I was born and bred in a fish pond. My father had always been a caretaker of such properties across the country, which by far the only decent job he was able to hold being an unschooled wandering gypsy.

Living in such place(s) had advantages and disadvantages (like living anywhere else I guess. Just don’t ask me because I can’t compare) but we made do. What choice did we have?

Battling typhoon after typhoon when you live in an open space cheek by jowl with the sea is by no means a joke I can tell you. Especially when your livelihood depends on the weather and whatever force(s) of nature decided to come and visit you. A transistor radio was my father’s most cherished possession for obvious reasons. I remember laying batteries next to each other under the blazing sun to prolong/re-enforced its capacity. I had experienced being in a shack when a Tsunami cleared it away clean as if nothing had been there, or waking up in the pouring rain because some storm split our cottage in half. Things like that.

Isolation, in my eyes, is the hardest cross to bear when someone inhabits a space in the middle of nowhere. Primarily for my mother who came from a well-to-do family and was a very sociable person. To find herself saddled with six very young children whom she had to attend to and educate with meager resources must have been quite a  trial for her. 

To us siblings, isolation means growing up not being socially adept. You see, when one is only dealing with one’s immediate family, one doesn’t have to lie and deceive or conform to social rules. The direct result of that upbringing is a bunch of adults who are brutally honest.

 There were fond memories as well, particularly during my childhood when exploring was my main preoccupation and oh, boy there were lots of corners a child could explore in aforesaid settings. But the joint activity we all enjoyed was harvesting the bounty the place had to offer, any time we feel like. I remember watching shrimps’ eyes glow in the dark when my father scooped them with a net for supper or shrieking with joy when the fish jumps happily every time my father piped in a fresh supply of salt water.  If the boredom strikes, we could always take our fishing poles and try to catch fish the hard way while our feet dangling in the water, singing on the top of our lungs.  Coaxing crabs out of their hiding holes could be a lot of fun too if one is careful enough not to get bitten. I still miss that simple (way of) life.

Being feed by endless supply of seafood could make someone easily conclude that my favorite meal would be anything that contains any of these delicacies, and that is mainly true; but__ and it is a big but 🙂 they are not the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted me and has deep roots in my memory. Hold your breath, here it is… pork chops (or any type of meat but in particular pork chops) are the one I (we, siblings) associated all those happy feelings.

We could not afford to buy meat during those times. Seafood was there for the taking, but meat we eat only on Sundays. My father was paid weekly, and my mother always shopped after the mass, bringing our supply for the whole week; and pork chops were always on the list together with ripe mangoes. Sunday was the only day we were allowed to have desserts, and it was always ripe mangoes.  

I remember bargaining at the school’s Christmas parties with fellow students and teachers, asking if they want to exchange their meat for crabs or anything seafood; so desperate I was.

As a young adult, I was a bona fide carnivorous and continued to be one until about fifteen years ago when I decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle. In the first years of my conversion, I banned meat altogether. Only lately, it finds its way back in my menu once in a while. I will still not consume them daily but every time I sit at the table and I have pork chops before me, the meal becomes a feast. It never failed to bring back sweet (and not sweet) memories, sights, smell, sounds included…