The invitation from Tita Lanelle came from out of the blue:
Are you and Abbey free on Sunday for a lugaw lunch? I’m turning 58 and I’m aiming to have 58 condiments for the lugaw.
As if anyone can possibly not be free for an invitation like that.
So today, right after closing the studio, Abbey and I found ourselves on the winding roads of Antipolo City on the way to the Crescent Moon Cafe. The parking lot was so full we ended up leaving my car on the street out front.
Inside, we discovered that Tita Lanelle had marvelously outdone herself.
I was aiming for 58 condiments, she told us conspiratorially, but ended up with 64. I couldn’t respond—I was already at the far side of the buffet table digging into the cilantro and leeks. Fortune was with us because even if we’d arrived late, we found two seats right next to the buffet and the table also happened to be occupied by Lakapati and her husband Alvin.
The next four hours flew by in a blur of refilled bowls, slices of pineapple pie and ceramic mugs of coffee. (Yes, there are occasions in life for which you’ll break your dietary rules. A 58th birthday party with 58 condiments for a lugaw is one of them.) In between rounds, Tita Lanelle would drop by our table and regale us with stories from her past involving everything from parrots committing suicide (the bird’s name was Piccolo) to typhoons slashing teddy bears (the storm was Typhoon Yoling from 1970). We laughed as much as our heaving stomachs would allow and we stayed until the sun’s departure ushered in the twilight chill.
We’ll do this again when I’m 60, Tita Lanelle informed us as she walked us to our cars (by then, Abbey, Lakapati, Alvin and I were the only guests left). We’ll mark the date, we assured her before kissing her goodbye.
My tummy will probably need the next two years to digest everything.