Friday, July 31, 2009

Untying The Yellow Ribbon by Cholo Ayuyao

When I was still a child, around the year 1986, my aunt who hails from Manila came in for a certain family gathering. Playing with my cousins at the porch she stood there with a stern stance and talking to the adult side of the family. I didn’t bother to know what their conversation was but I did notice pins bearing the colors red and blue being handed out by her. Then in my utmost innocence I asked for one and pinned it in my soiled cotton shirt. It read “Marcos-Tolentino”. My mind could not really grasp the state of the nation that time but I know now that after I pinned that campaign material on my shirt, it would have been so awkward for my aunt to hear all of us cousins who were playing in the porch yelling “Cory-Cory-Cory!” as a helicopter hovered past above us. That was the first memory of who Cory Aquino, the first lady president of our country, to me.

More than 20 years past that day at our porch, I have now a bigger spectrum of understanding on who is Cory Aquino. Her color of choice, Yellow, has become a symbol and beacon of democracy and freedom for the Filipino race though when I was kid I did funnily chose the yellow over the red simply because I thought it was prettier. Cory’s demise this morning is almost sanctified. Her death was around 3am, like the Savior’s dictated time when He redeemed the sinners in the Bible. This blessedness I think is what kept Cory apart from the present president. While the present was toying with the books, Cory’s hand was towing the books of prayers. That’s Cory’s power. Even after three presidents, Cory’s rule would transcend from generation through the next with her motherly stance and teaching the country who she helped restored their democracy that prayers could actually move mountains and even change the phase of a country’s history. That is Cory Aquino for me now.

Further more with the comparison of the two lady presidents, which is utterly inevitable, it’s so uncanny how the two commanded the country differently. So opposite in fact, that their middle ground can’t be even described as grey but more of black from white specially zooming in on their last SONA’s. With her almost unabashed feistiness and stern scholarly knowledge of the constitution, GMA’s speech was beautifully crafted to whip back at her detractors and strategically constructed sentence after sentence to polish a tarnished Filipino soul. Though I think that with the new batch of people, specially the younger set who’s consciously making themselves understand how their government works, read between the lines and could analyze the full valedictorian speech behind the purple French fries. Cory’s speech though, during her last SONA was more of gratitude, thanking the people and her constituents for trusting in her capabilities to rule a tortured country. People listened then silently, like a child listening to his mother. One comparison though that stands above the rest is that while everyone’s almost paranoid to make sure the present doesn’t stay further than her term, in Cory’s time, more people begged her to stay and in full humility, the housewife turned commander in chief chose not to stay, instead opted to be ck to her normal life.

The legacy of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino can’t be tarnished by anyone. The whole country is now praying for her eternal rest as she arrives in the heavens and being patted in the back by the creator for a life well lived with substance. The country mourns but thankful for her legacy. In her sacrifice, she brought back a country’s soul through prayers and democracy. The heavens laments he leaving, dark skies around the country as the rain drizzles and soaks the yellow ribbons around the hospital she’s in. Yellow isn’t just a pretty color for me now. Yellow is Hope, Peace, Freedom, and the color best worn by a woman dressed in a gentle motherly fashion with a will and faith of an armored warrior… Cory.

Monday, July 27, 2009

An Affair with a Cupcake by Cholo Ayuyao

This is ongoing for the past weeks and I can’t really explain why. I know I’ve always been a pastry fan, anything that’s drenched in butter, frostings and the works to embellish and flavor a humble piece of baked dough. It all started one day at the mall, having my hair shaved and still on an emotional roller coaster with “stuffs”. I can remember the smell of pomade from the old man beside me as my designated barber bombard my fragile scalp with a heavy hand and a buzzing hair clipper. I was just there staring at myself, face glistening from the harsh fluorescent lights around me, showing every nooks and crannies of my imperfect face. The barber turned my face into the clear door of the shop to shave my head’s right side and there, I saw a kiosk selling what seemed to be confetti of colors conveying a message of relevance and comfort. Dots of colors in circular form covered the racks of the refrigerated glass cabinets, choking my eyes with glee. I sigh. Like an adolescent seeing his crush once again. The barber splashed my head with aftershave and the sting of alcohol on newly shaved skin jolted me, realizing the barber was done with me. After I paid up, I went to the enchanting sight of rows upon rows of cupcakes. I bought myself one and held it in my hand with utmost dexterity.

