Monday, July 14, 2008

A Good Day...

...can begin in many different ways. It can begin with waking up from a sweet dream or the deepest, dreamless sleep you've had since statistics class in college. It can begin a bit later with tocino, fried egg, and fried rice, washed down with creamy, sugary brewed coffee. It can begin still a bit later, on the way to meet a friend, in a cab being driven by a most curious fellow.

I didn't get his name. I neither needed nor wanted it. It was going to be like any other cab ride. The driver, as far as I was concerned, needed only to keep quiet as he wove his way from Katipunan to North Avenue. Conversation was not a requirement, especially not if it covered the oft-repeated Cab Driver's Lament: "Gas is up; my profit's down. Want to give me 150 pesos for a 75 peso ride?"

But somewhere along C.P. Garcia, Cabbie and I started the most wonderful, insightful discussion about Psychology, its uses and applications, the implications of imposing psychological knowledge and metaphor--with its assumptions of self and individualism--on local communities, its stand on the question of God, and what makes it different from fortune-telling.

Cabbie asked the following questions, questions that not all psychologists ask themselves. He asked, "Meron po ba talagang natutulong yang counseling na hindi ko makukuha kung magkekwento lang ako sa kaibigan ko?" In English and in slightly more academic terms, this question translates to "How does the therapeutic relationship differ from, and how is it better than, an ordinary friendship?"

Cabbie asked, "Ang mga tulad niyo po bang psychologist naniniwala sa Diyos?" ("Do psychologists believe in God?")

Cabbie also asked, "Ano po ang pagkakaiba ng ginagawa ninyo sa ginagawa ng manghuhula?" ("What makes your work different from what a fortune teller does?")

Cabbie asked many other related, and pertinent, questions which all got me thinking about my work and its place in the grand idea of supposed helping. I told Cabbie that those were good questions he was asking. And he said that he was just like me, curious and full of questions, and that his job is the best because it gives him the opportunity to talk to different kinds of people.

Cabbie and I parted ways at the SM Hypermart. I went on to meet my friend. And my good day continued to Binondo where said friend Muriel, I, and two other friends, Angela and Belen, went on a WOKing tour of the place, courtesy of Old Manila Walks.

For 850 pesos (of which Muriel and I only paid 500, thanks to good ol' Len's generosity), we got to sample the various gastronomic fare that Chinatown offers. We had thick chocolate e at a stall that sells 10 tableas for only 58 pesos (unsweetened), which is around 30 pesos cheaper than in supermarkets. Then we had Fookien/Hokkien fried rice, fishball soup, and iced brewed coffee at Cafe Mezzanine. After that, we walked to a small eatery owned by a BS couple, as in Bagong Salta (or newly arrived/migrated), and were served steamed pork-kinchay and shrimp dumplings and this fluffy, crispy fried pancakes stuffed with meat and veggies. Then we had chicken egg preserved in tea a couple of streets away. And after that, fried siopao. The last stop was at a lumpia house in an art deco building, where we ate a meat and veggie lumpia with the chewiest wrap and lots of mung bean sprouts, carrots, minced pork, shrimps, green onions, etc.

For pasalubong, I bought 3 kinds of hopia (which means "good cookie" because, of course, when you eat hopia, you can't help but say, "This is good cookie!") and authentic kikiam. Not that fake stuff we buy off the streets at 10 pesos per 3 tiny pieces. No, this is the real stuff, with the wrinkly wrap made of soy and the minced pork and veggie with no extenders. I got my first taste of authentic kikiam (and I know I'm not calling it by its correct name, but I forgot) when I was around 5 years old. I think it was at a food fair organized by our church. Or something. I just remember these huge white tents and all these stalls serving different kinds of food. I remember nothing else of what I ate, save for the kikiam drenched in sweet peanut sauce. It always does my heart glad to revisit food memories. I can't wait to have my first taste of original Chinese kikiam and see if it really is the stuff that makes 5-year-olds eat, savor, dream, and remember.

A good day ends in as many different ways as it started. It can end with going home, stomach and mind full, to sisters who await your arrival. As mine did.