Saturday, February 25, 2012

Community the way it should be

I love being on my farm in the mountain but since I could not afford to build a hut yet, I can't stay long but just a day or two. Yesterday, I watched my caretakers brothers house being built from scratch. The only material he bought is the corrugated roofing and the nails, the rest are from their own trees and coconut lumber. The neighbors came; neighbors from the neighboring mountains and all without pay. This is what I remember my childhood was like; how my father organized the community to help each other.

The women came with their children to help whatever they can, but mostly to cook.

All they had was mung beans and corn grits. Actually I bought 2 kilos of fish that they kept to cook for dinner. And you see the bottle of wine? That's my contribution too. I told them it's for the celebration when the house is completely done tomorrow when I will be gone already.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Yogurt maker

Well, I don't have to wait til I get back to the US to buy a yogurt maker. I went to shop for a coffee maker at S&R and on their promo aisle, I saw boxes with the word "yogurt maker". I opened the box and it's this simple wireless thermo jug. It's the kind I want because you can take it anywhere. In the US, there's a lot of choices of yogurt with probiotic culture and I can find one that is not sweet, but here in Cebu, I can only find the drink Yakult or Nestle and they're both sweet. I force myself to swallow it because I need the bacteria to clean my gut, but now, I can make my own yogurt unsweetened.

It's very simple. Pour the yogurt starter powder in the small jar with water (in my case, I will be using coconut liquid)then place the jar inside the jug with hot water. Leave it there 8-12 hours or until it's set.

I was at the farm all day yesterday so I wasn't able to make the yogurt til last night. I just woke up, it's 5 a.m now and here's my fresh yogurt.It's perfect and I can adjust the sweetness by just topping it with mangoes or papayas.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Virgin.....I love the word

The land I have in Camotes island has over 100 coconut trees; it's not too little to just forget and not a lot to be financially profitable, so I am trying to think of the best way to use the coconuts. My caretaker knows of only one thing to do: dry the meat and sell it as "copras." So I researched on coconut oil making for personal use. Whenever I can, I like to use coconut milk in cooking and baking but the oil will keep longer than the milk. Lately, I tried making oil using heat-- as how my mom did it. It's a long process in the stove, but I remember my mom making it often because my dad used it for every ailment he had. We always had a bottle in the house and he made sure he didn't run out; thus my mom was always making them. My dad kept one bottle infused with ginger and garlic and it was a handy liniment for his arthritis. After researching on the internet and talking to some people, I found out that I can extract the oil without heat.

So yesterday I started making virgin coconut oil---virgin, meaning no heat. Here's how it looks.

You leave it out at room temperature for 2-3 days. On day 1, this is how it looked already because it was pretty warm as I didn't have my airconditioner running. The protein already separating to the top.
And this is day 2. The top part are the proteins rising up and the middle one is the oil. If I had a yogurt maker and probiotic powder, I could make the bottom one into yogurt, which I think would be wonderful tasting because I tasted the oil just now and it is so flavorful.Now, I can't wait to get back to the US, so I can buy a yogurt maker. Here's the harvested oil, the virgin you'd want to keep around.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cats are smart and dogs are....

Men. I found someone who finally has made my heart pitter patter. I let him play me for a fool and I spend money on him like I am the only heir of Carlos Slim. Yup. I am totally taken and fooled by my cat.

Do you know why there are more cat owners in the world than there are dog owners? Simple. Cats know how to play the "not always available" game and humans are intrigued by mystery and challenged by pursuit. When my cat wants something, he'll rub his face and body around my legs or sit on his haunches while looking at me with those eyes that says: 'I wuv you, am nothing without you." The appeal works. My need to feel needed is filled, so I open the not cheap box of Whiskas. He smells it, won't even taste it, then looks at me with that hurt mooneyes. The tail wiggle suddenly stops: "I wuv the canned one, you know that." I say in my mind: "you're a cat, eat the damn thing." He threatens to leave. I give in and open the can that costs more than a cup of Starbucks coffee here in the Philippines; the same coffee that I've convinced myself not to drink because it's just "too ridiculously expensive." He gobbles it up. My heart throbs because he loves my offering, so I want to hug him. Or better yet, I want him to hug me. He won't, he leaves. "You can rub my belly when I am ready." He warns me as he walks away.

Having this cat have taught me so many things. For one, I've learned that I prefer cats over dogs or human kids. With dogs, there's no excitement; they're never unavailable and they do what you tell them to do.... even without a dog bone. And kids? They'll do what you tell them to do--but only if you give them money. And they have parents. Who will teach them to remind you of their birthday and their birthday gift. And the worse is yet to come when they learn how to count.

