Modern Living

Rizal revisited

SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star

This time The Goose Station wasn’t that difficult to find. Only one detour and we were there. The Goose Station is one of those upscale cozy restaurants owned by chef Rob Pengson and his lovely wife, Sunshine Puy. I was invited to dinner by my BFF — bet you didn’t think I would ever use that acronym — Lisa, together with Spanky and Dolly, who were there even ahead of me. Then the rest of the guests poured in — Lisa and Bela, Yvonne and Budji. 

The Goose Station is a pun on the French degustation, which means “a culinary term meaning a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods and focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company. Dégustation is more likely to involve sampling small portions of all of a chef’s signature dishes in one sitting.” That definition comes from Google.

Tonight we sat down to sample Rob’s latest Rizal menu. Rob explained that he had read a book on Rizal’s life, was touched by it. He sat down and imagined what ingredients he might use to express some of the emotions Rizal felt. He experimented and finally, when he got it right came up with this menu. The words Rob read so captivated him he quoted them on the menu, which I asked for then misplaced so I could only use my memory as reference. But it was a memorable evening.

There were eight small dishes that filled you up albeit very slowly. Somewhere there was taho with foie gras and sago, that was delicious. The main course was Steak Tartare, which was tasted wonderful, not at all the way most people imagine raw meat to taste.

“You know,” Budji said, after Rob had come to introduce the next dish ending with a quote from Rizal, “they should hire Rob for a state dinner in Malacanang. Imagine to give a state dinner where the food is delicious and uniquely seasoned with annotations and quotations from Jose Rizal, or whoever the subject may be.”

“That’s a brilliant idea,” I said. “Dinner with a dash of history told in an informal personal way. That would be so charming and memorable, like this dinner is. Someone should tell Malacañang to do it.”

Speaking of history, I went with a whole batch of Rizal Women to watch Noli Me Tangere, The Opera at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World. If you know me, then you know I have never been to the theater there but we found our way and got settled in. The stage was lovely and the stage design terrific. I loved that the stage in the center was flanked by two big screens so people in the balcony could look at the actors close up. I loved the production design. Backdrops were projected so you could see clouds moving, rivers with rather active waves and even a very brief shot of the crocodile that threw a damper on their picnic. That was truly outstanding.

Up on top of the stage was a rectangular screen where the English translation of this Tagalog opera was flashed fortunately because it was difficult to understand the words with all the screaming going on so even for me, a Filipina whose ears are attuned to Tagalog, I relied mostly on the translation. I thought they could have used more emotions in the translation but they were very rational. This made me understand why this opera was such a hit on the US East Coast. First, the costumes were different in their eyes and second, they couldn’t understand much. That’s exciting to most Americans because it leaves them with a lot to speculate over.

Suddenly my eyes opened and I saw a woman in costume on the big screen in a big room with a golden nimbus and I couldn’t figure out where I was. Am I watching TV? Where am I? Those two questions popped in my head. Then I realized I had fallen asleep accidentally and abruptly woke up confused. I was in a theater watching Noli Me Tangere.

Without a doubt the music needs improvement. When you write an opera think of The Phantom of the Opera. Think of Jesus Christ, Superstar. These are the examples I give because they are recent. First there is the theme for the entire opera and it weaves in and out of the entire show. Then each character has his or her own theme and anyone can sing or hum them on the way out of the theatre. They are that melodious and memorable. It is those melodies that make the opera unforgettable. In Noli Me Tangere, this version and the penultimate one, there was not a single memorable song. 

So in the end, what do I have to say? To dinner at the Goose Station — Bravo, Rob! That was an excellent dinner. To Noli Me Tangere, The Opera — can we go home now? I’m sleepy.

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