Three of my must-have items when I go to Tessa’s store, the closest Filipino store in my area, are the sardines, bagoong na isda (fish paste) and chicharon (pork cracklings). These three items remind me of how simple my life was while growing in Manila.
When I was a kid, I remember having bagoong na isda mixed with cooking oil put in a plate full of steamed rice. That’s already my lunch or dinner. I thought it was delicious. I would just use my bare hands when eating. Later in life, I realized that we were so poor when we had that food on our dining table. It has no nutritional value. Maybe carbohydrates from rice, iron from the fish paste and fat from the cooking oil.
Same goes with sardines. I am the oldest among my siblings. There was a time wherein I would cook sardines for us. I would sautee garlic, onions, tomatoes and a can of sardines. Once heated, I would put some water, salt and pepper, and some talbos ng kamote (sweet potato tops). It’s a delicious meal too specially if you have lots of steamed rice. This is also how I would describe most families in the Philippines who have limited income living in a small house. They squeeze tight together in a small house like a can of sardines.
Chicharon is the skin of the pork after it has been seasoned and deep fried. It’s crispy and delicious specially when dipped in vinegar. It can be a snack or an appetizer.
These are some of the foods that I miss from my country that resonates simplicity of life, dreaming big, working hard and hoping for the best to happen.