Kailan ka pupunta dito? Sis texted me from Provident Village. This was before the Big Flood.  I spent a lot of my weekends in the Village but at that time I haven’t been there for over a month, that’s why she was texting me.  I had been too busy at work and needed my weekends to unwind at my own home and be alone – that was why I haven’t visited them at the rented house they were staying in.

Saka na. Di naman aalis yang bahay dyan e, I replied.

Then a week later, Typhoon Ondoy came.

Well, you could imagine my regret.  Ayan tuloy. Di ka na makakadalaw uli – kahit kelan Sis laughingly scolded me.

Sis and Doc have decided to abandon Provident and are staying over at Doc’s family’s house.  The house at Provident – post-Ondoy – reeked of stench (real or imagined) from the putrid mud no matter how much they scrubbed it clean.  In fairness to the brave residents who chose to stay, the village had indeed been washed, cleaned and repaired.  However, even so, there is said to be this gloomy and tragic sentiment lingering in the air – of a haunting allusion of grief and frustration, heavy feeling of sadness, and memories of misery and destruction.  It was even worst at night. And then there is this nagging fear: for how long will one be safe and what if the nightmare happens again – and again?

Provident Village was one of the worst-hit areas when the heavy rains of Ondoy came down. Most of the village is nearest to the Marikina river – nestling dangerously inside its U-shaped path (at right)- thus, the village gets easily inundated once it overflows.

(pic courtesy of Google Maps)

I do miss Provident.  We ALL do. Despite the poor location, it is quite ideally and conveniently located near all the major areas of urban living necessities– the malls, schools and universities in Katipunan, the markets, the church, the tiangges, the plaza, sports complex, etc.  Sis misses the fresh cool wind that permeates the house even in summer time; Paw misses the peaceful silence that pervades throughout the village (Parang buhay probinsya). Levic misses riding his bike through the relatively safe streets. Me? I miss the roof deck of the house…

My most favorite part is the roofdeck. I remember I would go straight up there and enjoy watching the sunset or just eat ice cream…

On the roofdeck, Pawie (above) would sit on the ledge, too, at night and just chillax.  We even camped and slept overnight here under the stars last summer. Too bad, I didn’t take pix of us ‘camping.’ Now, it won’t happen again….

I used to exercise and walk through the streets of Provident Village at night while Levic acted as my bodyguard as he rode his bike.  He and I know the streets like the back of our hands. The scariest part of the village at night was near the village wall that separates it from the river – for it was dark there and lacks street lights, right, Lev?

Every weekend all throughout December, fireworks can be seen from the roof deck. Like this pic of a fireworks display from last Christmas season.  Well, now, no more fireworks viewing from there this year (or from hereon for that matter). Sighs…

What’s to be learned from all these? Not to take for granted what we have. Appreciate the simple things and always be grateful.  It’s better to enrich ourselves not with owning material things but with wonderful memories and life experiences instead.  So let’s build more memories! With new hopes, new dreams, and a positive outlook in life… for there is nowhere to go but up!

To be continued in Life after Ondoy

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Undas is a major holiday that we observed as the “All Souls Day” (Nov. 2) in the Philippines.  It is celebrated along with All Saints Day (Nov. 1).  It is a Catholic tradition that was adapted from ancient Mexican rituals of honoring departed loved ones (um, I think).

During the Undas, families and clans reunite.  They go home to their respective hometowns or regions, clean and repaint the tombs of deceased relatives, and cook up a simple feast (usually kakanin or glutinous rice delicacies like biko) to take with them to the cemeteries. Families would have picnics by the graves or tombs, offer flowers or food, play cards, camp out, eat and pray.  On the downside, there would be lots of traffic jams along major highways and naturally, plenty of headaches and occasional petty traffic spats and squabbles.

Offering flowers, lit candles and prayers for Mommy (Oct. 30, 2008):


Picnicking on the memorial park grounds at night and watching out for shooting stars together with Sis, Doc, Pchi, Paw, Levic, and Lolo Daddy.

Traditional holiday food: Biko prepared at home, made from glutinous rice, sugar, and coconut milk:

I remember when we go to the memorial park way back in the 80’s to visit mama.  There were a lot more people back then.  There was generally a festive atmosphere at that time.  There were food stalls all around and many families would stay for hours and hours or set up huge tents on the grass so that they could camp overnight.

