BEFORE the pressure of work took over and demanded that I report for work everyday, I and four of my friends made it a habit to gather from time to time and eat a home-cooked meal as part of our bonding. We would all go to the boarding house of one friend and combine our resources in order to have a meal we could consider as “bongga”.
Part of the budget would be alloted for a bottle of GSM Blue and a packet of pineapple juice which we would all share as a pre-requisite before confessions of heartaches and boy-troubles (what else is new) from anyone in the group came tumbling out.
Late one night Joyce and I went to Bankerohan market and bought one-and-a-half kilos of tilapia and other stuff we would need and had it stored in my friend’s ref as we waited for the rest of the group. At one o’clock in the morning, we proceeded to Joyce’ boarding house in Toril to prepare our ‘dawn feast’.
We immediately got busy and it was not long before the mouth-watering aroma of grilled tilapia had us licking our lips in anticipation of a satisfying dinner. Tata, one of my friends made a batch of ‘sawsawan’ while I checked the kamote tops salad I made. The plate of ‘sinangag na bulinao’ remained crunchy. I picked two pieces and munched on them.
“Chow time!” I announced as the four of us trooped to the table and took our seats. I dipped a finger in the dish of sawsawan and brought it to my lips. We loaded our plates with the delicious viand and discovered one vital element missing.
“Wa pa ma’y kan-on!” I said. We all looked at one another and then looked in unison at the rice cooker sitting innocently at the corner of the kitchen sink. We realized that in our hunger, nobody remembered to cook rice.
Oh sheeshh… if a restaurant was nearby we surely would have wasted no time and buy a kettleful of cooked rice but aside from being some distance away from the highway, it was 2 a.m. and the whole world was deep in slumber.
There was no one to blame but us so we stood up from the table, measured rice and put the rice cooker to work. We tried to laugh off our stupidity amidst pangs of hunger and consoled ourselves that it won’t take long before we can sit down to a real meal. Suddenly, the lights went out and complete darkness enveloped us.
That means the rice won’t be cooked! I thought in panic. I had missed lunch and dinner the day before and only munched on a couple of ponkan oranges.
Patience… I told myself (easier said than done when you’re seeing stars by the millions and your vision is whirling while imagining delectable dishes of food just out of your reach).
Joyce groped for a gas lamp and lighted it. She transfered the rice on a kettle and put it on the stove. Before long, we were laughing about our misfortunes but it was not over yet.
Suddenly, there was a hissing sound and before we were able to analyze where the noise came from, the flame on the stove went out. Just like that! The gas ran out and we were left hungry in the darkness.
Talk about double misfortune! Out of the blue, I remembered stuffing a big loaf of bread in my bag and decided it just had to do to silence the grumbling of our stomachs. Ever tried eating sinangag na bulinao, kamote tops salad and grilled tilapia with loaf bread? We did, making the loaf bread a (poor) substitute for rice.
We were picking into the last bits of the grilled tilapia and were already satisfied when the lights came back on. Suffice it to say, we had fried rice for breakfast that morning.