As with most Filipinos celebrating Christmas, December 25 is traditionally a family reunion of sorts. Not a big one. Just the usual suspects – my parents, brother and his wife, my aunt and uncle from Cainta (mom’s youngest sister) which includes 4 kids (my cousins), their spouses, and 5 grandkids, and my aunt and uncle from Gen. Trias (mom’s oldest sister). This time, we were also joined by family friends – Peter, (a German who married a Pinay) who also happens to be a ninong at our wedding, his wife, ate Fe, and two kids who are my godchildren. On top of the relatives, we have 9 helpers (2 are mine, 1 my mom’s, 6 are with my cousins and aunts) and a driver. All in all, there were 34 people in our house.

Every year, I and my cousins would agree on what the menu is and will assign everyone a food item to bring or cook. Sometimes, all the cooking are done in my and my brother’s kitchens (we live right next to each other). Fortunately, this year, my assignment is salad (greens) for lunch and originally, pasta, for afternoon snacks/early dinner. However, I insisted that I will cook goto and tokwa’t baboy instead, to which everyone agreed with enthusiasm.

So, for the salad, I prepared mixed lettuce and arugula, diced ripe mango, cucumber, turnip and pop beans. I prepared two dressings – one is from Sonya’s garden (hence, the Tagaytay trip on the 23rd), and the other, Honey Mustard from Gourmet’s. It was a hit! The salad bowl was wiped clean!

For the goto, I bought ox tripe the day before and slow-cooked it to make it very tender. Then I cooked the goto using a mix of regular rice and sticky rice. I added turmeric and kasubha (poor man’s saffron) for color and flavor. For the tokwa’t baboy, I used sliced pork liempo which I boiled the previous day, then roasted in the oven on Christmas Day so it’s crisp-tender. I prepared the sauce from scratch and added slices of celery and green finger chili’s. Again, the goto and tokwa’t baboy are big hits!

It was another happy Christmas celebration. I was also very happy that I got to play with my niece Jana.

Can’t wait for New Year’s eve!

Written by Alby Laran

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