My Tips in Passing the Philippine Civil Engineering Board Exam

A fellow topnotcher in the November 2009 Philippine Civil Engineering Board Exam has initiated a thoughtful and valuable project for CE board exam hopefuls. The site—currently on testing and development stage—will feature free tips from topnotchers all over the country and a whole lot of indispensable resources.

My input was posted on their Facebook Page in a truncated format. I figured out it will be very beneficial to post here my full answers to their guide questions for the meantime (although this will also be posted in full when their website officially launches).

Describe your family background (Parents, siblings, other info)
What do you do for fun?
How do your friends describe you?

I’m Romyr from Bacolod City. My father is working as a mechanic in DPWH and my mother’s a housewife. But during my bachelor’s degree, my mother decided to work as a domestic helper in Cavite for 4 years because it was virtually impossible for my father to sustain our needs at home and the financial demands of my course. Being a 50% academic scholar already pulled out a huge thorn but it was still necessary to seek assistance from my Uncle working abroad.

I grew up an introvert and college sort of paved way for me to get out of my shell gradually. My classmates thought of me as somewhat diligent and polished, “kalkulado ang galaw” as one friend remarked—to which I ardently disagreed since I crammed most of the time, and my closest friends could testify how loud and insane I am when I’m comfortable with my company.

Describe your typical day (How many hours per day, days per week do you study?)
What activities did you do?
What tips and techniques can you share with other students?
Sacrifices: What activities did you temporarily stop? What activities did additionally you do?
Manner of review: Did you study on your own? Or did you study as a group? Or both?
How did the review instructors help?
Are there other factors that helped?

I decided to take the morning class since the mind’s fresh, and train it to be warmed up and work efficiently during the actual exams which also started in the morning. Energy drinks were a staple. After the class, I strived to finish all of the take-home problems to get along with the pace of the review. I couldn’t afford to delay or leave-out any since it’s practically a crash course—massively compressing five-year worth of lessons in just 6 months. I literally solved every problem no matter how the fundamental theory in each problem “repeatedly” was the same and how familiar I already was with the concept. Overconfidence is a big NO. The room was filled with formulas written on paper so wherever we looked, we would be reminded of it.

Tips and Tricks

1. Share your knowledge to your classmates. Teaching helped me a lot in memorizing and understanding the principles more profoundly. You cannot teach something you do not know.

2. I had this weird conviction that if I kept hearing the formulas even in my sleep, I could memorize them more effectively. So I recorded my voice reciting all the formulas and I got used to sleeping with my earphones on, hearing the formulas overnight. This might not work for everyone but this was my insanity. When studying, I listened to my most favorite static noise—the sound of rain. It helped me relax, isolate myself from the outside, and focus on studying.

3. They say that the more senses are involved, the better the learning. So when memorizing the formulas, I recited them so I could hear them.

4. Make sure you get enough sleep to restore efficiency and get rid of mental stress and fatigue. We made sure the lights were off at 10. The only compromise was when the take-home exams were inevitably long.

5. Must have days-off to unwind—Sundays in my case. Church, groceries, mall, laundry, social media.

6. Choose the right company. Be with those who are serious of getting a passing mark.

On Review Centers and Instructors & Other Factors that helped

The review center was way far from home, we were in Cebu City. The limitations it brought were blessings in disguise. We were lodging so some amenities like TV and DVDs were out of reach. I chose to be roommates with the school’s potential board placer (he made it to 7th place) so we used to challenge each other a notch higher, creating ultra-hard problems and giving it to each other. That was really fun!

During that time, I still wasn’t infected with the social media pandemic so I could go for months without ever logging in. Today, it might be necessary to temporarily deactivate an account. Don’t just resist temptations, run away from it.


What are your motivations?
Who motivated you the most?
Did you encounter setbacks during review? And how did you overcome them?

Hearing your mother telling you over the phone that they were boiling banana just to have something for lunch, and feeling like wanting to give them back that very moment the money they gave you for your fare to school so they could buy rice to steam?—I know these are cliché over-milked stories but I don’t know how I could be emotionally stronger after that heart-breaking experience.

