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What’s with the Palamig Made in Lipa?

Frankly, I do not have the foggiest! But I do the story no justice by saying this right from the off; so let me take you back in time so that this declaration starts to get a semblance of sense.

Before shakes and other fastfood cooling drinks became fashionable, there was the palamig. To the uppity, this was for all intents and purposes chilled sugared water with a bit of banana or some other flavour to taste and bits of gelatin and tapioca for something chewy to go with the drink.

It was not uncommon for somebody enterprising in the neighbourhood to set up a table in front of the veranda to sell the cooling drink especially during the hot summer months.

Or, it was not strange to see a large plastic container in a neighbourhood sarî-sarî store where the owner thought there was nothing wrong with selling palamig along with sachets of toothpaste and shampoo and other various itty-bitty little commodities.

When the lady told her that a small plastic cup of the palamig cost 5 pesos each, I was expecting her to order just a few cups which I expected the tinderai to pour into small plastic bags for carrying.
The surest place where one could find palamig whatever the day, whatever the occasion and whatever the weather was, of course, where else but the palengke. It was as much a refreshment for the nanays who walked the narrow corridors as it was for the countless busybodies who made sure that goods flowed in an eternal stream from wholesalers to the retailers’ stalls to the nanays’ baskets and bayongs.

I used to think nothing, just like everyone else, about drinking palamig from off a glass that the tindera just quickly dunked into a pail of water without even the benefit of soap. What is it about growing up, however, that suddenly makes one wonder where the water with which the palamig was made had come from and makes one see countless little germs crawling on the glass that were not there when one was younger?

In other words, I stopped drinking palamig unless it was made at home by my Mom; and it was not only quick but simple enough to do. Besides, as I grew up, substitutes were starting to proliferate.

One person who did not stop drinking it, however, is none other but my own brother-in-law. In the old days, whenever he and my sister used to come over from Manila to visit my parents, it was typical of them to go to the market for kakanins that were not as readily available in the big city.

Every trip to the market, invariably, included a glass or two of the inevitable palamig, to relieve the heat if nothing else. That was also how he developed a taste and liking for the palamig in Lipa.

Fast forward now to yesterday when, as I wrote in a previous post, I was to meet up with my sister and her daughter. The two picked me up at my place around 10 in the morning. When I got into their car, I noticed this empty 3- or 4-litre bottle of cranberry juice which I immediately dismissed as curious-but-insignificant.

We had lunch at this fancy place in San Jose; after which I joined the two in their inevitable sidetrip to the market uptown in Lipa City. Pinindot – a.k.a. bilo-bilo elsewhere – is normally sold in the mornings at the market; but my niece wanted to take a chance.

My sister, on the other hand, told me that my brother-in-law’s bilin was not to return without, as though it was a matter of life and death, what else but palamig.

We parked at that new McDonald’s restaurant close to the market and walked all the way to the kakanin section for my niece’s pinindot – which was fortunately available – and other things that my sister needed to get. My sister brought along the empty plastic bottle; but I walked ahead and really took no notice of it.

On the way back, we stopped at the street corner where there was a small row of women selling palamig. My sister preferred the last woman and immediately pointed at the large plastic container with the orange-coloured palamig.

“It’s the original,” she said by way of an explanation; and not that I believed her. I mean, the others looked just as original to me.

When the lady told her that a small plastic cup of the palamig cost 5 pesos each, I was expecting her to order just a few cups which I expected the tindera to pour into small plastic bags for carrying. Instead, my sister handed her the large empty bottle that she carried everywhere we went in the palengke and asked the lady to fill it up. With palamig.

Oh, that explained a lot about the bottle. So my sister was not just being a strange old lady, after all.

My eyes, naturally widened with incredulity; and my comment was typically me. “Ano yan,” I asked her, “ipapaligô?” Even the tindera laughed as she happily scooped a hundred pesos worth of palamig from her container into my sister’s plastic bottle.

“Why doesn’t he (my brother-in-law) buy palamig in Alabang instead?” I asked my sister.

“Naku,” my sister snorted, “he says it’s just not the same. He has tried palamig sold by all sorts of vendors in Alabang but none has come close to that made in Lipa, which is the best.”

Seriously? What’s with the palamig made in Lipa? I’ve heard the same said about lomi, but palamig?

I really wouldn’t know. But my brother-in-law does, so go ask him.

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