This Stray Cat and Ngiti-tingi!

 There is a Tagalog saying, "pag maiksi ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot", which literally meant if your blanket is short (small or brief, whatever), contort to fit!

Or curl up like this stray cat! It was raining and I didn’t have the heart to shoo it away just then. Some other sunny day I would, because I can't stand cat piss, the dogs' incessant barking when the cat's around, the nightly mewsical courtship and the resulting litter.

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving happened...elsewhere. My country does not celebrate Thanksgiving per se, although immigrant families who moved back here (worked abroad, now resting on laurels at home), those who live in expat communities and posers (oh yeah, just check out some facebook posts) continue to observe the tradition. We do have whole dressed turkey in select stores and turkey sandwiches at sandwich bars. I've had turkey with stuffing, too, once upon a hotel event, but I can't say I like turkey that much. Most Pinoys prefer chicken, ham and Lechon and turkey on the table  is an acquired taste (wink, wink).

At any rate, like I've mentioned before, our idea of Thanksgiving is more of a pilgrimage to hometowns,  not in honor of pilgrims.  We celebrate (and invoke) good harvests via town fiestas all over the Islands. We have a dizzying number, held with pomp, pageantry and street dances to honor produce, cottage industry items a town is famous for (regional identity, see) and patron saints aplenty. On the other hand, Christmas (and New Year) celebrates family unity, the gift of salvation, and drumming out the bad year to usher in a better one.

And this has been an especially bad year for most. Despite crisis, rising prices, that darn electric bill with so many add ons and fare hikes looming, its a wonder we've still got our humor and will make do! Like I said, maiksi ang kumot! Grin and bear it..

Consider this: it’s the sign of the times when people are taking to the streets. Not in protest, but to make it their home. Whether they have a kariton or wooden cart for a bedroom or makeshift tents of scrap tarpaulin and cardboard pieces, the homeless would squat wherever they can. You see them cooking meals right on the pavement, with hollow blocks and scavenged wood for a fire pit.

What can you do, even the government, when people insist on living where their living is – the city. The city is a great purveyor of tons of garbage (recyclables) that can be turned into money: may pera sa basura. While scavenging is no one’s ideal form of livelihood, it is fairly “easy” to get into. No requirements, just a strong stomach and a deadened sense of smell. For people who aren’t looking (or hopeful) for much more than a meal or two a day, living in the streets is “it”. No rent! Others really don't have a choice: I've seen fire and a kind of demolition derby on the news, almost nightly : (

So, what would these poor souls cook on the street? Rice with salt, a pack of instant soup or noodles, some dried fish, soup cube flavored water or maybe a root crop (boiled kamote or sweet potato) or kangkong (swamp cabbage) thrown in. Not all of these mind you, just one the day’s earnings can buy, shared by four or more people.
Sign of the times too: even us more fortunate folks are offered tingi options.  These are items that sari-sari (variety) stores normally repack (unbranded, generic) to sell.  In groceries now, we can opt for branded products in sachet, pouch or single serve packs - everything from cooking oil to pasta to ready to eat food. Or, you get bundled packs, say, of pasta and sauce. What matters is, all the “down sizing” helps you afford even just a taste of whatever you wanted. More than tightening your belt, so to speak, you've stumbled on the makings of your very own tasting menu (very chic eating, very now with chefs tables in restaurants)! Small bites! Very good option for people like me who can't eat huge amounts of any one thing in one sitting but has to eat every two hours! If you invest in a bottle of good mixes, you could be eating restaurant food at home, minus VAT and service charge!
Or just an upgrade: I eat regular nilaga (meat boiled with vegetables) with a spicy tamarind paste called assam. Or, eat fried fish dipped in vinegar and salty, spiced sambal. Groceries now stocks international foodstuff: soup to nuts, sauces, mixes, desserts and yes, frozen turkey and stuffing.
Lately, I've been taking my coffee with a generous spurt of ready whip, with a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon powder and chocolate sprinkles (filched from the baking pantry hehe).

On the snack front, us Pinoys will not want for food, even when we only have five pesos on hand. You can buy a small cup of taho - silken tofu sweetened with brown sugar syrup and sago (tapioca) balls. My favorite mid-morning waker-upper.

There's street food like kwek kwek -quail eggs in batter, deep fried and then dipped in spiced vinegar or sweet "gravy" of soy sauce, vinegar, ground pepper and sugar. There's also hardboiled chicken or duck egg (balot or penoy). The penoy is my favorite but I won't eat the orange (color) battered egg on the streets: I insist on this one from a public market stall called Tuding's. See the clear, thin membrane of batter ? I like it like that! You taste just the egg. I eat hardboiled penoy, too. I like the white part that people call bato or stone (not that hard, but chewy) as much as the veined yellow yolk, yummy with salt. This is after you drink up the egg-y “soup”, of course. I am icky about dead duckies, embryonic ones, so forget me, eating balot - hardboiled or fried! Nipped in the duck, the poor things.

Balot is rounder and bigger.  Can you see the wee duckie?  I can't eat this, but everyone else says it's delish.  I'll just take their word for it.

If you have more money, say twenty-five pesos you could have siomai or dumplings. A slab of tokwa (tofu), sliced and fried to a crisp and then dipped in spicy vinegar and soy sauce with crushed garlic is enough for ulam (viand) as well. Since I'm maarte (fussy hehe) about food I eat tokwa with sambal for a spicy, salty kick.
There's "soupy rice" - lugaw or goto (porridge). You want an upgrade you top it with chives, boiled tripe strips, crushed chicharon (pork rind crackling), slice of boiled egg (even century egg, which I like), crispy garlic bits etc. Of course, it is cheaper unadorned and bought street side than at the mall stalls. It all depends on how much faith you have in street food.
And then there's barbecued meat, chicken, innards or whole blood grilling at every street corner.
Note: I'm not necessarily talking nutrition here, just pantawid gutom (now how do I translate this? bridge the hunger?)
Point is, we could live on boiled saba (plantains) or kamote. Soup bones and every animal part can be cooked. Some of us have land or gardens in pots to grow stuff in. Outside the city, things grow wherever you throw them (well,. mostly). Despite all these, a lot of people go hungry (which is why I am not thankful that the 7 billionth human being is pinoy- alarming!. It really is a good thing we are a resilient lot. That's what we have to be thankful for everyday.
Now you know: ngiti is smile in Tagalog and tingi is small portions. Grin and bear it, right, kitty? ; )

P.s. I had a birthday.  'course I wished for cake I didn't bake.  Didn't get one.  I'm posting a picture of one I made for a friend - tablea chocolate cake with homemade caramel filling and frosting and dark chocolate ganache all over.  I made a big, small, mini and cup cake (which survived long enough for me to eat on my birthday).  Ever notice how cakes are getting smaller or generally getting "downsized" as well, just so people can afford a taste? Sign of the times huh?


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