Memory tidbit: Immaculate Sorbet

Perhaps because of the searing heat these days, I remembered the traditional “Buco Lechias” sherbet which was made in a wood-and-steel “garapinera” churn with lots of rock salt outside (to keep cold?).  As far as I knew, it was made in every good Capampangan household.  In Lola Charing’s home, it was made by the mayordomo, Benito Nuqui or “Bito” for short.  “Bito” was modernized to “Bits” in the hip 60s.  LOL.

I was a preteen in the late 70s (born 1967).  Lola Charing had passed on in mid-1977 and my uncle Brother Andrew FSC of De La Salle University became the principal figure in the family.  Brother Andrew had the most luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes.  In one of those phases, he became obsessed with producing an excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet.  He insisted that the “Buco Lechias” sherbet of his childhood (late 40s) at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in  Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga) had the WHITEST lychee fruit flesh, not the pale pink ones in the cans currently available.  Of course, the flesh of the lychees in the “Buco Lechias” sherbet at the Arnedo house was white, because Lola Titay and her younger sister Lola Ines used only fresh lychees bought all the way in Binondo.  So he sent Bito to Binondo/Chinatown to look for the whitest lychee fruit flesh.  Well, what did he expect?  It was the Marcos years and there were tight import controls.  No whitest lychees.  Just cans and cans of lychees with pinkish fruit flesh.  Bito returned with the palest pink lychee fruit flesh.  No can do.  Bito was scolded.  Bito was sent back to Binondo/Chinatown and — nobody knew how he did it — but he returned with the whitest lychee fruit flesh!!!  Brother Andrew finally had his excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet with the whitest lychee fruit flesh.  Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.

I remembered that at Lola Charing’s house sherbet and ice cream were served on etched crystal stems on porcelain saucers for everyday.  During beautiful lunches and dinners, sherbets and ice cream appeared on chic, Art Deco Christofle footed bowls on Brussels lace doilies on matching Christofle saucers.  Of course, I know all about the metallic taste that silver imparts to food, but I’ll use beautiful silver anytime.

The sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there.  Brother Andrew wanted a “Calamansi” sherbet.  He wanted it tart and dry, something like lime mixed with champagne brut.  Not sweet at all (Brother Andrew intensely disliked sweetish food that was not meant to be sweet, like spaghetti).  Odd, but “Calamansi” tended to sweeten slightly in sherbet form.  No can do.  It took Bito several tries to produce that tart and dry “Calamansi” sherbet, but he did, even if he couldn’t tell the difference.  Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.

Now in 2013, I wonder why it didn’t occur to Brother Andrew to have a “Dayap” sherbet, when in fact fragrant “dayap” lime (“dalayap” in Capampangan) was used extensively — on practically everything — in our Capampangan/Sulipan cooking?

The best version of “Buco Lechias” sherbet that I’ve had in recent years — exquisitely and expertly tinged with “dayap” lime rind with a hint of French cordial — was served at dinner by my dear friend Albert Salgado Paloma, who is an equal (perhaps even a superior) to Brother Andrew’s luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes.  Worldly and elegant Albert thinks nothing of marinating Italian veal shanks in a very expensive French grand cru for his “Ossobuco” and of marinating goat meat in a very expensive French X.O. cognac for his “Caldereta de Cabrito.”  For Albert, luxurious excess is the only culinary way to go.  Truly Capampangan.

Back to Brother Andrew, the sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there.  He wanted the “Mantecado” ice cream of his childhood at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga).  Mind you, it was not the commercial, vanilla-flavored “Mantecado” ice cream you can buy at the megasupermarkets now.  Brother Andrew’s inherited idea of “Mantecado” ice cream was of thick carabao’s milk, full of egg yolks, and “dayap” lime rind shavings.  It was golden yellow with sprinklings of grass green.  It looked so chic!  If Hermes and Chanel made ice cream, that would definitely be it.  So Bito produced our family’s version of “Mantecado” ice cream with “dayap” lime from Lola Charing’s rose garden.  It was ambrosial.  I would have finished off a gallon if I were permitted to do so.

