Housebound

The Holy Week That Was or a Pre-workweek Warm Up on an Easter Sunday in the Philippines

Holy Week, Batman! It’s Easter Sunday!

I’m trying to restart my brain for the coming workday. No cold starts, please. I might as well warm up the old brain here. I’m no saint when it comes to coming back to work after an almost week-long layoff.

In the Philippines, the Holy Week that caps off the Lenten Season is either a:

Option A. “Holy” Vacation for Catholics. Holy Week + Travel to Province + Family Reunion or Staycation + Holy Week.  Most likely, there’s a Visita Iglesia squeezed in. Hmm, a mix of reflection and reunion.

Option B.  A real Holy Week for Devout Catholics. Some even have themselves nailed on a cross. (Which is actually a good way to cure mobile phone addiction– “I can’t come to the phone right now. I’m nailed on a cross” voice mail message sounds good).

Option C. Vacation/ Party Season for Non-Catholics (NCs) and Non-Practicing Catholics (NPCs) a.k.a. beach/ resort time. 

Having been raised as a Catholic, I distinctly remember Holy Week during my childhood as being spent in either our house in Metro Manila, or our clan’s official home in Zambales (I forgot if it was an aunt’s or one of my abuelas who owned it), or my grandfather’s home in the Bicol Region. I remember Holy Week to be extremely quiet. Once the Holy Week started there was nothing on TV. Even the radio went dead. It was silent torture for a boy who craved entertainment. At least it was a chance to bond with cousins, play on the streets with friends, occasionally climb trees, watch processions, and an occasional trip to the river. Boy, it was that boring! 😛 This was in the 80s. There was no internet.

Other memories include my dad making sure that entertainment was a regular showing of Cecil B Demille’s Ten Commandments or Ben Hur over at the next door neighbor’s house. Hey, at least there was an option. I remember getting excited by the parting of the Red Sea or probably ignoring 3/4 of Ben Hur. I remember the strict implementation of the Catholic no-meat policy for meals. I remember sitting through a meal of salted codfish that was too salty. That one’s etched firmly in my tongue’s memory.

Today’s Lent and Holy Week observance in the Philippines seems to have evolved into a mutated version of what I grew up with. Rules have relaxed a bit. I’m not complaining. I will always love my neighbor no matter what rules come out. How has my Holy Week evolved?

Monday to Wednesday seemed like normal workdays that seemed to last forever and had a Friday-ish or Saturday-ish feel. People were almost about ready to jump out of their chairs and out of the office door for a vacation. I didn’t have an issue and just kept on working. I know that I’ll be staying in Metro Manila anyway. No need to rush to a bus station or to the airport.

Thursday came and implementation of my Holy Week plan:  bonding with my family by visiting the old churches in nearby Laguna. For this trip, I decided to enter Laguna via  the back route–the more scenic Rizal route. We were able to visit seven churches in seven towns:

  1. Pakil
  2. Paete
  3. Pagsanjan
  4. Sta. Cruz
  5. Nagcarlan
  6. Liliw
  7. Magdalena

I’ll just list that down for reference. No pictures today. Hmm, I remember I hardly ever post photos. LOL. Anyway, the missus and the kids seemed happy that day. I’ll give myself a pat on the back. Congratulations, Brian. Spiritual and family objectives were met in one trip. This was one trip that I wanted to go on. It isn’t every day that I can get to see several holy houses of God in one day. It’s my own little way of saying thank you for keeping me focused every day.

Anyway, aside from the reflection and travel to different churches, we had nothing else to do on Good Friday. The missus and I ended up cooking a small no-meat feast, That reminds me, we  ought to fast in the coming years. Since both of us can cook, abstaining from meat is not a hindrance to eating more than a small helping.

With the cooking part over, I decided to sit down and catch up on some old movies and some TV shows. After two days of doing that, I realized that I sat down and sat through a staggering body count. That’s after a marathon session of sitting through all of the Hobbit movies (death of countless humans, orcs, goblins, and trolls), all current episodes of The Following (there’s currently six episodes with a minimum of three victims per episode). To cap it off, there were the innumerable soldiers that couldn’t shoot straight that died in Expendables 3 and all of the Cowboys that Wyatt Earp allegedly shot down in Tombstone (yes, the Kurt Russell movie).

