Pine Dining

By | July 29, 2017

Midsummer is here. When the mercury spikes up to levels that remind one that there is a sun, a midsummer night’s dream is likely of being where it is cooler.

       Never worry. In a few more weeks, some dreams will come true.

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       This reminds me of a friend’s granddaughter. She did not mind the summer heat and humidity. When she was younger, her grandparents would ask her to gather her stuff, and she did her thing at a mall. If a chill at the mall or at a children’s playroom in a fast-food joint was unlikely, she played near an open refrigerator.

       Good thing she has aged, matured and grown past her cooling flings; way before Ontarians were saddled with steep hydro rates that provincial officials have been trying to get rid of as a consumer burden. Cool, eh.

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       Filipinos moved to and settled in Canada have always breezed through the Canadian hot and humid summer.

       One: They are used to tropical weather and the heat, and they can live with it; except that they sorely miss the mythical BFFs named Hanging Amihan and Hanging Habagat.

       I remember a Toronto bread and pastry plant co-worker tasked to feed the oven and relieve it of its delicious baked products. It was summer and even if exposed to intolerable high temperatures, he never left his post and did his work the best that he could.

       “Pare, mukhang sulit ka sa impiyerno, ah?” I jokingly asked him during the break. With a smile, he replied: “Pare, nasa langit ako. Libre ang sauna. Pawisan nga pero tanggal naman ang taba. May masarap pa akong nalalanghap sa tuwina. Higit sa lahat, binabayaran pa ako!” He has since retired, but his cool optimism lives on.

       Two: Those who have adapted the Western way of saving money for an individual or a family vacation just do that – take a much-needed respite from the humdrum of Canadian life.

       They go on a homecoming journey to relive the good times with kin and friends and re-experience the beautiful and hospitable people and the rich culture and heritage of the Philippines.

       They also join cruises, excursions and tours to lands they have yet to see and explore; and take trips to preferred places in a bucket list they hope to empty before the eternal rest.

       Three: Summer is the right time for outings and reunions, when school classmates and alumni, professional colleagues, kabayan and kababayan, fraternity and organizational members, and others meet, bond, eat, share the latest tall tales and laughter, and seize the moments together, even if only for a few ticks.

       Four: If financial resources are low to beat the heat elsewhere than the four walls of one’s abode, then there one shall stay. A book, a stuffed refrigerator, a never-ending rotating fan or an endlessly chugging air conditioner, a soft bed or couch, and a silent room all help create an air and aura of peace and sanity.

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       Did you know that Toronto has over 1,500 parks with wide open spaces and 600 kilometers of trails?

       The city’s website says Toronto’s parks system covers 8,000 hectares, or roughly 13 percent of the city’s land area; including about 40 percent of Toronto’s natural areas, many of which lie within the ravine system and along the Lake Ontario shoreline. City parks also feature beaches, playgrounds, sports fields, gardens, conservatories, ice rinks in winter, special events and much more for everyone to enjoy.

       Popular among city residents who love the great outdoors in summer are Adams Parks, Centennial Park, High Park, Milliken District Park, Thomson Memorial Park, Toronto Islands, Downsview Dells Park, Earl Bales Park, Morningside Park and Wilket Creek Park.

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       Filipino community members in Toronto have reason enough to flock to the Earl Bales Park at Bathurst St., which is historically known as one of the areas where Filipino immigrants and workers have landed and have stood their ground.

       The park, for more than five decades now, has served as their rest and recreation destination. Earl Bales Park has seen a lot of happy and glowing faces of Filipino children enjoying its greenery and scenery.

       The historical value of Earl Bales Park became more profound among Filipinos in Toronto when on June 6, 1998, the bronze-granite bust of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal (June 19, 1861-December 30, 1896) was unveiled there.

       An F.B. Caede work of art, Rizal’s bust has since stood prominently in the park to honor the varied but great contributions of the Filipino community in making Toronto a peaceful and progressive city to behold.

       The Rizal bust was donated to the City of Toronto by the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto and by the Order of the Knights of Rizal and the Kababaihang Rizalista (Ladies Auxillary), with the cooperation of the Philippine Centennial Commission to commemorate the 100th year of the June 12, 1898 proclamation of Philippine Independence.

       Geographically, the Earl Bales Park also served as a fulcrum that could attract and gather community members from the east and west sides of Toronto.

       To this day, the park has been the favorite and most popular site for community outdoor activities.

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        A couple of weekends ago, I was one of five members of a fraternal group that opted to secure a picnic spot under a group of pine trees gracing the open and wide landscape of Earl Bales Park. We were there before Friday midnight to make the shady spot ready for the next day’s event.

       Except for annoying mosquitoes that chanced on exposed skin, and a skunk and raccoon that both kept a safe distance away while waiting for an opening to grab our grub, the darkness went by fast as we shared stories of our and “their” lives, guffaws ensuing after every anecdote. The pine trees shielded us from other prowlers.

       We went home before dawn and came back before noon that morning to find brothers and their families and friends enjoying the cool shade of the pine trees, which doubled as umbrellas during intermittent drizzles.

       The potluck picnic has begun. The grapevine teemed with tales. New acquaintances were made. Hands were shaken.  Former bonds were restored and renewed. The pine trees gallantly stood as silent witnesses.             

       Busy with mingling, some picnic goers did not seem to notice falling pine needles that embedded itself on pancit, or laced the adobo pot, the caldereta tray and the thirst quenching juice. In fairness, there were some alert eyes that saw and quick hands that fixed the pine issue.

       I just mumbled as those who did not care to focus on fine cuisine swallowed: Pine dining it is.

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       Someone once told me: If you want to see the sights, hear the sounds, enjoy the taste and feel the aura of the Philippines, go to the Earl Bales Park on a summer weekend.

       What he said is true. It is proven. #####