Food · Memories · Personal · Travel

A (Food) Trip Down Memory Lane

When you love something with blinding passion, you would loathe the day it would be taken away from you.

That is especially true when, just like in my case, it is stolen by family and friends.  The people I trusted were apparently filthy thieves, robbing away the thing that I love the most.

They steal my food!

Some of them are hungry ninjas, who check if the coast is clear before zeroing in on their targets: the refrigerator, where I keep my leftover pizza. They have mastered the art of not getting caught and feigning innocence.

Some are shameless swindlers who commit the crime right in front of my face. The moment the waiter comes to take our order, the deception begins.

While I order food for myself, the thieves will say he or she is “not hungry”, and will just order water. But when the food arrives, they will distract me with an amusing chat, and before I know it, only half of my order remains!

Oh, you thought when I said “tara, kain (let’s eat)”, that was a serious invitation? I was just following the Filipino custom of politely offering food when someone catches me eating.

Get your own food. What’s mine is mine.

Food is a personal matter. I believe what makes it so are the memories associated with it. The exact same food may taste different to you and I, not just due to preferences, but because of memories.

For example, no matter how many types of food we are able to taste in our lifetimes, home-cooked meals will always have a special place in our hearts.

For me, sinigang cooked in our home will always be the best. Sinigang is a Filipino stew which consists of pork, vegetables, and tamarind.

The mention of sinigang evokes memories of sitting with one foot up the chair, temples dripping with sweat as one savors a bowlful of effort and thoughtfulness.

Home is where pork is tenderized for hours, and soup is made extra sour– sinigang cooked just the way I like it.

In college, I became an exchange student in South Korea for almost a year, which means no home-cooked meals for some time. The dishes I remember from that year are not the most sophisticated ones, but those filled with memories.

Our favorite midnight snack was Korean Fried Chicken with its endless flavor variations:  pizza chicken, soy chicken, spicy chicken, spring onion chicken, and so much more!

Fried chicken is celebratory food, whether enjoyed in Korea at 4 o’clock am while playing with board games, or home-cooked in the Philippines and eaten with dollops of banana ketchup.  No occasion needed; being together is reason enough to celebrate!

Another food I remember was Chicken Mayo, served in our school cafeteria. Chicken Mayo consists of chopped chicken nuggets, shredded dried seaweed, mayonnaise, and special sauce, topped on rice— basically deconstructed rice balls, simple ingredients who would have thought would go together so well?

Not exactly gourmet and not even a distinctly Korean cuisine, I like it so much because it’s reminiscent of the food concoctions my sister and I used to make at home when we were young.

My sister and I pretended to have our very own cooking show, acting in front of the camera as we demonstrate how to prepare a dish we invented.

On our menu: corn chips with jelly, sweet potato with crackers and cheese spread. Like chicken mayo, the combination doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it tasted good— or at least, we are having too much fun to double check if it truly does!

Finally, my favorite Korean sweet treat, hotteok (sweet pancakes with brown sugar filling). For me, the hotteok from a particular stall in Insadong is the best.

Served piping-hot, with generous filling and just the right fluff, they are the chewiest hotteoks I have ever tasted. Definitely worth scalding your palate for!

I have eaten that particular Hotteok in Insadong thrice, and all were good moments.

First, on a fieldtrip to Seoul.

We were staying in Korea for just a few weeks by then. A bite of hotteok was a surprise, a new type of sweetness I didn’t know was possible. A taste of wonder, a whiff of newly-opened suitcases and flowers that bloomed after a long winter.

Second, with my sister and her now husband, as they visited me in Korea.

By this time I had been in Korea for several months already. The hotteok tasted of finding solace in both the good and the bad.

Third, on a solo trip in Seoul a few days before our flight back home.

Longing for both the place I will soon leave and a home I haven’t seen in a long time, hotteok has been a sweet, warm comfort as I deal with bittersweet feelings. The hotteok was made exactly the way I like it, as if it was made just for me. As if it was made at home.

Then that’s when it hit me: Korea is now also my home.

