Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.

July 30, 1942

The lamentations of Jeremiah are getting more intense. Unemployment engenders scarcity of money, which in turn brings about the shortage of food. Those who used to eat heartily have to content themselves with a handful of rice cooked in plenty of water and seasoned with salt. The virtues of sobriety and frugality, which used to be the patrimony of the needy in the past, are now becoming popular as a result of the lack of money. Those who before were fastidious and squeamish now devour what they used to despise as nauseating.

We are all surprised at the quality and variety of food which the bounty of nature could serve at our table. We used to say about the miserable and hungry: “They have to feed themselves with camote and the herbs of the field.” Now we do not only glorify the camote; we have also discovered that its leaves and stems excel and supplant the cabbage with better results. The rice cake which had always been regarded as a mere hodge podge has turned out to be as tasty as the custard. We have also discovered that mongo, which we thought was feed for chicken and doves, has more iron than the mines of Bilbao, and more vitamins than the letters of the alphabet.

This is how much hunger and necessity can do when hitched to the wagon of scarcity!

People who, in their days of plenty, were not satisfied even with the special menu at the Manila Hotel at ₱10 a cover now avidly devour squash cooked with its leaves, and bamboo shoots, or the stems of carrots or radish with its leaves.

Thanks to the admirable prodigality of this ever green and fertile soil, the grip of hunger pinches less in this city than it does in places ravaged by winter. If only we could discover some hidden vitamins or some still unknown taste in the barks of trees or the grasses of the fields, we would have solved all problems of subsistence.

War, with its implacable lashes, teaches a practical lesson in frugality, deprivation of food and sacrifice, which many Christians have already forgotten.