Author: Patti Castillo

I am a Catholic, librarian, herbivore, bibliophile, frustrated home cook, fangirl and furmom.

Confession

Today is First Friday and I want to confess about burnout.

As some of you know, I haven’t been back to the Catholic church for long (just since December 2014) and have been reading at the Mass for much shorter than that.

Some of you are living testimonies of how I loved it.  There was a time I felt everything else – daughter duties, work, leisure, relationships, self-love – was sagabal to my service, and if I could only be in church every minute of my life, I would.  I could stand not eating on Sundays.  I bought books that taught how to read and practiced everytime I can.  I researched the context of each reading to properly convey the right emotion.  My copies of Sambuhay had marks indicating emphasis and where to have eye contact, pause, or stop.

But I’ve lost it.  It’s only been two and a half years but I don’t love it anymore.

Today, getting myself to wear the uniform I once thought were the most beautiful pieces of clothes ever designed is a struggle.  Dati, I would spend half an hour doing my face and my hair so I would look at least presentable (and hopefully sophisticated) but now I just don lip balm and tie my hair in an effortless ponytail.  There were even mornings in the recent past that I don’t shower or even wash my face.  Now I don’t even polish my black heels.

At our monthly meetings, I’d rather stay in the back, wishing I were somewhere else.  I’d wish we’d just go straight to the schedules and adjourn.  Then, when I see how many serves I have, possibly more than anyone, I’d curse inwardly.  Always on the verge of crying and breaking down, I secretly (but not anymore now) hate that I’ve been doing First Fridays ever since I learned how to.  I’d scream inside: ano bang tingin niyo saken, walang pamilyang kailangan asikasuhin sa umaga?!  Or, alternatively, kayo lang ba ang busy?

I learned to despise Kuya Sarsi’s “lika n holy hour ngaun” messages.  When I used to be at church at least twenty minutes before the Mass, I’m now a buzzer beater.  I don’t even have time to, or bother to, pray the Panalangin Bago Magmisa.

Then came the judgments.  It turns out, for some, I’m not good enough.  In the beginning, I only cared about the idea that God was smiling at me for what I was doing.  I didn’t care whether I was appreciated by people because I knew God appreciated my efforts.  But later the criticisms and gossips and parinig and sumbong just turned too much, eventually alienating me, numbing me, making me think, if you’re so good why don’t you do it?, making me wish they’d just kick me out instead.

And then came the envy.  I started to envy the people who have lives, who own their mornings and their weekends.  I envy the anonymous parishioners who have the freedom to be at the Mass without the fuss.  I even started to envy those who do my much-needed yoga… because apparently Catholics must not.

Gone is the reader who Father Peter praised to be “very good,” coupled with his happy smile and two thumbs up.  In her place is this spiteful, empty robot who can’t even remember the readings of the day when she leaves the church.  In her place is this person who wishes she can go back to the invisible anonymous churchgoer.

I’m so tired.

Today is First Friday.  On First Fridays, we confess.  This was what I confessed and I’m confessing this again now.

I’m sorry for feeling this way.

I’m sorry for being ungrateful.

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2017 Round Up + What’s Up for 2018

2017 was a roller coaster ride, but if it taught me one thing, that would be not to plan too much.  I made a long list of things to do for the year, but I must admit I wasn’t able to accomplish that much.  In fact, I think I managed to do just three: eat at a vegan restaurant (I got two), read 12 books, and visit ten Catholic churches.

A number of unexpected reasons factored in for that dismal outcome: God gave me Francis, Inoo died, I had more church activities, and I simply lost interest in many of the things in the list.  But do I regret not ticking everything off my #2017goals?  Not at all.

2017 taught me to take things as they come.  I didn’t plan for the love that came.  I, of course, didn’t foresee God taking Inoo back last April.  My interests and priorities changed.  But things happen when they happen, whether or not we are ready.  I’m not an expert in living life to the fullest, but I guess the trick is to be present to recognize life’s gifts as they come.  And to know yourself enough to know which to accept… if and when you’re given the choice.

After all, the only time we have is the present.

This 2018, I’m not making a long bucketlist.  This year, I simply want to be more compassionate with myself, let go of the people, things, memories and notions that cause me negativity, and take the first steps to mindfulness.

The Gift of Sadness

I had a meltdown yesterday and it was a blessing.  Am I the only one who actually looks forward to those moments when I can’t take it anymore and I’ll just crash and break down?  I guess it’s because they’re the times I feel closest to God, that only in those moments are all my thoughts and focus solely on Him.  Everyday, I’m distracted with a lot of things – doing my obligations, pursuing my dreams, trying to make a difference, chasing happiness – that I set my relationship with God aside.  My mind can’t be silenced.  Most times I think going to church is enough, praying for ten minutes is enough, reading the Word sporadically is enough.  Truth is, even if people know I serve the church, God always is just an afterthought.  Many times, He is also just a routine.  But in times like this, in times of anguish, it’s different.  In a rare moment like this, all my mind, my heart and my thoughts are on Him.  My mind is silent.  And it’s liberating.

