“welcome to vittlesnvisuals”
Living my life one day at a time
Tito Nestor is my dad’s first cousin, his first best friend, his perpetual drinking buddy, his collaborator and accomplice in his days of youthful miscreancy. In 1977, Tito Nestor went to the Americas to establish his own roots in the new country, leaving my dad physically, but not necessarily in his heart.
Tito Nestor is the nephew of my Lola Andeng, the son of her brother. When her brother passed away, Lola Andeng took my Tito Nestor and his siblings under her tutelage and guidance. That way, my dad and Tito Nestor, being in the same age bracket got pretty close as brothers, partners in petty juvenile delinquencies and generally shared happy childhood adventures together.
On my part, being born in the household with Tito Nestor around, I grew up being so fond of him that he was like a second dad to me. The permissive cool dude who allowed me to climb trees when my mother won’t, wrestle with dogs when my mother won’t, play barefooted in our greasy yard when my mother won’t, let me to a sip of my first San Miguel at age 6 just for the fun of seeing how my face will contort, carried me on his back when I don’t feel like walking, let me ride on his back while he swam and went under the water, while he and my dad did swim races during summer vacations. He would even let me hold the fishing rod whenever I tag along at times when he and my dad went fishing along the breakwaters of Manila Bay. I could go on forever… oh my, I missed the guy.
So in the year 1977, you can imagine how this guy broke my heart when he flew in an airplane and left me. I was only 7 years, but before the airport goodbye dramas, I cried for nights and begged him not to leave, at least for my sake. At 7, I was a selfish kid and had no idea that my uncle was leaving to make a life of his own. Tito Nestor along with my Lolo Jess was my center of everything. They were the provider of my life’s endless bliss. The abrupt change, of him suddenly disappearing from my life, when I realized that I won’t see my uncle anymore in my waking hours gave me a choking sensation. At any rate, it was my first separation experience and the feeling that I was denied the company of this marvelous guy still lingers in my heart.
Come end of March 2013, Tito Nestor decided to visit Manila and promised to see me. Although by now, many things in our lives have changed like Tito Nestor is now a dad of two adults, and I’ m not exactly the same 7-year-kid anymore, I myself got me a 7-year old boy. My uncle has aged, and is now in his 70s. More so, my dad has died. The memory of my childhood came back and the excitement of seeing my most favorite person caused me few sleepless nights. 36 years of absence in my life. I wondered how I’d feel when I see him again.
Several hours upon arriving in Manila, Tito Nestor phoned me to check him in and requested that I go to the Cavite home of my older cousin because he will be there. So I did. It was a merry meet! I met old cousins I last saw some 36 years ago, Makus and I were hugged, kissed on our cheeks and treated to a day of laughter and food. I stayed overnight in their house, bonded a lot with Tito Nestor over a bottle of tequila and loads of servings of Vietnamese Pho Soup.
Before coming over to Manila, Tito Nestor and I have been constantly talking to each other about anything and everything we could think of: children, parenting, cooking, fond memories of my dad and other political and social stuff. One day, he roused my curiosity over a picture he posted over Facebook. It was an image of his version of a Vietnamese Pho soup. I joked that he must make one for me when he comes over to see me. At any rate, he promised that he’ll bring in ingredients and teach me how to make this sizzling soup. True to his words, he did deliver his Asian soup and true to his words again, he taught me how to prepare an authentic Vietnamese Pho soup.
Ingredients for the Vietnamese Pho Soup
Preparing the Vietnamese Pho Soup
To start with, peel and slice the ginger.
Heat 2 liters of water in a stock pot under high fire. Drop in the ginger slices, chunk of meat and bony beef parts. Once boiling, adjust heat to low and allow meat to cook until soft and tender. This process alone will take several hours. We started boiling the meat at around 12 noon and we were able to serve the Vietnamese Pho soup at around 6:30 in the evening. That should give you an idea how long the meat tenderizing process could take. Continuously add water when you feel that a lot has evaporated already. At the end of all this boiling process, you must make sure that at least 1.5 liters or close to 2 liters remains in your stock pot. Of course, we already know that boiling meat in very low fire yields the best result. How then would you know if your meat is ready?
Tito Nestor taught me a very useful meat boiling tip.
Fork the meat with a kitchen fork and pierce your chunk of meat using a kitchen fork and lift it up a little. If the meat slides down by itself back to the stock, it’s all set. If not, continue boiling until it does so.
Half-way the boiling process, throw in the small cute bag of Phoa Pasteur spices and two cubes of Pho Ga into the boiling meat. Cover and leave the stock until meat is ready.
Whilst you are waiting for the beef to soften, prepare your rice noodles by soaking them in water and cut them around 4-5 inches long.
Check your meat again, remove the meat from the boiling cauldron once it slides off the fork, put it a container and set it aside. Allow several minutes of cooling. Then slice it in circular cuts, depending on your desired thickness.
At this point, the meat is ready, so let’s start arranging and serving the Vietnamese Pho soup. Soup arrangement:
To give it a touch of Filipino taste, you may also add in slices of eggs. Or, you can opt to put sambal oelek Thai chili if you wish for further scorching of your tongue.
While we, the adult ones were busy catching up with our lives’ stories, our kids were busy Easter Egg hunting. Makus himself was able to collect 7 colorful eggs while Ivan, his cousin was the winner with 8 eggs on his name. This was Makus’ first Easter Egg hunt experience and he admitted he had fun. Tita Ellen provided the cash prize of P20.00 per egg, while Tito Nestor gave each kid participant P500.00 each, making all of them winners!
Earlier, before the egg hunt began, Makus already eyed a few colorful eggs while he was checking out Tita Ellen’s garden. He ran to me and exclaimed “Mommy! Mommy! Bunnymund was here! It’s Easter! I saw a couple of eggs in the garden! Come, come let me show you!” The eggs were in plain sight. He saw a green one that’s nicely nestling inside a hanging orchid basket, and another violet egg on the ground, half-hidden under the thick dwarfed bushes.
“Mommy, why didn’t Bunnymund drop by our house and leave some eggs for me to hunt?” Makus asked.
“I don’t know, maybe he knew you’ d be coming over Tita Ellen’s and he decided that you should hunt with your cousins.” I replied. Makus thought for a long while then came back with an disbelieving tone.
“No, I don’t think this was left by Bunnymund. How come Tita Ellen knows how many eggs are hidden all in all?”
“Maybe Bunnymund whispered it to Tita Ellen’s ear.” I answered.
After a while, Makus cracked an Easter egg and ate it.
“Wow, it sure taste different from the usual egg from the market. Okay, I’m convinced, this egg is from Bunnymund!”
At last, it’s settled.
I am putting this post under Celebration of Paxxie’s Life: Food and Stuff because Tito Nestor is very much a part a part of my dad’s life as he is in mine.Read More