ON THE ROAD TO: THE PERFECT YEARS
by Neriza Sarmiento
Way past my deadline... and listening to a “Gift of Songs” given to me as a gift by Dennis Sun in 2006 where he wrote on the cover the following:
“The journey in life may not be easy... The farther you go, the more exciting it becomes. And as we clear the way, we encounter the most amazing gifts that we didn't know were there.”
“This Is The Moment“ is the first in the compilation of songs... ”This is the moment when all I live for becomes one!”
Oh yes! Perhaps the sweetest moment of my life is the wedding of my son, Charlie and his wife, Tomoko. It is one moment that has all the familiar and unfamiliar, the simplicity and elegance, the sweetness and the sadness rolled into one.
In one part of the ceremony, the bride’s mother and I were called to give a piece of the wedding cake to them. Tomoko's mother scooped the strawberry topping and gently gave it to her while she shed a tear of joy. I found out later that it is her favorite because it was also the topping of a cake she had at her grandmother's house as a child. She cried because it brought back those memories and that her grandmother came to the wedding inspite of her illness.
It is said that memories of certain food linger and accummulate in our minds. Studies have shown that our likes and dislikes for food are associated with pleasant or unpleasant memories.
Perhaps no other dish can replace adobo in the hearts and palate of any Pinoy. Adobo is the connection to our beloved Philippines, that in moments of homesickness, we desperately try to follow Lola, Mama or Ate's original Adobo.
My own children like adobo not only for its savory taste but because of a particular family incident. My mother-in-law did not like the pungent odor around the house and said something bad about it. My second son did not like the comment and said to her right away that it was his mom's national dish and if he has to choose between that and natto, he will of course choose adobo. Since then, adobo has been the comfort food in our home that has gone all through our lives keeping the harmony in the family amidst cultural differences.
Comfort food is a term coined for dishes that give us solace and temporary release from stress in our daily life. Even geniuses like the late national artist for theater, Rolando Tinio would rush to the famous Adriatico Restaurant in Manila during his troubled moments for his favorite "spare ribs adobo."
If there is anyone in Japan who can always make us feel the "joys and pleasures" of home-cooked kitchen delights, then there will be no one else but Ms. LORLY CRUZ, administrative Officer of the DOT, Osaka.
Last July, students from the Department of Philippine Studies attended a Tourism Seminar in their office. After Ms. Araceli Soriano's welcome remarks, adobo was served together with daing na bangus, sinigang, pancit, ,guinataan and halu-halo which were all single handedly cooked by Lorly. For her, cooking for even a hundred people is usually a piece if cake.
When she first arrived in Japan, she missed the fiestas and family celebrations so she thought about promoting Philippine tourism through gourmet experiences on special occasions like Christmas and other events. For some years now, she has cooked Tapsilog breakfast for the Filipino Community during Flag raising ceremonies at the Philcongen in Osaka. On several occasions, we were asked to demonstrate Philippine cooking to community centers, women's groups, companies and schools all over Kansai. The responses of participants were enough to make us proud of our exotic cuisine, especially the humble yet irresistable adobo.
Two years ago we started to join the Gourmet and Jazz Festival in Takatsuki. Families with small children queued to buy turron, pancit sotanghon and arroz caldo. The TIA staff headed by Mr. Yanone, Mr. Nishiyama, Belinda, Ms. Fujita, Sally Yamamoto, Cora and many more were on hand to assist Lorly as she wrapped hundreds of turron. Olson provided music on stage including a rendition of the song, Anak.
Autumn being the best season to enjoy seasonal food, Philippine Airlines and the Department of Tourism co-sponsored a Philippine Food Fair from Sept. 24 -Oct 2. Two chefs from Via Mare Restaurant were flown in by PAL: Mr. Radito Dimatera and Mr. Benjamin Zabala. The mood was festive, typically Pinoy Fiesta style complete with a halu-halo station and all kinds of native cakes like sapin-sapin, pichi-pichi and turrones de saba. My co-workers Mr. Imashioya, Mr. Ito, Ms. Yamamoto and Ms. Ozaki could not resist the crispy lechon kawali. A cooking expert, Ms. Tamako Sakamoto wrote in the Daily Yomiuri some years ago about her amazement with lechon and adobo on her visit to the Philippines 25 years ago. The sour and savory braised chicken has become their favorite recipe gave them appetite on hot and humid days here! Osaka Hilton's Food and Beverage Manager, Mr. Guenael Le Berre and FB Group Leader, Mr. Jason Wu were very attentive to the guests at the Food Fair. Jason, who speaks 6 languages and is very familiar with Filipino cuisine mentions adobo as his favorite! That same week a Philippine Business Mission Seminar was held in the same hotel with Mr. Benito Bong Bengzon, Assistant Secretary for International Tourism and Mr. Salazar, PAL country manager, heading the delegation. It was indeed a hectic week for the DOT staff as Ms. Araceli Soriano, Tourism Attaché and Lorly and Kyoko-San shuttling from Osaka to Fukuoka to promote Philippine
tourism believing that the surest way to a tourist’s heart is a journey through his tummy!!!
Year after year, Christmas after Christmas, there is always some kind of an aroma that reminds me of the good old days in the Philippines. I miss my father's embutido and my mother’s arroz valenciana. On New Year's eve, along side the osechi ryori and toshi-koshi soba, I always put adobo at the center of our dinner table as a reminder of how this somehow pungent and savory dish taught me to appreciate life's sour and sweet moments and to be proud of our Pinoy roots.
Alas, and as I finish the last issue of the year, just to remind you all that food has to be enjoyed and appreciated and take care not to over-indulge!!!
And to all you "kindred hearts," let me end by sharing again to you what Dennis wrote:
“May your journey lead you to a better place, where you will understand and learn more about yourself. May your journey lead you to a place where JOY BECOMES A PERMANENT RESIDENT IN YOUR LIFE!!!”