At ground level

A column about LIFE

Tomatoes from my safe haven

I love sitting in my patio and watching my garden grow. These days it is the tomatoes that are thriving. Every day I get to pick some tomatoes and look forward to making them part of our meal.

I read somewhere that the tomato continues to have an identity crisis. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? According to the Oxford Dictionaries, “… Scientifically speaking, a tomato is definitely a fruit. True fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant (though cultivated forms may be seedless)…

“As far as cooking is concerned, some things which are strictly fruits, such as tomatoes or bean pods, may be called ‘vegetables’ because they are used in savoury rather than sweet cooking. The term ‘vegetable’ is more generally used of other edible parts of plants, such as cabbage leaves, celery stalks, and potato tubers, which are not strictly the fruit of the plant from which they come. …”

I never used to like tomatoes. I think my dislike for them stems back to the day of my first hangover when I was a teen-ager. Two mischievous friends stopped by the house to check up on me and handed me a Bloody Mary. They suggested I drink it because it would make me feel better. I never got over the joke, nor the taste of that tomato juice mixture. To this day, I dislike Bloody Marys.

I learned to like tomatoes in the farm. My father-in-law loved his sliced tomatoes on toast. Sometimes, he would slice them and sprinkle sugar on top. I, myself, prefer having them on salad. I also love cooking with tomatoes. So far, I’ve used my tomatoes in chicken fritada, spaghetti, salsa and goulash. Next time I plan to use them in a new adobo recipe, sans the soy sauce. It is supposed to taste delicious, I’m told.

Someone reading this blog will quickly realize I am enjoying my garden immensely. I’ve wondered why myself. Perhaps it’s because in my garden I can actually see the fruits of my labor, almost immediately. The garden is also something I can manage with relative success, within the small confines of my yard, unlike all the problems of life that I have to face.

These days I feel like I’ve been experiencing a meltdown, and the only thing that seems to console me and shelter me from the chaos of life is my garden. It’s become a safe haven. Watering my plants and picking the tomatoes, green peppers and zucchini (the beans and cucumbers were a disaster) seem to calm me – up until the time that darn blue bird dives down on my tomatoes and bites into one of them!

Tomatoes and green peppers freshly picked from my garden.

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Life | , | Leave a comment

To my grown-up son

My cousin Sandy kept this poem by Alice E. Chase in her wallet while her only son was growing up, to remind her to spend more time with him. He is now a young man and lives far from her, so she doesn’t often get to see him. Like Sandy, I miss my son and I also wish I could go back and do all the things he asked me to do …

To My Grown-Up Son

by Alice E. Chase

My hands were busy through the day,
I didn’t have much time to play
The little games you asked me to,
I didn’t have much time for you.

I’d wash your clothes; I’d sew and cook,
But when you’d bring your picture book
And ask me, please, to share your fun,
I’d say, “A little later, son.”

I’d tuck you in all safe at night,
And hear your prayers, turn out the light,
Then tiptoe softly to the door,
I wish I’d stayed a minute more.

For life is short, and years rush past,
A little boy grows up so fast,
No longer is he at your side,
His precious secrets to confide.

The picture books are put away,
There are no children’s games to play,
No goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear,
That all belongs to yesteryear.

My hands once busy, now lie still,
The days are long and hard to fill,
I wish I might go back and do,
The little things you asked me to.

I have one more child at home, but it’s not going to be long when she, too, will be off on her own. And soon, my busy hands will lie still, and the days will be long and hard to fill …

My oldest daughter is expecting … When that joyous moment arrives, I will pass this poem on to her, so she will cherish those simple joys that I sometimes forgot to do.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Children, Family, Life, Parenting | Leave a comment

What a difference a meme makes

Last I looked there were 22,498 members and counting, just in a matter of days. And I dare not count the number of posts and comments. If my inbox is any indication, it has reached thousands upon thousands.

