Oh My Gulay!

The Filipino language is rich in interesting idioms and expressions, that make our conversations more colorful. Like the expression, “isang bulate na lang ang hindi pumipirma,” which means near-death condition. It definitely sounds light-hearted on an otherwise grave predicament.

Anyways, since it’s summer here where I live, and we have planted some vegetables, I would like to showcase our use of vegetables (gulay) in our idioms and expressions, and their respective meaning.

1. Nagmumurang kamias.

This means an “old” individual acting like “young.” For instance, a grandma trying to dress-up like a teenager, perhaps with a hanging shirt and short mini-skirt. In other words, it is used to describe people who are not acting appropriately their age.

Example: Pare, ‘yung lolo mo nagmumurang kamyas, niyaya ba namang i-date niya ‘yung pinsan kong kolehiyala.

2. Pulis Patola

The term means a good-for-nothing cop. I think the term is use, as policeman usually carry a baton (batuta). But here it is described as the police carrying a patola instead of a baton. There’s even an action-comedy movie with that title in the 1990’s.

The expression of “sundalong-kanin” have a similar connotation, a useless soldier whose only contribution in the battle is to consume the rice ration.

Example: Sabi ni General Bato, ititiwalag niya lahat ng mga Pulis Patola.

3. Nangangamatis

This term is used to describe something that is swelled up and inflamed, like a tomato that is plump and red. But mostly the term is reserved for a complication after a boy’s circumcision. Definitely you don’t want that term to describe the you-know-what after being circumcised.

Example: Hijo, pagkatapus mong tuliin, langgasin mo araw-araw, para hindi mangamatis.

4. Nangangamote

Nangangamote means having difficulty or failing to do well. We also use the term kamote to describe somebody who is dim-wit or unintelligent. For sure, you don’t want to be called anak ng kamote. You don’t want to receive the kalabasa award either.

I am not sure why we use kamote as a derogatory term. Kamote for all I know is a highly nutritious food and don’t deserve to be treated with disdain.

Example: Nangamote ka naman sa exam, mas bobo ka pa sa row 4.

5. Mani-mani lang

This term is the opposite of nangangamote. Mani-mani lang means it was so easy that you breezed through it whatever it was. Again, I don’t know why we favor mani (peanut), but hate kamote.

Mani is also used as a slang term for a female’s anatomy. Yes, the counterpart of that thing I mentioned above that can become nangangamatis.

Example: Mana sa akin sa pagka-genius ‘yung pamangkin ko, kasi minani-mani lang niya ang Quantum Physics.

6. Giyera Patani

This is an old expression that means a fight or an argument without causing serious harm or consequences. As you know, a patani (lima bean), is a pod vegetable that has lightweight seeds. And even if you hit somebody with these seeds, it will not cause grave injury.

Example: Hanggang giyera patani lang naman ang away namin ng misis ko.

7. Pupulutin sa kangkungan

This term means a summary execution without having a trial. In other words it is extra judicial killing (EJK), which nowadays is a very hot topic of contention. The origin of the expression is that one way of hiding a “salvage” victim’s body is to dump it in the swamps or where there’s a heavy growth of kangkong (swamp cabbage).

Example: Kung hindi ka tumigil sa pagiging addict, baka pupulutin ka na lang sa kangkungan balang araw.

8. Mala-labanos ang kutis

This expression is comparing the complexion of someone’s skin to be like labanos (horse-radish), which is white and smooth. I am not sure though why we who are supposed to be proud to be lahing kayumanggi are so pre-occupied and trying so hard to be “white.” Just look around and we are so inundated with all those advertisements of whitening products.

Example: Gumagamit kasi ako ng mga Belo products kaya’t mala-labanos na ang kutis ko ngayon.

9. Parang luya

Unlike the expression mala-labanos which is mostly deemed as a compliment, the expression parang luya is far from being one. In fact it is an insult. The term is usually used to describe an ugly feet. This is due to the fact that luya (ginger) has crooked and contorted branching fingers.

Example: Kahit anong pa-pedicure mo, parang luya pa rin ang mga paa mo.

10. Balat-sibuyas

This term is used to describe a person that is easily hurt or sensitive to criticisms. This idiom is due to the fact that the onion has very thin skin. I am not sure if the added fact that peeling and cutting onion makes one cry, contributes to the meaning of the term.

