By Carlo Arellano, FINDink Contributor

“Be back by dinner anak!”

I hear this with half a body already out the door, thinking about all the places I can take my friends to go eat after our “study session” now that I finally got my license.

Of course, I come home hours later with a full stomach, and walk past the one plate, spoon, and fork set for me. I lift the paper towel covering the big bowl in the center of the table to see enough kare-kare to feed our family for a week.

I pop a small piece of that tender beef into my mouth and head down to my room where my induced food coma tosses my physics homework off the side of the bed.

The next day I pop a small piece of pork from the mongo, the next day a piece of hot dog from the spaghetti, and eventually I am popping small pieces of my mom’s labor every night.

“You don’t like my cooking anymore, anak?”

My mom finally asks after the fifth straight night of putting an unused plate back in the cabinet.

Truthfully, there is no other food in the world that I would take over the meals sitting on my shaky, battle-stained dining table. Nowadays, this table has become nothing more than a piece of furniture put in the way of my path towards the bottom of my books. There was already so much consuming my life as a teenage student that I barely gave any thought to what wanted to consume.

“No mom, I am already full.”

I got pretty good at telling that lie, damn well knowing the exact opposite was true. I’ve said that lie in order to really say a lot of things like:

“No mom, I haven’t slept and I am tired.”

“No mom, practice was so brutal I threw up.”

“No mom, I got my test scores back today.”

“No mom, I think I lost another friend today.”

“No mom, I am just punishing myself again.”

“No mom, I’d rather just be empty.”

Seeing those Filipino meals every night after coming home from a day in the life of your typical suburban schoolboy just reminded me that those things I really wanted to say, always end up lost in translation.

That was until one night I came home after a full day of school and swimming, and saw no big bowl of ulam sitting on the table. Instead, there was my lonely plate, but this time it was full. On it was garlic fried rice, covered with corned beef with onions and potatoes, all topped off with a perfect over-easy egg. If it wasn’t already irresistible enough, it was all complemented with two yakult bottles ready to be peeled back.

I can feel it. The child-like energy taking over my chlorine-dried, sleep-deprived eyes as I pushed mounds of my favorite meal into my spoon with my fork. I was too consumed with nearly swallowing my whole spoon that I didn’t even notice her come up from behind me and kiss me on the head:

“Welcome home, anak.”

I smiled, knowing what she said loud and clear, nothing lost in translation.

“I love you too, ma”

And I continued on, until I was full once again.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.