Friday, April 21, 2006

mindoro-marinduque in stories of food

i was figuring out how to tell the story of our recent MIMA trip. at first, i think i wanted to write up the descriptions of the places we've been to, the feelings and all those shit that i can think about. but i thought that it's too kapuy and i feel that i wanted to write about something new. so since, i am a food lover (among other things) i decided to write about the whole experience through the mouthwatering dishes that graced my palate. i'm no connoiseur, that's for sure, but i know good food when i see, smell, and taste one.

here goes.

i woke up very early morning on the sunday that i left davao. very early, that i was even awake before the chickens in our yard came tiktilaok-ing. i am flying out at 0545 and woke up at 0400. lots of time to dilly dally and catch up on a little stress free morning. after i've dressed up for my flight, i figured that i have some time to eat a little something for breakfast. i looked into the fridge and fished out a package of dangit that ross sent a week ago. hmm why not.

i fried away and ate a little bit of the organic rice that sonnyboy cooked the night before. the saltiness was just right to wake up my senses. but the thing that really woke me up was the fact that i realized that i haven't left the house at 0510.


thank god i made it, arrived at the airport at 0540. changna talaga!

arrived in manila very sleepy, yet very much anticipating a good vacation. i carried six kilos of durian with me. one was for the house and the other for the mom of a good friend. it was teasing me all the time i was carrying it and was tempting me to have a taste. my davaoeño craving was finally satisfied at night. when i opened a durian fruit for the first time.

it was no joke! durian attendant needs a lot of skills to break open the thorny shell to bring out the meat in good condition. that i found out the hard way. but for lack of skills, i was hacking and prying and twisting the knife to get to my ultimate fruit passion. at the end, after a lot of sweat that trickled down my brow, the sweet familiar scent of durian filled the family room. and proudly gave out portions to my dad and siblings. of course this experience wouldn't be complete with cokes (ok, so it is coke).

when i burped, i was reminded of home.

but home would need to be left behind for a while because i would be travelling with good friends to MIMA of MIMAROPA (mindoro - marinduque - romblon - palawan) for the holy week break. i left manila and boarded the bus earlier than i left davao, after a slow night with the utols indulging on delicious starbucks beverages. i got abjf, the rest got their frap and tea and strawberries and cream. good thing kuya is treating. i skipped ranting against the commercialism crap.

anyways, arrived at calapan around 8a. now i am hungry. and ninin knows me when i'm hungry. she devised this theory about boy-sapot. see when i get hungry, i get really angry. 'nuff said.

and the nearest food place are the carinderias along the side of the road. i figured its too early into the vacation for boy-sapot so i opened one kawali at a time, looking for interesting food to keep my tummy at peace. i finally settled with tinais. 5 fishes wrapped in young mango leaves, boiled in vinegar, onions and garlic. tastes like paksiw but with a slight tang. i'm sure it would have tasted better if only the ambience was better. but what the hey, boy sapot was averted.

so it was me, ninin and gerry that were travelling from manila and met up with tatit, anj, jan, meh and rhia travelling from puerto gallera. we finally took off calapan as soon as they finished their jollibee breakfast. jollibee, by the way seems to be the place to be in calapan. aside from chowking and greenwhich, these three fast food establishments are word of mouth of all the people who we asked on where we could have a chow.

we ran into kuya art, a driver that agreed to take us to roxas, which we coerced to take us to bulalacao, and we finally convinced to stay the night to take us back to socorro the following day. good guy that art!

for lunch we ambushed ninin's lola. amazing woman, lola socorro is. preparing a quick lunch of tilapia, some soup and rice. not bad, for arriving in short notice. in here short notice means, arriving at 11:00am and eating at around 12:00. i expect to raise some eyebrows. but the kind hearted lola and the ladies in waiting were all smiles and welcomed us warm heartedly into their abode.

dinner treated us with the bad news of rhia's leg being too friendly with carbuncles. good thing gerry, who is a doctor, was around to help her see through the sutures and all. its kinda hard to remember our dinner but am sure it was fish and salad and cokes.