In a rare moment like this, I can meditate.  This is a gift.

Recipe: Pinakbet (Ilocano)

When I was younger, I can’t see myself using a stainless steel stacked food carrier.  From where I was, the lowly workers used them for lunch and I thought using one would make me look like them.  I’m really loving my stainless steel tiffin food carrier.  It carries a lot of food and occupies little horizontal space.  I’ve been using it for two weeks now and it’s not un-cool at all!  You know what’s not cool?  Thinking lowly of manual workers.

Anyway, Francis is at Angeles City, Pampanga from yesterday up to Saturday so I’m having lunch by myself.  Huhuhu.  It’s getting kind of lonely eating alone, but I promised him I will eat, so here I am.

For today’s lunch, I had pinakbet – a vegetable dish from Northern Philippines.  It is traditionally made with an array of local vegetables, bagoong (fermented fish paste) and some fried or roasted pig or fish.  When I stopped eating animals, I thought I will never get to recreate this quintessential Ilocano dish but today I proved to myself that I’m so wrong.  (Yes, Francis’ mom still makes the best vegan pinakbet but mine is totally different.)

Here the ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 handful of sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 handful of ampalaya (bitter gourd), the small variety (not the long ones)
  • 1 bunch okra, cut in half
  • 1 cup small, round eggplant, stalk and top part removed then partially cut horizontally and vertically to form a cross (do not cut all the way)
  • 3 green siling panigang
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 sheet nori, torn
  • 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms
  • 1 cup water

The procedure:

  1. Mix together everything in a pot, the first ingredient on the bottom and the last ingredient on top.  Cover.
  2. Cook over low heat for about 30-45 minutes until everything is overcooked and mushy.
  3. Enjoy!

It’s so incredible how the simple addition of the nori sheet changed the whole dish.  It tastes so fishy it feels like a crime.  But it’s vegan, promise!

Pinakbet is a very forgiving dish.  Papa said you only need bagoong, ampalaya and tomatoes to make pinakbet, so don’t fret if you’re missing something.

Also, it’s meant to be overcooked and mushy.  Yeah, you kill the enzymes… but it’s pinakbet.

Tara, kain!

The Delicious World of Compassion: VegFest Pilipinas 2017

November is a great month.  Francis turned twenty-five, reducing our age gap to four years.  It’s National Reading Month, and I’m probably the luckiest librarian in the Philippines right now, since no other than THE Vice President of the Philippines, Ma’am Leni Robredo, was our celebrity reader at the Library Hub.  It’s also apparently vegan month, and that’s why VegFest happened.

Yes, VegFest.  Vegan Festival.  Because the world is going vegan.

Francis and I were so excited to join the gathering for veganism, which ran last November 18-19 at Eastwood, Libis, Quezon City and last November 25-26 at the Lucky China Town Mall in Manila.  We joined the first day at Eastwood and we had a blast.

This is the view from the entrance.  When we arrived at around 9:30 a.m. (I know right? VegFest would officially start at 10 a.m.), some merchants weren’t open yet but there were already lots of people.

We came all the way from Nueva Ecija – which was a five-hour drive – and by the time we arrived we were really hungry.  And for the first time since 2012, I wasn’t worried about not having anything to eat.  Francis bought me this tofu sisig on a bed of red rice from Green Light Veg.  He had the curry.  Admittedly, we felt that the food needed a little more seasoning, and he commented my curry was better.  But we figured it must be pegged as healthy, so who’s complaining?  We had rice for breakfast, what a pleasant way to start the day!

I also bought eight jars of Jack’s Produce vegan sardines from the next stall, Lokalitea.  😍

For dessert, we headed straight to SuperScoops!  I was really excited to have my first vegan ice cream – courtesy of my vegan brother Joey who unfortunately couldn’t be with us – and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

I had the matcha (my favorite) and Francis had coffee (his favorite).  Look at him.  We were both very satisfied.

Then, we joined the talk we signed up for, Zero Waste Life with Bea Crisostomo of Ritual.  It was the most inspiring talk I’ve heard, honestly.  Far long before we met, Francis had considered himself an environmentalist, and dreams of living off-grid with as little carbon footprint.  The talk gave us ideas about our own living and the food business we’re planning to put up.

Then, we met Astig Vegan, my vegan heroine RG Enriquez.  I can’t even describe my happiness.

I wouldn’t miss this chance for a photo op.

