Saturday, April 11, 2009

A good Good Friday

I've always associated Good Friday with the unrelenting heat of summer, somewhat akin to the fires of hell. I remember pabasas in our ancestral home in Larion (20-30 minutes away from Tuguegarao by tricycle), us cousins being powerless against our parents' rules of 'no-swimming-in-the-river-today-BAWAL', so all we were left to do was to sit on the squat staircase leading from the bedrooms to the living areas, and watch the old women wail away about the torments Christ endured, lazily fanning themselves in tempo with their voices and dizzying heat.

As an older child–and when Randy and RJ, our Larion cousins, started to spend summers in Manila–I remember my mom trying to infuse us with her Catholic chirpiness, and coming up with the all-too-ideal idea of reading Bible verses under the shade of the santol tree in the garden of our BF home. She spread out a mat, brought out snacks, and urged Randy, RJ, Ali and I to take turns reading the gospel. Of course we played along–but only until we couldn't stand the heat anymore and started to make excuses of having to go to the bathroom–and staying there. One by one, we slipped away, leaving I think only Randy to keep my mom company. Sorry dude. Sorry mom.

One summer, though, the Bible-reading fever got to me. But instead of turning to the evangelists, I preferred to start off with Revelations. Suddenly filled with anxiety and fear, I made a steadfast vow to myself to give myself a good painful pinch every time an evil or impure thought entered my head. I realized I was pinching myself every five minutes. Determined to distract my mind and save my soul from the eternal agony, I busied myself preparing our merienda–green mangos with bagoong, and rock salt with chopped siling labuyo. At one point I rubbed my eyes. Suddenly, a painful burning set in–this is it! I thought. I'm being punished for my sins! I'm being blinded by God! I groped my way to a chair and slowly sat myself down, bracing myself for fate. God is indeed swift to anger, I thought, and He has smote me with His mighty Hand. So be it, so be it. As I started to imagine my life without sight, the effects of the capsaicin faded away. I had been forgiven and healed! Allelujah!

As a teen I was once again gripped with fear of being unworthy of Christ's love if I didn't repent. So just before the reading of the Seven Last Words, I walked to BF church and tried to be a pious Catholic. Again, the summer heat got to me as I swooned and felt a blackout descending. Sorry, God, I said to myself as I staggered out and trod with great difficulty back to our house. I tried, but damn it if I faint in public and wake up on a cot in the parish office. Eww.

This year's Good Friday was no different, temperature-wise. Waking up from a Maundy Thursday night cross-continent hangover (Ungas and I spent around eight hours online drinking, talking, fighting, making up, and talking again), I crept downstairs and promised the kids we'd cook an honest to goodness meal using the herbs the twins re-potted last soon as the sun set.

We have oregano, mint, basil, and lemon. The photo here shows them on my balcony, but because of the crazy-angry heat, we had to move them, along with the other plants, to the less-photogenic back part of the house, where it's cooler. Predictably, pasta was on the menu. I wanted to do a natural tomato concasse, but Chef Ungas said better if I just used pureed canned tomatoes or tomato paste rolled over heat to remove the sourness. So I did that, and added mushrooms and bacon to the mix. The twins' job was to pick the leaves of whatever herb I needed, wash, and dry them. "This is fun!" Mateo said, finally speaking in English due to sheer excitement. And Marco: "Di ba Mommy pag kinain mo yung pli-nant mo, parang kang farmer?" He gets the whole slow-food concept, this boy.

To put the mint to use, I blended orange juice with Dona's Wild Organics honey (Mateo operated the blender), poured it in the popsicle mold I got from Choitrams in Dubai, and dropped in a couple of mint leaves. In the ideal picture I formed in my head (something I got from Mom), I imagined us sucking at them while watching Harry Potter on HBO after dinner. Instead, I succumbed to a catnap, Sim practiced her Speed Stacking, and the twins watched Chowder on Cartoon Network. The kids enjoyed them the following morning, but I was too lazy to take photos.

I had Marco pick lemon leaves–I didn't have to teach him which herbs were which, he knew, just by smell and shape of leaves, he even taught Ann how to tell them apart–for my own version of butter "cookies". I shook some flour in a bowl, cracked an egg, poured some milk in, added sugar, and had the kids mix the batter. We threw in the leaves while spreading it out on a sheet. Twenty minutes in the oven at 200 degrees (everything is guesswork with me and baking), and sliced (er, broken) while hot. After finishing off the pasta, Mateo ate almost all of them. Lalake talaga.

For most of my life, I've struggled with the guilt the nuns taught us in parochial school. It was only when I reached my late 20s that I figured my spiritual self out, and formed and grew comfortable with my own opinions about Christian–not necessarily Catholic–faith. For me, the saddest and yet most glorious day in the Lenten Season is Palm Sunday, because that's when Jesus absolutely knew that He was literally riding towards his death and victory. He got on that donkey (mule?) and accepted His destiny. You can't get any more astig than that. I can't get why people get all mopey during Good Friday. Jesus' death was just symbolic. He rose from the dead on the third day, Christian legend goes (there are other resurrection myths in other religions, but we can visit those another time), so if Catholics believe in that, why be sad? He lives. Always will.

And so: an easy, love-bank worthy Good Friday with the kids. Without the fear of the burning fires of hell.

1 comment:

  1. I miss you, simone, and the twins! it's almost Easter! wheee!