“Ay sino ga ang iitlugin?”. This question inevitably popped up when my sisters went around the neighbourhood in Pook looking to see if anyone had any eggs to spare. For needing eggs in the community meant someone was in need of the nutrients contained in those little white or brown orbs, especially in a poor community when no one had the means to consult a doctor.
House by house my sisters would knock, or more accurately, call out to the house owner, “Pahiram po ng itlog!”. In this case, borrowing was loosely relative term. One asks to borrow an egg, with the tacit understanding that repayment of it may well take weeks or months to happen, if at all. But as in all close-knit rural communities in the old days, everyone looks out after each other, and whatever one has to spare was shared with those in need.
Eggs were a very precious commodity. One was lucky enough to have any to spare, and even luckier for not having the need for it. For it was a quick cure all for all ailments, the miracle cure that restored good health necessary to plow the fields or take the cows to pasture.
Many years later, eggs would still resonate with the same meaning for our family. My father making sinuam, eggs poached in salted water with ginger root and cracked pepper signified that a new baby had just been born to our family. Having just delivered the new baby, my mother would be staying in the local obstetric clinic, doors away from our apartment, and needing the health-packed nutrients to help her back on her feet. And I guess the sooner the better, what with all her other children waiting for her to resume the duties of being a mother.
So after Tatay closed the store, we would all troop to the clinic of Duktor Sitong, toting the pombrera, that stackable tin lunch pail, with the precious sinuam, excited to see Inay and gawk at the newest addition to the now large family. The three-bed mini hospital would have been deserted by then as clinic hours would have finished, and after ringing the bell, Mrs. Cruz, the doctor’s wife would usher us into the room where Inay stayed. I can still see that room in my mind, situated on the first floor overlooking the leafy entrance to the clinic, smelling unmistakably of antiseptic. A hospital bed, a couple of chairs and a side table with a glass straw sitting inside a glass drinking cup.
Patiently and quietly we would sit watching Inay eat her egg soup, but all hell broke loose as soon as Mrs. Cruz brought the baby in: I remember a beautiful little bundle of pinkish-brown flesh: first Almar and just over a year later my younger sister Angie, eyes tightly shut, and in Angie’s case, both earlobes dangling scarlet red strings where the doctor had pierced holes, a clear indication that this was not a baby boy. The hands would always be encased in white cotton baggies held in place at the wrists to prevent the baby from scratching the face with the surprisingly sharp yet still delicate tiny fingernails.
© August 2007