Another lesson cats have taught me which I find very useful; if we women wants to raise our level of desirability with men, we need to be a copycat. We need to master over the temptation of being "always available." We need to hiss more and purr less. Let's treat men to the thrill of the pursuit. And the agony of the catch.
And men, I have no advise for you except to say, to remain as you are. Like dogs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I can tell I'm Filipino because....

I pull the power cord from the outlet after each and every use; tv, electric fan, electric stove, etc. I use a basin to save water when washing my dishes and every time I meet someone I know on the street, my greeting is the standard: "Where are you going?" Yup. Typical. Nosy.

Anyway, I need to introduce you to my new crew. Here's Ace. Eight years ago, when my husband Don was still alive, Aces' mother was our housekeeper, but a week after Don died, I let her go because I was coming back to the US. She told me she was pregnant--father unknown. I gave her money for her delivery and this is who came out. When Ace was barely 2 years-old he was given to some distant relative because his mother was feeding only on cigarettes and Tanduay rhum. Ace grew up with that relative until 2 months ago, when he was returned to his mother because he was giving kids in school black eyes every chance he gets. And the school principal got tired of him visiting her every week.

He hangs around my crib during the day and I feed him and train him to learn to work, but he's hard on my throat; he doesn't respond to soft calls, he relates only to screaming calls, so I pass him on to work with Santino at my friend Tom's house. Him and Santino needs the firmness of a father figure, and plus, Tom and his wife pays them. I teach them to budget their money for their personal use like toothpaste and laundry detergent, which I am not subsidizing anymore.

This other boy is Nognog; you've seen him in my previous post. Father unknown, mother, lazy. He doesn't like to wear pants or shorts. When I take him to church, he grabs what he can find and wears them, then hurries home to take them off. Yesterday, while we were in the yard planting sweet corn, he rushed past me and told me he was going home to pee, then less than a minute later, he was back. "You've gone home and peed already?" "I peed but didn't go home, I just ran and kept peeing. So am done now." I wish my life is as simple as his.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I went to the woods because......

I criss-cross the island now, like I am just going to the market. I find that I love the boat ride after all. Well, with all the men, women and children polluting the city with their cigarette, I think migrating to the mountain isn't such a bad idea. So today I went to discuss with my caretaker where I should build my hut in the property.

We're going up and passing by my neighbors hut. I am way behind. Note the bolo on his side, he's getting me one next week.

We're now in my property but I'm still way behind because I thought I was going to die from exhaustion. Pepe, my land caretaker said: "you need to live here in the mountain so your bones won't get brittle." Yeah, right. You see the guy below in black? He's the fisherman who use my outrigger and he gives me half of however much fish he catches, he also is the motorbike driver to pick me up from the pier..... and the guy to carry my backpack so I can take another step to follow Pepe.
I made it. And from where I'm standing to take this picture, I think this is where my hut will stand, where I can ponder the ocean view and live deliberately like Thoreau.

If only you can see me get off the boat and catch a jeepney lugging a sack full of these, you'd think I'm an old farmer's hand delivering produce to the city.

Monday, February 06, 2012

What tsunami?

Yesterday I left the house at 4 a.m to catch the boat going to Camotes to visit my piece of dirt there. I was coming back on the same day so I didn't bring anything but enough money for food and transportation. When I went to the port to come home, the boats were not allowed to leave because of the "tsunami alert". I know the sky was gloomy, but what are you talking about a tsunami? "You don't know there's an earthquake in all 4 islands?" Said the ticket lady. I started to panic. I worried about having to stay for the night because I didn't bring enough money. I counted my bills and some change and I barely had enough to pay for a fleabag hotel. I found one for 650 pesos, a pension house (about 15 usd). I pleaded with the clerk telling him that I needed a discount or I won't have money left to buy a boat ticket and I could not go home, unless I can walk on water. He agreed to let me have it for 500 pesos. I have to cover the bed with the blanket because it was too rough and itchy.

Scrimping on my pennies, dinner wasn't so bad.
The brother of my caretaker of my land convinced me to buy him an outrigger so he can fish and sell them and I can have the kind of fish I like. I thought it's a swell idea considering he has 8 kids to feed. I told him to stay out in the sea and stop making little people.
We're going down to the mangroves to look at "my" outrigger.

And here she is.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

It's all in the training

We are home and recuperating; me and my "socialite" street cat. So I am totally in the zone again with him and my street kids. I have a new trainee. His mother has 4 kids from 4 different unknown fathers. She's never home so he bums off food from the relatives and neighbors who are just as poor if not poorer. Their parents use firewood to cook,(if they cook) yet these kids are not trained to work so they don't even know how to build a fire. We cooked cassava and they're proud that they cooked it themselves.

Gathered their own firewood.

Their efforts pays off; now they can eat.
Three hundred dollars in his medical bills, and I could not convince him to not go back to the 'hood. I guess it's me who needs the training.