My childhood Holy Weeks were unalterably spent at home in Cubao. On Holy Monday, Lola would be host to the Pabasa (the Lenten reading of the Passion of Christ) and my Lolo's relatives would come in several jeeploads from Cabuyao, Laguna. Somehow, Lola would manage to produce enough chairs for up to about forty relatives -- mostly elderly females.
The singing would begin at about six o'clock, with about twenty or so participants. There would be no break, even for lunch, as it should conclude no later than five in the afternoon so that my various aunts, lolas, distant cousins and assorted relatives could make the trip back to Laguna by early evening. Instead, the singers would take turns, efficiently and discretely handling the changes without missing either beat or tone, nor making it appear that there has been any change in participants.
Come to think of it, when I was a kid looking at them, I would get confused identifying whose hand I should bring to my forehead, in the traditional greeting for the elderly. The lolas all looked alike to me. Many would be dressed in the maroon and cord garb of the devotees of the Black Nazarene.
In fact, the figure before which these women would sing, was a small antique replica of the same dark, suffering Christ that brings hordes of devotees to Quiapo. This same figure sits on my mother's altar with the cross removed from the shoulder and gently laid on the ground, in a nod to the belief that having a cross-bearing Christ in the home would be to invite similar suffering, that one would be also a bearer of heavy burdens.
For merienda, Lola would serve pospas, a rice porridge with chicken and seasoned heavily with ginger. What follows is not my lola's traditional recipe, but my hurried one, when I want to approximate the gingery, garlicky memories of my childhood.
1/2 chicken chopped into cubes with the bone in
1 head of garlic, half of which is peeled and pounded, the other half chopped finely and fried until crisp
2 inches yellow ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup malagkit rice
salt and pepper to taste
Boil the chicken in water enough to cover. Add salt and pepper. When the chicken is cooked, reserve the broth. Sautee peeled and pounded garlic and ginger and add chicken. Add the broth. When boiling add rice. When rice is nearly done, add turmeric, which gives the porridge its yellow color. When the rice is done, serve topped with scallions and fried garlic. Serve with fish sauce and kalamansi (Philippine lemon).