Finally, I am enjoying my Sundays in spite of the restrictions that this Kung Flu virus has imposed on the whole world.
For quite a while, I’ve limited my weekends to poolside activities in the house with my personal bubble of friends. After the holidays, it had become quite tedious because I couldn’t get people together at a drop of a hat and had to give them enough time to schedule lunch and swim since most have committed themselves to family time.
A couple of weekends ago, I was accompanied by New Yorker-returnee Chita Reyes to nearby Bago City and we both were amazed with what has been added to the highly successful tourism project called the Bantayan Park. It was quite some time when Clem del Castillo invited me to discover this gem of an idea that would bring people to the banks of the island’s widest river for sunset watching. At that time, they had just started with barely 200 meters of cement railings that bordered the river embankment with a safe place to take in some fresh air. I thought it was quite quaint an idea for lovers and such but never imagined the commercial success it has brought in for the city today.
Tagged as a small park along the river with a nice pathway, it has now become a popular weekend destination for family outings, skateboard enthusiasts, joggers, and diners alike. When we visited, I sort of recoiled at the sight of the number of cars parked in the area. Donning my face mask and face shield, much to my delight, I found that the locals were practicing safe social distancing amidst the roving policemen. There was now a wide, sparklingly clean and tiled walkway dotted by seating blocks where residents exchanged pleasantries and gossip yet kept a safe distance from each other. It was fun people watching as well-behaved children kept to the side of their parents while enjoying their kiddie bikes and colorful balloons being sold by ambulant vendors. Avoiding the close proximity of others was effortless as a network of winding walkways made sure that everyone kept to his personal space as one walked up and down the boulevard.
I had a craving for the signature cheesy beef nachos I tasted there once during the feast of San Juan and I was not disappointed. A wide array of eateries and pop-up food stalls were offering their own version of this popular snack together with the usual street food like chicken inasal, pork barbecue, fishballs and tempura. However, I didn’t find the original corn chips that usually accompanied this savory Mexican dish since they have been substituted by homemade wonton wrappers and the melted cheese topping became more of mayonnaise or cream. But it was just heaven taking in the late afternoon breeze, the local laidback lifestyle, and the Sunday leisure that one expects from an island nation like ours.
Thank God for the liquor ban, there was no smelly beer garden sort of thing and visitors had a restroom that was spic and span despite the trickle of water available to flush the toilets. It was a blessing in disguise actually, because, knowing the Pinoy’s habit of splashing water all over the place, the floor was clean and dry.
As the afternoon sun got ready to set, Chita and I rushed back to the river and, underneath the cool shade of the towering acacia trees, enjoyed the Amorsolo-inspired sunset scenery complete with bancas going out to the mouth of the river for some night fishing. This will be a hard act to follow here in Bacolod since we don’t have a river wide enough as that of Bago City but then, we should make use of our coastal areas to transform them into free, public resting areas that would give our local citizens a nice relief from city life. Now, to find that elusive beachfront near the city center…
This weekend found me having an intimate lunch with my brother Philip as his better half Tina promised to treat me to some rack of lamb. And what a gustatory delight it turned out to be! I finally have a sister-in-law who can cook. And cook she did as Big Bro and I sat down to a tray full of salami and smoked ham, all sorts of cheese including local artisanal Italian cheese from Casa Del Fromaggio. Thank you Isabelle Montelibano-Patron for making that Pepato with Black Pepper a cheese to remember. Having been deprived of fresh cheese for almost a year, I shall make a beeline to your place for some Parmesan cheese á l’Italienne and burrata.
Pretty soon, flushed from the kitchen, Tina emerged with her first course of French onion soup. She took the trouble of making her own beef broth that simmered for hours, topped with a generous slice of Emmental and bread. I could swear it was the most French-y of onion soup I’ve tried for quite awhile. I could even say it beats the best ones I always look for in Paris when winter comes. Well, I’m glad I brought her to only the best Parisian restaurants because she got the precise taste of it. I was already complaining that my tummy couldn’t make space for her rack of lamb, but she served me a slice to taste and I threw caution to the winds as I dove to my second and third servings without even a dab of mint jelly! It was that delicious, believe me. Since she knew I’m on a low-carb sort of diet, she served quinoa taboulé on the side. To top the gourmet meal, Tina brought in the lightest, airiest mango Pavlova which she orders specially from Bob’s and may I say, that took the cake. The rest of the meal went into effortless talk and insightful banter on the local scene. I shall be a regular Sunday guest for lunch at my brother’s place from now on. Nothing beats good food to conquering a man’s heart, I must say. Merci encore, chers Philip et Tina.
My prayer: Lord our God, help us find the path that we may walk with confidence because you are our Father. Banish all thoughts that try to depress us. Let your Spirit drive them away. May our hearts become quiet before you, because you, the Almighty, guide everything for the good of people on earth. Everything will lead to thanksgiving, to your praise and glory. Be with us at all times, day and night. May our hearts always exult afresh, redoing in you, our God and our Savior. Amen.*