During the review, being far away from them and hearing them periodically discuss over the phone where to get money for my next allowance for food and lodge payment, believe me—words are not enough to describe how intensely desperate I was to change the way things were. I poured over my frustrations on my review books, but most importantly my final solace rests in my strong faith in God. Seeing my father downhearted over the years handing-over virtually all of his scanty salary for my tuition fee, and joking that he couldn’t even afford to buy his own underwear or socks—which was absolutely true!—I felt like the review was the final thrust, we have gone too far to be despondent! Sometimes my allowance got delayed, but I had the blessing of being with open-handed friends who lent me money to grab some basic stuff. The landlady was also generous to allow me to credit-list (utang) my meals in her eatery and pay her monthly.


Describe your experience during the exams
What advice can you give to the board exam takers?

Review centers help a lot because they steer you the right way. For this particular purpose, it’s a waste of time studying a myriad of things which will not come out during the exams, not to mention exhausting. But review centers can only do so much. They adjust their curriculum according to the pattern of problems that they observe per examiner. But during our time, a new PRC examiner in Mathematics recently occupied the seat so there was a high probability that new topics would appear. So I self-reviewed Differential Equations which was not included in our review course—and I was right with my gut feeling because it definitely came out. But even without that demanding circumstance, I surely would have still reviewed extra topics, given the time. During the examination day, the thing that makes you paranoid is when you know there’s a topic you haven’t studied and you’re wishfully thinking you won’t encounter it on the questionnaire. It doesn’t really help at all.

“Pagpupwet” is helpful on problems with related succeeding questions where you pair by trial-and-error the choices of one question with the preceding question’s.


Describe your experience after the exams
Describe your story when the results came out
Did you receive job offers?

After the exams, we avoided talking about it as it would only worsen the agony of waiting for the results especially when you found out you had different answers. We stayed in Cebu until the results came out.

After 3 days, I informed my family over the phone and sincerely, I was very inspired hearing them really happy and satisfied with just the fact that “I passed”. They weren’t even asking about the Top 10. It was really awkward when the List of Top-notchers was finally posted because one of my classmates who wasn’t really close to me was overwhelmed and “Dinawn Zulueta ako!” LOL. I called home right away and they were just crying!

What is your advice and message to the students?

I believe that it’s valuable to exert your best in your endeavors even if you know that you have the competence. Some may find this stale and melodramatic, but the harder the labor, the sweeter the fruit is indeed! Before we went home back to Negros, 2 of my classmates confessed to me that they had an indifferent feeling after passing the board exam because they didn’t feel that they gave their best during the reviews.


Chronicles of a Civil Engineer in Saudi (Cebuano/Visayan)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sa sobra tulo ka tuig nakong pamuyo ngari sa Tungang Sidlakan, naka tigumtigum kog saktohang mga storyang agi ra nga mahimuot pod kos akoang kaugalingon. Magkatawa kong nag-inusara.

Sugdan nato kaniadtong pagbyahe nako mismo padung ngari. Perstaym nako makasakay ug dakong eroplano, Boeing 747. Kini gung bag-ong salta gyud ta, ma ignorante gyud ta aning himutangan sa sud niining higantehong sakyanan. Manug lupad pa lang, di sab ko kahuwat mugamit aning gamayng TV sa akong atubangan. Di man musiga, maong sige kog panuplok sa remote sa kilid, naa koy matuslukan nga may mutingog, cge sab kog pangita asa tong gatingog. Padayon ra kog tuslok, tanang butones akoang gituslok, hantod nga naluya ko kay di gyud musiga ang TV. Dugay-dugay niay miabot nga istiwardis, gipangutana ko kung naa ba koy gikinahanglan, mihangad ra ko niya uban akoang dagwayng inosente. As in pirte gyud nakong pagka way kalibutana. Mitubag ra ko ug ha?. Diha diha dayon na-amgo niyang burong gyud ko. Gitudlo niya ang suga sa akoang uluhan nga gasiga, mao toy timailhan nga gakinahanglan kag hinabang gikan sa istiwardis. Mao diay to ang natuslukan nako nga mutingog. Naulaw ko nga nagkatawa. Hehe.

So nia na ta sa Saudi. Ang mga baye ngari magsul-ob ug kupo nga ginatawag ug “abaya”, ug tabon sa ilang ulo nga ginatawag ug “niqab”. Mata ray makita. Ang problema kay ug magkaon sila, magsingari sab ug pukas pukas sa tabil sa nawong. Ako muy gikapuyan kada hungit. Maninggit dayon na sila ung makakita ug kidlap sa kamera! Abi nilag gikodakan na na sila. Mura pug unsa’y makita nga putos man tibuok lawas. Pero magkodakanay pod na sila. Ang problema ug unsaon nila pag tag sa facebook kay mata ra man tanan makit-an! Ambot sa kanding nga gipungos ang bungot.

Ang mga datuon nga Saudi, kabaw na sila maligo, humot na sila. Dili sama sa atoang panahom nga baho silag ilok. Ug atoang susihon, tanang taw sa kalibutan mubaho man gyud ang ilok kung dili maligo ug dili mag dyodorant. Pero kining mga Pakistano ug Indiano murag wa gyud ni sila ma bendisyonan ug kugi sa pagkaligo. Maong kusgan kayo nig gahom ilang mga ilok. Ang Indiano nga ania sa opisina, pagsulod sa ilong nimo ani iyang baho, dili mudiretso sa imong baga, diri motuslok sa imong agtang. Makalipong gyud sya. Usa ka tiun aduna say Pakistano nga miari sa amuang tunghaan, saktong wa pa koy kaon ato, pagkasimhut nako sa iyang alisngaw, matay nga gikutkot akoang tiyan! Di ka kasabot kay samot kag kagutom pero wa kay gana mukaon. Ang mga taxi ngari bahog gas nga bahog haplas di ka kasabot. Pero dili hinuon tanan. Pero ma immune ra man ka! Haha!

Ang nakamaayo ngari sa Jeddah, di ka mabalaka maglakat sa gawas dala imong gadgets kay daghag pulis ug wa may manulis kaayo, pero di pod nuon sa tanang lugar. Pero di sama sa Pinas nga mutikang ra kas inyong ganghaan, danger zone na dayon bitaw.

Ang Red Sea ngari, limpyo kaayo, biskan ang ania duol sa dakbayan. Masulundon man gud sa balaod ang mga pumuluyo. Di na pod sama sa Pinas nga pirteng hugawa ang atoang dagat duol sa syudad. Usa ka tiun kay nag sunset dinner mi sa kilids dagat (oo adunay ingon anang ka dramahan diri kay wa may lingaw! Haha), nakakita kog mga baby green turtles! Wala ra. Ang point ra is dili abusado ang mga tawo diri. Ug sa Pinas pa guro to, gisud na tos garapon or gibaligya’s merkado.

Walay ilimnung makahulubog ngari. Dili pwede sa balaod sa Islam. Basta magtapok ang mga magbarkada nga Arabo, magkape ra na sila, magtsaa, magkanta kanta, magstorya storya sa daplins dagat, ug mag sugilanon ug mga storyang gitik gitik (jokes). Wala’y sinehan ug discohan ug ilimnan ngari, pero malipay ra man diay gihapon ang mga tawo bisa’g walay ingon ana! Tipid kay wala’y bisyo, makatigum kag pinakurat. Pero daghang sindikato nga kahibaw pod maghimo ug ilimnong makahulubog, labi na mga Pinoy. Pero di lalim mapreso ngari kay latiguhon man ka kada Birnes bag-o ka ideport, depende ug unsa kabug-at imong sala. Aksyon sad tag kabalaka!

Barato kaayo ang gasolina ngari! Mahal pa ang tubig lagi. Ug may sakyanan ka ngari unya mupauli ka sa Pinas, magbatyag gyud kas kamahal sa krudo sa Pinas! Ug puede pa lang ang gasolina na lang imnon ngari. Haha, barato sab kaayo ang kuryente ngari mahitungod kay sa diesel gikan.

Ang mga Arabo kung mag-away, di kahibaw manumbag, padak-anay ra na sila sa ilang tingug, ug kinsay dakog tingug maoy daog. Cgeg hana pero di dayunon. Away na gyud na kung makakita kag naglaparuhanay ug tsinelas. Hehe!

Diri sa opisina, magsakit akoang ulo basta magdungan na ni silag istorya. Mura ni silag merkado, maayo unta ug naay gibaligyang isda nga lab-as unya barato! Dugay kaayo magsinabtanay, magsinggitanay murag gaaway, pero wala na sila gaaway, ga hisgotanay ra. So naay duha ga storya noh, may mosud na pod dugang duha magstorya. Para maghibatianay sila, kinahanglan mas dako sila’g tingug atong duhang una pod nga ga storya. Tiud tiud naa puy mosud nga may kaistorya sa telepono, dakuon pod iyang tingug para mabatian sya sa iyang kaistorya sa pikas linya. Haskang gubuta gyud! Wa pod ni sila’y giila nga lugar, bisag didto sa tunghaan sa boss, mag ingon ana pod na sila. Maayo na lang naimbento ang headphones, dayon nakong paslak sa akoang dalunggan.

Daghan kaayog iring ngari, gakatag sa palibot. Pero panagsaon ra gyud kaayo ang iro, as in makurat ka ug makakita kag iro, isinggitan gyud nimo sa imong mga kauban nga nakakita kag iro.

Ug naa kas abroad, ayaw gyud singarig kombert kay wa gyuy mahitabo nimo. Di gyud ka mahuman ug grocery! Kay inig kuha nimo dayon nimong kombert, ibalik man nimo kay mahal! Basta pagkaon gani, sige ra nga sige. Usahay dili malikayan, mag ahaw ka makatilaw ug saging kardaba abi ron. Unya P250 man ang kilo, apil pang panit nga baga kaayo! Pero kay gusto man nimo tambalan imung paglaway, kay lami man na gud isuwa sa ginamos. Agwanta na lang ka usahay. Kada inggkib nimo ayaw gyud dayon tunla. Pagtablaw usa sa iyang sabor dayong piyong piyong sa imong mata, dayong sambit nimog hmmmmm.. para sulit ang presyo! Hehe.

Di puyde mag uban ang bayi ug laki ngari nga di kasado. So kung mag det det ka (date sa ininglis), kinahanglan naa moy kuyog nga mag asawa, mapurdoy kag ahat! Haha. Pero ang uban paisugay ra man, ang sa madakpan lang! Pero pastilan aksyon sad kag kabalaka.

Naluya kog tabi! Unya na sad sa Part 2! Hehe.

Untamed Stupidity

Just when you thought everything would be fine, you’re caught off-guard. Yeah, we all do make mistakes but some of them are just so severely terrible you’d wish to disappear on the spot.

>>Just passed the board exam
>>Got hired for my first job in Makati CBD
>>Met these two eggheads: Felix and Rauden

It was lunch break and we decided to dine in a near resto. When we got in the elevator, there were no other passengers except for the three of us. We pressed all the buttons on the elevator so whoever would get next to us would stop from every floor starting from the ground floor. To bring full satisfaction, we included the basement. We were very complacent. Who would recognize us anyway? The elevator was filled with laughter as we tried to imagine the next passenger. So, here it was. The ‘G’ indicator lighted up. We arrived on the ground floor and we were very eager to see who’d be the next passenger as we were having this stomach-aching suppressed laughter. And to our surprise, out of more than 6 billion people in the world, why, oh, why? It was Sir Alden C. Ong, the owner and executive president of our company (an engineering consulting firm). I silently screamed and shouted with all might in my head. Everything was not funny anymore as I thought of Sir Alden going to the basement, and back to the ground floor again, and stopping every floor up to the 3rd floor where our office was. And to add to the terrible feeling, I just thought that Sir Alden, while pressing the “close” button every after stopping-opening of the elevator per floor, was already mentally making the rough draft of our termination memo. The day after, I was called to the president’s office. I just waited for him to say Congratulations, Romyr, you’re fired!. You know what? I was there to discuss a new project. He never even mentioned what happened the day before. I would be happy to assume and keep this to myself that he understood what happened because he was once like us – young, silly and crazy.

Being A Countryside Kid

Nostalgia Accounts Episode 3

I do not own these images. No copyright infringement intended.

I do not own these images. No copyright infringement intended.

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?

When Unbelievably Hilarious Things Used To Be Scary

Nostalgic Accounts Episode 2

My childhood afternoons were almost dominated by running and running tirelessly on the shore sands. Playing under the scorching sun all day, we reeked like vinegared fish stew. Wait, how should I say that? We stank like paksiw fish. In order to tame us, an elderly next to our house named Lola Iglesia whistled her signature go-home-or-I’ll-whip-your-ass call to her grandchildren who were playing with me and the other neighborhood kids when twilight bit. Around 5 o’clock or before the darkness fell, we eagerly gathered on Lola Iglesia’s small resting shack on her yard where we wrested over the first-come-first-serve spaces on the long wooden chair. We then begged her to give us a frightening horror story. But she would never tell us a story unless we let her drink tuba (coconut wine). So the kids started to chip in whatever cents we had to buy her a glass of tuba. Because of this, you would never see any kid running loose outside their homes after her stories. For many years, Lola never ran out of tales. She must have been very imaginative and creative. As long as she was a little bit drunk, she could create any kind of story that fitted your expectations for extreme fear factor. My memory has retained a few of Lola’s stories and superstitions. I’m really fascinated of how frightening they used to be and how funny they are when I look back on them today.

1. Lola’s garden had only one commandment. It had not anything to do with a fruit, but with a flower. At the center of her garden grew this bell-shaped Brugmansia Flower, the only flower in the whole wide world to which you are forbidden to point your fingers on or they will be cut off or fall off your hands! Lola was never lenient to her grandchildren with this commandment. They were scolded seriously for breaking it. We, the outsiders, were also reprimanded for doing the same.

2. Once in a while, an unknown floating object was seen far asea our little neighborhood that we could hardly see it from the shore. Lola also forbade us of pointing to it or our fingers will be cut off. She said zombies were aboard the floating object and you aggress them when you point at them. They were said to attack neighborhoods and put on their slippers. The next time the residents wear their slippers, they get infected and turn into zombies, too. So when I was young, I used to hide all our slippers inside the house after dusk. It was far later when I found out that the floating object was actually a barge probably carrying container vans or transporting goods.

3. If darkness fell and we’re still in Lola’s shack, we would see a blinking light moving across the sky. When we asked Lola about it while pointing our fingers, she would scold us because, yeah, you guessed it right – it was prohibited to point on it, too – or else, you guessed it right again, your fingers will be cut off because the aliens riding in it would get offended. How come I was aware of aliens yet I didn’t know about the existence of commercial planes? There were a lot of prohibition on the use of fingers on Lola Iglesia’s time.

4. You should never ever take a bath after you ate mung beans or monggo or else they will bloom and grow bigger inside your stomach and you’ll get bloated and die. I remember I interrogated Lola one time when one of her grandchildren jumped into the sea with us after eating mung beans because he had escaped her sight. I wondered why he didn’t feel ill. Lola said the effect could take a few days. Hehe.

5. She had this story of a kikik. A kikik was probably a large half-human-half-bat monster, at least according to how I understood and believed the concept of it. But according to an official Cebuano dictionary, it’s a witch’s bird. Anyway, there was this kikik and she said it had been making noise on top of the big tree on their yard, hiding behind the leaves in the dark night sky. So, kikiks get afraid when you intimidate them, she said. Her son purportedly told the kikik to stop making noise or else he will catch it and cook for their meal. So we were amazed that he was able to silence the terrifying kikik.

Our house was like five meters from Lola’s shack but I never ever dared to cross the danger open zone towards home. So either Lola’s son would accompany me home or she had to call Papang to fetch me.

Ignorance is sometimes bliss, but it is a necessity indeed to seek for knowledge.

Slow Down And Enjoy Your Coffee

Nostalgic Accounts Episode 1: When you start to experience episodes of extreme longing of the past, you know you’re getting old.

I do not own these images. No copyright infringement intended.

I do not own these images. No copyright infringement intended.

In this age of instant coffee maker, 3 in 1 coffee, electric kettle and microwave oven, you can afford to wake up 15 minutes before work and still avail of the 15-minute grace period. You can skip taking a bath and you bring your toothbrush to the office. A 0.5-inch butch cut demands no gel, clay doh, mousse whatsoever. Everything is in a hurry.

Twenty years back in my hometown, you needed to wake up at 5 in the morning to prepare – but that’s just a drop in the bucket. More than just preparing, getting up that early and that cold was more exciting because of this “Kapehan ni Lola Toto Pitong” (Granny Toto Pitong’s Coffee Shop). We had to walk about a hundred meters to go to Lola Toto’s big nipa hut coffee shop to take our pre-breakfast “painit“. It came from the word “init” or hot, so it probably means to warm up your stomach.

