Fruits of Her Labor


I was sick a whole week.  There wasn’t anything I could do – my head ached constantly and sleep won’t come.  You know how you are eager to go out and do something with your life but couldn’t? It’s a very frustrating state to be.  I am old enough to take care of myself but being sick meant a kind of dependence you do not want to have or have no right to expect anymore.  Except you do.  Either you want to die right then to end feeling so rotten or you just want to be cared for.  I needed an escape.

It’s like my mom and her telenovela marathons.  She needed to watch all these ridiculous characters (scheming love crazed villainesses, ineffectual mama’s boys for husbands, meddling mothers in law and clueless wives) in improbable situations and degrees of martyrdom, so she can escape her own misfortune.  Oh, don’t go tsk tsking on me! Everyone has his or her brand of misfortune.  It could be that your kids failed you in someway; failed to show gratitude for the things you do for them.  It could be that a husband didn’t deliver on whatever promises he made.  It could be that a friend didn’t give you the help you actually needed, just made sympathy noises and otherwise were too busy to pay you any mind.  You could even disappoint yourself. There is always some disappointment and life is like that.  To me, it is all a matter of managing expectations - the root of all discontent.  Sometimes it pays to have none.  Sometimes you need to have a little so that when it happens for you, you feel like you just won the world. I like some telenovelas.  The funny ones; the ones on KBS World.  I prefer English subtitles to Tagalized and for this, I go to Midnight Dreams (hello Miumiu! Know that I really, really appreciate your efforts to translate).  
Of course, it is still possible to be happy despite anything.  Any PR person worth his or her sauce (salt is too basic) would tell you to focus on the positive and spin from there.  
Unless you are suffering from severe depression, getting out of the doldrums can be as easy as eating Blue Bunny Bunny Tracks or Butter Pecan ice cream (bought from S&R). Or discovering you still know how to ride a bike (yep, that did it for me last Sunday at UP). Or baking green chocolate chunk cookies (I didn’t want the block of green colored chocolate go to waste but didn’t want to have to melt and mold it into leaves or something). Or lunch at JT’s Manukan over at Gilmore - perfectly grilled inasal chicken and garlic rice and kansi (salty sour fit to knock you off your Havaianas), cold C2 iced tea; finished off with hot freshly made special bibingka with red egg at Ferino’s next door . After the al fresco, roadside lunch in warm weather barely helped by wall fans and a few wayward breezes, hot bibingka and coffee is best enjoyed in air-conditioned stillness, away from the glare of midday, to take the edge off full tummy dulled sleepiness.    

Or gorging on spicy Dynamite sushi at Omakase. Or Mister Kabab’s special chelo with hot rice, extra pat of butter mashed into it and keema with eggplant (must try making this soon).   Or Kowloon’s special siopao with the thick chorizo, red egg and savory meats drenched in hot sauce (yeah, I like it like that). Or lemon squares that crumbles powdery sugar sweet; melts in the mouth and leaves your palate toothpaste-y clean (not bitter at all)! This last I gave myself 10 stars for getting it right twice, makes me feel that I’m not a one hit wonder and I could sooo do this baking thing!  

All I’m saying is, for every disappointment, there are a lot more things, a change of scenery (this one is Nessi's), to distract and cheer us up! 

Other than her telenovelas, the fruits of her labor reward my mom.  She is happiest in her garden: picking a bunch of siling labuyo (cayenne or red pepper), fistfuls of spring onions and leeks, sprigs of malunggay (moringga) to distribute among the neighbors (two are distant relatives with maladies, who claims they feel better with tea made with it, some lemon grass, chichirica leaves and other herbs. Note: don't experiment, ask an expert!).   We have an orange tree that managed to grow fruit twice a year, though the fruit is much smaller than The Annoying Orange (a tad bitter too hehehe). 


Mom’s favorite though, is the two Golden Coconut trees in our back yard.  A few times a year, we manage to get someone to cut down fruit and dry leaves (not everyone can climb a coconut tree, there are times it was left unclean that old fruit sprouted leaves while still attached).  Three neighbors and my nephews specially treat the cleaning as an event because afterwards, they each get a jar of thick coconut jam.  My mom doesn’t measure anything; all she can say is two fair sized coconuts (niyog, mature coconut meat that’s grated and squeezed with some water several times to get the milk out ) yields enough milk to mix with one whole panutsa (muscovado sugar shaped into two rounded triangles wrapped in cellophane).  She melts the panutsa in the coconut milk, stirring forever and ever amen till well blended.  She can’t say how long either; she never timed it.  She would then add some pandan leaves (also from her garden) for fragrance and a little extra flavor I can only describe as cool-vanilla-ish.  If she has pili nuts she’d put those in, too.  She said the Bicolanos call it santan, which I initially thought referred to a starburst like flower which pistils you pick off so you could  suck the sweet nectar out. I used to think they put tons of the flowers in to get that much sweet. 