Striding along the mall with a cupcake in my hand, I felt giddy all of a sudden. I stared at the cupcake that I was holding and saw the florettes of icing in different colors. Finally I stopped at my favorite coffee shop and ordered a cup and placed that tempting cupcake of mine on the table. I just stared at its magnificence, wondered how that chocolate pastry below the clouds of hardcore sweetened butter tasted like. Then my coffee arrived, savoring the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the alluring colors of the cupcake. I was thinking this is foreplay. I picked it up and placed it in my mouth. Taking deep breaths my mouth started salivating till the first peak of whipped cream, butter and castor sugar touched the roof of my mouth, feeling that cloudy softness rapture along my stiff palette. My teeth sank into the chewy and moist goodness of the cake, probing deeper as my upper and lower teeth connected and displacing that big morsel into my mouth. I exhaled so hard that it sent shivers down my spine. Moistened and drenched with my saliva the cake started to melt, feeling that sense of excitement once again for another bite. But the cupcake was such a tease. It doesn’t want to be hastened. I knew, like a partner, it wanted to be consumed slow and with grace. Caressed by my tongue, the morsel cloaked me in satisfaction. I chewed on further. I could feel crumbs of chocolate cake embracing the walls of my mouth while swirls of sweetness drape my teeth with elation. Don’t swallow, my cupcake seemed to be saying. And I obeyed dutifully. It was both painful and gratifying at the same time while my eyes shut. But I’m just human I thought and eventually succumbed to the urge to swallow. Heavy breaths upon another I could feel the churned goodness’ talons clutching my throat. I can’t resist I reckoned and pushed it deeper inside me. My lips pressing like a child committing his first sin, wetting them with my tongue. I released a sigh while looking at the unconsumed cupcake in front of me. I know it was telling me “don’t… not yet.”

My heart was pounding when I peeled off more the paper cup that was dressing it. It was totally nude now with all its natural dark skin of chocolate. I knew I was in control now. I won’t be submissive anymore. I opened my mouth once again and put it in my mouth. I know how it wanted to be treated gently but I’m rough now, my mind clouded with temptation. I bit, licked, and took advantage of its gentleness and unabashed sweetness. Bit every crumb and swirled it around my mouth as I licked off the sugar from my fingers laid with its oozing sweetness. I’m hungry for it, sweat forming on my forehead and nose. The coffee doesn’t matter anymore as I feel myself choking with its goodness as it never wanted to enter me. Then it finally succumbed to my yearning and finally slipped down my throat. It was so explosive I closed my eyes in satisfaction and had the weirdest urge to light up a cigarette with my naked body covered in sheets in mind. I wiped off the sweat from my nose and stared at the cupcake’s robe of corrugated paper cup. I smiled, my eyes closed and satisfied. Then I felt a small pain at the back of my head and heard a buzzing noise.

“Sir sorry po” the barber told me after he saw the dot of blood from my nape, poked by his buzzing hair clipper. Then that was the moment I realized that I was just day dreaming inside the barber shop. I smiled at my silly self and said to the barber that it was ok. I paid up and went straight to the cupcake kiosk in front of the barber shop, bought a pack of six chocolate frosted ones, rode a jeep home and went straight to my room. I placed them on my side table near the bed and thought that it’s true when people say “once you go black, you’ll never go back.” and silently laughed at my odd behavior that day. From then on, I never missed a craving of those silly ol’ cupcakes, I was so consumed by the craving that people thought that it was actually a person. I can’t blame them though. I talk about them cupcakes like they were actual people in the first place. Today, I’m ten pounds heavier but contented with my cupcakes. Even in my disfigured, unflattering, sugar rich form, they would always not mind and try their best to satisfy me, and without the commitment- Haha!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Where is my Adobo? by Cholo Ayuyao

As I was walking home from my errands this morning, I chanced upon this vivid red tarp hanging from a three story building that used to be a developing center for old school camera shots. The signage was dominated by three bold letters “KFC” signifying the rise of another branch to be opened in our city. I walked further and saw adjacent the building was another fast food giant and another one on the left. Progress , I thought. Onward I went and passed by the manang who sells me the best okoys (papaya and shrimp patties deep fried to a golden brown and eaten with a vinegar based sauce) and after her quaint cart was the line of barbecue vendors selling meats on sticks from pork to chicken and every innards in between smothered and basted with the classic pinoy barbecue sauce. Then it dawned to me, after the stark comparison among the two opposing and oddly connected factors that I just saw, that the arrival of fastfood is the sign of the end of a culinary culture.