Example: Balat-sibuyas naman itong si Dagul, sinabihan lang na malakas pa siya sa balyena kung kumain, ay umiyak na.

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That’s all for now folks. I know there’s still a lot of vegetables mentioned in the song Bahay Kubo that we have not covered here. So if you know more vegetable expressions, please drop me a comment. Thank you for reading.

 

iPhone Meets iFawn

If you have read my previous post, you know that my iPhone drowned in the ocean.

So I got myself a new iPhone. And I like it. Not because it is bigger, but because it can do more. Except swim, I guess.

I took the following video a few days ago during my morning run. Then my son played with my new phone and he turned this video into a film. He put music, words, and edited it with very little assistance from me, all via the iPhone. Smart kid!

Hope you enjoy.

 

(*Tapa is cured meat; a favorite Filipino breakfast, usually served with eggs and garlic rice.)

 

 

Farm Dining

Since we moved in Iowa several years ago, we have dined in different restaurants here in metro Des Moines area. From formal to casual, from fancy to rustic, from pricey to low-cost, and from long-sit-down meal to on-the-run fast food. This also encompassed several international cuisines, like American, Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Italian, French, Vietnamese, Laotian, Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, Indian, Greek, Ecuadorian, and Lebanese.

We also enjoy Filipino cuisine here, but it is not in a restaurant. It is my wife’s home cooking.

But when you’re in Iowa, I believe there’s a restaurant that embodies this state’s culture. The restaurant is the Iowa Machine Shed.

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The ambience is farm-themed, and the dining experience is relaxed, warm and family oriented. The establishment prides itself as a restaurant that honors the American farmer.

Outside the restaurant are some old farming equipments that adds to its distinctive appeal.

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my son on the tractor

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old gasoline pump

They even have a complimentary tractor ride that takes you around the neighborhood of the restaurant, and let you catch a glimpse of the “Living History Farm*” next door, that the restaurant supports.

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tractor ride

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Since the state of Iowa is the number one producer of pork and corn in the US, and probably the whole world, so it is not surprising these are what greets you at the door.

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Inside the place, they have a small store that you can browse through while you wait to be seated.

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The dining area, the tables and chairs, gives you a feel of a farmer’s kitchen or even a barn.

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The waiters and waitresses are in their denim overalls, that I wonder if they are dressed to harvest the corn and milk the cow, as well as to serve us our food.

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Even the silverware and glassware are uniquely farm-like: sturdy and rustic. Here’s what my son did to the glass, knives and the water pitcher. Good balancing act!

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I know that the most important part of the restaurant is the menu and the food it offers. Of course this restaurant serves lots of bacon and pork chops. But I assure you, they offer more than pork chops and corn on the cob.

I don’t have any photos of the food they serve on this post, for I intentionally left them out for you to come and visit, and personally see and try them for yourselves.

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Lastly, when you dine here, appreciate all the farmers and all the people and their efforts that brought food to your table. And besides there is a sign near the counter that says, “complaining to the cook will be hazardous to your health.”

From Iowa,

Pinoytransplant.

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(*Living History Farm is an outdoor museum in Iowa that tells the story of how Iowans transformed the fertile prairies of the Midwest into the most productive farmland in the world.)

(**This is not a paid post. But on second thought, maybe they should give me a free meal on our next visit. Just wishful thinking.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

Pakbet is a traditional Ilocano dish, from the northern part of the Philippines. The word pinakbet or pakbet, came from “pinakebbet,” which means shriveled. The dish uses vegetables like sitaw (string beans), ampalaya (bitter melon), eggplant, okra, and kalabasa (squash), sauteed in bagoong (condiment made from fermented fish).

During our last visit in Ilocos, we had pakbet, but in a pizza! Still tasted like the classic Ilocano recipe, albeit with an Italian twist.

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(*Entry for WordPress photo challenge prompt)

Cornick, Balut, and Butong Pakwan

We Filipinos have some odd foods. The “adidas” or chicken feet, the bagoong or fermented fish, and the infamous balut or duck’s embryo, to name a few. Outside the Philippines, these foods can be met with much disdain with the mere mention of them. If you don’t believe me, just let a foreigner sniff the bagoong and watch their expression as their face crumpled like a paper.