Comedy relief:  Remembering Brother Andrew’s predilection for “Buco Lechias” sherbet, I am reminded of the time when, already severely diabetic with counts from 300-500 in the early 1990s, Brother Andrew requested his dear first cousin Dr Erlinda “Linda” Arnedo Sazon-Badenhop to make him some sugar-free “Buco Lechias” sherbet, which she claimed she could.  Two or three Sunday lunches later, she arrived with the desired “sugar-free” “Buco Lechias” sherbet which she made herself.  Expectedly, given the Arnedo tastebuds that she had, it was delicious and Brother Andrew was in rapture.  “Are you sure this is sugar-free???  It’s so sweet and so good!!!  It’s delicious!!!”  Brother Andrew rhapsodized as he rapidly consumed 5 scoops of the concoction.  “Yes, Brother!  No sugar, definitely no sugar!”  she claimed most assuredly, with her characteristic deadpan.  Later, when Brother Andrew had retired upstairs (doubtless dizzy from the sugar rush LOL), we asked:  “Wow, Tita Linda!  Your “Buco Lechias” sherbet was so good!  And it’s sugar-free!  What’s your secret??!!”  “Easy!”  she replied, “I poured all the syrup of the cans into the sherbet!”  “HUH???!!!”  Aghast, we cried out:  “But Tita Linda!  That’s all sugar!!!  The syrup IS sugar!!!”    She insisted firmly but comically with a naughty smile:  “No, no, no!  That’s only syrup, NOT sugar!  Besides, how will it taste good without any of the lychee syrup???!!!”    TOUCHE.    LOLOLOL    ROTF    LMAO    !!!!!!!!!!!!

So this is what this warm, warm spell does to me.  It makes me think of sherbet and ice cream from the past.  From the distant past.

These days, I am delightfully condemned to the highly unusual, positively weird, molecular gastronomy, New Age ice cream concoctions of my brother Gene and nephew Gino.  But it’s a nice problem to have.  LOL.

Advertisements

Shine on, Silver Moon!

Bette Davies once quipped:  “Old age is no place for sissies.”

She was right.

So this is what it’s like to get old…

The fruits of summers past

ANONAS.

ARATILES.

ATIS.

BALIMBING.

BALUBAD [ KASUY ].

BAYABAS.

BUKO.

CACAO.

CAIMITO.

CALAMANSI.

CALUMPIT / KALUMPIT.

CAMACHILE.

CEREALES.

CHESA.

CHICO.

DALANDAN.

DALANGHITA.

DAYAP.

DUHAT.

DURIAN [ DAVAO ].

GUYABANO.

INDIAN MANGO.

KAMIAS.

LANGKA.

LANZONES.

MABOLO.

MACOPA.

MANGGA.

MANGOSTEEN [ DAVAO ].

MANZANITAS.

MARANG [ DAVAO ].

MELON.

PAKWAN.

PAPAYA.

PINA.

RAMBUTAN [ THAILAND ].

SAGING NA LAKATAN.

SAGING NA LATUNDAN.

SAGING NA SABA.

SAGING NA SENORITA.

SAMPALOC.

SANTOL.

SINEGUELAS.

SUHA.

ZAPOTE.

Dinosaurs and extinction

[ Dear Readers:  This is a post about our deceased family members which I have to write.  It will most probably not interest you.  You may spare yourselves the trouble.   😛 ]

08 October 2010, Friday, 2200 hours.  Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’ve been influenced by “contemporary thinking”:  I’ve junked the whole “All Souls’ Day” tradition of the family.  Call me the “weak link” or whatever, but I don’t see why I have to be the “Old Faithful” geyser of the family, a quaint relic of the past, when my siblings and my nephews and nieces are out in Phuket, Bangkok, Bali, Singapore, Shanghai, Boracay, Baguio whooping it up and not being where they should be in the first place.  You see, I didn’t believe in a family autocracy [ operative word:  “didn’t”;  now I believe in an oppressive dictatorship! ], but I do believe that as a responsible, duty-bound adult member of a tradition-bound family, you know where you should be at certain occasions throughout the year.  No questions.  After all, you’re not a 6 year old child and neither are you the golden retriever nor the Jack Russell that has to be told what to do.  Or are you???

Death has become trivialized in these contemporary, “e” – everything times.  We have negated it to the point that it comes as a total shock when it comes, although it barely stops us for a minute these days.  Our usual reaction is a shrug of resignation.  It wasn’t the case for those who came long before us.  For them, death was a central point of life as well as its ultimate destination, and it was celebrated with Hispanic pomp and circumstance during “Todos los Santos” and “Semana Santa”…

I grew up at a time when 02 November of every year meant all of us getting up very early [ 4:30 – 5:30 a.m. ] in order to leave the city at 6:30 a.m., to arrive in time for the 7:30 a.m. All Souls’ Day holy mass at the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Apalit Catholic cemetery.  The big come-on was the big Capampangan breakfast which followed at the old house in barrio Capalangan.

