It’s been roughly 12-13 years since I had gone back to the Philippines. My family and I immigrated when I was younger and every time we had a chance to visit back there was something that prevented me from going. When my grandfather died, I wanted to make it up to him and the rest of my family to be somehow connected to our roots. Learning about my mom’s side of the family a little more made this trip that much more personal unlike any other trips I went to. It was interesting to see places my grandparents and great grandparents lived at and peoples my mother and her siblings grew up with. Sharing stories about their childhood shenanigans and later on realizing the significance of food in their lives was just the cherry on top.
A few days after landing at Manila we made our way south to the Visayas region at the island of Bohol. We visited the local wet market to buy fish, fruits and vegetables. This market, or mercado, is how I remember markets being; local farmers and fishermen selling their freshly caught fish and homegrown produce for everyone to enjoy. Granted the area has gotten more developed over the years with the introduction of malls and other commercial stores in the city centre, yet it was incredible to see that these parts of their cultural food traditions survived.
Another treat while visiting Bohol was getting to experience one of their unique traditions. A month long tradition of fiestas hosted by a different town every day in the month of May. Family, friends and strangers are welcome to dine in one another’s homes and engage in casual conversations. It’s a time to get reacquainted with people or meet new people by sharing experiences/stories over a meal. Going to different houses and meeting my mom’s childhood friends gave me a glimpse of who she was growing up. It’s really cheesy for me to say this, but it was nice seeing such happiness in my mom’s eyes. I can tell that she felt relaxed and at home where she was. Rightly so, she was home.
After a week of storytelling, sightseeing and more eating we made our way back to Manila for a quick stop before heading north to my dad’s province, Pangasinan. The first this I remember when I think about our visits there growing up can be summed up in one word-puto. They make the best little putos hands down! Our road trips to our grand parents house always ended with bags full of those little putos in the back of the car and some tupigs!
Along the way, I also noticed that more people have built fisheries. Famous for the milkfish, bangus, locally abundant in the province, they celebrated a bangus festival just a day before we visited the area. Spending a day at Pangasinan was definitely not enough. We didn’t get a chance to lounge around the beach longer and absorb the mythical healing powers of the sea or go island hopping around the Hundred Islands.
Now, if you don’t have as much time as I did make sure that you check out the BBQ scene regardless of which province or island you go to. Yeah okay, it might look a little scary, and I don’t think I’ll ever try BBQ chicken’s feet (‘adidas’), but there are plenty of other items on the grill! I definitely had a handful of ‘isaw’ or BBQ chicken intestine. It doesn’t sound appetizing but with some vinegar (with onions and chili) it tastes pretty damn good. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, we have some grilled fish of multiple varieties, especially if you visit the coastal provinces, or traditional BBQ pork (sliced, marinated and put on sticks). Here’s a tip, if you’ve picked the province you want to visit make sure to research or ask what is grown in the area. Different regions have their own delicacies dependent on what is abundant in that region.
Anyway, I will have more pictures of my adventures at the Philippines posted on my Food Journal page! 🙂