Like the article “Facebook meme triggers UP frenzy of nostalgia” by JM Tuazon of GMA News says, in just a matter of days Facebook became a time machine for us graduates of the University of the Philippines – Diliman (UPD), bringing together thousands of UP alumni and thus creating an “online bonfire.”

Cleve JD Mallari, the group administrator, set up a group page on Facebook, which tasked members to complete the sentence “Taga-UP Diliman ka kung …” (You are from UP Diliman if …) with memories to which only alumni of UP Diliman could relate. Little did he know his Facebook page would explode in just a matter of days. Nostalgia set in and within a few days, the group page was filled with posts from enthusiastic alumni from all over the world. They flooded the site with memories of those good old days from food – like the best butterfly ice tea, the barbecue and delicious fish balls, to seemingly endless nights of studying, riding the “ikot” (the jeepney that serves as transportation around the UP Diliman campus), the terror teachers and the cool ones, and many amusing anecdotes about trying to register for classes and answering test questions on that famous blue book. They remembered the rallies against Martial Law and the boycotts. And, after all these years, so many of us still remember our student ID number!

Ann Angala’s post (807 and counting) “Taga UP-Diliman ka kung … hanggang ngayon memorize mo pa din student number mo…game! 87-00440,” (You’re from UP-Diliman if … until now you still have your student number memorized) along with many similar posts by others, made me recall that once very valuable student ID.

Like some other alumni, I still have my student ID 73-02494 – with my picture in my baul (treasure chest). I scanned and shared it with the group. I completed the sentence: “Taga UP- Diliman ka kung … hanggang ngayon nasa iyo pa ang UP ID card mo to recall the first time you became ‘a number.’” (… if until now you still have your UP ID card to recall the first time you became ‘a number.’) It generated 42 likes and 50 comments within a couple of hours. Ancient, paleolithic age, some of the young grads quipped, and some even noted “wagas!” (perfect)

I’m not sure why I kept my student ID. I think it signified freedom and independence for me. For 12 years, through nursery, pre-school, grade school and high school, I attended a convent school run by the Maryknoll sisters. Though the American sisters were already thought to be educating us to be independent thinkers and decision makers way ahead of the times, it just seemed natural that attending UP would be the next step for me after high school.

In UP I was just a number, but the freedom felt good. Freedom to learn – or not. Freedom to make something of myself – or not. With teachers who took us to task and challenged our minds. But it was not only the teachers, for there were many great teachers in the other good schools. In UP, there was just something different in the air you breathed. Whatever it was, just like the Maryknoll sisters, the university shaped me to be who I am and I am grateful for it.

I thought I had special grade school and high school memories, which I continue to share with longtime and very special friends, but this group page opened up yet another of many chapters in my life, which I had almost forgotten and it has been a pleasure to look back and cherish those times. Thank you, Cleve JD Mallari, for doing just that!

Whether it be due to common experiences over time, or our idealism, love for country, quest for truth (especially during the Martial Law days), and hope for a better future for a country that continues to have difficulty getting out of the trenches of graft and corruption, we have all united and made even more friends through your group page.

Mallari himself sums it up well in the article: “Iba-iba kasi yung kagandahan na nakikita ng bawat isa sa iba’t-ibang panahon na nag-stay sila sa campus,” he said. “Pero nagkakaisa kaming lahat sa pagmamahal namin sa pamantasang ito bilang mga Iskolar ng Bayan.” (Each generation experienced a special time when they stayed at the campus, but they all unite in their love for a university that reared scholars of our nation.)

In June Taguiwalo’s post (183 and counting): “Ano ang natapos mo sa UPD at ano naman ang trabaho mo?:)” (What did you finish in UP and what is your job now?), you see fruits that this powerful academic echelon of a university has produced, from international engineers, distinguished teachers, scientists, writers, proud fathers, mothers, homemakers, to highly regarded public servants. How can one not dare to hope for a better tomorrow?

73-02494 - just a number back then

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Life, Philippines | | 2 Comments