I've never been allergic to anything. It's a small point of pride for me to tell doctors during those annual physical exams that I eat anything--fish, eggs, crabs, shrimps, tulya, talaba, etc. Now, that proud moment may be gone.
Two Saturdays ago I was (willingly) yanked to a dinner at Dampa in Roxas Boulevard--the one that has "Claire dela Fuente Fresh Seafood" (or something like that, basta with "Claire de la Fuente") as its welcome signage. I half-expected diners to be gorging on their meals while Sayang or Something in Your Eyes played on and on in a continuous loop in the background. Nothing of the sort, fortunately. In fact, the arrangement sounded fun. Pick out whatever you liked to eat, or ask a resto staff to go to market for you, and have the grub cooked right then and there.
We had shrimps, alimango, pampano, oysters. The crabs and fish were divine--and I'm not the type who's easily impressed by seafood, having grown up in a province half surrounded by sea. Hello, probinsiyano ini! But what we ate left me burping with satisfaction, and grateful for the bounty from General Santos City (I asked).
Should I blame that faraway city for what happened to me? Or perhaps the dinky place where we ate, the way the food was prepared, the spices used, etc.? In any case, by Sunday morning I felt something wasn't right with my gums. They felt... larger, more sensitive to the touch. But, since I've never had them, a case of allergies never entered my mind. Monday morning the inflammation had become full-blown and had spread to my tongue. It was painful now; simple eating and swallowing had become the perfect Holy Week exercise.
One look at the swollen lower half of my face (yes, it showed) and the doctor shook his head. Allergies, she said, no doubt about it--and extracted from me the tale of the divine crabs and Claire dela Fuente. It's possible to develop allergies late in life, she said (at 37?!), but more probably, the food wasn't really fresh or cooked well. Avoid any seafood, chicken, eggs for now, anything that could cause possible aggravation. (That practically eliminated most of my diet. At this point, I thought of kangkong. Could I eat kangkong without bagoong, which is shrimp paste? Leche.)
You're lucky, she added. You've no fever. And some severe cases end up with bulging eyes, inflamed noses and tongues so engorged they have difficulty breathing or speaking. Yaiks.
The prospect of going to Galera as planned with half of my pogi face blown up like a puffer fish didn't appeal to me, so I bailed out of the plan posthaste. Plus, the sight of all that sea would only make me sulk. Hmp, death to all sea creatures--except Sebastian and Ariel the Mermaid.
I was prescribed two antihistamines and a steroid to reduce the swelling. A week later, my mouth was back to normal. But, itaga mo sa kabibe, it would take some time before I'd look kindly at a crustacean (or Claire de la Fuente) again.
(To be continued--telenovela itu!)