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I created this page because Marag is always been very dear and close to my heart.
Though we only live in this barrio for a few years, I feel that this place was the ideal setting for growing up, having adventures, making friends, learning at a quaint school of weird and wonderful stuff, communing with nature and having a solid family background.
The greatest and some of the happiest moments in my life was being a tomboyish daughter of farm-owning parents. I loved planting rice, I loved running around dikes encouraged to shout at loud as I can to frighten the maya birds voraciously feasting on fast ripening palays. I loved watching my parents dancing cheek to cheek to their team tune of Fascination by Nat King Cole under the shade of a Narra tree.
I loved following our carabao. Siccubing, going round and round as it pulls the lever to a complicated and yet logical manual machine that would squeeze every last drop of juice from a sugar cane to make and cook into tagapulot or/and basi (I love the well-fermented basi that turns into vinegar. I could almost taste the outer flesh of a palale filled with slightly salty vinegar. I love the malubag. I miss paku and getting them along woods and forest.
What I missed most about Marag though were the friends and relatives we left behind. Where are they now?
As I mentioned in my earlier blog (O (Old) Christmas Tree) about Christmas decorations and how we get them from storage in our loft/attics etc at the beginning of each Christmas season. We check the plugs and fuses of our old Christmas lights and see how many bulbs still work. I think the oldest lights I have are over 40 years old and we drape them around our 45-year-old Christmas tree I had when growing up.
Last Christmas when we were in the Philippines visiting our family, we saw amazing Christmas decorations and lights almost everywhere. We bought back from halfway around the globe, one particular Christmas decoration which is popular in the Philippines. It is called a paról.
A paról is a star-shaped or star patterned lantern, the shape representing the Star of Bethlehem that guided The Three Kings to the birthplace and manger of Jesus. A paról can come in various sizes and designs/patterns as long as it is a five-pointed star shape and can be illuminated. They are traditionally made out bamboo and paper. Nowadays they can be constructed from materials such as plastic, glass, thick strong polythene & light metal strips They are illuminated by candles or electric light bulbs. paróls are traditional to Filipinos at Christmas as the Christmas tree is to us. Modern electric/battery powered paróls can produce colourful complex patterns like some of our home Christmas lights.
Back when we were little children in Marag, Philippines, pako became a staple diet. It was in our dinner table at least once a week. We ate a lot of it so much that we kids 🙂 should have grown into goats 🙂 or hated it after a while. But I have always a vibrant and positive memory of pako.
Gathering pako is an adventure for us youngster. We had to roam a dense growth of greens at the mouth of a forest and try to pick the young furling sprouts of pako. Thank goodness they grow profusely together and therefore picking them one by one was not much of a chore.
Pako can be prepared in plenty of ways, it can be blanched and made into a salad, it can be left fresh as it is as a salad as well or cook and added into various kind of inabraw, an Ilocano way of cooking.
Below is another pako salad recipe.
1 large bunch pako (fern)
2 salted eggs or hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tbsp patis (fish sauce)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
sprinkling of salt to taste
Method of Preparation:
prepare the pako by removing any tough stalk.
Bring a large pot of boiling water. Blanch the pako by quickly dipping them into the hot water. Leave for a minute and drain.
Arranged the pako on a serving platter.
Put the tomatoes and onion on top then garnish with the slices of salted eggs.
Make a typical Filipino dressing by mixing the vinegar, fish sauce, black pepper, sugar and a very little salt. Stir it in thoroughly for the granules to dissolve.
I used to be obsessed with this board game when I was a little girl.
For whatever reason my mother used to discourage us playing sungka. She was really adamant that we should not play it. I think I heard her say that it was a game of the dead or something. She made it sound like there was something sinister about it.
But I’ve always had a mind of my own, and the more I was told ‘NO’ the more I had to do it; it was like a red rag to a bull to me, a fascination of the forbidden. 🙂 I was a tad naughty! LOL
Probably that was the reason I loved playing sungka. I used to ask a neighbour, Lagring, who was a year or two younger than me to play sungka. We did not bother with the wooden board; at my instigation we would just dig little holes similar to those in the wooden board on the ground under our mango tree. We would then gather little stones and away we play for what seems like hours. 🙂
My mother always knew what I was up to as I would come home with dirty hands and even dirtier finger nails. And of course those little holes which suddenly appeared all over our backyard! 🙂
In the end, knowing that I would not really listen, she just gave up on her embargo against sungka. Funnily enough as soon as the ban was lifted I moved on to another obsession, Jack’s Stone! 🙂
By the way the photo above was taken at late president Ferdinand Marcos childhood residence in Batac, Ilocos Norte. It seemed President Marcos used to play sungka as well. 🙂
I remember when we were still children, my mother would serve us rice with some viand of vegetables and fish and this recipe of salty tomatoes. I would watch her not bothering with a knife to slice the juicy ripe tomatoes. With dexterity she you would pull a tomato apart with just one hand and it was the loveliest memory of delicious childhood.
I have to say that when I first came to the UK, the tomatoes did not taste like the Philippine tomatoes. They looked the same but the UK ones are bland.
It was some few years later that Sainsburys started selling flavoursome tomatoes. It tasted slightly like the good tomatoes of the Philippines. But why has a tomato has to be flavoursome to taste like the real thing?
Kangkong is a green leafy aquatic vegetable which is rich in vitamins and nutrients.
They have long slender leaves attached to a hollow tubular stem which is crunchy or there is a bite to it. Yummy
They usually grow in anything watery plot, in fields, swamp, lakes, river or even in bogs.
I remember that they grew near a dike in the middle of our rice field when we were still living in Marag.
Kangkong can grow rather vigorously and needed a good trim to prevent them from overpowering the water surface. Good thing they are so edible and delicious.
I remember going into the waist-high water in our field to gather the kangkong sprouts. I almost had a near panic attack after a carabao leech decided to attach itself to my stomach. It took ages to remove it and it seems the more you pull at it the longer its body gets, truly elastic. That still gives me the nightmare to date.
My father did smoke whenever he plowed the field. He would use the burning ember of the cigarette to unhook any pesky leech.
Oops, back to kangkong, they are delicious in sinigang recipes as well as blanched and made into a salad with lots of chopped tomatoes and shallots with a good dash of fish sauce.
The above plant grows profusely in the Philippines, where the photo was taken. It is apparently called punctatum of the croton family.
As a young girl, still living in Marag, my sister and I would go to our neighbours, who grew the plants would willingly let us loose into their garden and getting cuttings. The neighbours were so good to us that they would allow us to turn their once beautiful shrubs hedging in their yards into stringy sorry sight of bald shrubs as if a ravenous swarm of locusts had been. 🙂 🙂 🙂
With our treasure of twigs of beautiful narrow verdant green leaves speckled with golden dust, we would dash home and plant these twigs in our front yard. We would religiously water our new plant for at least a few days and then we forget as by then we moved on to another hobby. Some of the twigs would live and some dry up and shrivelled under the punishing sun.
I must say that they do make a lovely hedge. Their bright leaves have golden dusting and they are just beautiful under the sun, gusty winds or rain and typhoon.