This morning, my aunt’s househelp prepared corned beef and dried fish for breakfast. I ignored the plate of corned beef and proceeded to savor the dried fish. I was never a fan of corned beef nor of any canned meat or fish food, expect perhaps the Spam luncheon meat. I wondered then how many people out there consumed such food straight out the can when I can barely eat them even after they are already heated.
I remember the first time I was forced to eat tuna out of a can. It was in February 2003 during a high school trip to the coastal town of Prieto Diaz in Sorsogon. Before we left, we were advised to bring canned goods and cooked rice because the place had no facility for cooking nor there were nearby small restaurants. So when the night came, my groupmates opened the group’s stock of canned goods which consisted of tuna in various flavors—mechado, adobo, menudo, etc. One of my groupmates even mixed two or three flavors! I can hardly forget my reaction when I tasted the food. I said to myself, “So… this is how it tastes like.”
I told that to myself but there was hardly anything I can compare the taste to. What probably surprised me even more was somehow I survived.
The second time I ate an unheated canned good was in 2006. A typhoon struck Manila and I could not go out of my dorm to buy lunch. The dorm’s resident caterer was not able to come because streets were flooded. My roommate offered me sardines. I had no choice but to eat it since I had no other decent food expect for biscuits. Compared to my first experience with tuna, the sardines tasted much better. I would probably even call it delicious with a drop of lemon juice or vinegar.
It’s ironic that despite living in dormitories for almost half of my life, I can count the very few times I was forced to eat canned goods. I also avoided eating instant noodles though I succumbed to the pancit canton temptation sometimes, a food I also learned to eat during my high school days.
I don’t know if I can be called lucky or perhaps even pampered for having these choices. It’s a habit instilled by my mom. She never resorts to serving canned goods for breakfast. She also discourages us from eating anything instant.
Call me also a hypocrite for writing this. While I refuse to eat the canned goods, my very own hands packed them for the recent victims of a typhoon. I also can’t help but imagine how these people feel because everyday they are forced to eat nothing but such kind of food. They have to because it’s not a matter of choice but a matter of life and death.
Call me again a bigger hypocrite because apart from the typhoon victims, there are actually people who call canned goods as their daily sustenance. It’s not also by choice but because it’s the only food their income permits them to buy.
Indeed, I am a hypocrite. It’s even highlighted now that I work for public health and I am reminded every day of the widening gap between the people in our society. I am frustrated because while we contribute in our small ways of helping and changing the society we are in , we are always at the mercy of people in power—people that do not necessarily have improvement of others’ lives in their mind.
I still look forward to that that day—the day “they” too can refuse canned goods. Not because it’s matter of life and death, not because that is only what they can afford , but because they have a choice.