A purple heart for Clinton
By Dr. Rita Pullium
Clint was no ordinary child. His parents did everything they could to have a child, and after years of trying, they finally had Clint, one and only child, so he was pretty special!
Yet, for all the worry about his being a spoiled kid, he grew up to contribute to society – speaking truth to power, righting wrongs and defending the underdog, revitalizing Filipino and Chinese-Filipino cultural heritage, encouraging young writers, guiding people in their search for happiness through good food, being a loving husband, father and son. He was a credit to his family.
All of us have our own memories of Clint. I certainly have vivid memories of watching Clint grow up with my girls. Grandma used to say that the three of them were like steps on a staircase: Mian (Annie) was oldest, Lissa was 1.5 years younger than Annie, and Clint was 1.5 years younger than Lissa.
They were very close. They played imaginative games, cooked and baked, and wrote stories together. Not that they never fought, I only remember once when Clint was very small; he sulked about something and called his dad on the phone to send the car earlier to pick him up. It was most likely forgotten before he got home!
Really he was a very good sport, gamely playing the role of Bosley in Charlie’s Angels and the part of Joseph in the Christmas pageant simply because he was the only male among the three.
I recalled either Winfred or Alfred remarking after the Christmas pageant, “Did you notice that Joseph the carpenter wore adidas shoes and a Seiko watch?!” As far as I know, the wearer of the Seiko watch grew up to be philosophically against “time obsession” and preferred not to wear a watch.
As a child, Clint was sensitive and delicate. We used to laugh about it, but he absolutely could not stand smelly public toilets. He did not pretend to be tough like some boys; he was always honest about being himself.
He was also the smart and sensitive kid in school that a bully might enjoy tormenting. He would talk to me about his trials at school; in particular there was one nasty kid who made his school life miserable. Thankfully the situation did not last forever.
Clint’s power of observation was phenomenal. He noticed things others didn’t – events, behaviors, subtle differences and nuances. This power probably made him a great writer. It also enabled him to tell the most amusing anecdotes.
Once he told me he remembered how I always used my pinky finger to scoop out any egg white stuck in the shell after separating the yolk; I never even thought of it myself but he was right, though these days I use my index finger.
He was very observant about language and its distortion in crossing cultures. He laughed about how older Chinese would say “koot” when they meant “coat,” and used it as if it were a Chinese word. I had never questioned the etymology of “koot,” having grown up with parents who would instruct us to go “chieng koot” every time the wind blew or the temperature dipped.
Another time Clint amused himself, and us, when he described his mom’s utter shock as she stepped into the shower and discovered a duck carcass hanging there staring at her! It was the aeration process that was part of the preparation for Clint’s Peking Duck project. Preparing a duck for Peking duck is not the easiest cooking project, but bless his heart, Clint never allowed a few hours of preparation time and extra work to stop him from doing what he wanted to do.
Indeed, it was typical for Clint to pursue his interests with little thought about time, profit or public opinion. Reading was surely an activity on which he spent an incredible amount of time. I believe he read for sheer enjoyment of good prose or to satisfy his inexhaustible curiosity, but not because the information was useful or practical or fodder for his next column.
Paradoxically, herein laid the foundation for his great writing. He was so well read and had such amazing cultural literacy that his writing was never boring or shallow. The same goes for his conversations with close friends. Modesty aside, he could quote Shakespeare or expound on Sufi thought when relevant.
As I talk about pouring time and energy into activities that are fulfilling if neither practical nor easy, I am reminded of Clint’s thoughts on fatherhood. In his article about being a modern father, Clint makes us realize how much time and energy parenting requires.
In his own words, “Fatherhood is hard work, physically and emotionally. But most of all, it’s a time-suck. I don’t mind saying this because most of the hobbies I enjoy – like hi-fi or photography or collecting fountain pens – are a time-suck, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. More than money, what children demand from you is time: lots of it, and not at your convenience.”
One reason that Clint loves children is because he delights in their innocence. If you put together his continual battle against evil and his love for innocence and goodness, you see the idealistic and even gallant side of Clint.
All of us struggle against our own demons in our imagination. Given Clint’s unparalleled imagination and medical propensity, could Clint have been waging his own Armageddon (the final battle between good and evil) when he perished? The romantic part of me likes to think so, and to award him a purple heart.
The author, a psychologist based in New York City, is Clinton’s aunt. Before her retirement, she was vice president for Development at the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.
The tastes he shaped, the minds he (re)molded
By Caroline Hau
I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear the news about Clinton.
Clinton was – still is – one of the most prodigiously gifted Filipino writers of his generation, admired and celebrated as much for his sensuous-cerebral prose style as for his provocative writerly persona.
I can think of no other writer who has left such a memorable, trailblazing mark on the Philippine literary, cultural and arts scene.
Clinton was to me an epitome of the renaissance man, l’uomo universale who taught us Filipinos about the wide, wide world and, even more important, about the art and grace of living.
An influential public intellectual, he wielded his pen to counteract the rising tide of anti-Sinicism in the Philippines with thoughtful essays of his own and with his editorship of the landmark volume “Chinese Filipinos.”
The Mad Tea Party: The Pleasures of Taste and The Gullet: Dispatches on Philippine Food contain some of the best essays on food and on the art of being a bon vivant ever written by a Filipino.
Clinton’s My Angkong’s Noodles, too, is a milestone in Philippine (and Chinese-Filipino) culinary history, one that can be enjoyed for the sheer beauty of its sentences, the gorgeousness of its visual presentation of well-loved Chinese-Filipino dishes, and the historical groundedness and innovativeness of the recipes it collects.
Clinton’s legacy extends beyond the artistry and power of his words to the lives he has touched, the tastes he has shaped, the minds he has (re)molded, and the world he has graced, created – and made better.
A shared love of Wei Wei A
By Christian Huang
I am the youngest among the cousins, placing me almost 20 years apart from Clinton, quite an age gap. Growing up, I probably thought he was my uncle.
I am currently 26, and for the first 23 years of my life, I never fully appreciated the intricacies of Clinton’s unique traits and hobbies. Such as his humor, love for food, writing and dressing like an adult. I always referred to him as ‘felt pants’ as he was the only person I knew who dressed that way.
This morning, my mother passed me a newspaper article that read “Clinton Palanca: brutally honest but damn funny.” I think many people here will agree with me that Clinton was one of the funniest people they ever knew, at least he was to me.
He just had a way of setting up humorous stories and delivering incredible punchlines, to me it was even more hilarious when he delivered the punchline in Tagalog.
Over the past few days, I have observed an immense amount of food pouring in and have heard many comments from people saying that this is one of the best food they have ever had at a wake, how strangely appropriate it is, knowing this is all for Clinton.
I would say that the amount of food and flowers that has piled up is certainly an indication that Clinton is actually more loved than any of us could ever have imagined individually.
He is very well known as a food writer with no personal biases, you just know that he will always speak his mind and the truth.
Something I wish to share about Clinton is that he and I both share a strange love for instant noodles. Instant noodles, to be specific Wei Wei A. Certainly, a man with exquisite taste, but also appreciates the simple things in life.
May I share with you a shattered dream of mine. Just last month May, as I was going through my brother’s enormous library I saw this book, The Mad Tea Party, by Clinton Palanca. Having heard he was an incredible writer, I skimmed a few pages to get a feel for his writing and it was indeed amazing.
I developed an interest to improve my writing skills, and who better to mentor me than my dearest cousin, Clinton, free of charge of course. Who also won the Palanca award, no bias there. We had set a family dinner in the middle of June and I was very much looking forward to seeing him to discuss writing techniques.