Saturday, January 30, 2010

Drink of Angels

The district of San Miguel in the City of Manila is genteel and old world. In the shadow of Malacanang palace, the houses are well preserved, though unlike their storied past, must now contend with growing colonies of informal settlers. At its heart is the Church of San Miguel where mass confirmations are regularly held. It is dominated by figures of the archangels with Michael predominant and triumphant over a serpentine Lucifer.

It is the district for which what is touted as "the national beer" is named. It was founded by Don Enrique Ma. Barretto de Ycaza in 1890 as La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel. Barretto later took on a partner, Don Pedro Pablo Roxas, who brought with him a German brewmaster. San Miguel's brew won its first major award at 1895's Philippines Regional Exposition, and led its imported competitors by a five-to-one margin by the turn of the 20th century. The company was incorporated in 1913 following the death of Don Pedro Roxas.

The story goes that in World War II, the Americans pursued the retreating Japanese through Manila, but made a detour to free the District of San Miguel, before pushing on to Ermita and ultimately the Intramuros dead end. But it wasn't a tactical detour. The thirsty GIs wanted some of the beer. And they got it, after liberating the area, drawing them from the factory taps into their helmets. There was also an ice plant in the nearby district and that fit in wonderfully with these last minute plans.

It may have been just as well. The battles that followed go down in history as the bloodiest of that war, with civilian casualties soaring, particularly in the Intramuros. It was also during this time, when the carpet bombing of Manila increased in ferocity, with lamentable destruction -- the National Museum, for instance, took a direct hit and thousands of the country's artifacts and relics were reduced to ash and rubble.

The consumption of beer and other alcohol is so ingrained in Philippine customs, it comes with its own etiquette. An invitation to drink is extended to any person, stranger or not, and it is insulting to the drinkers, to be refused. Many a crime has been comitted in the name of such a refusal. Why this is so, requires some investigation, however.

For most Filipinos, eating and drinking are communal activities. Eating alone, even in modern times like today, will elicit unkind comments from the more traditional minded. In Tayabas, Quezon, there are particular phrases one must use to accept a drink, to pass on a round and to make one's excuses to leave the group. Failure to observe these practices rankle on the host and the other drinkers. Some theorize that ancient Filipinos were a classless society or one where mobility was always possible through industry and later, education. However, the growing class distinctions during the Spanish colonization, drew responses from the masses. An invitation to drink, when denied is considered an insult because person refusing is believed to be too snobbish to join in, or perhaps a bit wary of sharing a communal cup. Of course, the state of inebriation of the drinkers would also be a major factor in determining just how fatal the insult would be. .

Beer Making
Beer is made using water, fermented sugar, hops and yeast. Bryce Edding of says:


Every beer begins with barley grain. Each grain is a seed and contains all the chemical properties to sprout into a full barley plant under the right conditions. It is the maltster’s job to manipulate this potential into a usable product for the brewer.
The process of malting barley involves tricking each grain into believing that it is time to sprout. This is easily done with a little warm water. The sprouting process activates enzymes in the grain that will later be used by the brewer in the mash. As soon as the barley begins to sprout the maltster quickly but gently dries it completely in a kiln putting the enzymes in suspension. The sprouts are removed and the remaining grains are sent on to the brewer.

When the malted barley reaches the brewer it is full of naturally occurring starches and the enzymes activated during the malting process. The brewer then takes the grains and adds them to a bath of warm water, typically between 148 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This is called a mash. It is at these temperatures that the enzymes are reactivated. A chemical reaction begins whereby the enzymes attack and break down the starches in the barley to simpler sugars. These sugars are the goal of the mash.
This is all done in a special brewer’s container called a lauter tun. The lauter tun is designed to contain the mash without leaking while being able to gently filter away the water through its bottom when the mashing process is complete. Lauter tuns are often insulated or use some other method to maintain a constant temperature mash.

Once the brewer decides that most of the starches have been converted, which usually takes an hour or so, the temperature of the mash is raised to around 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit to halt the enzymatic process. Then the water is drained away and collected leaving behind a bed of grain. More warm water is sprinkled or sparged on to the grain bed at about 165 to 168 degrees Fahrenheit. This rinses more sugars from the grains. The water is then drained and collected with the original water from the mash. This water with sugars, unmodified starches and proteins dissolved or suspended in it is called wort.


The wort is then boiled. Boiling the wort improves the beer in a number of ways. It kills any enzymes remaining from the mash that could later make the beer unstable. It sterilizes the wort reducing the chances of contamination. It reduces the amount of water which increases the concentration of fermentable and unfermentable material extracted from the grain. The fermentable sugars will be converted to alcohol during fermentation and the unfermentable sugars and proteins will contribute to the final beer’s color, head, aroma, mouthfeel, and flavor.
Hops are generally added during the boil which extracts the resins and oils. Hops added early during the boil contribute a bitter flavor to the beer which is valuable because they add a balance to sweetness from the unfermentable sugars. Hops added to some beers during the final minutes of the boil contribute aromas and very little bitter flavor to the beer.

