ILONGGO FOOD (cuisina ilongga)


By Rovilyn R. Faiwas*

One would wonder, what in the world is a linagpit? Derived from the word “lagpit” or “being stuck between”, linagpit is a specialty of San Joaquin, Iloilo.  These are really small fish called bisya wrapped in a banana leaf parcels and clamped by a bamboo stick that look like tongs.  The wrapped bisya is inserted between the two arms of the bamboo stick, referred to as the arasalan

I asked a person from our barangay what kind of fish bisya is. She said that bisya are baby  bangrus or milkfish (chanus chanus). It seems to me that she is not sure of her answer so I asked Mr. Mel Cinchon, librarian of the UPV College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. He said that he is not really familiar with bisya so handed me a book instead. The book is entitled, Philippine Fishes and their Local Names.  Maybe it is just a twist of fate or I really can’t find the word bisya in that book. Fortunately, the word humoy humoy is listed there. Humoy Humoy is what the people in Antique and Aklan called the fish that San Joaquinhons call bisya. Humoy humoy, also known as tabilos/tabilus is under the family Leiognathus and has the scientific name of leiognathus elongates. Its English name is slender ponyfish.

People in the town of San Joaquin catch bisya for a living. They use nets with fine holes to catch this nearly invisible fishes which often wander in shallow waters during clear nights. When you unwrap a linagpit, the colour of the bisya is white, different from its original transparent look while at sea.

I asked myself, “Why should I write about this linagpit thing? I found the following answers: one, my former topic didn’t work out well. Two, I can get information about this linagpit quite easily since some people in our barangay know how to make linagpit. Third and above all else, San Joaquin is the only place I know where linagpit is being made and sold. Clearly, I want to showcase my town’s uniqueness and I hope that by writing about linagpit, people will know and appreciate the culture of San Joaquinhons.

Anyway, I interviewed Mrs. Flora Pio, also known in our barangay as Manang Flora, a linagpit maker.  Living just two houses away from our house. I went to visit and found Manang Flora and family watching TV. I wish I could just watch TV. But Marimar will just dance at my problems; she’ll never be able to answer my research questions.  

 I asked Manang Flora if she could spare me a few minutes.  She was puzzled at my interest in her work which to her, was probably very ordinary.

She said that the tradition of making linagpit has been in their family as far as she can remember. The art was handed down to her by her mother, who got  it from her own mother.  But who taught her grandmother how to cook linagpit? Manang Flora said she doesn’t know.

For many generations now, the art of linagpit making has been their family’s livelihood. Together with her daughter, Mrs.  Nemia Abrito, they make 24 sticks of linagpit out of 2 gantas of bisya.  A stick of linagpit costs 20 pesos.

There are two ways of selling linagpit. One is for the makers to go to the market and sell the linagpit themselves.  The other way is to let someone sell it at the terminal. This process is called pag-alsa. The makers of linagpit will give the cooked linagpit to the vendors, who will sell the product. The agreement usually, is that half of the money will go to the vendors, the other half, to the makers.  Manang Flora sells her products on her own.

Mrs. Adelina Saylon, another linagpit maker, invited me to experience first hand how to make linagpit,. I gladly accept her invitation.

At  4 o’clock Wednesday morning (that’s right, 4:00 A.M.),  I went to Manang Adelina’s house. Manang Adelina wants to finish selling her linagpit early, so she always starts making them very early in the morning.  Besides, Wednesday is a good day to sell linagpit at Tiolas, for it is its market day. Tiolas is the stopover for vehicles before they embark on the zig-zaggy road across the mountains to the province of Antique.  This makes Tiolas an ideal place to sell food to commuters and private travelers on their way to Antique.

 When I reached her house, Manang Adelina, immediately ushered me to their kitchen. In their kitchen table were the materials and ingredients to be used in making linagpit: 2 gantas of bisya, 25 pieces of arasalan each a ruler long, 75 pieces of banana leaves, and sea salt.

To start, I washed the bisya. The fishes are soft and slippery and well, smell like fish of course.   Because the bisya are extremely tiny, it seemed like they melted into the water.  Its difficult to see them if you possess a not so good pair of eyes. I drained the  bisya in the saran or sieve.

Manang Adelina took over and added sea salt to the bisya to flavor it.  Next, she put the bisya onto the banana leaves resting on the table. One cup of bisya for three banana leaves. With deft hands, Manang Adelina seals in the bisya, folding the banana leaves into mini plump squares.   She told me that the banana leaves don’t just serve as wrapping for the bisya; the leaves give the fish a nice aroma.