It was a time when we observed quarterly or more visits to the family burial ground to remember, pray for, and weep for Lola Charing who had passed away on 18 May 1977.  Those were the last days of death as a gothic and Victorian experience, when black dresses, sheer black veils, formal ecru barong tagalog with black armbands, pants, and shoes, long rows of funeral sprays [ the more “important” the sender, the more costly the flowers and the florists, the better ], and endless eulogies were de rigueur for the funeral rites of traditional families.  It has unraveled and modernized since, with the “cuerpo presente” reduced to a brief “ashfall,” white as the new color of mourning, chic buffets by chichi caterers, and even “house music” thrown in for “atmo”…

In those days, we brought beautiful flowers, lit tall candles, and said heartfelt prayers for our deceased family members.  We remembered them with fondness even with all their shortcomings, idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities.  We honored and loved them, even if we had never even met them.

**********************************************************************

The dinosaurs and the dates of their extinction:

Florencia Sioco viuda de Gonzalez, “Eciang,” 1860 – 1925.  My paternal grandfather’s mother.

Ysidora Espiritu viuda de Gonzalez, “Orang,” + 1975.  Lola Charing’s maternal aunt.  Delightfully eccentric character.

Augusto Gonzalez y Sioco, “Bosto” / “Titong,” 1887 – 1939.  The fortune he accumulated allowed three generations, now going on the fourth, to live well.

Rosario Arnedo viuda de Gonzalez, “Charing,” 1903 – 1977.  Dearest Lola Charing.

Marina Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Mina,” + 1974.  Tita Mina was Daddy’s eldest sister and she was deformed.

Augusto Beda Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Beda,” 1932 – 1990.  Daddy.

Ermelo Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Melo,” 1933 – 2001.

Hector Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Hector,” 1937 – 1988.

Macario Domingo Gonzalez y Arnedo, 1938.

Macario Diosdado Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Macarito” / Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C., “Brother Andrew,” 1940 – 2006.

Pilar Reyes y Quiason, “Pilar” / “Pil,” 1933 – 2002.  Mommy.

Monina Gonzalez y Gala, “Minnie,” 1964 – 1991.  As Brother Andrew said:  “Too bad, Minnie would have been very rich!”

Household staff:

During Tito Melo’s funeral in June 2001, his niece Ave Gala-Blanco asked me who were the “strange names” in some of the gravestones.  I quipped a line still memorable to Ave and the Gala cousins:  “We’re like the Egyptians, we’re buried with the slaves!”  😛

Alejandra Ochengco y Padilla, “Andang,” +1969.  “Imang Andang” had been working in the Gonzalez-Sioco household since the early 1920s.

Natalia Padilla, “Talia,” + 1976.  Ate Talia, the “mayordoma.”

Leodegaria Nuqui, “Garing,” + 198_.  Dearest Ate Garing, the cook.

Benito Nuqui, “Bito” / “Bits,” + 1999.  Dearest Pare Bits.  He started out as the personal “barquillos” maker of Lola Mary Arnedo [ Lola Charing’s sister ] in the Arnedo-Sioco household in the late 1930s.

Aurea Rodriguez, “Baluga,” + 195_.  She was an Aeta from Zambales who liked to sleep in the kitchen near a stove with live coals.

**********************************************************************

Just wait until I junk Christmas and Easter altogether.  And while I’m at it, my Christianity and Roman Catholicism as well.  Throw in my crappy family for good measure.  That will be the day.   😐   😐   😐

*unfinished*

Beyond repair, beyond regret

Probably because of all the shit that had happened since, I no longer remember why we were there at the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Apalit Catholic cemetery, just the two of us, my uncle Brother Andrew and I, one sunny, breezy afternoon sometime in the early 2000s…  [ The venerable Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C., 1940 – 2006, of the De La Salle / Brothers of the Christian Schools, longtime president of the DLSU De La Salle University in Manila ]

“You can just put my ashes [ half ] anywhere here… when the time comes.”  Brother Andrew declared, a detectable gulp in his voice, as he surveyed the extension to the right of the old mausoleum, where the younger members of the family, his generation, were buried.  “The other half will have to be with the Brothers in Lipa.”

