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2009 Travelogue--Food in the Philippines

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In a desperate attempt to redeem myself after getting my butt kicked by Peter Green, I’m trying to post in almost real time! Maybe not real time, but at least not 3 months late. . .

Day 1—Manila

After a sleepless night and a not-too-long flight, I arrived in the heat and humidity of Manila. I hate Manila—have I ever mentioned that before? Actually, I have a very dim view of the Philippines in general, which stems from having lived there for a year when I was ten years old. I made a short trip to Bacolod (where I lived way back then, and in the general area of my mother’s ancestral home) back in 2006, but I’ve really had no longing to return to the Philippines at all. That being said, as my mother ages, I feel more of a need to connect to her history. In 1999, I made a trip to Bangkok with my father (the place of both his birth and mine), and I learned more about him during that trip than I had ever known. My mother and I are very close, but my trips to the Philippines with her are a way for me to connect with her in a different way.

On to the food. I don’t have any pictures of Day 1 food. We had a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant near my great-aunt’s condo. Gloria Maris at Greenhills Shopping Center is quite popular with Filipinos, and I was told it was a “very good restaurant.” It wasn’t anything to write home about, but at least it was better than the average food court Chinese food in North America, and the duck was cheap! Expensive for the Philippines, but very cheap compared to Japanese prices! If the skin had been crispier and the meat hadn’t been so tough, it would have been really good, too.

For dinner we went to a private club with one of my mother’s old beaus and his cousin. It’s very strange to meet someone who was in love with your mother, but who isn’t your father. They’re still good friends after all these years, and it was interesting to watch them interact.

We had dinner at Club Filipino. We were told Club Filipino was one of the oldest (or the oldest) private clubs in the Philippines, having been founded in 1898 during Spanish colonial times. It was also made famous during the overthrow of Marcos since it was used as the headquarters of the revolution and Cory Aquino was sworn in there. It’s a comfortable place, and I didn’t feel it was pretentious, but the service and quality of the food wasn’t quite up to snuff for that sort of place. I’m not even comparing it to similar venues in Japan, but to similar venues in SE Asia—Raffles in Singapore and Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, for example. While Club Filipino is not attached to a prestigious hotel, it very much has the feel of colonial times. I imagine at one time it would have been the place to be seen for the rich and powerful, and to some degree, it still is. But it certainly does not have the feel of money and power, at least not to me, while places like Raffles and Oriental still do.

I had tocino. Tocino is usually eaten for breakfast, but I had been thinking tocino for such a long time, that when I saw it on the menu, I had to order it. I was disappointed, to say the least. Tocino is basically pork marinated in sugar, vinegar, garlic, saltpetre, and maybe paprika. It’s just sweet, but good tocino has hints of something else. The tocino at Club Filipino was just sweet. It wasn’t even nicely charred, and the crispy bits are the best part of tocino.

My mother had grilled bangus (milkfish). Mmmmm. This was the best dish of the bunch, and I really wish I had a picture of it. Fatty fish stomach is one of the best foods in the world, right next to fried chicken skin and pork rinds. And fried fish skin. The fish she received had a huge fatty stomach, and she even shared some of the tummy with me—a big sacrifice for her.

My mother’s friend had some kind of omelette that looked rather sad, and his cousin had a chef’s salad that looked even sadder.

You have to be a member of Club Filipino, or be with a member, to be able to dine there, but I don’t think you’ll be missing much in terms of food if you can’t. Unfortunately, you won’t even be able to step foot into the place, and the history of the place, alone, makes it a worthwhile visit.

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Day 2—I love Filipino breakfasts!

My great-aunt had a great breakfast prepared for us. Filipinos are big on protein for breakfast with mostly fried fatty meats. We had longganisa this time. I like longanisa almost as much as I like tocino, and this was very good longganisa. We also had fried eggs (Filipino breakfasts almost always include fried eggs), rice (of course), queso de bola (sort of like gouda cheese, but this one was kind of crappy), panettone (not usual, but there’s often some kind of bread), and ibus (the long green things). Ibus (pronounced like “ee-bus”) is sticky rice wrapped in palm leaf, my mother thinks. It has a different name in Tagalog (Manila and vicinity), but because my mother’s family is from Negros Occidental (the western half of the island of Negros) where they speak Hiligaynon, they call it “ibus” (an aside—although the Filipino languages are called “dialects”, they really are distinct languages as they are not mutually intelligible—a person who speaks Tagalog won’t be able to understand Hiligaynon or Cebuano, for example). We didn’t have any, so I don’t know how it tasted, but my mother says she doesn’t like it.


And we had fruit. Lots and lots of fruit! March is a great time for Filipino fruits. The papaya we had wasn’t so sweet, but the mango was perfect! There were also two kinds of bananas, pineapple, native oranges, two other varieties of Filipino mangos, and grapefruit and navel oranges. I brought the grapefruit and navel oranges from Japan, as those are more difficult to get in the Philippines and are a bit of a treat. (Can you see the Stove Top Stuffing in the background?)



I love Filipino lunches, too! After an arduous morning of running around and getting nothing done (a not-so-unusual day in the Philippines), we went to visit my mother’s cousin and she had lunch prepared for us. I wasn’t expecting much, but she prepared a lot of my favourite foods. I spent a lot of time with Tiay Tita when I lived in Bacolod, so it was nice catching up with her.

