its cohort of pelvic cramps and miserable stains, the painful breast buds, and even those god-awful zits.

We were one another’s confidants, patintero-mates, cheering squad, and co-conspirators of all our coming-of-age forays. We were together in the triumphs at elocution contests, GAL games, and inter-scholastic meets. There were the boyfriends and for some, the gender awakenings. We were one another’s tormentors, critics, and even rivals. Through it all, we argued, snubbed one another, parted ways, came together, made up and became chums again. And we came away wiser, more patient, and more emotionally capable because of it. We always had big shoulders for each other’s miseries, through family upheavals and untimely deaths, school transgressions, even our own personal foibles getting the worst of us.

Dinner at Fely J's, Greenbelt 5, Makati City, Philippines, March 5, 2015, with Cynthia CuUnjieng-Bunag, Tinay Lopa, Tessa Gana-Cadiz, Kay O'Pallick-Guidote, Marisa Puyat-Tantoco, Binggay Benares, JimJam Monponbanua-Caedo, Candy Monserrat-Blaylock, and Mary-Ann Yee-OrtizLuis

Dinner at Fely J’s, Greenbelt 5, Makati City, Philippines, March 5, 2015, with Cynthia CuUnjieng-Bunag, Tinay Lopa, Tessa Gana-Cadiz, Kay O’Pallick-Guidote, Marisa Puyat-Tantoco, Binggay Benares, JimJam Monponbanua-Caedo, Candy Monserrat-Blaylock, and Mary-Ann Yee-OrtizLuis

Deep down, we still know one another well enough. There is the sweet one. The funny one. The needy one. The ornery one. The athlete. The scientist. The artist. We recognize one another’s failings and we accept them because now, more than anytime in our lives, we have learned to accept ourselves and one another for who we are, as they say, warts and all. And because of all we’ve been through together, we forgive each other more easily. We might roll our eyes every now and then. But, we don’t vote anyone “out of the tribe.” We have learned that it’s all right that we are as different as we are the same. We can make fun, but it’s never out of malice. We laugh at each other’s idiosyncrasies. But, we also laugh at ourselves. And it’s because we’re that comfortable with one another. Or, better yet, we have stopped caring. Growing older does that to you.

Nowadays, we commiserate over sagging jowls, grays, and expanding girths. We laugh at our memory lapses, back aches, and diverse preoccupations. Think ballroom dancing or chi gong. Hiking the Pyrenees or teaching indigent children. Cooking for the homeless at dawn or cleaning up a polluted beach. We mourn the passing of our parents and even some of our peers. But we celebrate each other’s expanding families and new beginnings. We look forward to new life stages and experiences. When we get together for lunch or dinner, whether at Sugi or Fely J’s, we share this all amid the food we all grew up on. Once again, in this thing we call life, we are travel buddies. And that is good.

Screen shot of our High School Viber Chat Group

Screen shot of our High School Viber Chat Group

 

Posted in Assumption High School, Childhood Friends, Friendship, High School Friends, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Daughter Chronicles: Consequences

Lara with Luke, our Gold Lab when he was four months old. Photo Credit Likeitiz

Lara with Luke, our Gold Lab when he was four months old. Photo Credit Likeitiz

It was like any ordinary late summer evening in 1997.  Most days, it was still warm and sunny, but the nights were getting cooler.  The sun had just about disappeared when we all sat in the kitchen for dinner.

“Lara has something to tell us,” my hubby suggested. “We visited Mr. Dobbs’ office today.”  “We” really meant Lara and maybe a few other students.

Mr. Dobbs was West School’s principal, where our daughter was enrolled in third grade.

I looked at both of them. And?

My eyebrows must have gone up.  Lara looked from her father to me and back. She set down her spoon on her plate and took a deep breath.

“It wasn’t all my fault,” she reasoned.

“What happened?” I asked.

“We wanted to play ball after lunch. But the door to the classroom was locked.” She said, disappointment all over her face.

My hubby and I waited, expectantly. “We needed to win against the other class. We beat them yesterday. They beat us the day before.”

Pause again. “But the door was locked.”

“Then what?” I prodded, gently.

“Michael was banging on the door. He was getting mad. I found a paper clip on the floor. So I tried to open the lock with the paper clip.”  This time she was looking at her plate.

I let out a laugh. My hubby was amused too. “Did you really think you could pick a lock with a paper clip? That’s just in the movies!”

“Yeah but someone saw us and told the recess monitors. So we were sent to Mr. Dobb’s office.” She was obviously annoyed and afraid at this point.

“What did Mr. Dobbs say to you?”

“He said we needed to be careful because we could destroy school property.”

“That is true. Banging on the door and inserting a paperclip in a lock can ruin a door.” I said, in as neutral a tone I could muster. “What else did he say?”

“He said it’s up to our parents to hear about it. He said he will call you if he hears about us doing anything like that again.”

We had always maintained that we wanted our daughter to participate in thinking through her actions and their consequences.  We also encouraged her early on to decide on the consequence of a negative behavior, so she can weigh in on what the appropriate consequence is.