The next step was to slip the square pillows of bisya between the split bamboo stick which clamped it tight.   She tied the open end of the arasalan so the linagpit won’t slip. The final step was to cook the linagpit over glowing charcoal.  After several minutes, the linagpit was ready for hungry travelers.

Linagpit making has been with the San Joaquinhons for many generations now. As time passes by and with the introduction of new technologies, some Filipino traditions are slowly disappearing. I hope this will not happen with the linagpit for this tradition helps strengthen our identity as  San Joaquinhons.

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*Rovilyn Faiwas is proudly San Joaquinhon.  She studies at UPV in the adjacent town of Miagao.

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Text and photos by Franielyn Tagolgol* 

No regrets… Absolutely! That’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m so lucky that I’ve come to Iloilo. It’s my home away from home. Want to ask why? From the island of MILF’s and Abu Sayyaf, I really went here just to pursue my career and to study at University of the Philippines Visayas in Miagao, Iloilo.   I thought I wouldn’t enjoy staying here. But, no, no! With many fascinating sites in Iloilo, it’s difficult to leave this place. Much more than that,  Ilonggo food is so delicious. That’s what Iloilo is known for… It’s already their trademark. There’s the famous batchoy, pancit molo, biscocho, etc… But there is another one in which Miagaowanons (Ilonggos from the heritage town of Miagao) could be proud of. And it’s the native snack called  bayi-bayi  – bite-sized rice or corn cakes flavored with coconut and wrapped in banana leaf. FYI: Miagao is one of the municipalities in Iloilo where bayi-bayi is different from the rest. (I’ll tell you later why’s it unique.)

Because of my curiosity, Mrs. May June Yandok, a bayi-bayi maker, shared to me what she knows about the origins of  bayi-bayi.  Long time ago, during the time of harvest, farmers from different parts in Iloilo would really separate a part of their harvested rice as a way of thanking the Almighty Father for the fruitful harvest. It served as the gift to the Almighty Father.  This portion of their harvest was made into this delicious specialty of Miagao.  This is how it started. Nowadays, bayi-bayi making has become a means of livelihood for a number of  people in Miagao.

As for myself, I would say that bayi-bayi is quite delicious. I wanted more the first time I tasted it! I’m not exaggerating. It’s just a mere fact! And evidently, as I asked the people from the tinda or market, there was only one answer, “Namit lang guid siya ya! Kag kahamot pa guid.” (It’s really delicious and it smells good!) Well… Why not? But then, during my conversation with Mrs. Gloria Timon (another bayi-bayi maker), she revealed the secret to great bayi-bayi.

It’s how you cook the sticky rice and how you choose the coconut for your bayi-bayi. The sticky rice must be cooked well. As with the young grated coconut, the fresher the better. With its very affordable price (each costs P3 for the bite-sized  pieces and P10 for the bigger one), for sure, you wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Miagao’s tinda.

But what has really made the bayi-bayi of Miagao unique from the bayi-bayi in other parts of Iloilo? Aside from the delicious taste, it’s the packaging. Try to go to Iloilo City. You’ll find out that they only wrap it in cellophane.  Though there may be some bayi-bayi makers in other parts of Iloilo who do wrap in banana leaf, still their packaging is different.  Miagao has an attractive way of wrapping the bite-sized bayi-bayi in shiny, bright green banana leaf.  They look like miniature, fluffed-up green pillows.  Using banana leaf as its wrapper started since the very first bayi-bayi in Miagao was made and that was surely a long time ago.

When I asked Mrs. Anita Datu-un, she answered that  wrapping the bayi-bayi using banana  leaf makes it attractive for  people.  The young banana leaf (colored bright yellow green)  keeps the bayi-bayi secure with no need for a ribbon or tie.   Using light green banana leaf for the bayi-bayi is also a way of distinguishing it from another famous Miagawanon rice cake- the kalamay-hati.  By the way, Mrs. Anita Datu-un, a resident of Bgy. Kirayan, Tacas, Miagao, has  the best-selling bayi-bayi among the Miagao rice cake vendors. She usually sells about 300 pieces in just one day.

I know you guys are excited to make this delicacy. So, this is how to make bayi-bayi…

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You will need:

4 kilos pilit (sticky or glutinous rice for making rice cakes)

3 kilos sugar

8 pieces grated young coconut

            How to make bayi-bayi:

            First, wash the pilit. Make sure that you wash it thoroughly.  Then, remove the pilit from the water and let dry under the sun.  Once dry, toast the rice grains in a frying pan, constantly moving the grains around until they turn brown.  Be careful not to overcook them for they will taste bitter. 

