In our ancestral home in Santa Mesa, there used to be a shallow, open canal separating our house from that of our neighbor. This murky passage holds memories, including kids falling into the pit, (and getting scabies as a result) to cats (pushed off the ledge upstream) jumping out of the pit, to complains of floating feces flushed out from someone's toilet.
One incident that got stuck in my head is that of a mouse, caught by one of the pre-teens being dropped into the canal. The poor rodent was supposed to drown, or get carried away by the current but since a yarn tied to its hind legs prevents the critter from running away, it gets dunked and dunked into the corrosive waters until it was too weak to wiggle.
Now the hell-spawned boys won't just leave the mouse alone. I don't recall how they were able to bait it to a passing cat, but the street-born feline just ate it. Whole. Now you think it was the end of the story but then, the canal-soaked rodent was too much for the cat's digestive track. After being regurgitated, the cat propelled the remains of the mouse from its stomach and into the neighbor's doorstep. The mouse's carcass resembled like freshly ground meat being sold in the market. The juvenile slayers were happy with the outcome and one by one they left - to spread the story. Meanwhile, I remained standing there to absorb what I just saw. The neighbor's house was unoccupied so imagine the maggots crawling out of the carcass a few days later.
This distasteful but comical account would be told on the table - like it was some traumatic episode I never knew it was - at a time when I was having a sumptuous meal of Lumpiang Shanghai. Not far from where I was sitting, mice squeaked under the cupboards. They got stuck on a fly paper laid out to break their trail. As the subject of mice went on, one of the maids confessed their method of taking the life out of the pest. They skewer them using a barbecue stick - sometimes right into their heads - before tossing the remains into the bin.
Looking at my half-eaten Spring Roll, I put liberal amounts of tomato ketchup over it before it was able to slid down my throat. I never leave leftovers on my plate.
I don't know what just happened. But the next day, I would cringe at the sight of Pork Sinigang that the maid was about to serve as lunch. At work, I would pick vegetables over meat. It would be the beginnings of the Meatless Mondays campaign that still takes place every week. And when I am forced to grab a meal at a fast food, It's either fish or sometimes, a chicken fillet sandwich.
Burgers, including pasta ceased to be a staple.
Sometimes I would claim that the mice left a curse. For as they squeaked for dear life while their ashened furs lay on the adhesive, a revolt took place within my tummy. It would be the last time I would touch spring rolls - or any other pork or beef dishes. And if not for chicken, which I am forced to eat from time to time,
I would have turned Vegan.