During the recent International Food Festival held at downtown Des Moines, where one can sample foods from different booths from different cultures and nationalities, the Filipino association had its own stall. One of the served food is billed as “chocolate soup” among other Pinoy foods. People were interested to try the “chocolate” dish until they learned that it was dinuguan or pork blood stew, and that made some of them blush.

However we have other peculiar Pinoy foods that are less detestable to the non-Filipino people. In fact, these certain foods can even be palatable and downright appealing even to the uninitiated. The puto (rice cake), the pastillas (milk candies), and the lumpia (egg rolls), are examples of these.

When we invite our non-Filipino friends for a gathering, they were always hoping that my wife will serve her home-made lumpia, which is the best in town. (Of course I am biased!) They really crave for the lumpia, that I think they’re more excited to see the lumpia than seeing us.

During our last visit to the Philippines, we brought back here some more unique Filipino foods – cornick (fried corn) and butong pakwan (watermelon seeds).

We were in Vigan to visit family for the holidays and we bought several bags of the original Ilocos cornick to take home. It is quite ironic that we brought more corn products here to Iowa from somewhere else, when Iowa is already overflowing with corn. If you don’t know it yet, Iowa is the number one producer of corn in the US, and perhaps the whole world. Maybe I should start my own cornick business here.

When we pass through Pampanga, we were invited by my wife’s family friend. We were served a very delicious homecook Kapamapangan meal of “pindang damulag” (“tocino-like” carabao meat), Pampangueno’s version of daing na bangus (fried milkfish), and fresh carabao’s milk. Besides the sumptuous lunch, we were also given several packs of “Paning’s Butong Pakwan,” which is their family business.

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my cornick from Ilocos and butong pakwan from Pampanga

When we came back here in Iowa, we had some non-Filipino friends came over in our house. We offered the cornick for them to sample. Even though we are in the midst of the sea of cornfields, they have not tasted this kind of corn snack. It was a hit, as they liked its garlicky taste.

Then we brought out the butong pakwan for them to taste as well. But before we can even show them how to eat it, somebody already took a handful and directly munch it. “Hmmmm chewy!” was her comment.

Fighting not to laugh so not to embarrass her, I politely demonstrated how we eat the butong pakwan, by cracking it open and getting out the pulp. She looked at me with a grin and discreetly spewed out the chewed seeds.

Perhaps next time I’ll serve the balut and show them how it is eaten. But I should dim all the lights in the house first. The less they see what they are nibbling the better. Isn’t that the reason why balut is sold at night and eaten in the dark?

Anak ng Kamote (Son of Sweet Potato)

“Go home and plant kamote!” Maybe you have heard that declaration before. Or perhaps it was even you who have been the recipient of that demeaning statement. When I was in high school, after a game of basketball or volleyball, we jokingly said that expression to the team who lost. It just simply means that they will be more productive in planting the said root crop than doing something else.

We have also use the term “kamote” and “nangamote” when we failed or struggled in a test or exam. (You don’t want to get the “kalabasa” award either.) Kamote is used to refer to someone as dumb or poor in something. You certainly do not want to be called “anak ka ng kamote” too!

I am not sure what was the reason why we use “kamote” as a degrading term. Though “sweet potato” which is the English of kamote does not sound derogatory at all. In fact being called “sweet potato” seems an endearing expression, like being called “sweet pea,” or “sugar,” or “honey.” But it does not strike as endearing at all to be called “kamote.”

The other day, a Filipino who owns a large farmland here in Iowa gave us a bagful of kamote, which they organically grow in their farm. I confess that I am not a real fan of kamote also, even back in the Philippines, though I like the “talbos ng kamote” or sweet potato leaves. But after several years that I have not eaten kamote, I did missed it, and found it refreshing to taste the kamote once again.

our nilagang kamote

This morning, I ate nilagang (boiled) kamote and pan de sal (another Filipino gave us home-baked pan de sal) with hot cocoa for breakfast. How authentically Pinoy can your breakfast get than that? However, in reality many Filipino dismissed the kamote as fitting only for the poorest of the poor. The affluent will not be caught eating the humble kamote. It is not good for their image.

