Sunday, December 30, 2007

Going home to Lipa

My mom was quite insistent on us making the trip...she must've reminded me twice daily for a week. This was an important homecoming for her: her only female cousin on her mother's side was home from Mississauga, Ontario and celebrating her 73rd birthday. So we had to take this trip.

Tita came along of course, she's family after all. But we left Dad so he can attend to his uncle's birthday celebration later that night.

The trip started out languidly, as I had objected to leaving the house at 8AM. The heat had built up in the house so stepping out of the shower was like getting in a sauna. Dressing up was no fun as I had to change shirts twice just to mop up all the sweat.

We drove off at around 10 AM - making for a comfortable 2 hour road trip to Lipa. Traffic was light all the way until Nichols SLEX then the crawl until the Bicutan exit. We picked up a chocolate cake and gased up at Shell Magallanes beforehand though (Note: that chocolate cake is a steal at around P300). I had forgotten about the lifting of the truck ban so we had the behemoths as traveling companions all the way to Calamba.

Of course, any drive to Lipa with my mom and aunt automatically qualifies it as a pilgrimage so ingress-venue-egress rosaries are required. So we started the first one at the Southwoods exit and ended near the Makiling Residence Center in Bgy. Tulo (if we managed to have Sexmoan changed to Sasmuan, couldn't we do the same for Bgy. Tulo? Just thinking). We drove right into the Carmelite convent for the second rosary but left the last for the drive home.

We passed our Tita's house but it was empty. My mom called my aunt's daughter-in-law: what do you know, the venue is in the municipality of Mataas na Kahoy. My late uncle was from the town and inherited the family manse. And this was where the family was gathered.

I have never been to Mataas Na Kahoy (MNK, for short) so it was an adventure. I was instructed to drive along the National Highway towards Batangas City then hang a right after Fernando Air Base. Then a left at the first intersection right after the PNP checkpoint then a right right before a welcome arch.

The party was well under way. Now understand that this was a party for a 73 year old so there wasn't (much) booze or a garage band or a DI. It was a proper lunch, catered by family members, with certain food items serving specific cultural purposes. Pancit or local noodles is a fixture as it signifies long life. Lechon is another must-have as it denotes the host's stature. Most of everything else complements the two like the fresh cantaloupe and watermelon slices for dessert. The fresh lumpia and macaroni salad were on their way to bad in the heat though.

The canvas tent managed to block of the sun but couldn't do much about the heat. But a stiff breeze would steal through once in a while, briefly cutting through the humidity.

We were impressed upon to repair immediately to the second floor sala as the heat was making itself felt on the elders. Typical of old houses, screened windows with sliding shutters surrounded the room. Wooden cutouts decorated the eaves, allowing for better air circulation throughout the house. And the all living spaces are on the upper floors. The change was felt immediately: a cooling breeze was blowing through. It was a natural airconditioner and it dried us all up quickly.

True to form: dessert was laid out in the dining area. As if lechon, lumpia, pancit, deep-fried breaded fish, meatballs, fried chicken and rice weren't filling enough, they had ube cake, black forest cake, ripe mangoes and homemade chocolate muffins. I opted for the latter since Ate Joy made them by hand. It was your basic cupcake recipe but topped with gooey chocolate with the consistency of honey. I don't know what she put into it but it was pretty good; I think she mixed in some cinnamon powder into the dough. And nothing complements sugar better than coffee.

My mom and aunts spent the rest of the afternoon updating themselves on each other's lives and then some while I napped in the sala. A great way to spend a lazy weekend.

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