Friday, April 20, 2007

Etiquette for the hungry

WRITING makes me hungry.

When my college teacher Eileen Mangubat was overhauling my lead, she did not tell me this.

Now that it’s my turn to initiate students to the 1-2-3 steps of writing, I make the same omission.

But the agony of hours, days for some, that precedes the first sentence committed on paper or electronic screen exacts a violence on the old digestive system that can only be relieved, I often think, by a 20-course meal fit for someone about to be executed the following day.

But anyone familiar with the routine knows that writers have to live another day because of the next deadline.

And since the next day also augurs another set of expenses, the most expansive gesture I have made immediately after completing an article is to type my initials with a flourish—and then walk to Manang’s place before the kapilya at Don Pedro Cui Street and order a bowl of lomi.

For P5, I get a plastic bowl that’s smaller than a five-year-old’s cupped hands. A few tiny bones held together by some flap of skin I don’t analyze too long float in a brown liquid on which the cook used watercolor techniques to suggest delicate strips of egg and secret spices.

But it is hardly artwork I am after, and the lomi—hot, instant and cheap—is all I need to ease off the hunger beast.

But, learning from President Gloria Arroyo’s reaction to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) hunger survey for the first quarter of this year, I realize now that I have only been harboring under the illusion of being hungry.

Nearly one in five Filipino families has been hungry at least once in the last three months, points out the SWS survey. The figures establish that hunger is still “at a record high 19 percent from November 2006” and worsening in Manila.

While her critics use the SWS findings to question her administration’s claims that the economy is on an upswing, the president said that the Filipino’s “spending patterns” could be a reason behind the hunger.

“I have missed a few meals myself,” she was quoted in news reports.

Rather than blame poverty and lack of opportunity, the President wants Filipinos to get the basics first before buying phone load and other luxuries.

To distinguish imitation from authentic hunger—which is “involuntary,” according to, because the victim "experienced hunger, and did not have anything to eat”—here is the Strong Republic’s etiquette for the hungry:
1. You are only faking it if all you have is a fear of food, exacerbated by extreme diets, stinginess or a near invisible basic pay.
2. If you think you are hungry, ignore the symptoms. If you keel over or end up cultivating ulcers, it was real after all.
3. The mind plays tricks. So the children roaming Gen. Maxilom Ave. and sniffing glue in broad daylight are not hungry. They are visionaries.
4. To get rid of unhealthy appetites, watch political ads.
5. Think of the bunch of thieves to be reelected after May. To paraphrase the President, there are worse things out there than hunger. 0917-3226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Mar. 25, 2007 issue

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