Next the wort is cooled to 46 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for lagers and 60 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit for ales. It is then transferred to a sterile fermentation container where the yeast is added. Yeast is a living organism that feeds on sugar. The byproducts of the lifecycle of yeast are alcohol and carbon dioxide. At the top of the fermentation tank is an airlock that both allows the CO2 to escape and prevents foreign material from entering. It will usually take a day or two for active fermentation to become evident. Most fermentation is completed within seven to fourteen days.

The beer is then drained off of the yeast sediment that collects at the bottom of the fermentation tank and transferred to a secondary lagering or aging container. Ales are usually aged in the secondary container for one to four weeks. During this time any remaining material drops out of suspension clearing the beer. Aging also blends and mellows the flavors. Lagers are similarly aged for months, some even up to a year, at very cool temperatures.

The result is bright, or uncarbonated, beer. There are two ways to carbonate beer. Natural carbonation involves transferring the beer to it final container – bottles, casks, or kegs – and just before sealing it adding a small but measured amount of sugar. There is enough yeast that remains suspended in the beer that this little bit of sugar will be fermented. This will not significantly contribute to the alcoholic content of the beer but in the sealed container the second byproduct of fermentation, CO2, has no place to go and so is absorbed by the beer. This method of carbonating beer is popular among homebrewers that typically don’t have the equipment to force carbonate their beer. It is also the correct way to carbonate certain styles of beer such as hefe-weizen.
Forced carbonation is the method preferred by many breweries. Before the beer is packaged it is filtered and pasteurized. This removes or kills any yeast that might have been in suspension. It results in a more stable product than natural fermentation. The CO2 gas is then forced into the beer container before it is sealed where the beer will absorb it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cabuyao, Laguna Dinuguan

Reader Jose Victor Torres is a historian, professor and part-time humorist on Facebook. Really. Check out his dinuguan memories, which for some reason, I share. My maternal grandfather grew up in the same town.
Warning: Do not read while hungry.

Cabuyao, with its traffic, convenience stores, and fastfood diners, isn't the Laguna town I once knew.
Old Cabuyao was a bucolic place with a Spanish colonial church and bahay na bato structures. There were still horse-pulled kalesas (carriages) mingling with the infrequent jeepneys on the main thoroughfare. A common street sound day and night was the clip-clop of shod hooves clip-clopping on asphalted roads that ended in dirt trails leading to ricefields and coconut plantations.

Old Cabuyao meant good, old-fashioned cooking.

There were atcharas - grated green papayas; peeled small, red sibuyas tagalog; white, pungent garlic cloves; thinly-sliced carrot rounds; and, red bell pepper strips pickled in a boiled vinegar and sugar solution.
There were kakanins - the sinukmani (boiled sticky rice with coconut milk and brown sugar) and halayang ube (grated ube tubers mashed and boiled with condensed milk) served mounded on oval, plastic platters.
But my most unforgettable Cabuyao fare is dinuguan - a dark brown soup chunky with the meat from pig heads cooked so unlike the thick, dry dinuguan dishes of other regions
Going to Cabuyao was a yearly affair. But ever since I got married and had my own family, these visits became infrequent. The death of the family cooks – two spinster aunts – some time ago meant the loss of the unique recipes I loved.
Modern things have, hence, come to the old town. The South Luzon Expressway made the trip from Manila and back easier. Subdivisions were now built on the ricefields and coconut plantations. More people meant more cars and jeepneys. Cabuyao grew from a quiet town to a city-like municipality. The old town’s not quite the same anymore.

I recently went back to Cabuyao for a family reunion. An aunt arrived from America for a visit and the relatives decided to hold a get-together in the backyard of the old house where I used to spend my summer vacations. The place once had a canteen managed by my two aunt-cooks, catering to students from a nearby school. But the school closed and my aunts had to shutter up their canteen as well although they continued to cook until their demise, sharing the benefits of old-fashioned recipes to aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces; and, later, grandchildren.

The house directly faced the main street and we got the full blast of traffic noise from the dozens of tricycles, jeepneys, and cars. I muttered to my sister, Lisa, how much the place had changed.
Merienda time. My cousin, Kuya Nato, came out from the kitchen carrying a stock pot. He set it down on a small table, removed the lid, and began to ladle the steaming contents into cups and bowls.
I recognized the dark, soupy viand. It was dinuguan, Cabuyao-style. Soup-cum-viand; our favorite snack. The sippy pulutan (appetizer) of the drinkers in the family. And, when the leftovers are scooped into clean jars and plastic bags, the delicious pasalubong (take-home food) for dinner and/or next day's breakfast.
Kuya Nato and his elder brother, Ding, were two of my cousins who preserved the dinuguan recipe. Although measured for a big party, adjustments can be made for small servings and tastes:
Boil a pig's head until flesh is tender. Remove head from the pot. Save the broth. Debone the head and cube the meat. In another pot, sauté garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Add the meat. Simmer. Pour in some of the broth enough to make the dish soupy. Add vinegar, the amount of which will depend on one’s taste.
Strain the pig’s blood in a bowl to remove clots. Slowly add the blood to the cooking meat while stirring constantly. If the mixture thickens, add more broth. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until done. For a spicier dish, add long green chili peppers.