Now, I have noticed that the number of people visiting the park during the Undas have dwindled down considerably during the past years.  Or that if they do visit, they will stay for a short time, and then leave.  Or some visit ahead of time (like what we did) so as to avoid the traffic hassles and headaches.  Times are changing, I guess but I am pretty sure the tradition will continue to live on…  After all Undas is all about remembering.  As an Irish blessing goes: “May you never forget what is worth remembering nor ever remember what is best forgotten.” Nobody wants to be forgotten so let’s hope we all live a life that is worth remembering… Have a Safe and Happy Undas, Pinoys!

We took a restful short breather last Aug. 23 to 25 which happened to be a long rainy weekend.  I joined up with Doc, Sis and kids for an overnight stay in Tagaytay where the weather was damp and cool.

There are many things and sights to see in Tagaytay, much of it are already well-known by most Luzon dwellers so I don’t need to talk about them here.  But there’s only one place we visited (and may revisit) and it is the ‘bulalohan’ eateries at Mahogany Public Market (right).

There were many eateries to choose from along this foodstrip.  Sis wanted the one which had the most customers (having more customers means it might be the best) but naturally, there were no available seats anymore.  So we chose “Betchay’s House of Food” which was great, too.

The Bulalohan Foodstrip alfresco-style: it’s like dying and going to Bulalo heaven.

Bulalo is a dish of boiled bone-in beef shank with vegetables.  The bone marrow is the bulalo itself and it is the soul or core of this dish (pun intended).  It is not an ideal dish for those suffering from high levels of cholesterol so it should be something (as do most  delicious foods, I guess—sigh!) that you only get to enjoy once in a while.

Bulalo is what we came here for and that’s what we got:

Perfectly hot for a rainy cold weekend: They served bulalo in a very presentable transparent serving soup bowl heated up by a small flame underneath (wow, where can I get one of these?).  This brilliant idea serves to keep the fat in the broth from congealing into greasy soup which pretty much ruins anybody’s appetite.

….We enjoyed tawilis (small sardines) –fried to a crisp (left).  Condiments recommended for bulalo (right): patis (fish sauce) and calamansi juice with hot sili.

(Right) Get as many as you want! They also serve banana señoritas…for free!

The ‘bulalohan’ experience was worth it and really affordable. There is a public restroom near the market but it would be better to do your ‘business’ somewhere else before coming here.  Betchay’s food attendants were helpful and courteous.  The utensils looked clean enough.  They might need to improve on the quality of their tables and chairs for they tend to wobble while one chair I noticed was missing a leg (the ground is also a bit uneven).  Also being an open marketplace, the place has  some souvenir vendors walking by. So expect many of them to strut food and souvenir items and to ask you to buy from them while you’re sipping your broth.  It comes with the territory, I guess.  You can buy from them or politely refuse…after all, we all have to earn a living.

The next day, we went back to buy beef from the market itself.  A kilo of freshly butchered beef costs just a hundred and fifty pesos. And when I mean fresh meat—I mean meat that was still twitching while hanging from their hooks (pardon me for the visual imagery…I mean, I know! While  i was watching it, I don’t know whether to be appalled or be fascinated by it)!

We bought enough meat to last us for several days.  Beef chunks and ribs for Dad’s nilagang baka (a favorite of mine), and sirloin bought at low prices compared to the ones in the supermarket.  Like what our dads and lolos used to say…“Ayos na ang butu-buto!” Nuff said!

…we may not be able to afford to do so anymore.

That is my new take on that old saying.  It apparently dawned on me when I wrote my post last July 17, that since prices here keep going up, I might as well indulge and enjoy everything while I still can afford them.

So armed with this new somewhat hedonistic yet a truly ‘hell-yeah!’ philosophy, Sis and I decided to hold a Margarita party one Saturday night at their home for no reason in particular. Well, I wanted to try making margarita for the longest time because it is in one of dear Martha’s Things Anyone Should Know list (another one is how to make a home emergency kit).

I bought the margarita glasses while Sis got the rest of the necessary items-inexpensive tequila and triple sec.

