Friday, August 5, 2011

If Pantry Walls Could Talk

If the pantry walls in our office could talk, surely, it would have complained of the endless noises we make during our lunch breaks. The decorum of not to speak when your mouth is full seems irrelevant when Filipinos get together for food gathering. Aside from mostly senseless chats, the clashes of spoons and forks picking pieces from one plate to another characterize our ingestion habits. Yes, we Filipinos love to share things with each other, food in particular, that if someone gets poisoned, then everybody else is affected as well. When our manager runs this joke every time he happens to pass by as we crowd that little pantry space, maybe, he just want us to be reminded that he has a point.

It has happened before. A couple of months back, three in the group were hospitalized and majority was diagnosed with tolerable infection level when we shared a contaminated ulam we bought from an unknown source. Had it not for the sharing, maybe, not all would have been affected and people wouldn’t have started wondering why we really like sharing food with each other like everyday buffet. I have seen other nationalities and they don’t normally do the same. Why are we different? When our manager happens to pass by the pantry on lunch breaks and he starts to identify each food we have on the table, maybe, he's just curious about what he could be missing.

But he couldn’t find it there. It's not in the food or in the plates. It’s in our blood. Eating together is typical of all cultures, but letting someone partakes on your meal while you do the same on others, I guess, is one big Pinoy brand. Sharing food is a mark of our fabled hospitality. It's a time honored tradition that goes back to as far as time can remember. Back home, if you found yourself in a friend's house during meal time or on big occasions, certainly you couldn’t refuse if they ask you to join them on the table. If you don’t take the invitation, it's a sign of being rude. That’s the grand scale and in the office where we bring the simplest thing into the table, the same assumption applies. We share because we love and trust each other and we appreciate each others' generosity.

It is also about the family. Our coherence isn’t just about the being on the same table together but sharing the food and stories as well. As OFWs, living far away from our families makes us miss this kind of life's simple pleasures. Having our friends and officemates as the closest things we've got, we try to relive the feeling of a family by sharing meals together while trading individual tales of survival and sacrifices. If the pantry walls in our office have ears, surely it would have fallen deaf as it heed the joys and lament that we often share with each other in between clashes of spoons and forks picking pieces from one plate to another. If they could talk, I bet it would change its mind and just rants in silence as it bears its own seclusion.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be easy for some people to understand why Filipinos are so closely attached to each other. They don't know our backgrounds. They are not aware of our heart's desires. We maybe a pack of growling hyenas at lunchtime or a herd of antelopes on our way home, but the pantry walls and the pavements would attest we to each are individuals bound by a common goal and our drive to share and spend time together isn’t something born out of necessity but our natural instinct for love and family.

Our manager, keen observer as he is, may soon challenge if any one of us could eat alone. It is easy but we prefer not. Not only that we will be deprived of the chance to endless chats, sizable laughs, lots of rice and loads of pork, beef chicken, fish or vegetables on the table, it's the "back home" feeling that we cannot afford to miss.

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