Monday, March 24, 2008

Stuck with rice

THAT oaf in the low-resolution picture is me alright, wooden pestle in hand and letting its weight wrench out silicate bits of chaff from edible rice grains that we cooked for supper in that work foray in a far-flung sylvan precinct of Montalban, Rizal. The picture belies the lesson I was sharing with a young public school teacher who admitted he writes a mawkish hand.

Picture me in easy earnest discourse, in cerebral intercourse: There’s hideous yet hidden strength in beauty—and both beast and beauty are to be nurtured in hands-on chores, in the most menial of tasks of day-to-day life. Say, hewing wood for kindling with an ax. Tilling land. Cutting with a makeshift heavy sword for a thousand times, pumping out water from an artesian well. Or, in this instance, in the unsophisticated barog way of gleaning rice that turns up unpolished grains or pinawa, fibrous bran (darak that goes into hog feed) intact to give a more filling tummy ballast.

So much painful tedium endured, so much tons of muscle memory are infused to the wrist and upper torso. That, in turn, must be coaxed—aye, drilled over and over—to be polished. To loosen the built-up knot of intensity in an easy rill-flow of writing by hand, or care-free dawdling, even allowing the thrum of the heart to surge through wrist-pulse to express itself in unhurried caressing, weaving movement of the palm.

So cultivated, beauty becomes-- lends itself in anything it touches, a wonderful contagion. And if destiny can be read in the tangle of lines on the hand, fate would read as faith firm and kismet deciphers as kisses ardent.

In decades past, my romance with Oryza sativa had been cheerless—even left my arms with itchy nicks and cuts as if rice grass blades found ready whetstone or strop in one’s limbs. Anyway, there’s wee comfort in a line from Amado V. Hernandez, “ang tabak ay tumatalim sa pisngi ng kapwa tabak,” a bolo’s edge is sharpened against another bolo’s edge. Mananatili ang palay sa dahong-palay kahit mawalay sa palayan—the rice plant remains in the deadly paddy viper even if such serpent be estranged from its paddy haunts. A tidbit of insight is proffered: empty husks or ipa’t tulyapis stand proud while those bulked up with sustenance bow down in obeisance.

Paddies turned out to be haunts of yummy edibles that went well with rice— bullfrogs that had their predators in herons, vipers, and us who turned up such delights as minced pork stuffed fare or batute, or uncomplicated fricassee, or the usual adobo and tinola; escargots or plain kuhol; freshwater crabs (talangka) with pale crimson roe that tops caviar flavor anytime, hey, try doing it as pasta sauce; mole crickets (kamaru) that can be stewed to crisp morsels…some mudfish, the native golden-bellied catfish that tastes of butter plus the old-fashioned flavorful paddy rats, snipes, quails, and, ah, a deadly cobra or two. These delights thrive in paddies where rice is grown.

And yes, the instructions for brewing tapuy and sake must have come with the first handfuls of unhusked rice grains that sun god Amaterazu O-Kami transmuted from sunlight and handed out to soil-tillers eons ago. So we imbibed lessons and the giddiness from having a drink too many, the starch-turned-alcohol burned bright into the brain, knocked us off. As if felled by a bolt of sunstroke…

I’ve told my children I won’t go through that lot of fussing about the soil and irrigation to yield stacks of palay that’ll go through some more fussing—threshing, drying out in the sun, milling. There’s better quality carbohydrate in, say, substitute staples like saba bananas or corn than in rice. Too, a square meter patch of soil planted to corn or saba gives a higher yield than a square meter of soil devoted to rice. On top of that, there’s lesser fuss in raising and reaping either saba or corn.

But we’re stuck with rice…

Pagtitingi’t paghingi ng kausap

WORDS are loose change plied out, piled up in talk—it’s often cheap and we deserve cheapskates who pepper chats with cheap shots, don’t we? Wheezed out of a week ending in a quaint Christmas I’d opt to call anytime as Pasko ng Pagkabuhay, (ang naririnig ko kasi, Happy Ouster!) the just past days of quiet left a feeling that words are sacraments. Made out as sacred testament or massacred most times. Made whole and holy by those who choose to do so out of chewing at the cud, nourished of indwelling word-flesh.