The fact of the matter is, kamote is far more valuable than what we Filipinos think. It is indeed a very healthy and versatile food. And it is not just “kabag” (gas) that you can get from it, as notoriously known. Kamote is very nutritious. It has no cholesterol, low in fat, high in fiber, has calcium, good carbohydrates, carotene, potassium, Vitamin C, and many more nutrients. Some herbalists claim that kamote can be used for a number of ailments – from headaches to diarrhea. Though I cannot vouch for those as a physician, but I can say for sure that kamote is a cure for the hungry stomach.

Kamote, especially the colored ones, has phytochemicals that can fight cancer. The American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association have endorsed the sweet potato for its health benefits and disease-fighting capabilities.

Most Filipinos cannot last a day without eating white rice. But do you know that the lowly kamote is far more nutritious and healthy than white rice? That should change our scornful attitude towards this oft maligned food.

So how did my day go, that I started with eating kamote for breakfast? It went fine. I did not do poorly at all. Far from being termed “nangamote.”

How about the notion that kamote can cause you to pass a lot of gas? That idea is full of air (Sorry, pun intended). And even if it is, just let it rip! Anak ng kamote!

Of Monkeys and Men

Last week, I saw a patient in the hospital that our group was following for consult. Though it was my first time to see the patient, she had been in the hospital for almost a month already. A little longer more and they could have named the room to her.

Our patient was morbidly obese and had constant difficulty breathing. She was on 10 liters of oxygen continuously, and supposed to wear a CPAP at night for her sleep apnea, though she hates it and not compliant with it. She also had decompensated congestive heart failure, poorly controlled diabetes, and unrelenting seizures. We were unable to discharge her home due to her persistent poor condition.

When I entered the patient’s room, she was having breakfast: heaps of bacon strips (I believe it was more than 10 strips), a large serving of scrambled egg, four heavily buttered toast, a good size donut, and 2 small cartons of milk. My jaw dropped in disbelief! How could we allow this in a patient who was already having serious problems, and in the hospital at that?

I was tempted to yank the tray away from her. And I did, but just to examine her. She was obviously annoyed that I interrupted her breakfast, or should I say suicidal meal.

There was a recent research in the UK that found that about 75% of hospital food has more saturated fat than Big Mac, and 60% of hospital dinners have dangerously high salt levels. It is a fact that our hospital food is so unhealthy, that patients might be safer to be at home than to be in the hospital.

I worked in a hospital before in New York city that has a fast food chain in their cafeteria. It was ironic that you can find both McDonald’s and the cardiac cath lab in the same floor of the hospital. So you can eat your fat greasy burger and if you happen to suffer a heart attack, they can just wheel you straight down the hall into the cath lab for your angioplasty.

There was a study conducted more than three decades ago that was funded by the National Institute of Health, about feeding a fatty diet, like the regular hospital food, to a group of rhesus monkeys. The monkeys probably had a blast with all the banana milkshake and crispy bacon instead of their normal diet of bananas and occasional insects. After 16 months of eating the fatty foods, one of the monkeys had a first heart attack.

As the study continued, eleven more monkeys had suffered similar heart attacks. This study clearly demonstrated the relation of diet and heart disease. So the take home message from this study for you is if you get hospitalized, don’t stay more than 16 months in the hospital, or it will kill you. Huh?

Back to my patient, after seeing her breakfast tray, I quickly reminded her that she was not doing herself a favor by continuing to eat all these high fat foods. Just looking at it gave me a chest pain. However after I walked out of her room and changed her diet to a heart healthy one, I was called by the nurse later on, that the patient simply refused to follow my diet order. She just wanted to eat what she wants to eat.

I felt displeased initially, but more saddened afterwards for my patient. She is not an isolated case. Her attitude is the same as the pervading attitude of our society today. We are inundated with advertisement of foods that are rich in fats and sugar, people indulging on the “good life,” and yet our commercials show models with thin and beautiful figures. Somehow there is a great disconnect here.

For the health professionals, we practice salvage medicine, where we kind of put a band-aid in a hole on a dam that is about to explode. Somehow advising people to eat the right food and live healthy to prevent diseases becomes secondary. Besides we can always prescribe Lipitor for their high cholesterol and give them insulin injection for their diabetes. It is good for the business and for the pharmaceutical companies, right?

