Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Savour the Flavour

“Food glorious food” is a line from a jingle of a food ad here that my son loves to sing. Well who doesn’t think that food is glorious? Just the thought of rocky road ice cream melting in our tongue already activates our salivary glands 100% more than normal. Add chocolate moist cake to that thought. How about leche flan? I’m sure you are drooling now.

Well, I believe most people have sweet tooth. I do. Yet in this place where sweets are flourishing and sumptuous food which we only see in foreign cooking shows and magazines or a restaurant’s menu are burgeoning, my palate is yearning for the food it grew up with – steamed sweet potatoes, boiled saba bananas with ginisang bagoong, kinilaw, paksiw, green jackfruit with coconut milk and dilis, pinakbet and more.

Affordable thin or thick crusted pizzas of various flavours abound here. You can just go to a grocery store and a huge row of fridge is filled with it for your eyes to feast on or you can opt to buy from a variety of pizza shops where you can get it hot. You might say lucky me huh. Don’t say it too fast coz I simply miss the aroma and taste of hot pandesal and monay.

A couple of gold coins and you can have a pack of ready-to-cook French fries (they call it chips here) or hash browns that would last a week at home. Delicious? Oh yeah! But just for a little while. I still miss maruya and grilled bananas or ginanggang.

Get a gold coin and your thirst will be quenched with scores of bottled juices from numerous fruits to choose from. But after a while, your palate will look for that familiar cold sweet fresh buko juice.

Your pink bill here will give you apples, plums, strawberries, grapes, and pears enough to make a fruit salad for six. Oh definitely nutritious and profoundly heavenly. But then again, the palate that got used to green mangoes with bagoong, sweet ripe mangoes, tasty durian, juicy lanzones, and mangosteen craves for their tang.

The list of absolutely mouth-watering and delectable food here is endless but one thing is certain, there is no food like home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nanny McPHEW!

Helpers from Hell, is an article written by Ladylou who’s a friend from college where she recounts her horrible experiences with her house helps in such a great style and hilarious manner. Those who’ve had similar experiences would be laughing at the same time feeling her anger and frustration. I laughed. I got angry. I laughed again. Then I got inspired to write about my house helps as well.

Unlike Ladylou who was not blessed with a good helper, I had a share of both helpers from heaven and from hell.

From the ring of fire

Nanny # 1 was an 18-year-old who came from a province 5 hours away from our city recommended by my aunt’s friend. She wanted to save money to be able to go to school thus she applied to be a house help/nanny. She arrived just a week after I gave birth. Her main tasks were simple household chores like washing dishes, doing the laundry, making sure the house was extra tidy since we had a newborn, and the likes. I or my husband cooked the viands, she cooked rice. I emphasized cleanliness. I stressed that she’s a part of the family so everything we eat, she eats, we eat together. She nodded and I was pretty sure she understood. 

The next day I was left in total disbelief when I called her and said “pag hukad na kay mamahaw na ta” to which she replied “human na man ko kaon te”.  The nerve! I felt like my operation had been slashed open! 

Cleanliness didn’t seem to sink in as well. Once, I asked her to sterilize my son’s feeding bottles. Just as I was about to go to the toilet I saw her coming out of it bringing with her a dipper full of water. “Para unsa na?” I asked. “Para sa beberon te.” WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!!! I so wanted to pour hot water on her head! Where was she when God sprinkled ‘common sense’ on earth? I couldn’t do anything but try to bear with her stupidly ignorant presence as it was difficult to look for house helps and I couldn’t do household chores and take care of my newborn at the same time. 

It seemed like she was born to a rich family for she was simply inexperienced when it comes to basic chores. Dishes were still greasy, laundry smelled detergent if not white stuff became coloured, sunny side up eggs became scrambled eggs, fried fish became fish fillet because she kept turning it. My newly bought non-stick pans were scratched with steel wool. She simply didn’t remember repeated instructions on how to wash such pans.  Worse, when asked to dish out the soup, she placed it on a plastic container used for raw fish in the freezer. Worst, she vanishes without permission only to find out that she goes out with other house helps in the neighbourhood. That’s when I took a nap in the afternoon, leaving all the doors open and I was like a fool calling out her name in the quiet streets of the subdivision. Duh!

