Saturday, May 26, 2007

Siomai resolutions

MY STAIN-FREE finger damned me.

Last Monday’s ballot-casting made a fashion makeover in the sense that sporting a bluish nail that looked as if it had wriggled out of a shut door became suddenly PC (politically cool).

I’ve lost count of the number of people, including the house ad of this paper, niggling me about my blemish-free pointer. “How could you, deserter?”

But things really skidded closer to the bottom after I read columnist Jovenir F. Bataican’s reflections in Sun.Star Weekend’s May 19 issue.

Entitled “Leave a tender moment alone,” his column shrugs off the million and one things that went wrong in the recent election. “We have trumpeted cheats for so long now we forget the honest ones outnumber them by the millions!”

Singling out his mother—who dove into the crowds massing to get their precinct numbers, as well as assisted strangers—Bataican believes that the “patch of indigo ink” testifies to his family’s faith that “if you can just go past the usual hassles, the time and energy spent are so much worth it.”

Clinching his point for participatory democracy, he urges: “Leave a tender moment alone and just count our votes right.”

If Bataican stirred something lying inert under sediments left by stories of exasperated Filipinos leaving for better shores, the fire of Sun.Star Zup! columnist Elisabeth Baumgart purges and purifies. “Dude, wake up!”

Actually pacific and gentle in real life, Baumgart, a college junior taking up Mass Communication at St. Theresa’s College, wrote in her Inkblots space last May 14: “If you see anybody giving out money, trying to buy your vote, kick them where the sun doesn’t shine.”

In an earlier column, Baumgart wrote about the discussions she and her friends went into, to arrive at a list of candidates they deemed fit to steer the country.

Among other deciding factors, a candidate’s choice to conduct an expensive TV campaign could not be used to eliminate anyone because, according to Baumgart, that would leave no one to vote for.

With such prescience, she demolished a long-running argument I had with myself: why vote when almost all candidates end up tasting like grocery siomai even though they’re packaged with ingenuous names like Siomai ni Mai-Mai or Siomai sa Tisa, with D’ Original appended, to boot?

For quite some time now, these steamed pork dumplings have taken over the struggle for dominance in the street food market. Once a staple in pricey dimsum places, these devious little balls of meat have rolled off the red-and-gilt tables and taken over holes-in-the-wall, street corners or wherever workers and students can get three siomai balls on a small paper plate, with puso (hanging rice), for about P30.

Unlike barbecue, ngohiong and other “generic” street food, siomai started the trend of popularizing a brand, the inimitable Siomai sa Tisa. My college students, from whom I first heard about this pungko-pungko (sidewalk eating) phenomenon, insist that the Labangon outlet has the best of all worlds: taste, price, hygiene.

Mothers rarely buy street food, if only because it shrinks the budget and might harbor a whole commune of alien life. But on the trail of the best D’ Original Siomai, which has taken me from supermarkets as far as Danao on the north and Carcar on the south, I have yet to taste a frozen siomai that tastes better than the Styrofoam and plastic it’s packed in.

In a puerile way, these siomai lessons made my up mind against voting. Who believes TV realities? Who can trust spin masters?

But as Bataican, Baumgart and all voters trooping to cast and protect their votes last Monday have shown, the Filipino is more than just fat and gristle, wrapper and chili paste.

These Pinoys just redeemed the vote. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 20, 2007 issue

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