It is Noche Buena in my sister’s household. A small evenly brown roasted pig (from Sir Dodong’s Lechon in Los Banos) sits in the middle of the large round dining table designed along a carriage wheel motif. A beautifully cooked lechon that I had ever seen – a rich gloss of brown skin (balat) tightly chiseled all over the small pig’s body; a thin tail stiffly perked upwards; an elongated head featuring a tranquil face that seems to denote contentment in the outcome of its process. A most delectable object.
The urge to pick on the crispy skin is hard to resist. My fingers feel the itch, and my brother-in-law notices my eyes furtively focused hungrily on the lechon skin. He cuts a piece and the crunch pierces the quiet in the room. It is a sound that waters the mouth and tempts. So my sister asks for a piece, and her husband carefully shoves it in her mouth. Heavenly crunch, crunch. Merry Christmas!
Sir Dodong’s Lechon — Wonder about the patches? Someone or two couldn’t resist picking on the crunchy skin. And what happened to the tail? Hmmm …
It is the night before Christmas, and all is no longer quiet in the house. Other members of the family flock to the dining table to partake of the Noche Buena. Lechon tasting precedes a delicious chicken-based soup with pieces of chicken liver and slivers of gizzard meat. In the large serving soup bowl on the table’s carousel are slices of cooked unripe papaya mixed with chicken legs and wings. The soup’s fragrance overpowers the scent of the lechon. Beside the soup bowl is a tray of fresh green okra steamed to perfection. A tiny dip dish on the okra platter holds soy sauce with freshly squeezed lemon juice. The slimy okra practically melts in the mouth. A superb accent, a slight distraction that does not diminish but rather enhances the gourmet blend of lechon and soup. Heavenly! Merry Christmas!
The conversation around the table is lively. Banters flash back and forth in gleeful repartee. Laughter abounds. It literally shakes the dining table. There is much teasing about courtship and budding romance. What better subject is there than love during a Christmas dinner. The camaraderie is genuine. The best part is the dynamics of a family come together for a festive commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Merry Christmas!
An infant child is put to sleep by the Lola seated on the sofa some feet away from the rowdy bunch at the table. Perhaps, it is time to hush, for now. The babe is drowsing to sleep. Handsome little baby, lullabied to sleep, warmed in the Lola’s warm embrace. A soft and gentle good night, and Merry Christmas to the lil’ baby.
Tomorrow is Christmas … the happy rowdiness continues. More eating. More joy and laughter. More love.
Merry Christmas – love, joy and peace to all!