Sunday, March 02, 2014

Mango season

WHO doesn’t have it on their table these days?

It’s summer, mango season. From the fruit seller at the corner, we buy bags of Indian mangoes.

They’re small, green, still sticky with sap. I take them out of the plastic bags and arrange them on old newspaper. Every morning, I check on my green “eggs,” prodding one, lifting the other, to see which ones have ripened overnight.

Fruits are a comfort to non-cooks. They don’t require instructions. With a nose or eye and hunger, you’re good to go.

Indian mangoes are among the best. When they’ve softened, their green skin slips off like an old jacket. I need to peel a number, though, since the sweet, slightly crunchy things are slippery and slide down my gullet before I can pop these in the fridge.

It’s a good thing the knife I use is dull. Sticky with mango sap and juice, my hands are more clumsy than usual while peeling. By the time this season of Indian mango ends, I’m confident I’ll still have all my fingers.

The other day, I noticed how the mango peel had a skein of yellow fruit underneath. When I ran a green curl over my teeth, I tasted fruit.

I was imitating the “hamog” boys I saw while stuck in traffic at North Avenue. Three of them were weaving in and out of the stalled vehicles, mango peel drooping like flowers from their hand.

Carabao mangoes were in season then, and fruit vendors peeled them in such a way that the long elongated fruit reposed regally on a bed of green skin, like a flower emerging from a corona of petals.

This artistry is not displayed for the children of the dew (“hamog”), who sleep on the streets and wake to the dubious moisture left under the leaden, polluted sky.

For these children who are no longer children, perhaps never were, a mango is not an object of desire. Without P80 in your pocket to hand over to the fruit seller, a mango is just an object to be slipped on the sly.

The three boys sat on the steps of a stalled jeepney, oblivious to the driver’s curses and the passengers’ wariness. They gnawed on the undersides of the mango peel. They threw them on the street. The driver of the car tailing the jeepney blew his horn.

One of the boys pointed a finger at the driver. His companions took their time to scrape the fruit from the last batch of mango peel.

And then, because all vehicles were still stalled, the “batang hamog” draped the green-petaled fruit skin, like leis, on the car hood.

The boys scampered away, laughing. The driver honked in frustration.

We watched, still expecting them to return and do something much worse than what they did—shout profanity, vandalize, snatch a bag, commit anything except the mischief of the young, peaking on a sugar high from slivers of the mango in season.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Mar. 2, 2014 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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