The full spread:


We had tocino—this one was excellent! It was from Pampanga and we got to take home the leftovers and some raw stuff to cook later, too. It was nicely glazed (the one at Club Filipino wasn’t glazed at all), and had some charring. I’d have liked it to be a little more charred, but the meat was moist and tender. (By the way, note the corelle--the fine dining favourite of the elite :rolleyes: )


There was also pork belly, marinated and then grilled. I thought it was more like a fatty pork chop, but my mother said it was just a meatier pork belly. Pork belly is always good. I think this was marinated in soy sauce, patis (fish sauce) and garlic, but I could be wrong.


I didn’t care for the shrimp too much—it was sweeter than I would have liked, but my mother really enjoyed it. And she paid for it later.


Sinigang is a very common soup, usually made with fish and always with lots of overcooked vegetables. It’s a bit tart. In my mother’s area, they usually use batwan, a kind of citrus fruit (I think), as the souring agent, but in Tagalog, they use another kind of citrus (my mother calls it “iba”, but she doesn’t know the Tagalog name) or tamarind. I find Filipinos tend to really boil their vegetables to death. But the fish was really nicely cooked—it was still moist and flavourful, so they must have added it after the vegetables had been boiled to death.


For dessert we had mangos again—I can’t get enough of these. And we had some really delicious leche flan (no picture). It was a bit sweet for my tastes, but it was so rich and creamy. When we come back to Manila from Baguio, the maid is going to teach us how to make it, too! :smile:

After lunch I was stuffed, and my mother started to have a reaction to the shrimp she ate. She’s sort of allergic to shellfish, but she loves all shellfish so much, that she can’t help herself. The fresher it is, the less likely she’ll have a reaction, and this time wasn’t so bad, but her eyes started to get a bit droopy. So we took a little siesta and when we awoke, another of my mother’s cousins arrived to take us home.

Along with the tocino, Tiay Tita also sent us home with some mangos and half a dozen ensaimada (a kind of sweet bread topped with butter, sugar, and sometimes queso de bola). I had mentioned that old-style ensaimada was one of the things I was most looking forward to eating, so she sent one of the maids out to get some. The panaderia (bread shop) with the best ensaimada in her area was closed on Mondays, so the maid came back with Goldilocks. :sad: I hate Goldilocks, and cannot fathom why people think it’s good (it’s filled with artificial flavours, preservatives, etc., kind of like the McD’s of bakeries), but I was happy for the gesture.

Before heading home, we went to Mall of Asia. We didn’t really do anything there, except I was finally able to change my US$ traveller’s cheques (if you go to the Philippines, DO NOT bring traveller’s cheques. The hassle of changing them outweighs any kind of feelings of safety they may provide you), and we had a little snack. My mother and I had halo halo, and my tita had a kind of candy (pudding?) made with carabao’s milk. I didn’t get a picture of her candy, but I’ll get one by the end of my trip. The halo halo sucked. I don’t really understand the point of halo halo, but I thought this was a particularly bad version. There were a couple of kinds of sweetened beans in there, jelly, nata de coco, and I can’t remember what else, then it was topped with crushed ice and sugar syrup and evaporated milk were poured over the ice. This also had a bit of leche flan as a topper. I thought the crushed ice and evaporated milk were good, but the rest of the ingredients weren’t of very good quality, and I thought they added too much sugar syrup.


After spending more than an hour in Monday night rush hour traffic (in good conditions, it shouldn’t have taken more than 20 minutes) watching drivers use a 4-lane highway as a 5-car and 2-motorcycle lane highway, we finally arrived home. We had a light dinner of leftovers and mangos, and then packed before catching an overnight bus to Baguio leaving at midnight.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Hi Rona! Glad to see you're in our country for a visit. I echo your sentiment of not liking Manila. Too grey, too polluted and too much traffic. I wish I could visit Bacolod City (having spent my high school and college there). It's been about 2 decades since I've last saw it.

To clarify, what your mom calls "Iba" is called "Kamias" by us Tagalogs (Scientific name: Averrhoa bilimbi). It is the relative of the star-shaped fruit called "Balimbing" (which is also the pseudonym for many-faced one or traitor).

And the rice cake that your mom calls "Ibus" is generally called "Suman sa Ibus". This type of rice cake is wrapped in coconut leaves and usually served with a small saucer of white granulated sugar. To eat it, unwrap the leaves and dip the treat into the white sugar and eat. My grandmother would take day old suman sa ibus and fry it in a little oil. The crunchy coating makes it tastier.

One thing though, the cheese is called Queso de Bola and is a staple in many company Christmas Basket give-aways. I have never seen a Christmas in our house without the familiar red-wax covered cheese ball on the table.

My mom has a neat trick with dealing with vegetables in sinigang. She cooks them partially with the meat and broth and takes them out. She adds them to the serving bowls and adds the boiling soup and meat and then serves them. That way the vegetables are just cooked right and not boiled to death like most do. This she also does when she cooks "Nilaga" (Boiled Beef soup).

Edited by Domestic Goddess (log)

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Day 3—Baguio is best!

Our deluxe bus sped along and arrived in Bagiuo at shortly after 4 am. It was much earlier than we had expected, since we had read it would take roughly six hours to get there. Not much traffic at night, though, so the bus driver sped along.

My mother lived in Baguio for several years after WWII. After she finished elementary school, she was sent to boarding school in Baguio and the rest of her family followed four months later. Way back then (she first came in 1949), Baguio was a small city of about 25 000, but it was also a very international city. There were people not only from different part of the Philippines, but also a lot of non-Filipinos, mostly Americans because of a nearby American Armed Forces base, thus the lingua franca was English. It was also a very egalitarian city. People still had maids and such, but the differences between rich and not-so-rich were not as strong as they were elsewhere. In Baguio my mother and her siblings made friends with people with whom they probably would not have been able to associate (or with whom they may not have had any chances to associate) had they been in Bacolod. Things have changed a lot, and it’s now a city of 600 000, and English is no longer as widely spoken as it once was. She left Baguio in 1952 to do her senior year of high school in Manila, and then returned in 1957 to teach at her old school here (her family still lived here, as well). This visit marks her first time back after she finally left Baguio in 1960.