So that probably explains why I still stick it up with old-fashioned fully spelled out tidbits, spare parts, odds and ends biota of speech. Words can be clothed with flesh to dwell among us, why, they’d look like misshapen cretins and freaks if some parts, maybe a letter or two, or a tell-tale punctuation birth mark is willfully left out, lopped off, butchered away. Lintxt ka talaga, pati dilang nakalaan sa cunnilanguages, ba’t pinuputulan-tinatadtad-nilalaslas-tinatastas—nasaan na ang kalayaan ng xxxpression?

So we can speak from the bottom of the heart, trickle out something down to earth. Or speak from the bottom; blow ill wind, ah, farting is such sweet sorrow…

Nasulsulan pa mandin ng ilang tagpo mula wuxia na napanood sa GMA-7, “Hero” na nagtampok sa kakatwang pamamaraan ng pagsulat, ‘yung masuyong kaplugan-pagtatalik ng mga larawang-diwa o kanjin upang mailahad ang ubod at buod ng katagang “tabak.” Basta tabak ang mas marikit na salin sa sword, dahil namumukadkad ang bagwis sa igkas-lipad ng ibong tagak (heron is literally too close to hero) na katugma ng tabak—na iglap na iniigkas din mula pugad na kaluban.

The sword word had to be written out in swift brush strokes on a paper panel about eight feet high. The dexterity with wielding a writing implement would also reveal the writer’s deftness at swordsmanship while the spelled out pictogram would evoke visions of truth for the discerning. Ah, pictograms, hieroglyphs, and such painterly modes of transcribing ideas into tenable form would hardly acquiesce to emasculation or evisceration that’s done these days to thoughts ensconced, encoded—embodied maybe embedded-- in text format.

Huwag namang ipagduldulan sa mga natatanggap kong liham sa electronic mail ang emoticons… wala namang pagkakaiba ang mga isinusulat natin dito… pare-pareho, hindi na masisipat ni masusukat kung mayroon tayong nakatagong kakayahan sa pananandata mula sa ating mga sulat… wala tayong ibubunyag… graphologists or those folks who can make sense of a persona lurking beneath handwriting are a sorry lot, we don’t reveal our hands, keep them close to the chest… so unlike the divine hand that scrawled out a fully spelled out ominous writing on the wall, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin… 2004 pa nang makatanggap ako ng kapirasong kalatas lang na nakasulat-kamay… nagmula sa isang Welsh na nagsadya sa pasulatan, nagkumpisal na masugid daw siyang sumusubaybay sa kahit ano lang na inilalahad na tila kamay sa pitak na ito… Welsh, Welsh, well wishes…wishing wells into which we toss coins as cheap bribes for granting wishes.

May hiling ang kaluluwa’t may halang ang kaluluwa kaya may kahirapan din itong pumili o kahit bumili ng mainam na kausap. Na makakasuklian ng sensilyo, maybe some sense, too, out of the loose change plied out, piled up in plain talk. Parang kalakalan. Magpapalitan ng halaga, kimpal ng kuwalta ang itatapat sa nais makamit na kalakal. Tatayain kung magkasukat sa timbang ang palitan. Palit-pera. Palit-puri.

And what did one Steve Talbott have to say? “We are continually assaulted by the mechanized word, but less and less aware of where the speaking comes from. We have less and less experience of the conscious acts giving rise to the words, and we ourselves are not really addressed by the words. It is ‘the System’ that speaks, but the System seems to be nothing more than the machine rendered vague and ubiquitous.”

Nang ako’y ungkatin ng anak sa tula
Kung dapat ba itong wakasan sa lagda
Ano ang nasabi,
pray tell what did I say?
I let out an earful: these days rhyme doesn’t pay…

Sa pamumulot ng salita

NALUOY ang mga usbong na bumulas sa pagitan ng biyas ng kawayan na bitbit hanggang bahay mula liblib na dawag ng kabundukan sa Montalban, Rizal. That’s reason for me to go back to those parts. To obtain two or three internodes with offshoots and try another tack at growing this particular bamboo specimen—sports thin-walled green culms of 4”-5” diameter that ought to be a suitable cookery vessel for in situ boiled rice or culm-stewed chicken binakol; no prickly spines; no lengthy branching offshoots, just a six to10-meter tall, upright pole-spear of growth.