Isn’t it fascinating? One goes out to explore what lies beyond the home, but in the end, finds home in every place, before even attempting to search for it.

There is no such thing as home away from home, because through food, anywhere in the world can be a home.

Because now I enjoy food not just through myself, but through the people I eat it with.

Food can be enjoyed alone, but food is best shared. Because anywhere you can enjoy food with the people you love can be home.

Home is not minding if someone ate your food in the refrigerator, because that person may be hungry and too tired to cook something for herself.

Home is ordering a bit extra because perhaps, the friend just did not have money to buy her own.

When I say “tara kain”, I mean it. What’s mine is yours. We’re home.

Tara, kain!


Father’s Day 2017 Message

Father’s day was more than a week ago, but let me belatedly share with you my message for my father, which I posted on my fb timeline.

Since my parents got into facebook, they look forward to lengthy messages on special occassions. As a dutiful daughter, I am willing to oblige. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to show appreciation, right? I think people should be generous with kind words. It’s one of the easiest ways to spread happiness and love!

Just for a bit of context, my father is an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). Because he works abroad, we only get to see him a maximum total of two months per year. It’s quite sad, but we are actually luckier than some, who has to wait years before they see their loved ones again.

Below is my message for my dad:

My dad’s luggage is made of magic. No matter how packed it is, there will always, always be room for more pasalubong requests. Cup noodles? Rice crackers? Chocolates? A bag? Feeding bottles? More cup noodles with bulkier packaging? They all go in.

Expandable yet sturdy, fickle yet reliable, the luggage takes after its owner’s heart. ❤

So don’t worry dad. They do say I am so much like you, looks, gestures, quirks, and all. I also aspire to have a heart as big as yours. So even if I now have a boyfriend, and no matter what happens in the future, you will always have a place in my heart solely reserved for dads- immovable and impenetrable.

To the captain of our ship; thank you for steering our lives to greater shores. I’ve lost count of how many father’s day celebrations you had to miss due to the nature of your work. Although you may not be present most of the time, you never stopped being a dad for us.

Happy father’s day daddy! Have a good one!!! 😀


It has been 4 years already?!

Only recently was I able to put down my 2013 exchange student experience into words. I wrote them here and here.

4 years. It took me that much time to write about it- and I’m just getting started. Even if I highly believe in the magic of words, some experiences just takes time to be processed, more than others.  Especially something with life-changing magnitude such as this.

4 years. The length of time needed to finish most college degrees. The length of time for a baby to learn crucial life skills such as walking, talking, eating solid food, and studying basic academic concepts. The length of time that may enable so many changes.

Even with the awareness that many things will inevitably change in this long time, I still find myself surprised every now and then.

Recently, while I was browsing through my Facebook feed, I read a status of one of our American dorm managers in my former dormitory in Cheonan. They are now moving back to United States, more than 8 years since they first moved to South Korea.

I clicked “Like”, but shock is my real reaction. I don’t know why, but I always kind of expected them to stay there ’til they grow old.

Not because we are close enough for me to know of their life plans. It’s because when people are a huge part of our memories, sometimes we expect them to remain the same- forever.

With this, I recall comments from my relatives whom I haven’t seen in a long time, things such as, “Wow, you’re all grown up!”, “You’re so tall now!”, etc.

Before, I want to roll my eyes and say, “Of course I’ve changed! You haven’t seen me in YEARS!”

But now, I understand them more.

My special memories are carefully preserved in a corner of my mind. The places I’ve been and the people I met there will always be the same.

Of course, this cannot be true. Now, most foreigner friends returned to their country of origin. Most Korean friends have graduated for college. Some are even married and have their first child.

Even I had changed a lot. I have graduated from school and had my first job. I found an amazing guy who later became my boyfriend. I now wear red lipstick everyday.

The first few months I came home from Korea, my bones ached from the heaviness of nostalgia. Longing for the surprises that later became my comforts. But as news of changes reached me bit by bit, I realized it’s the nature of everything to change. And it’s an inevitable, necessary, and even amazing thing.

Time flies- and we should use its wings to take us to greater heights.