We hung around the bus depot for a bit before going to our hotel. We couldn’t check in until 2:00pm and it was only 6am, so we sat around for a bit and then walked down Session Road.


Session Road was one of the few roads in Baguio when my mother lived here. Our first stop didn’t open until 7:10 (what an odd opening time!), so we walked down a bit more. Luckily, we found something very interesting to do for a few hours—the Baguio Market!

A lot of fruits and vegetables are produced in the Baguio area, so what you can buy here is much fresher than that in the provinces like Negros. With transportation conditions as they are, most of the goods are wilted and anaemic by the time they reach the provinces. As we were walking through the market, my mother kept saying, “Oh! I have to buy some of that before I go back! And some of that! And some of that!” She only has a 15kg luggage allowance on her flight back to Bacolod, so I don’t know how she’s going to pack all her stuff!

Mangos and chicos—goodies for me and goodies for her!


Avocados, soursop, bananas, and papaya. The bananas are 2 pesos each, not per bunch, but 2 pesos is only about US 4 cents! And those papaya! I’d love to bring one back to Japan with me. Little tiny Hawaiian papaya are about Y800 in Japan, and these Filipino papaya are much cheaper. The smallest one in front is only P18—that’s only 36 cents (it’s roughly P50 per US$1).


We came across the rice area. In general, I don’t care for Filipino rice; I find a lot of what’s sold to be old and it cooks up very hard and dry. This shop seems to have a lot of specialty rices from different areas. The red rice, quite expensive abroad, is only P60 per kg (US$1.20)! Considering I pay the equivalent to US$40 for 5kg of Thai jasmine rice, I wish I could take some of the red rice, brown, and black rice back with me. :sad:


Not food, but flowers. These are called “Everlasting” or something like that. They never die, and when my mother lived here, the Negrenses (people from Negros) used to buy them by the boxfuls to put on their household statues (of the Virgin Mary, for example) and such.


Ubod on the left is used to make lumpia. They’re coconut shoots, and other than lumpia, they can also be used in stir fries. My mother doesn’t know anything else it’s used for. It doesn’t taste like anything, really, but it gives a nice crunch to things like bamboo shoots do. The sprouts on the left are also used for lumpia.


Baguio is also known for strawberries which are grown nearby. I brought some strawberries from Japan as pasalubong (gifts or souvenirs) for my relatives, but some of them asked us to bring strawberries from Baguio, too. After trying some of the Japanese ones, I think they’re going to be very disappointed with the Baguio ones. We bought just a wee bit, and though juicy, they tasted like cardboard. Still, we have been given a task, and we will bring back as many strawberries as they want.


Sundot Kulangot. I thought these were some kind of nut or fruit, but I knew “kulangot” meant “snot”. After trying to ask the vendor (who spoke a different dialect than any my mother knew), my mother finally realized they were ground sticky rice cooked in condensed milk or coconut milk and sugar. They’re rolled up in little balls and are very sticky, hence the name which my mother thinks means “fish out snot”. It’s just like snot fresh from your nose!



A meat shop with nothing kept under refrigeration. Baguio is cooler than Manila or Bacolod because it’s in the mountains, but still. . . gotta have good stomach bacteria around here.


I doubt I’d be eating any of the processed meats. The hot dogs in the middle were bright red and looked like mush inside.


Lots of native beans, salt, sugar, dried mushrooms, spices, etc.



Lard! I’m buying some of this to take back to Japan with me. It’s a good thing I brought my handy dandy mini vacuum sealer with me!


Fish and mussels, probably freshly caught that morning.



We finally found the shallots my mother was looking for. She bought a few packs of these which were already sprouting. She’s going to plant them so they can have shallots all the time. I think they were only P5 a pack. We found some nicer ones later one, which she also bought for cooking when she returns. In the bucket below are a couple of catfish. She wanted to buy one, but we don’t have a kitchen here. Too bad!


She really really wanted to buy some of those crabs in the middle.


Oxtail, anyone?


In this area, people buy blocks of ice just as I remember seeing on Little House on the Prairie! Except I don’t think they chopped the blocks in the middle of the street on a dirty road, and then put them in dirty rice bags in LHotP. This is why my mother never gets ice in her drinks in the Philippines.



Huge cows feet (hooves?) hanging up, and smaller pigs feet on the table. I’ve never seen cows feet for sale before. What are they used for, other than stock making?


Mangosteen for only US$1 per 1/2 kilo! That’s much cheaper than they were charging in Cambodia. We bought 1/2 a kilo to share, and we might pick up some more before we return.


These were some beautiful flowers someone was selling on the pedestrian overpass. I think he was charging only P200 for the whole bunch.


I loved the market, as did my mother. :wub: We’re going back to the market Friday morning, just before we leave for Manila. A lot of the stalls open at 6am, so we can do a lot of shopping before we leave.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Day 3 Part 2

Finally, breakfast! It was about 9am when we finally made it back to Star Café. Star Café is something of an institution in Baguio, having opened in 1940. I wanted to eat here because I thought it would be fun for my mother to eat somewhere she had eaten 50 years ago. I asked her, “Did you come here a lot when you lived here?” And she replied with some amount of disgust, “No way! Are you kidding?” Her family didn’t eat at places like this, so this was a new experience for her. Well, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!