There are more than 20 native bamboos thriving in the country— over 1,000 species are scattered throughout the world—and I guess the lovely specimen I’ve come across is one of our true-brown varieties. And these days, even the gargantuan chrome-and-glass cages of Makati’s posh precincts have doled out as alms-givers do some meager patches of land for dumping a few clumps of the giant grass; ah, bamboo is simply grass hardly down-trodden and oft-manicured as a spread of Bermuda greensward on lawns. Kawayan, hindi kawawa ‘yan.

While Bermuda grass might be an unconscious concession to the rapine powers of the celestial dragon’s head—the demonic caput draconis—bamboo is a down-to-earth giant that can, if properly planted in auspicious directions, make fondest wishes and wet dreams come true. Or haul in and dump on the household good fortune by truckloads, if we’re to believe feng shui lore. Or cause undue pressure plus parboiling (say, kawayan rhymes with kawa ‘yan or that’s a huge wide-mouthed cast-iron pot), inexplicable plague, and deliciously slow mayhem upon adversaries and secret enemies. Maybe, we ought to believe native folklore or a TV advertisement that featured beer-guzzling bandleader Bamboo MaƱalac churning charnel out of a loudmouth fart with a blast of spontaneous combustion.

Taxonomists the world over are discouraging identification of bamboo species with common or local names—there’s a flurry of names for a particular species in various localities, so I’ll stick it out with descriptions, maybe keep at heart the more colorful tabs like bayog which isn’t the opposite gender of bayag; or langkawi, laak, anos, bukawe, even kiling on which Mt. Makiling got its name.

Nakapagbitbit din mula sa dinayong liblib ng pandagdag sa imbak ng mga salita. Buringring o guppy, the colorful wee scavenger fishes that feed on detritus and water-borne tidbits of organic matter. It’s been doing such a clean-up job in our rivers and waterways before some smartass decided dumping obnoxious janitor fishes in guppy territories. But it took me decades before stumbling upon a Tagalog word equivalent for the fish I’ve always played with and known as guppy.

Just one word skimmed out of the landscape. That’s not much of an addition to the sprinkling that have been dug and turned up from far-flung parts in previous visits, like, kabatiti or fragrant native loofah; balbatino or stems of water lily flower stalks that are peeled and cooked with tamarind sauce; parda, a wild legume that looks like habitchuelas or Baguio beans that goes into such Iluko staple fare as dinengdeng or pinakbetOr-ormot is seaweed that can be cooked into tart soup. (Ah, it’s a hunger that can’t be chucked; it’s this appetite for new words that residents of a locality may likely have chewed through or spat out for ages.)

Out of over a dozen strains of upland rice that a long-time resident assured me these are still grown in those forbidding parts of Montalban, she could only turn up three names. Kinaw-itan. Bayuyo. Binernal.

Then again, the words gleaned thus far are labels on the living. Each one provides edible morsels for sustenance. Uh, even buringring or guppies scooped out of unpolluted waters can be wrapped in tender banana leaves and stewed in ginger, onions, and chopped tomatoes—a tad bitter-tasting but is still a delicacy.

Maybe, the gray matter is an insatiable gourmand that must be fed and plied with tidbits of the landscape...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lihim na kayamanan sa kabundukan ng Montalban

BUHAWI yata o tornado ang katulad ni Natividad Icabandi. Painut-inot man sa mga tagpi ng matatamnang lupa sa isang liblib na kaingin sa Casili, San Rafael sa paanan ng mga nakahumindig na bundok sa Montalban ng lalawigang Rizal, halos walang humpay sa inot na ikot ang matanda—87 taon ang edad, tubong Malinao, Aklan pero may 25 taon nang namamalagi sa naturang ilang na lugar. Na ang layo sa Maynila ay dalawang oras na biyahe sa sasakyan. Saka apat na oras na lakad-hingal-hagok sa mga daan at landas na hindi na mapapasok ng kahit 4 x 4.

Pero dinadayo pa rin ang naturang pook, tila alon sa anumang panahon ang paghangos doon ng mga treasure hunters. Pawang naghahagilap ng mga ibinaon daw na mga tipak ng ginto’t kung anu-ano pang kayamanan. Na kinurakot, natipon ni Heneral Tomoyuki Yamashita mula sinakop na iba’t ibang lupalop sa silangan at timog-silangang Asia—na inilibing naman umano sa kung saan-saang lugar sa Pilipinas.

