[ NOte from NOel : My gosh, all those general and mini batch 82, Judenite, Alphan, Auckland Pinoy, NZ Maroon and other reunions recently held, with all the gastronomic and karaoke delights ! Happy holidays and kudos ! Our paternal pride is close to bursting level right now, love and congrats to Elijah Brent Emmanuel Bautista for passing his DLSU and AdMU entrance exams ! Awesome ! ]
Dear batchmates, schoolmates, brods, officemates, kabayan and friends :
Of all the things, GF (please indulge me, I’m not used to calling her mi esposa yet) has recently developed a skill, and for lack of a more accurate, less glamorous term, the best way I can describe it would be to call her a sometime cat whisperer. But that’s getting ahead of myself.
A few months ago shortly after GF arrived, a forbidding black cat began lurking around the grassy backyard. We assumed she (pasexy earns a she) was one of the neighbor’s pets, so we paid little mind. Around mealtime, and especially after we had fish, Moning (we had to call her something) would pretend to be chasing some invisible rodent or insect closer to our backdoor, then rub herself against whatever was available (tree stump, clothesline post, human legs) giving her the previously incongruous attributes of being hair-raising and irresistible, hoary and endearing. It didn’t take much for us to discern that the fishy smells were attracting her to our territory.
As soon as we issued her the requisite fish bones and remains that she initially inspected with caution but later gobbled up with feline gusto, she would wander away, gradually so as not to reveal that food source was all that we were to her, and later drop ninja-like out of sight. Which was fine with us.
As weeks passed, Moning became less picky, but her wariness and slow starts to dining continued. We noticed two extremes : she never ate beef (was probably friends with a few cows on a nearby pasture), and the only time she started eating without reservation was when the menu was daing or smoked fish, not easy to come by in these parts but an open declaration of olfactory war on our whole UCB (United Colors of Benetton) barangay. And of course, the first to attend the pow-wow was Moning.
Later we realized that she was wary of indiscriminate eating because other cats or more aggressive creatures might come to challenge her for the spoils of charming us to pieces. No amount of convincing, viz Moning, walang kalaban or “you have the exclusive license to mooch here” would sway her from the food-&-premises inspection ritual.
To be sure, there were other cats, although they were not as friendly, and Moning was the only one who truly adapted to our (naturally) Filipino cuisine. There were also hedgehogs, seagulls, swallows, and other types of birds, although as I’ll tell you later, the latter hovered over the vicinity at their own peril.
We were likewise aware that we were not the only benefactors of our new friend for whom the more pungent or spicy the food was, the better. Who was her human master/s? Weren’t they looking for her whenever she practiced her food-tripping around the block? And why were we her favorites?
Obvious naman diba? (Isn’t it obvious) our flatmate quipped. Type nya mga putahe natin (She prefers our food).
Indeed, compared to the blase’ protein granules that guaranteed meowy nutrition but weren’t that appealing tastewise, the snapper (tilapia counterpart), tarakihi ( pritong galunggong ) and discounted salmon fillets must have been irresistible to Moning.
I almost forgot the reason for the email’s title : the only downside to tolerating a pusang gala on the family estate was the mysterious appearance in our backyard of birds falling from the sky : nope, not Arkansas, not Louisiana, not Stockholm, just a sheepish look from the newest member of the household, sneaky green eyes, fur-licking, curly footlong tail and all.
It would’ve been understandable if we hadn’t been sharing our turo-turo fare with Moning or if she had been eating the proceeds of her deadly acrobatics, but after playing with her victims half and hour or so, she would abandon the poor birds to the sun, the rain, and the oxidizing elements.
This was, of course, unacceptable to GF, who one day did something about it. I came home from work to a clean backyard, no dead birds today? and asked her what had happened, asawak?
Kinausap ko sya. Pinagdilatan ko ng mata, tinuro ko yung mga pinatay nya, tapos sabi ko di na natin sya papakainin. Mamaya wala na yung mga ibon.
[ OK, here’s paraphrasing what she said : “I told her she would miss the yummiest part of her daily diet if she continued picking on all those birds, and also to get rid of her victims. After a while the dead things were gone.” ]
And just like that, the neighborhood enjoyed its first Moning Whisperer.
** ** **
Moning’s precocious knowledge of Pinoy dishes continues to grow impressively by the day, but doesn’t pick on birds anymore. We still don’t know who really owns her, or why her master allows her so much time outside the house, but I do know two things : that for those who’ve grown up at home in the Islands, homecooked ulam is irreplaceable, and that even our mamallian cousins down the food chain know this instinctively.
Thanks for reading !
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