The front of the store looks like an old-style panaderia, except they not only have Filipino-style baked goods, but also some American-style breads like cinnamon buns. The baked goods area was mostly empty when we arrived, but it filled up during our stay there.


They have a small breakfast menu, but they also have a larger menu that looks as though it hasn’t changed much over the years. Items like egg foo yeung, shark fin fried rice, etc. are still on the menu. My mother started talking to a man behind the counter, and he turned out to be the son of the original owners. The family still owns the place, and he told her that their restaurant was the last of the old-time businesses. They were originally located somewhere nearby (which is what my mother remembered), but after the earthquake in the ‘80’s, they moved to their new location right on Session Road. They didn’t run in the same crowd back then (I think he was several years younger than my mother), but they knew some of the same families, so they gossiped a bit until our food arrived.


My mother had a Spanish omelette. I can’t remember what was in it. She said it was ok, but nothing special.


I had the bangus breakfast. The bangus was too dry, and there was barely any fatty stomach. What’s the point of bangus if there’s no fatty stomach?


As we were sitting there, I noticed they had put out some ensaimada. They use margarine which is unfortunate, because the margarine has a strange flavour. The ensaimada, itself, was very good. It was like old-style ensaimada, so it was more bread-like. It was nice because the crust was a bit crusty unlike more modern ensaimada, but the innards were tender. I liked it a lot, and it was only P10! I’m going to get another one before we leave on Friday, so I can eat it on the bus!


After our late breakfast, we still couldn’t check in, so we went to SM Baguio, a large shopping center. We wandered around a bit, trying to find an internet café, but as is common in the Philippines, there were problems with connections, so none of the cafés were useable. What else was there to do but have a pedicure and then eat lunch?

I won’t tell you where we ate lunch because you’ll probably be even more disappointed than we were (it was really awful). But I will show you a picture of our beverages! I had a bottomless glass of root beer, and my mother had a single glass. The Philippines is, I think, the only Asian country that has embraced root beer, so I need to drink as much as I can while I’m here. Although my glass was refillable, it was much larger than my mother’s and she was very jealous! Here she is, looking longingly at my extra large glass of root beer.


After lunch it was finally time to check in. We spent the rest of the day sleeping, and didn’t even go out for dinner. I just had some of those sad cardboard-y strawberries and some stale bread, and I was out for the rest of the night. Poor me!


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And the rice cake that your mom calls "Ibus" is generally called "Suman sa Ibus". This type of rice cake is wrapped in coconut leaves and usually served with a small saucer of white granulated sugar. To eat it, unwrap the leaves and dip the treat into the white sugar and eat. My grandmother would take day old suman sa ibus and fry it in a little oil. The crunchy coating makes it tastier.

That sounds so much better! Anything fried is good, I say. I didn't realize ibus was the same as suman. I've heard of suman, but I can't remember if I've ever tried it.

One thing though, the cheese is called Queso de Bola and is a staple in many company Christmas Basket give-aways. I have never seen a Christmas in our house without the familiar red-wax covered cheese ball on the table.

Thanks! I went back and corrected my post (hope i got all of them!). The one my great-aunt had was really bad. It said it was processed, but I'm not sure if that word was meant to mean "not fresh" or if it meant "cheese-food-type cheese".

Oh, and Marketman likens Queso de Bola to Edam, not Gouda, but I always thought it was supposed to be more like Gouda. Oh well, the one we had was still crappy! (I think it was made by Aro or something like that.)

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Ah, it's wonderful having you in the P.I. Take your time. Relax. Don't rush your posts!

Actually the shots make things look really good, but I trust your descriptions more than I do the look of the food.

But still, you've not eaten any balut for breakfast? Or the fish snot? I'd so love to hear about it.


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Peter - I actually found balut here in Korea. They are sold at my favorite snack truck/stand in the weekly street market. If you come here on Sunday, maybe you'll get a chance to try it. And what is fish snot? I have never heard of it. I know we eat fish poop but not snot.

Rona - the good Queso de Bola are the ones with the Dutch label. That's the one my dad would slice up and eat with his freshly backed pandesal (pre-ordered from the previous night and actually hand-delivered by the owner to their doorstep). That I miss, freshly baked-pandesal.

And the "sundot-kulangot" goodies, I had a cousin who was crazy about that. I just like the term "sundot" (to poke or fish out), kulangot (semi-hard sticky snot). What a graphic description! :biggrin:

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Oh I forgot - the bright red hotdogs are knock-offs of the popular local brand Purefood Tender Juicy(brand name) hotdogs that come in a bright red casing. Yes the innards are pink mush but sometimes, you feel the need of a grilled Tender Juicy when you have parties in Christmas and New Year.

And the Ubod (it is actually the heart of a palm) is great also stewed with coconut milk. There is a nice recipe of ubod salad with vinegar and coconut cream. It makes you eat a lot more rice that you plan too.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Great report, and wonderful photos. As you know, I lived in the Philippines for four years, back in the mid-60's, and we went to Baguio for our honeymoon. And, we ate at the Star Cafe. So much fun to see those photos.

The fruit looks amazing. Even after all these years, I can still taste those beautiful mangosteens. Perhaps the single thing I miss the most about living in SE Asia.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jaymes--we went to Camp John Hay last night, and I thought of you! I finished my write-up, but don't have time to upload the pics and my post right now. Will do it later this afternoon, I hope.

Doddie--Is fish snot "lukot"? Marketman wrote about it during his visit to Bacolod. People eat fish poop? Ick! My mother says coconut is palm, but then I reminded her that there are many types of palm trees. :smile:

Peter--don't worry, once I get back to Manila, my postings will slow down a bit, and you'll have time to catch up! :laugh: I might be witnessing some cricket eating this weekend, and will think of you if I do.

