She never liked them, she never had,
She doesn’t eat red eggs and scad.
Will she try them, just one piece? A vegetarian is what she is.
Will she buy them just because, so she’ll understand our market laws?
No, Sam-I-Am, not today; she won’t buy ’em anyway.
Would she have them here, or there?
You won’t find it in her bill of fare.
She doesn’t eat them, it’s just so sad
She knows not the price of red eggs and scad.
Sophomoric attempts at Dr. Seuss rhymes aside, Senator Jamby Madrigal isn’t exactly the newsmaker of the Senate. Yet when she decided to run for the Presidency – assuming she’s doing this to continue her vendetta upon Manny Villar – she’s been languishing at the bottom of the surveys, if not mentioned at all. Yet after what can now be called as “Galunggong-Gate” – where Sen. Madrigal fumbled on her answer regarding the price of galunggong – she may very well experience a surge in popularity.
Or that red eggs and tomatoes, eaten with galunggong, may just be the meal on the road to 2010.
Perhaps an appetite for elections triggers an appetite for something as base and common as, say, corned beef. Take Billy Esposo, for example, who castigates Manny Villar in his column on the account of the latter’s memories of canned goods. Esposo claims that Villar may have been unfairly exaggerating his (all-too-familiar) rags-to-riches story. Esposo writes:
Villar narrated… that as a young kid he thought that corned beef was soupy because that was how they used to prepare it at home. This, he claimed, was their way to ensure that everybody had a share… The fact is that there are really two ways to cook canned corned beef. One is the dry sautéed type while the other is the soupy type where you can add potatoes and cabbage. Both the rich and the middle class enjoy corned beef both ways.
Also, poor folks, especially a family of eleven, CANNOT AFFORD to eat canned corned beef. For a family of 11 to be eating corned beef confirms that the Villar family is anything but poor. That was the case then and more so now when the poor go hungry or manage to eat only one meal a day. Up to the 1980s, people from the provinces consider it a status symbol to be eating corned beef. That is why canned foodstuffs, especially corned beef, are being displayed in the sala by many households in the provinces for these to be seen by visitors.
Case in point: imported canned food. Yet even corned beef, as we understand it from the platito of our social consciousness, is not immune from the all-too-convenient categorizations of class. Back in the 1990s, the cheaper brands of corned beef, like Rodeo, had more tendons, ligaments, and fat compared to something more expensive, like Hormel or (when it was first introduced) Argentina. In Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, for example, the holiday “corned beef” given to the McCourts by the Vincent de Paul Society wasn’t meat at all, but a quivering mass of gray fat with but a tiny sliver of meat. Esposo is correct, but with the relative ubiquity of corned beef in the Pinoy sari-sari store, even the lower middle class and the better-off poor would get more than “just a taste” of corned beef, as Villar claims. That, cold rice, and lots of yummy, toasted garlic cooked in the rendered fat of the meat product.
The poorest among us master the art of pagreremedyo, and ask “Kumain ka na ba?” more often than those better-off than they are. There’s value in instant noodles not as a source of starch, but as a viand, and lutong ulam is salted more than usual to accommodate for more rice, which then partly solves the problem of feeding so many mouths in a given meal. Galunggong is now considered by many poor and indigent Filipinos as a luxury; at P120 a kilo, it’s just a bit too expensive to even eat it on a regular basis (whether fried, cooked as paksiw, or my favorite, broiled). Think lower, to the act of flavoring rice: mantika at toyo, for example, can stave off the hunger lost on a meal completely devoid of protein.
Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura? Please, even the poorest people on the planet use water.
Anyway, back to Jamby Madrigal. I’m sure she’s sincere, that she’s knowledgeable, and she possesses a genuine concern for the poor even if she’s born with a complete set of sterling silverware in her mouth. Yet vegetarianism or semantics should not excuse her from understanding the way of life of the poor, even if pan de sal could be aptly called a roll, it highlights at least one disconnect the leaders of this country have with their people: that our leaders live in a half of their world, and they don’t know how the other half lives. Cough, Le Cirque.
On that note, I’m hungry.