Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nonconstant (for now) gardener

This weekend, I decided to take up gardening again -- after totally neglecting my plants since, I don't know, 2010? When I moved to the Eastwood, I just couldn't check my plants in the morning anymore.

It was a miracle many of them survived. I was thrilled to see my calamansi, grown from seeds from big fat fruits I had carefully chosen at the supermarket, bearing fruit. This morning, I was able to harvest three!

This weekend, I repotted pandan, lemongrass, and mint. I planted tarragon and rosemary cuttings. I also planted coriander, thyme, and pepper seeds. Then I prepped more calamansi seeds for planting tomorrow.

I also tried to prune our kaffir lime, but I felt the urge to save *every* leaf, so I stopped. Still, I can pat myself on the back now.

It was a bright, partly rainy day. I like working outside when it's little rainy because it gives me the excuse to be out in the rain. That, plus I don't have to water the baby plants.

The only dark spot to this day was that I stepped on a poor, poor snail. To be honest, though, when I heard the crunching sound, my first reaction was one of disgust. Then I remembered the snail I had seen trying to escape when I lifted a plastic planter much earlier in the afternoon and I was suddenly sorry.

I've also realized my weakness as a neophyte gardener, apart from slimy creatures like slugs and earthworms: I am too attached to the plants. I feel guilty when I have to cut stems or throw out seeds that I can grow into whole new plants instead. It's crazy. I'm currently obsessed with making sure the babies of the two kinds of basil I grew from seeds survive, because I'm convinced their long-dead/long-eaten mommies will feel bad if they don't.

But here are my gardening goals:

1. Grow coriander (I can't get enough of it, but I can't find starter plants anywhere).
2. Grow parsley, sage, thyme. Because I already have rosemary. ;-)
3. Make a living wall of herbs.

P.S.

I also made nilagang baka and sweetened banana for lunch today. That has nothing to do with gardening, but well. *Gives self another pat on back.*

Friday, August 24, 2012

Commuter Chronicles: No more taxis for me

As much as possible, that is.

If we had an efficient transport system, I'd be a really happy commuter. Still, despite not having that just yet, I'm finding, once again, pleasure in the long commutes I take to work and back.

This month, I vowed to take fewer taxi rides and find alternative ways to get to (1) Eastwood from Project 4 (easy!) and back and (2) Eastwood from Las Piñas and back (tough, boo).

So far, so good. I've rediscovered the Citylink bus, figured out where to find the shuttles to Ayala Avenue from Eastwood, and signed up as a Resorts World member to get access to the free rides to Resorts World. I haven't tried the last option yet, but I'm just waiting until I have more time for a little getting-home adventure.

How did I come up with the decision to ditch taxi rides as much as possible? I love comfort like any girl in her 30s, but it has made me feel more of an observer than a participant. To borrow a line from a book I recently read and loved, I want to participate.

Commuting in Davao

When my friend Marchie and I went to Davao City at the end of July, we tried to take public transport as much as we could to minimize expenses. If we could walk it, we did. If we could take the jeep, we did. I loved every single moment of it.

I experienced the place more than I would have had we been comfortably viewing it behind air-conditioned windows. We made some new friends commuting. We tasted some good street food. And yes, we saved money -- which we then reallocated for other things, like a trip to the Davao Pearl Farm and an all-you-can-eat crab buffet.

Sometimes, we had to discover shuttles the hard way. Going to the Philippine Eagle Center, for instance, we had to take a two-hour-or-so hot and sometimes uncomfy jeepney ride to the foothills of Mt. Apo in Calinan. On our way back to the city proper, we found out there were (airconditioned) shuttles we could have taken. A happy discovery, despite being a couple of hours too late! Next time, next time.

Eastwood to Makati to Las Piñas

I'm typing this from a shuttle van from Makati to my village in southern Manila, but I started writing this post in the shuttle from Eastwood to Landmark in Makati. It's my first time to try this route. I'm pretty pleased with myself. In between shuttles, I picked up some herbs for my tiny garden, and I already know what I'm doing tomorrow morning.

My old Friday night commute would have seen me taking a taxi from Eastwood to Makati, and, feeling drained for some reason I can't figure out (lack of stimulation?) I would just trudge to the shuttle van and conk out until we reach my village.

Now I'm excited again. Cheap thrills, perhaps, but I'm always grateful for any excitement I can get. And I'm doubly grateful for whatever excitement I can create for myself. Those are the best kind.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Today, I'm giving up refined flour

Again.

During the recent Manila floods, I stocked up on bread. White bread specifically. I also got Lily's peanut butter and Lady's Choice sandwich spread.

I could have stopped at a sandwich or two, but I had six. Or was it eight? It was for two meals, like brunch, but it still reminded me of how bad I can get when eating refined carbohydrates.

I don't know if I can give up bread forever because I love cheese. But maybe I should break up with it for a while, until I get enough exercise.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What happened to our newspaper man

After more than two weeks, the paper came again. It came the day after I wrote about our newspaper man not coming, and then it didn't come again the day after.

I joked that maybe someone who had read my post and decided to give us the paper just for a day. (The thought of that mystery man who would leave a single red rose three red roses and an unfinished bottle of cognac at Edgar Allan Poe's grave on his birthday crossed my mind. Wouldn't that be something?) But on the third day, the paper came again. And it didn't stop coming.

On Sunday, collection day, we made sure to be up early for Mang Manny. Sadly, his trademark slightly musical "Diyaryo!" call didn't com. It was closer to noon when somebody tapped at our gate: a young man who said he worked at the place Mang Manny got his newspapers from.

