By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
TYPHOON Hanna was predicted to bring “moderate to heavy monsoon rain” in Metro Manila. This fact however, did not alter our plans to meet at a salad bar somewhere in Alabang, a place where, according to Connie de Perio, “the salad is to die for”.
In the middle of the wind and the rain, we engaged the two-hour traffic, avoiding EDSA, snaking through short cuts that Bing de Perio had fully mastered through her grueling experience with Metro Manila traffic. In between, Johnny Rogge kept monitoring where we were, as he arrived at the place with his wife Carol, waiting for almost two hours. When we reached the Skyway, the empty highway encouraged the driver to speed up, but he was cautioned by the backseat drivers to slow down, as we could land on the highway below it, full of vehicles jostling for space. It was a complicated route, but Bing’s nose for directions never faltered, and before we knew it, we were at the entrance door of The Continental, an elegant dining space inside the Palm Country Club.
Upon entering the place, I glimpsed a corner full of pastries, but we were late for our lunch date, so we headed directly towards our table, with Carol and Johnny smiling happily, relieved to finally have lunch at 2:00 p.m. The Continental had a “decadent menu of fusion continental dishes” served in an atmosphere of animated conversations of people celebrating life. Connie did not even look at the menu, she was obsessed with the salad bar, and were so infected by her enthusiasm that we all opted to take it, except for Carol who ordered prawns.
The clam chowder soup was truly a delight. It was infused with a hint of herbs, some nuts and some other ingredient which, a wise chef will never disclose. It was enough to give the illusion of being full, but its elegant taste provided the temptation to try everything else. We marched to the salad bar.
Everything looked fresh and smelled of the sweetness of rain: the watercress, alfalfa, an assortment of lettuces, pickled Brussels sprouts, so many to name them. The thinly-sliced, medium rare beef and grilled tuna slices, Italian sausages, Spanish sardines, again, so many to name them. And there is this white pickled something which I cannot name, the size and color of a newly-peeled macadamia, except that it was not a nut, and shaped like a rare elongated pearl. That was a singular taste that lingered, so I went back for it, but the small bowl was gone, as if it was snatched by a jealous deity, who put it there by accident.
I marveled at these blessings, the comfort of old friends. I wonder if, by some strange confluence, we created our own paths or just flowed to our own predestinations. These three women, who trace their roots in Bolinao, came into my life at separate timelines. I met Carol as a co-Trustee at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) under the Arroyo administration. I met sisters Bing and Connie, who were then members of the Movement of Bolinao Concerned Citizens (MBCC), in a multi-sectoral effort to win against multinationals endeavoring to put up a cement plant complex and a port in a marine life reserve. Through the years, we fought against various development encroachment on the fragile environment of Pangasinan: against the cutting of trees along the Manila North Road (MNR), and against Feedmix, a huge facility of poultry and feedmills that empty their waste into the waters of Bolinao. Together, we hope to assist the people of San Fabian, through the leadership of eco-warrior Consuelo Perez, to maintain the integrity of the coastal village of Bolasi, where a cement grinding facility and a port is threatening to rise, and whose activities will ultimately contaminate its waters and drive away tourists seeking quiet and pristine waters.
We have weathered these storms. Storms have woven the fibers of our lives into the mainsail of an ancient vessel traveling in the turbulence of Lingayen Gulf. Urdujas were made for sailing. So who’s afraid of Typhoon Hanna?
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