Archives for October 2011

Because I love to eat!

I love food. It is the reason why I have failed miserably in trying to lose weight.  I know, I know. Excuses, excuses.  As luck would have it, my mother did not want a skinny child. Her idea of parenting is to have a chubby kid. This would show that her kid is well-fed. Ergo, good parenting.  (Chubby or not, I have the best parents, by the way.) Thus, early on, my taste buds were already immersed into honest-to-goodness Pinoy food.  I thank my lucky stars that my mother was also a great cook.

Good old home-cooked meals can best satisfy the hungry stomach. I grew up with fish tinola (fish soup), nilagang baboy  (boiled pork), adobo,  and sautéed vegetables like pinakbet .  My mother could cook a mean dinuguan (blood stew). The downside of having great cook for a mother was the tendency to be lazy in learning the ropes. It felt like I could never cook as well as her.  So, I never learned to cook dinuguan from her.  Early this year, I missed my mother’ s dinuguan. I called my aunt’s former cook and begged her to teach me how to cook dinuguan.  Good thing, my mother taught her well.

When I  posted my photos on Facebook, it attracted comments from family and friends. For Pinoys, the love for food is universal. My cousins were quick to arrange a mini-reunion of sorts, pot-luck style.  I was assigned to cook dinuguan.  I can feel the pressure mounting on my culinary skills. Hopefully, I can deliver.

The process of cooking dinuguan

One of the ways to enjoy the ultimate in Filipino cuisine is to go to fiesta celebrations.  Any fiesta showcases the best the town has to offer. From lumpia, pansit, dinuguan to buko salad, everything is a delight to the senses.  It is degustation heaven for me.   No fiesta is complete without the ultimate Pinoy dish, the lechon (roasted pig).  Slow roasting the pig over a fire results to a divinely crispy skin. Just thinking how the soft meat dipped in vinegar is enough to make me drool as I type this sentence. The south of the Philippines claims to be the best when it comes to lechon.  No fancy sauces needed.

Fiesta food

One need not call on mom for home-cooked meals nor wait for a fiesta invite to be able to enjoy Pinoy cuisine. There are restaurants that serve good Filipino food. I learned to eat dishes like kare-kare, sisig, palabok and lechon kawali from eating out.  It does not even have to be a fine-dining restaurant. Some of my initiation to food from other regions in the Philippines is through hole-in-the- wall dining. Food, carinderia-style, can be as good as the ones in the high-end restaurants.

Restaurant and carinderia food

Whatever the occasion, Pinoy food is comforting and filling. It never fails put a happy smile on my face.

Joyride

I checked how to write joyride. Is it joyride, joy ride or joy-ride? If Wikipedia is to be believed, joyride is a crime of stealing a vehicle with no particular destination in mind.  This post is not about that. When I say joyride, it is riding a vehicle on a leisurely pace with no predetermined itinerary. In my case, I am on a passenger seat of my friend or my cousin’s vehicle.

I live in a small city but I have not been to every nook and cranny of my hometown so I welcome any invitation to explore barangays I have not been to. One fine Saturday, we went to a friend’s farm.  It is less than 30 minutes away from downtown Butuan but because the place was unfamiliar, it did not feel like Butuan to me. It is amazing how smooth the roads going to that part of the city- way better that the numerous potholes in city center.

It was raining.

We sipped buko (young coconut) juice and scooped out it tender meat.

Coconut meat: soft and satisfying

There is a hidden gem on our way back. My friend found this place before so she brought us here. There is a lake and rolling hills. I hope people will leave this place as it is. Sometimes progress has its way of ruining lovely places like these.

Later that week, my cousin ( upon my prodding) took an alternate route on our way home from an errand.  There is a newly paved road parallel to the main highway to the city. We took that route to check out we might see on that side of the city.

There were trees, lakes, hills and rice fields.  There were few houses.

I love this kind of joyride.

 

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. 

~Anatole France

 

 

Bicol Food!

As I am writing this post, it is raining. Typhoon Ramon hovers over Agusan and nearby provinces. Rain has a comforting effect on me that it makes me crave for food. We had arroz caldo for lunch and  champorado for dinner. Nothing brings comfort than a hot bowl of goodness in this cold weather.