“Well, why not just be interred wholly in Lipa?  Why be ‘chop-chop’ like a pig?”  I asked.

“Because none of you will visit me there, damn it!”  he scoffed.

I laughed.  “Of course we won’t, it’s too far!  Besides, how would you know, you’d be dead, six feet under the ground, or six feet over, whichever…”

“I know!”  he snapped with finality.

“Well, which half goes here and which half goes to the Brothers?  From your head to your tummy here, and from your ass to your feet to the Brothers?  Or the other way around?”  I asked jokingly.

“It doesn’t matter.  Some here, some there…  Just do it, please!”  he requested, his eyes wide with sarcasm and scorn for his wisecracking nephew.

“OK!  Whatever turns you on, Brother.”  I shrugged.

“OK.  Where do we go to eat now?  I had a lousy lunch!  I’m hungry!”  and off he stomped back to the car.

And with that query, we left the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Apalit Catholic cemetery.

***********************************************************************

Some five years later in January 2006, Brother Andrew passed away of severe diabetic complications.  That afternoon, my lawyer brother, his Korean wife, and I were enjoying the delights of the 168 mall in Divisoria for the first time.  All those cheap and cheerful goods!!!  At 4:30 p.m., my brother received a text message that Brother Andrew was finally dying at the De La Salle University hospital in Cavite.  We immediately decided to return home to get organized.  As we were driving along Quezon avenue in front of the Santo Domingo church at around 5:30 p.m., we received another text message that he had already passed away.  I sighed, then continued looking at all the nice fake watches I had bought which I forthwith decided I simply couldn’t wear and would have to give away to our male employees…  The guy’s dead anyway, what could we do about it?!

By that time, he had messed up family matters so badly — with not a little help from youknowwho, youknowwhotoo, and youknowwhoelse — that some of us, including yours truly, had simply eradicated him from our lives.  Probably because of divine intervention, I managed to visit the dying man a few times in the hospital and actually be cordial, as if nothing bad had happened at all, which the poor man happily interpreted as “reconciliation” [ which it really wasn’t, it would take a longer time, but what do you do with a dying man? ].  We were still able to talk about some important things, but not all, before he finally “kicked the bucket.”

************************************************************************

It’s 2010 and I’m a very different person, sometimes unrecognizable even to myself.  Gone are the kindness, innocence, generosity of soul that everyone who had known me in childhood could attest.  Essentially.  Then I finally realized, contrary to what I had been taught and had believed in all my life, that goodness has no place in this world where one must kill, in all ways, to survive.  The danger is that the difference lies deep inside:  the cynicism, sarcasm, vengefulness, darkness of the soul…  although visible are the tired eyes, the sagging cheeks, the droopy smile, the weatherbeaten look of it all.  I think evil of everyone, bolstered by the fact that I’m usually proven right as time passes.  I prefer the Stepmother to Cinderella, Maleficent to the Three Good Fairies, Odile to Odette, Tosca to Violetta.  They’re more fun!!!

What’s the point of visiting the dead family members during All Souls’ Day anyway???  Why all the pretenses???  Why visit the dead when the living detest and even loathe each other?  What family?  Are you to be considered family when you’re only all too willing to destroy the entire superstructure just to feed your sense of self-entitlement, simply because you feel outdone and disenfranchised by so-and-so, because you’re named so-and-so, the supposed favorite of so-and-so?  What legacies?  Are misunderstandings, arguments, quarrels, and protracted wars among family members considered legacies???  We might as well be all dead if that’s the case!!!

Last week, my sister made arrangements for the Apalit parish priest to say an anticipated All Souls’ Day mass at the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Catholic cemetery;  she was the only one who attended.   A few days later, my eldest brother, still hip and groovy from the non-trad 1970s, called my younger brother so that they and their families could make the trip to the mausoleum at the cemetery.  What for???  Did they ever care for those traditions when they were still there?  Why make a show of it now, now that it’s gone, for good???  What for???  As for me, I told them pointedly that since we could no longer have the traditional Capampangan breakfast at the old house in Sulipan / Capalangan, the least they could do would be to cart me off to the Pen, the Shang, or the Sofitel Plaza for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.  “Antonio’s” Tagaytay would be nice.  Other than that, please do not bother me with your inanities, I told them.

SHIT.  Sartre would agree.

Comedy relief: Buffet and Consequence

I attended the 72nd birthday celebration of a dear friend’s mother yesterday evening and I was exceedingly amused by the extensive buffet because I saw something I had never seen before… !!!