Corrections and reprimands were nicely given but her gray matter seemed to be too small to absorb them. She lasted a month. I was relieved she left.

Nanny # 2 was from the same province, a 17-year-old with kilay five-thousand! She was active and did quite well in the household chores. She was just a “balye girl”. I discovered it when on her 2nd day at home, she immediately commented, “te ing-ani gyud diri? Alas-syete pa mingaw na dalan?” Haleeeeer as if the place she came from was bustling with city life! I said, “ngano, sa inyo diay bibo?”. “O te, kay mamayle bya me”, she responded.

TV was on the whole day and chores were delayed because she would simply say, “kadali te ha, tan-aw sa ko” lying down on the couch with her legs calmly nestled on the edge.  

Two weeks later she asked to be sent home because she was bored. Reluctance was not in my vocabulary that moment.

Nannies with Hallows 

Nanny #3 was from the outskirts of the same province as the two previous ones. She was too big for a 16-year-old. She only finished elementary and had to work early for her parents were mere tenants of a small farm. My sister brought her and the moment she arrived I discerned she was good because she immediately helped despite her long travel and despite our insistence that she rest first.

She was a jolly lass. She woke up early. She always found something to do. House was speck and span, laundry was fragrant and neatly folded, and she was good in putting my son to sleep humming along with his nursery rhymes. Her days off, Sundays, were still spent at home because she didn’t want to go to malls. “Kalas ra na kuarta te, tigom ra ko kay padala kang mama.” She only spent money for her cellphone load as she enjoyed texting her textmates and then giggled every time she shared her text adventures to us.

We offered to enrol her to school the following school year. We simply waited for her birth certificate and other documents. Almost a year after however, she tearfully decided to go home. Her mom continuously asked her to be home. I didn’t want to let her go but neither can I ask her to stay. She cried bidding my son goodbye. I hid my tears. She remained in contact with us a few months after, constantly asking how my son was.
I learned she went back to school in their barrio. I was happy for her.

Nanny #4 was a fashionable 21 year-old single mom from Bohol brought to us by my husband’s cousin. It was her second time in CDO. The first was with her sister at a hardware shop.

Like the previous help, she was simply a veteran with house chores. There was no need to instruct her on what to do. She asked questions if she was uncertain of some stuff. She was so good with my then almost two-year old son keeping him well-fed and clean while I was at work. There was nothing else I could say. She was heaven-sent as we've been struggling for months without a nanny.

Her days off were spent with her sister window shopping or roaming around the city. A couple of times she brought her cousins to our place for a visit. At first we were apprehensive because these were strangers but they were okay. She went home for New Year and we gave her some stuff, some hand-me-down clothes for her little boy and toys as well.

We were jubilant that she came back. Our jubilation was cut short however because we had to let her go home barely a month later since we had to fly here already. If only I could bring her here. She cried when she sent us off. My husband’s family met her a couple of months later when they went to Bohol for vacation. We had a chance to video-chat. She shed a tear when my son was happily yelling her name.

In this place where house helps are not in and nannies are plainly expensive I often remember the very good nannies I had and laughed about the dim-witted ones.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


My son recently turned three yet it feels like it was only yesterday that I delivered a perfectly healthy baby boy to this wonderful world. I could still vividly remember every excruciating detail of my labour. The unbearable pain from the back of my spine down to my feet that no amount of comfort from anyone helped and would ever help. The very long wait in the delivery room, whimpering for the severe discomfort and praying for full dilation to occur soon while looking at the ticking clock. I still recall myself telling my Dr. to greet my husband on my behalf, who was also anxiously waiting outside the room with my mom, a happy birthday. The fear I had while I was being moved to the operating room. The worry while they were attaching wires to me before they asked me to crouch enough for my knees to almost touch my chin so they could inject me with anaesthesia. Pain and agony were replaced with unrivalled joy when I had my first glimpse of him. He looked like my husband, I grinned to myself while still feeling numb and cold. Exhaustion followed yet I still managed to utter a birthday greeting to my fatigued husband and thank you to my drowsy mom, both happily met me as I was being rolled to my room. I guess I slept the whole day but I didn’t miss the fun we had at the hospital room to celebrate his birth and his dad’s birthday though I was just deprived of the food they brought.