Now curled up in bed, the sound of spattering rain drones on. This “aircon” weather induces me into craving for Pinoy food. Since the recent trip is still fresh in my mind, I try to remember the texture, taste and smell of Bicol cuisine.

Food adds more joy to travel. Bicol is a delightful place to sample new dishes. Bicolanos have ingenious ways of creating memorable dishes from local ingredients like coconut, gabi leaves, malunggay, fish and sili. Pili nuts grown aplenty in this region and I found myself hoarding pili delicacies to bring to family back home.

My first stop to sampling Bicol food was Geewan. Geewan is a dining place in Naga where Bicolano food is served. My friend suggested that I go easy into incorporating a Bicol dish into our lunch so as not to shock my Bisayan palate. We picked kinunot  to complement the sweet and sour meatballs and pork barbecue.

Geewan's Kinunot

Kinunot is a fish dish cooked in coconut milk (gata) with malunggay leaves. It was pretty good and it set my taste buds on what to expect from Bicol food. My friend asked if it is made with shark meat, the server said no.  Traditionally, kinunot is made with shark meat.  I would not order this if this was shark meat. It would break my heart to eat endangered species.

One cannot visit Bicol and not taste Bicol express and laing. Those dishes are two of the more popular Bicolano creations. I can even take home a bottle or two. But alas! My promo ticket did not allow me to have checked-in luggage. I could not have it hand-carried either. The airports frown at liquid-y stuff.  I even inquired if I can send the bottles thru courier but LBC said they don’t ship breakable items. I have to make the most out of our sumptuous lunch by making myself savor every bite ignoring the tightening of my waistline.

Laing and Bicol Express in the middle (Restaurant: Red Platter)

Laing is gabi leaves cooked in coconut milk the Bicolano way. It has a melt-in-your-mouth quality to it that perfectly complemented the crunch of the crispy pata we ordered.  Bicol express, on the other hand, is meat cooked in coconut milk with chilli (sili).  I have low tolerance for spicy food but, for some reason, Bicol express added a little kick to the grilled pork belly.  It left a little heat on my mouth which was easily washed down with iced tea.

Merienda time called for toasted siopao. The tanned version of the siopao filled my hungry stomach with its compact bun yet surprising soft dough inside. This hearty and meaty snack easily satisfied my hunger pangs.

Toasted siopao (Naga Garden Restaurant)

After all the touristy things we did, we were in search for a warm and comforting bowl of hot soup. Kinalas was the answer to our food craving. When in Bicol, one can easily find an eatery serving this dish. It is a noodle soup with vegetables and strips of soft beef in a flavorful broth. We choose the one with boiled egg added.  Paired with puto and cold soda, I sipped the broth one spoonful at a time alternating it with bites of noodles and meat. The aroma filled my nostrils and beads of sweat appeared on my forehead-a sign of a good soup.  It is hard not to smile after the meal.

My travel companions are the sweetest. Before we left Bicol, my friends surprised me with a birthday cake even if it has been two weeks since my birthday!  They bought a Concorde cake. Although the recipe did not originate from Bicol,  a bakery there makes it their specialty that it was featured in the travel guide my friend was reading. True enough, the layers of meringue make the cake light and soft. The chocolate buttercream was a delight. The cake’s sweetness and mix of a pleasure in my mouth was a delightful way to cap off my whole Bicol experience.

Till we eat again, Bicol!

Wakeboarding in CamSur

In a recent news report, Camarines Sur was the no. 1 tourist destination in the Philippines for 2010. The two main attractions that drove tourists to this part of the country is the Caramoan islands and the Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC). In our recent Bicol trip, we planned to go island-hopping in Caramoan but we did not have much time. We did have time to visit CWC!

Wakeboarding is a form of water sport where a person is “towed” by a cable while riding on a board.  It is a like a combination between waterskiing and surfing.  CWC is the pioneer and said to be best wakeboarding complex in the Philippines.

In the middle of the complex is a man-made lake where all the action occurs. A complex cable system is responsible for towing the riders one at a time.

As I changed into a more appropriate outfit, I was contemplating whether I would try to wakeboard or not.  I was on a “let-me-check-it out- first” attitude.  A friend already signed up and we were her cheerleaders. I was her ‘unofficial’ photographer so I was really close enough to observe how it is done.

