Lives and Memories: Thank you, Aling Choleng

Community News & Features Apr 16, 2005 at 1:30 pm

(This column was read during the memorial for the late Aling Choleng, our beloved recipe writer- Ed.)

There is a joke that goes around in The Philippine Reporter – a joke promoted no less by my editor, Hermie Garcia — that this column I occasionally write – Lives and Memories – gets written only when someone who has lived a significant life dies, or when someone still living lives a life worth writing about.

Well, in the case of Aling Choleng, it’s both.

In the column I had written about her almost a decade ago, I had asked, “How can one not love Aling Choleng?”

I was not talking then about her family’s love for her, for that was something Maripi, and the late Papu and the grandchildren would know best.  I was referring to how the readers of Aling Choleng’s writings – the ardent followers of her recipe columns – could not help but love her.

More than just one who wrote and shared priceless recipes of  delicious dishes, desserts — many of them her own concoctions – she was a writer who had her readers’ greater interests at heart.

She had recipes for the meat lovers, the fish eaters and semi-vegetarians like me.  She also had recipes timed for important occasions, like Christmas, Lent and even Philippine Independence Day.

She was very creative in adapting recipes according to the availability of ingredients in whatever location her readers were.  She would think of substitutes for certain rare ingredients and even give tips on  where they could buy them.

But that’s  not all.  The caring mother and friend showed in her when she  would even bother    to give advice in her columns on how best to dispose of smelly fish or chicken innards in a way that would  not make a stinking mess out of  the kitchen, especially in a small apartment during the cold winter months, or the sweltering heat of summer.  She had then advised her readers: “Wrap them tight in foil and plastic; throw them in the freezer, and take them out only during garbage day.”

Well, that same advise was written over a decade ago, and I have followed it to this day, and so has my daughter.

I am sure Aling Choleng was well loved by her countless recipe followers, also for those caring acts of concern on how to deal with even the most mundane of kitchen tasks.

While she was still writing her columns for our paper, no one could beat Aling Choleng when it came to beating deadlines.  She was not only prolific with her column submissions, she was consistently and steadfastly prompt.

She would usually submit these columns  on a diskette, which Maripi would then bring to The Philippine Reporter’s office – that must have been prior to when e-mail was popular and affordable.  But later on, when Maripi  had become  too busy to make those  errands, Aling Choleng was still relentless in meeting her editorial commitments.  She would write her columns long hand on yellow paper, put them in an envelope, and mail them herself – with her perfectly written pieces (yes, they did not need any editing) arriving at the newspaper office days before the deadline.

Aling Choleng was already a well known established writer in the Philippines, in the likes of Gloria Gatchitorena Goloy, Chitang Nakpil, Paula Malay — before she came to Canada.  She was, however, always too modest to admit that.

During one of our leisurely conversations, she told me of those early days when she had started writing.  Those were the times when women writers got fired for getting married, getting pregnant, or raising children.

Undaunted, however, she was in getting the important things she wanted in her life, she defied the rules and went on to raise a family with    the love of her life, and still managed to rapidly rise the ranks from writer to editor  I’ve always regarded Aling Choleng as a woman ahead of her time, a women’s liber before women’s liberaton became a popular movement.

WhenThe Philippine Reporter went online in 1995, Aling Choleng’s columns were read throughout the world, and even collected by her adoring fans, who made them into mini recipe books.  So popular was she to her readers that Aling Choleng’s Recipes  registered the most number of hits on our web site, beating even the  paper’s sex  column, BodyMind, which emerged only a poor second.

Aling Choleng was  a dear friend who  always asked how our children were doing, whenever we managed to talk to each other.   She was particularly fond of our daughter, Lala, for whom she would always wrap a piece of cake or pie from her fridge, as a special treat for her when she was a child.

The last time I had talked to Aling Choleng was during the late Papu’s wake.  I recall proudly telling her that Lala was already a mother of two, and Aling Choleng was pleased to hear that.

Now I  want to tell her that Lala is  already a mother of three, having just given birth to our third grandchild only  a few days ago. Again, I know, Aling Choleng would have been happy for Lala, for Hermie and me, and for my family.

Thank you, Aling Choleng, for your   love and  friendship. The  memories of your inspired and inspiring life we will treasure forever.

We love you, Aling Choleng.