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Doddie--Is fish snot "lukot"?  Marketman wrote about it during his visit to Bacolod.  People eat fish poop?  Ick!  My mother says coconut is palm, but then I reminded her that there are many types of palm trees.  :smile: 

But isn't coconut palm the prevalent one for eating? Like with the coconut tips we have in stir fries in Bangkok?

Peter--don't worry, once I get back to Manila, my postings will slow down a bit, and you'll have time to catch up! :laugh:  I might be witnessing some cricket eating this weekend, and will think of you if I do.

Crickets! :smile: "Jiminies!" :biggrin:

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Great stuff, Rona. Your words and photos make me want to travel to a warm place.

You know its time to go, through the sleet and driving snow . . . etc. Hey, the Green Peter started it.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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"My mother and I had halo halo, and my tita had a kind of candy (pudding?) made with carabao’s milk."

Carabao. That must be the same as Malay "kerbau": Waterbuffalo. Yes, I know all about Italian mozzarella di bufala and so forth, but European "buffalo" are not the same as Asian waterbuffalo, and I never knew anyone did anything with waterbuffalo milk. As far as I know, in Malaysia, the only thing that was ever done with waterbuffalo was to eat the meat, which is something like beef but leaner and has to be boiled for a long time because it's so tough.

You asked what people do with cow hoofs other than make stock. Jamaicans make cowfoot soup, which I quite like. I'll bet they're good in stews, too.

Michael aka "Pan"


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Rona - that was what I was trying to clarify to Peter. He mentioned fish snot and I never heard of that. Yes, "lukot" is the name of the fish poop (actually sea cucumber secretions combined with strings of fish eggs). Maybe that was what Peter was describing.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Day 4

Still in Baguio, we spent the morning out and about. First we went to Good Shepherd Convent. The Convent is part of the reason my mother ended up in Baguio. Tiay Tita had joined the convent (she was a nun at one time), and my grandfather insisted that if my mother go away to school, it should be to a place where they knew people. Since there was also a high-level girls school in Baguio, it was decided that was where my mother would go. Then my grandfather was so impressed with Baguio that he moved the entire family there.

Good Shepherd Convent is famous for its pasalubong. Its ube jam is especially famous, as are its nut brittles. We bought up a storm, leaving with jars of jam, peanut butter, and a lot of peanut and cashew brittles. Every purchase helps send young girls who want to better their educations to school. They work at the Convent at the shops, the bakery, the candy-making kitchen, or elsewhere, and their salary goes toward their tuition. My mother by chance met the Mother Superior while we where there--she had worked with Tiay Tita, and she also knew another Sister who had played a role in my mother’s moving to New Mexico in 1963 (’62?). Unfortunately, that Sister passed away a few years ago.


We didn’t have a way to get back down the hill (the Convent is a long way from downtown), so Mother Superior told us to wait around until a taxi dropped someone else off. Since we had time to kill, we decided to get a snack—what else is there to do when there’s nothing to do, but eat?


Clockwise from top, we got ensaimada, a chicken empanada, an adobo bun, and calamansi and lemon juice with strawberry syrup. The drink was excellent—lightly sweetened, not too tart, and very refreshing.


The ensaimada was the more modern-style. It was too soft and cakey for my tastes, but for that style of ensaimada, it was a very good example; it was worlds better than the Goldilock’s version, anyway.



The chicken empanada was quite good, too—it had just enough filling, and the crust stood up to the filling wonderfully.


I didn’t like the adobo bun as much. The bread was very good, but the filling was dry and not very flavourful.


We were finally able to catch a taxi back to town, and we spotted PNKY Café on the way back, so we had the taxi stop. I had read about it on several Philippines-based blogs, so I thought we should try it. It’s a cute little café, but I found the food was perhaps over-rated on the blogs I read.


My mother had schnitzel. It was quite thin and a bit on the dry side. I didn’t think it was that bad.


Since we had, fewer than 30 minutes earlier, already had a snack, I decided to go light by having carrot soup and Belgian frites. I’m not sure what was so Belgian about the Belgian frites. They most definitely weren’t double fried, but I think they may have been boiled, then dusted with flour or cornstarch, and finally fried. They weren’t very crispy, but Baguio potatoes are very good. The frites were so creamy and flavourful that they made me realize how dry and flavourless Japanese potatoes really were.



PNKY’s chocolate de tablea (hot chocolate made with native chocolate tablets) and chocolate cake were supposed to be very good, so I ordered those, as well (even “eating light” can include hot chocolate and chocolate cake!). The chocolate de tablea was watery and tasted of commercial chocolate tablets that aren’t very good. The chocolate cake was hard and dry, and was reminiscent of a denser boxed cake mix. What a disappointment!



In order to work off some of the calories from our snack and lunch, we visited Baguio Cathedral. We really just wanted to visit the St. Louis Silver Factory which was located next door, but my mother and her family used to go to church at Baguio Cathedral, so I wanted to see it. It’s up on one of Baguio’s many hills, off Session Road, so the location is quite central, but it’s still a bit of a climb.


Not there, yet. My poor mother had to take a rest half-way up. The stairs were too steep and plentiful for her to climb easily.


In case you were wondering, Adam was an Igorot (native Filipino from the Cordilleras. “Igorot” is actually a somewhat derogatory word, much like the word “Eskimo” is to the Inuit, but it seems to be a little more acceptable now than when my mother lived here), and Eve was probably Spanish. I guess their children were the first mestizo (mixed blood) of the Philippines. :rolleyes:


The Cathedral is surprisingly pretty and very well taken care of (most building in the Philippines seem to fall into disrepair within a decade or so). Although we went up around 1:30, there was a mass being held and there were quite a lot of people there. My mother joined the mass while I walked around the property.



