My brief stay in the Philippines wasn't much of a vacation. Aside from the occasional doctors and therapists visits for Mama, days were mostly spent for errands, particularly leftover things-to-do when Papa died and our family business closed several years ago. I never knew there were fees to pay the city when a family member passes and when you close business. There were also a lot of stuff to arrange and fix after we were asked to move out of our childhood home.
Food was how close it came to vacation. Every supper was made special by my aunt who is from Bulacan, one of many Philippine provinces known for its culinary contribution to Filipino food. When eating out, we feasted on both new stuff and the tried and tested. Food is such a socio-cultural element that it becomes the thread of communication for any type of gathering.
A good friend and former colleague in the TV industry arranged lunch at Sonya’s Garden in Alfonso, Cavite, about 2-3 hours south of Manila. It was an al fresco lunch in a lush tropical setting. People who are crazy about organic food should come here where almost all ingredients - from crisp salad reds, yellows and greens to the free-flowing, freshly-squeezed dalandan juice - are homegrown. The pesto dip was extraordinary. The turon with langka was the perfect finale.
Old friendships from elementary, high school and college were also rekindled. It was time well spent as we updated each other on our current lives and reminisced the old days with the same enthusiasm. Food was at the centerpiece, as always. Stories of yore never seem to grow old as we recalled the same much-enjoyed happenings and laughed at the same old jokes. Time never seemed enough for new stories about new adventures and milestones in our lives.
Most important, there was family. Home is where the heart is, as they say. You don’t have to be somewhere exotic, somewhere expensive, somewhere extraordinary (not that there’s anything wrong with that) to have a wonderful time. My mom, my youngest sister and I found ourselves reunited at Chocolate Kiss Cafe at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, sans eldest sister and dad. I have to say their new Quezo Chiffon Cake is luxuriously luscious. Go!
Ultimately, no matter where you are, no matter what you do, as long as you are surrounded by people you love and people who love you, the moment is good enough, even though it’s only for a moment.
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