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.