* I Love Sufing
* Reunited (And It Feels So Good)
* On a Cool Night, Just Let Me Hold You By the Firelight
* The Temperate Zone Spreads Her Chilly Tentacles...
* It's All Good
* Eyes in the Back of My...Back
* The Road to Hell
* Getting High in the Low Season
* Just a Quickie...
* Oh My Buddha! (Part Two)
* Oh My Buddha! (Part One)
* Life's a Bitch...
* Holiday in Cambodia
* "Tuk-tuk, my friend? You want something?"
* Shake, Rattle, and Roll (and Pass Out)
* Slow-boating, Cannon-balling, and Baguettes
* Let's Keep it Real!
* Play One More For My Radio Sweetheart...
* I don't want to leave...
May 15, 2005
Reunited (And It Feels So Good)
The History of Lola Leyte
Barrio San Miguel, City of Mexico, Pampanga Province, 1941. Night has fallen and 14-year-old Leyte Pangalinan takes cover uphill in the darkness of the pine trees alongside her guerilla colleagues, watching and waiting, her face smeared with charcoal. The invading Japanese soldiers have grown increasingly aggressive, storming through her barrio, raping women young and old, pillaging at will. In range now, she and her fellow defenders raise their rifles and take aim at the cluster marauding soldiers. More lives lost. This is nothing new to Miss Pangalinan. Defending her homeland with the rifle had become a part of her daily life. My grandma was a legit badass.
Onto the Present
I love my lola. I met her for the first time just four days ago, in the city of San Fernando, two hours west of Baguio. At 77, she still has the heart of a kid, dancing and skipping about, cracking jokes about her missing teeth, and playing practical jokes on people (myself included, and I think I now know where the prankster in me came from). Her culinary skills are legendary; she was friends with two former Filipino presidents (Ramos and Aquino) who requested her services at one time or another. I'll have my chance to sample her delightful cuisine on June 11th, at my cousin Jacky's birthday party.
The majority of the family met up in La Union to welcome my arrival with a huge feast on the river near my Aunt Shirley's home. I ate quite a lot that day (even for me!), stuffing myself full of bangus (milkfish), tilapia, pork chops, oyster shooters, salad, and of course the inescapable mounds of rice. Spent time paddling rockets (bamboo rafts) and swimming in the saltwater river with my numerous cousins. It was one of my greatest experiences meeting all these blood relatives and learning of my family's history. Many of the questions I had about my family's history were all answered in the span of a few hours.
My mother's maiden name is Edmund, obviously not a typical Filipino name. It turns out that my lolo (grandfather) was originally named Gomez, but was adopted by an American priest named Paul Edmund, hence the European name. I had always believed that there was some kind of European ancestory mixed into the Filipino side of my family, but the Filipino side is pure. My lolo was half-Igorot and half-Kalinga. Both tribes are mountain dwellers, the Igorots tpyically display short and stocky builds, while the Kalinga are typically built long and lanky. The Kalinga are also one of the most feared tribes in the Philippines. They used to be headhunters and still engage in bloody tribal wars to this day (there was story in the paper just the other day about a recent battle). My lola is full-blooded Pampanga, people of the lowlands in Central Luzon known for their culinary expertise. As Lola is often fond of saying, to know how to cook is the Pampanga way!
After our visit with my family, Kristian and I headed north to the town of Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the original Spanish buildings that were erected hundreds of years ago still stand, and on the weekends, that historical section of the city is closed to motor vehicles (thanks be to God!). Only horse-drawn carriages are allowed to travel down the cobblestone street (yeah, it's only one long street unfortunately), and the lamps are antiques along with the buildings, making a late-night walk feel like a walk into the past. I loved it. The town also sports the extremely impressive St. Paul's Cathedral, built by the Augustinians late in the 18th century. We stayed at Grandpa's Inn, a charming rest stop with high ceilings, lots of antiques, and plenty of character.
The drive on the way to Vigan sports some beautiful rocky coastline. Eager to get out of the town for a little while, Kristian and I hopped on a bus and headed to Paraiso ni Juan (John's Paradise), where waves crash from all directions against the sharp rocks jutting from the sea. It was well worth the trip to simply sit on the rocks and watch the waves crash. An old Spanish watchtower still stands atop the largest and most distant of the large rock formations.
I also had quite a bit of fun bodysurfing with these young children on a black sand beach north of Vigan the previous day. These kids don't have proper bodyboards, so they use small sections of plywood instead. The waves were strong and the sunset was magnificient, and I got to enjoy saltwater, trapped deep in within my sinuses, involuntarily drip from my nostrils for the next few hours.
If you are interested in some old Filipino folklore, read on and I will tell the story of Mananangal and the Aswang, frightening creatures that are virtually the same in appearance, but are separated by their culinary preferences...
The Mananangal and the Aswang
Both types of creatures only come out at night, and usually during a full-moon. During the day, they appear to be ordinary people, nothing unusual at all. However, when hunger strikes, they seek cover behind the banana trees and begin their disgusting transformation. First, her hair grows wild (get this chick some frizz-control!), her teeth become fangs, and her fingernails extend into sharp talons. Then she grows giant bat wings, and her upper body detaches from her lower body so that her legs, topped with her innards, remain standing in the same spot. She flies to the house of a pregnant woman and perches herself on the roof above the sleeping woman. Her tongue then elongates and becomes threadlike, working its way down to the woman's navel, where it gently pierces her and makes its way to the fetus within. The Mananangal then sucks the blood from the unborn child until it has been spent, drying it up like a raisin. Satisfied, she flies back to her lower body and transforms once again into human form.
The Aswang is exactly the same as the Manangal with the exception that it preys on lone travellers, and instead of sucking blood, it simply rips your liver out with its sharp talons and feasts on the vitamin-rich organ.
You can kill either one of these creatures if you discover the lower body and pour salt on the innards. She won't be able to re-attach herself and will die at the break of dawn. Many superstitious Filipinos still believe in these myths.
After a 10-hour bus ride, I am back in my favorite city in the Philippines, Manila. I'm awaiting the arrival of an old friend.
"Kia Kaha (Be Strong)
Posted by Gary on May 15, 2005 09:14 PM
Category: Philippine Islands
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