The next step is to galing or grind the pilit.  (In the olden days, grinding was done through a traditional hand-operated stone mill.  These days, all one has to do is bring them to a mechanized grinding machine at the market.)

The ground roasted pilit is now ready to be mixed  with grated young coconut and sugar. According to Manang Anita, if you want the bayi-bayi to have a longer shelf-life especially if it is to be sent abroad as pasalubong, the grated young coconut should be candied  or cooked in sugar (dulcehon). 

In the olden days, people used  a wooden mortar (lusong) and pestle to mix all three ingredients to create bayi-bayi.  At present, the mechanized grinder has taken oven the tedious manual mixing (pagbayo) to make bayi-bayi.   

There you go!  That’s how to make bayi-bayi

            Clearly,  bayi-bayi is the top favorite among native rice cakes in Miagao.  Fiestas, birthdays and other special occasions often have bayi-bayi.   Furthermore, bayi-bayi goes abroad with many Miagawanons based in the US or elsewhere who regularly return to their hometown during Miagao’s religious fiesta, the foundation week (Salakayan Festival) and other important occasions.

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           *Franielyn C. Tagolgol is a second year student from the University of the Philippines  Visayas taking up B.S. Applied Mathematics. Singing and eating are her pastime.

By Avril Gamboa
 

Joy R. Sumagaysay says:  Tonight, as I went through old files, I came across several research papers of my students way back in 2003.  One of these is on the Bacolod chicken inasal by Avril Gamboa.  With many queries on the chicken inasal, this first hand info from a true-blue Bacolodnon will be surely be appreciated.  Though this research was done four years ago, Avril’s discovery regarding the inasal’s history in Bacolod is timeless.  Thank you Avril.    Now its time to share it with the world.  

Bacolod City has always been a pride of the province of Negros Occidental.  Located at the middle of the Philippine archipelago, it is known as “The City of Smiles.”  It has also been the “Sugarbowl of the Philipines”  with its abundant sugar produce during the 70s till the early 80s.  Bacolod  is also known as a bountiful city of food, history and culture.

The piaya (made of muscovado sugar, flour, butter and sesame seeds) and the kalamay-hati in a coconut shell (rice flour, sugar and gata cooked to an ultra-thick consistency) are two extraordinary specialties of my town, Bacolod City. 

But what I’m so excited about my hometown is the all-time favorite of all smiling people, the so-delicous Bacolod chicken inasal.  I always look forward to a weekend having my good and yummy meal of chicken inasal and rice. 

Perhaps other cultures have long been preparing chicken barbeque long before Bacolenos did.  But what makes Bacolod chicken inasal special?  It’s the marinade consisting of Sprite, lemon grass, calamansi, garlic and soy sauce which gave the identity to the chicken barbeque of Bacolod.   The history.   The concept of Bacolod chicken inasal first started with small food kiosks at the old Post Office building where the Po’s Marketing stands at present.  It is situated at Araneta Street, right at the heart of Bacolod’s downtown.  The inasal was made of native chicken or what we call as bisaya.  The traditional way of having the chicken inasal is eating it as a sumsuman or appetizer, to go along with a couple of beers.  (I don’t know exactly if inasal is a Spanish term or simply a Negrense term for barbeque.)Later, support from politicians came in to further the growth of the Bacolod chicken inasal as a profitable business venture in town.  In 1972, the inasal kiosks were transferred to Cuadra St., beside the Bacolod State Cinema.  At around this time, the inasal vendors  shifted to “45 days” chicken or the white leghorn variety.   Because of Mayor Dizon and Mr. John Orola ‘s help, the chicken inasal as a food industry flourished.  It was during this time that the Manokan Country was established.  One of the pioneering inasal kiosks was Sabel Chicken BBQ.  The grandchildren who took over the business  changed the name to NENA’s. 

During the 1990’s, because of the bogging down of the sugar industry, Bacolod was in crisis.  Such collapse caused a fluctuation in both big and small businesses in the province.  The Manokan industry was not spared.  Aside from the collapse of the sugar industry, the coming in of fastfood chains like McDonald’s, Jollibee, Snackee and others posed a threat to the Manokan country.  Still, the Manokan country was able to sustain itself, having established itself as a Bacolodnon food tradition.

I always look forward to going home to Bacolod, not only because that  is where my heart is but also because of Bacolod’s chicken inasal, a symbol of my Negrense culture.

