austerity measures

this is the poorest that i’ve been in the last 4 christmases. even while i was a law student, i worked at the college so i could earn an extra buck so i wouldn’t have to ask my mom for anything except to expect her culinary talents to be demonstrated each day that i would eat at home. during the last three decembers, i wasn’t niggardly in asking my mom what she’d want, and it wasn’t with much trepidation that i went out to buy it, or gave her the money so she could get it herself without my intrusion. always, she never asked for anything for herself, but something for the house, for everyone. in those years when i could afford to be generous, i had upgraded a few appliances and some house furniture. but this year, with no bonuses to expect, i am only able to offer more of my time.

earlier today, while my mom led an army of assistants to mount a simple noche buena which pretty much reflected the general state of things in the country, the house was filled with the clanking of pots and pans, and the silent buzz of instructions passed to a set of industrious hands. i am no good in the kitchen, and so i was of little help. in spite of the uncharacteristic thrift, the modest feast that my mom and her assistants prepared was no less rich in taste. trust my mom’s deftness at the kitchen to produce memorable masterpieces even when not all the ingredients and tools are available.

as has been the case since my mom pushed 60, we have our christmas eve feast a little earlier than the traditional midnight. she’s always been an extremely involved drill sergeant in preparing the noche buena, and by the time we’re ready to eat, she is so drained of energy, she just can’t keep awake till midnight. so this year, we broke tradition again and ate just before 10pm. i asked about the other concoctions which were prepared earlier, and i learned that more have been set aside for christmas breakfast, and christmas lunch. a whole cauldron of pancit was given out to some neighbors. my mom is just all too willing to share her blessings, even when she herself has so little of it. i must admit i am not as generous as her, most of the time.

being of little use to the preparations, i busied myself with cleaning my room. it has been a maze of dust and chaos for a very long time now, and i’ve started to be so disgusted at the pigsty where i sleep. when i finished, i told my mom about my accomplishment, and she said, “at last.” there remain a few things to be done, but at least i’ve cleared the floor. i’m always surprised at the amount of trash i take out whenever i conduct my quarterly clean-ups. i am hesitant to throw anything away, and for that reason, i’ve collected a lot of useless things in my shelves and under my table. i’ve decided, finally, to stuff most of these things in a garbage bag. but my clean-ups also allow me to travel back in time. i would end up reading early drafts of some poems i’ve composed, notes people have written to me, old pictures, and many other things that remind me of things past.

i actually want to write something about this whole activity of cleaning my room, because i end up discovering quite a lot about myself, how my mind functioned when i was less concerned with the more primordial needs of the human person.

right now, i’ve just finished packing a few things into my backpack. later tonight, i am leaving for sagada to embark on what my good friend jay j describes as an “epic” hike. we had our preclimb yesterday at pier 1 in timog, and i am a little excited about the whole idea. it’s never been done before, so i guess either we’ll make mountaineering history, or end up as epics ourselves. the idea really, is to hike from sagada, mountain province to candon, ilocos sur, through tirad pass, perhaps one of the most scenic trails in the country. let’s hope it does not rain.