Rain is Good for You

Breaking Signs ( Panorama 08/23/2009 )
THE HEAVIEST RAINFALL so far this year came to my part of Quezon City last July 26.
It poured in torrents from four to six in the afternoon. I sat in the garage and watch it shake the mango tree out in the road and the plants in my small backyard garden. The bougainvillas, yellow bells, and suntan submitted to its fury. Nature is most awesome when it is angry, and angry it was that week, burying people in landslides in Cotabato and Antipolo, flooding the main streets of MetroManila, and stranding, as usual, the unlucky commuters.

I had just brought out of the storeroom for re-reading H. Allen Smith’s autobiographical narrative, To Hell in a Handbasket (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1962), and was dusting it when the rain fell. It was accompanied by a gusty wind that swept everything that was not nailed down—plastic buckets, old newspapers, garden chairs. I watched in fascination as the silver drops arched and looped in some strange geometric patterns while the wind swished and swooshed in abandon. Smith provided a counterpoint to the noise with his well-known gray humor. "I have heard it said many times that a person cannot tell the whole truth about himself in a book. I honestly think that I can come closer to it than most authors of autobiographies. Gypsy Rose Lee and George Bernard Shaw have said that all men past forty are scoundrels. I am past forty and I have all the instincts of a scoundrel. Even in this time of pressures and compulsions, I tend to speak my mind."

And no one could speak their mind more than Smith who took delight in exposing the frailties and foibles of the great and the mighty. As a reporter, rewrite man, and sports commentator, he watched people and events with objective profundity and wrote about them with acidic keenness. "Scholarly investigators in the field of roughneck linguistics say that a person who is going to hell in a handbasket is going to hell because of amateur sinning, such as playing the horses, social drinking to excess, striking a lady real hard, gossiping, indulging in sex orgies, and other small misdemeanors. Such a person has not murdered anyone, he has not robbed any widows or widowers and he has not been a member of Congress. His sins have been the sins of pleasurable dissipation and I understand, from high authority, that when he arrives in hell they may even turn him away form the gate, telling him that his credentials show he belongs in the Other Place."

How close to home he was as I thought of the hundreds of congressmen we have with their endless inclination toward unpardonable transgressions. The rain pummeled the garage roof so hard that it leaked in two places, and I made a mental note to buy another can of plaster sealant. The rising water in the garden seeped into the floor of a downstair room. My wife cleared the clogged drainage outlet to ease the rise, and old newspapers came in handy in cleaning the room. When I was young, my mother would say, "Go out in the rain. It’s good for you," and so I would bring a piece of soap and take a bath in the street.

After watching the rain for a few minutes, I retreated to my room to go over Recipes for Life: Food for the Heart, edited by Jennifer Lee-Bonto and Christine Penaranda-Concio (Los Baños: Pages Publishing Artists, Co., 2009). This brainchild of St. Theresa’s College, Quezon City batch ’85 is a delightful collection of autobiographical narratives penned with sensitivity, humor, and energy. Like recipes, they are meant to guide, instruct, and direct persons engaged in the kitchen of life to feed body and soul.

As Charo Santos-Concio writes in her foreword, "Every chef has a secret ingredient: it may be the most unique spice you can find in Paris, or it may be just the right amount of soy sauce. We, women, are also chefs. We whip up the best of life. We want it spicy…sometimes sour…sweet…salty… hot… cold…or just right. What we are serving for appetizer, main course or dessert, matters. How we serve it is important. This is what made me crave reading this book. It’s the spices of life that women had to have a taste of and how women handled even the most sour and bitter of experiences. Every woman stands tall and strong…giving hope, courage, motivation and inspiration."

The 56 or so articles—three are poems— in this well-designed and unique book are arranged in the manner of daily eating structure—Prayer Before Meals; Breakfast; Lunch; Afternoon Tea & Biscuits; Dinner with its Starters, Main Course, Dessert; Cocktails, Mocktails & Bedtime Drinks; and Prayer After Meals. They concern human responses to critical situations and show us life’s beauty and meaning in the midst of battering storms that challenge our very faith in God and belief in humanity.


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