Monday, June 21, 2021

Estremera: Life is still good

Spiders Web

I HAVE been texted by SafeDavao, and that freaked me out. There I was, enjoying a quiet weekend outside, realizing too late that in those few hours, a person who tested positive of Covid-19 happened to be around. We're now officially F2/F3, and I'm home, alone, as my companions are in their own homes.

A day after receiving the message, I was waiting inside the car, lined up with what could be a hundred cars idling at the main road of Crocodile Park for our free swabs. It was hot and boring. I wanted to rant, but no.

We're in a World War, remember? My generation's parents had it worse... worst.

Growing up, I learned about how mom and her family hid in Sierra Madre and came up with ingenious cuisines to make up for what war deprived them of. The likes of "kastanyog," roasted mature coconut meat that gives a hint of "kastanyas" (chestnuts). Then there's "minanok," flame-grilled whole eggplant cooked in the milk of grated coconut scorched in red hot charcoal. I was watching on YouTube a culinary contest where "minanok" was featured, and I could just shake my head at how the cook explained why it was called that. She totally missed it. Apparently, she just learned how to cook it but did not learn about the context. All she could say was minanok was a dish that has no "manok." Duh?

That is why context is very important. Imagine yourself as a seven-year-old child, surviving in the mountains amid a world war. All you want is normalcy, but there is no normalcy in a war. So, the elders make the most of what's there, including squeezing the hints of flavor from the little food they had.

Savor "minanok" like it might be your last decent meal and realize... there is indeed the flavor of chicken brought about by the combination of ginger, peppercorn, a hint of vinegar, and milk from coal-scorched grated coconut.

I have also been listening to retired business leader Anggie Angliongto recall how their family fled to Malita from their Davao City home with their things and himself (being just around seven then) on a "kangga" pulled by a carabao. My dive buddies and I went to Malita in a van in the mid-2000s when there was still no cemented highway, and we almost didn't reach it. Sir Anggie rode a kangga while his elder siblings walked and that was 1944. It must have been the wilderness.

So, there I was inside a car as the morning turned to noon, waiting in vain to be swabbed. We didn't reach the swabbing stations in time. We were among those turned away just when there were just maybe ten vehicles in front. But... who am I to complain when all that was asked of me was to wait and waste one morning? While every day, as the world battles a virus, I am expected to stay in the comfort of my home, and wait for my turn to be jabbed as my civic duty, as my enlistment call.

By the way, we were assured of slots five days later. That's another five days of living in limbo plus more days to await the swab results. But... at least I can do that in comfort... with an electric stove and food to cook at home, alone. No kanga rides, no fleeing to the mountains. No bombs. And for this, I have nothing but gratitude.


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