I took a spoonful of the dinuguan. The meat was chewy. The black soup had a subtle hint of vinegar sourness. Then, for a moment, the traffic noise across the house disappeared. There was only the sound of kalesas. The bells from the tower of the old church began to ring - a slow, low clanging marking the end and the beginning of another hour. It was summer vacation and I could hear one of my spinster aunts puttering around the kitchen preparing the day's menu.

The old town has come alive again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reader's Recipes

Food floods our memories nd trigger sensations -- little wonder that there are so many eating disorders. Pinoys are perhaps one of the most food-centric people in the world. Government employees can attest to the fact that no meeting can be held without at least a token attempt to serve food. Greetings are usually succeeded with a "Kumain ka na ba?" (Have you eaten?). Eating alone is taboo and chancing on a person who is eating necessitates the eater to invite the other to partake of the meal with the traditional, "Kain tayo?" (Lets eat?).

Readers of this blog have been excitedly sharing their recipes and memories. Today Bong David shares his Lola's casual bangus and Dr. Alberto Lee is back with

Lola Abe's Bangus
Bong David

Season banugs. Then marinade  (2 heads chopped and bellies in small cubes) in little vinegar. After a while (30 mins) sautee with garlic, onions, little tomato, 2 big green chili. Then pour water boil add dahon ng sili simmer and done.

Sorry about the other specific amounts. Use own judgement. Hope you like it as I do. Thanks.

Bitter melon soup, anyone?
By. Dr. Alberto Lee
Bitter melon, better known in Tagalog as ampalaya, is a common produce sold in manila markets and grocery stores. in Houston, it is easily accessible in Chinatown. Bitter melon, stir fried with beef, is a common fare in the Filipino and Chinese restaurants. However, I have never seen bitter melon soup being offered in the menu here or in Manila, at least in the manner that I prepare it which I will describe later.

Bitter melon is popular in India where it is prepared with potatoes and served with yogurt. In Okinawa, Japan, bitter melon is popular and is credited for longevity. In the Philippines, it is used as part of a popular dish called pinakbet. Bitter melon is also popular in countries like Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam where it is prepared with coconut milk or curry. Some studies have shown that bitter melon contains a lectin that can lower the level of blood sugar and therefore beneficial for people with diabetes mellitus.

The taste for bitter melon dishes is definitely an acquired taste. Many people find it revolting to eat such a dish that has bitterness as its main flavor and nothing else. There is no special aroma, or even a hint of sweetness to it. Our taste buds can detect sweetness, bitterness, sourness and saltiness and another sensation called umami. The tip of the tongue is most sensitive to sweet taste and the back of the tongue is sensitive to bitter taste. At the base of each taste bud there is a nerve that sends the sensations to the brain. This is why kissing without using the tongue as part of the tools is not as sweet as using it.

I got carried away by the last sentence and almost forgot to present the recipe for the bitter melon soup. Here it is:
4 pieces of bitter melon, cut cross-wised and gutted. (clean the innards and seeds out using a small knife) set aside.

1 small onion, minced.

5 cloves of garlic, minced.

1 small can of water chestnuts, minced.

one bundle of scallions, minced. set aside to be used before serving the soup

1 egg

bread crumbs

1 pound of 96% lean ground beef

salt and pepper to taste
Combine the beef, onion, garlic, water chestnuts, egg, salt and pepper in a suitable bowl and mix it thoroughly adding breadcrumbs 1 tablespoonful at a time until you get the right consistency. That's right, like making spaghetti meatballs. Now, insert the fillings into the hollowed-out bitter melons and fill it to capacity. Set aside. If you made too much fillings or not enough, don't panic. Nothing will be wasted.
In a deep pot, bring to a boil 4 to 5 cans of chicken stock or beef stock. If you are one of those fastidious cook and prefer to make your own stock, go ahead. Nothing is carved in stone when it comes to cooking. Always cook with great abundance! And smile while cooking, even if you may appeared like a nut to the by-standers. A happy cook makes a better meal. Everything in life depends on good attitude.
Where was I? Oh, the cooking process. Gently put the stuffed bitter melon, one at a time, into the boiling broth so as not to burn yourself. Cover the pot, let it boil for 20 minutes or so or until the bitter melon is softened. Yes, you may check it from time to time to prevent overcooking. Garnish the soup with the scallions and serve piping hot.
To make the soup into a meal by itself, add rice noodles and you have a complete meal with all the proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals required for the day. I forgot to mention that if you have too much fillings, just roll it into a ball and drop it into the soup. If you do not have enough fillings, chop up the bitter melons into small slices and drop them into the soup.
I love bitter melon soup! Thank you, mother.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Painful Etiquette

The other day, the Philippine Senate disproved all theories that it is an august chamber. Name-calling, mud-slinging, off-color idiotic remarks and absolute lack of contrition for apalling behavior should be grounds for removal. At least at most dining tables, the erring participant at the meal would be banished for the duration, no such luck with our elected officials. In fact, some time ago, we had a so-called President caught cheating in the elections. We didn't banish her.