In our society we are conditioned and deemed it acceptable to crack the chest open to do the coronary bypass surgery for a heart disease, or whack out or staple a part of the stomach for gastric bypass procedure to help patient lose weight as mainstream medical practice. Yet telling patients to adhere to a lifestyle change like converting to a vegetarian or vegan diet to reverse their disease, is considered too extreme and radical.

About the monkey studies again, part of the study was switching back their diet to low-fat diet, perhaps back to their normal food of bananas and other fruits. I am not sure if the monkeys protested, as they got used to the hamburger, fries and milkshakes. But what it showed is that with the healthy low-fat diet, there was a regression of the cholesterol build-up (atherosclerosis) in their arteries – proving that fatty diet can cause the disease and switching to a healthy diet will reverse the disease.

We know we can do something for atherosclerosis or hardened arteries. But can we do something for hardened attitudes?

Now, if I could also curb my cravings for a Whopper…….

(*photo from here)

Scented Memories

I was jogging in our neighborhood one day when I passed by a house under construction. I caught a waft of  trimmed wood, and the scent suddenly transported me back in time, somewhere in my childhood, when my father gave me a gift of wooden chess set. Isn’t it  interesting that inhaling a certain odor can evoke very specific memories, even though how remote those memories are?

For me smelling a citrusy fragrance will remind me of this girl that I had a crush on in college, as she wore a perfume or cologne that smells like lemon. Or maybe it was just their laundry detergent. Or maybe it was her lemon-scented Eskinol. Whatever it was, it is forever locked in my mind.

Then when I smell formalin, this brings me back to my medical school days with those “aromatic” cadavers at the UST Anatomy hall. The grueling long study periods up to the wee hours of the morning. The difficult exams that made me sweat like rain drops. By the way, the smell of “xerox” paper reminds me also of those days where my classmates and I will hang out in Dapitan photocopying handouts, notes, and leaked out old test questions (patok daw!).

When I sniff pine scent, this brings back happy childhood memories when my family went to Baguio. Where we stayed near the Teacher’s Camp. Strolled down Session Road. Visited Burnham Park. And enjoyed the spectacular view at Mines View Park, while also watching some natives perform the Igorot dance.

Mines View Park, Baguio

The link between smell and memory is not just a whiff of your imagination. There is really a scientific and medical reason for it. The center in our brain for the sense of smell is in the olfactory bulb which is near to a part of our central nervous system called the hippocampus. Hippocampus means the “seahorse” due to its the curled up shape, located deep in our brain. Neuroscientists have learned that the hippocampus is important when it comes to processing new memories. In fact, in people who have damage to this area of the brain can have trouble remembering what happened to them.

Some politicians we know, have problems remembering where they came from and what they promised before they got elected, so it must be a “hippocampus” thing. But then again it may be that something else is wrong with their brain. Sorry, I got sidetracked.

Few days ago, when I called my wife that I was about to come home, she did not answer the phone right away. On my third call, she finally answered and I learned that she was outside the house, near the back door of the garage, cooking “tuyo” (dried fish). You see we try hard not to cook dried fish inside the house as it will surely stink our place. Or if we do cook it inside, we make sure all the windows are open and we have scented candles lighted up to neutralize the smell, or else our non-Filipino visitors will think that we have a dead rat trapped in the ceiling.

Anyway, as soon as I heard my wife said that she was cooking tuyo, I swear I began to smell the peculiar scent of dried fish. And I was in my office still! Did the scent travelled through the phone lines? Could it be that the sound signals were transformed into olfactory signals through the phone towers? Or maybe it was all olfactory hallucination or what is medically termed as phantosmia.

Whatever the reason was, I really thought I was smelling dried fish, even though it was plainly not there. Maybe it was my memories of home, the one in Manila where I grew up, where I spent many fond years with my family, with home-cooking like “ginisang munggo” and the proverbial tuyo, awakened the sensation that I felt I detected that notable “fragrant” scent. Even if it was all in my mind. And for one nostalgic moment, I was home.

Time to go home now. To my present home with my wife and kids here in Iowa, where new sweet-smelling memories are being formed. And I know I will relive these moments again…..someday. I hope my hippocampus stay intact.