Marami man ang nahuhumaling sa biglaang yaman mula paghahalukay sa mga singit at kili-kili ng kabundukan sa Montalban, sa pagbubungkal ng lupang kinaingin ang kinaugalian ng matandang Icabandi— pantawid-buhay lang na tulad sa mga nakagalang manok na alaga, makailang kakahig sa lupa para may matuka na kahit ilang butil na palay.

Sabihin man na mahigit sa 12 uri ang palay na naitatanim sa ganoong liblib na lunan, pawang anim na buwan ang singkad ng panahon mula paghahasik at gapasan—marami na ang 10 sako na maaani bawat ektarya. At may isang oras ang magugugol sa pagbayo’t pagtatahip sa 3-4 na dakot na palay upang may maisaing na bigas.

May bahid ng pagmamalaki ang matanda habang isinasalin mula lusong sa hugis-peras na bilao ang binayong palay para matahip, maihiwalay ang darak o rice bran, binlid (finely ground grains) at ipa (rice chaff) sa mga butil ng bigas. Minsan santaon, may mga bumibili ng naturang bilao—P100 ang turing sa isa, ilang daan din ang nabibili. At siya ang naglalala ng mga iyon: mula pagputol hanggang sa pagtilad at pagtistis ng kawayan, pati na sa paghabi ng mga natistis na kawayan. Tiyaga ng kamay at linaw ng mga mata ang kailangan sa ganoong gawain.

Nang magtahip siya ng kababayong palay, hangos na sumugod ang mga nakagalang manok—tila mga treasure hunters na magkakalkal—at lumutang naman sa pagtatahip ang kakaibang two-tone beat na tahasang naiiba sa pintig ng Jew’s harp, kahit ska o reggae. Agad na sinabihan ang isang kasama, “Grab that beat, get it into your mobile phone. That’s an unheard-of rock and roll beat, believe me! Something very Filipino it is!”

Talaga yatang mas malalim na kaalaman ang sumasalin sa sinumang inilalapat ang kamay sa samut-saring gawain, at lumutang ang ganoong kaalaman sa kakaibang tunog mula sa pagtatahip, in that idiom about winnowing chaff from grain made real and vibrant by a gnarled rustic.

At kailangan yata talagang tutukan ang matanda para makatuklas pa ng anumang kapakinabangan sa kanyang mga ginagawa.

Papasuksok na ang araw sa bundok sa gawing kanluran nang maupo siya sa isang sulok ng bahay paharap sa bintanang nakatanaw sa hilaga— nagnilay, naglabas ng aklat-dasalan at dusaryo’t sinimulan ang pag-aalay ng dalangin. Tila isinaboy na malamig na tubig sa paningin ang ganoong tanawin.

Walang kuryente sa ganoong liblib na lugar—ni wala ngang mobile phone signal na makarating. Walang radyo’t TV. Ilawang de gas lang ang pantanglaw sa gabi. Sa Metro-Manila at iba pang mga kanugnog na lugar, pawang telebisyon ang nakaluklok sa dambana’t altar— iba’t ibang balita’t anuman ang bubuhos sa kahabaan ng prime time.

Hindi pa lubusang umaangat ang mga bumabang ulap, masidhi pa rin ang sigid ng lamig nang magising kami—apat kaming magkakasamang mananaliksik na nakitulog sa dampa—pero wala na sa kanyang kinahihigan ang matanda. Natanaw naming sa di-kalayuan, abala sa pagdidilig ng sampitak na mga puno ng mais.

Maya-maya pa’y nakarinig ng paghahawan ng mga dawag at tuyong dahon sa iba namang panig ng kaingin—naroon na siya, abala pa rin…

Ah, may kayamanang mahuhukay sa ganoong payak, tiwasay na pamumuhay.

Malediction on idiot-cation

MICHAEL Abacan, fired up full of his 22 summers of life has to wrack his head on who he can turn to for five keepsake honor medals he would give to the outstanding students he has turned up at Casili Elementary School—it’s a far-flung work post hemmed by boondocks in the remote parts of Montalban, Rizal for a volunteer teacher. For one, he hasn’t been paid his wages for months and even if he wanted to shell out some cash for medals, all he has is the shirt on his back.

