Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wartime Food: Kape Ko

Writing about the war-time invention of banana ketsup brought my thoughts to the time when my parents survived World War II.

Both my maternal grandfather and my father were guerillas. Lolo in Laguna, and Papa in Bulacan. My mother, however, was little more than a child, and remembers the war years with a bit more distance than Papa or Lolo recall them.

Mama tells me of waking up in Lolo's arms, bombs raining around them as he rushed her and her sisters and brother out in the middle of the night. Manila was the second most destroyed city in the world then, but few recall that it was the Americans who saw to that. Lolo would run upstairs to where his children were sleeping and carry them down into the air raid shelter where they would wait out the bombing raid.

My aunt Rosario, Mama's sister and my godmother after whom I am named, as my mother tells me, loved to drink coffee even as a child. I would often point to her as proof that coffee does not stunt one's growth. My aunts are all tall. My mother is the shortest.

One time during breakfast, my aunt was enjoying her coffee, her siblings with her, when the bombs began to fall. Lolo picked her up and they all ran for the shelter. In the middle of the entire melee, with explosions going off all around them, my tita's small voice could be heard, crying for her coffee.

Years later, they would laugh about it, as hardy survivors often do.

During the war years, when all essentials, and food were becoming scarce, my mother recalls that they were very lucky not to have starved. Lolo had taken to the hills because the Japanese had already identified him as helping the guerillas. The "hills" then, were thickly forested. Lolo was adept at identifying edible roots and plants and would, occasionally return to his family to deliver these. One time as he was visiting, the Japanese knocked on the door. Lolo jumped out the window and miraculously managed to escape.

Coffee was, to my aunt's consternation, eventually one of those commodities that became very scarce. The resilient Filipinos, however knew how to make do. They would grind burnt cooked rice, called tutong and mix it with water. What they ended up with is a nasty concoction that looked like coffee but tasted like burnt rice.


Elijah said...

My parents were lucky they lived in the provinces away from the bombings of Manila. Farm life is good even in war time.

DeliSyosa said...

Peace time. War time. Do you know that those words entered into the Pinoy vocabulary and barely just left, if at all?
WWII marked a passage for many Filipinos who reckoned their lives from those terrible four years. Yet they managed to survive stronger and more resilient than ever.

Clara said...

I love coffee! Could you write more about local coffee? Especially the upland ones?

Jun V. said...

Hershey bars were a favorite when the Americans came. That is another period in Philippine history. Liberation.

Anna de Brux said...

My father was not as lucky - lost his brother in the Death March, his mother (a Chinese immigrant), his first wife, both to Japanese cruelty becaues they wouldn't say where Dad, a guerilla cdr, had gone off, and tragically lost his 3 children (by first wife) to malnutrition and dysenthery.

My mom was just a very little girl at the height of WWII, the baby of the family - she told me that she suffered constant pangs of hunger; if it had not been for her two older brothers who would go in the dead of night to catch frogs and other goodies from the marshes, she said she probably would have died.

She thinks that some of the bone ailments from which she suffers today are a consequence of her malnuorishment as a child, the critical growth period when really, she needed essential nutrients.

And I know, that's why Mom stuffed her kids (me and my 6 bros) with protein, calcium, tons of vitamin supplements; fed us steamed veggies by the tons, it made us (me in particular) sick! :-)

Naturally, she did the right thing -- I'm doing the same thing to my own kids, who, thank God have all excellent teeth (they never had problems in that area except when they had baby teeth -- they never had to wear braces that they became jealous of their friends who did - hahhha!), good eyesight and are all reasonably healthy. My kiddies still drink their glass or 2 of milk in the morning regularly (no tea or coffee for them and definitely no awful sodas).

Oh dear, sorry Trix... forgot to stop ranting!

Must say, I love your blog! Look forward to reading more pleasant stories.

DeliSyosa said...

Ma'm Anna,
I love your comments, always so engaging and inspired.
The study of history unifies a country because it provides us with common --even if second hand -- experience.
But the nation is made up of families and family stories. And stories of the war, EDSA I, etc unite us in spirit. We may not have been there, but someone we know was. Or we were there in spirit or would have been or understand what had gone on.
Its stories like yours that provide one of the glues of nation building.
Thank you! And please dont stop writing!