Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm

“To the heart and mind ignorance is kind.
There’s no comfort in the truth
pain is all you’ll find.”
(George Michael, from Careless Whisper)


“Dad can I go see the dance?”

“No you cannot! Dancing is a sin…!”

“But Dad… am just going to watch….”

“Don’t let me tell you again…!”

“Ugggghhhh.” I sighed in disappointment.

I wish my dad would let me go see the dance.  I really just wanted to watch since he forbids me to dance.  I’ve seen it – the dance I mean, a few times with my Mom.  On those occasions when I got to see the dance my Mom and I sold sweet stuff.  We set up a small  table and placed our basket full of rolled cassava filled with sweetened coconuts.  Often, my Mom took advantage of events like this.  This is one of the ways she made money for the family, which helped put food on the table.  Though I wish we weren’t working  each time I was at the dance.  But it was better than not seeing it at all.

I often wonder why my Dad wouldn’t let me dance.  I knew he considered it a sin, but now I wonder maybe it was because I was only twelve years old and really had no business dancing with boys. But of course he never told me so.  Other than telling me it was a sin, he never explained to me why.  I just knew that he detested the idea of me dancing with extreme repugnance.  But what about him? I’ve seen him danced…! He danced over a bed of red, hot coal during one of the many rituals he performed at one of his religious ceremony.  OK… maybe it wasn’t really a dance.  I think it was more like an Eskrima form.  Yeah.  He knew and practiced Eskrima during my childhood, every night, before he went to bed.

When I was 12, the barrio started a dance event every Friday night.  It was held in an open basketball court, where most of the barrio’s events are held.  In this same court, I also entered a Wee Wee Jamboree, along with my cousin, Villy.  My cousin sang better than I did, so he took in first prize.  I took second.

Teens and young adults are excited and look forward to the dancing every Friday night.  Dancing on Friday nights is the most exciting thing that is happening in our barrio.  Everyone can hardly contain their excitement – walking giddy  all day, especially on Fridays.

The man who owns and sets up the sound system:  the turntable or long album player and the large speakers is also the disk-jockey.  When he smiles, two gold teeth in his upper teeth shine against the beaming sun.  His name is Mr. Rubio.  He’s also married to my science teacher in 5th grade.  A very fine looking woman.  One of the prettiest teachers in our school.  She’s 27.  Tall, pale skin, with prominent cheekbones.  Her dark wavy hair frames her angelic face.  In addition to her graceful beauty, I was fascinated by her handwriting.  I’d watch her in fascination while she writes on the black board.  Every stroke was calculated, and very fine.  It is as if she’s studied calligraphy.  I am an admirer of beautiful handwriting.  When I see someone with a beautiful handwriting I often try to imitate it.  With handwriting, of course, I also collect different sorts of pens as long as it glides well on the paper.  Mr. & Mrs. Rubio have two children, Ruby and Roy, ages 11 and 9.  While she teaches in our school, her husband tends his electronic repair shop located on the first floor of their baby blue painted house.  Theirs is the place to go if you have a broken transistors radio.

At around three o’clock, Mr. Rubio, begins to set up the turntable and the speakers.  By four o’clock he starts playing music to get the whole barrio excited and in the mood for dancing that night.  He sets up three speakers.  One facing to the east, the second facing to the west and the third facing to the south.  The barrio was shaped like a cross, built along the only highway connecting Tacloban City, Imelda Marcos’ hometown, and Ormoc City.  Since the north part of the barrio is not as populated as the south, no speaker facing that way.

There were benches set up on both sides of the court, on opposing direction.  The benches set up on the left side are for the boys, while the benches across on the other side are for the girls.  The middle of the basketball court is left empty and wide open to serve as the dance floor.

The dancing starts at 7pm.  Here’s how it works.  When the music begins to play, the boys would walk over to the other side where the girls are seated and ask the girls to dance with them.  It’s usually a boy and a girl.  A boy picks a girl, usually a girl he would like to woo.  A girl can refuse to dance with a boy she doesn’t like, and wait for another boy.  A boy she much prefers to dance.  The boy who gets rejected moves on and ask another girl to dance.  There is no age limit.  But majority of the girls and the boys are teenagers, and people no older than 25 years old.  Both boys and girls are assumed single and unmarried.  Out of decency, married men and women do not participate in this dance, unless they want to be the “talk” of the barrio the next day, and can bear the rolling eyes and whispers all around.

