31 October 2009

Life's a bowl of laughs with Ronnie Alejandro

"E." tried his hand at making "arroz a la cubana".  This was my family's staple every Sunday after going to church.   My mom, who has never been in the kitchen or boiled water, boldly announces, that the secret in the plantain is that it should be over ripe!  Your secret's safe with us.  Mum's the word.


"E." found the recipe in a book by Reynaldo Alejandro, "Authentic Recipes from the Philippines". He, personally, gave the book to "E." and me, with the inscription, "Bon Appetit!" 

I found Tito Ronnie in New York  in the mid-90's.  I called him Tito Ronnie not because he is one of those random people you address as "Tito" just to be polite, but because there is the Ferriols blood that runs between our veins.  Our forefathers were from Valencia, Spain and we have an insignia to prove our binding blue blood.  He invited me to dinner in his apartment on Bleecker Street and my life was never the same.  

He once dragged me to a fashion show in one of the public libraries of New York.  In a heartbeat, he introduced me to the organizers as the lighting technician for the show, on the spot! My jaw dropped but New York has a way of making one fearless and infallible.  And there I was, with all the lighting switches, acting like a pro.  I had no idea what the clothes were like so I kept adjusting the lights as the models would come down the runway, strutting their stuff.  I hope I did not give the more mature audience a headache when I saw them staggering to the exit, waiting to exhale under a steadier afternoon light. 

Or when I once bumped into him at St. Patrick's Cathedral after work before night set in.  He took me firmly by the elbow and we walked to the Philippine Center on 5th Avenue, where he again, jumped the gun, and introduced me as the distinguished "guest of honor".  I was treated with great importance, a tiny bouquet of lovely fall flowers pinned to my jacket, and, quickly, handed a pair of scissors to cut the ribbon to a floral exhibit. Expect the unexpected with Tito Ronnie!


I miss him.  His recipes and books on all things Filipiniana will forever keep his memory alive.  Rest in peace, Tito. He's probably working up a feast in heaven.  Please don't forget to reserve the best seat in the house for my Papi.  

Happy All Saint's day!  Behave, the two of you!  Bon appetite!

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