Learning Pride in Quality

by Fernando Perfas

Students and teachers at the University of the Fraser Valley for Agriculture Center of Excellence meticulously prepare for official opening. | Photo via Wikimedia Creative Commons by Rick Collins CC 2.0

One of my favorite delicacies is Sigarilyas (Winged Beans) cooked in coconut milk flavored with salted shrimp paste. My mother was a good cook and as a young boy I liked watching her work in our tiny dirty kitchen. She cooked with her clay pots which were aged and seasoned with smoke and soot from the charcoals and firewood she used for fuel. I would hang around the kitchen while she worked armed with the usual list of questions of what, why, and how, kids of my age pester their mothers with. Here and there she would ask my assistance, “hand me the ladle” or “blow on the smoldering charcoal to control the smoke” etcetera. That day I was particularly happy and looking forward to relishing a dish of Sigarilyas for lunch. A bunch of the greens sat on the chopping board still bound with a tiny string that held them together.

My mother looked pre-occupied with making sure the rice she was cooking did not burn so she carefully spread just enough of the charcoal embers till it cooked evenly, neither soft nor hard. Meanwhile she asked me to untie the Sigarilyas and showed me what to do with them. “Take the fibrous threads along the edges and slice them across thinly like this,” she said showing me one-fourth of an inch slices. “Now start working,” she commanded as she returned to tending the rice.

““This is not how I showed you how to prepare them. The slices are so uneven with some thick and others too thinly sliced,” she continued with mounting frustration in her voice. I knew what was to follow.”

Easily distracted and lacking patience, I hurriedly worked on the vegetable as she demonstrated. “Nanay, (as I call my mom), I’m done,” I said shortly and hurriedly, and not waiting for response, I sneaked out of the kitchen to play. Moments later, my mother would be calling me back into the kitchen. From the sound of her voice, I knew she was not in a good mood. “Look at this,” pointing at the pile of cut Sigarilyas on the chopping board. “This is not how I showed you how to prepare them. The slices are so uneven with some thick and others too thinly sliced,” she continued with mounting frustration in her voice. I knew what was to follow.

“I didn’t realize back then why she insisted on always giving my best in what I do. Although I did not always live up to it, that tiny voice was always there, setting the bar of how I should measure myself.”

And it was the usual litany of preaching. “When I ask you to do something, I expect you to do it right all the time. Remember this, you either do it right or you don’t do it at all.” The last part about “Not doing it at all,” was not an option. If she asked me to do things, I had to do it or else . . . I received an earful and it went on for a good while.

Nanay was consistent with her expectations of how I should behave. If I wanted to escape her tongue lashing, which was jarring and unpleasant, I had to exert an effort to live up to those expectations even at a young age. She might have not been highly educated but she had a natural sense of how a decent person should carry himself.

“Pride in Quality.” This was the big pus that underlie the endless scolding. The value that my Nanay wanted me to learn and live by.”

It wasn’t the last time she berated me for falling short of her expectations. I loved Nanay and though I did not always comprehend the full extent of why she made a big deal of what then looked trivial, I trusted her and took what she said to heart. I didn’t realize back then why she insisted on always giving my best in what I do. Although I did not always live up to it, that tiny voice was always there, setting the bar of how I should measure myself.

“Pride in Quality.” This was the big pus that underlie the endless scolding. The value that my Nanay wanted me to learn and live by.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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