In Maryknoll High School, our cooking classes were tied up with lessons on manners -- and not just table manners, mind you. We were taught the Emily Post dicta, no less. However, it puzzled us girls, how far they could be from the reality on the ground -- or, at the tables.

For example, we were taught that on the occasion when two acquaintances of different genders meet, it is the obligation of the woman to approach the gentleman as it would have been extremely inappropriately forward of the male to presume to do otherwise. It would have horrified our gentle teachers if they knew that a girl approaching a boy on any occasion would have been considered "loose" behavior for us high school denizens.

The rule of course, did not extend to telephone conversations. A boy must always ring up the girl. At least thats what lola said. And calling up a boy on the phone, was, in high school, scandalous behavior.

It may seem archaic now, since the specifics of etiquette vary with the times, but its no wonder we were confused. The basic rule, then, Mama tells me is that etiquette is merely a way of being considerate. Everything else are details.

Food etiquette on the other hand is intensely cultural and the rules surrounding them far, far more confusing than gender politics. For instance, for those who do not like dirtying their hands during a meal, they will find to their horror that their practise of using paper napkins to hold sandwhiches, pizza or fried chicken, is incorrect. These are "finger foods" and hence, must be eaten with the fingers. Paper napkins are for wiping, your mouth, fingers, minor spills, blood... it is not supposed to touch food. No need to emphasize the point then, to a friend who rendered me aghast over her squeamishness handling a......... brownie. Hmph.

But the traditional manner of eating with one's hands is the Pinoy way. Personally, I'm terrible at it, because I suffer from occasional bouts of terminal clumsiness. But eating traditions can be fascinating, Take noises and spitting, for instance.

Eating at table in Bulacan where my father comes from, I was expected to eat with my hands. The food was heavenly -- very fresh shrimp and newly caught fish (Papa had a fishing boat in Hagonoy). If we were there in the evening, I would have to join the fishermen and my dad at the evening meal. I was also expected to enjoy my food, and this meant noisy eating. If I did not suck at the shrimp head, I would have been considered wasteful. If inedible parts of the fish or shrimp found their way into my mouth, it would have been perfectly polite to spit the erring part out. However, one was to be very careful that no edible material or saliva came out with the shell or bone, because that would have been rude. Burping was fine, but signaled the end of your meal and you would be exhorted to stop or be considered greedy. That is, unless you were asked to keep eating, in which case, the gas would have been forgotten.

A friend of mine who will remain anonymous if I want her to continue being my friend, once looked at me in horror when I spit out a fishbone at table in my house. All sorts of names were blooming in my head and I held my hand up to stop them from spilling out her mouth. I said, in Japan, noodles must be eaten with relish, which means, noise. If you would not dare stop the Japanese from their own cultural practises in their own place, do not attmempt it with me. That stopped her and we are still quite close.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Place Called BATO

The nation's history is made up of the histories of families, of individual experiences that connect with the experiences of our countrymen. This war, as with any other painful national state, forms part of the Philippine story and tells us much about who we are. Stories of survival and moments of joy, snatched from under the heel of oppressors reveal to us how we manage in different forms of warfare today -- be it a war against poverty, political and class oppression, or simply the struggle to get from day to day with body and soul together.
Reader Alberto Lee, of Houston, Texas  sent us this narration of life in WWII Philippines. His final sentence reminds us of how he is ever the doctor.

Shortly before the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Manila in 1941, my parents and all their relatives took refuge in a place called Bato. This tiny village has but a handful of people living in it. Although Bato is just ten kilometers or so from the township of Bacon, Sorsogon, it can only be reached by either a banca ride or a trek through thick jungles of shrubs, wild bananas,coconut trees,and abaca plants. My father bought this property from a friend long before the outbreak of the WW II. My parents thought we will be safe from the Japanese soldiers but they were wrong.
During our four-year sojourn in this rather isolated place, we learned to live with the natives the Bayanihan way. My parents and the rest of the clans formed a cooperative no different from the present day communes.The natives planted rice, corn and sweet potatoes as our main staples. From the ocean, we have our seafood gathered by the fishermen no differently than the way their ancestors did generations ago. On a clear day, we can see the island of Samar.

My parents raised chickens, pigs, cows, ducks and geese. I remember vividly how i would gather eggs every morning from here and there for all the chickens and ducks roam our yard freely. It was a particularly happy day for me if i found a giant goose egg.

Of course there was no electricity or running water to be had. Our houses were made of nipa leaves and coconut tree trunks. We slept on mats called banig. We dug our own wells, made our own soap, and my mother made all the clothes we needed on her single, foot-powered Singer sewing machine.
At the end of each harvest, be it rice, corn or vegetables or fish, everybody took their shares equally. Any left over is either salted, dried or stored properly for rainy days.
Yes, the Japanese soldiers found us. There were about a dozen of them when they came that day. Luckily,they did not brutalize anyone. They slapped some faces for no apparent reasons.Why are the Japanese soldiers so fun of slapping innocent civilians? They did search for guns and flags but found none for my father had buried them somewhere in the yard. They took all the chicken eggs, some of my favorite pet chickens, a pig and everything else that they needed and left. It was a harrowing experience to say the least.