The family was completely Kapampangan “as in Keni” so all sorts of cholesterol-laden delights were laid out on the long buffet, most of them from the family’s excellent kitchen.  There was a preponderance of pork dishes, a Kapampangan peculiarity.  There were “lechon,” crispy pata, lechong kawali, grilled pork chops, baked sweet spare ribs, “hamonado,” hamon “hoc shiu,” hamon china, Virginia ham, chicharon laman, chicharong bulaklak, “tidtad” [ a classier “dinuguan” ], “pulutuk” [ sizzling spicy minced heart and lungs ], “sisig”  [ sizzling spicy minced pig head ], “tokwa at baboy” [ soybean cubes/tofu and sliced pig’s ears ], etc..  All those… apart from all the beef, chicken, fish, seafood dishes, and… desserts!!!  Were there vegetable dishes in that spread at all???  Yes, of course, but hardly anybody touched them!!!  In an authentic, traditional Kapampangan meal, veggies are definitely last, very last, priority.

What stunned me and made me laugh out really loud, as it did the other guests, were what were laid out neatly in trays after the staggering variety of desserts…

“Lipitor”

“Crestor”

“Orlistat”

“Omega III”

and what truly took the cake…  “Viagra”!!!   😛   😛   😛

The medications were certainly useful because most of us over 25 years old in the party felt “I feel the earth… move… under my feet!” [ as in the Carole King song ] as we were halfway eating the triglycerides-laden food piled up on our plates!!!   😛   😛   😛

Truly, the Kapampangan take their eating seriously, very seriously!!!

Harharhar!!!   😀   😀   😀

Reminiscences of Old Pampanga

Last Sunday evening, 30 May 2010, we were at Albert Salgado Paloma’s Rory Cameron-Lady Kenmare-“La Fiorentina”-“Le Clos Fiorentina”-overlooking-the-French-Riviera like house [ think white, white, white halls of noble proportions with classical antique Filipino furniture and genuine French antiques effortlessly put together with Albert’s tremendous, inimitable style and chic ] in San Fernando, Pampanga for his annual reception celebrating the town [ now city ] fiesta in honor of “San Fernando, El Rey.”

The big draw of an Albert Salgado Paloma invitation for me is to relive the lunches and dinners of the Old Pampanga I remember from my childhood and youth:  the delicious and luxurious Spanish and French-inflected Capampangan food cooked at home, presented on large antique porcelain, ironstone, and silver platters and laid on beautiful antique hardwood tables;  an assortment of fine wines;  the many tables elegantly set with china, crystal, and silver on linen damask;  and the genial company who knew one another, whose parents knew one another, and whose grandparents and great grandparents knew one another as well.  I’m sure it was a similar draw for many of the other regular guests.

Dinner was a grand concourse comparable to the five star hotel buffets:  Italian gnocchi, tagliatelle, and penne in various sauces, A large Lapu-lapu fish as “Pescado en Mayonesa,”  Dory filets with capers and butter sauce, “Relleno de Pollo,” Roast Turkey with all the trimmings including glazed yams, “Caldereta de Cordero [ lamb ]” braised in French red wine, Angus Beef carvery, Albert’s famous long-simmered “Fabada Asturiana,” Smithfield Virginia ham, young “Lechon,”  fresh asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, Mixed Greens salad with unusual dressings.  Steamed Japanese rice for those who wanted some.

For desserts, there were fresh fruits and many cakes and pies from Manila’s most fashionable pastry shops.  There was also a delicious “buco” sorbet, tinged with pandan and exquisitely laced with “dayap” lime rind.

Later in the evening, when most of the older guests had left, Albert and I finally got around to talking, and as always, he was a vivid window to a vanished world, to a Pampanga long gone, even if he was already of the PostWar generation…

“Albert, how did one spell Benito Ullmann?  One l, two ls?  One n, two ns?”  I asked.

[ Benito Ullmann was the part-German first husband of Albert’s grandaunt, the very rich businesswoman Teodora Salgado y Basilio.  After his death, she married a full Spaniard, Dr. Saa, who was, of all things, a magician.  She had no children though, thus she partitioned her many holdings between her several Salgado nephews and nieces. ]

“Ullmann… two ls and two ns.”

“Benito Ullmann was in the luxury imports business.  Was he a part-owner of ‘La Estrella del Norte’ or did he have his own firm?”