Beginners are given instructions before riding. I did not listen to the instructions though. I assume that it was on safety and some helpful tips on how to successfully take off and maneuver the ride. Beginners kneel on the board first.

My friend took off successfully in her first try and did five laps around the lake.

She had fun. Another friend tried it and took off successfully. I was close to deciding to try it myself but I succumbed to pressure.  My shyness demons prevailed. Thoughts went into my head: “How embarrassing would it be if I fall?”, ” What if I chip a tooth again?” So, down the drain went my adventurous spirit.  I wish in the future I can muster enough courage to try this one.  There was one friend in the group who planned to try but was unable to because something came up.  Maybe we can both try together next time.

The complex had other amenities like massage services, huts for overnight stay and a swimming pool.

Because I did not wakeboard, I felt the need to do other things so I settled for swimming. It was fun being in the pool with friends even if I do not know how to swim.

For more information, check out their website.

Namiyesta ka na ba sa Peñafrancia sa Naga? (Part 2 of 2)

The reason we went to Naga was to experience the Peñafrancia Festival. My friend made a fair warning that there will be lots of people. We might experience a lot of shoving and pushing.  I psyched myself up to just go with the flow. There were 6 of us braving the sea of people. I did not feel like I was a needle in a haystack.

Although I did not do much research on this celebration, we made a visit to the Peñafrancia Museum and I got a little more insight on the history of the festival.

This is the statue of the person responsible in bringing the image to Naga.

Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias

This is the story. The museum displayed some of the crowns and aureola used on the image. Aureola is bejeweled halo around the image. The Manto is the intricately-beaded covering on the image.

Manto

The museum had dioramas depicting scenes on the history of the Peñafrancia.

One of the dioramas in the museum

This is the scene depicting the procession during Peñafrancia. This is what I experienced. (More story on that below.)

Peñafrancia 2011

We were supposed to attend mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral but with the traffic, we arrived late.

This is just a preview of the throng of people I expect to face.

The procession started at around 3 p.m. so we had the time to eat lunch and roam around. The streets were in a festive mood.

Buntings

There were so many people near the market area. Security was visible. My friends went souvenir shopping. Before 3 p.m. we started to find a good vantage point to view the procession.  The ideal place for us would have been on the steps of the local mall but it seemed like everyone else thought of the same thing. We settled comfortably on the sidewalk. We sat on a garbage bag that our host brought.  Clever.  Oh, did I mention I wore a dress just like what I planned before? Yes. I sat on the sidewalk in my white dress. Only in Naga! I did not mind. I welcome new experiences. New experiences mean new anecdotes. Besides, there are others who also sat on the sidewalk.

I took a photo of the man’s shirt. Voyadores are street dancers or devotees who follow the procession. They surround the image as protection and pushed the cart that carried the image.  Some of them are barefoot.  The downside is that some of them were drunk. I could smell alcohol reeking from where some of them stood. Some can get a little rowdy.

This is what we waited for for more than an hour.

From where I stood, I was drowned in a sea of people. As the voyadores pass by, they look for spaces where they can walk through easily.  A mass of them passed through in front of us that we had to step back. For a few seconds, it felt like being suffocated by different aromas. I feel like I survived a stampede. Personal bubble spaces burst.  It was an adventure for claustrophobic and agoraphobic people. Ha!

Our next stop was to check out the fluvial procession. The crowd has already settled in their positions that by the time we got there, I can no longer see the river. Taller people stood in front of me. No matter how I channeled my inner ballerina, my tiptoes could only lift me as high as the length of my foot.  I only see the fluvial parade through the camera of people in front of me. No regrets though. God knew I tried.

The devotion of the Bicolanos to Ina was evident. Ina is Filipino for ‘mother’.  Our Lady of Peñafrancia is called as such.  To those who are not used to such adulation, it would seem like fanaticism. For me, it was devotion. I am a Catholic but I am not the religious type who follow feasts, rituals and novenas. I am prayerful but in the confines of my home. To show love of God in public with much conviction like these Bicolanos is love. It is love that made these people brave the crowd just to watch the image pass by.  It is love that made some vow to follow the procession barefoot year after year. I might not experience Peñafrancia again since I live far.  I felt blessed that I did.

Let me close this post with a prayer:

Part 1

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