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Pots and Pans

Myrna LopezBy Myrna Lopez

I arrived inNewark,New Jerseyin the middle of winter. It was bitterly cold that February in 1975. My first impression of that city was unflattering.  I looked out from the hospital van that met us at the airport and saw buildings that were burned and boarded up. The trees were bare of leaves and looked like grim scarecrows with outstretched arms ready to pluck me. The scene filled me with misery. I wanted to crawl back on the plane. I wanted to go home. I was unaware of the riots that raged through that city in the summer of 1967. After eight yearsNewarkstill bore the scars of that painful period. Progress was slow to arrive in that battered city.

Hospitals across theUSwere in desperate need of medical personnel in the mid-seventies. I was offered a position as a staff nurse atNewarkBethIsraelHospital. My eyes widened at the offered salary of $10,000 plus change per year. I was going to be rich!

But there was a chasm of difference between money on paper and money on hand.  I sent most of my suweldo (paycheck)  to my parents in Cebu while paying what I owed the airline company for my one way ticket through their fly-now-pay-later  plan. I had just enough cash to pay for the dorm rent and groceries.

The Filipino community rallied around the new arrivals. We lacked proper clothing for the winter weather so our patrons and their families pitched in and provided coats and winter shoes for us to wear. They had hearts of gold. But there were some who took advantage of our ignorance. One such enterprising man convinced me that I could not live without the pots and pans he was peddling.  It was a 12-piece ensemble. He sweetened the deal with a plate setting for 4. The cost was about $300, an exorbitant amount for an almost destitute like me.

Fast forward to the present. Those pots and pans are still in use. I have added odd pieces as I needed, but for the most part they are the staples I depend on. They predate my wedding and the birth of my first child. I have been tempted by the likes of Le Creuset  and Circulon  and Cuisinart  and the hard anodized non-stick aluminums. The market has exploded with the most beautiful and colorful new editions. I visit Crate and Barrel  and Williams- Sonoma often. I run my hands through the sexy curves of those beautiful, spanking new kitchen wares. They tempt and beckon.

Yet I cannot bear to part with my 12-piece Wear-Evers . There are scratches and dings and missing parts from my use and misuse. Their bottoms are blackened and their shine has disappeared. But they have seen me through my misadventures, experiments, disasters, as well as triumphs.

I have progressed from boiling water to one who is brave enough to tackle Kare-Kare.  I prepared what a young girl swore was my to-die-for  spaghetti sauce in one of those large pots. My mungo  version has reached sosyal  status when it was served at the Philippine Embassy.  And my children and their significant others salivate and boast about the beef torta  I prepare for them. My son has standing weekly dates for dinners at home. You should hear him smack his lips and rub his palms in anticipation.

Those pots and pans have remained steadfast and uncomplaining, mute even through the abuse I continue to heap on them. No, I won’t abandon them now. More than three decades have passed. I was given that lifetime guarantee. Theirs or mine? I have a feeling they will outlast me.

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4 Responses to Pots and Pans

  1. efren L. cordero


    yOUR Article must have reflected the same experiences of thousand of young Filipinos/Filipinas who journeyed to the unknown but much publicized AS LAND OF HONEY AND MILK. Whatever it was when you arrived in US, just to be OUT of the country, and being in America has made you RICH already. . . at least in our minds.

    However, your very nice Article which shall interest millions of Filipinos all over the world, is BITIN! More facts are needed to be written as to how sad . . . and frustrating to be in a strange place, without your loved ones . . . . NaBITIN ako!.

  2. Myrna Montera Lopez

    Mamang Efren, your comment made me smile. I am so glad you yearn for more. I am, however, restricted by the length of the article. I will keep your request in mind, and in future articles narrate more on how Filipino expatriates handle their homesickness. Thank you for taking the time to write me. I appreciate the feedback. I am looking forward to more conversations with you.

  3. Julieta L. Ramirez

    Hello, Myrna! As I was reading your article there was a wide smile across my face. I can relate to your experience and we had things in common. I graduated from OLRA Class ’67 elementary school and Class ’71 gighschool from Canossa. My first job as nurse was in St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey in 1977. Like you, I sent all my salary to my mom except for my $50. allowance. It is funny, but I also bought a set of USA made Wearever cookware for $100 with my first salary. I still have the whole set that I use. Though I have a complete set of Saladmaster, I stick to my Wearever, just like what the name promised.When I first arrived in New Jersey in February 1977 the first thing I did was play in the snow near the Cathedral in Jersey City. Sister Rosalie knows my brother, Manuel very well. I still go to the OLRA reunion every year. It is always a lot of fun to see friends and former classmates. There is nothing like our childhood in Lipa. I will always cherish those days. I only stayed in New Jersey for a year and moved to Chicago, then California. I can share with some tough experience in Newark. However, I must say that St.Michael’ Medical Center enriched my foundation in a foreign land as a nurse and as a person. Hope to hear from you.

    • Myrna Montera Lopez

      Good afternoon Julieta! I had goosebumps reading your comment. Parang we lived parallel experiences. I also stayed a short while (a little over a year) in NJ. Married in 1975 soon after I arrived; had my first child then moved to the DC area in 1977. I regret I did not go back to clinical nursing. I was my husband’s Girl Friday at his medical office for 30+ years. I will be attending the OLRA reunion in January 2013. Maybe I should pakyaw the Manila Mail with this OLRA article. hahaha. Hope to see you there! And thank you for this comment. It boosts my resolve to continue to write :)