Saturday, October 28, 2006


I think sometimes I've become fastidious, finicky, even when it comes to food. I would be the last person to restrict good eating to fine dining. As long as I'm eating good, clean, cheap food in a clean, nice smelling place, I'm set. Sometimes, I can forgive the occasional funky odor if the food is worth it. The siopao in Ma Mon Luk, for instance, is worth the sticky floors and pungent air. (Tip: if you're worried about utensils being less than clean, douse them with alcohol, wipe, then air dry for just a few seconds. I'm not sure if it really works, but the psychological duping effect is A-rated bliss).

Like everyone else, though, I have set tastes. And although my gastronomic standards are relatively broader, I still have preconceived images of good eats in my mind. I must confess, eating at a poorly-funded sanctuary for victims of military atrocities was not my idea of gastronomic heaven.

I was wrong. Last thursday's merienda and yesterday's lunch at the said sanctuary deserve a moment in posterity through this humble blog. Thursday's merienda was a bowl of gooey sweet rice pudding with roasted mung beans. I was searching my memory for the name, asking my companions, but no one knew. They didn't seem to care, in fact. They just kept eating. Thank God for my professor's assistant who supplied the lost moniker: lilet balatong. Lilet Balatong! I hadn't eaten lilet balatong since I was a kid, I think. The lilet b. at the sanctuary wasn't all that great. But as I've said before, I like to eat memories, and I enjoyed the feeling of remembrance, of enjoying a bowl of warm lilet b. as a kid.

Yesterday's lunch also featured the versatile mung bean. Munggo is one of my all-time favorites. I can eat munggo every day. In fact, I just had munggo for lunch today. But yesterday's munggo was possibly the best munggo I've tasted. The beans were crushed into a smooth and silky stew with dried fish, ampalaya leaves, and chicharong hibe (dried and fried baby shrimps: infanticide never tasted better) adding layers of salty/bitter flavor.

But balatong, or any food for that matter, also only tastes as good as the company you keep while eating. And the people at the sanctuary made for some of the finest company I've been blessed to dine with. They weren't particularly articulate, and conversations weren't punctuated by middle-class, intelligentia wit. It was more the feeling that I was surrounded by good, decent people who, despite being villified and violated by those in power, and forced to leave their homes and family and go into hiding, are still able to smile and say, with conviction, that things will get better.

I guess mush can sometimes be good for the soul.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Aftermath

Seconds after I post awful haiku, I am siezed by a longing to go back to Malansing Street, Malabon, go to all the sari-sari stores littering it and buy me some Zeb-Zeb, Pom-Poms, putoseko, nougat, fake white rabbit, fake tootsie roll, and chicharong parihaba. Maruya I could buy at the wet market or fried lumpia for my dose of veggies. Wash it down with pink scramble from one of the vendors along the road. Go back home with bacteria and a virus or two, tummy full of air, and mind full of memories. That may or may not, in fact, have happened. It may turn out that I actually ate Zeb-Zeb, not in Malansing Street, Malabon, but in Road 4, Pag-asa, Quezon City. Right now, though, I'm feeling Malansing. So Malansing I remember.

A couple of months ago, I was in Tatalon with some classmates. We were walking around, touring the place like the upstart wannabe community psychologists we were so horribly aware we are, when I spotted Pom-Poms dangling from the window of a sari-sari store. I did not react calmly. I remember there was frantic pointing and a jump for joy. It was exciting to come across a snack I used to enjoy as a child. Granted, the packaging was different (now orange where before it was a sunny, summery yellow with blue lettering) and the cheese curls were bigger (and, again, orange where before they were smaller and a sunny, summery yellow). But the sentiment was strong as ever.

I bought some and as I opened a Pom-Pom, a classmate said, "Pahingi. Gusto kong matikman ang alaala mo." Whoever said it's impossible to purvey profundity via childhood chicheria has obviously never met a left-leaning activist/community worker/masseuse/alternative lifestyle guru before.

As I had my first taste of Pom-Poms in possibly a decade, maybe even more, I was overcome by a feeling of... blandness. Yon na yon? Evidently, yes. That was it. Fake cheese and air. And all I have to show for it is bad poetry. Well, that and the realization that all the foods I ate when I was younger and more foolish/wiser will never taste as perfect as they do in my memories. My classmate was right. It is the memory we taste. Not the food. Lord, definitely not the food.

I guess I like to eat memories.

Bad Haiku, Bad!


Popcorn or cornick?
I ponder as my teeth crack,
Why can't it be both?


Fake cheese on my hand
I miss the crunch of empty--
Full of air am I.


Sa Malansing lang
ako nakatikim ng
Putosekong Pink.

(These awful haikus are brought to you by Childlike Lament for Snacks That Don't Taste As Good As I Remember.)