Most of the boys take advantage of dancing events like these.  This is usually their best chance to talk to a girl, a girl they’ve never had the courage to talk to before.  And in these dances, the boys get to whisper ‘sweet words’ in the girls’ ears during a slow dance, and a chance to put their hands around the girls’ waist, where any other time would have been highly inappropriate.  In these dances, many romances and courtships are formed.

One Friday evening, at around 7 o’clock at night, that’s when the dance starts.  I could hear the song being played, one of my favorite songs.  It was the Bee Gees…

Listen to the ground:
there is movement all around.
There is something goin’ down
and I can feel it.

On the waves of the air,
there is dancin’ out there.
If it’s somethin’ we can share,
we can steal it.


Outside the kitchen, under the dark shadows of the trees, I started dancing… and singing…

Then I get night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it.
Gimme that night fever, night fever.
We know how to show it.

Here I am,
Prayin’ for this moment to last,
Livin’ on the music so fine,
Borne on the wind,
Makin’ it mine.


… swaying from side to side, bobbing my head, when all of a sudden I heard footsteps.  And then I heard footsteps walking towards me.  And then I head him yell:

“Teresita! What I tell you about dancing?!” He was holding his long, sharp knife, drawn from its sheath.  I stared at him in horror and froze.  All I could think of was – Ooh, ooh. I’m in trouble now.  He saw me danced!

“If I see you moving your feet again I’m going to chop them off!  ‘ you hear me?!”  With the point of the knife aimed towards my feet.  He was five-feet away from me.

“Yee – Yeeess, Dad.”

“Now, go wash your feet and go to bed!”

“Yee – Yeeess, Dad.”

Finally, I felt my blood flowing back into my legs and unfroze them.  I took a step and ran into the kitchen.  I poured cold water onto my dusty feet and dry them off with a torn t-shirt.  I went up to the room and laid down next to my little sister, Elsa.  I was a little embarrassed that my Dad caught me dancing.  And disappointed that I was denied the simple pleasure of a dance. Yet thankful that he didn’t beat me for it.  Or worse, chop my feet like he said he would.

I still couldn’t understand why he thinks dancing is a sin.  He didn’t used to.  Back in Samar, when I was five or six, I remember dancing outside – in the dusty yard, in front of my grandmother’s house with my cousins.  My grandmother, when she was in a good mood, she’d play her Fono – turntable player and watched us, grandchildren dance.  I don’t remember my dad getting upset then.  But then, I don’t remember him being around either, while we’re dancing.  He must have been at the farm still.  He usually stays at the farm until sundown.

It was fun – the dancing.  But my cousins always ruined it for me. When I dance I retreat into my head with the music, and phase everyone out.  So while I was in the moment, one with the music, one of my cousins, Norma, Mana Noynoy I call her because she was older than me, would pull down my underwear, and everyone would burst out laughing.  They think this is funny.  It’s not.  It’s not funny at all.  Not to me.  This is embarrassing and infuriating.  And when I am embarrassed and angry, I become physically violent.  So I’d start running after everyone whose laughing and start hitting them with my fist.  A good dancing session is ruined because of my cousins.  I couldn’t understand why they always picked on me.  Every time!

I still love to dance.  Though I am shy about it.  Especially if there are strangers watching.   I would feel embarrassed.  And I also feel guilty.  Each time I dance I think about how my dad threatened to chop my feet off.  Often when I starts dancing to the music, my son, Ramon smiles and would say, “Mom…  you’re off the beat, and you have no rhythm!”  “Well, baby…  When I was a little girl, I wasn’t allowed to dance.  So of course I don’t have any rhythm!” I’d tell him.   Rhythm or not, I still likes to dance at home once in a while.  I eventually get beat down after a few minutes into the song.  And dancing becomes fun after that.  Though sometimes there’s this voice, a little girl’s voice that nags at me:  “What are you doing?!  Why are you dancing? Stop that!” But I learned to ignore the voice.  I turn the music a little louder and keep on dancing.  I  dance.  And dance some more.  Until my heart’s content.


This past few months, I’ve had several people, friends from Yahoo 360, asked for my meatloaf recipe.  Thus, I’m posting it here.

This meatloaf recipe takes a bit of time to make.  But i think the extra time is worth it.   When i make this, i usually make this on weekends, when i am not rushed for time.