“I don’t know about his involvement with ‘La Estrella del Norte’ but he had his own firm.”

“I remember your telling me years ago that the famous Arnedo Paris porcelain dinner service was ordered through Benito Ullmann’s firm… Therefore, the Grand Duke [ Alexis Alexandrovich of Russia ] must have ordered it immediately from Benito Ullmann after his visit to the Arnedos in Sulipan in 1891…”

“Yes it was.  It was Tirso Ballesteros and his mother Joaquina Arnedo-Ballesteros who told us.  They were there when we visited the Arnedo house in Sulipan… a long time ago?”  he confirmed.

Albert continued:  “Those plates were displayed in two “vajilleras” glass-fronted cabinets in the “comedor” dining room.  Tirso and his mother Joaquina told us that the majority were actually in a storage room.  They were beautiful!  Where are they now?”

“With me.  Most of them anyway.  Some are displayed at the ‘Museo de La Salle’ in Dasmarinas, Cavite.”

“Good.”

“I didn’t know Tito Ocampo was from Mexico town.  I thought the Ocampos were from San Fernando…”

“Tito’s father was an Ocampo from Santa Rita.  His mother was a Paras from Mexico.  That’s why he has that property there.”

“Interesting to note how old Dr. Sandico [ Mayorico Hizon Sandico ] and Imang Jane [ Jane Lazatin Garcia ] married off all their children to equally old Capampangan families.  I remember Dr. Sandico very well, he was a perfect gentleman… to the hilt.  He was also quite emphatic about people of good family:  ‘galing sa mabuting pamilya,’ he used to say.”

“Yes, they’re of very good family.  Their Hizon ancestors were painted by Simon Flores.  You’ve seen them?”

“Yes, Saturnino Hizon y David and his third wife Cornelia Sison.  It turned out that Saturnino Hizon was actually the direct, maternal grandfather of Dr. Sandico.  His mother Pilar Sison Hizon-Sandico was a daughter of Saturnino and Cornelia.  I remember the Saturnino portrait very well because he was buck-teethed.  They were already given to the children.  Then they were restored by Helmuth Zotter, the Austrian.  Very expensive!”

“There used to be a big Simon Flores painting right across from this house when I was young.  A family portrait with several people.  Lindy Locsin [ Architect Leandro V. Locsin ] bought it.”

“Which family was it?”

“Quia-son.”

“Oh, if Lindy bought it then it’s the one with the mother-in-law.  There were three Quiason family portraits — the three were brothers — that hung in San Fernando before the war.  Another one, with just four figures [ Cirilo and Ceferina Quiason and their family ], is in the Central Bank Collection.  Another one is really dark, in the Central Bank too if I’m not mistaken. I’m a Quiason by descent, through my mother, by the way.  The baby in the Central Bank portrait, the one whose pee-pee was burned off by his own cigar, was my mother’s maternal grandfather { Jose “Yayang” Quiason y Henson }.”  I related.

Albert countered:  “Lindy also bought three portraits by Simon Flores from the Cunanan ancestral house in Mexico town.  The very old, probably 1780s, thatch-roofed house that used to stand on the site of the Methodist church now, right beside the old town church.  The parents of Mariano Cunanan and another one.”

“By the time I saw the house in the 1950s, the Cunanans had already become Methodists.  I guess that’s why the Methodist church now stands on the site of their ancestral home.”

“The Quiason are descended from the Cunanan:  Cirilo Quiason y Cunanan.  His mother was Maria Cunanan and his father was Modesto Quiason.”  [ FYI:  Our Cunanan is NOT related to Andrew Philip Cunanan, the assassin of Gianni Versace in Miami.   😛 ]

He added:  “Lindy had the big Quiason portrait and the three solo Cunanan portraits restored by no less than the principal restorers of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.”

“Do you think Lindy would have bothered to record the names of those three Cunanan portraits by Simon Flores?”  I asked.

“Knowing Lindy, yes, he would have.”

Albert recalled further:  “That Cunanan house had the most beautiful segmented “cabecera” dining table I ever saw:  Neoclassical, with tapering Sheraton legs, and discreet bone and kamagong inlay.  Their sideboards in the “comedor” dining room were a pair of longer and bigger than usual Sheraton-type altar tables, tapering legs, restrained bone and kamagong inlay, and all.  Beautiful!!!”