It is also time now to really sniff and taste that dried fish that my wife lovingly cooked, even if she has to do it outside our house.

(*image from here)

Burning the Turkey

Despite of what the title might suggest, this article is not about cooking. Let’s make it clear – I don’t do the cooking. I leave that to my wife. For if I do, that’s exactly what I will do: “burn” the turkey.

This morning, I went to the gym and found that it was jam-packed. All the treadmills and exercise machines were occupied. Even the open floor for stretching was full of people. What’s happening? Since I am a regular to this gym, I knew this was not an ordinary phenomenon.

Then I realized, it was the first day after the Thanksgiving weekend. That was it! People perhaps felt guilty of all the feasting they did and stuffing themselves with food (so it was not just the turkey that was stuffed!) during the holiday and now they are trying to “burn the turkey.”

I read in one article that according to the University of Michigan Health System, an average American devours 3000 calories during the Thanksgiving meal or dinner. Screaming turkeys! That much for one dinner? And since most of us also do a lot of snacking throughout the day, it will amount to about 4500 calories consumed for the whole Thanksgiving day. That is more than twice the recommended caloric allowance for a day. And considering that some people gobble ( gobble? yes, pun intended) that much calories whether it is Thanksgiving or not, no wonder we have an obesity epidemic.

But you may argue that you could have burned all those calories perhaps when you did your Black Friday shopping. Yes, you might have walked, ran, pushed, pulled, shoved, lift, and even jumped to get the best deals on the biggest day of shopping. That will certainly burn some of the calories you chomped, but it is not enough. Not even close.

An exercise physiologist from the American Council of Exercise stated that in order to burn the 3000 calories, an average 160-pound person need to walk 30 miles. Holy turkey smokes! That’s more than the distance of a full marathon! Well, if you want to burn much faster, you can run, right? Then you need to run at a moderate pace for 4 hours. And if swimming is your thing, you need to swim for 5 hours to burn that 3000 calories you packed from the Thanksgiving dinner alone.

After the holiday, we perhaps still have a lot of leftovers that we are trying to consume, even if it is in excess of what we really need. I know it is very hard to have good food go to waste, especially in some cultures. Coming from the Philippines, where food can be scarce for some families, it is inculcated in us by our elders, that it is almost like a heinous crime to throw away food. But you know what, in some instances, it may be better to have the excess food to be in the garbage, than the “garbage” to be a part of your belly fat, where it will stay there for a long, long time.

Now that you are enlightened, put down the turkey and start walking. The whole 30 miles of it.

(*image from here)

Kwentong Baon

Isa sa kasiguraduhan sa musmos kong buhay noon, ay ang bitbit kong baon para sa tanghalian. Dahil may kalayuan ang aming paaralan mula sa aming bahay, kaya mula Grade 1 hanggang 4th year high school, ay kasama sa laman ng aking bag ay ang aking baon.

Nandiyan tumulo ang sabaw sa aking mga aklat, tumapon ang laman sa loob ng aking bag, o mamawis sa sobrang init, ngunit ang mahalaga ay mayroon akong pananghalian. Pati nga ang aking PE t-shirt, na nasa loob rin ng aking bag, ay nag-aamoy baon. (Pero hindi ko naman tinangkang kainin ang baon kong t-shirt.)

Naging iba’t ibang klase ang aking naging lunch box sa paglipas ng maraming taon. Mula plastic na parang tupperware, hanggang sa lata na gawa sa aluminum. Naging iba’t ibang kulay din ang mga ito, mula sa puti, asul, berde, pink (pink? ah…..eh…..sa utol kong babae pala yun!) at “stainless”. Minsan ay may “cartoon character” o “super hero” pa ang aking lunch box.

Naging sari-sari rin ang aking naging baon. Mula sa hotdog, fried chicken, tinolang manok, nilagang itlog, piniritong itlog, sarsiadong itlog, (buti na lang at hindi puro itlog ang naging grade ko!) tapa, bistek, corned beef, tinapa, daing na bangus, piniritong galunggong, paksiw na tilapia, pinakbet, adobong sitaw, eskabecheng talong, ginisang munggo, at siyempre kanin. (Hindi tanghalian kung walang kanin!)

