This almost never happens. How and why is it now? I am so very lucky to be here to experience it. Yet, I’m a little saddened by the notion that I may not have a similar experience again (at least in the near future).
Faces around me are smiling broader smiles than smiled before. Tempers are non-existent. A sense of cheerfulness and celebration permeates the air. Even farmers harvesting the damp, heavy rice in their moisture-laden fields appear to be enjoying their most difficult labors.
Okay, Paul, get to the point! Just what is it that’s appears to be so marvelous?
It’s TWO IN A ROW!
No, it’s not two typhoons in a row, though another approaches us from the direction of Guam. Two different and welcome commodities – between two such devastating weather systems – are here. They are two COOL but BRIGHT and SUNNY DAYS in a row (and it’s, like, “totally cool,” too!). Two picture postcard, travel magazine, Live in the Philippines, b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l days.
Somehow, we found ourselves in an uncommon weather pattern: one that limits temperatures to the mid- to upper-20s C (low-80s F) with humidity in the low- to mid-40% range. It also provides cool breezes via some errant trade winds while allowing the only visible clouds to be off in the distance of the South China Sea. No one cares about the how and the why. It’s just a time to enjoy it no matter what you are doing.
Even the mountains of Cagayan and Apayao provinces are shedding their usual haze and joining us. They hide during this time of year, pelted with daily rains that, in turn, keep our rivers and irrigation systems full. Yesterday and today, however, they threw off their humid veils and joined us. I should have known that something was up.
This is a day to celebrate – maybe with a picnic or an impromptu party, or just a pleasurable merienda on a nice, soft chair in the shade. Today (and yesterday), there are no cares in this world that deserve our direct attention.
Not all is wonderful, however. Often heard this time of year is the cry of “Awan curriente!” [There’s no power – brownout]. That cry sounded this morning at 6:10 AM. Some electrical grid preventive maintenance needs doing before the next set of stormy days attacks us. To me, though, that’s even more justification to take a break from one’s burdens and enjoy this surrounding life.
Of course, for me, that celebration will include another pair – two of my favorite “party favors” – an ice-cold bottle of San Miguel Beer and a delightful Tabacalera Corona. Many, both in the islands and abroad, consider these to be among some of the best products that The Philippines has to offer the world.
Many of you, dear readers, have enjoyed pleasurable moments with San Miguel Beer (even you “Red Horse” lovers). SMB is sort of the unofficial ambassador of good taste, introduced to guests and friends whenever and wherever they meet or gather. It has become a modern-day (albeit a 20th Century) cultural expression or gesture of friendship, as well as an all-around thirst quencher and “doggone good beer.” I need not go further into its story – almost everyone has his or her own San Miguel tale or secret to tell.
The flavor-rich offering by Tabacalera, on the other hand, is probably unknown among our readership as well as others around the world. A Philippine tobacco product at its finest, it is helping bring about resurgence in the popularity and desire for a “Manila Cigar” (enjoyed mostly in Manila and surrounding areas just prior to and at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Spanish population, U.S. Servicemen and the Pinoy/Pinay well to do and hoi polloi). For me, the flavors of both complement each other.
The tobacco company, La Flor de La Isabela, has owned the Tabacalera brand and has been hand rolling its various sizes of cigars in Manila since 1881. The brand itself is a bit older, with origins in the province of Pampanga.
The tobaccos used, as the company’s name implies, are from the province of Isabela. Augustinian friars, realizing the similarities between this province and the tobacco growing regions of Cuba, brought Cuban tobacco seeds to the area and began what is now a centuries’ old industry.
Other provinces on the island of Luzon, including those in the Ilocos region, grow tobacco as well. Their tobacco, however, is more of a burley or Virginia type for use in cigarettes, and “un-taste-worthy” for cigars. I’ve seen these varieties grown by neighbors for the commercial cigarette companies. Those neighbors will also grow a section of “Habano” tobacco plants for personal use – rolling them into huge cigars that are popular among elderly Ilocanos.
Daylight is ending as we end this story. We’re still with “awan curriente,” but who cares? Lanterns and candles are now the order of the day (or should I say evening) as relatives and friends gather on the veranda for chitchat with light (weight not brilliance) refreshments. The skies are star-lit, and the breezes remain ever so cool. It’s the perfect end to a perfect day – the second in a row. The norm at this time of year, provided it’s not raining, is a hot, muggy evening.
The festive air remains and voices are all lilting with pleasure. This is life worth living. Even with the brownout, there’s personal reason for joy. If we had power, an over-night karaoke session would be about to start!
(SEASONAL UPDATE: My salute and my heartiest (but belated) best wishes go out to all of my fellow veterans for this Veterans’ Day, 11/11/2009. You can best believe that the above mentioned “pair” that “beats a full house anytime” was dealt and played in your honor quite a few times. My suggestion to all today: Give a Veteran a belated holiday hug & kiss in gratitude for your freedoms.)
(Note: No one received any money or payment in kind for the mention of the commercial products discussed above. This is not an advertisement. Outside of the ringing personal endorsement of the author alone, this magazine does not endorse or sponsor said products. The author, however, does remain open to any reimbursement – preferably “in kind’!)