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#BookbedFictory 024: ‘The Twelfth Step, A Twelfth Ingredient’

by Joel Donato Jacob
This year’s Fictory is for a cause. We donate P100 to a chosen beneficiary for every fic submitted this July. Participate here if you can. Enjoy this one!

Prompt: It’s the first time you’ve visited your home province in 20 years. Nothing has changed.

Adobo de Sansinukob

I. Warm (1) a bit of oil in a pan over low flames..

II. Separate (2) a bulb of garlic into cloves. Crush the pearly cloves with the flat of a blade; separate from the papery skins. Saute the garlic until the edges brown. Remove garlic from the hot oil.

III. Cut (3) the hindquarters of a chicken into three, removing the bishop’s nose. Brown chicken in the garlic’s fond until a bit of fat has rendered. Remove chicken from the oil.

IV. Cut (4) half a kilo slab of pork liempo into large cubes. Brown the pork in the chicken fat for about a minute a side, taking extra time with the skin side. The pork will render more oil.  

v. Add (5) one teaspoon peppercorns, (6) three bay leaves, (7) half a cup of soy sauce and (8) two cups of water. 

VI. Stoke the flames higher until the liquids boil then lower the flames to let it simmer. Cover the pan for an hour or until pork is tender.

VII. Re-add the chicken, and stir in (9) two tablespoons of brown sugar.

VIII. Add (10)a third of a cup of sukang puti. Be sure not to stir until after it has simmered down.

IX. Stoke the flames to bring it back to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer uncovered until moist of the liquid has evaporated.

X. Add (11) salt to taste. Re-add garlic and stir. 

XI. Simmer for another two minutes

XII. The best adobo needs to sit for at least overnight. You must leave Biringan. The adobo does not taste as good in a place where time does not pass.

Step into Sansinukob, linger there among the simple folk and the complex flavors that only mortality can bring. Our vinegar and soy sauce come from Sansinukob, where the fruits of the earth transcend themselves through the mastery of decay.

Only then, only by leaving Biringan, will your adobo gain the same allure as the gardens, spires and cathedrals of Biringan.

But remember to come back. Nothing lasts in Sansinukob, even the adobo will go bad.

As the coconut flowers bloom or the buko turns to niyog on the branch, so does the flower there withers, so from there the coconut falls and rots on ground. The brewer tempers death and decay.

Your beauty will allure taga-Sansinukob as much as their smile will pull you in. Their mouths part fleetingly like their lives. A flash of teeth like the winking light of a firefly. The sight of you will make them gasp as if they were drowning. You will be tempted to bring them home, and they will do so willingly and gladly, where they will not fade, but neither will they bloom nor ripen. 

Did you know that they also eat to sustain their bodies, and sometimes only their bodies? That many of them do not find pleasure in food, that it no longer sustains their souls?

Bring the adobo home to Biringan, maybe a bottle each of suka and soy sauce and a slab of liempo and a whole dressed chicken. That is as much death Biringan will permit; just enough to sustain life and living. ☁️

Joel Donato Jacob is called Cupkeyk by his friends. He was the 2018 Scholastic Asian Book Award winner for Wing of the Locust. He was an Editor’s Choice awardee for The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 for Artifact from the Parent, which first appeared on Fictory: A Bookbed Fic Fest. He lives in Bay, Laguna in the Philippines with his mother and dogs. He enjoys fitness and the outdoors. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @chimeracupkeyk.

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