I know, it is a very heavy statement but it does make sense. Progress is something that we all hoped for, but together with it a progressive community would change its time table and even the basic norms to accommodate such change. Having progress entails having a faster pace, development, till the community becomes a money making machine, hence not having time to spend cooking at home. Progress’s solution to the problem is Fast Food. Then you thought eating out is cool because of your extra cash in hand, till it becomes a norm and eating in becomes a chore, for you would have to cook like your mama used to. That’s the pitfall. It seems no one is aware that slowly, creeping in, is the death of home cooked meals that left the progressive society fatter with its saturated fat goodies and loaded with preservatives, least to say, forget that there IS actually a culinary culture to carry on.

I remember when I was still a boy and I pass by the kitchen, looking at my lolo, who’s a great cook, chopping off some garlic and throws them off to the hot pan, the sizzle and smell of sautéing garlic would fill the air, my lola by his side mashing the boiled mungo beans with a wooden ladle, laboriously making the whole batch to one consistency. How I wish I could return to that time now so that I could learn every trick and recipe he does after learning through years of rummaging books and talking to friends about Filipino food (specifically Capampangan) how rich our heritage is. I could only imagine if my lola’s preparation of that Balatong (Mung Bean soup) was the same as our forerunners at the banks of the Pampanga River as the Spanish galleon traders pass by bringing in new ingredients from the “new” world. That’s my sad story for it was just in my latter years that I’ve discovered this new passion for cooking. Yes I could learn from the television, manuals, books the recipes of our country but I surmised that nothing beats the feeling of being taught by a manang or your lolo or your mom their recipes that was also passed on to them and be actually the new bearer and the bridge to further on that tradition and knowledge with you in the future. While Filipino cuisine isn’t as popular worldwide as our southeast asian counterparts, it does deserve due respect in its purest form.

Another thing that troubled me was how complacent the Filipino has become with its culinary culture, magazine after magazine, shows, advertisements, featuring Filipino chefs proudly waving their victorious attempt to cook a French peasant dish or even the fanciest named one they could find. At the end of the day, when all these fancy chefs go home to their minimalist white walled kitchens, clad in the best line of German made appliances and Italian named plates, I’m sure they would still have to learn how to make the killer atchara or how to properly prepare taro stalks for laing without making the throat itch while eating it. I wish though, with their media millage and influence that they have, be aware of their capacity to educate their fellow Filipinos with our culinary traditions more. Bottom line, we would have to want and need that kind of knowledge and actually be proud of it down to the cooks, food enthusiast and to the common person. While not everyone knows how to cook… everyone eats, and in this way, creating a demand for quality authentic Filipino food.

Two words would eventually sum up this article of Filipino rustic gastronomy: Progress and Demand. We can actually salvage those once very rich traditions of Filipino food in the face of progress if we would only demand for it. Demand it in a variety of form: Consume it regularly, trying you best to learn it, or even demanding quality to existing menus and actually urge authenticity with the dishes you’ve come to love elsewhere and at home. Saving these heritage is like saving the soul of a race; Soul Food. A nation’s culinary culture, thus this “soul” should be consumed daily. Being nourished by your heritage comes hand in hand with the continuum of a cycle. You cultivate and respect your food and it would do the same to you. And this wouldn’t come in a bucket meal with three extra fix- in’s and a two litter bottle of soda.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Seventh Day

The Seventh Day

By: Cholo Ayuyao

Gloomy like the rainy skies outside his pad, he couldn’t seem to contain the emotions that were running through the pits of his soul. Sitting down his easy chair near the door of his room, he finished the final sips of whisky in his hand. Ralph just sat there, sobbing and staring at his bed. It’s the seventh day since Larry left him. The heavens rattle with the thunder and lightning, illuminating the whole room like strobe lights inside a disco. He stared again at the bed that was his and Larry’s, at the far end of the bed, he positioned a couple of pillows ad covered them with a blanket, creating an illusion that there is another person there sleeping with him. But in the illusion comes the bitter truth that he’s alone now because of his infidelity.

