My New Year’s resolution is all about cheese

By Buddy Gomez

Posted at Jan 14 2015 03:43 PM | Updated as of Jan 14 2015 11:43 PM

The Babylonians evidently started it--a promise to return borrowed objects and pay debts. I speak of New Year’s resolutions. The Romans too made promises to Janus, one of their many gods and after whom January was named. Both Judaism and Christianity have examples of reflections upon one’s errors over the past year, seeking forgiveness and the resolve to do better in the future. It has to be human to be in possession of genes that want to do better. I am sure our Muslim and Buddhist brothers and sisters as well as others of other religious faiths do have reflections of the same kind.

The practice of New Year’s resolutions has become universal and not necessarily for its timing to coincide with a year’s new beginning. After all, resolve can come at any season. The concept of New Year’s resolution, regardless of professed creed is an annual review of behavior and self-improvement. And in the modern world, it occurs as the New Year unfolds.

It has become a social tradition and really becomes more fun and laughable when one looks back and see what one promised but failed to deliver, and nevertheless does the ritual all over again. And then, more resolutions, or promises, or commitments, usually to do better in the days ahead. Have we done better? Now, have you done yours? I have done mine. Let me share it with you. Not just yet though I promise to amuse you in a short while. Perhaps, like the rest of my family, you would think I was crazy and you are all most probably right because I resolve not to do it ever again! But, hey it was truly fun!

From what I hear (and personally experienced), success rates are evidently low and perhaps the most common reason for failure is that unrealistic goals are put forward. Maybe too many resolutions are made, begetting an inability to follow through, and soon forgetting takes over.

Over the decades, here are some of my resolutions that have a had a very checkered compliance record. Being an ordinary individual, mine are not any dissimilar to those of others. Improvement of one’s physical well-being, better diet, eating habits and losing weight are about the commonest, I surmise. Improved financial conditions, getting out of debt and saving, better grades at school, spend more time with family are also about as common as they come.

I am not digressing but simply building up to my story.

InterState 10 is my favorite highway in the US. In my younger days, I have motored through its entire length a couple of times. It is the North American Continental highway that runs from Jacksonville, Florida facing the Atlantic all the way to Santa Monica in California facing the Pacific, through Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It is a tad less than 4000 kilometers, just about twice the distance from Aparri in North Luzon to Davao City way down south in Mindanao. It is not the longest, however, though because there is another one that runs from Seattle to Boston. I-10 cuts across San Antonio where I reside and I am just a few blocks north of it.

The Filipino’s ‘noche buena’ on Christmas Eve is incomplete if the table’s array did not include slices of the beloved ‘queso de bola.’ That is the ball of Dutch Edam Cheese, the one that is wrapped in red paraffin wax coating. But there is nothing quite like the variety that is most popular with and favored by the Filipino palate. It has been said, according to culinary lore, that this only one of its kind ball of cheese is custom-made for the Philippine market. Over the years, this brand has had many imitations but there really is nothing comparable to ‘Marca Pina.’ I can personally attest to it. An American importer brings the brand to the US during the holidays for distribution through some Filipino and Asian groceries in some communities.

The brand was introduced in the very late 1800s by the Swiss-owned Manila trading house Zuellig which continues to operate in the Philippines. (Zuellig, now into pharmaceuticals and property, just inaugurated its new award-winning skyscraper at the corner of Makati Ave. and Paseo de Roxas). The long voyage from the Netherlands to Manila, being in crates with salt added as preservative for the long journey apparently created for this cheese its distinct taste: matured with a light spicy aroma, somewhat flaky with a trace of milk oil. It has caught on irreversibly and since has been embedded in Filipino Christmas tradition.

Christmas was fast approaching and the Filipino in me was truly craving for queso de bola Marca Pina. Last year, a local Filipino sari-sari brought in several from their wholesale dealer and I was able purchase one. This year, they had not placed any order, for whatever reason. The closest source, if at all, would be the Houston area which hosts the largest concentration of Pinoys in the state of Texas. That is some 200 miles east of me. Phonecalls were made in search of my queso de bola.

On the Sunday just before Christmas, I drove alone a round trip of 380 miles (that is a little more than the distance between Manila and Aparri) to Katy, Texas, just west of Houston downtown, to buy me my queso de bola, Marca Pina! In fact, I bought three at $22.90 a pop. (I added a package of Cebu-made Otap to my purchase.) I drove out of my driveway at 7:30 am and I was back by 2:00 pm. Gas, of course, cost more than the cheese but that consideration never entered my mind.

Traffic was relatively light. At opportune Interstate moments, I was pushing my 10-year old Nissan Altima along I-10 beyond 85 miles an hour. Just several weeks earlier, I had survived pancreatitis, renal failure, abdominal surgery to remove my gallbladder along with minor complications over a total of 36 days of confinement in three hospitals. Back home, I was accused of pulling a prank so I can brag about it. Honestly, no such thing ever crossed my mind. I was simply thinking of my queso de bola. So, what is an old coot to do! Truly, it was fun. But on hindsight, it was also stupid!

And so, my New Year’s Resolution is simple: Never again to drive 380 miles for a ball of Edam cheese.

On the other hand, in the Spring I am travelling again, this time to the Philippines, over thousands more miles for, among others--cheese.

I am crossing the Pacific by air to Manila and from there to Calbayog, my home town in Samar from whence I will drive a mere 12 miles to Gandara town to buy me the best ‘quesong puti’ in the world! It is made out of carabao (water buffalo) milk, a blessed skill handed down by Franciscan missionaries who taught the folks the art of making cottage cheese which we Waray-warays relish and call “Kisiyo” (Quesillo). Fried cheese, anyone?

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.