Honestly, we didn’t sign up for her demo, but we were already there and I reallllly wanted to see her.  She made her veganized kaldereta – a spicy Filipino stew originally made of beef, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes.  It was so delicious!

(A week later, Francis would make his grandmother’s kaldereta for our date – sans the no beef cubes – and sorry, RG!  His was better.  Is it because of the love?)

Then, we had Indulge’s pizzas for lunch.  Francis is the cheese-person between us, so he was really looking forward to this moment.

We also had corned beet burgers but I forgot the merchant.  Unfortunately, we agreed the burger was too bland for our tastebuds.  Do vegan people have a problem with seasoning?  Hahaha.

I got chia seeds from The Vegan Grocer for Joey and a hoodie from Treeshirts for myself.  And also this box of peanut butter cookie goodness from Earth Desserts.  (Sorry for forgetting to take a photo of the actual cookies – I totally forgot – but I swear they’re delicious.)

The only negative thing I can say is I found the venue too upper class.  Miss Bea Crisostomo’s inspiring message resonates in my head right now: we have to roll this out to the masa or else the majority of the people will think that veganism is just “kaartehan” (caprice?) of the privileged, English-speaking crowd.  Because it’s not, but the masa should see that.  We should not alienate them.

All in all, VegFest was really a wonderful experience.  We got to see fellow vegans, learn new things about the causes we are passionate about, eat yummy food, be inspired, and most of all see for ourselves the fact that we’re not alone, because that’s how we feel sometimes.  In fact, wr will be going to the next VegFests again until eternity.  Would we still be going together?  Sana.  Forever.

Recipe: Slow-cooked Tangway (Taro Stalks) in Spicy Coconut Milk

My love affair with laing started with the Star Cinema movie Kailangan Kita.  I was so in love with the movie that laing became my favorite food in the world, Bicol became my dream residence, and I considered myself an uragon (slang for feisty).  In college, we had this activity for a course called “Suroy-suroy, Lalolalorar, at Vochok” where we showcased the culture of the sixteen regions of the Philippines, and I swear I was a fixture of Region V, eating their dried taro leaves stewed in coconut milk.  When I became vegan and first stumbled upon Astig Vegan, her version of laing was the first (and I think the only) recipe I’ve tried.

Now, I’m not really good at copying recipes.  I’m just a regular visual learner.  That may be the reason for my five years’ worth of unsuccessful laing cookery.

Luckily, I saw a segment on a livelihood program that featured Bicol.  In it, they demo-ed how to cook pinangat – another taro dish that is apparently the same as laing except that the leaves used are fresh.  And when I made it, voila!  It’s like I was transported back to my Kailangan Kita-watching childhood.

I swear: it’s the best thing I’ve ever made.  (Pa-humble naman ng konti, siyempre.)

Being a sweet tooth, I love how the chili perfectly complements the natural sweetness of the coconut milk.  The taro stalks – which I just recently learned is called tangway – are so succulent.  My brother, who I’ve already featured in an earlier post, said it’s napakasarap (so delicious).  You’d definitely need LOTS of brown rice.  And a longer workout the next day.

Here it is.  I hope you’d love it as much as I do.

Slow-cooked Tangway in Spicy Coconut Milk (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 kg fresh tangway, cut into two-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh kakang gata (coconut milk, first press) + 1 cup gata, second press
  • 1 head Taiwan garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, chopped
  • 4 red chilies (or depending on your tolerance and preference)
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper

Procedures:

  1. In a blender, blitz together the coconut milk (first press), garlic, onion, ginger, two chilies, sea salt and ground black pepper until smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into a deep pot.
  3. Toss in the tangway and the remaining chiliand pour in the remaining coconut milk.
  4. Cook uncovered over medium heat until it simmers, then turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover.  DO NOT STIR.  Not even once.
  5. Let cook for 1-1/2 hours.
  6. Enjoy hot with rice.

Delicious.  I’m so excited for everybody to try it.

Tell me if you do and how you like it, okay?

XOXO

Patti

P.S. I think the same should work for dried taro leaves to make laing.  I could also use the same mixture for ginataang gulay.  I’d try one of these days and I’d tell you when I’m successful.

Cat post

Mama found our kitten Kutingting dead outside our gate this morning.  Ants were already eating her eyes and nose, and she was already cold and hard.  But when I cleaned her up and embraced her and showed her to her mom, I swear she became warm and soft.  I’m really sad.

Kutingting was the third kitten who lived with us and died.  I’m beginning to think there are evil people lurking around the neighborhood waiting for cats to poison.  I’m beginning to believe humans are evil.  Why kill an innocent animal?  I would always reprimand Kutingting for going out of our yard.  I was afraid they would kill her.  And now she’s gone.  Humans are bad.

My dear Kutingting, we love you and you know that, right?  Thank you for making us all happy.  We’ll take of your mom from now on.