Upon my arrival from Cebu for the Cobra Ironman 2014 race, my sons Yaya greeted me with the news that our cook of two months who asked permission for a day off during the race weekend didn’t come back. Ate Meldy, a look alike of Connie Reyes Mumar, who’s cooking ability was 6, texted she was diagnosed with low blood and a flu. Several days after she was back though. However, she got sick again and this time her myoma was bothering her and wanted to rest in her hometown. So, we had to let her go. I learned later on she’s not really a cook and would call a friend for help when asked to prepare meals. I had a suspicion but we needed extra help.
Taking care of a house hold in crutches is not really difficult but quite painful on my injuries of course especially when struggling to get to the kitchen from my morning bedroom/office. Our two other house help and driver are quite efficient and know the family routine by heart. Yaya and Kuya R have been with us for a decade while our other girl – A – has been a balikbayan (just our term for a staff who resigned and came back to work for us again). Our household crew have assisted us for years and saw us cross so many finish lines but we have never been lucky with a kusinera (cook).
Let me tell you the story of some of the 30+ (Yaya used to count but she lost count when I asked her) cooks we’ve had in the last 10 years.
Ate Bibing - the best cook we’ve had. A true blooded Ilongga, she makes the best batchoy, laing, sinampalukang manok, etc. Actually she can cook anything you ask for! However, after a few years of stay with us she was pirated by a Madrigal and was given a monthly salary of 11k a month. During her day offs she’d come over to make us leche flan and my favorite laing. A year after she left the Madrigals to work for a German expat. Her salary accelerated to a whopping 20k/month PLUS overtime pay! She still comes over on her offs. When we have get togethers at home she makes California makis and prosciutto with grapes and olives. Her choice of menu obviously has upgraded too! After 2 years, the German expat left. Ate Bibing started her money lending business (5-6) got married and went back to Iloilo. We miss Ate Bibing.
Then came Manang Rose who was a Filipina version of “Beauty and the Beast’s” Mrs. Pots. Manang was always smiling, very bubbly and motherly but cooked mostly American dishes since she worked for an American expat. Our taste buds were not trained for bland dishes but for toyo (soy sauce) and calamansi or suka (vinegar) and bawang (garlic). She stayed with us for awhile though. I believe she had to go home to the province that’s why she resigned. Mrs Pot’s cooking ability 6.5.
Ate Helen, another Ilongga, mestiza with long shiny black hair, cute dimples, really good looking but never set her heart for any special man. She is probably the middle aged version of Mrs. Pots! A fan of frequent market trips, she padded our market budget too obviously! Have you seen a 220/kilo chicken at any wet market? And that was her price five years back! Even in Guadalupe market where the richest of Forbes Park do their weekend market, the prices are not that escalated! After a few more ridiculously padded market errands for her I had to make her leave. Cooking ability – 7.
Manang with a forgotten name 1- hired at 12 PM cause she said she can cook anything, left at 6 pm cause she thought she can’t last in our household. She didn’t even cook a single dish!
Manang with a forgotten name 2 – hired one afternoon, left the next morning, she said our house had an eerie feeling! Duh! Our house does not look a bit of a haunted house! I can’t even remember if she cooked anything!
Mary Jane - dressed like she was working in a beer house, so we told her to be in a uniform always. Her meals were quite impressive and can rate her cooking skills an 8.5! When we left for Ironmam Cobra 70.3 in 2012, we told the helpers not to leave the house. Guards were advised that they are not permitted to leave the village too. However, together with house help A (our balikbayan helper) charmed and tricked the guards that they will just hear mass. They had a great escapade and came back only before we arrived from Cebu. After a few months Mar Janne resigned together with A. Both were pregnant! When asked how it happened, both admitted going out during our Cebu race! Sadly, A never saw again the dad of her child. He ran faster than the speed of Pete Jacobs when he learned A was carrying his baby! Holly guacamole!
Ate Laila – the girlfriend of our office driver. Cooking ability 8, very respectful, pretty Filipina features, and with a proper make over, she could pass for a ramp model. Unfortunately she was very forgetful and could remember only one out of three instructions! Honestly, I don’t know what she saw with our office driver who’s really short and barely reaches her shoulders. She got pregnant too after a year of stay here. Don’t you think our house is a fertility temple?
So now, I’m back to being the official chef! I know how to cook but not as expertly as my sisters. I can not make fresh pasta or hickory smoked ribs that taste like they came from the US of A, so my family has to settle for the basic tinola, adobo, bulalo, barbecue and spring rolls. My cooking ability – well ask my kids
I made bread for the first time too…
On to the next cook… Can you recommend one?