(Today is my fifth day here in Madrid, Spain, where I am spending the Christmas holidays. I plan to write several blog entries about the capital city of Spain and its people during my seven-day stay here.)
I am enjoying five-star accommodation in the home of Alba, a classmate in my program, together with her family. Alba´s family graciously welcomed Liang, a Chinese classmate (who has left yesterday for Barcelona), and me into their Madrid home. Their family, for the past 26 years, has lived in a medium-rise building located in the northwest part of the region of Madrid. As we entered the family´s homely abode, dos besos were offered by Alba’s elegant mother and beautiful sister. Handshakes were exchanged with her father and older brother. Something familiar pinched me as I stepped into their home. Something distant yet very present.
We arrived on Christmas Eve, the night of the traditional noche buena which we also celebrate in the Philippines. After settling down and when Alba’s relatives arrived, we gathered around the long table for the Christmas Eve dinner. Ensalada de langostinos (prawns) and lettuce topped with a generous dollop of salsa rosa was served in a copa for appetizers. Prawns, which I have not tasted since I left for Germany (that’s five months, folks), in all its juicy crustacean freshness seemed to have jumped out of my mouth in every savored bite. Bread and tender cordero (lamb) asado for the main course almost melted in my mouth. The space saved for dessert was filled with turron, mazapan and fruits. There was no gastronomic fiesta unlike the Filipino noche buena, where we prepare food fit for a week’s worth of consumption. No pancit, queso de bola and hamon– a minimum on the Pinoy Christmas Eve table. It makes me wonder where we got the opulent version of the Spanish tradition. Here in Madrid, at least in my family host’s home, noche buena is eaten to nourish the body and delight the taste buds.
Our company of three headed to one of Alba’s friends place north of Madrid to attend a post-noche buena party. We arrived in the middle of a Christmas party. I stuck out like a sore thumb, maybe sobresaliente, in my jeans and North Face windbreaker in the sea of cocktail dresses and business suits. This wasn’t a problem to the Spanish yuppies who know how to party! Cava (Spanish champagne) and cerveza were poured, glasses were clinked and raised following a unison of Salud!
The alcohol soon took effect and three pairs gathered in the sala that was instantly transformed into a dance floor. The dance is called Sevillanas, the traditional dance from Sevilla. It is composed of four parts, and is marked by the calculated shuffling of feet by men and hand-twirling of the ladies. Each couple’s bodies would almost meet and touch yet separate like repulsive identical poles of a magnet. In the middle of the change of position and each snappy stop, without any special signal, the audience and performers alike blurted ‘Ole!’
And Ole indeed was our first day and the early hours of the second. It was past three in the morning when we decided to leave. After the shaking of hands and the besos, our host bade us Buenas noches, and with a smile, I replied, ‘Buenas diaz!’