By Helen Grace Fernandez*   bingkahan.jpg    

            A chimney in Iloilo? I used to think that chimneys were only found in the States where houses had fireplaces to keep its residents warm. When I was seven years old, I was amazed to see a real chimney in Iloilo in the place called Mohon, a barangay at the border of Iloilo City and Oton. I saw a chimney made of bricks, puffing out white smoke. When I asked my mom about it, there I knew that it was a pugon, a traditional brick oven making bibingka (bingka in Hiligaynon).

            The image of that brick bibingka oven in Mohon stuck in my mind. As I grew older, I saw another kind of bibingka appliance placed on bamboo tables. These firewood-fed portable tin ovens were usually set up in churchyards during Sundays. This made me wonder about that Bingkahan in Mohon with its remarkable chimney. Becoming even more curious, I decided to research about it.

            I have found out that the Bingkahan sa Mohon is a business of Felicidad C. Animas. She started to make her now famous bibingkas in the 1950s. This business of hers has been able to support her family through the years.

            Currently, Felicidad’s son, Noel manages the business. As his strategy for promoting their native rice cake, he occasionally sells at the plazas of Sta. Barbara and Molo. Several years ago, he rented a place in Casa Plaza, a building at Iloilo City’s business district to market his product, but due to high overhead costs, he gave up the place and returned to Mohon.

            As I interviewed Noel, there I knew that he is a conservative type of businessman. It really did not matter to him whether they operated regularly or not. He is contented with his business’ performance, even though it does not generate much profit. Although Noel takes only minor risks, the responsibility of continuing the family legacy of making this special bibingka encouraged him to continue the business. The 50-year old bingkahan is already a Mohon icon. When people think of Mohon, they think of the Bingkahan.

            Unlike other bibingkas in Iloilo, the Mohon bibingka is stickier and contains a lot of shredded coconut. This dainty bibingka has a distinctive sweet and milky taste. Pilit (glutinous rice), bugas (regular rice), margarine, white sugar and buko (shredded young coconut) are the only ingredients used. Surprisingly, it does not even contain gata (coconut milk), a basic ingredient of other bibingkas.

            Sugar, margarine and buko are placed in an empty bowl, to which the ground bugas and pilit are added. All these ingredients are thoroughly mixed with a ladle. Three tablespoons of the mixture is then placed in individual banana-laid molders made of recycled milk cans. The bibingkas are now ready to be baked in that familiar brick oven.

After fifteen to twenty minutes, the hot bibingka is drawn out of the oven and placed in brown paper bags.dsc01682.JPG

            This is how the bibingka of Mohon is made. The secret to its exceptional taste lies in the manner of its preparation, the choice of its ingredients and the use of traditional technology. It possesses a delectable flavor that reflects the taste of the old days when people really made time for cooking and never compromised on quality.

            Twelve years have passed since the first time I saw that chimney. Awed by the white smoke arising from that brick pugon, I was motivated to learn more about it. Researching about the Bingkahan sa Mohon made me realize its significance as a legacy of the Animas family not just for themselves but for the entire community. This Bingkahan is not just a business, it is Mohon’s pride.

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 * Helen Grace Fernandez of Mohon, Oton is a College of Management student at UPVisayas.    

           

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By Archie E. Nacional*

I remember that every time my mother my mother does her marketing chores, she always looks for budbud. So I wondered. What’s so special about this salt of Miagao? Why on earth is my mother so devoted to it?
Perhaps, this is the right time to satisfy my curiosity. I may learn much information about budbud while doing this article. I found out from the book of Failagao entitled “History of Miagao” that the salt-making industry in Miagao originated in Barangay Guibongan in the year 1823. Actually, from my personal interviews with budbud salt-makers, there are three salt varieties identified in Western Visayas. These are the budbud of Miagao, the baldoza and the Guimaras variants. They vary according to the method of producing the salt.
Of the three, Miagao’s budbud is the most unique and very traditional. 

(more…)

By Joi Asuncion Gruy*

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As a kid growing up in Antipolo, I used to be dragged along by my aunt or parents from one reunion to another. Be it weddings, baptismal, birthdays, funerals, and especially fiestas, they make certain that our family makes an appearance, saying that these are the only times that Ilonggos gather in one place. And at almost every table we’ve been to, I particularly remember this soupy, purplish black dish that’s always first to go. Whenever I ask what’s so special about it, people always come up to me and tell me that it’s called KBL (no, not Marcos’ political party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan!)  KBL stands for kadios, baboy kag langka (No, not Marcos’ political party Kilusang Bagong Lipunan). It is probably their most scrumptious viand and proudly-Ilonggo to boot. I was even told to take note of the owners of the houses that serve KBL. My parents say that they either hail from Iloilo or have Ilonggo blood down their line. Grown ups used to joke about how KBL is a must during another KBL–Kasal-Bunyag-Lubong buffets or the three big celebrations for Filipinos: Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals .
According to my lola, this mouth-watering dish is easy to prepare though the cooking time might leave you feeling impatient. More often than not, they resort to multitasking so as to reduce the long hours of preparing it. This is the classic way of cooking KBL.  (In the short-cut version, the baboy is no longer broiled but directly stewed.)batuanclose-up.jpg

