Finally, an unpopular — and therefore, empty — cafe.
As I slurp my iced latte, I wonder how many Filipino words are not translatable into English. For instance, the word tulala. To be tulala, in the usual context, is to stare blankly ahead, mind wandering aimlessly in a different time and place, real or fictional. Sometimes, as in my case, it is simply thinking quietly. It annoys me that I cannot think of an English world that perfectly encapsulates this.
Just then, the barista (that’s what you call a person working in a cafe, right?) arrives with my bacon and eggs. He introduces himself and told me to look for him if I need anything. I heard him but I do not catch his name. Whatever. I never ask for anything extra, anyway.
I pick on my bacon and swirled the undone yolk of my sunny-side up with my spoon, wondering this time why people often ask me why I am tulala. I mean, why do they care? What’s so wrong about thinking? Apparently, for some people, thinking in virtual solitude is a crime.
My yolk-swirling is interrupted by the same guy, this time asking if the food is okay. I gave him half a smile and flashed him a thumbs-up. Honestly though, cafe food anywhere tastes the same to me. Whatever. Anyway, I am just here because I need a deserted place and some time to be tulala.
Being tulala keeps me sane, just as writing a ramble does.
Usually, I decide not to participate in Discover challenges because:
I don’t think I am good enough to come up with a piece worthy of reading;
I don’t have the luxury of time;
and blogger’s block.
But this recent challenge, One, Two, Three!, mentioned one of the blogs that I absolutely love: Things We Like. In fact, I have my own list of things I like that was published more than a year ago. So in honor of this, I decided to make a series of haikus inspired by the entries in my list (which, by the way, still holds true even after more than a year has passed).
1. The smell of rain
What is this strange scent,
Rain mingling with foliage?
Smells and feels like home.
2. Slow dances
We could have been more.
Your melody, I have loved
But you just don’t dance.
3. Having my hair combed
I nap as I feel
Mother’s fingers through my hair.
Life’s warm and lovely.
4. Handwritten letters and notes
Then, we wrote daily.
Now, we text and chat instead.
Really miss your script.
5. Books that keep me up all night
One last page became
One last chapter until it’s…
Oh, I’ve finished it.
6. Shopping in malls when it’s just a few hours from closing time
Go ahead and stand
On escalator’s left side.
No one’s seeing you.
7. Eating with bare hands
Rice is always best
With fish and Bicol express.
Now licking fingers.
8. Peanut butter cups and cupcakes
Bored but saved by some
Peanut butter fairy cakes.
9. Dresses with poofy skirts
It has been long since
I’ve been pretty and silly,
Twirling in a skirt.
10. Studying in the library when very few people are around
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.