Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 April 2021
It was a Holy Wednesday when the incident went viral as picked up by network news that evening when the previous night some barangay officials in Muzon, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan insisted that lugaw is “not essential”, that man can live even without lugaw.
The timing was so perfect being a “Spy Wednesday” or the night of traitors when Judas Iscariot struck a deal with the chief priests to hand them over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt.26:15).
And so, there were the three barangay officials handing over to their power trip the common lugaw not knowing they have in fact betrayed us Filipinos in their arrogant insistence that lugaw is a non essential food.
The following Holy Thursday, another Judas Iscariot not only betrayed but crucified si lugaw as non-essential without knowing his remark was a self-indictment of this government’s preoccupation with politics, disregard for the people and lack of any definitive plan regarding the year-old pandemic. Trying to sound a smart aleck and clown rolled into one this administration has too much of, his explanations only made him look like the lowest kind of lugaw – rice leftovers boiled in water.
The benighted souls who have denigrated our favorite food have just proven that this pandemic is something we have to see in the light of spirituality and morality, not just a medical and social issue to be addressed.
Any food is always essential because every food signifies a person, has life and sustains life.
Recall that during his Last Supper on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus had chosen the most ordinary but very essential food to be the sign of his loving presence among us until the end of time – the bread. An unleavened bread, to be exact, which was the food taken by the Jews during their exodus from Egypt at the time of Moses.
The bible teems with so many references to the lowly food of bread as something divine with deeper meaning as a sign.
Consider that Jesus was born on a manger which is an open box or a trough for animals like horses and cattle to eat from to signify his being our very food in this life journey. He was born in Bethlehem that literally means “house of bread”; thus, at his last supper, Jesus gave himself to us under the sign of a bread.
In establishing the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which St. John Paul II emphasized in 2002 by adding the Mysteries of Light in praying the Rosary, Jesus elevated the meal into the most sublime human activity making our food divine and holy. As a result, the table had become one of the most intimate places in our lives that every time there is a meeting or any gathering, there is always the meal to be shared. I used to tell my students before that every first date is always in a restaurant – if possible a fine dining one – because what matters most is the moment to be shared together by you and your date.
It is always easy to know when couples and parents are not in good terms with each other: they never eat together or during meals, they do not talk or speak to each other. The same is true when people decline our invitations for dinner or party or simple meal: they do not want to be with us. Period. That is why Judas Iscariot had to leave and not finish the Lord’s supper!
See that we never call people as “enemies”: like Jesus Christ, as much as possible we welcome everyone to our table to share meal with us and it is only then when we realize who is our enemy when like Judas, some people stab us in our backs while sharing meal.
When we eat and share food and drinks, we actually share our very selves to our guests and friends. We host parties because we want to share our very selves with our family and friends, to share and be a part of our lives, of our achievements, of our important stages in life. Their coming signify the same willingness to share us their lives too.
The food we share are signs of our bonding, of our relationships, of how we care and respect for one another. It does not really matter what food we share. More often, the most simple and ordinary food are the ones that truly delight us like tuyo. Or lugaw!
How I wish parents today would bring back those days of old when nobody is supposed to waste not even a single grain of rice or any food for that matter because it is from God.
When we were growing up, every meal was the most awaited family time not because of the food but more of the bonding and exchanging of stories. As we age, it has become more truer than ever! That is why we all wish this pandemic would end so we could all eat together as families and friends, is it not?
Any food is always essential because every food signifies a person who has life and sustains life of others.
Every one of us is a companion to each other. From the two Latin words “cum panis” that mean someone you break bread with, a companion is a friend, a fellow traveler who sustains and nourishes you like food in your journey!
In that beautiful story of the road to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to two disciples disappointed with his death and news of his empty tomb on Easter, they recognized him only after he had broken bread but simultaneously disappeared because at the table of the Lord, we also become his Body meant to be shared with everybody.
The recent issue that went viral on whether lugaw is a non-essential or not is a tragic indication of the kind of people we are, of how we categorize persons like food.
There seems to be a direct correlation between food and humans: when there are plenty of food, that is when people are taken for granted, while where there is scarcity of food, people are valued.
Take the case of ice cream. When somebody is rich and young and beautiful or handsome, they are the “flavor of the month” or the “all-time favorite” and “classic” or “premium”.
And how do we call our ordinary ice cream peddled by Mamang Sorbetero? “Dirty ice cream” – dirty because ordinary and cheap like the street kids, the poor, the “wa-class” and opposite of the more expensive sosyal ice cream.
Worse, with so much food available these days unlike before when we valued every food so much because we can only have apples (and softdrinks) when sick or chocolates when relatives from the States sent packages or some rich neighbors brought you as pasalubong from Dau’s PX stores outside Clark Air Base in Pampanga, things today have also changed in the way we relate with one another.
There seems to be a direct correlation between food and humans: when there are plenty of food, that is when people are taken for granted while where there is scarcity of food, people are valued.
As more food are readily available these days, the more we have become choosy, the more we categorize food as essential and non-essential that at the same time, the more we denigrate humans.
Such was the plan of Satan with his first temptation to Jesus – turn stones into bread after fasting for 40 days in the wilderness.
For Satan, let us have more food and things to satisfy our body so we forget God and one another, and everything of higher value. When food is retained in the stomach and becomes an end in itself, it then becomes an occasion for sin like gluttony, exactly what Satan was pushing for so that we just keep on filling our stomachs with food, satisfying the cravings and desires of the body until we destroy ourselves and our image as likeness of God.
Jesus put food into the right perspective that God is our real and true food that in two instances at least, he fed vast crowds of people in the wilderness after seeing them rightly disposed for material food.
Call it as generation gap but I am shocked when I hear some people especially the young describing handsome men and pretty women as “yummy” and “delicious” like food. Problem with that kind of mentality is how it shows we have come to regard everybody like food that if we are no longer “fresh” or “new”, becoming “old” and stacked in the cold fridge, later to be discarded or thrown out like old people being sent to retirement homes totally unknown to us 40 years ago.
Worst of all is how this administration launched its bloody campaign against drugs when addicts and other criminals were considered as non-essentials to be eliminated or killed like animals – exactly the deeper implication of what that government official kept saying last Holy Thursday that “non essential si lugaw”!
Since last year’s Holy Week when we first went into this lockdown, I have been telling friends to avoid as much as possible posting their lavish food on Facebook as a sensitivity to others with almost nothing to eat. And I maintain it is still valid to this time of this worsening crisis.
Let us be food to everyone as source of strength and nourishment, of inspiration. We do not have to make extraordinary efforts. Simply be human as yourself. Be present with a text or a phone call to those suffering. Pray for them and let them know you care for them.
Be a lugaw who could warm someone’s cold body freezing in fear and anxiety, offering quick relief from whatever suffering others may be going through.
Most of all like a hot, steamy lugaw, giving hope that Jesus is with us, his salvation is coming soon.
Remember, friends, lugaw is essential.
And so is everyone.