“The family is the greatest treasure of any country. Let us all work to protect and strengthen this, the cornerstone of society.”
– His Holiness Pope Francis (addressing the Filipinos on 16th January 2015)
16th January marks a special day for me – it is my mother’s birthday. On Friday, Nanay would have been 76. As somebody who is living away from their family, I decided to spend the day with people whom in many ways I feel give me that semblance of a family – my friends, my FAME family.
I started the day early with a little chat with my brother, Euge, who is based in Singapore, over WeChat, one of those VoIP (voice-over-internet-protocol) mobile apps. We had a fun and nostalgic chat while reminiscing on our happy Nanay memories, the letters we used to exchange with her, etc.
At around 10.00 am I went out to have breakfast with my friends and co-FAME officers – Jhun, our Chairman, and Teacher Joel. As part of our ‘green’ efforts to be eco-friendly, we went in only one car as Jhun and I live in the same building anyway. We took Aneesa, Jhun’s car.
After not so much of a debate as to where to eat we finally agreed to go to Fuddruckers on Thahlia Street, one of the few around town that has a fairly nice breakfast selection on their breakfast menu. We all ordered americano coffee to begin with. Then for our main breakfast course, Jhun ordered Western Omelette, a traditional American omelette with everthing on it while myself and Joel had Southwestern breakfast, a platter of tortilla, sunny-side up eggs, and hash browns – I had my hash brown fried while Joel’s was grilled. We also ordered their classic pancake to share.
So there, after the nowadays obligatory food styling and snapping Instagram-worthy shots of our food, we settled down and enjoyed a hearty breakfast over a nice laid back chat about our daily goings on, our mutual delight on the lovely cold 18 degree morning weather, the Pope’s concurrent visit to the Philippines, what went on with each one of us during the week that passed and of course a little ‘chismisan’ on the side. Haha! No we did not gossip we just talked about anything that came up in the discussion in the spirit of ‘good vibes’.
Then we parted ways as I had to prepare for a late lunch date with the guys from GBB 2014 (Ginoo at Binibining Turismo Filipinas 2014). Jhun and Joel were supposed to join but had other prior engagements.
The set get-together was both a long overdue bonding session and a going away lunch for one of the guys, Ejay, who was leaving for a three-month reassignment outside Jeddah. Had I known sooner, I should have gotten him a going away gift.
Tadaaaa… after all the (4-hour) entertainment, lunch was served.
The ‘barrio fiesta’ inspired lunch fare consisted of: ‘Pancit Palabok’ – an Oriental thick rice noodle dish in prawn gravy topped with roasted smoked fish, hard-boiled eggs, powdered beef cracklings, roasted garlic, and spring onions; ‘Tortang Talong’, fried aubergine omelette, ‘Tinola’ a traditional Filipino chicken soup in ginger and veggies – veggies of choice are ‘pechay’ (bok choy) and ‘sayote’ (chayote or christophenes), and ‘Halabos na Hipon’ – tiger-prawn semi-pan-fried (in garlic and butter) and semi-simmered (in ginger ale). The latter three were served with steamed white rice. For dessert, a cocktail of two classic Filipino dessert items – ‘Pichi-Pichi’ which is steamed tapioca cakes rolled in coconut shavings, and ‘Buchi’ – sesame seed balls with sweet mung bean paste filling, usually a staple during Chinese New Year. And another dessert is the guilt-filled highly sinful tubs of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in three flavours – Chubby Hubby, Cherry Garcia, and Cheesecake Brownie.
Present at this lunch get-together were my other FAME co-officers – Vice-Chair Jerry, and Fred, FAME Secretary and some GBB 2014 finalists and friends: Amira, Jonella, Agnes, Aldrin, Richmond, Ejay, Glenn, Mark, and Dhely Dear. Of course our very accommodating hosts: the Santos family. Big thanks to Mommy Roselle who was all out in overseeing the kitchen preparations with the guys.
After that highly awaited heavy lunch – fun and craziness ensued..
It was a day filled with fun, laughter, ‘chismisan’ (small talk resembling gossip), karaoke, and lots and lots of selfies, groufies, and what have you snap shots.
The girls had to bid their well wishes and ‘see-you-in-a-few-months’ to Ejay as they had to catch their curfews. Yes, don’t be surprised, curfews for grown-up, professional ladies are still happening here. In this case Jonella’s and Agnes’s Cinderella time was 10.00pm.
Finally, we capped the night over coffee, tea, some pasta and bread at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Al Rawdah District.
And that, my friends, was how I celebrated Nanay’s birthday this year. It was a ‘family day’ of sorts nonetheless.
Credits (Images): Frederick Garces, Jerry Lagrimas, Jonella Ting Ysip, Amira Rose Santos, Ejay Cabangon, Aldrin Villadoz, author’s own, The Quote Pedia.