Dinengdeng & Pinakbet

What happens in Vegas … appears in your son’s column

Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran | All photos courtesy Gil Keith-Agaran

My 94-year-old mother Lydia has been looking forward to celebrating my sister Velma’s 60th birthday in Las Vegas. My sister and I generally support and encourage her to spend down our inheritance as much as possible. At her senior club officer induction earlier this year, she advised the members to indulge themselves at times and stop worrying so much about their children.

They had me book the flights for five of them (Mom, Vel, Vel’s buddy Nel, cousin Elly and Manang Tessie) months ago. Cousin Frellie also decided to join them. Vel insisted on the Hawaiian Airlines direct flight from Kahului (OGG) to Harry Reid International (LAS) because Mom had a bad pre-pandemic experience with hours long delays from Daniel K. Inouye International (HNL) on one of those junket charters. At her age, Mom doesn’t like sitting around and waiting.

Visiting Coloma-Pagdilao women with ‘Sin City Wahine’ kin.

Mom didn’t move to Hawai‘i until 1960 but has now lived on Maui for 63 years. She’s not a settler. This is home for her and for the extended family clan that descended from her father who arrived in 1927 and my 1946 Sakada father. Dad started at Pioneer Mill but a Labasan kinsman working at Pā‘ia Mill one weekend just picked him up from Lahaina and “moved” him to Pā‘ia instead. He worked for nearly four decades for HC&S. Others in the family stayed and remain part of that community today.

At some point, Mom tested positive for COVID-19 this summer. A compulsive walker and full of energy, the diagnosis clearly annoyed and frustrated her. After completing her Paxlovid™ therapy (she didn’t like the taste and then noted losing taste), she very carefully avoided crowds—skipping most summer graduation and other family gatherings and even her senior club activities, wearing a mask when she did venture out in public, and maintaining social distance so she could take this trip. Nothing was gonna stop her from hitting the penny and nickel slots (Do the casinos still have those?). She intended to buy a new stove with her big winnings.

Maui travelers arrive at Harry Reid.

Like many local families, traveling to Sin City is more than feeding one armed bandits (Do the machines still have arms?), eating lots of buffet food and taking in shows. Mom visited with relatives who have re-located to Sin City from Maui—some Coloma’s and Pagdilao’s—and Vel got to see one of her high school BFFs. Some moved for jobs and cheaper housing. Others went for school and stayed. Another had been visiting for several weeks and contemplating moving to Nevada rather than return to her hometown of Lahaina.

One kinsman, Freddy-Boy (from one of our part-Hawaiian branches), had promised to take mom to a B-I-N-G-O parlor (the pandemic and then even months after had largely eliminated her almost-weekly routine of playing quarter per card rounds with her senior club kumares and other friends). Mom didn’t win and decisively panned the electronic bingo boards (she preferred her well-worn set of cards with the little red sliding covers to mark called numbers)—switek she muttered to Vel when another patron (sitting in the smoking section) kept winning at the Bingo parlor.

Freddy-Boy Waikiki’s 16-year-old son Norman with mom.

Freddy even indulged Mom by buying some PowerBall tickets. Her random numbers didn’t score unfortunately. Mom also didn’t put in my WhoDey Sports Book wager on the Battle of Ohio.

Freddy, also wielded his Iron Imu (silyase IYKYK) to prepare a feast: pancit bihon, dinardaraan, pork and peas with pimentos, butter garlic shrimp and his interpretation of sinigang bangus. Freddy’s menu would not have been daily fare in the provinces. His namesake grandfather (Federico) was one of those plantation camp cooks, and later in Dream City and other new subdivisions, who prepared Ilocano fiesta foods for parties that now make up the basic menus in Filipino eateries.

Freddy-Boy Waikiki introducing mom to the lottery.

While my sugar irrigator dad was working, he liked having some kind of meat at dinner—usually a lauya or other stew, or some steak broiled in the oven. My mom rarely cooked chicken because she’s convinced she’s allergic to poultry. Since his passing in the 1990s, mom’s home cooking usually involved some fish soup and a dinengdeng of whatever she collected from her garden of Filipino vegetables—a little tarong, some paria, long beans or shelled, lasuna, and flavored with kamatis and patis. She’ll add little dried shrimp at times and perhaps some slices of chicharon. But she rarely cooks a heavy meat diet which suits the others in her household who prefer a daily serving of fish more than pork or beef.

Mom trying to figure out electronic B-I-N-G-O cards.

Vel won almost enough to cover her plane ticket on a penny slots jackpot. Nel cashed in a couple of hits. Cousin Frellie got hooked on slot machines.

Short trip but they had a good time and getting off the plane at OGG on Saturday morning, they wanted to eat … at Tante’s Island Cuisine. Vel used some of her winnings to treat the table. Vel had a local plate while three of them went with fried bangus with suka dipping sauce.

Vel quipped I may need to buy mom a new stove for her birthday.

Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran practices law in Wailuku with Takitani Agaran Jorgensen & Wildman, LLLP.