Well, today is Easter Sunday. It’s the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. I can say that I am recharged. I just hope my brain wakes up in time for Monday. Godspeed to me.

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Because I Couldn’t Figure Out What to Write

I think it was last week when a very dear friend/former co-worker, sent me a message on Facebook. She said, “Master, when are you going to update your blog? The last one is so old already.” In case you’re wondering, she fondly calls me “Master” as a way not to call me “Sir.”  I did insist before that she call me by my first name which was totally cool by me even if I outranked her. Filipinos are super polite and respectful and strictly abide by that. So, I said that if she’ll insist on calling me “Sir”–I am certainly no knight–she might as well just call me “Master.” Just don’t ask me on what I am a master of.  In some circles, I can be a master of bad timing, disasters, and other nasty stuff. Anyway, this matter has no bearing on how the rest of this post goes.

So, what have I been up to since I took a break from updating this address on the internet? Well, I’ve been reading other blogs, stalking people on Facebook, and watching the news, and vice versa. In a way, I can figure that as something like an observation field trip–a so-what’s-going-on-in-the-world kind of thing. I hate to imagine that cyberspace is an actual representation of how people are in real life. If I look at Facebook, I might surmise that most of my friends are either adventurers, geniuses, yoga masters, potheads, philosophers, judgmental pricks and narcissists, or all of that rolled into one person. I mean, no matter what they do online or offline, it’s totally okay with me.  Just as long as they aren’t damn cheats.

Other than Facebook, of course there are online communities/ bloggers of like-minded thinking. In general, I can just group them into: fun communities, groups of open-minded progressives, groups of closed pseudo-intellects pushing agendas, and marketers. It’s great that people can seek out people that they feel are so much like them. That’s totally okay with the fun stuff and learning about new products. On the serious side of things, I mean, if one isn’t careful or one isn’t too critical about what he or she reads, one might end up supporting a cult, an extremist faction, and whatever radically extreme food and health movement. I say that any trip should be to broaden the view not tighten the noose of confirmation bias. Fun, I guess that’s what I am aiming at. Fun in the general sense that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. I mean, just imagine having fun without hurting other people; the world will certainly be a better place.

Openness, broaden your views, explore; I found those reading recipe books. I mean, now I have an odd curiosity to make donuts and ice cream. At least those are things in mind other than my home made sausages. I always thought of cooking at home as a means to relax. But deep down in the core, I feel that it’s something else. I think a friend of mine just answered that for me. He mentioned something about the need to create, like, it’s who we are. That just hit the spot. And that is what brought me here today to hammer out a few words on my keyboard. Well, I’m not exactly a literary genius, but doing this helps me figure out how to bring out thoughts and ideas that will otherwise pester me for some time. It’s a desire to express something. One might ask: “But what has that got to do with home cooking?” Well, it’s transforming something raw into something edible and filling, something that nourishes my loved ones. It’s a joy this person cherishes a lot.

Create something of value. It might be for you or for some other people. The joy is in making it and seeing it come to life.

Clicking on publish.   

Heads Up!

A strange thing happened this evening.  People suddenly took a pause to admire the moon and its halo.  The usual stream of what-I-had-for-dinner photos and selfies got bumped off by the nearest celestial body.  According to scientists and the Philippine weather service (PAGASA), the halo is from the reflection of light from the ice crystals in the air, or something to that effect.  In olden days, some would just say that the lunar light show is an omen, a sign of bad things to come.  I’ll take the positive awe over the negative “hell, no.”

and it shines like a living hymn (image via InterAksyon.com)

The moon sure has enough stopping power, either when it’s a big bright Full Moon, which I howl at, or when there is a unique phenomenon that occurs with it.  I’m sure glad that nature can still shut people up with a freebie beauty show treat rather than shutting them up with a fear-inducing display of power courtesy of storms and quakes.  Nature gave us a free show.  Great!

Tonight’s show, I’ll take it as a reminder of how small we really are in this world.  It could also be a reminder of how some things are beautiful by default.  It also serves up the question:  Why do people always have to complicate things when there is beauty in simplicity?  That’s a question best answered over a few rounds of…something meant for a different writeup.

