Updated: Dec 20, 2022
By Skylar L. Richardson
I am a little behind so I will get right to it. My experiences this time are a little different than in 2017 or 2019. This is primarily due to my decision to live a healthy and balanced life. As a result, I have become very particular about what I eat. Don’t get me wrong, I love food, especially Filipino food in the Philippines. But I decided that my health and well-being come first.
Nonetheless, I have decided that I will not allow that to ruin my long-awaited vacation. I say that because when I came here the last two times, our entire vacation was based on food. Every memory was that of a place we went to and the food we ate. It in many ways reminded me of the late great Anthony Bourdain. He would go into these awesome and largely underappreciated places and celebrate the people by enjoying good food with them.
I believe my calling is a bit different. Nonetheless, I do believe our paths intersect in some way. I know this because of my passion for people. For example, yesterday, we drove from Manilla to Baguio City and took several detours to visit family. Roughly 6 hours later, we arrived. We could not find a place to park at any of the already too-busy tourist destinations. So, we circled the streets, hoping to find a place to take in the sights outside of the van. We found a nice place, paid the small entrance fee, and took some beautiful pictures.
After several hours had passed, I was hungry and quite late for my next meal. I was irritable and wanted to eat meat. Not only that, but I was very particular about what I wanted: Steak, five ounces, medium rare, no salt, and a green salad that consisted of only lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, and I wanted my balsamic vinaigrette on the side.
We passed what appeared to be a nice steak house, but there was no place to park, as it was in the same tourist area. I decided it would be best to “get off the mountain” and then find food. The driver, however, pointed out a restaurant that had the word “American” in the title. I thought that would be promising, as Americans are known for their consumption of steak, among other things. So, I figured we should try it.
I went inside and found the place nicely laid out, clean, and modern. The staff was friendly and warmly accommodating. I asked the male server if I could get my steak prepared with no salt, etc. The nice server said sure. So, we stayed to eat. I ordered the T-bone with a salad with my exact specifications. I was expecting a single piece of juicy, medium rare, thick meat on a clean plate. What I got was a thin, well-done, funny-looking piece of meat with a rubbery consistency and a bone that should not have been considered a bone at all. It was less than a quarter inch thick, and approximately 2-3 inches long. But it was shaped like a T. To literally top it off, the steak was smothered in oil. Not fried. Just smothered in oil after it had been cooked. AND the plate had a sweet syrup drizzled around it. I asked the server to find out what the steak was covered in. After checking with the chef, he assured me it was olive oil.
I spent the first several minutes sopping up all the oil and sugary syrup. I must have used 15 to 20 small napkins. The salad was good, but a little on the small side. It was prepared the way I had asked. I was upset and amused. Everyone else appeared to enjoy their meals and that made me happy.
Roughly three thousand pesos and 45 minutes later, we began our descent down the mountain. Traffic was horrendous.
I said (wrote) all of that because regardless of my emotions and failure to plan my meals accordingly, I could have easily missed the opportunity to be present with the ones I love. I love the Philippines and have loved it for the past 15 years. Now, I am blessed enough to be married into the Filipino family and culture.
Every good and special thing here in the Philippines has a place in my heart. Also, because learning is in my nature, I always learn something new with each trip.
This trip is teaching me that food is a tool. It binds all our social gatherings, marks the seasons, sets the mood for special occasions, and as in my earlier example, food serves as a tool for reflection. If used properly with mindfulness (being present), food can facilitate deep discussions, heal wounded relationships, and restore health.
Let’s see what the day brings. So far, I was greeted by a cute little gecko in the comfort room as I was preparing for my shower, and presently the house is filled with family and friends.
Today is a good day.