laughter and tears
The day to day living is overshadowed by the good times, that's for sure. The good food, the Sunday outings and the parties. Mommy loves throwing parties, she'd take any and all excuse to cook and entertain. She has a very wide collection of the finest china, several pieces of expensive pots and pans, a huge line of Pyrex baking pans and wonderful serving dishes. We never use paper plates and plastics at our parties, my mom just couldn't abide by that. The party food is definitely different from the daily adobo or sinigang or fried fish. Regularly, there would be spaghetti or baked macaroni (seldomly pansit because we're all not very fond of it), potato or macaroni salad and the dishes ending in “do”, embutido, menudo, mechado plus fried chicken. She would usually stick to a five-course entree. When the party is rather special, she would throw in an arroz valenciana, some spare ribs or fish fillet. Then there's the glorious dessert. My mommy cooks the meanest leche flan, so creamy and never runny with caramelized sugar on top. She only uses egg yolks so that the flan is closer to tocino del cielo. Ever tasted two layers of brownies, separated by slices of cheese? Or chocolate cupcakes with a special chocolate icing on top? She has a few more in her belt like the pineapple upside down cake, the round chiffon covered with white icing and topped with chocolate syrup, the fruit salad, the buko lychee. and yet another one of her specialties, the ube halaya with Dari Crème and grated cheese that lasts for months and months refrigerated.
Her most complimented dishes are her salads, the macaroni and the potato. Everyone looks for either of these two. Mommy says they're good because she's never stingy with mayonnaise and uses only Ladies' Choice. She also uses a lot of boiled eggs. Thinking of my mommy's cooking bring wistful tears to my eyes because this is what defines her along with her great taste in clothes and household furnishings and ornaments. She has a very refined outlook in life, which is rather unexpected considering she never went to college to give way for the education of her younger siblings. She is totally self taught, she makes us all very proud of her and very happy. A happy stomach is, after all, a happy soul. No wonder she had diabetes and we all struggled with weight problems all our lives.
How is she able to manage all these? That would be my dad. If there ever was a medal for being an excellent head of the family and provider, he'd bag it hands down. He dedicated his life to giving us the best in everything, education, religion, life. Sometimes people take it for granted that mommy wouldn't be able to mount all these gastronomically glorifying events without the funds to back it up, and that is dad's department. He worked for an Ilocano (from the Ilocos region in the north) he fought with during the second world war. He turned his back on a possibly rewarding military career to join the private sector. We knew his boss as Mr. Bueno, a self-made businessman with interests in logging and heavy machinery. Dad is in purchasing, a position that offers opportunities for commissions. He pretty much had a free hand on things and was issued a company vehicle that he takes home. The vehicle varies from a WW2 relic, Willy's jeepney, to a Toyota Tamaraw, a Toyota Land Cruiser, a Corolla, a Renault. By the time I was attending college the company service was gone, then Mr. Bueno turned over the reins of the company to his children leaving daddy high and dry. He got swindled out of his retirement pay by the Bueno children.
My parents' marriage is one for the books, at least it looks that way to me. Married in 1955, never once separated and never came to blows as far as I can recall. They only parted when mommy succumbed to diabetes in 2001. Theirs must be true love and truer companionship. I think the formula is the age gap, daddy was born in August 16, 1920 and mommy in November 19, 1936. Bueno had some business in San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro and when mommy became a candidate in a popularity contest, daddy bought all her ballots with Bueno's backing. After mommy was crowned queen, they got married. Then they had to move to Butuan City, Agusan del Sur and lived there for a while with one miscarriage and the three successful births of Elvie, Stella and Ross. The family also lived in Santa Ana, Manila before finally settling down in Pandacan where we lived for over 30 years.