Things I’m Grateful For Today

After a two-week hiatus from blogging, it seems fitting to dip my toes back into the compositional world by writing something even more frivolous and unstructured than usual. And although my blog posts have been all roses and sunshine compared to the misanthropic bile I used to pump out during my angsty teen years (and let us never speak of it again), it still might be time to take a “positivity break” from all the death and guilt and pangolin poaching. Here goes!

First of all, I’m grateful that the last two typhoons that whipped by the Philippines brought thoroughly underwhelming amounts of rain and wind to Metro Manila. Although there were times that the nonstop cloud cover and slow, steady rain became oppressive in their sheer unceasingness, it was also a great time to be at home in my underwear, listening to the rain pour outside while cuddling with my extremely hydrophobic dogs. And now that the sun has come back, I can think of it as a familiar friend instead of just a cruel tyrant zapping me with UV rays against which my pasty skin is ill-equipped to defend itself. (If one of the subsequent typhoons during the current rainy season turns Metro Manila into a giant lake, I’m going to regret writing this.)

I’m grateful for lazy, sunny Sundays like this one – days when I can’t hear much outside my house except for the blowing of the wind and the constant chirping of birds, even as I potentially annoy my neighbours by blasting Scarlatti keyboard sonatas on my computer speakers. (Sorry – I hope it’s not too loud! It can’t be nearly as bad as the tone-deaf karaoke that blasts out from the house a few doors down on some weekends, anyway…)

The birds are also attracted to the gigantic starfruit tree in my yard. The last time the tree started producing fruit, it was primarily a source of annoyance, raining down rotten fruit that would end up squished under my sandals. The fruits I actually tried to pick from the tree were either green and painfully sour, or orangey-brown and already well on their way to decomposition. After sweeping up countless fallen, rotting starfruits and dumping them unceremoniously onto my corner pile of dog poop, I finally mastered the art of pulling them off the tree when they are at their orangey-yellow best. Now I’m discovering just how good starfruit, a fruit that I never really liked, can be be – especially when dipped in one of the seven varieties of local vinegar I stock in my house. (In case you’re wondering, that’s sukang paombong, sukang tuba, sukang iloko, sukang piña, Pinoy Spice, red cane vinegar, and something white and chemical-looking that’s probably only good for cleaning toilets.) Though I still wish I had a mango tree, instead…

I’m grateful for all the fresh, tasty, affordable local produce I was able to pick up while wandering around the local market this morning. I’m grateful that bananas are always in season, and always delicious! I’m grateful for the heavenly smell of freshly-cooked dinorado rice. I’m grateful that I finally realized how much better it is to freshly grind whole peppercorns with my mortar and pestle (no pepper mill for me!) instead of getting dubious pre-ground pepper at the market – they say it’s mixed with little burnt bits of papaya to save them money. But now, each cooking session fills my nose with perfumed bliss! I’m grateful that the local lechon manok (whole roasted chicken) stand on the highway has finished its renovations and is once against cranking out tasty, tasty fresh-cooked birds – it’s a lot better than the nearby Andok’s, as far as I’m concerned. I’m grateful that I can go to the market and get a young coconut hacked open by a shirtless, bolo-wielding man when I want a refreshing, natural health drink, or have the innards of a mature coconut grated and squeezed in a hydraulic press to produce a culinary miracle as decadent as any full-fat dairy cream. I’m also grateful for the love and kindness of my family and friends, even if you can’t eat that.

And in the time it took me to write this post, the clouds rolled in, the sky dumped out deafening amounts of rain for about five minutes, and then became strangely calm. I suppose you could take that as a lesson about how the impermanence of all of life’s pleasures should be no impediment to our feeling grateful for them – that is, if you wanted to get all pretentious about it. Either way, I’m still grateful for the sunny afternoon we had, and I’m sure my starfruit tree enjoyed its little drink of water! Now to post this before something else goes horribly awry, like my tree getting knocked over by the wind or all of the birds getting eaten by the semi-feral cats that roam around my neighbourhood…


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