The Cathedral also sells rice. This rice is earmarked for economically disadvantaged people, so it’s very cheap (37 cents per kilo), but I’m sure it’s not very tasty rice.


Our main purpose for visiting the Cathedral was to visit the St. Louis Silver School. Darn it all! It closed a few years ago! We couldn’t find out what happened to it, but we were very disappointed; we love looking at pretty things!

To temper our disappointment, we went back to Star Café to get some pineapple pie. My aunt (real aunt) texted my mother asking if we had tried pineapple pie, yet. She suggested the pie at Star Café, so who are we to argue? We should have argued. I thought it sucked. If you look at the bottom crust, it looks a bit uncooked, and it tasted uncooked, too. I’d never had chewy pie crust before, but there’s always a first time! Who knows, though. Maybe it was supposed to be that way??? It didn’t have much pineapple flavour, either. We bought a couple of old-style looking pan de sal, though, so that may make up for the crappy pie.


We went back to our hotel so my mother could meet up with her old classmates from her high school days, and I caught up on e-mail and eG posts; I really think I’m going to beat Peter this time!

I don't know what's up with ImageGullet, but i'm having a hell of a time uploading pics. I'm going to post without pics, and will edit them in tomorrow.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Day 4 continued

Three and one-half hours after meeting with her friends, my mother finally returned to our room. I was starving by this point, so we made a couple of phone calls to help us decide where to have dinner. We wanted to try the Baguio Country Club, but we were told you had to be a member or be with a member to dine there. Darn! So then we called The Manor at Camp John Hay and made our dinner reservations there.

Camp John Hay was used as an R&R place for US servicemen across the Philippines, for whom Baguio was the vacation area of choice. Several years ago, ownership of the Camp reverted to the Philippine government, and it was turned into a hotel and convention area, so even Filipinos could enjoy the area. Luckily for my mother, she had known Camp John Hay very well when she lived in Baguio, since her father was one of the few Filipinos to be issued a pass to the Camp (he was friends with some of the servicemen who had authority to issue passes). The Camp was the only place at which her family ever ate outside their home, and they would often entertain out-of-town guests there. They’ve completely renovated the buildings, and the main restaurant, Le Chef, is where the officer’s mess (or officer’s club? I’m not sure) used to be.


There's a nice garden beyond the restaurant. My mother didn't remember that being there before. They promote Filipino artists and have sculptures, etc. out on display, all available for purchasing if you wish.


Le Chef is supposed to be the best restaurant in Baguio. After our previous visits to “best” places, we were prepared to be disappointed. The food, however, is actually quite good.


We started with freshly squeezed juices. Mine was called “Four Seasons” and my mother’s was Valencia orange. I think my juice had pineapple, mango, orange, and guava juices, but I’m not sure.


We were given one small bun and one slice of French bread, each. No refills. I thought the butter was pretty. We both really liked the vegetable dip thing on the side. It was just olive oil, green peppers, tomatoes, garlic, shallots and a wee bit of balsamic.


My mother had Bangus Belly with Stir-fried Spicy Laing topped with Coconut Cream. Laing (pronounced with two separate syllables “la-ing”) is gabi leaves. Gabi is a type of root vegetable which my mother thinks is taro. Her bangus was succulent and perfectly cooked. It was even better than the one at Club Filipino, because the skin was very crispy!


And look at the belly fat! The belly fat is the best part, you know. She let me have a piece, but just one.


I had Pan-fried Philippine Sea Bass with Berlinnoise Sauce and Penne Pomodoro. I just wanted to try the Philippine sea bass. Is it different from Chilean sea bass? Our waiter actually offered Chilean sea bass to me, but my mother reminded me that CSB is endangered, so I stuck with the PSB. Anyone know what makes berlinnoise sauce berlinnoise? The carrots?


It was well executed, and the penne pomodoro didn’t clash as much with the fish as I thought it would. It wasn’t, however, a dish that will stand out in my memory as one of the best I’ve ever had (my mother’s bangus is definitely the best bangus I’ve ever had, though).

My mother was sad to leave (she tried to look sad, but we couldn't stop laughing).


Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Day 4

Still in Baguio, we spent the morning out and about.  First we went to Good Shepherd Convent.  The Convent is part of the reason my mother ended up in Baguio.  Tiay Tita  had joined the convent (she was a nun at one time), and my grandfather insisted that if my mother go away to school, it should be to a place where they knew people.  Since there was also a high-level girls school in Baguio, it was decided that was where my mother would go.  Then my grandfather was so impressed with Baguio that he moved the entire family there.

Good Shepherd Convent is famous for its pasalubong.[...]

[...]Clockwise from top, we got ensaimada, a chicken empanada, an adobo bun, and calamansi and lemon juice with strawberry syrup.[...]

I was wondering whether the women in kerchiefs in your street photo were nuns or Muslims. It sounds like they were probably nuns.

When you get a chance, please explain or remind us what pasalubong and ensaimada are. (I know what empanadas are, from experience with Mexican food, and I know what adobo is.)

Michael aka "Pan"


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Rona, I love reading about your trips with your mother. It's very much like the kind of stuff I did with my Mom and now do with my sisters. Very food and market centric and often with some component of going back in time. Thanks so much for posting!

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Pan - pasalubong is what you call treats that you bring home when you're out on a trip. Anything brought home for loved ones is pasalubong (especially if you go out of town or abroad). Pasalubong can be food, candies, cosmetics, canned goods, imported towels, etc which a balibayan (literally means "back to the country" or Filipinos who live/work abroad going back to the Philippines) would lug back in "balikbayan boxes" for the entire clan. It's a Filipino thing.

