Dried Mangoes and Memories

We were having dinner one night when my mother suddenly talked about the dried mangoes that her great grandmother (Impo Carmen Alba) used to make. Wala daw panama ang mga commercially-prepared dried mangoes ngayon. (There's no contest between the commercially-made dried mangoes and the dried mangoes prepared by her Impo.)

My mother narrated that her Impo would slice the mangoes very thinly and roll and coat each individual piece in sugar and then leave them out in the sun to dry. The mango slices would be put in a "bilao" (a round, flat, tray-like container made of woven native materials) and then the pieces would be turned around every so often. The "bilao" would be lined with banana leaves (dahon ng saging) and the "bilao" would be covered by some sort of net so the flies or other insects can't get to the mango slices.

It would take her Impo several days to prepare the dried mangoes. At night, she would bring the "bilao" in and put it on top of the cloth or sheet covering their bed with posts. My aunts (my mother's older sisters) would then get some of the dried mango pieces and eat them, even before they were ready. So Impo would not notice that some of the mangoes had already been eaten, they would rearrange the mango pieces so the pieces still looked complete.

One time, though, as the sisters were undertaking another dried mango heist, the bilao fell and all the mangoes came tumbling down. Impo then finally discovered what the sisters were doing all along and of course, got angry.

It is interesting to listen to stories from olden days. We learned about Teofilo and his cow, Marcial. Marcial knew how to march and Teofilo could command him to put his left or right leg up. "Front or back?" Marcial would ask -- Just kidding =) How Teofilo could make a sound by banging a can and how his chickens would start to go around the house when he did that. How my mother and her sisters would tie a salagubang (would that be a beetle or a cricket?) to a stick to use as pangati (something that would attract the other salagubangs so they could catch them) and then cook the salagubang as adobo. My mother mentioned that their childhood days were so happy. They would have picnics, her older sisters would weave hats, etc., etc.

I then asked my son: "Do you know why Lola's childhood was so happy?" My son, of course, asks why and so I answered: "It's because they didn't have TV, Xbox, Gameboy, or the computer."

Anyway, to each his own childhood. Somehow though, I get the feeling that the kids of today will not have much to remember when they are older. What about you? What are your childhood memories? Did you have a happy childhood?

[By Angelica Viloria | Tuesday, November 14, 2006]

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