 Mom’s ultimate cheap thrill is opening a coconut and finding the “tumbong” (that’s Tagalog slang for butt, to put it more delicately hehe)  You have meat all along the sides of the coconut, see, and as it matures the juice at the core dries into a ball. The striations on the surface made me think of prunes, only this is huge and round and off-white in color! She likes eating this stuff! It does have that refreshing sweetish coconut taste, with juice enough for a moist, spongy texture.  Like eating singkamas, only with a softer bite.  I always chant brrraaaiiinns when she eats this.  Of course, she can’t relate lol!


 
Now that it is summer, the Indian mango tree near the fence is heavy with fruit; the chico, too, though the fruits are shaped so differently, like all my mom’s children ; ) I don’t eat chico, it is too brown sugary sweet for me but my mom loves it; even our pit bull gets a share of the skin.  I ranged the chico on the windowsill against the light, so I can get shadows and a painting-like blurring.  It’s also a way to justify low resolution pictures, since now I have to make do with my Canon ZR 65 MC camcorder and my Sony Ericsson K660i camphone (a pickpocket took my dad’s Olympus).  In outdoor lighting, both take great, crisp pictures.

I am just happy I still have options until I can afford a proper camera.  Good thing, too, that I have a cheap but efficient all in one card reader I bought at CD-R King. It reads the 8M SD Card as well as the tinny tiny SE memory card, so I didn’t have to download Canon software.  The Canon ZR 65 MC is especially handy for zooming in (20x) on coconuts up an 11 foot high tree.  I have videos of baby birds screeching for food, inside a nest of dry grass tucked in between the weather beaten, warped open slats of the side of my house, the second floor.  Awesome to see. All us children are all like that, always screeching for attention, food, and mothers. 
I also have one of caves and cliffsides – on the next island miles away from where I stood on the beach at Fairways & Bluewaters Boracay.  It zooms that good, and it is an older version.  I can imagine the new generation Canon camcorders to be all the more impressive.  Oh, well, someday!  

But I digress.  A point of this story is to reintroduce lowly summer fruits you won’t find in a welcome fruit basket like caimito (starapple -I want to try making it into a sorbet; I imagine it would taste somewhat like lychees), chesa (yes, that weird fruit - eatingasia is one of my favorite blogs, I urge you to read the series on the Philippines), durian that you can buy at Shopwise and markets. These are all mom's favorites; I like citrusy, pulpy and juicy fruit - like pakwan (watermelon). And that's the other point: my mom and I are poles apart cheap thrills notwithstanding.  

 What we do share, that I got from her, is the love for food and sharing.  I have my restaurant and store bought favorites but I also like cooking and making things. I used to chide her for working so hard to make us something like coconut jam – so much effort to grate, milk, and cook.  Much to my chagrin, I found myself doing the same with the baking and some of the convoluted cooking I do. 

I wonder if we are all genetically hardwired to be like our mothers or it comes from watching them do stuff for us and we subconsciously dig it out later for our own families’ sake.  While sick in bed, I managed to read this book Her Mother’s Daughter by Marilyn French (I've read The Women's Room, Too). It’s a story about mothers and daughters, the generational gap and how everything comes full circle, different though the circumstance. It’s about how differently we are raised but end up the same.  One critic said it is impossible to read and not examine your own values and attitudes.  Some would say “psychobabble” but hey, I dare you say you won’t be able to relate at some point. The book is a little hard to read, because there are truths to motherhood that isn’t “pretty”. There are people who dislike airing out their hardship or listening to others’. 

I cannot review this book for you but there is a line that I like:  “People make judgments all the time.  You try not to because then you can never be better than biased and personal and small.  You can’t get the big picture, you have no perspective wider than your personal trivialities.” 

The hero goes on to say she wanted to get beyond the personal and trivial to find the universal.  I think she’ll find her personal trivialities is universal after all. The stories are the same, it differs only on what you chose to focus on at a given moment.  It is probably why people write blogs – to share, understand, balance the not so nice with the good things they want to go back to.  It is a good read and I am slogging through it. 

P.S.  To someone who told me her vocabulary is much improved from reading my posts, you are welcome! Glad to be useful! 
P.S. 2: This is for all mothers and daughters, including Sally Ordinario.  All mothers pretend to have courage they don't have, at every turn in their lives, for us.

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