next day, i was gladdened to have rhia back on her toes. her bandage hugging her left leg, but still alright i guess. so we drifted towards three islands off the shores of bulalacao. we had the whole morning hopping over rocks, interesting plants and joshua trees. we treated ourselves to lunch at a desserted island with a sand bar. our lunch of fish, rice and watermelon was made sumptous by the crashing of the waves, the warm sea air tickling our nostrils and the cool shade of a tree in the foreground. what a nice feeling to eat and be alive.

i was wondering since yesterday why dead skin cells were forming on my abdomen. then i realized that i got them from exposing my tummy to the sun for an hour or so on the trip back to balatasan in bulalacao. we took the whole afternoon and early evening to travel back to socorro. kuya art is really a cool guy.

but all those travel was rewarded with delicious crabs and shrimps and adobo and fried tilapia that were prepared for queens and kings. i was very quiet then, savoring the feast before me that filled my tummy but my heart as well. i wondered what could be the secret ingredient of all the good food that i've tasted. certainly not the fancy food decor, probably not the ambience. but i think it should be the cook showing his or her love to the one who will eat the dish that hits the right taste. and i'm sure this meal was prepared by one smiling cook.

we hurriedly took our adobo breakfast next day as we were afraid to be left behind by the boat that plies the pinamalayan - gasan route. left pasi (socorro) before real light and finally settled down on our seats on the motor boat at around 9a. the batya (a boat that ferries people from the shore to the boats) weren't very friendly as it clashes with the angry waves hitting the shore. not very friendly. not very friendly.

around 12 noon we arrived in gasan, marinduque the same way we left pinamalayan, mindoro. through a batcha. my legs were wobbly and my head spinning from the strong waves and children barfing all around. i never knew i could get sea sick. i learn something new everyday.

meh and gerry left the bunch but karylle and arienne (who've had a bunch of names, before we met her) were quick enough to fill the gap. the eight is complete once again. lunch was highlighted with the traditional marinduqueño welcome of putongan. some old timers were brought in to sing for us and put crowns over our heads and palm and flowers on our hands. i never felt such royal treatment ever in my whole life ever. i felt humbled by the gesture. it was a sweet as lola's rhia hugging and kissing and sniffing me when we came to see her. the heart of the philippines surely must be so full of love!

we visited gaspar island the next day. when tita vi was preparing our packed lunch, she told me about her displeasing experience at elephant island.

tita vi: (holding out a five inch sugpo) hindi mo pwedeng dalhin ito sa elephant island. hindi sila pumapayag na magdala ka ng pagkain mo. kailangan kang bumili sa kanya. ay sus! ang mahal nito (referring to the sugpo) dun... fifty pesos isa.

me: (in my mind) ang mahal nga!

but i guess, the thing that would endear tita vi's (or is it tita melba) cooking is the way the cook connects with me. again, i felt the love of the people in the food that we indulged in. my taste buds were all in a blur but my heart connected to the heart of the cook. it was all good food.

together with a kitang, we feasted once more. and then it came to me another ingredient that would make food delicious. its good company. friends, both old and new. make the simplest and most inato of all meals taste better than the most savory dish eaten alone. somehow, a part of me is being shared when i eat with good company. i used to say that you can never really know a person if you've not eaten with them. true enough, the best moments with friends i've had were moments when we were eating. not necessarily talking (don't talk when your mouth is full...) but sharing the ulam and all. nice.

we were also introduced to kare kare marinduque style. its liempo chopped into fine pieces, cooked in pork's blood and vinegar and siling tagalog. much like dinuguan but without the innards i guess. it goes well with puto (which are one of the most mouth watering ones i've tasted ever). there must be something in their puto and their bibingka that sets it apart from the other ones. hmmm if only i knew.

we were about to leave boac, but not without witnessing a march of the morions as they were seeking out longinus. we almost missed this integral part of the trip because of our wanderlust. but the whole trip would not be complete without the last meal in boac. it was sinigang na pata cooked in pressue cooker. the taba gives credence to the part when the candyman sings melt in your mouth. it was guilty indulgence, a cardiac delight of sorts as we chomped away.

i came back to manila maybe a few pounds heavier. but i think all those travelling, adventures and stress must've eaten them out all the same.

i still feel tired from that vacation. anj, tat and myself agrees that we need a vacation from that vacation. o well there is always the labor weekend.

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