Authentic Filipino Chair

My wife recently replaced our kitchen counter stools for they were worn out from years of use. The seat area had thinned out with some of the sea grass weaves torn or missing. We’re afraid that one of these days those seats might give out and we end up falling to the floor. Or worse, a visitor would fall to the floor.

When we were looking for replacement chairs, we decided to have an authentic Asian-inspired furniture. We thought that it should be made of yantok sticks, or bamboo, or rattan. Though we are not living in the Philippines anymore, we hope that our chairs will at least give us that Filipino-feel.

We have several Philippine-inspired items in our home besides my old barong that is collecting dust in the closet. We have an abaca runner on our dining table. We have capiz table plate mats that we bought from the Philippines. We also have the sungka (Filipino mancala game) that we placed atop of the center table in our living room which many of our guests are interested to learn how to play. We even have a parol made of capiz that was given to us years ago and we hang it every Christmas on our window.

So my wife searched high and low for new kitchen chairs. She looked for them in our local malls and furniture stores. She also searched the internet. If only she could visit the furniture shops at Calle Crisologo in Vigan, I believe she would. But finally she found what she was looking for.

When the chairs were delivered, I thought they were Asian- inspired alright. The stools are made of wood, almost like yantok, and the seat is made of woven strips like banig. When you move them, they even create that certain sound from our wood floor that is reminiscent of what we had in the Philippines. Beside being beautifully-crafted, they are sturdily-made as well.

However, they did not look like the popular chairs in the Philippines, the ones made of bentwood and solihiya rattan, that are so ubiquitous you can find them on every provincial home or rural carinderia. So I teased my wife that our chairs are not authentic enough or Filipino enough.

Few nights ago, when we were having dinner, I was a little excited as my wife cooked kare-kare, which we infrequently have except on rare occasions. I know the dish is rich and delicious (pamatay sa sarap), but too much and too often could be too rich for the coronaries (pamatay talaga).

We didn’t have bagoong that night, instead we had patis (fish sauce) to add to the flavor of the kare-kare. In my haste, I accidentally tipped the bowl where the patis was and it spilled into the countertop. The patis even flowed over into the new chair! Needless to say, the whole kitchen stank like patis.

Even after wiping the spilled patis, the smell lingered. The new chair smell like patis too. That might have added authenticity to the chair and I think they are now Filipino enough.

Thoughts From An Old Couch

Where do old couch go?

Few days ago, my son and I carried out our old couch to the end of our driveway for waste management to pick-up. Would it be recycled into a new form or would it rest in a land fill? I don’t know. This is not the first time though, that I have dealt with a couch on a curb.

About two and a half decades ago, I came to United States on a training visa to start my medical residency. I had one suitcase in hand which was all my belongings plus a few dollars in my wallet. Leaving our home in the Philippines, I arrived in Morristown, New Jersey and stayed with another Filipino medical resident whom I just met. I crashed at his apartment for I have no place of my own.

One day we saw a couch left at the street curb to be picked up by the garbage collector. Seeing that the couch still has some life left on it, I thought it could be of use to me. My friend and I scooped up the sofa before the garbage truck could pick it up. Of course we inspected it first and it passed our visual and smell test.

A month later after I received my first paycheck, I was able to move to my own apartment. My friend and I transported the couch from his residence to mine which was 1 kilometer away. No, we did not load it on a truck for we had no truck. We carried it through that distance. Even though it was not that big, it seemed that it got heavier and heavier as we went further along. Especially considering that we were two scrawny and muscularly-challenged guys.

Good thing was, midway, somebody saw us struggling with our load. She flagged us down and asked how far we were going. We were actually already sitting (and panting) on the couch taking a break at the side of the road. The lady lent us a furniture dolley so we can roll the sofa instead of lifting it, and she said to just bring it back when we’re done. That was nice of her. That was one of my first impression of that place – that people were nice and trustful of their neighbors.

The lady even asked if it was some kind of a special “oriental” couch that we were transporting. Perhaps she was wondering if it was that valuable that we would go through all that trouble. If only she knew that we just picked it up from the street curb.

Several months later, my wife got her visa and came to America to join me. We used that salvaged couch for a couple of years. When we moved to New York, we did not bring it along anymore. We left it at a street curb for the garbage collector or perhaps somebody else to pick up. Did it find another owner? I don’t know.

We moved several more times since then and in fact, we had 10 different address changes until we finally moved to our current address. It seemed like we were in a witness-protection program that we kept on moving, roughly every year. However, we are living in our present home for 14 years now and counting.

Regarding this couch that my son and I just placed at the curb, we bought it when we were still in Florida after we moved out of California. We got it on a clearance sale. We really did not care about its blue color, but my wife thought she could make a cover for it. Her family’s business when they were growing up in Pampanga was making drapes and seat covers. After she made a phone call to her brother and asked for some tips, she sewed a white fabric cover for our couch. It turned out pretty good actually.

We hauled this sofa along when we eventually moved here in Iowa. We have sat on it, lounged on it, spilled food on it, my kids barfed on it and I spent many lazy days sleeping (and drooling) on it. Over the years of use the covers that my wife made got torn and for a long time now we were just tossing a white blanket over it. It has seen better days and now it is time for it to have another life apart from us.

As we placed our couch at the curb, I sat there for a few moments, reminisced, and watched as the season (and our life’s season) turns. There are so many things to be thankful for. Including old couches.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)