I know, I know…Martha’s advice was to get the best quality ingredients like cuervo gold and cointreau or something…but-hey, we’re on a tight budget-and besides, if we didn’t get the mixing right, at least we didn’t blow our money away (or in other words, we-simply-just-wanted-to-get-wasted-on-a-Saturday-night, ok?).

Doc made his own recipe for his margarita.  It doesn’t only taste good, it’s loaded with vitamin C–just like what the doctor ordered! 😀 The recipe is what we christened as Doc’s Calamansi Margarita.  See the recipe below:

Doc’s Calamansi Margarita

3 parts Tequila

2 parts Triple Sec

1 part Limeade

1 Tbs concentrated calamansi juice

1 tsp fresh dayap (native sour lime) juice

ice cubes

Blend all ingredients in a blender.  Then serve in salt-rimmed glasses garnished with lime wedges.

It was fun to mix your own margarita.  If you’re willing to experiment (better to use inexpensive tequila so you can afford to hit and miss), you can try mixing with other ingredients-banana, orange, mango-but for this one, calamansi (lemoncito in Spanish or calamondin in English) is the primary ingredient, making it a truly pinoy original. By the way, the exact amounts of the ingredients Doc put in were sketchy since he was just experimenting with it.  If you want to try it, don’t sweat–just gauge the amount based on your own taste and liking (maybe add sugar if you want it sweet and sour), and have fun.

Green-minded…Loaded with Vitamin C goodness…

Due to the wake of the ferry oil spill disaster, we decided to forgo with the planned hors doeuvre of fresh oysters and baked mussels to go along with our margaritas.  Sis, of course, came out with her classic nacho tuna tomato dip instead. It was perfect nevertheless (recipe soon to follow).

Sis’ Tuna Tomato Dip and Nachos complemented our margaritas.

“Maasim na may guhit…” Ate Joy drops by and approves Doc’s concoction (left).

And with that I will end this post with a Bible quote from Luke 12:19 (King James): “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”

Ah, yes…I’ll drink to that.

Salud!

We also revisited Lingayen, my mom’s hometown. A rush of wonderful memories of many happy childhood summers came back as I toured the town’s plaza, capitol building, market, church, grandma’s resting place, and of course, our beloved Lingayen Gulf!

There you are, Lelong! Locating my maternal great grandfather’s name etched on a bronze plate (at right) on a Rizal monument in the Lingayen town plaza.

(Left) We took part in a good old-fashioned small town religious procession making its way around the plaza…

How much does it weigh? One of the old retired bells from Lingayen Church on display (right)…

At dusk, we strolled along the sprawling, well-kept Capitol grounds and admired Pangasinan’s pride: the elegant Capitol building with its American design, Commonwealth era neo-classical architecture at left.

Better lift those shorts, guys…Night strolling at Lingayen Gulf (right) and enjoying the salty cool breeze and the rhythmic sounds of the waves.

Good food and awesome brood…

Relatives welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles. At left, we were treated to a fantastic feast as we relived memories, went through photos, and updated each other with news regarding family.

Special thanks to Tita Dolly, Tita Nene, Malu and the rest of the clan! We had a blast! We hope to come back soon.  Next, we promise to revisit the ancestral house, pay respect to the rest of our brood and tour more of Pangasinan as well–Bolinao, Sual, and those secret white beaches you guys have been raving about. So excited already…

We stayed in Tita Dolly’s beautiful home in Alaminos.  And for the rest of the Holy Week, we spent it in various ways to amuse ourselves:

zzz…sleeping and snoringHUY, GISING NA!

Mani, ang daming mani…shelling and eating toasted peanuts by the bushel…

and rocking and swaying in a hammock…What can I say? I love lying in hammocks!

Tita Dolly lovingly took time in designing and constructing this Filipino zen-styled garden in front of her home (photos below). We love spending time here…a real refreshing and peaceful place that every home should have…

However, when Typhoon Cosme wreaked havoc all over Central and Northern Luzon, her beloved garden was badly damaged.  But no worries, my artistic and creative tita will rebuild it in no time.

…I also practiced my henna tattooing skills:

Is this “Pangasinan Ink?” Naaah! –its just toy henna that didn’t stain much–not the real thing. But it was fun though. At left is my version of a Scorpion henna.