It was under these circumstances that my mother learned how to cook the native dishes which she later passed on to us. The laing dish i described on a previous note was a simplified form with only two main ingredients: coconut milk and dried taro or gabi leaves. Another version consists of half a kilo of pork belly chopped up into cube-size pieces sauteed with plenty of fresh garlic. Any fat from the process should be discarded. Add salt and hot chili to taste, mix in the coconut milk and dried taro leaves and simmer slowly without stirring until the water content is reduced to practically nothing. Some people add onions and bagoong but i found this unnecessary. WARNING:This dish is high in saturated fats.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rice Terraces Tinawon

Have you eaten tinawon?

Rice grown in the World Heritage Site of the Rice Terraces of the Philippines is organically produced only once a year unlike the hybrid rice that can produce two or more yields per year. Tinawon means yearly.

UNESCO declared the terraces a World Heritage Site in 1992 after studying the Asian region. Rice terraces appear in other countries like China and Burma. But it is only in the Philippines where the terraces are so extensive they encompass four provinces, thus the inscription is of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Tinawon is pounded and not milled or polished, thus it retains its fibre and germ, the healthiest portions of the rice. Intensely fragrant it compliments any accompanying dish. Off season, it can fetch prices of up to P120 to P200 per kilo.

Everything surrounding it is ritualized, from its planting to its service on the table. This year, we are lucky enough to be invited to the rice planting rituals of Mayoyao, Ifugao. It would be good it you could join us.

Letter of Invitation
Dear Friends,

We are once again inviting you to join the Pfukhay ad Majawjaw (Rice Planting in Mayoyao) to be held on February 19-21, 2010 at Barangay Banhal, Mayoyao, Ifugao. This activity is being jointly-hosted by the Pochon and Maanichar Centennial Batch Assoc. (Pochon Group) and the Barangay Banhal Community. Other partner organizations include the Mayoyao Tourguides and Indigenous Knowledge Holders Allied Organization (MATIKHAO) and the AKHA’KHA-EMEH Cultural Performing Group.

For this particular tour, participants get to choose experience actual planting at the ricefields aside from the spectacular sites that Mayoyao can offer. Highlights of the tour include the cultural presentation where the different Native and War dances will be showcased by the AKHA’KHA-EMEH Cultural Performing Group. The participants will also be able to learn how the Mayoyao Native houses were constructed through the demo to be conducted by the Indigenous Knowledge Holders and Scholars.

It is the advocacy of the Pochon group to help maintain and preserve the richness of the cultural heritage of this town to allow the generations to come to appreciate the cultural practices of the ancestors who tried their best to hand the rich culture to the present generation for the next to learn about it. A portion of the tour’s proceeds will go to the heritage trust fund that will be used to help promote the indigenous culture of the Mayoyao people to its young generation and people who wish to have an extraordinary experience in the beautiful town where unexplored nature still abound.

Please help save our dying heritage. Join the Pfukhay ad Majawjaw 2010!

Thank you very much.

Yours truly,


Group President


Package Cost: P3,900 Tour package. Inclusions: Guide Fee

Cultural Presentation

Demo on Native House Construction

Transportation within the Province



Add P450.00 Bus fare from Banaue to Manila

P4,350.00 Total Cost (Land travel insurance not included)

 To bring: Trekking shoes
Water bottle for drinking water
Trail food
Other clothes and gears suitable for cold weather and trekking

Note: February is a wet and cold month. While weather is always unpredictable, it can rain every afternoon. Temperature in Mayoyao is around 20-25 degrees Celsius at daytime and 15-20 degrees Celsius at night time.

Feb. 18, 2010 Thursday9.00PMETD Manila via Victory Liner Bus, Kamias/Kamuning Terminal
Feb. 19, 2010 Friday5.00AMETA, Santiago City (Victory Liner Terminal)
Travel to Mayoyao via the Ifugao towns of Aguinaldo and Alfonso Lista

6.30AMBreakfast at Ubao, Aguinaldo, Ifugao
10.00AMETA, Mayoyao, Ifugao

Room assignments/Rest
12NNLunch at the Lodge
Demo on Native House Construction
Visit to the Museum
Visit to Acacoy Nature Park

5PMRoaming around the Town Plaza/shopping for souvenirs
7PMDinner at the Lodge

Feb. 20, 2010 Saturday7AMBreakfast at the Lodge
8AMProceed to planting site and join the planting
12NNLunch with the community
1PMTrek to Abfo’or Burial Tomb at Ottong
Trek down Mapawoy rice Terraces Cluster
5PMBack to the Lodge
8PMCultural presentation

Feb. 21, 2010 Sunday7 AMBreakfast
8.30AMVisit to Chu’it Viewpoint
10AMTravel to Banaue
12NNLunch at Midway
3PMETA, Banaue, Ifugao
8PMDeparture for Manila via Florida Bus Liner

Feb. 22, 2010 Monday4-5AMETA, Manila, Florida Bus Terminal, Lacson St., cor. Espana Avenue, Sampaloc, Manila
Description of places and activities:

1. Aguinaldo, Ifugao – Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippines, is said to have rested here a while (previously a part of Mayoyao) when he was fleeing from American forces during the Philippine-American War.

