The Last Journey of Ninoy

24 08 2009

I REMAINED seated, motionless as the credits faded in and out of the screen towards the end of “The Last Journey of Ninoy.”  For someone like me who is very critical and particular in chronicling his life – captured not in celluloid but in cursive, on the pages of his 16-month Starbucks Coffee Company® Planner and Date Journal – the daily accounting of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr.’s last nine days packed into barely a couple of hours proved very effective and engaging.  But that is barely scratching the surface of – and even sounded to be trivializing – the real suffering Ninoy and his family had gone through.

I watched the documentary with my mother, who on that fateful day in 1983, gave me a glimpse of who this “Ninoy” was and what he meant to the Filipino people.  I remember we were coming home from visiting my aunt in Pasig.  Upon our arrival, we were met by the charging steps of my grandmother, rushing from our home’s second floor, almost screaming: “Pinatay nila si Ninoy!” (They killed Ninoy!)

I saw my mother’s face turned ashen with grief, it was almost palpable.  She slumped on a chair and I could see tears silently streaming down her cheeks.  I had to ask who Ninoy was and if we knew him.  I remember my mom saying that he was our country’s hope.

A lot of years had passed – 26 to be exact – since that fateful day.  Like most of my countrymen, I had sailed on comfortably, almost oblivious to the struggle and the fight that had allowed me to enjoy all the freedom that I have in my hands right now.  Our former president Cory Aquino’s passing three weeks ago rekindled the latent patriotic and nationalistic pride that had seemed to be trampled on by one too many displays of braggadocio and claim to “absolute” power these past years.  These past days I have honestly gained a deeper appreciation of what it must have taken to set this country free.

But nothing had made me feel more aware of the price democracy and freedom had cost than “The Last Journey of Ninoy.”  Timelined within the nine days it took for Ninoy to make his trip from Boston to Manila – arduous as it was circuitous in making all those stops in Los Angeles, Singapore (then on land through the Malaysian border), and penultimately in Taipei – this gem of a documentary opened my eyes to the passion and the spirit that had fueled Ninoy’s dream for the country while allowing me to fully understand the impetus for his return.

In the space of his last journey’s “nine days” – starkly heralded with title screens that simply marked the day and date against the days-long timeline – I saw how Ninoy rose from the unassuming but undoubtedly driven boy of seventeen to the martyr of democracy that he came to be.  Something which to me seemed was an eventuality he didn’t wish for, but something that ironically breathed life to his oft-quoted belief that indeed, “the Filipino is worth dying for.”  While the center of the documentary was clearly Ninoy, I didn’t lose sight of the subtleties that underscored Cory’s role as the anchor, light and strength of a young family oppressed and pushed to their near-breaking point.

The precious and I assume never-before-seen video footages and photos were interspersed with precious – yet again – commentary from the late President Cory Aquino.  This, I firmly believe, lent invaluable factual and emotional credibility, and cohesiveness to an outstanding work of art and heart.

Every Filipino worth dying for (Ninoy’s words)… worth living for (Cory’s), and simply…  worth it (Kris’s) should see this docu-drama.

Pork spareribs in guava broth

24 08 2009

WHILE ABC News may have called it an “obscure tropical fruit” in its 2008 listing of “The 10 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating,” the guava is so common here in the Philippines, and in my case, something that I’ve been picking right from the tree out front.  I do remember mentioning here that I’ve had just guavas and sub-zero water for breakfast, a hint that I’ve been snacking on these “obscure tropical fruits” for quite a while now.

Guava - Flower 01

Days away from being another sweet guava to munch on! I took this photo from the tree out front. Sadly, the wind blew this flower away. Huhuhu.

“Guava has a higher concentration of lycopene – an antioxidant that fights prostate cancer – than any other plant food, including tomatoes and watermelon. In addition, 1 cup of the stuff provides 688 milligrams (mg) of potassium, which is 63 percent more than you’ll find in a medium banana.  And guava may be the ultimate high-fiber food: There’s almost 9 grams (g) of fiber in every cup,” says the ABC News article.

Guava - Fruit 00

We'd get plenty of this. Most of the time, I'd really end up snacking on them. Or when I'd have the will, I would wait for enough ripened fruits to whip up my favorite sinigang!

I was so surprised to find this out.  Now, I know of two excellent sources of lycopene – tomatoes that always find their way in my pasta sauces and salads, and now, guavas that I snack on and use to flavor the broth of my favorite pork dish.  And I couldn’t help but take note of the fact that a cup of guavas has more fiber than a sachet of my favorite psyllium fiber supplement that I down with Eight O’Clock mango-orange juice drink.

And probably – just probably – if I’d stuff on guavas enough, I could do better than the 27 minutes 27.37 seconds record I had set for a five-kilometer run.  I wouldn’t be surprised if even Rafael Nadal would consider snacking on guavas instead of bananas in between sets!

Guava - Fruit 01

Four considerably large guavas ripening further inside the refrigerator.


Guava - Fruit 06

This one I gobbled up!

The other day, I was able to gather enough ripened guavas to whip up my favorite “sinigang na baboy sa bayabas” dish (pork in guava broth with fresh vegetables).  For this particular instance, I decided to use spareribs, instead of the usual pork belly.

Guava - Fruit 03

Guavas on a roll...


Guava - Fruit 05

A close shot. These are super sweet!

I’d peel each guava, then cut it in half.  I’d soften the guavas with a quick boil in just enough water to cover.  Once soft – about after 10 minutes from when the water had come to a rolling boil – I’d cool the guava halves, then carefully spoon out the cores.  I’d make sure that I’d remove the cores completely, both the fiber and the seeds (especially the seeds!).  I’d set the guava flesh aside while I mash the cores in the water I boiled the guavas in, and run everything through a fine sieve to get all the guava juice.

In a heavy bottom pot – deeper than it is wider – I’d put the cleaned pork spareribs and water just enough to cover.  I’d bring this to a boil, skimming off any froth that would come to the surface.  Once the meat would become very tender, I would add the guava meat and all the guava juice.  I’d wait for this to come back to a rolling boil, allowing it to simmer until the guava flesh had become really soft.  Sometimes, if my desired level of acidity and flavor hadn’t been reached yet, I’d mash some of the guavas into a paste and add it back to the broth.

Before I add the fresh vegetables, I would check if I’d need to season the broth with a little salt.  Just a little salt!

Of all the many variations of sinigang (dish of meat or fish in a sour broth with fresh vegetables), I really favor the one with guava against all the others – tamarind, calamansi, or mango.

Guava - Pork Sinigang 01

This is the resulting dish. Not really a pretty picture... but surely a yummy one!