“My only ‘recuerdo’ of that Cunanan house is the smallish grooved marble top table from the ‘sala.’  Without knowing its provenance, I bought it, along with many other first rate antiques, for a small fortune in 1997 from Rene Dizon who had acquired it, together with the late ‘agente’ Mamerto “Mamer” Ocampo, from the family in 1972 in exchange for a new color TV.  Rene didn’t even know it was the Cunanan house, all he remembered was that it was the old, long, thatch-roofed house beside the Mexico church.  Then I learned that the old, thatch-roofed house used for ‘Filosofo Tasio’ in director Gerry de Leon’s classic 1961 ‘Noli Me Tangere’ was  the Cunanan house in Mexico, Pampanga.  Years later, you told me that the Cunanan house had beautiful old things and it was right beside the Mexico church where the Methodist church stands now.  So you see, after all those years, all the bits and pieces of information finally jived.  I guess that buying that grooved marble top table from Rene was sheer serendipity, as always.”

“Good.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cunanan family had those silver “paliteras” toothpick trees…”

“Sonny Tinio remembers being told long ago by Hizon [ de Mexico ] descendants that the old house had twelve of them and that they were distributed to the children…”

“Very believable.”

“Te Hizon still had two of them before his beautiful San Fernando house was damaged by lahar.”

“Yes.”

*unfinished*

Comedy Relief: Overeating

My younger brother, sister-in-law, and I had dinner last night at the popular “Tao Yuan” Cantonese restaurant in Ermita, Manila [ it’s like the Cantonese clubhouse of Manila, where many of that community meet;  they were introduced to it by their friends Atty. Antonio “Tonico” Pedrosa Manahan and his wife Angela “Yanni” Laperal Heras ].  We ordered a lot and ate a lot.  Since my sister-in-law didn’t care for Peking Duck, and my brother, father of three kiddies that he was, was careful with his diet, I ended up eating most of it… not that I minded.

All that overeating reminded me of a particularly abusive lunch I had in Hong Kong with my sister some years back…

We ordered…

“Shark’s Fin Soup.”

“Suckling Pig.”

“Steamed Shrimps.”

“Scallops.”

“Braised Sea Whelk.”

“Deep-Fried Crab.”

“Lobster.”

“Peking Duck.”

“Yang Chow Fried Rice.”

The head waiter shook his head and frantically crossed his arms:  “No, no, no… This is too much for the two of you…  too much!!!”

“No, no, no, we’re hungry.  We’re ordering all of that!!!”  I assured him.

The food came and it covered the entire round table.  I was actually embarrassed because there was all that food and there were only two of us on opposite ends of the table.  We looked like greedy people, very greedy people indeed.  The other tables had four dishes at most.

So my sister and I ate very well.  Actually, I ate most of it.   😛

When we got to the pavement, my legs suddenly froze and there were sharp stabbing pains where my legs connected to my torso [ uric acid?  cholesterol? ].  I had to stagger to the nearest lamppost for support, where I leaned immobile, and in considerable pain, for a little more than ten minutes while my sister browsed the nearby window displays from where she stood…

Hahahah… but that didn’t stop me from crossing Nathan Road to “Haagen-Dazs” for five scoops of ice cream!!!

After that, my sister and I resumed our shopping… until it was time for dinner…

*****************************************************************

So if you hear that I landed in the Emergency Room of Saint Luke’s Hospital, you’ll know exactly what I was up to.   🙂   🙂   🙂

Authentic Filipino “Halo-halo”

Summer in the Philippines is marked by the appearance of ubiquitous “Halo-halo” stands.  From major thoroughfares to the narrowest alleys, “sari-sari” stores to house frontages, you will find them:  several bottles of stewed fruits, canned evaporated milk [ or horrors, one of these made-in-China synthetic milk substitutes capable of inducing kidney damage ], white sugar, plastic cups and spoons, all on a campy plastic tablecloth, and a styrofoam box with a block of ice and an ice shaver.  It’s the archetypal summer small business of Juan de la Cruz.

“Halo-halo” is exactly what it’s called:   a mix.  When I was a child in the early 1970s, and long before it was made chic [ and then bastardized ], the 10 centavo [ yes, 10 centavos! ] “Halo-halo” at the nearby “sari-sari” store of Aling Maring’s was a mix of stewed fruits like “saba” [ plantain bananas ], “langka” [ jackfruit ], “nata de coco” [ fermented coconut jelly ], sweetened “mongo” beans, “ube” purple yam paste, red “gulaman” jelly [ bought dried like loofah from the public market; not American “Jell-O” ], red “sago” [ tapioca ], and “pinipig” rice crispies and was topped by a scoop of shaved ice, to which one added “ebap” evaporated milk [ read:  e-v-a-p-o-r-a-t-e-d, not “President” or “Elle & Vire”  😛 ] and white sugar to taste.

