-ber wrap and burp!

Bet our dead were too happy to get back their peace and quiet.  Although it was a relatively quiet All Souls.  This year the police banned “noise” generating equipment - portable radios, karaokes, guitars and the like –on top of ice picks, knives, guns, and alcohol.  All these in one place– weapon, drink, and irritatingly bad singing are enough to drive people to their literal death.  Just try heckling the singer or give them a look they’d read badly and you could end up a victim of karaoke rage (videoke if you can lug the whole machine).   Some people are just plain rude.  Some people are obstinate believers of “practice makes perfect” and would practice, practice, practice though you beg them not to.   I say perfection is relative, or it may just be your relatives saying you are hikhikhik.

So! I haven’t posted in a while.  The days seem shorter lately. It’s always the case with the ber months, they go by in a blur, rushing to year’s end.  Mostly it’s because the coming Holidays demand intense preparation – a thorough house cleaning, final reckoning of the business year, decorating, planning menus, shopping for food and gifts, scheduling visits and parties and reunions. I haven’t even started on any of these, so that’s not my excuse.  It is this:  though it rained every now and then, there is sweltering heat most days and sweater weather most nights.  The long and short of these extremes is that I suffer from migraines during the day and sleep in, mostly.  The heat is wearying, too.

In years past, the -ber months meant bed weather you loathe to end.  I love the ber months best because I get to wear tailored jackets, cropped sweaters, light trench coats, beaded cardigans, net ponchos and denim vests.  I know, weird dressing for the tropics.  Well, I am a little conservative.  That is, I will wear sleeveless tops and tanks but not in places or melees I wouldn’t be caught dead showing some skin in.  Catcalls are not what I’m angling for.  I was dressing for hot and cold weather – hot out, chilly air-conditioning in.  Of course, some fashion victims would overdo the fall fashion look (furry peacoat?!? leather!), even when fall isn’t even a season in these parts.
This is the season for balikbayans (“back to the country”) to go home, in time for our epic Christmas and New Year's celebration.  We already met two friends at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1.  I wouldn’t wonder it is deemed one of the worst airports– it looked same as when my family used to drop off or pick up my dad who was flying home from whichever convention abroad he attended.  Way back in the 70s, when I was still in awe over American Express Travelers Checks (dad would save some of his allowance) and how much chocolate can be bought with it.  When we picked up our friends this year, the NAIA could stand more than a paint job.  Particularly outside, at the small, two story guests’ view deck fronting the arrivals wing.  It was hot that day and there wasn’t much of a breeze.  The view deck is all metal screens and poles, like half an umbrella frame.  Better still, picture our prefabricated pedestrian overpass, except there’s a glass window and a Jollibee take-out counter (only area where there’s air conditioning, but hardly cools). You sit on bucket seats, if you can get one.  Pinoys just love taking the whole town to the airport to greet their balikbayan

So, you cram jeeploads of well-wishers in one space, all craning their necks for a view of loved ones coming down the ramp.  There’s a TV monitor showing them walking down the lobby but hey, you could hardly make out faces when they’re bundled up in scarves and jackets.  I guess they are still chilled by airplane air conditioning or forgotten how hot it could get.  They have their heads bent over their luggage trolley, trying to maneuver the thing which load factor is kilos more than their body weight. Tough work pushing it and digging in your heels for braking, too.  Thank God for cell phones, because then locating exactly where your balikbayan comes out could be a problem.  Do you figure they would come out where the sign overhead says ABC, because their surname begins with A for Anastacio? Or on to the signs that bandies the next group of letters in the alphabet, down to Z.  Most people still don’t read signs, they’d rather rely on recognition – that is, most people would claim they’d know the hairs on their relatives head among a sea of people.  I could only claim that virtuosity if we are talking about my ultimate crush hehehe. Most balikbayans recognize their kin by cocking an ear towards a noisy bunch shouting their name and holding up toddlers overhead.  I could imagine foreigners dumbfounded by all the commotion. A flurry of waves, bundling up of  luggage, hugs dispensed all around and then off to get a bite to eat. That many people in and out of our "little" airport would account for wear and tear.  I have to say though, that the tiny toilet (water closet indeed, does not count as a "powder room") attendant was very zealous about cleanliness!
Now I haven’t been able to cook much lately, hence the long pause in the posting, since the nephews (my customers) don’t get to visit.  One boy was down with the measles and I haven’t had it, that’s why!  What I do have for you, is  su-many more hehehe!  My sumany post is still clicking so I figured all of you searchees would appreciate these.

This purple one is purple yam. Unlike the fine, almost puree-like textured Rosalie's suman halaya, (cooked in coconut milk), this market yam suman is chewy.  Not as sweet either, you taste mostly the yam and the texture is much closer to the root crop's organic form.  There's a surprise of strings of plump and fresh coconut meat in it, which I like!  See the yellow strand? That's the coconut, which would have been white except it took on a light yellow hue when the purple yam and the green of the banana leaf wrapping blended and bled into the coconut strand as it cooked.

There was cassava too, in suman form.  It was pure cassava shreds with a very light yellow-orange tinge that's even lighter at the edges.  I don't have a picture, though.

Then there was the green suman with syrupy latik.  Everyone's favorite!  Mildly flavored, scented as well with the banana leaf it was steamed in.  It made for sticky, finger licking eating with loads of burnished gold latik poured on top.  You sop up the latik with the suman and I swear, even if it is as big as my palm, I couldn't let its twin (en-twined as they are) go it alone.  

As if these three weren't enough, mom came home yet again with this other beauty - chewy, off white "meat" with a fat vein of thick latik all along its length and a more pronounced caramelized sugar and coconut flavor - a grittier,sweeter counterpoint..

I know I've only had sumany suman and those ones found in my town's public market  An acquaintance, Jonas, tells of a triangular suman (sorry, can't translate the language, just take a gander at the picture hehe) stuck in his memory, encountered in the mountains of Benguet

Now, between here and Benguet, and fanning all throughout the country, are sticky rice paddies which grains' varying textures, fragrance and degree of glutinosity (yes, there is such a word) have found their perfect pair in coconut or root crop, under the deft cookery of elders and next generation suman makers.  I'm sure we could make up a gustatory, culturally rich story and tour package starring the suman, from region to region! Preserve the paddies and the art! I'm sure I can even challenge balikbayans and fellow Pinoys to eat one kind of suman a day up to the 12th day of Christmas! Or, as Buzz Lightyear would say, to infinity and beyond! I've eaten so many, and it's not even the Holidays yet! So, are you up for it? 

P.s.: I did manage to make something simple and light - coconut cookies! I made them for home but someone liked them enough to buy them off me.  I had to scramble to buy the plastic bubble pack, a happy problem hehe.  Cute! Like Buzz Lightyear's helmet!

P.s.2: the ring in the top pic is part of a Celine three for Php399.00 sale - you get to choose which accessory trio you like for that much moolah. I got a belt, a bracelet and the ring.  I liked how ostentatious it was hahaha. It's a statement piece! I will miss the ring but I know Joy C. is having fun wearing it and that's good enough for me : ).


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