The basil – It was a friend’s birthday and, since she likes Italian food, I offered to cook. Pasta and its accessories are not difficult to find here, if a little more expensive than at home, but in the wake of the typhoon supplies of everything are still a bit hap-hazard. There is an abundance of shops and they are all full, but they’re full of pretty much the same things. I’ve no idea why this is, but it left me a little concerned about whether I would find some basil. Normally I would trail round the small shops in downtown, trying to shop like a local, but I feared my fate would be a wasted afternoon hearing the words ‘waray na’ (‘we don’t have any’ – it’s not very encouraging that they named the local dialect Waray-Waray. Waray is their word for ‘no’) So I opted to go straight to Robinson’s, the largest supermarket in Tacloban. To my dismay I found that their herb and spices section consists almost entirely of salt and pepper. And mushrooms. Mushrooms, it seems, when dried and put into 20g packets, are a herb. However, waray basil. My last hope was the veg section. To call it a section would make it sound grand. More of a desk. Nothing. Nada. Waray herbs of any description. I was about to leave when I noticed the shop assistant opening a large box behind the counter. Three things led be to believe that the box contained my desired ingredient. 1. I could see that in the box were lots and lots of large green leaves which looked remarkably like basil. 2. Hand-written on the box was the word ‘basil’. 3. When I asked what was in the box, the lady replied, “Basil”. Wow, now I believe. I was pretty sure I could hear God saying “So, did you want some basil? Have a boxful..”

Ever since then, whenever I go to Robinson’s, I check to see if they have any basil. Waray na.


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