Ralph regressed on what happened the week before. It was his fault because he allowed himself to be entangled with a fling and all Larry did was to love him with full loyalty. Now, all this came to a halt when he finally admitted to Larry that he was having an affair. Ralph could still remember the day when that happened, what Larry was wearing, the smell of the freshly cut grass in their front lawn, the taste of vanilla in the air from Larry’s lit candles. Ralph’s mind was racing so fast he couldn’t process the right chronology of the events that occurred before that instance. All he know definitely was that his infidelity consumed his relationship values and by the time he realized what he was doing was wrong, all the foundations of a very strong relationship with Larry was already in ruins. The only right that he ever did that moment was admitting that he was wrong to Larry and before he knew it, Ralph was sweeping the debris of a crumbled love.

The second day was almost insignificant for Ralph. The numbness from his heart brought about by his guilt still churns his mind, almost blank. His body functioning almost mechanically and the day finished unnoticed. The third and fourth day finally slit the wounds that were waiting to bleed. Larry’s absence was slowly pouring acid over Ralph’s self inflicted wounds. He sat there, at the easy chair near the bed and letting himself bleed until the time when he arranged the pillows to form as if Larry was still there just sleeping. He would stare at it the whole night till Ralph falls asleep and wake up automatically the next day and pursue his otherwise pointless life and do the same thing again.

Seventh day, Ralph thought and he couldn’t contain the pain inside him. Every time he closes his eyes, he could still see the naked body of the person that he allowed to corrupt his relationship with Larry, the taste of his sweat as he kissed the nape of the man, the feeling of his nakedness pressing against his, his hardness in between his legs, the moans trickling from his open mouth as they reached the apex of sin and the sobbing face of a betrayed Larry, all of this creating a puzzle that bit by bit created the larger picture that is his life. Ralph reached for his pockets to retrieve something as he cried in agony. It will be over soon he thought. Then it was morning.

It’s more quiet now. The smell of fresh air filled the room as the morning breeze flowed through. The languid curtains dancing with the breeze, warming with the peeking of the sun behind the clouds, the birds starting to chirp their morning greetings, all of this, great contradictions from the darkness that was last night. The first rays of the sun slowly passed through the translucent curtains and illuminating the dark room. Shadows played along the creases and folds of the bed. The piled pillows on the far end looked like a mountain casting a shadow over the unoccupied half of the bed. Then from the pile, a hand was peeking through the blanket. Larry managed to slip through the house and prepared to forgive the one true love that he has. As he opened his eyes to greet the new morning, he remembered how he smiled upon noticing the pile of pillows formed to imitate the position when he sleeps on that bed. He stretched a bit and sat himself facing the window. Larry stood up and looked at the easy chair to where Ralph was always seated. There he saw Ralph, eyes closed and an emptied bottle of pills on the floor. He immediately ran towards him and realized Ralph wasn’t breathing anymore. As if Larry’s soul was stripped from him, he slipped into shock and land on the floor. On the seventh day, the Lord rested and on the seventh day, man once again was betrayed by his weakness of never being satisfied.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


By: cholo ayuyao

The afternoon was coming to a close as the last rays of sunlight barely illuminated the old wood pews of the chapel through the stained glass windows. Cracked through the ages, the chapel stood serene beside the giant acacia tree. Inside, the altar gleamed from the amber lights around while the candles from where the icon of the Virgin Mary was located caressed the angles and curves of the pillars supporting the main altar. Murmured prayers of dutiful old women cloaked in veil echoed all around the small chapel. Then a little boy entered with a half of a candle in his hand and immediately went in front of the Virgin Mary icon. In his innocence he prayed copying the murmurs of the old women around him. He has no idea what a prayer was suppose to be, but instead he drew figures on a piece of paper and drop it on the slot where donations were placed by people with intentions. He spoke to the icon as if it were alive. He lit up the candle and then talked to the icon again. “Mama Mary… sige na po… kawawa naman po tatay ko eh. Pakisabi narin po sa anak niyo na ito lang po hiling ko…” the kid uttered. Then after a while, he blew his used candle and placed it in his pocket. “uwi ko po muna ito… baka wala na po akong kandila na isisindi bukas para sa inyo. Sige po… babay!” then the kid waved at the Vigin Mary and ran towards the door of the chapel.