This entire event was really, a non-event, as far as we were concerned. However, we did not realize the effect of having been sent to the principal’s office had on her.  We were quite shocked by what followed in our discussion.

“What do you think? What should we do about this?” My hubby posed the open-ended question.

She looked at us with pleading eyes. She looked away. Then, she quietly said, “I guess I will not watch TV for a month.”

My hubby and I looked at each other. We did not expect such a harsh penalty. In fact, we did not really think the entire incident was consequence-worthy, let alone principal-worthy.

TV was only allowed on Friday night and/or Saturday afternoon or evening, when we happened to be home. Most times we were outdoors.  But my hubby decided to play along.

“Okay. So no TV for a month then.” He smiled and started to eat.

And so, we did not get to watch Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, or Ren & Stimpy for a month.  We were not a household obsessed with electronic devices back then. We strongly discouraged Gameboys, Nintendo, and the like, through her childhood.  We played a lot of Carmen San Diego and Math Blaster on the computer. These we wanted to encourage, of course. So, it made sense that she would think of the TV as her “peace-offering cum penance.”

What we did more for that month was play Monopoly, Life, and beginners’ Scrabble. We made more trips to the bookstore and the public library for more books to read.

We also learned that our child was developing a strong moral conscience. She was hardest on herself so early in her life.

Posted in Childhood Memories, growing up, Moral Issues, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Uber Seafood Feast

My hubby and I visited his family when we arrived in Manila late last week. He cajoled our sister-in-law to do her seafood feast for all of us who are in town. She beamed and accepted the challenge.

Yesterday, after braving the tortuous quagmire that was playing out on EDSA, a major thoroughfare in Manila, we settled on the table that sister-in-law, Josette, had orchestrated.

She said she was up bright and early, and off to the farmers’ market to gather the components of her artistic vision of what the banquet was to be.

When we were all ready to sit and partake of the feast, we could not help but spend a few minutes reveling in the luscious sight.

The Uber Seafood Feast at the Ortiz-Luis home in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, February 24, 2015. Photo credit (c) Likeitiz

The über Seafood Feast at the Ortiz-Luis home in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, February 24, 2015. Photo credit (c) Likeitiz

She laid out large banana leaves on the dining table. Then one by one, the food came in from the grill, the oven, the fryer, the chopping boards. Crisp tart green mangoes sliced and paired with fermented shrimp paste (bagoong). Bitter melon (ampalaya) salad paired with red onions, carrots, jicama dressed in local vinegar and spices with just the right amount of chili for the kick at the tip, not to overpower.  Fiddlehead ferns were blanched and became the bed for the Crimson ripe tomatoes and salted eggs.*  There was also a salad of popping seaweed (it pops in your mouth!) that had a natural slight salty taste and paired with more fresh greens. There were grilled whole tomatoes and eggplant. There were crisp steamed asparagus.

There was the sawsawan. These are condiments combined uniquely for specific faire. But there are really no rigid rules. You are allowed to interchange them as you please.

There were different kinds of fermented shrimp, fish sauces, seasoned soy sauce, vinegars with pickled whole chilis that could bring tears to the most fearless. On a large white spouted bowl was a yellow milky liquid. It turned out to be mashed unripened tamarind. We were taught to mix it with fermented shrimp paste. It made for a versatile dipping sauce with the right amount of souring, saltiness, and umami.

Then there was the parade of seafood. The fish were said to still be splashing around when they were brought home. The tilapia and catfish (hito in Tagalog) were fried to crispy heads and tips. The milkfish (bangus in Tagalog) were stuffed with tomatoes, onions and spices then grilled outdoors.  The crabs, langoustine, and giant shrimp were steamed malasado and claws were cracked for easy meat extraction. The scallops and mussels were topped and baked.

Of course the four-legged camp had to be represented. So, there were clusters of longanisa (sausage), some all the way from Alaminos, Pangasinan, and some supplied by a local artisan.  There were mounds of steamed white rice shaped to anchor all the flavors.

And as though all this was not enough, one cousin brought some fresh-made Chinese style lumpia (more like a stuffed soft crepe) complete with the nori (dried seaweed) and vegetables.

Did you notice there were no plates? We ate on the banana leaves. We picked our own little spot and we helped ourselves to whatever lay before us and wherever our noses took us.

Through it all, we washed it all down with sparkling water, dalandan (a native citrus fruit, not quite an orange, not a lime either) juice, buko (young coconut) juice. We had fresh fruits and buko pandan dessert to cap off the meal. Someone put the coffee pot on. A few asked for tea.

As we peeled ourselves away slowly from the table and on to the verandah, some us were handed glasses of brandy.  We sat around remembering the sweet crab, the succulent shrimp, and crisp edges of the fish. The day was almost over. It was time to move on, contemplate some work, and head out into the traffic for our next stop.

This post is my ode to a most special meal.

*These are traditionally duck or goose eggs cooked and then brined in a saturated salt solution for 18-21 days.

Posted in Filipino Food, Food, Grilled Stuffed Bangus, Seafood Feast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments