I love the rainy season.
My legs do not sweat in jeans, my face does not break out, the streets are not dusty. And best of all, the heavy downpour drowns the city’s noises that I have learned to get used to but never liked.
On Monday morning earlier this week, the unmistakable sound of a rainstorm woke me up thirty minutes earlier than my set alarm. As soon as I opened my reluctant eyes, I noticed how the rain had muted the whirring electric fans, the singing voices from the shower, and the occasional vehicles avoiding rush hour traffic. I found it ironic that the splashing raindrops could actually produce such silence. It felt peaceful and so unlike the city. It almost felt like home.
If it were not for my grumbling stomach, I would have stayed in bed, curled up for another hour or so. Grudgingly, I sat up and reached for the food basket which I keep conveniently under the bed. As I nibbled on my last piece of wheat bread, I was hit by the nostalgia of rainy days past.
Back home, rainy mornings are always champorado days. We, kids, would sleep in while a pot of champorado is being cooked in the kitchen. We would then be coaxed out of bed by the smell of tuyo or dried fish (the word literally means “dry”) frying in the pan. We would march to the kitchen table, clad in Mommy’s old camisa de chinos (which my sister nicknamed “farmer’s clothes”) and brightly-colored knee-high socks (which we were not allowed to wear in school). Every now and then we would ask, “Is it done?” as we munched on tuyo.
Some city people do not like tuyo, particularly its fishy smell (But what do they expect? It is a fish!), but it is almost a staple in our diet and we especially love it paired with our champorado. Believe me when I say, champorado plus tuyo is a match made in storm heaven. Yum!
Maybe the best way to describe champorado is to call it “chocolate rice porridge.” Like lugaw or rice porridge, it is made of kaning malagkit (literally, “sticky rice”) but unlike lugaw, it is cooked, not in mere water with ginger, but in thick, chocolate syrup from tsokolate. Our tsokolate is a little different from the tablea of Batangas though both are used for making hot chocolate. Ours look like small chocolate orbs and they can be eaten like candies. But like the hot chocolate from tablea, our tsokolate produces a viscous liquid so our champorado is not soupy but syrupy.
But the texture is not the best feature of my Lola’s champorado. There is the magic ingredient — gata or coconut milk (expect Bicolanos to add gata to every dish imaginable). So there is no need to add evaporated milk to Lola’s champorado. My sister insists on still adding evap on hers, though. She just could not eat champorado without drawing white hearts on it.
Now, champorado days are mere stories from my childhood. I realized that this morning, as I sat on my bed, wrapped in my thin blanket while sipping bland, runny coffee.
Champorado and tuyo are now replaced by cup noodles and coffee. Rainy days are no longer about playing all day long and finding treasures in Mommy’s old books. It is now about suspended classes.
It is not that rainy days are no longer great, now that I am past my teenage years. At least, with the class suspension, I can catch up on some much-needed sleep and have extra time to study for the next exam. Grown-up rainy days are welcome but it is just that I could really do with some champorado and tuyo today.
I miss home, the place of rainy days past.