Spicy Meatloaf
1 ½ pound ground beef – round or chuck (93 – 96% lean)
1 pound ground pork
Sautéed Sweet Onion and Jalapenos – see below
2 extra large beaten eggs
½ cup plain bread crumbs
6 TBSPs. petite diced tomatoes, including the juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
Sauce for topping – see below

Sautéed Sweet Onions and Jalapeno Peppers
5 slices low sodium bacon – chopped
6 garlic cloves – smashed, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium sweet onion (Texas or Vidalia) – finely diced
3 medium sized jalapeno peppers – finely diced
3 medium sized celery sticks – peeled and finely diced
2 tsps. ground cumin
1 TBSP. paprika
1 tsp. dried basil leaves or 1 TBSP. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. dried chives
1 tsp. beef granules
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper

Heat a large skillet and smear it with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the chopped bacon and sauté until it has rendered about 3 – 4 tablespoons of lard… and slightly crispy.

Add the chopped garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent… about 3 minutes.

Add the chopped jalapeno peppers and celery. Sauté and simmer mixture for about 5 minutes.

Add ground cumin, paprika, basil, chives, beef granules, kosher salt and black pepper. Stir and simmer (over low medium heat) until celery is soft… and the spices have blended well with the rest of the vegetables. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Lightly butter two – 8” x 4” loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl…

Combine ground beef and ground pork. Add the cooled vegetable mixture and mix thoroughly with your clean hands.
Add the beaten eggs, bread crumbs, petite diced tomatoes and kosher salt. Again… mix with your hands until all ingredients are combined.

Divide mixture into two equal portions. Form each portion into loaf and place in a lightly greased loaf pans.

Pour the sauce over the meat loaves… smoothing the top with spatula.

Place the loaf pans in a heavy-duty cookie sheet and bake uncovered, in a preheated oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the meatloaves in the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Pour off excess oil that has accumulated in the pan.

(Some people bake their meatloaf between 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the meatloaf reach a temperature of 160°F… BUT… this doesn’t work for us… Don’t worry… even after of almost two hours of baking time… these meat loaves are moist… tender… and melt in your mouth!)

Slice and serve meat loaves with mashed potatoes… and Sweet Onion and Bacon Bits Gravy.

Zesty Sauce Topping for the Meatloaf:
¾ cup ketchup
¼ cup Heinz 57 sauce or your favorite barbecue sauce
2 TBSPs. French Yellow Mustard
½ TBSp. worchestire sauce
½ tsp. ground hot peppers (optional)

Whisk together in a bowl… and pour over the meat loaves before baking.

Simple Mashed Potatoes

When I don’t have very much time… I peel and cut the potatoes in 2 or 3 pieces and then boil with 1 tsp. coarse sea salt. The potatoes cook in about 30 minutes and ready to be mashed and seasoned.

4 large potatoes (about 4 pounds) – boiled
3 cloves garlic – unpeeled (optional)
2 – 3 TBSPs. butter
½ – 1 cup warm milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Wash potatoes and cut split them in half or thirds.  Place in large pot and add the garlic.  Cover with water, about 1 inch above the potatoes.  Add salt.    Cover pot and boil potatoes over medium heat for 25 – 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft.  Remove the garlic and peel them.  Set aside.  Drain the water and place the potatoes back in the pot.  Keep the pot on the stove, over a very low heat.  Add butter and mash the potatoes.  Add milk.  Start with ½ cup and add more milk for thinner consistency.  Season with salt and black pepper.

Serve with the Spicy Meatloaf and Sweet Onion Gravy.

Sweet Onion Gravy with Bacon Bits:

5 slices low sodium bacon – chopped
3 cloves garlic – smashed, peeled and finely diced
½ medium sweet onion – finely diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
6 TBSPs. all purpose flour
3 cups beef stock or boiling water + 3 beef bouillion cubes
1 tsp. coarse sea salt if needed – taste gravy before adding
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Heat a large skillet and smear it with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Add the chopped bacon. Sauté bacon until has rendered about 4 tablespoons of lard, but not too crispy.

Add chopped garlic and sauté until garlic until light golden brown. Add onions and sauté until soft.

Add the flour and stir until flour is coated with the lard and form a sand texture. Keep stirring until flour is light golden brown.  Whisk in ½ cup beef stock… Whisk until mixture forms into a thick paste. Whisk in the remaining beef stock, ½ cup at a time until all 3 cups are added. Continue whisking until mixture is smooth and free of lumps.

Lower the heat to medium low… and simmer gravy until it thickens… for about 5 – 10 minutes.

Serve over mashed potatoes and Spicy Meatloaf…

before baking.

after 1 hour & 45 minutes.

ready to serve.