She started to entice everyone by powdering the coffee beans in a manual grinder, that aroma had never been more alerting and energizing. The coffee powder then made its way into an old sock with a galvanized iron handle which served as a filter while she boiled water in wood fire. Several sheets of corrugated GI (sin nga atop) or wooden boards (tabla or lawanit) were used to cover the fire against the blowing winds.

Everyone sat on long wooden chairs where you sat side by side and discussed the latest issues on the tabloid or any other day-to-day affairs over the really big and long wooden table. The table smelled organic with a lot of coffe stains on it and several small white ants (atitod), black ants (sulom) and the fast-paced orange ones (aliling).

I usually had to have my own world since the customers were usually dominated by the elderlies and I could not relate to their discourse. There I used to squat on the chair, sitting like a frog, protecting my feet against the coldness of the dawn by putting them inside my shirt while I played with the ants. Sometimes I also pulled my arms inside so my clothes usually turned loose.

When the water started to boil, it was then poured several times into the sock to brew the coffee powder, then transferred to an old shabby pottery jar (banga) to retain its temperature while Lola Toto started to serve her famous coffee.

Back in the days, we used enamel tin plates and mugs we called “sarten“, the same material the urinal pan (arinola) was made of. Its color was white, with dark blue or red lining on the edge. So, coffee was served in sarten, while others brought their own sarten. Its name was probably adopted from the antique frying pan made of the same material, because sarten is just the spanish term for frying pan.

She also served Puto – it was made of steamed glutinous rice (sticky rice) seasoned with salt, ginger and oil (and probably coconut milk or gata sa lubi), formed into triangles and wrapped in banana leaves. Just dip it in sugar on in your coffee before eating. Sometimes, other pairs for coffee were also available in the form of budbud and ibos (more likely the same with the puto, but some variances occured, like final form), salbaro (the flat circular bread with margarine, grated young coconut and coconut milk), and binuylos which came from the famous Latin American “buñuelos” (fried dough ball).

Life was slow, you got to savor each moment. Sometimes we brought our coffee and puto on the seashore to watch the sunrise, one thing we seldomly get to appreciate today.

When Her Hands Shook In Hunger

We just got home from church service one usual Sunday noon. Without words, Mamang was just on the kitchen doing the mundane task of cooking and preparing our meal. She then called us for lunch. Before I proceeded to the table, I went to her in the kitchen. There, I saw Mamang’s hands shaking while pouring the vegetable soup into the bowl. Her hands were shaking in hunger, yet she was thinking about us first before filling her own stomach. My heart was crushed because of what my eyes just witnessed. I did not speak for few minutes or my voice would’ve just trembled while I broke down in tears.

This might be just one of those selfless moments of sacrifice a mother could bravely do for her family. Witnessed or not, their love do not cease – even in untold and silent times when they’re away or when they think about us before going to sleep deep in the night.

Witnessing how difficult it was for Papang to cope up with my college expenses, I can recall how Mamang cried so hard over the phone when she boarded the ship to work for a family in Manila. I felt helpless hearing her sobs. She had not probably cared about the other passengers in the economy section seeing her crying. She cried up to the first few nights when she arrived at Sir Carlo’s residence. Time went swift and her four-year service to the family was over. I was joyful that the three daughters of Ma’am Nona experienced the care of a mother like Mamang’s – I’m happy to have shared her with them. But I was also sorry at the same time that they cried and begged Mamang not to leave them. It had to happen though, Mamang had to rest and get back home. It was time to reap the harvest of her hard work. I brought her to the PICC stage with utmost pride when I gave her and Papang my 3rd-place medal for the licensure exams in Civil Engineering.

Friends and brethren, this is God’s extraordinary love living in one of the greatest blessings I have ever received my whole life. I am honored to share with you the kind of mother whose happiness is not found on the personal things she receives, I can remember her always saying, “As long as I have complete ingredients in the kitchen, I’m happy and contented”. If you want to put a smile on her face, just bring her to the grocery store.  She had been, is and always will be thinking of making our stomachs full.