I was fourteen when stories about the success of my distant cousins were prepared on the dining table—broiled with flying colors and marinated with high paying-jobs I wouldn’t dare to taste. The sciences the main dish. Engineering the leanest of all meat while law is just another appetizer. But I was too mesmerized with my own plate that I did not care to eat, just to contemplate the greenness of the greens, how plain and domestic rice is, how the meat feels like rubber between my molars and how the glass seems half-empty, not half-full. The dessert course those in-demand, always poured over with caramelized sugar. And as they feast on these cuisines, privately, my mind was already off the dinner and into my grandfather’s bedtime stories that when other people close their eyes to sleep, I open my eyes to dream. Of distant bliss and arabies waiting for me as I stepped out of the house and venture on my own. So I went, so I did.
But the city is a taste of grandmother’s adobo; blackened with smoke, acrid but well-seasoned. At first, all I ever wanted was to breakaway to get rid of the smell of garlic and onion sautéed in margarine flinging through my nose, pots and pans banging onto each other every morning as I try to sleep in, hot humid air seeping through the slits in the floor. I wanted them back. But in this place where the lights never sleep, where grandmother’s food is produced 24/7 on almost every corner of the street, I am pleased. Yes, not complete, but free.