Rizal Essentials – The Bounty of the Bay

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas
It is 7:55 a.m. on a Thursday as I type this post. It is a cool 68 degrees here in Lambac with the Amihan (Easterlies) wind gently swaying the Mango tree branches. The conditions are cloudy but dry. There was a trace amount of moisture last night evidenced by water pooling on the tarp above the table I am typing this entry on. It’s a massive wooden bench and table made out of an old tree trunk then varnished to embellish the circles in the aged trunk. I’m sitting at a terrace in my aunt’s house in town. I noticed and complimented her on her bougainvillea blooms in crimson and pink splendor. It’s admirable how she is able to grow plants of different shapes in such a small confine. It seemed to me everyone here knows how to plant nurture and grow any blooming or fruit bearing plants. My god daughter also has a backyard full of vegetables including Papaya, eggplant, sugar peas, and Kamote (root crop equal to sweet potato). Her orchids appear happy and shrubbery awash with new buds. I am still enjoying the escape from the dust of the city. The friendly smiles and good morning greetings of locals here is infectious. It makes me want to stay a few more days. Last night was an evening filled with celebration and festivity that included a rented videoke machine and of course some libations. I found it a good way to catch up with distant kin and cousins as we shared stories of life in faraway towns, small towns, and even Mother Gotham Manila. Stories including an old Siniguelas tree now long gone and of my great grandfather’s town governorship. The narrow streets and homes so closely built together makes masking the undeniable attempts at song interpretations of old men through a videoke machine hard to do. I was told the barrio instituted a ‘curfew’ of sorts to curb obnoxious attempts at ‘money notes’ on school nights. This was fine with me since my party ‘til dawn days are long gone. My beaten and frazzled body refuses to allow me to do it anymore. So I ended with my interpretation of “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” at 10:45 p.m. downed my half full bottle of beer then passed out in one of the empty bedrooms at my cousin’s house. I ended up spending a total of $41.86 which included two cases of San Miguel Pale Pilsen beer, over three kilograms of fish, five lbs. of ice, and a lung full of spent air from singing songs I don’t even recall titles to this morning. All told the damage isn’t too bad contrasted to my 2010 visit.

View from the Highway
View from the Highway

Almost always ten minutes from the water
The seafood is delicious. Since fishing is a main source of income and food in this town, you can depend on the bancas launching hours before sunrise to inspect their nets and fish pens. And often, they come back with fish still flopping in their boats in time as main entrees for lunch. The bounty from Laguna Bay is plentiful. As they push out against the walls of water lilies teeming along the banks of the boat launches, they are careful to not get their propellers caught against the sinewy roots of the lilies. I personally know this can happen as three years ago, I was on a fiberglass boat going back to the Cardona pier when our boat engine suffered the exact fate. Luckily, the solution was as simple as cutting the root strands from its grip. Not so simple since one of us had to dive into the murky waters of the bay to get to the source of the problem. No, it was not I who got wet. Whew. With the inherent perils of venturing out into the waters, the rewards can be simply stunning. There is a unique allure a body of water like Laguna Bay has that may capture hearts, minds, and bellies of men. One of the exciting storied events frequently told is the good old fish story of lore. The size and weight of catches, the exotic creatures caught along with the fish in the nets can be from bizarre looking snakeheads, to ginormous carps, to just plain snakes. Some stories make its way into legend and fish tales enough to scare young boys and girls to brave the waters of the Bay by themselves. May be a way to curb parental tasks of watching over their kids averting any tragic drowning accidents. I’m sure these tragedies still happen. This is a country, after all, that’s an archipelago of over 7,100 islands. Families in these islands are almost always only ten minutes from the water.

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