2. Alfonso Lista, Ifugao – The first town of Ifugao from Isabela. During WW2, the Japanese forces are said to have erected a fort in this place (can be seen along the road going to Mayoyao).

3. Ubao, Aguinaldo, Ifugao – This was the former hunting ground of General Dosser who was assigned in Mayoyao to help the guerrillas fight the Japanese forces in WW2. Today, this is the site of the rodeo competition held in every summer.

4. Acacoy Nature Park – A good vantage point for viewing the upper region of the Central Mayoyao Rice Terraces Cluster particularly Chaya Rice Terraces. It is where the “Hospital in the Clouds” is located. The hospital has received awards as the cleanest in the entire Ifugao Province.

5. Demo on Native House Construction – Indigenous Knowledge Holders and Scholars will conduct show how a native house is built with all the rituals and cultural practices that go along with it.

6. Chu’it Viewpoint – Another site for appreciating the Mayoyao Central Rice Terraces cluster.

7. Mun-alajah Waterfalls – One of the pristine waterfalls of Mayoyao. It offers the cleanest and coolest waters. One can drink directly from the water. Also a perfect site for snorkelling and swimming. (not included in the itinerary)

8. O’Phaw Mahencha Waterfalls – According to myth, a beautiful woman named Mahencha had to leap 3 times for an interval of at least 8 meters each waterfalls just to retrieve her necklace which had fallen off while she was taking a bath. (not included in the itinerary)

9. Bongan Rice terraces cluster – The start of the trekking adventure to the rice terraces of central Mayoyao.

10. Apfo’or Burial Tombs – Igloo-type mausoleums built out of stone for warriors during the early days.

11. Manual rice threshing/pounding/sifting – This had to be done before the local people ate when there were no machines.

12. Ecopark – A collection of rare woods are planted in this Ecopark which is managed privately by a family. The park is called “Pinuchu” or mini-forest. (not included in the itinerary)

13. Mayoyao Hostel (Ottong) – This is the site of the oldest Apfo’or Burial tomb.

14. Mapawoy Rice Terraces Cluster – It is the location of what we call the “Father house” or the biggest native house which can accommodate approximately 20 people and also the “Mother Field” or the widest ricefield in the area.

15. Visit to the Clairvoyant – Many people do not believe this clairvoyant can perform healing wonders. My Belgian visitor was relieved of his backpains when the clairvoyant “fixed” his aching back. One has go to see to believe. (not included in the itinerary)

16. Marian Center – Located at the site of the Catholic High School, a vegetable garden converted into a Retreat center offers the best example of infrastructure development that do not sacrifice the nature and the environment. It is built beside a waterfalls that when filled with flowing water shows the image of Mama Mary. (not included in the itinerary)

17. Lomogig Stone – The stone is a huge boulder standing in the middle of a river supported by 3 small stones at the base. It has been said that as long as the Lumogig Stone stands, Mayoyao will continue to experience Peace, Love, and Abundance/Prosperity which are symbolized by the 3 small stones. (not included in the itinerary)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Carabao Tales

It is said that when then President Erap Estrada was Senator, he managed to pass only one bit of legislation, then, derisively called The Carabao Law or Republic Act 7307. Yet years later, the establishment of the Philippine Carabao Center has boosted what was once the dwindling stock of carabaos, enlarged its gene pool and stabilized a source of meat, milk and hide for for the country. But they had me at "carabao milk"

Wikipedia says, "Water buffalo have been domesticated in the Philippines as far back as pre-Hispanic times and are often used by farmers in the Philippines to plow the fields and as a means of transportation. The carabao is one of the most important animals in the country, especially in agriculture. Carabao skin was once used extensively in the Philippines to create a variety of products, including the armor of pre-colonial Filipino warriors." (
Described as a patient animal, its demeanor is often associated with the Pinoys' epic ability to suffer outrageous hurts, but rampages are not uncommon, for brutalized animals. Again, the description, seems quite apt. Yet it is most useful to farmers as a beast of labor, and a meat, milk, hide, horn and bone producer. Entire cottage industries have risen in the use of carabao horn for souveniers. It can be buffed to high shine and sometimes turned into shoe horns. While the bone is often inlaid in the intricately carved woodwork traditionally produced in Bulacan.

But my favorite carabao product is still carabao milk. As a child, I loved it. They came in long necked vinegar or wine bottles corked with rolled up banana leaves. My mother mandated daily milk drinking which I did only under threat of a long and painful childhood because it meant drinking the horribly bland and (then) gag-inducing cow's millk. When my maternal grandfather realized I loved carabao milk, he bought a female calving carabao and sent the milk to me from the then hinterlands of Novaliches to our house in Cubao, just in time for breakfast of hot pandesal (also courtesy of Lolo's panaderia) and butter. He did this just to make sure I would drink milk and in his words, "Grow up smart." I love my Lolo.