Tess’ Kitchen Secrets:

#1 – I usually like my mashed potatoes to have a zesty flavor.  So I add one tablespoon of wasabi paste to it, and two or 3 tablespoons of sour cream. If you haven’t used wasabi in your mashed potatoes before, start with one teaspoon.  Taste and add more if you like.

#2 –  The sauteed sweet onions and jalapeno peppers and the glaze or topping are  what makes this meatloaf taste extra ordinary.  Jalapeno peppers are not spicy if you remove the seeds and ribs off it.

#3 – As for the gravy.  I like the bacon bits in it. Its what makes the gravy tasty.  However, the  bacon can’t be crispy.  It must still be a little limp so it flows with the gravy’s creaminess.

Enjoy and Happy Cooking!

Tess Harris

7 thoughts on “Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm

  1. Pingback: Braised Spicy Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves « AmerAsian Home Cooking

  2. How sad that you weren’t allowed to dance as a teenager, Tess. Like you mentioned in your letter, that was what the weekends were all about, and meeting the guys. I had to laugh when you said you were out dancing to Night Fever by the Bee Gees. Brought back memories of how John & I met. Probably already knew ~ at a bar. But he came up to me and asked me to dance the song that the DJ was playing. Heavens, I can’t remember the name of the song now, but dancing was something he & I did alot back then. I’d go out with my friends on Friday night. But Saturday nights were for us. We always seemed to end up at the “Boathouse”. Their final song every Saturday night was Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, and we danced it each time. Awe…those memories 🙂
    Your not too old to still dance, so get Willy and head out and do some dancing sometime soon. Even if it’s slow dancing, I’m sure just about any guy can do that. John & I even did alittle dancing on the cruise. So go for it!

    This is quite a step-up meatloaf recipe. And looks so moist. I’m sure it’s way different than my brothers. His favorite to pack for road trips is a cold meatloaf sandwich. Boy, oh boy, can one smell the garlic in the back seat or what. lol Nice presentation with the potatoes & gravy. Looks great Tess 🙂

    • Thank you Tess. And welcome back! 🙂

      Yeah. I missed a lot as a teenager. Though i got to go to my junior and senior prom and got to dance. That’s only because my dad was two hours away, by boat. He just knew it was a school function, and i needed to there! 🙂

      That is cool. How you and John loved to dance, and still do. Dancing really does something to our spirit.

      As for dancing here. There is no dancing place here in Abilene. (Other than the two strip clubs outside the city.) This is a very religious town, and almost everything here is “under control” by the ones who’s lived here a long time and own the city.

      That’s funny. Your brother, how he loved to pack meatloaf sandwiches. I guess i don’t blame him. At least he gets to eat good on the road. 🙂

  3. Woohoo Tess….sexy looking shoes you got there 🙂

    I don’t think your dad was dancing over those hot coals but that most of been a sight to see….LOL. I always liked dancing but hated going to school dances cause unlike your dances all the boys would just stand around & leave all the girls to dance by themselves…..till one dance I said screw this shit ~ I went & joined the girls. Sure I got picked on for awhile but come the next school dance they weren’t laughing when all the girls were asking me to dance….sweet revenge. Your story kind of reminds me of the movie Footloose the father in there was the same way. I would have been at the barrio every Friday nite. Your cousin Norma sounds like a real loser….she was probably jealous of you & that is why she was so mean ~ sorry you had to deal with that crap. But hey girl you love to dance & you should… like no one watching Tess 🙂 & never be embarrassed. When you hear that voice in your head just tell it “I’m dancing & luvin it so get lost”.

    I came over here to get your pork chop recipe cause we are making that for lunch & noticed your new post. I make one hell of a meatloaf…all my friends luv it. I like that zesty sauce…gunna try that next time & your sweet onion gravy with the bacon bits sounds like a winner to me so you know I’m gunna be making that to. Shit I might even go out shoppin again & pick up all that stuff & make it tomorrow.

    Awesome recipes as always Tess…..thnx a million 🙂

    • Thanks Mario! How did you know!? LOL.

      You know I’ve never seen the movie Footloose. Though I’ve listened to the song many times.

      Yeah. My husband tells me the same thing. I’ve had so many girls, cousins and half-sister, and some boys picked on me when i was young. I wish I knew what their motives were at that time. But that’s OK. My cousin, Norma, I haven’t seen her since I was 13. She probably have a dozen kids by now and still lives in a nipa hut. But then again, most of my relatives still live in nipa huts. 🙂

      I hope your pork chops turned out good.

      … you’re welcome. 🙂

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