Friday, March 02, 2007

A Weekend in Manila
Sunday, the 21st of January, 2007

Previous Part. 'The Fort' by Night
Part 4. Breakfast and Lunch at Quezon City

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Recalling events from a month ago with the help of some notes.

The Sunday breakfast at their White Plains, Quezon City home, consisted of Ilocano dishes - as per the usual practice. Tito (Uncle) Nanding just got back from the Ilocos region and we were having fresh fish, fresh raw seaweed, and other delicacies from his - and my mom's - native region in Ilocos Sur.

As we enjoyed lovely food amidst a lively morning discussion, Tita May (herself also an Ilocana) commented on a cultural observation that I will always fondly remember.

A great indication of the cultural diversity of the Philippines lies in the wide variety of food you can sample, she said. Each province has their own specialty dish. Failing that, each region will do a popular dish somewhat differently - perhaps having a minor cultural twist on the way things are garnished or presented.

Then, there too are the food products. Each province has their own special thing to offer. And perhaps this is best illustrated to the unitiated when travelling over land.

Indeed, I experienced this for myself the first two weeks I spent in the Philippines.

When driving from Manila to Northwestern Luzon, the flat plains of the Tagalog and Capampangan region make way for the linguistically ambiguous province of Tarlac. There you will notice streetside vendors selling freshwater crabs. Their signs inviting you to sample these still-moving crustaceans. After Tarlac is Pangasinan, where the common thing to see being sold roadside is bottled bagoong, salt, and other salted products. Then there's La Union, where you don't even have to see their specialty - you will instead smell it, for in this coastal province the roadside is dotted with stalls selling dried salted fish.

As Tita May put it herself, travelling the Philippines and experiencing firsthand its cultural diversity is such a departure to the North American Continent's practice of driving thousands of miles to another state - only to eat at the same boring McDonald's or some other burger franchise.

Food for thought.

Oh yes, Yayi was also celebrating her birthday that Sunday. And! Ate Mireille told Tito Nanding for the first time what was 'new' with her.

Cris picked Ate Mireille up for lunch at UP Diliman's Chateau Verde. It was his Mother's birthday as well.

I came along with them because it was agreed that they would be bringing me back to Bulacan.

As I met his side, I had only one thought: what an awesome family.

One thing that I remember fondly that afternoon, besides the relaxing garden-like setting of Chateau Verde, was a certain short discussion that I had.

One of Cris' sisters is married to a German - a gentleman named Andreas. They live in Germany and, as a family, are here in the Philippines for a vacation. Like myself, they are visitors to this land. And like myself, they have seen it all before many years ago, and are now (they're still here, as of the time of this writing, as far as I know) seeing it again for the first time since that last visit.

Andreas and I compared the differences we noticed and I was happy to hear that in Manila, he too thinks that some things HAVE changed for the better - garbage management and the Pasig River being the most obvious examples. As someone who had been gone for 10 years, it's sometimes hard to express exactly how I am so surprised by so many things that have changed (for better or for worse).

It also frustrates me sometimes to get dismissive remarks such as, "Dati nang ganyan yan! (It's always been like that)", out of some people when I am confiding to them an observation. Well, geez! Maybe it has always been like that - for the past decade! The past decade I DID NOT spend here!

Anywho, the point is that: It was great talking to someone else who had similar observations.

Rip Van Winkle I am not, but it's close.

I also had a quick tour of the UP Diliman grounds - Mireille and Cris both being Alumni. A vague desire to study in this University entered my mind. Wonder if it's at all possible..? Hmn..
Anyway, I had a photo-op by the Oblation, but I did keep my pants on. There was this girl who was going for a jog who was making eyes at me. That or she just thought I was an idiot. Probably the latter.

During the drive home, Cris was saying -perhaps jokingly, perhaps not - that I should just stay here in the Philippines. That they'd help me find a job. Hey! Maybe I could uhh.. hmn. naah.. I'll keep things to myself until it's more than wishful thinking.

I made it back to Tumana, Sta. Maria, Bulacan in time for me to make it to a neighbouring barangay's fiesta - where some of my Dad's relatives live.

Flickr photoset.

Next Post: So Much More


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