Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lasang Pinoy #1: joy and pain

sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan. (for the country's progress, we need discipline.)
tangkilikin ang sariling atin. (buy Filipino)
ang Bagong Lipunan. (the New Society).

remember these Martial Law-era catch phrases?

i grew up with a strong awareness of the political events swirling all around in the years before 1972. i eavesdropped on the adults' discussions and sneaked away with the Philippine Free Press magazines that exposed the payola scandal, Congressman Quinteros, Dovie Beams, the Bloody Plaza Miranda rally.
my grandparents were loyal government servants in the presidencies of Magsaysay, Garcia and Macapagal...imagine their disgust, horror, and demoralization as they witnessed Marcos systematically dismantling the democratic processes and openly pillaging the treasury.
thus, to them Ninoy Aquino was a living, breathing, hero. they spoke of him as if they knew him intimately, as if he were a close relative.
on the declaration of Martial Law i remember that my lola bitterly proclaimed that it was a good thing lolo was gone, or else he would have been picked up and jailed alongside Ninoy for all his vehement opposition to the tyrannical ruler emerging...

i can't seem to tell this story without relating it with my lola (grandma).

in the spring of 1983 my lola suffered cardiac arrest following her mastectomy in a hospital in upstate New York. she thankfully bounced back and i was summoned to help her recover, taking a leave of absence from my remote job site in the mountains near Morong, Bataan.
around this time Ninoy was strategizing for his return home from exile, meeting with oppositionists and expatriates from all over the US.
we thought we had a chance to meet Ninoy when he was rumored to be giving a speech near our late great-uncle Miting's place in Norwich, NY. lola was strong enough to travel by then, and we all hied off only to be disappointed. also around that time we watched an interview with Ninoy on American television which greatly thrilled us by his eloquence and charisma. he said he yearned to go back, to touch the people's hands and to just be with the people.

so the hope of Ninoy coming home to challenge the dictatorship, the joy of seeing a healthy invigorated ex-political prisoner aboard a plane full of journalists, wearing a white travelling suit...all these dreams were dashed with a bullet to the head.

the country was stunned. the assassination was so bold and brazen, as if the perpetrators were completely assured of invincibility. it was the last straw for the Filipinos...most of whom were valiantly bearing hardship, breaking their backs, in the name of sustaining their families, in the midst of the harsh military regime masquerading as the New Society.

ninoy packing up at his home in Newton, Ma. (photo from "Aquino", World Leaders Series, Howard Chua-Eoan)

joy and pain, sunshine and rain...

for the first Lasang Pinoy food event cooked up by Karen and Stef i post two humble dishes that my lola prepared always together. she had many combinations: pancit luglog always with sinigang (tamarind soup), kare kare with adobo. puchero with broiled eggplant salad. no telling how the combinations came about but we just happily ate them. monggo guisado(stir fried mung bean) and lola's plain escabeche(sweet and sour fish sans embellishments) are two healthy and economical dishes that is typical of a home cooked meal, the kind that one would have on an ordinary day, or on a day when one sought comfort from sorrow.
it is unthinkable to have one without the other.

homely escabeche
1 cleaned and gutted white fleshed fish, preferably milkfish, or sea bass, grouper, salted
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/3 cup shredded ginger
1 whole onions, sliced thinly
2 tsps. conrstarch dissolved in 2 tbsps. water

rice vinegar
granulated sugar
soy sauce

pan fry the fish, about 4 minutes per side, depending on its size, in a pan with vegetable oil. drain off excess oil. set aside to cool.
the proportions of vinegar, soy and sugar are according to your taste. i start off with equal amounts of each, then taste until it is to my liking. add water if necessary.
heat the solution to simmering. meanwhile stir fry the garlic, onions and ginger until fragrant. add the soy solution, bring up to a slow boil, and add the cornstarch mixture. stir until thickened. season with salt and pepper.
pour the sweet and sour sauce over the fried fish.

monggo guisado:
1 cup mung beans, rinsed, drained, boiled in 6 cups water until soft
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 tomatoes
1/2 lb. fatty pork
1/2 lb. shrimps, shelled, deveined, chopped
2 tbsps. bagoong (preserved bottled shrimp fry)
1 cup shrimp extract (pound the shrimp heads and shells and pour luke warm water over a strainer)
a cup of young pepper leaves, or a pack of frozen pepper leaves

put the fatty pork in a wok with enough water to cover. add salt and pepper, bring up to a boil, then when the water is almost gone, turn up the heat and brown the pork. remove to a plate and drain over paper towels.
in the rendered fat from the pork (add vegetable oil if it is too little), saute garlic, onions, tomatoes. add the extract, pork , and bagoong.
mix well and let simmer 5 minutes. add the monggo with its liquid, stirring constantly. add the shrimp and when it is pink and firm, add the pepper leaves.

never forget

"A time comes in a man's life when he must prefer a meaningful death to a meaningless life. I would rather die on my feet with honor, than live on bended knees in shame."
--Ninoy Aquino, from speech at his trial.

i returned to work. i remember the sultry Sunday afternoon when it happened. i felt a heaviness, hopelessness, disgust. unfortunately i was never able to witness the rallies and demonstrations; there were very few television sets in the place where i worked. word was sent up by my parents to stay put.
lola was back in Manila by then.
she lived three more years to see the day when Ninoy's widow would triumph over Marcos.

"L" right back at you thess!!!