Carabao milk is best suited for the normally lactose intolerant Asian stomach. It has vitamin A and D and now, it has been discovered that it reduces tumors in the breast and lungs. So, its true what they say, drinking milk, makes you strong! (

Carabao milk is richer and creamier than ordinary cow's milk and makes for wonderful desserts. Bulacan is famous for its pastillas de leche that comes in colorful wrappers of papel de hapon. A tradition of creating cut-out patterns of the wrappers' tails still exists in Bulacan, though it is fast disappearing. In Bacolod, they make the famous dulce gatas, that brown and sweet ambrosia.

But by far, for me, the best is carabao milk mozzarella, better known in these parts as kesong puti. Traditionally made in Sta. Cruz, Laguna, the milk is turned into cheese in the following manner:

 "Milk is strained in cheesecloth, afterwhich it is poured into a stainless steel casserole and heated for 15 seconds. After it has been cooled in a basin of cold water, a cup of rennet and a half-cup of salt are mixed in 15 liters of milk. The white concoction is strained again to remove whey (water) for 15 minutes.
“It is then put in a big plastic pail where it is mixed thoroughly by hand until it curdled... The curds are then poured in rows of halabing (round moulds made of banana leaves) and then let stand for about ten minutes,” “Two halabing are wrapped in a piece of banana leaf, tied with straw and encased in a talulo, a squared piece of dried sheath of beetle nut tree (bunga) that holds a basta (small bundle) together.”

Nothing beats kesong puti on pan de sal, for a healthy jumpstart to your day.

Do you know that there is a Military Order of the Carabao? It was initially set up as a spoof of the pompous Order of the Dragon. "While the original spoof was real enough, the Carabao Order came to epitomize the camaraderie that grows among members of the armed forces who face the dangers and privations of extensive military service far from home. By the way, the effete Order of the Dragon was disbanded many years ago."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wartime Food: Kape Ko

Writing about the war-time invention of banana ketsup brought my thoughts to the time when my parents survived World War II.

Both my maternal grandfather and my father were guerillas. Lolo in Laguna, and Papa in Bulacan. My mother, however, was little more than a child, and remembers the war years with a bit more distance than Papa or Lolo recall them.

Mama tells me of waking up in Lolo's arms, bombs raining around them as he rushed her and her sisters and brother out in the middle of the night. Manila was the second most destroyed city in the world then, but few recall that it was the Americans who saw to that. Lolo would run upstairs to where his children were sleeping and carry them down into the air raid shelter where they would wait out the bombing raid.

My aunt Rosario, Mama's sister and my godmother after whom I am named, as my mother tells me, loved to drink coffee even as a child. I would often point to her as proof that coffee does not stunt one's growth. My aunts are all tall. My mother is the shortest.

One time during breakfast, my aunt was enjoying her coffee, her siblings with her, when the bombs began to fall. Lolo picked her up and they all ran for the shelter. In the middle of the entire melee, with explosions going off all around them, my tita's small voice could be heard, crying for her coffee.

Years later, they would laugh about it, as hardy survivors often do.

During the war years, when all essentials, and food were becoming scarce, my mother recalls that they were very lucky not to have starved. Lolo had taken to the hills because the Japanese had already identified him as helping the guerillas. The "hills" then, were thickly forested. Lolo was adept at identifying edible roots and plants and would, occasionally return to his family to deliver these. One time as he was visiting, the Japanese knocked on the door. Lolo jumped out the window and miraculously managed to escape.

Coffee was, to my aunt's consternation, eventually one of those commodities that became very scarce. The resilient Filipinos, however knew how to make do. They would grind burnt cooked rice, called tutong and mix it with water. What they ended up with is a nasty concoction that looked like coffee but tasted like burnt rice.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Please Pass the Pasta

Yesterday's blog brought out the favorite spaghetti reminiscences of many of my friends. So today, we continue on in this vein.

Joel Guinto, my favorite Bloomberg correspondent, swears by what he calls, "birthday spaghetti." Traditionally -- or maybe non-traditionally -- made with banana ketsup, it is sweeter than Italian spaghetti or its American variations. Hotdogs are usually added in too. Meanwhile, Jollibee, the clear number one fast food in the Philippines, that regularly trounces McDonald's, serves its spaghetti with what appears to be slices of salami. And, speaking of McDonald's, this fast food giant made serious concessions in its menu several years ago, to accomodate the Pinoy demands for the staple, hence, McSpaghetti exists only in this country.

On the other hand, banana ketsup, a condiment I have seen only on Philippine shelves, was, according to my late lola's stories, created during World War II when tomatoes were scarce and bananas plentiful. It's made the same way as regular tomato ketsup, with vinegar and sugar. The food coloring was later included to add to the illusion that ketsup is, well... red.

Birthday spaghetti notwithstanding, pasta with meat sauce remains not only a versatile dish, but seems to agree rather well with the Pinoy penchant for mixing in a variety of ingredients, in the same way we make halo-halo and chop suey (pronounced, "tsap suy").

Back in the day, when I was a housewife with young children (what? I wasn't born a lawyer) I had to dream up ways of sneaking in vegetables in the kids' dishes. Besides, ground beef didn't fit in too well with the budget. Then, frozen vegetables were cheaper and could be bought by the kilo in the supermarket, later I learned to improvise using fresh vegetables which were, in the long run cheaper, but took longer to cook.