The little boy ran as fast as he could towards home, which was a couple of blocks away from the chapel. He hurriedly head towards the door and went straight to the kitchen. “Nino… ikaw ba yan?” a coarsely voiced man asked. “Opo tay, handa ko lang po pagkain natin” the boy replied. Nino immediately opened a can of sardines and some stale bread inside a plastic bag, hanging from one of the cabinets in front of him. “Tay… wala na pala tayong bigas…” Nino innocently uttered. But the voice from the other room didn’t answer back. In a rusty tray, Nino brought the food to where the voice came. There, a man laid on the bed was coughing and ill. His face was old, ashy, brows almost bald from years of plucking. “Kain na po tay” Nino invited. He assisted the man and sat him up, dipped the stale bread on the sardines’ sauce then placed it in the man’s mouth. The man looked at the kid in front of him. He thought that he was too young to do this, but both of them were all victims of circumstances and end up together inside the shanty that they called home. He was holding back his tears as he munched on the food that was fed to him.

“Tonette! Long gown na dai! Bilis!” the stage manager yelled. Running from the back stage was this beautiful transvestite clad in flowing chiffon gown with intricate glittering beadings. He faced the roaring crowd like a true beauty queen, regal and charming. He approached the center of the stage and waved at the adoring people below. After exiting the stage he faced the large mirror provided for the contestants at the backstage and there he took a glimpse of his transformation. Tonette knew how beautiful he was. And that night she won the title of that particular miss gay contest. “Tay subo pa po” Nino said and Tonette realized that he’s been still for a couple of minutes and placed his hands on Nino’s head and asked “saan ka na naman nagsusuot kanina bata ka?” Nino just looked at Tonette and replied “andyan lang po sa labas at naglalaro lang po.” After feeding Tonette, Nino went to the kitchen again and ate the leftovers. Then he approached one of the cabinets and placed the used candle inside and smiled. Nino heard a knock on the door and hurriedly went to answer who it was. Upon opening the door, a beautiful lady dressed in pretty frock asked, “Uy Nino… asan ang tatay mo?” Nino took a hold of her hand and placed it in his forehead as a sign of respect and then ushered him into his tatay’s room. “Tay si tita Paula po” and left them to talk.

Nino was washing the dishes as he heard the loud voice of his Tita Paula talking to Tonette. “Alam mo kase Tonette, ang tanga tanga mo. Andun kana, pinairal mo pa puso mo. Eh anong napala mo? Ayan baldado ka? Uwi sa pinas na parang walang kinayod? Kase baket? Lab layp? Jusko… di ka papakainin ng lab layp na yan!” Paula yelled. Tonette was just looking out the window trying not to cry, “tapos inako mo pa ang anak ng kapatid mo… eh di mo naman masuporta ngayun… asan ang kapatid mo? Ayun nagpapasasa sa asawa niyang bago… ikaw kamusta ka? Ha?’ she continued. Tonette just sat there, wondering of his bad decisions and looking at Paula, the only friend that never left him. He knew that Paula was telling the truth and if it weren’t for his stubbornness, he’s at the same position as Paula was. Both of them went to Japan to become show girls, while Paula pursued her career seriously and Tonette with his boyfriend back in the country in mind. Both have Japanese boyfriends, while Paula took good care of hers, Tonette continued with both relationships, only to be battered by the Japanese upon learning of his other relationship. This would all boil down to a scandal that would deport Tonette back to the Philippines with a battered body and half dead spirit. As he settled, he was left by the man he loved and a child to his possession.