Then again, if the family member knows that one is going to a city in another region in the Philippines, that family member must or should bring treats and speciakty food/items native to that city or province. Like Rona and her Mom went up to Baguio (known for its strawberries, fresh veggies, leather goods, Good Sheperd Convent jams, etc.), they are expected to bring strawberries, jam, Baguio knickknacks and souvenirs for the family.

Ensaimada - is a sweet, baked buttery roll that is a favorite snack or tea time food of Filipinos. The good ones are light, airy and covered in butter before drizzled with granulated sugar. Some have mung bean filling, or dotted with salty ham bits and even cheese. See the picture that Rona posted above...


Edited by Domestic Goddess (log)

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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That's really too bad about the St. Louis Silver School. That was one of our favorite stops, and I still treasure the many things I got there. One of my favorites is a silver and ebony baby rattle that's just gorgeous. I still have it, now complete with tiny teeth marks from my three children.

And your story about the convent also brought back memories. When I moved to the Philippines, I was a young, single woman, and had a bunch of friends that I ran with. We had few responsibilities...most of us were college kids...and we explored the length and breadth of Luzon. One of us had some sort of connection with the convent - maybe her aunt was a nun or something - so on one of our trips on the Rabbit Bus up to the high mountains and the rice terraces, we stopped by the convent for a visit.

There were five of us, I think, and we were all ushered into a large receiving room. Several of the nuns were there to welcome us, and to chat and visit.

After we were seated, Mother Superior graciously inquired as to whether we might like something to drink.

She looked at us meaningfully and asked if, in particular, we might care for some "fruit juice" with a particular emphasis on the "juice."

It initially went right over our heads. So we spoke of water and soft drinks and calamansi-ade.

Puzzled, she repeated..."You don't want to try any of our fruit juice"?

Which finally got our attention.

"Well," one of our party said, "The 'juice' does sound interesting. What kind of 'juice' is it?"

"Oh, it's something we make and keep on hand for when the fathers come to visit."

Sure enough, the nuns were turning out absolutely delicious strawberry wine!

So what had begun as a somewhat dreaded obligatory visit turned into an hour or so in a delightful little slice o' heaven sipping strawberry wine and giggling with the sisters.

And probably much like the "fathers that come to visit," we left the convent far happier than when we had arrived.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Day 5

We didn’t get breakfast this morning. :sad: I love breakfast, and it’s the most important meal of the day! But I suppose it is better that we didn’t have breakfast, because we had a very good lunch waiting for us.

I had read about Eve’s Garden on someone’s blog, and when my mother was going through my research, it was one of the places she really wanted to try. It’s only open for lunch, and only by reservation, so we called first thing that morning. After visiting with my mother’s childhood friend again, we took a taxi up to La Trinidad.

La Trinidad is even further in the mountains than Baguio, up a long winding road. Eve’s Garden is really out of the way, and you really need a car to go there. Our taxi driver charged us an additional P50 for the ride (beyond the meter fare), and he wanted an additional P200 to wait so he could bring us back (and he was only willing to wait one hour). The owner of Eve’s Garden said no way, and he offered to drive us down to the main area after lunch, so we could catch a taxi there.

We were the first guests to arrive, so we were able to talk to the owner quite a bit. The restaurant is a hobby of his wife’s. They originally bought the property as a vacation home, and then decided to live there permanently. I could understand why, because the air is fresh and the lush mountains provide a view that’s a far cry from the ugly polluted cities of the Philippines (including Baguio).



As soon as we sat down, we were served pineapple juice with lemon juice, mint, sage, and muscovado sugar. It reminded me of coconut-flavoured rum, which I hate, but I still managed to finish mine.


Eve's family is originally from Pampanga, just north of Manila, but her family has a strawberry farm in the Baguio area. They sell wine, pastillas, and jams from the farm at the restaurant.


Then we had onion soup with seven kinds of herbs, the predominant of which was sage. This tasted creamy and rich, but it was really quite light.


Next they brought a centerpiece. Pretty, isn’t it? Actually, it was our salad! We each had a beautiful plate of greens like this. Normally I find salad to be a waste of stomach space. Seriously, why would I waste my valuable eating time eating grass? But this was a very special salad.


Made with 10 different organic greens (they grow about 14 different types on the property), watercress flowers (who knew watercress flowers were so beautiful?), walnuts, raisins, jicama, and carrots, we ate this “Baguio farm-style”, as the owner liked to say. Take a bunch of leaves, add whatever extras you want, roll, dip in the sauce, and eat. The sauce was made with flax oil, and it was similar to Caesar salad dressing in flavour. I could only manage about 2/3 of the salad before I gave up. I was getting much too full, plus grass is a waste of stomach space.



Our main course was grilled chicken breast, whole wheat pasta, and croutons. This dish was less successful, in my opinion. It’s not that this dish was bad, because it wasn’t, but it just wasn’t very interesting. The chicken was on the border of being too dry, and it was chicken breast! Also a waste of stomach space, in my opinion. The chickens used were free-range, purchased from a nearby farmer, and they were only fed organic grains. The only redeeming parts of this dish were the croutons, in my opinion. The provided a nice texture contrast, and a welcome bit of fat to the dish (fat is good).


Finally, coffee and tea. The tea was ginger and ginseng, and the coffee was some kind of Filipino coffee. I feared the coffee would be too strong for me, but it was actually a nice, smooth brew. The bar was an oatmeal coconut raisin bar. It was the best homemade granola bar I’ve ever had.