Pero mabait naman ang kanyang tinutuluyan saka uliran sa sipag si Michael. Katu-katulong sa pagbabayo ng palay upang may maisaing sa araw-araw, natuto na rin sa pagluluto at pangangalaga ng mga pananim sa kaingin. Kahit iyang pagbabayo ng isasaing ay hindi biro, kulani sa kili-kili’t linsad na balikat ang madalas na mapapalang tutubo.

Abacan takes abode in that swidden farm hut about an hour’s trudge through a terrain gone amok choked with bushes, boulders, and thickets to get to the school where he teaches. That trudge merely takes him 15 minutes. He’d had constant practice trekking through similar topography in his Kalinga hometown where he took up education at the local state college.

Marami raw namang nakakatapos ng kolehiyo sa kanyang pinagmulan. Para masabi nga naman na kahit nakatunganga lang sa maghapon para maghintay sa malabo yatang hinaharap, may maipapakitang college diploma—wala nga lang mapapasukang trabaho.

So he took off for unknown parts and found himself in familiar territory, with soaring hopes that by teaching children, he could make a difference in their lives. He does.

Ni hindi nga nakatagal sa pag-asikaso sa mga bata ang gurong pinalitan sa gitna ng sapa ni Michael—lumipat sa mas maginhawang lunan na mapagtuturuan upang makaiwas sa araw-araw na penitensiya. Baka nga lumipad na papuntang Amerika dahil mas gunggong man at maligalig ang mga tuturuang musmos doon, mas matindi naman ang isusukling sahod sa gurong magtitiyaga.

Michael can’t complain about the pupil-teacher ration that afflicts most public schools in the country, or a roomful of 50 to 75 kids for every teacher. He handles a tenable 35 pupils—in Grades IV, V, and VI—all at the same time in a room more fitting for a pigsty. That means conducting classes as an orchestra conductor does, why, Casili Elementary School has only two intrepid volunteer teachers handling six grade levels… simultaneously. And you thought that only happens in chess—a simultaneous game in which a grandmaster tackles as many amateur comers in one sitting? Abacan does that. Daily with plenty of energy to spare.

Hindi naman kasi madaling puntahan ang naturang paaralan. Malayo nga sa kabihasnan. Kaya nang maglabas ng pondo ang lokal na pamahalaan sa pagpapatayo ng kongkretong gusali, ulbuan ng baboy na walang kalahati ng gusali ang kongkreto’t tinagpian na lang ng maaapuhap na mga tilad na kawayan sa paligid ang iba pang bahagi nito. Nakatipid nga naman nang malaki ang kontratista. Para malaking halaga mula sa nakontratang proyekto ang maibulsa.

We really can’t moderate the greed. Even at such pigpen level, the avarice for money holds sway and is likely a national trait.

Ikinumpisal ni Abacan na may ilang mag-aaral na kilangang ihulog, panatilihin muna sa ika-anim na baytang. Hindi pa kasi marunong bumasa’t sumulat. Naisangguni nga niya sa distritong sumasaklaw sa naturang mababang paaralan ang kanyang hakbang. Sinabihan siyang ipasa lahat ang mga bata’t sumunod na lang sa ganoong utos—baka mawalan pa siya ng trabaho kung susuway…

Honoring pupils with five keepsake medals won’t be much of a problem for Abacan. The cost for such is a lot less than the tab we pay for a night’s session with beer and bravura. Honoring a true-brown mentor like him is another matter, maybe even giving him a hand with books and instructional materials to help him out in his teaching tasks.

Ni wala ngang aklat na mababasa ang mga musmos na ‘yon—at marami nang guro ang sumuko sa araw-araw na penitensiya para makarating lang sa paaralan para magturo…

In the meanwhile, let me turn down speechwriting assignments for politicos and louts who’ll be addressing parents, hangers-on, and graduates in this year’s commencement exercises. Let’s get down to the pigsty level for a change, spread some of that slop and meaty morsels with rancid hogwash on those too distant troughs.

Kaya ba natin ‘yon?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"Ano na'ng balita sa bahay?"