At right, Levic proudly showcased his Fire Dragon…

Pchie’s Cross of Hearts…in honor of the Holy Week (left).

Doc’s Ethnic Dragon…versus Sis’ Fluttering Butterfly…(below):

…More revisiting in the next post…Part 3: Revisiting Beloved Pangasinan…

We stayed in Gumasa for a week (continuation from last post). Aside from a few people staying in the other resorts and some locals passing by, we had the beach all to ourselves most of the time.

What am I supposed to be? A sarimanok? Donning a colorful costume mask for Halloween.

WBC Lightweight Champion and Gensan’s favorite son, Manny Pacquiao, his family and entourage plus the mayor of Gumasa stayed for two days and one night as well. We celebrated Halloween Night parading in costumes around the beach. During daytime, we as usual whiled the time away by taking pictures, playing frisbee, nature strolling, eating and kulitan, building sandcastles, napping, and swimming.

Meron pa doon o! That’s not fish they’re catching…The Doc and son cleaning up the leaves and husks along the seashore.

Food was one of the perks from this trip. The fragrant local rice, asparagus from Bukidnon, and fresh Gensan tuna were superb! Plus fisherfolk plying their wares on the shore–freshly caught seafood from Sarangani Bay–was something we anticipated each day.

Puede pong magpapiktyur? Of course, your trip to Gensan is not complete without sighting a celebrity: Mrs. Jinky Pacquiao. Her famous hubby (surrounded by many bodyguards) was out fishing in the bay. Sayang!

On the downside…since it was a non-commercialized beach with a few amenities, the locals do whatever they can to clean up the organic wastes (e.g. leaves, coconut husks) that tend to pile up along the seashores. You’ll do fine if you don’t mind all that.

La curacha! I especially enjoyed the curacha or red frog crabs which I then learned were neither alimango nor alimasag. They cooked these with squash and creamy coc0nut milk.

Moreover, there was no signal for our cellphones during the time that we were there. We had to drive to the city in order to get a signal. There was no cable link as well…the only TV network available was GMA (being a Kapuso, I didn’t mind). But that’s expected for trips like these. You’re on vacation, that’s the point! If you’re the urban type who cannot live without checking his emails, receiving SMS messages, or throws a fit if you miss an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or Lost–then don’t plan on staying here for a long time (or don’t bother going at all but sayang–you’ll be missing out, sige ka!). The only trouble we encountered was that we didn’t receive an important SMS message from Cebu Pacific, informing us that our flight for home was changed. Oh, well…

Kainan naaa! Dining alfresco (left photo) by the beach before leaving for Manila. Grabeeh! This is the LIFE!!!

Lechon de leche and lumpiang shanghai (top right) being served for Christian’s birthday and The Doc’s family reunion. Kudos to the brave Rox who climbed on a chair and hung on for his dear life just to get this bird’s eye-view shot.

If you plan to visit Gumasa, bring with you lots of music in your Ipod, frisbee, beach volleyball, sand-castle building tools (a spoon and a cup will do!) and a kite (please leave the PSP behind–get some sun and work on those lethargic muscles instead), several really good books, a laptop (if you want to write your novel, songs or poetry), art supplies (if you’re into seascapes), sunblock and Off lotions…and cameras!

And oh, by the way, the sunsets at Gumasa Beach (below right) are not to be missed. When I was there, the setting of the sun was one of the things I looked forward to each day. That’s me in the header shot for this blog, enjoying the spectacular fiery Gumasa horizon at dusk.

There are other Gumasa lovers that attest to the beach’s many splendors. They compared Gumasa to Boracay–saying this was just like Boracay decades ago without the onslaught of commercialism or Gumasa is the Boracay of Mindanao. You can check out Androtan’s, Anafilibini’s and Danny’s testimonials. They can give you the contact numbers of the Gumasa resorts as well as directions on how to get there.

Go ahead…Gumasa awaits you!

Postscript:

Thanks to Rox, Pchie and Paula for some of the shots posted here. My gratitude also goes out to Doc’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. A, and relatives for their warmth and hospitality. Maraming salamat po! This is also in loving memory of Manang Senia (Doc and Rox’s childhood nanny at left) who shared some of her last happy days with all of us together during this trip…we miss you, Manang!