Good morning and Happy New Year! It’s a little before 6am; I’m sitting in the window of cousin D’s condo in Makati, watching the sun rise over the high-rise office towers.
My journey started days ago, on the 29th of December. I took an über through LA traffic to LAX and hung out at the gate way early. My flight was PAL so it was direct and the service was Filipino so lots of food for the matakao people. It was a 15 hour flight, but I only watched one movie (Trainwreck) and the rest of the time I was either sleeping or eating.
Got to Manila at 4am and breezed through Immigration, but then waited an hour for my bags. My sister was waiting for me just outside the gate and we übered back to the condo and the putted around for a second before re-packing my bag for overnight duty and starting the trek to visit uncle J.
But before we left, we decided to try to get an early lunch, so we walked to the empanadas place, and then to Cash and Carry, but everything was closed. Apparently it was already New Year’s Eve, national holiday, and almost everything was closed. Even Sinangag Express was closed, which is fine by me because I prefer going hungry to eating garbage. Anyway, we decided to go hungry.
Uncle J lives in Malolos, Bulacan, which is just outside of Metro Manila. To get there, we übered to Cubao and went from bus company to bus company to find a bus that stopped in Malolos, so we were looking for destinations like Tarlac and Dagupan. In the end we found a non-air-conditioned, school bus type bus that ended in Malolos, and we crammed 3 to a seat and rode for 40 minutes.
When we finally go to Malolos, uncle J was waiting for us. We were hungry so we decided to stop at Gerry’s Grill and treat them to lunch. Uncle J gathered the cousins T and A and we ordered kangkong, a grilled squid, and some sisig.
Ok my sister’s Tagalog skills are more sophisticated than mine at this point, thank goodness, and she has them at the ready, so I can go back to my lifelong habit of not listening to Tagalog. However I do hear some crazypants stuff happening, and even though I’ve seen it before, I can confirm it’s not just me. So after my sister did all the ordering the server came back from the kitchen and apologized to us that stir fried kangkong was not available, only sizzling kangkong with oyster sauce. My sister, very correctly, said, ok, fine, whatever, but serve the oyster sauce on the side, because everyone here at this table hates vegetables drowning in two cups of sweet goop. A few minutes later the server came back and apologized, because they couldn’t make it sizzle on a sizzle iron without the goop, so they would be obliged to serve it on a plate.
Let’s review: 1). We would like stir-fried kangkong. 2). Sorry, we only have sizzle plate kangkong. 3). Sorry, we won’t be able to serve it on a sizzle plate. Result: we will get regular stir-fried kangkong on a plate.
Now see, thank God for my sister who is handling the situation. I do not understand this situation and everyone including my cousins will think it’s because I don’t understand Tagalog. The truth is, I understood the entire exchange, but the exchange itself doesn’t make ANY DAMN SENSE. 1) We want kangkong on a plate. 2). Sorry we only have it sizzling. 3). Sorry we can’t make it sizzling, it has to be on a plate. Does that make any sense to you? Give me what I ask for and quit coming over to talk about it, shit dude.
I guess my habit is that when I see something that doesn’t make sense, I ask, “What is this?” And people think that I’m stupid. Like one time at a Thai restaurant in LA there they served some fried wontons on my lunch plate, and I said “What is this?” And my coworker looked at me in all seriousness and said “fried wontons.” And I wanted to say, “I know they are fried wontons asshole, what the fuck are they doing on my plate? Who serves fried fucking wontons to humans, drizzled with that bullshit sweet Thai chili sauce that you get at the grocery story for $1.50 per bottle? ”
So from now on instead of “What is this?” I’m going to ask “What is this bullshit?” and maybe that way people will bring their brains to the conversation.
But I digress. Uncle J put me in the side car of his motorcycle–this is called a “tricycle” in the Philippines–and I rode through town hunched over inside the side car cab. All I could see of the town were people’s calves and that they were buying oranges, limes, and some watermelons.
When we got to the house, auntie T was there, and it was family hang-out time. We cousins walked to the playground, later we came back. Auntie cooked and uncle started a barbecue, and there was pork skewers, grilled chicken, pansit, karikare, tilapia escabeche, bangus en papillote, all kinds of things. We got uncle Jonny talking about the 70s, and heard his badass stories.
And then I went to bed and slept at 7:30pm, becuase I hadn’t slept properly since the 29th of December. And yes, I slept through New Year’s Eve and the fireworks on the street but there was no other way. My cousins wanted to wake me to join the celebration, but my sister wisely counseled them against it.
In the morning auntie offered to cook eggs and toast and sausages and red hot dogs and slices of ham and yes I ate it all. We watched some Korean TV shows about traveling in China, and living on a remote island. We face-timed with my folks in the States, confirming and requesting clarification on some of uncle Jonny’s stories, like when my mama dissected the owl.
After some more pansit and some YouTube videos my sister and I said goodbye to our auntie and the cousins, got back on the tricycle with Uncle J and found a van back to Makati.
When we got back to Makati, there was a walk to see what was open for dinner on New Year’s Day. Of course there was a Chinese place still open so my sister and I went HAM on a mixed vegetable plate and some bean curd rolls. Starbucks was the only coffee option, and the security guard recognized me from this summer.
After that we came back to the condo, I did some stuff for work and went to sleep early.
Today is going to be a BBQ with cousins in Cavite.