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Just Like Old Times

Just like old times, my mom treated us to an afternoon snack yesterday.  It was certainly a joy since it had been a long time since we last did it.  The schedule was perfect for a quick family get-together.  Monday was a holiday and we were determined to make the most out of it.

The battle plan was simple.  It was chores, shopping and eating.  We all got through our house chores past noon and we zoomed out of the house.  All brains were set on “relax” mode.

We all headed to the local mall to do some shopping, stop at the salon to have some hairstyles fixed — all wholesome family stuff.  After burning through our to-do list, we made sure that we ended up at the local branch of one of our favorite tea houses.  There, we had our traditional afternoon family treat — tea and dim sum.

Laid out on our table were servings of steamed pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings and beancurd rolls.  Oh, there were also bowls of noodles and congee.  All that food to help wash down our tea. 🙂

The family traded stories while eating.  We even discussed a bit about current events and sort of “debated” on some issues.  We all had a great time.  That’s how it is in our family — food and laughter.  Out of my kakulitan, I even sent a text message to my sister, who’s currently abroad with her family, that mommy was treating us for merienda.  I bet she was both happy and envious.  She misses her a lot.  I know that for a fact.  (I don’t know if she’s read this post) 😛

As soon as the bill landed on our table, I told my kids that it was their grandmother’s treat but I was paying for it.  After all, without her I wouldn’t have existed.  For me it was a great way to honor a great lady.  😀

***

When someone passes away and after we bury them, it doesn’t mean that they are truly dead.  As corny as it may sound, the memory of departed loved one stays on.  They live within us.

My mom would’ve been a lovely 69-year old grandmother yesterday.   19 years is already a long time but I still miss her.

***

I am a demon.

In remembering my mom, I also remembered her father, my very strict grandfather.  He was always mad at me for whatever reason. Maybe because I look almost exactly like my dad?   Before spanking me because of my kakulitan and tigas ng ulo, he’d always say “demonyo” or “demonyong bata ka.”  This curious kid who always got a shock out of playing with electrical outlets was certainly the favorite of lolo’s tsinelas (slippers).  😛

Why There’s No Chicken in Our Kitchen (for the first 2011 Dinner)

Before the year ended, I am sure that most of the “seers” and “fortune-tellers” in the Philippines had a terrific time making money out of the desperate dopes seeking “guidance” on how things will be in 2011.  While I do generally agree with most people who say that “There’s no harm in believing a little bit” whenever it comes to superstition, allowing unfounded predictions to have a major say in course of one’s life is absolutely preposterous.

In Chinese tradition, I was born in the year of the Ox and if I match that with my Zodiac sign, I’ll be an Ox under Cancer.  If I remember an old book I read about that, I’m officially shit-out-of-luck.  Now, why would I subscribe to that and quit living?

Every year, we all hear the professionals (famous fortune-tellers) make their fearless forecasts — from the state of an actors lovelife to even the occurrence of natural disasters — that suggest these people shouldn’t be taken seriously.  Why not?  With such broad predictions, like, “someone in showbiz will die” or “there will be a big storm this year,” they’re all bound to be correct, to a certain degree.  Heck, I can make that forecast, too.  In fact, everyone else can.

It's the chicken's day off

New Year’s superstitions include items of clothing to food items — all having some circles or something round about them.  That is why round fruit are commonly seen during New Year’s Eve dinners or media noche. One can even wear something with polka dots on it to suggest an abundance of money in the coming year — the dots suggest round coins.  Frankly, if the polka-dot myth was true, then people should just wear an outfit made up of Euros or Dollars.  That will certainly be a more direct approach.  As an aside, there was even one feng shui expert that suggested to wear a specific color when betting on the lotto — that’s how luck-obsessed people are in this country.

As for the poor chicken?  If you look at it’s free range version or realize that it has a relatively scrawny frame or think of the kind of diet it has, you’ll think that it’s not really a rich-looking animal.  It doesn’t, right?  Following old superstitious beliefs, we decided that, for this year only, let’s try eating bigger animals to welcome the new year.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll usher in better luck.  So, tonight, it’ll be just pork and beef in a variety of Spanish-inspired dishes.

Very Filipino, isn’t it? 😛