The kids -- who despite the onset of young adulthood continue to eat their vegetables -- and I had gotten so used to this vegetable pasta dish that when I served it once to a group of fraternity boys, one of them actually stopped in mid-spoonful and said, "Ma'm, your spaghetti has vegetables in it." I gave him a look I had practised on for years that said, "Don't-mess-with-me, young man." He ate everything and I noticed later that he came back for seconds and later, thirds. I swear it wasn't under duress.

This recipe can be made very quickly if using frozen vegetables. But to add to the nutritional value, I toss in fresh squash too.

vegetable meat sauce
1/4 k ground beef thawed
1/2 k frozen vegegtables (corn, carrots and peas) thawed
1/4 fresh squash (roughly about 2 sections or dalawang guhit) cubed
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
3 tomatoes chopped
fresh basil chopped
oil for sauteeing
250 gram package of tomato sauce or Italian style spaghetti sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1tsp Oregano or Italian seasoning (add another tsp if using tomato rather than spaghetti sauce)
sugar for the traditional Pinoy (optional!)

Saute garlic in oil, when lightly brown at the edges add onions. When onions have become slightly transparent, add tomatoes. When tomates wilt slightly, add ground beef. Add salt and pepper to beef. When beef is still reddish, add squash, continue sauteeing until squash softens.

Hurrying cooks may want to pre-boil the squash as it may take some time to cook.

If preboiled, add squash together with thawed frozen vegetables before ground beef cooks fully. Do not overcook the beef as it becomes tough and tasteless. Add packaged sauce immediately after. Keep stirring the sauce to prevent the beef from sticking to the bottom of your pan (tough to clean, I tell you) . When beef is fully cooked, remove from heat and add your spices. Top with fresh basil. Serve on pasta, preferably penne rigate, but spaghetti noodles works just fine.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Crispin! Basilio!

Unlike most Filipinos, I do not like my spaghetti sweet or with hotdogs. I'm sorry if that sounds unpatriotic, but really, one look at the hotdogs swimming in bright artificially red sauce is enough to give me leg cramps from running in the opposite direction.

But I do love Italian dishes. Especially pesto, which I make with basil grown in my garden and nuts. Pine nuts are difficult to source, but I usually substitute with almonds that my mom sends via a Balikbayan box (thanks, Ma!). She also sends the olive oil, that costs an arm and a leg hereabouts. Which really just goes to show that in the kitchen, I am tied to my mom's apron strings.

Few Italian dishes are complete without the king of herbs, Basil (ocimum basilicum). Wiccan practitioners use it in spells for courage, fertility, healing relationships, love, protection, purification, wealth (if carried in your wallet). Its compounds have anti-microbial, anti-cancer, anti-viral properties and is considered an anti-oxidant.

Basil, in literature (primarily in Italy and India) symbolizes love, though the ancient Greeks used it to symbolize hate, so there may really be a fine line between those two. In Africa it is supposed to protect against scorpions. In Italy, its association with love manifests itself in various courtship rituals. A man, for instance, who visits a woman with basil in his hair is said to be proposing. In Moldavian culture, if a man accepts a sprig of basil from a woman, he will fall in love with her. Yet it is also associated with death, such as in India where it is grown on graves.

Personally I love basil for its distinct aroma, a masculine scent. I grow it on my windowsill (supposedly a symbol of meeting a lover) and in the garden where it tends to compete with my oregano, another herb for another day.

My Pesto

1 cup sweet basil leaves
1/4 c olive oil
1 t olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds
dash of salt and pepper

Toss everything in a blender except for the 1t of oil. Grind to a paste or desired consistency. When serving add olive oil on top to prevent oxidation and maintain color. When storing, top the mixture with olive oil.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Glorious food!

Food. Everyone on a diet knows we can't live without it. It is the energy that spins our wheels, powers our thought, sustains us.

I started this blog because of my yearly tradition of baking my Christmas give aways. Normally I bake pie. This year, I made apple cakes. Now, I live in a tropical country in the Pacific and have just been told that apple importation is destructive to the environment because it uses up too much energy.

Now that information kind of gave me guilt pangs and images of The Bad Apple, began dancing in my head. What can I say? I love wordplay. So I decided, fine, I would continuing baking, but would start doing so in a more environmentally aware way. I will avoid apples if I can. And if not, I'll plant another tree in my backyard.

But since it is a once a year affair, that frenzy of Christmas baking, I also yearly take stock of my kitchen, refurbish the missing ingredients, tools, tsk, tsk at my poor rusting appliances, re-stock the pantry and pretend I've never really been away from this favorite hobby.

I've been baking since I was a kid, sometime in the Middle Ages, (I'm kidding!). To keep me out of her hair, my mother would send me to cooking school in the same way American kids sometimes get sent to camp. It was a summer thing, I was never asked, but I HAD to go. I never questioned it. I just went. And it has stood me well in the long run.

This blog will be about culinary and gustatory adventures, with the occasional sideshow of anything that comes into my head. It will also keep track of my waistline, which I do not intend to get away from me.