It’s my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary today, and I wish I could have lived up to the family tradition and taken them out for their favourite meal. During the early years Mommy cooked a special meal at home, and Daddy would have brought in a bouquet of flowers from the garden. They were certainly not the romantic dating type of couple, and it wasn’t until their twilight years that I witnessed them holding hands in public. Faith kept them together and saw them through the roughest storms of their marriage, never being apart for more than 30 days. Even during the turbulent years when we were based in Mexico City and Daddy was assigned to Peru and Ecuador, he made sure to return home before the month was up.
Did they have have the perfect marriage? Certainly not, but then again, what marriage is? But if there is one thing I did learn from them as a couple, is the importance of humour and laughter. When the passion and eagerness to be with each other 24/7 dies down, and everyone gets caught up in the daily routine and countless obligations, a sense of humour and the ability to laugh together in spite of the hardships makes all the difference.
Typical Filipino couple, food was also a binding factor. Both my parents loved exploring new tastes, and as much as possible, tasted everything that was placed in front of them. There was only one incident in all my years with them that I remember both of them backing out of the food on offer, and this was at a company picnic in Kenya. The goats were slaughtered on the spot, the hoofs and head thrown directly into the boiling pot of water without much ado, no skinning or cleaning. Mommy grabbed me by the arm and insisted that I declare an urgent need to go to the toilet (I was four years old) and Daddy busied himself with the camera, although he had long run out of film! Once the “soup” was done and the more appetising parts of the meal was ready, my family deemed it safe to join in again.
Much as I loved them, there were certain foods that we agreed to disagree – vehemently.
- Daddy, for example, loved a very humble vegetable called saluyot, and Mommy made sure to prepare it the way he liked it best and was acceptable to her as well. She was no fan of the slimy vegetable either, but it grew all over the garden and was always available. I detest it like the plague and gag each time I even come near it.
- Another point of contention was dinuguan, pork blood stew. I dislike this dish passionately, but my parents loved it, especially if Mommy made it, which she rarely did. So if I was around it was never served, thank goodness.
- The third and last food item that we found absolutely no middle ground on – it was them vs. me and no room for compromise – was durian. In my book this ranks right up there with things that make me nauseous just by smelling it, but I am no alone on this. It was only when I was way past my 30s did I discover that my parents ate durian behind my back, either when I was at school or after I moved out. Mommy having grown up in Jolo, where durian was in abundance, was pretty cool about it, and enjoyed this bizarre fruit. For the life of me I have no clue how my dad fell in love with durian, but it was a common joy for them. Imagine my horror when they came to visit us in Thailand and were as thrilled as children let loose in a candy store when they saw and smelled all the durian around them! By this time both were in their late 70s, so there was no way I was going to tell them to eat it out on the street, so they brought up a kilo of durian to the apartment, I banished them to the balcony and gave them everything they needed, forbidding them to enter until they finished all the durian. They said very little to each other during that hour because they were busy eating with such joy. But by jove, the apartment smelled of durian for a whole week!
I have no durian, saluyot or dinuguan to celebrate with today, thank goodness, but I honour and embrace them in my heart. Even in death they were not apart more than a month, 32 days in fact.