A FRIEND posted a long essay attributed to legendary cuisine guru Anthony Bourdain, but as has become my habit when seeing posts claiming an article was written by this or that... I look for the original. This essay turned out to be the one written by Bourdain on May 3, 2014 with the title “Under the Volcano” in his Tumblr blog, https://anthonybourdain.tumblr.com/.

That brought me back to that trip to Mexico in 2017 where I learned to sip and enjoy for lunch and dinner the various flavors and notes of tequila and mezcal — and know the difference. It was a revelation of how a drink has been bastardized beyond recognition. It was a realization that yes, people can actually bastardize food, culture, people, country, even history, and the clueless will believe the bastard is legit.

For us, tequila and mezcal are one and the same. Mezcal is just the more expensive bottle because it has a worm. Either are drank in a shot glass, chugged down in one gulp followed by a bite into a slice of sour lemon and salt. All this is practiced in a wild party scene where body licking is cheered and sweaty bodies gyrating in drunken stupor are the norm.

I was in my 20s when I first drank tequila as taught to me by a female friend. It was her birthday, and she had a bottle of Jose Cuervo. I chugged down the liquor as instructed, licking lemon and salt while grimacing, and got roaring drunk as tequila can make you. I remember to this day how drunk but conscious I was such that I’d gag and throw up everytime I am invited to chug down tequila again. I’d take a sip, but nothing else.

This drunken rage, the stupor seen in wild parties, were nothing like the relaxed, dignified professionals (handsome to boot!) who were introducing me to how tequila was to be drank and savored. The same handsome men in suits teaching me to savor the difference between mezcal and tequila scoffed off bodyshots as “American”.

“They’re in a hurry to get drunk,” my Mexican companion said. It’s drinking tequila the wrong way. Tequila is to be savored, during lunch, during dinner, like you savor your food.

In that short visit, I drank as Mexicans drank, ordering their liquor to accompany my meals, and truly appreciating the flavor, the distinction between this brand and that and that note and those.

How easy it is to destroy and create a whole different interpretation of everything as humanity picks up bits and pieces without putting into context what they are experiencing.

I pause and wonder, like many are wondering now. Do we even know Philippine history as it happened. It was just a decade or so ago when we learned about the villain that was Emilio Aguinaldo, after being made to believe in our elementary and high school days of his gallantry and youthful leadership.

The history learned in school is nothing but perfumed fairy tales to extol families and lineages. How many more villainous acts have been hidden to a people so as to cast clans and lineages in the limelight as if they were saints? I shudder. You can’t even tell the party people now that they’re drinking tequila the wrong way, how can you tell the Filipinos that we have been living under the delusion of a few?

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