After lunch we sat around outside on their patio down below and took in the view. The owner came out and chatted with my mother about the history of the place. Eve’s Garden is only 3 1/2 years old, and when they first started they served dinner, too. Unfortunately, their very first guests, a party of eight, overstayed their welcome and they were still there at 5am. After that, they decided to open for lunch only. Not only that, but because it’s just a hobby for them, they often tell people who call that they’re full, when in fact they just want to take a break. In a few years they’re planning on opening a bed and breakfast, as well. I’d definitely stay there, but only if I had a car.



The owner drove us down the hill to try to catch a taxi (We picked up a little boy who lives across the street. He was on his way to school, and it usually takes him 2 hours down the winding roads to walk to school!). We decided to take a jeepney, instead. Traditionally, jeepneys are old US jeeps converted to be used as public transportation. I like taking them, but my mother doesn’t. Still, it was only P14.50 vs. more than P80 for the taxi, and we’d probably have been waiting for a taxi for a looooooong time!


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Day 5 continued

We went back to Baguio Market so my mother could stock up on vegetables to bring back to Bacolod. She ended up with 7 1/2 kgs of assorted veggies, and a very large basket of strawberries. I had planned on getting some lard, but was too tired to be bothered looking for it again. Maybe I’ll be able to find some good lard in Manila before I leave.

We had a short siesta at our hotel then went back up to Camp John Hay. Although we were still a bit full from lunch, I wanted to catch the camp while there was still light out. There are still some of the original buildings from when the Camp was being used by the US Armed Forces. The white houses with green trim were a symbol of Baguio, and back in my mother’s day, all the houses had the same colour combination.


Our destination was Choco-late de Batirol on Scout Hill, famous for its native chocolate. It’s a quaint little outdoor restaurant with just some patio umbrellas and a bit of siding used as a roof to shade customers from the sun and protect them from the rain. It actually rained that night while we were there, but we barely got wet at all.



The restaurant is located next to what is now a cafeteria, but my mother doesn’t remember it being a mess hall when she used to come here. They’ve also built some condos around there, and I suspect many of them are owned by Koreans (one of the old homes has been converted to a Korean church, so I think many Koreans live in the area).



The native chocolate did not disappoint. It tasted freshly roasted, and it wasn’t too watery or too thick, or too sweet. I wanted to buy some of the chocolate paste they use, but it was in large heavy jars—too big for me to bring back.


A little friend joined us for dinner. Poor little baby was starving, so I snuck her some of my leftovers at the end of the night.


My mother had taba ng talangka, which means “fat of crab” (my mother says “talangka” is specifically those little crabs pictured in my Baguio Market post). I had read that Choco-late did an excellent version of this dish, and my mother thought it would be similar to the Thai version of scraped out crab fat. But this was nothing like that, and she was sorely disappointed. I don’t know what she expected, because I’ve never had the Thai version, but it just tasted salty and a bit fishy to me.



I had barbeque pork. I have a firm belief that in the Philippines, when in doubt, stick to the pork. I was proven right yet again. This had just the right amount of fat, and was moist but crispy (the charred bits were excellent!). My mother liked my food better than hers, a rare occurrence.



We were much too full for dessert, but we made the sacrifice and ordered bibingka—my first of the trip! This was warm and comforting, but the actual bibingka wasn’t coconut-y enough for me, and I thought it would have been better Thai-style, with slightly salted sweet coconut cream on top.



We had to walk down the hill to try to find a taxi. We passed by a very pathetic looking picnic area. I don’t understand why Filipinos tend to squander the wonderful opportunities they are given. This could be such a nice place for people to come and relax with their families, but look at all that litter. Is it really too much to throw away your own garbage?


Perhaps I need to make a trip to the cemetery to bury all my negativism. :rolleyes: Jaymes—do you remember that Cemetery of Negativism being around when you were in Baguio? My mother doesn’t remember it at all.


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Day 6

I spent a fitful night with some kind of stomach ailment. I think I got it from Peter Green. See that? You roll with dogs and you’re going to get fleas! :laugh: It really wasn’t too bad since I could still eat (and wanted to eat), but since we had a 5-hour bus ride back to Manila, I decided to play it safe by not eating much except Imodium. We made a quick trip to the Pink Sisters Church, so called because the sisters wear pink habits, before we left.


My mother used to live almost right next door, but their house is now gone, probably flattened by the earthquake. A cousin who used to spend holidays at their house in Baguio told her that when he realized the house was gone, he cried. Everyone had good times in Baguio back then.

Just outside the church they were selling some pili nut goods. Pili nuts are, I think, exclusive to the Philippines. They’re most commonly likened to cashews or almonds, but I don't think they're anything like either of them. They’re very light, not dense like almonds, and when you bite into them, it’s almost like you’re eating nothing. That’s not necessarily a good thing, because before you know it, they’re all gone! We bought two kinds—a sweetened one with sesame seeds, and salted garlic pili. Look how big those garlic slices are! (garlic on top, pili on the bottom)



By the time we reached my lola’s house, I was starving. We were having spaghetti for dinner, and this worried me because the last time I had spaghetti at a Filipino person’s house, it had canned corned beef in it. :shock: But I needn’t have worried, because although it was a might bit sweet (Filipinos like sweet spaghetti sauce, I find), it was made with ground beef (or maybe pork). We also had fried lumpia made with fresh lumpia wrappers. Fresh lumpia wrappers really make a world of difference in fried lumpia. The wrappers fry up so light and almost greaseless. I love the crispiness of them. Then of course I had a mango for dessert. Not such a good idea given the condition of my stomach, but one must make sacrifices, you know!

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