12/25/2007
The day before the day after

"Hi Niko!" she started off. "It's two-and-a-half hours before twelve at hindi pa [rin] ako nakakakain ng puto bumbong. Anyway, merry christmas!"

That's when I remembered. That's how Piyar's little struggle for this season went about. It was one ordinary night, with me cramming something in front of the PC, and eventually taking notice of her status message on YM. That's how most of my conversations start anyway - me taking notice of everyone's status messages, unless the person in question is someone I don't usually talk to, or would rather not because of the stories that could stem from it.

Apparently she hasn't had any puto bumbong her entire life. And to think that, at the back of my head, she could've possibly had some already.

When I was younger, I also had a craving for puto bumbong. Why shouldn't I? It's cooked differently, it's only available during the holidays, and it's purple. The disclaimer here is my age - the perception is that anything purple tastes sweet, much like sweet yam, which I eventually got tired of when my youngest brother fell in love with it. I'd always ask my parents to buy me some, and the request was never granted.

Eventually, though, it did happen. By then, I was around eight and have watched enough cooking shows to understand why things work that way in the kitchen. I was already holding, in my hand, two strips of purple flurp smoked to sturdiness, with butter, grated coconut and brown sugar. (Back then I was very much unaware, because I know it isn't really brown sugar. A decade later, it's got a name: muscovado.) I got home, took a fork, opened the banana leaf that contained the puto bumbong. I took a slice, put it in my mouth, and then... nothing.

The problem with expectations is that, when you realize that they aren't up to par with what you think they should be, you get pretty disappointed. The puto bumbong was, well, not sweet. It's buttery and sugary, yes, but the purple color is a mask to something not everybody would've enjoyed. I was let down, basically, especially when you think that, for some reason, the puto bumbong tastes like, well, just that - nothing in particular.

I told Piyar that on one of our many (believe it or not) conversations regarding puto bumbong. I think I took to myself the role of preparing herself for the time when she gets to taste that delicacy, to put it loosely - from its ingredients, to the way it's spelled, to the story I just told you earlier. After two months or so, I got that text message. She still hasn't.

It's actually a bit ironic. At the same time, I was craving for bibingka - not that I haven't had some, because I enjoyed it more weeks after I had puto bumbong for the first time - and was on the verge of having it, because my aunt prepared some for the noche buena. Even more ironic, my cousin was also having a steady craving for puto bumbong throughout the two months before yesterday kicked in, to the point that whenever I was visiting, we had puto bumbong rather than turon. With time it gets tiring; it's a sad thing, considering most of Filipino cuising tastes better with age, like sinigang or adobo.

Maybe it's my sweet tooth why I enjoy bibingka more than puto bumbong, but eventually, I realize that it's more savory, and it feels a bit more personal than, err, purple flurp. It's rice flour mixed up to a batter - I don't know the exact ingredients, because honestly, I haven't seen any cooking show tackle this - with cheese and salted egg on top, cooked until it's slightly burnt, and best eaten while still hot. And, personally, it's better appreciated as you grow older.

It's Christmas day today, and I'm typing this from my uncle's house - yes, that spot in Bethlehem street where Mon surprisingly showed up months ago. Piyar isn't online, and understandably so - everybody goes somewhere on Christmas day, exchanging gifts, stories and notes on the karaoke. I somehow wish I would be able to tell her that, loosely, finally having puto bumbong isn't everything - it won't make you much of a person, and when you've had too much, it gets tiring. The same actually goes to bibingka, but I am biased on that one. To add grated cheese on top, it's better to spend the rest of your days in the company of the ones you're stuck with - the ones you love, the ones you have to love, and the ones you'll hopefully love in the future.

Sometimes our conversations end up discussing our own situations - an inevitable thing since we both claim to have issues, and what better thing to do than to cope with it together? After blank metaphors, slight admissions and a dozen emoticons, we revert to puto bumbong. Funnily, this is a topic I never seem to tire of, as it's probably the only reason why the two of us chat, but eventually it will die when she gets a taste of it. I actually wish she does, eventually. What's a craving for if it's not satisfied, right? But things will pass, people move on, and hopefully they end up stronger than where we started.

I don't know why the two of us always talk about food, though. Must be a bond we share.

And your responses...

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