I HAVE just finished inspecting and assessing an onshore desalting unit...where crude oil gets separated from salt...where hydrogen sulfide is present...where I had an accident (slipped from a tunnel ladder and got my knees ram onto steel tubes, my knees were swollen last night, now they’re OK). The unit is located at Tanajib, a remote area.

“Two Arabs from the processing unit went up to me for a little chat...asked about my line of work on what I do for the inspection unit. After detailing what I do as an on-stream inspector, they suddenly asked if I am British... told them I’m not. Then they asked if my parents are Brits or one of them is... I told them you are from Batangas and Mama hails from Pangasinan... both of you are Filipinos.

“They were very surprised as I am more fluent than them in speaking English. They swear and believe I have British blood in me... I don’t, I know Caucasians and I’m far from being one of them...then an Iranian asked perhaps I have American blood in me... susmeh, Pinoy nga, hello...ang kulit minsan ng tao, ano?

“Tomorrow I will be doing Safaniya plant R74 gas plant, where sweet oil gets processed (fact: sweet oil or light oil is more expensive than crude or heavy oil). Hopefully I won’t slip, masakit matuhod… I have had lots of accidents but this one hurts like hell.

Ano na’ng balita sa bahay?”

Dalawang maikling kuwento lang ang naiambag ko sa “Liwayway” na tila 5,000 sipi na lang bawat linggo ang inililimbag para sa mambabasa nito—P270 ang bayad sa bawat kuwento’t hindi na siguro mauulit pang mag-ambag uli ako. Oo, konti na lang ang mambabasa.

Mas malaki ang tabo sa TV, but the writing jobs are firmly gripped by tentacles of coteries within the networks and they won’t moderate their greed kaya mahirap makalusot doon—saka galing sa ibang planeta yata ang ginagamit nilang wika doon, the phraseology and speech patterns in scripts betray an effeminate mindset. Hindi ko kaya ang gano’n, sabi mo nga’y nagmula ako sa bayan ng balisong at tahanan ng mga tirong, ‘yung mga lagalag na parang AWOL na sundalo na karaniwang San Miguel ang iniingatang agimat. Yeah, St. Michael as in hinebra marka demonyo.

So I have to write in English, and speak the tongue which I have been drilled in before learning the abakada. Hindi man ikinahihiya ng mga Pilipino ang kanilang wika at nakatampok nga ang anumang magmumula sa mga bakla, they’re not putting money where the mouth is, eh, ano pa ba ang katuturan niyon kundi suction slurps louder than words, pwe-he-he-he-he!

Sina Edgardo Reyes na sumulat ng “Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag” at Catalino Alano lang ang masugid na nag-uudyok sa akin na magsulat pa rin sa Tagalog. Barako pareho ‘yon. Kapwa naging editor ko.

Nasabi ko na sa ‘yong dadayo ako sa lunan ng mga Dumagat sa Sierra Madre para magbahagi ng aking kaalaman sa pagsisinop ng lupa—soil science. Ang totoo’y pagsubok sa aking katatasan sa sariling wika ang nais kong gawin. Lapat-kamay na kaalaman ang aking isasalin, ‘langya, walang bayad na pagtuturo ‘to pero maganda ang magiging pihit ng kanilang kabuhayan kung tatalima sa matututunan.

Binigyan nga pala uli ako ng panibagong gawang sulatin. Aklat. Tungkol na naman sa nutrition, one area of expertise I’ve warmed to and freely did spadework to deepen my knowledge. Magandang magbayad ang pasulatan na nagpapasulat. And I have to write in English as usual.

Teka nga pala, your great grandfather on my family side spoke fluent Spanish that must have been convent-drilled into him. He had Iberian features, a Castilian air about him and a haughty, aristocratic gait. Yabang? Like it or not, you’ve got some Caucasian blood in you and the quaint shapes of our noses are a telltale mark of such far-removed origins we want to remove but just can’t.

Balita sa bahay… Kami lang ng Mama mo saka mga aso’t pusa ang madalas na nasa bahay.

Kakaibang ibayo kapag nagbabayo

ILANG ulit na tumawag sa telepono ang kasambahay ng bayaw— natutulog pa ko’t kailangan pang tungkabin ng bareta de cabra sa higaan. Kalaunan nga’y nahagip din. Para ungkatin ukol sa paraan sa pagluluto ng kimchi.

