Nostalgia Accounts Episode 3
City life is fast-paced and stressfully demanding. I am missing the plain living back in my hometown roughly two decades ago. The local community’s source of income was fishing although it was basically more of a source of food rather than income. It wasn’t psychologically exhausting back then because we didn’t have advanced thinking that worries what’s for the next few months. The neighborhood lived one day at a time, scouring the sea for something to fill the stomach – be it fish, squid, even giant jellyfish! I remember Lola Iglesia removing the venomous tentacles and then cutting the transparent jelly head into cubes. She ate it raw in vinegar, chili, tomato and onion.
I grew up scouring the shoreline during low tide to glean for mollusks and shellfishes (kinhason) and crabs (kasag). We could get nerite snail (sihi), turban snail (lumban), mangrove whelk (dalodalo or tapoktapok), telescope shell (bagongon), blood clam (litob), plicate conch (aninikad) and others too far and too deep in my memory to recall their names. It’s best to scour the shoreline during the night for mangrove crab (alimango), swimming blue crab (lambay) and reef octupos (tabugok). Gleaming for shellfish in daylight is called “panginhas” in our native tongue (Cebuano). During night time, we call it “panulo“. There’s really no one-word English equivalent for that. It came from “sulo” or the torch that we bring to light up the dark shore. Torch made out of dried coconut leaves was short-lasting so we had this Petromax pressurized kerosene lamp instead.
Tapoktapok, bagongon and alimango are best cooked in coconut milk! Talk about very rich, mouth-watering, lusciously delicious, succulent texture! Bagongon is eaten by cutting open the bottom part of its shell, then sucking up its meat.
Sihi, lumban and kasag can be meat ingredients or partners of vegetable soup we call “laswah“. In our backyards grew malabar night shade (alugbate), horse radish tree (kamunggay), swamp cabbage (tangkong), ladies’ fingers (okra), lemongrass (tanglad) and bitter gourd (paliya) among others.
Our shores were very rich of marine life back then because we only looked for what to cook that day. In our backyards bloom and sprung green leaves. We shared food with neighbors. I really don’t know how did we evolve from that way of life to the present day sell-anything-salable thinking, leaving no stone unturned.
Noontime wasn’t too hot to go out with friends to look for spiders. We let them fight on a thin bamboo stick (from banana barbeque) or a coconut leaf rib (from brooms). Along the way, we climbed spanish plum (siriguylas), madras thorn (kamatsile), jambolan plum (lomboy), tamarind (sambag), jamaican cherry (mansanitas) and java apple (tambis) growing in the wild. All for free! Giving colors to the roadside were hibiscus (gumamela), desert rose (kalachuchi), and lantana flowers (bahobaho or kandingkanding) but lantana’s smell was rather unpleasant to some.
We also used to chomp sugarcane that we pulled out of a “siksbay” truck on its way to the sugar mill (a good way to exercise and clean the teeth). The term “siksbay” is a loanword that came from “6 by 6”, referring to the 6-wheel-drive army trucks that were used to transport the harvested sugarcane.
Never in my wildest dreams during those times could I have imagined myself sitting in front of a computer screen modelling, analyzing and designing structures that, in a way, could have destroyed or will be destroying wonderful rural neighborhood such as that.
How about yours? How was your childhood rural life like?