Friday, December 30, 2016

My Nanang Pina

Nanang Pina is my late fraternal grandmother.  We lived with her at her house by the Malabon River till I was in the fifth grade. She lived downstairs while my family lived upstairs.  I remember eating dinner with her once in a while in the long dining table with a glass top that could sit 12 or more people. It was massive. I remember her sitting at the end of the table, not the head position but close to it.  I would sit beside her while she told me stories which I enjoyed listening to. I still remember her chuckle and those gleaming eyes behind the rimmed glasses as she told some hilarious ones in her sometimes sarcastic way. She also loved to put both legs up on the chair while she ate, a habit she carried also when she sat at the easy chair by the entrance of the house while she rolled strings into balls.  The strings would be used to keep bottles of fish sauce together for people to buy when they dropped by at the factory she and her children owned.

Actually I do not remember any of the stories now that she told me but I have heard tales about her life from others.  My favorite is how she and two other friends shared one balut, a Filipino delicacy famous all over the world as one of the weirdest that one could be dared to eat.  This is not for the fainthearted so skip the rest of the paragraph if you are. This delicacy is an unhatched egg embryo still in the shell. They are cooked first by boiling them. Inside are the fluid, the yolk, the hard white protein part and the semblance of the chick itself. If you eat this all to yourself you first crack the tip carefully, add a little salt through the hole and slurp the fluid. Then you break it open a bit at a time and eat the yolk and the chick parts in the order you prefer. Some eat the hard protein part but I don't.  Story goes, my grandmother and two other ladies who sold fish with her would share one balut with one eating the yolk, the other the white part and the other the almost developed chick part.   No parts as a result were wasted.

That is typical of my Nanang.  She was very frugal even when she had gotten rich when she discovered that one could obtain a delicious amber color fish sauce from the anchovies that were stored in the banga or earthen jars that were in their backyard.  The anchovies were small fishes that were not sold from the fish sale of that day.  I have heard of an anecdote that was told that the supernatant juice one day splattered from the salted anchovies and she tasted the wonderful flavor of the juice. This made her think of bottling what would be patis or fish sauce that we know today. I have read accounts in various media crediting her for discovering this very popular condiment found in almost all Filipino households. This sauce is now popular with foodies even in the western part of the world in their cooking.

My Nanang was ahead of her times not only in making serendipitous discoveries but also when it came to conserving natural resources and caring for them. I remember something vividly which she said while washing her hand using the rainwater running from the extra faucet built to conserve water. She looked into the window from where the faucet was and gazing into the river she said, "One of these days it (the water) will be all gone." I remember listening in awe even as a child at her wisdom and how she said it with that serious prophetic tone.

Of all the memories I have of my Nanang, this scene by that faucet is what I remember the best.  She was proactive to solve what she thought would be a problem. I actually saw the factory's plumber, Mang Moises, constructing a huge vat to hold the rainwater and the necessary plumbing to deliver it to that little faucet by the window where I witnessed my first lesson for respect and conserving nature's resources. I did not know then what motivated my Nanang when I watched the plumbing being constructed nor did I understand fully its significance until talks of climate change and water pollution were discussed when I grew up as an adult.

I am now a grandmother to two very young children. I hope I can pass some nuggets of wisdom to them like my Nanang did. I hope they will not remember just those no, no words I try my best to avoid saying but something more reverent and profound.

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