Kasi’y muntik nang makarating hanggang London ang ibinigay na kimchi sa kanila, nasarapan marahil sa aking timpla—habang nilalantakan, uusok ang tainga’t tutulo ang uhog sa igting ng anghang-tamis-asim na maingat na natimbang.

Inisa-isa nga ang mga hakbang. Na madali namang sundan at ulit-ulitin upang makapagluto ng kimchi, the oriental version of sauerkraut.

Mayroon pala akong nawaglit na ibunyag sa aking kakatwang paraan sa pagluluto. Parang natatanging sangkap na humahalo sa anumang lutuin na lalapatan ng kamay at diwa. Malakas ang kutob kong ganito rin ang sumasaling sangkap sa lutuin ng mga nakikipag-irugan sa bathala ng kusina.

What apparently goes into a hand-ripped head of Napa cabbage to turn up my version of kimchi: a dozen to 15 assorted chili peppers to meld a diversity of incendiary flavors; walo hanggang 10 ngipin ng bawang Ilocos; a thumb-size piece of ginger for a whit of earthly warmth; a wee pinch each of oregano, black pepper, and nutmeg to lend quaint piquancy; three tablespoons muscovado or sugar palm-derived sugar plus two cups of palm toddy-derived vinegar—mas mainam kung mismong tuba ang pansanaw na sabaw—that provides the microbial culture from zillions of lactic acid bacteria, the unseen agents that whip up fermentation to infuse whiffs of wine in kimchi.

Ano pa ang nawawaglit na sangkap na maibubunyag?

For an honored guest, a Thai host would pound a wee sheet of silver for an entire day… until such silver spreads out much, much thinner than onion skin to wrap slivers of beef with… and the ultra-thin silver wrapping actually melts on the tongue… and in that day-long incessant pounding, the host would wrap his attention in a state of rapture, chanting a Buddhist mantra for hours on end… ah, would the kitchen deity be so pleased with so simple a show of devotion?

Preparation of curry—an amalgam of two to a few dozen spices— is likely to be similar, an offering of orisons to the gods of hearth and home, the mantras to invoke or salute the deity plied out in sullen silence, infused into the rhythm and reason of mortar and pestle that melds, welds curry flavors… a currying for favors from the divine

Pinansin noon ng faith healer na tumungkab sa takip ng tercero ojo sa aking noo na isa raw sa aking mga kamay ang kawangki ng kamay ni Durga—bathaluman ng pagpuksa at kariktan… sumasalin yata’t nagiging sangkap sa kamay at bisig ang katangian ng bathala’t bathaluman na walang patumanggang inuuntag habang subsob ang kamay sa anumang gawain… sa walang patumangga halos na pagtimba sa poso, doon yata naibunton ang pagbibigkis ng lagalag na diwa sa walang humpay na pagbati sa naturang bathaluman… eh, ba’t parang samputol na punong palasan pa rin ang hugis ng bisig ko, ‘langya…

Halo’t lusong, the old fashioned mortar and pestle, iyon pa rin sa halip na food processor ang nakagawiang gamit sa pagdikdik ng mga sangkap na ilalangkap sa kimchi. The hand could be trapped in an infectious rhythm of pounding sugar and spice and all things nice into a smooth paste. Sige na nga, binabayo rin ang alindog na pinipithaya—pinipitpit habang nakatihaya. Kaya nga parang malaswa ang bugtong na ang sagot ay halo’t lusong: kay inang na yungib na tiwangwang, sinalaksak-hinalukay ng kay tatang…

So there can be an infusion of the divine in such a menial task as pounding. Nalalapatan ng kamay. At natukoy sa pananaliksik ng agham na umaangat ang antas, nag-iibayo ang kaalaman at kakayahan ng tao kapag inilalapat ang kamay sa samut-saring gawain—kaya nga mahigit na 80 kilos at kislot ng kamay ang minsan nating inisa-isang itinala sa isang naunang lumabas na pitak. Ah, nag-iibayo kahit sa pagbayo, may nalilikha sa pag-atikha.

Sandosena yatang ngalan ni Allah ang paulit-ulit na inuusal habang nagdidikdik ng mga sangkap sa kimchi.

A food offering may thus share blessings.