Nino was barely two years old when her mother left him to Tonette. Tonette, though practically devastated from his personal debacle didn’t refuse and even embraced the grace of Nino’s arrival. He never really did see it as a burden to him, it’s more of offering a piece of future to his sister and a chance of starting anew for himself. Misfortune isn’t the right term to what has happened to him Tonette surmised, more of he was meant to be on that position and should be compelled to participate in the domino effect that was happening around him. As his resources dwindled, and a house reduced to a shanty, Nino grew up into an angelic faced young boy with a disposition of an adult. Now almost 6 years old, Nino was taught by Tonette not to make the same mistakes as he did, that prayers are his greatest weapon and this made Nino go to church whenever he can and tried to imitate how the veil clad old women inside pray. In his innocence, Nino thought that the prayers were only murmurs hence imitating the sound as it is, while his head bowed down and hands together. One time Nino met an elementary teacher on his way home and the teacher offered to teach him how to write. Nino got elated by the thought and soon was educated substantially from writing his name to how prayers should be done. All of this without the knowledge of Tonette who’s sick back home.

Time flew swiftly as Tonette’s illness progressed. Nino dutiful with his visits to the chapel carried on with his prayers and short letters that he placed inside the donation box beside the Virgin Mary icon. One day though, Tonette, now bed ridden and being taken care of Paula, was so ill he couldn’t get off his bed, noticed Nino went home tagging along a small item covered in fabric and went inside the kitchen. He asked Nino what it was and Nino just replied that it’s just the dirty laundry. Tonette just dropped his suspicions and slept it out. He wouldn’t be awaken until that evening when a group of priests from the chapel knocked at their front door. Paula let them in and one of them asked to talk to Tonette. Nino, awake from the people in their house peeked from the door where he was and saw the familiar faces of the church people. Nino could hear the priest talking to Tonette about something and Tonette kept on denying that it wasn’t Nino who did it. The priests were sure that it was Nino after talking to several witnesses. When he heard his name being summoned by Tonette, Nino, scared of what was about to happen ran as fast as he could, passing the group of people and out the house. A couple of seconds after that, a bang was heard from outside the house and people started screaming. Tonette forgot how frail he was, started running towards where the commotion was and there saw the lifeless body of Nino, heavily battered from the car mishap.

Tonette felt numb as he held the body of Nino. He can’t cry, not even a word came out of his mouth just the feeling of not feeling anything at all. Paula comforted Tonette and led him, still in shock, back to the house. As they passed the kitchen, Tonette saw a familiar thing sticking from one of the cabinets and immediately retrieve it from there. Gingerly he opened the package that he saw Nino was bringing earlier. From the fabric, came the icon of the Virgin Mary. Tonette was puzzled why it was there or why Nino took it from the chapel. He stood there, staring at the image and then fainted.

Tonette woke up and noticed the gleaming lights in the living room and saw Paula sitting there talking to neighbors paying their respects for Nino. Tonette stood up and realized that the lights came from the lamps surrounding Nino’s coffin. Slowly he approached the wooden box and saw the face of his beloved Nino. Then His face become warm and red and tears stared to fall from his eyes, wondering why this has to happen. Paula assisted him to be seated in front of the coffin and there Tonette sobbed non stop and was just interrupted upon the return of the group of priests that were in their home while back. Tonette stood up and nagged furiously at the priests, blaming them that Nino got killed because of them and questioning them with their presence in their home again. Tonette handed them the icon that was placed above Nino’s coffin and asked them to leave them alone. One priest was carrying a plastic bag containing papers and presented them to Tonette. The priest told him that they retrieved them from the donation box near the Virgin Mary icon. Tonette choked upon realizing that they’re from Nino, drawings of medicine tablets, sunshine and coins. Tonette fell on the floor with his heart drowned in emotions and one letter stood out from the rest and it was written in a child’s doodled letters and barely readable. The letter states:

“Isoli ko mama mo pag napgaliing mu na ang tatay ko

Sige po papa jessus asahn kop o yan”

Tonette’s heart melted upong reading Nino’s letter and placed it in front of his heart. He realized how such innocent behavior could change the life of people and specially him. The next evening Tonette heard murmurs from outside the house, prayers spoken in unison. Tonette went out to check it and saw a sea of people in front of their house praying and with candles in their hands. He saw lines of cars heading their way and more people coming to join the vigil. It was after the priest’s sermon of a little boy praying for his love one that the news spread like a wild fire and even gaining media attention. The touching story of Nino and how he did his prayers and how genuine his heart, touched everyone’s. Now, his story isn’t just about his sick uncle but transcended into a community in prayer for him, the boy who drew sunshine for prayers and kidnapped the Virgin Mary icon to get the attention of Jesus. Nino.