Sunday, July 3, 2005

Aratiles Memories

A while ago I received the email “Maalaala Mo Kaya”, and decided to see how much I remember of the things we used to do when we were kids during the early, early days of Generation X Pilipinas. I can’t answer all the questions in one post, but let’s start with a couple.

Nung ikaw ay bata pa, kumakain ka ba ng aratiles? (When you were a kid, did you use to eat aratiles?)

Aratiles? Of course. Running around UP Campus my sister and I kept mental maps of where every aratiles tree worth shaking and climbing just for the rosy-colored, marble-shaped fruit. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen or tasted a single aratiles fruit for ages.

Nasubukan mo na bang magpitpit ng gumamela para gawing soapy bubbles na hihipanmo sa binilog na tangkay ng walis tingting? (Did you ever try squeezing gumamela flowers to make soapy bubbles which you blew through coconut leaf ribs twisted into a circle?)

We used to peel off red gumamela petals down to their center, which was sticky and helped keep the bubbles we blew solid. The crushed gumamela petals when mixed in the bubbly water exuded lovely rainbow oils. For blowing bubbles though, it was better to go pluck a branch of papaya. We cut off the leaf and the other end for neatness, so that when you looked through one end of the stalk towards the other end you’d see lots of holes running through it. Then we’d swish it in the soapy laundry water and blow – and make several bubbles instead of just one! We didn’t throw away the papaya leaf though: we’d crush it and rub it on our skinned knees so that we wouldn’t develop scars. The enzyme was pretty effective; my legs are smooth and you can barely make out the scars of childhood. And speaking of skinned knees and other minor wounds, we were taught to chew young guava leaves and rub the resulting poultice on top of the wounds. The antiseptic qualities of the guava made our scrapes heal fast. It helped that young guava leaves actually tasted good. Fortunately our mom taught us which plants were poisonous and which ones weren’t.

In our wild backyard we found alugbati growing low on the ground, their leaves beautifully veined in red. It had these little red-black berries the size of my little fingernail, which contained a dark red pigment that we used to use as kiddie lipstick. In grade school I remember reading a book which said Jose Rizal used alugbati berries in his watercolors. I don’t remember the berries having any particular taste; all I know is we used it on our lips and threw the rest away.