They’ve got it all wrong. You see, most Philippine travel blogs (not the ones written by rich balikbayans talking about their latest jaunt to the Mall of Asia or the ones who can afford to stay at Boracay Station 1 away from the unwashed masses at Station 3. Yes…that’s bitterness in my voice) romanticize, or at least politely edit, what one experiences in the Filipino countryside: the fresh breeze, the friendly farmers, the soft chirping of grasshoppers as you softly rock in a hammock…paradise, thy name is Rural Philippines.
And I can’t blame ’em. Every picture I took on our long-standing tradition of visiting my dad’s family farm in Antique was idyllic; worthy of the best travel mags. But they don’t mention:
– the overly cramped van you squeeze yourself into, nor the suicidal driver who insists on making the treacherous turns atop the mountain at breakneck speeds.
– the humidity that clings to your shirt and leaves you a sweaty, lethargic mess. And no…you don’t get to use an air conditioner.
– the mosquitos that buzz in your ear, always nearby, reducing you to a shifty-eyed, paranoid, maniac forcibly twitching every so often to keep the little buggers away.
– the lack of a mattress, leaving your back sore from lying on a hard wooden plank covered with a straw mat.
– the unpaved, muddy roads that can only be traversed by the hardiest of tsinelases (flip flops).
– the frequent power outages that can last a day.
But c’est la vie as they say. And while my sweat ran thick, blood runs thicker and when the family calls via multiple feasts and a roast lechon baboy (roast pork), familial piety trumps all. So for several meals straight we ate only the freshest the land and sea could offer. Blue marlin and yellowfin tuna whose flesh was almost as plump and firm as a chicken’s, tripe that crunched without so much as a limp tendril, vegetables who I swear someone must’ve Photoshopped the most vivid colors on, and of course, only the crispiest of pork skin, roasted over a makeshift spit made of a dismantled washing machine (I wish I was making that up).
Still…the moments in between were taxing. The oppressive humidity and constant mosquito attacks were driving me mad. And so to switch my mind off and properly enjoy the impending New Year’s Eve celebration, I turned to the age-old remedy: alcohol. Weather like this reminded of those hot summer days in Minnesota, sipping mojitos on a pub’s patio. I tried finding ingredients for the Caipirinha, the Brazilian counterpart of the mojito that uses Cachaca, a Brazilian white rum, sans mint. I wanted to make a version pang uma (in my dad’s dialect of Kinaray-a: “for the farmland”).
Unfortunately (not much of a surprise really), many of the ingredients were missing and I had to improvise using the local calamansi (think of it as a Filipino lime but much more intense) and Tanduay Rhum (yes…it’s spelled with an “h”). After waiting hours for someone to buy ice from the store and chop it up (ice comes frozen in a long plastic bag and thus must be chipped off), I finally mixed myself a glass. I swear one sip of that cold, cold drink had me forgetting that bugs the size of my thumb were waiting to suck the living soul out of me. It’s not the original, but it’d make your Tito Boy proud. And as is typical of Filipino gatherings, I mixed one for my dad, then my aunt(s), then the already tipsy uncle(s), all the way up to my lola, who promptly chugged the whole thing unceremoniously.
I guess at the end of the day, I’m a little too harsh on the pieces describing the peaceful countryside. Sure…they leave out the realities of roughing it in the countryside out…but in its pristine romaticism, the rural Philippines described by many is also one of chaotic enjoyment. Full of too-nosy relatives, obnoxious uncles who’ve had one too many beers, and the wanton disregard for clothing that doesn’t resemble tattered shorts and flip flops. It’s definitely not paradise…but it certainly is an experience.
(*no exact measurements took place in the making of these drinks…who’s got the time for that?! Play with the proportions to your taste.)
2 shots worth of white rum (we used Tanduay White).
1.5 tbsps. white sugar.
~2 calamansi (1/2 a lime for those not in the Motherland).
1/4 a lemon (opt.).
Soda water (the local supermarket ran out so I used tonic water).
Plenty of ice.
1) Muddle the citrus fruits in the bottom of a glass. We used cups of all shapes and sizes so I won’t bother telling you whether you should be using a Collins glass or a champagne flute.
2) Toss in the sugar and stir a bit.
3) Dump as much as ice as you can in and pour the alcohol after. It should come up to about 1/3 of the way up.
4) Pour in the soda water.
5) Stir. Sip/slurp/chug/quaff!