We will need:
1 “samon” (cup) of kadios
1 kilo langka cubes
1 kilo pork (pig’s feet/rib area)
5 pieces batuan
2 liters water
1 medium sized onion
4 garlic cloves
1-3 tsp oil
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Procedure:
1) Broil the pig’s feet or rib area (the best cuts for KBL) over charcoal to get the “smoky effect” in the stew later. Then cut into small portions.
2) Boil the kadios until soft.
(Ilonggos commonly use the black type though the color of the beans ranges from red to white or black to brown.   My lola said it’s better to use the fresh beans than the dried ones because it takes a shorter time to boil)
3)On a separate pot, start boiling the langka (jackfruit, unripe), sliced into small cubes, until it is a bit soft.
4)Add the broiled, already chopped pork to the langka. Bring to boil until the langka and pork are soft.
5)Mix the kadios, langka and baboy in a big pot (including the broth) and season with salt, pepper and vetsin (monosodium glutamate). Soy sauce and fish sauce are optional.
6)Add batuan, the typical “pampa-asim” in Panay (the counterpart of sampaloc/tamarind in Manila). Kamias, libas leaves or commercial flavorings could be used as batuan substitute.
7)Add tanglad or lemongrass to bring out an added nuance to the flavor. Bring to boil.
8)Finally, add the katumbal/sili (hot peppers). Simmer for a few minutes more and remove from the fire. Now 6-8 people could enjoy this!
 


Presently, I’m enrolled here in UP Visayas and in staying here I get to taste this specialty more often than when I was in the metro during special occasions. I tried asking the locals what’s the secret of KBL that it’s the most requested dish during buffets.
Almost all of them are in accord that it may be because of its unique taste. The flavor of langka, baboy and kadios soured with batuan (no other pang-aslum can work best with KBL) perfectly complement one another. It is a superb dish that makes one reminisce the good times back in their hometown. They are very proud of this specialty and they told me that serving it on special occasions is their way of showing their warmest welcome to their guests. Also, the locals say they don’t mind preparing KBL since the ingredients are readily available and one could come out with great servings sans excessive expense.
For the information of readers, India is the largest kadios producer in the world. Scientifically known as Cajanus cajan, it is also known as pigeon pea, Congo bean and tur. It is probably one of the oldest cultivated plant, a fact attested by its discoveries in various ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 2200-2400 BC.

In the local backyard, Miagao is one of the top kadios producers in Panay so year-round availability and price are not a problem. A gantang (a big can of pineapple juice) of dried kadios costs more or less P100 while the fresh (still in the pod) costs P25 during its season, which falls on September. The price plays P250 for the dried peas and P 150 for the fresh ones when not in season. On the other hand, batuan sells at P20/kg at season and up to P150 when supplies are scarce.

Unfortunately for the residents of Manila, finding kadios or batuan will more likely be hard and the price could be downright shocking. Now that I thought of it, I can say I’ve finally understood why, when our relatives from Iloilo visit our home in Antipolo feel the need to bring at least a box of kadios and batuan, never mind the “excess baggage” problem.
KBL. It really is one of a kind. For those who’re planning to visit Iloilo, don’t forget to try this pride of Ilonggos. It’s a sumptuous food trip that’ll surely leave a mark on your taste buds!

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*Joi Asuncion C. Gruy is a Bachelor of Science in Biology student in the University of the Philippines Visayas and is now on her second year. She loves sports and music. Her roots traces back to San Joaquin, Iloilo from both parents’ side but having been born and raised in Manila, she still has trouble speaking in Hiligaynon fluently.  Email Address: rainetng@yahoo.com.

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I just sank my teeth into the marshmallowy softness of Balgoa’s ube-flavored Manapla puto and followed it up with a sip from Venice coffee straight from a vendo.

Not all puto are created alike, not even if they all call themselves Manapla. (Manapla is actually a town in the neighboring isle of Negros that became famous for its puto on a banana leaf base.) (more…)

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