I love Filipino food. It's what I was raised on and nothing else can replace it. Sorry meat and potatoes, it isn't working out. Cooking Filipino food is another story--I don't enjoy it, because it makes me miss my mother and her cooking. A slice of Home I'm afraid of revisiting. Today I'm making Siopao, a steamed bun. The last time I made siopao was three years ago with my sister Thelma and cousin Laura. Unaccustomed to cooking at the high altitudes of Colorado, the buns were too fluffy. They tasted good...
When my mother died, I went through the process of donating her belongings. It was a cold experience in that I was emotionless during the whole process. When I finished, I cried for a long time. Everything had a memory. My mother, a seamstress often asked me for help in making alterations to some of her outfits–it was a team effort. She taught me a lot about taking care of myself.
Her cooking was wonderful. She always made more than enough and we'd all have two or three platefuls. Well, at least I did. I cook my meals with her wok. She taught me how to cook Adobo, Pancit, Lumpia and many more dishes. My favorite of hers was Sinigang, a sour, tamarind soup cooked with fish heads. None of the fancy dishes I've eaten at restaurants compare to it. That's one thing I wish mother taught me--how to de-scale/clean a fish. And she made good tinapa, a smoked fish. My memory could be bad, so it might be milkfish.
Mother kept receipts for places she/we visited. She was sentimental and collected knick knacks. I kept of few of them along with letters from her family and her cookbooks. I opened one of her cookbooks today and found two page markers, left by her.
Mom played lottery games in hopes of hitting it big, that she wouldn't have to work two full-time jobs to support her family. I didn't understand how tired she was everyday...working at Santa Fe gave me a taste of her work schedule. I couldn't do that for twenty years. My siblings and I were young at the time. We didn't have a strong sense of security and I do wish I was more mature then. It all seems too late.
Mom was vibrant when she forgot all her worries and could cook up a storm. She was better at ironing clothes, cooking and multitasking, even though I did it as she taught me. Her work-ethic was amazing. She managed to schedule her life in that everything was taken care of. Matching her finesse is impossible for me.
I miss talking and arguing with my mother. We argued a lot over ridiculous things. At the end, we would hug and say sorry. It was a way for my mother to let off steam. There are times I regret making her cry.
Mom came from poverty (a hut in the jungle), coming to this country in hopes that she could have a good life. It was a bittersweet dream, some parts realized while others ruined.
If only she could have made it through the year. Mom could have been a grandmother spending time with Sakura, travel the world with me, her then fiancé or sisters, cook dinners for her family or start her own business and be taken care of like she took care of us. We all wanted to take care of her but were unable to then.
Today, I'm making Siopao. It may not be the best tasting but I am part of her legacy, living on and remembering her and the lessons she taught me.