Halo-halo in a milk can
Have you ever eaten halo-halo, the ultimate Philippine dessert, in a milk can? I have when I was a child.
I also drank water from a tank that had occasional bugs floating in it. Water was always difficult in our town, as we had no municipal water system. So we had two tanks that collected water from the gutters of our roofs when it rained; we also had to pump water from a nearby well to wash our dishes and clothes in the summer when it didn’t rain.
We had no electricity, except for a few hours in the evening, through a diesel generator; the rest of the town had none at all. We were the priveleged ones.
When we wanted to eat chicken, as a child, I helped my mom pluck the chicken feathers after dipping the chicken (it was dead by then, because we had to slit its throat first) in boiling water. My children today would say its gross and animal rights activists would say that’s cruel, but that was the only way we could eat chicken then. We slaughtered them ourselves. There were no groceries in our town, and even if we went to Manila, they didn’t sell dressed chickens as we see them now in store shelves. So fried chicken was solely served on special occasions, like birthdays. The rest of the time, our regular fare was fish, vegetables and rice.
There were no tricycles. We walked to school everyday.
But I survived, and probably am a better person because of these experiences.
It shows how far we have come. Rural Philippines is changing. Today, halo-halo is served in more sterile plastic glasses. There are water stations that sell purified water in five-gallon containers; the town has a municipal water system (which gets rationed during the summer because supply is inadequate).
The town got electricity after Martial Law in the ’70s. Dressed chickens are available in the local market and people eat fried chicken not only on special occasions. People can go to Lucena, the capital city that is an hour away, and eat fried chicken and spaghetti for less than a hundred pesos. Children go to school in tricycles.
Also, there is a new prosperity, but it’s not coming from traditional farming. It’s from OCWs or overseas contract workers. It usually starts with one family member going overseas. I know one family that mortgaged their house to come up with the funds to send one daughter to Canada. She works as a waitress. Then, the daughter sends money to get another daughter; the second daughter goes home and marries her long-time boyfriend. She’s now trying to get her new husband, a tricycle driver, to join her. The first daughter gets married in Canada, has a baby, and sends for her mother to take care of her newborn. And so on and so forth.
Somehow, money gets sent home, gets spent on upgrading an existing house or building a new one; purchasing a tricycle or a jeepney that a brother or a cousin would drive as a source of livelihood. A television, videoke, refrigerator and other household appliances–all are purchases to fill the house of a family with an OCW.
It’s changing not only the face of rural Philippines, but the entire country as well.