My mother asked him where Mang Manny was, and he said that Mang Manny was in Batangas, and he would be staying there for forty days. His wife had died -- I didn't even know he had a wife -- and he was staying for the whole traditional mourning period.

I don't know if I'll ever get to ask Mang Manny how he is. We never really talk. But I'll be glad to see him again, so maybe I'll reach out this time. Maybe.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Going home in the rain

I am never so much myself as when I am
riding in a taxi, bus or train in the rain.
I am swimming in contained space moving through water,
I am tucked in a dry pocket and peering out.
I could be any one of those people outside:
That girl rushing beneath a broken umbrella,
that boy carefully navigating puddles with his muddied feet.
I could be any of those people in the street,
making their way, chasing taxis, buses, and trains.
Instead, I am very much who I am indeed:
someone watching a wet world in a state of dryness,
someone not out in the rain.

For Eric John, who said my previous entry reads like a poem.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tonight, I walked through flooded streets again

I've narrated this story many, many times, both to myself and others who cared to listen, but it still begs to be shared. Perhaps I haven't done its telling the kind of justice that finds the story told. One day, someday.

But here goes:

Once, I had a hand to hold while wading through the dark flood waters of Manila, hip-high from Welcome Rotonda to UST, in raging rain. And when I got home, I didn't just wash away the city's dirt with detergent, germicidal soap, and alcohol, and call it a night. I dried out his typewritten poems with a flat iron, and learned, even if I didn't know it right away then, what one writer meant about the color of the wheat fields.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our newspaper man has stopped coming

Mang Manny collected our payment two Sundays ago, like he always did on Sundays. Then the following Monday the tell-tale thump of a rolled newspaper landing on our doorstep didn't come. I waited for it as I drank a cup of coffee, wanting to scan the headlines before leaving for work. But it didn't come. And it hasn't come.

It has been two weeks now.

When I was young, there were three constants in our village: the man selling taho; the man who took photographs, printed them, and waited for people to pick them up; and the man who delivered the newspaper.

The man selling taho used to linger at our corner, calling out "Taho!" and waiting for all four of us to run out with our colored Tupperware plastic glasses and spoons. As we grew older, our tastes shifted, and I think the last one to want taho was my little sister. The taho vendor eventually learned to focus on other street corners. I don't hear him anymore, but I'm hardly home in the afternoons anymore. I never knew his name.

The man who took photographs is called Mang Nilo. We know this because when my brother and sister were studying in schools inside the village, he would take pictures of the students during their school events and display them for parents to buy. My parents never commissioned a photo since we always had our own camera, but we bought his photographs once or twice. He has taken a photo of me though, commissioned by one of our maids who was close to me. She asked Mang Nilo to take photos of her and our other maid, and then of her and me. I can't remember either of them anymore, but I think she was the one who also saved up enough to watch Menudo in concert. Business still seems okay for Mang Nilo: He used to ride a bike, but now he has his own motorcycle.

The man who delivered the newspaper was called Mang Manny. He had no office. He just came to us in the early 1980s, when the village was young and the neighbors knew each other, and offered to deliver The Manila Bulletin for a weekly fee. He had his own tricycle. After delivering the newspaper, he also worked as a school bus driver. At least that's what my sister and I thought because we saw him driving a school bus once or twice. We only learned his name in the 1990s, when it occurred to us to ask because we wanted to put him on our Christmas list. We tried to give him something -- a shirt, a calendar, food -- every Christmas since.

Of the above, I feel like I know Mang Manny the most because I've never stopped reading newspapers, even when I started accessing their websites. But all I really know is that his first name is Manny, he used to come daily to throw newspapers over our gate and come one more time on Sundays to collect the week's fee.

In the late 1980s, we switched to The Philippine Daily Inquirer, something I wasn't initially happy about because I'd been following several comic strips, Brenda Starr included, in The Manila Bulletin. But I discovered Pugad Baboy, and that was that -- until I worked for The Philippine STAR and we would occasionally ask Mang Manny to deliver The STAR instead. When any one of us was job hunting, we would also ask him to give us The Manila Bulletin on Sundays, which I didn't like completely because there was a time when I loved the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.

The only times I ever talked to Mang Manny was to ask him to deliver a specific paper, and when I asked him how much we needed to pay because I could never remember. I did notice that throughout the years his hair had gone white and he had lost several teeth. My mother and I often wondered how old he was; our last guess was that he was nearing his 70s.

Once, I wondered if he noticed changes in our family too. Apart from the parade of maids and dogs and fruit trees, there were the big events: my father, who was always the one to pay Mang Manny on the months he was home from the Middle East, died in 2003; and my sister had her baby girl in 2006. Then, of course, the Ricardo kids are not kids anymore.

Our gate had gotten higher over the years, and when before we could see each other completely, in the last few years, we'd had to peer at each other over the gate. But perhaps it was not the same for him as it was for us; perhaps we were just one of the many families he delivered papers to, and there were too many of us for him to take note of the details. For us, he was just one guy who came to the house daily and twice on Sundays.

I'd like to think that we thought of him. Apart from the Christmas presents we tried to give to him, we also stayed loyal to him. There was a time when my father suggested we stop having the paper delivered to save money, and our answer was a resounding no. My mother thought it important for us to read up on the news daily, and, I'd like to think, we also considered what it would mean to Mang Manny. Even when some of us moved out, even when only the dog (Tutay, who died in May) really used the paper for her poop and pee, we stayed loyal to Mang Manny and appreciated what he brought to our lives.

It makes me sad now to know that while we did think of him, he may have never felt it in the almost three decades he had been coming to our house every single day.

It also makes me sad that while I wonder how he is, I know I won't really do anything to find out because in my mind, I need to believe that wherever he is, for all the good he brought to our lives, he is okay.