A few summers ago, I was stalking an antique “kamagong” aparador somewhere in Tayuman district in Tondo when the car broke down.  It had conveniently stopped in front of a “Halo-halo” stand in front of a pleasant-looking little house manned by a young mother and her well-scrubbed children.  Looking at the ingredients in closed bottles — “saba,” “mongo,” “ube,” “gulaman,” the styrofoam icebox, and the ice shaver, I decided to give it a try and ordered two for my driver and I.  It was good and had that elusive, nostalgic, pedestrian taste I remembered from childhood.  Cost:  Php 20 each.

While the A-crowd can have their chichi “Halo-halo” at the top hotels, and the regular Joes can have theirs in the various “Halo-halo” outlets at the malls, I’ve always felt, and strongly, that authentic Filipino “Halo-halo” is the one found on the streets, in the “sari-sari” stores, and house fronts.  It has to have that nostalgic “cheap” taste.  After all, “Halo-halo” is a descendant of the PreWar Japanese vendors’ “Mongo con hielo” found in populous Quiapo, Santa Cruz, and Avenida.  It was so common that no upper-class matron of that time would have served “Halo-halo” at her elegant “asaltos,” “bienvenidas,” and “despedidas.”   It was really “PPP” proletarian, plebeian, and pedestrian… during PreWar, at least.

In the 1950s, the generation of my parents used to go to “Little Quiapo” for “Halo-halo” after watching movies along the Escolta or Avenida…

Nowadays, the chichi go to the Manila Peninsula hotel lobby for the “Halo-halo” of upper-class Manila [ seems like any other “Halo-halo” to me;  I’ve always wondered if they should up the ante and make the ice out of “Evian” and throw in fruit preserves and “marrons glaces” from “Fauchon” for good measure  😛 ].  The regular Joes head for the various “Halo-halo” chains in the malls and elsewhere like “Digman” of Bacoor, “Icebergs,” “Razon’s” of Guagua, and “Kabigting’s” of Arayat [ Ayala Marquee mall, Angeles ], etc..

Ideally, as with everything else, the best “Halo-halo” should be made at home, bursting with all the yummy ingredients…   🙂   🙂   🙂

So, what’s your favorite “Halo-halo”???

***************************************************************************

Funny story about “Halo-halo”:

My Valdes cousin Susie Tinio Arroyo was telling me of the time she went with a mostly female tour group to Taal, Batangas.  The Coaster bus was full.  As expected, they visited the sanctuary of the miraculous Our Lady of Caysasay.  When they were leaving the shrine, their tour guide pointed to a nearby roadside stall and said that the best “Halo-halo” was to be found there.  The 90 year-old Taalena proprietress was known to prepare and stew all the yummy ingredients herself.  Mouths watering, the entire group of 35 foodies immediately flocked to the roadside stall and ordered a “Halo-halo” each.  It turned out that the 90 year-old woman was the only one preparing the “Halo-halo”:  she huffed and puffed and hyperventilated as she hurriedly shaved the ice and frantically prepared “Halo-halo” for the 35 surprise customers from Manila.  Yes, the “Halo-halo” was goooood!!!  Cousin Susie pitied the 90 year-old woman who panted to the 35th glass of “Halo-halo”…

And just as the 90 year-old woman handed the 35th Halo-halo glass to the last of the tourists, another Valdes cousin, Bunny Katigbak Fabella, stood up and requested:  “May I have more ice, please?”   🙂

*LOLSZ!!!*  Cousin Susie could hardly contain her laughter!!!

Happy afternoon surprise

I was having a perfectly boring humdrum Monday workday when I randomly checked my cellphone and it showed that I had had a missed call.  From Tito Tito L..  So I called back immediately.  He told me that Tita Rory C.-L. wanted to talk to me and gave the cel over to her.  She told me that she, Tito Tito, Tita Ophie M.-B., and my Tita Martha H. had just had lunch together.  She said that they wanted to see me and would like to come over if I wasn’t busy.  Anytime, anytime, with pleasure, I said.

« Older entries