My father was born and grew up in Bataan -- in a small town called Orani that is famous for its crabs and shrimps. He came to study and later on stayed to live and work in Manila but Orani was truly where his roots were. All those of my father's generation have passed on but I still have cousins who I make it a point to see at least once or twice a year.
This is the church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, the parish church of Orani. It stands across the town plaza and my cousins live a few steps away, from where I took this photo.
These are Fe and Ate Nene, daughters of my father's eldest sister who I used to call Inang.
The house has changed much from what it used to be but it is still located on the spot where our grandparents' house used to stand.
Like my Inang and of course my own father, Fe and Ate Nene are great cooks and always make sure that my favourites are on the table every time I come and visit.
While we are all at that certain age when we should watch what we eat, Christmas is a time to
indulge -- for today, Fe cooked up a plate of crisp, crunchy isaw that was so good it should have come with a health warning.
Ate Nene knows I love her kare kare so it is a staple for all our reunions. It is kare-kare made the
way my father used to make it -- soupy and not thick, with real roasted, mortar-and-pestled ground peanuts and not peanut butter. Ate Nene uses beef cheeks and not ox tail because it has less fat content. It is the best kare kare I have ever tasted!
Here I am trying to wangle the recipe from Ate Nene. Like all good cooks, nothing is ever written down, everything is committed to memory and taste. She dictates it to me, as she has done many times before but I keep forgetting to finally commit to trying to make it myself.
All too soon, it is time to make a visit to the church before we drive back to Manila.
My father had a special relationship with Nuestra Señora del Rosario -- he always claimed that she was his most powerful intercessor. I ask her for special blessings for my family in Orani and that
we remain healthy enough to continue our reunions for years to come.
Maligayang Pasko from Orani, Bataan!