The seven pound bundle of joy who cried every now and then during the first month, who enjoyed eating his first solid foods on his 6th month onwards, who entertained everyone with his giggles and grins, who always had a good sleeping pattern (never woke up at dawn or in the middle of the night), who mimicked adults using the phone with his incomprehensible mumbles, who enjoyed watching Barney and Brainy Baby series, and who walked when he was one is now an inquisitive, silly (like his dad or even more), playful, sweet toddler. A toddler who’s so beguiled by helicopters and airplanes, a little boy who enjoys wrestling with his dad, who argues with me when I read to him and I change the characters’ names, who easily mimics what adults around him say or do, who loves singing and dancing (don’t know where he got it from) who messes the room with his toys and books often, and who explores everything around him.

I know he has a lot of things to learn as he continues to grow and I have a lot more things to discover as I go on with my journey with him as he explores the woes and wonders of this universe and become a mature adult.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

October FEAST

The past month began and ended with a feast.

On the eve of the first day my mind was set on the grocery list I had and the order of the simple menu I had to prepare for my first birthday far from home. My son and I were ready for our shopping day when my husband arrived from work. On the way to town he’s been asking me the itinerary for the day’s shopping spree and I gladly told him. He said he had to meet a co-worker, whose house is beside our dear friend, to get something. He will go to his co-worker’s house and my son and I were supposed to stay at our friend’s place. I wasn’t happy with the detour because I had a long list of errands to do with so little time and I didn’t want to just barge in to the house of our friend without telling her ahead of time. Nonetheless, I obliged.

Once inside the house, I felt more ashamed waiting for my husband because it seemed that my friend, I call her Ate, was expecting visitors for dinner as the table was set and she was busy preparing food. I was eager to get out. I never wanted to be in another one’s house uninvited. Then my housemates arrived. I wondered what they were doing there since they usually tell me if they’ll go and visit Ate. I was still confused and anxious for my husband to get back so we could get out of Ate’s house when another friend arrived and handed me a gift and then they all laughed. Then Ate gave me a hug. That’s when I realized my day was sabotaged by my husband, ate and her kids, and my housemates! I couldn’t help but cry. At that moment I was upset with my husband (a bit) for conspiring with them, I instantly missed my family, and was overwhelmed with the love Ate has shown - the lengths she had to go through to prepare the food, etc. despite her super hectic schedule. It was the first birthday surprise I ever had! The feast began, the grocery list forgotten.

A fragrant bouquet of yellow flowers tickled me at 4am - another surprise from my husband! My natal day was celebrated with friends served with simple food multiplied with fun!

A fortnight after that I had the chance to go on an all-girls weekend out with Ate, her daughter and my housemate to Adelaide. Our trip was filled with absolute fun of retail therapy and food! Oh yeah! Foooood trip! For a moment we forgot about our husbands and kids and simply enjoyed going through all the fabulous shops not missing out an open door. We merely stopped for our meals. Super yummy ice cream followed every lunch.

Our entire experience was great except for one grueling nearly one hour appointment. It was supposed to be fun because Ate was out to get her citizenship certificate when we were greeted by this petulant Filipina who treated us like we were ignorant natives who arrived in the city for the first time! Oh, how I wanted to pull her ugly hair out! She acted like she was somebody so important that we had to bow to her. Only to find out she was merely a volunteer assistant of someone else. Her boss, who happens to be a PhD degree holder and a representative of the Embassy of the Philippines was so nice and welcoming. Well, we managed to keep our spirits high despite her annoying presence and just gave her our stern gaze once in a while. We never opened our hands to clap for her when she was introduced and we were more than happy to leave that hall and forget that grotesque woman’s face!
We were all laughing about her and reminiscing on some bloopers we had afterward and moved on to our food trip and retail therapy that the car’s boot was nearly not enough for all the stuff we bought. What a fantastic weekend!

The couple of weeks that followed kept me busy preparing for my two boys’ birthday bash. I was just lucky to have Ate’s help again. Invites, decoration, food, utensils, prizes and more kept me occupied. I wanted their birthday to be simple yet much fun since it will be the first time we celebrate it without any close kin nearby. And it was indeed fun-filled!

October was and will always be a busy month for me. A month delighted with food and friendship.