Kapag may sabaw ang aking baon, ay binabalot pa ito sa plastic na supot ng aking nanay, at saka ilalagay sa lunch box, pero paminsan-minsa’y kumakatas pa rin. Tunay namang masarap ang pagkain kahit pa nakulob ng ilang oras sa loob ng lunchbox, huwag lang mapapanis.

baong manok at kanin

(photo from here)

Naging iba’t iba rin ang mga lugar kung saan ako kumakain ng aking baon. Mula sa loob ng classroom, sa ilalim ng puno sa labas ng school building, sa bahay ng aking kaklaseng nakatira sa malapit sa aming eskwelahan, sa tabi ng basketball court ng school(tapos maglalaro na ng prisoner’s base pagkatapos kumain), o sa paligid-ligid na mga canteen.

Pero nang ako ay nasa high school na, ay naging regular at naging suki na ako doon sa “Quintos’ carinderia” na nasa tabi ng aming paaralan. Pinapayagan kaming kumain doon kahit may bitbit na baon, basta ba bibili lang kami ng softdrink o iba pang panghimagas.

Noong ako’y nasa elementarya pa ay hindi ko iniinda ang aking pagbi-bitbit ng baon. Ngunit noong ako’y nasa high school na ay para bang akin nang ikinahihiya ang pagdadala ng lunchbox.

Sa aking murang pananaw ay hindi “cool” ang may bitbit na baon. Bakit ba hindi na lang ako bigyan ng aking magulang ng perang pambili ng tanghalian sa mga canteen o karinderia, tulad ng iba kong mga kaklase? O bakit nga ba? Diyahe naman itong laging may nakasuksok na baon sa bag!

Subalit sa pagdaan ng maraming pang taon, nang aking sariwain ang mga nakaraan, ay aking naisip na mas malaki ang malasakit at sakripisyo ng aking mga magulang, lalo na ng aking nanay sa paghahanda ng aking baon.

Sa araw-araw na gawa ng Diyos na kami ay may pasok sa eskwela, ay walang pagod na inihahanda ng aking ina ang aking baon. At kahit minsa’y hindi ko siya kinarinigan ng reklamo sa pag-gawa nito. Totoo, hindi ko dapat ikahiya ang aking pagbi-bitbit ng baon, kundi dapat ko pang ipagmalaki ito, dahil ito’y tanda ng pagmamahal ng aking ina.

Dahil din sa pagdadala ko ng baon, ay nabuklod kami ng aking mga naging kaibigan. Apat kaming mag-kakabarkada noon ang laging magkakasamang kumakain na may bitbit na baon. Natagurian na nga kaming “Baon Boys.”

Ang mga kaibigan kong ito ay naging kasangga ko sa mahabang panahon at napalapit sa aking puso, at hindi ko ipagpapalit ang aming mga pinagsamahan, kahit pa sa isang linggong baon. (Kahit pa relyenong bangus o kare-kare, peks man!)

our highschool reunion tarp

(photo from gogirlcafe.jennyo.net)

Noong 2009, matapos lumipas ang 25 taon, ay muli akong nakabalik sa aming paaralan para sa aming reunion. At kahit pinagwatak-watak kami ng tadhana (may nasa Amerika, Australia, at Pilipinas), at kahit pinakupas na kami ng panahon, ay muling nagkita-kita ang “Baon Boys.”

Nagbago na ang aming mga itsura. Tumanda, bumigat, naupos ang buhok. Nagbago na rin ang mga problema naming kinakaharap. Dati’y problema lang namin ay kung kasya ang aming pera na pambili ng softdrink doon sa Quintos’, nguni’t ngayon ay problema na namin ang pambaon ng aming mga anak at ipapabaon sa aming pamilya kung sakaling kami’y mawala na.

At kahit marami na ang nagbago, ang samahan ng aming pagkakaibigan ay hindi pa rin nagbago. Sayang nga lang at hindi na namin nabalikan ang dati naming paboritong hangout. Ito ay dahil wala na ang karinderia, at isang night-club na ang nakatirik sa lugar na iyon. (At hindi naman kami papayagan ng aming mga misis na pasukin ito.)

Oo nga pala, may isa pang malaking pinagbago — wala na kaming bitbit na baong lunchbox.