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.

A Salty Predicament

I came from a culture that loves salt. Growing up in Manila I came to like salted peanuts, salted dried fish, dish with salted black beans (tausi), saltine crackers, and of course salted eggs.

Besides the table salt, any Filipino household have patis (fish sauce), bagoong (seafood paste), and toyo (soy sauce) – all of these are very salty condiments, catering to the salt-loving taste of the Filipinos.

Even our beloved and iconic bread, is called pan de sal, which literally means salt bread. Though, I’m not sure why it was called that, because it taste slightly sweet rather than salty.

I even listened to a Filipino folk rock band, Asin, which means salt in Tagalog, when I was growing up, and have come to love them through the years. I still play their songs once in while in my iPod.

Now that I have lived in the US for almost 20 years, and experienced many bitterly cold winters, I have known one use of salt that many of my kababayan in the tropical Philippines will never think of. Where I am now, I got used to salted highways and salted walkways. Yes, we put salt in our roads!

With snow, sleet and freezing rain during winter, our roads can get icy and become dangerously slippery. Sprinkling salt on the roads can help melt the ice by lowering its freezing point. A 10% salt solution freezes at 20 F (-6 C), instead of 32 F (0 C). A 20% solution freezes at 2 F (-16 C).

Liquid_deicer-truck

The sprinkled salt can be in the form of rock salt or salt brine, which is a salt solution. Salt brine is said to be better as it is in liquid form and thus work immediately when applied and can be more effective in lower temperatures. However when the temperature approaches 0 degree F or below, even salt brine can be ineffective. Unfortunately, where I live, it is not unusual for the mercury to drop lower than 0 F.

Here in Iowa, our roads are not on low-salt diet. In fact it is the opposite. This winter, the Iowa Department of Transportation has stockpiled approximately 230,000 tons of salt and nearly 2.5 million gallons of salt brine. Though a few winters ago, during a very snowy season, our transportation department spread more than 300,000 tons of salt in our roadways. That was one salty winter!

Last weekend, we invited some friends to come into our house. But before that evening, we had some drizzle followed by a rapidly dropping temperature. To prevent our visitors from slipping and falling (unless they brought their ice skates), my son and I sprinkled rock salt in our driveway and walkway.  I could have used patis or bagoong, which are technically salt brines, but I don’t think my guests, who are non-Filipinos, would have appreciated the smell.

With all the tons of salt thrown in our roads and sidewalks, besides wrecking havoc in our cars, some are concerned that it can also harm the environment. In one study in Minnesota, it was found that 70% of the salt applied on roads stays within the region’s watershed and can make the groundwater salty. But that is another topic on its own.

But with the real perils of winter driving, I prefer the salty roads and driveways rather than slipping and sliding, or falling into a ditch. And if I happen to drop a boiled egg and it rolled in my driveway? Voila, I have a salted egg!

(*photo from here)