A friend remembers Negros food-A A +A
As I See It
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I WAS not expecting to receive a letter from Bong Regala. Bong is always busy. When he was here in Negros last May, he told me he was finishing a book on the festivals of the Philippines. We became friends because he lost his plane ticket at Bacolod-Silay Airport. My delicacy vendor partner recovered it. That was a big event. He decided to stay in Negros Occidental for three days.
Bong took interest in what ordinary Negrosanons eat. I told him, “There is no ordinary or special Negrosanon in our province when it comes to food.” He became more interested. That increased his curiosity to discover what is on the dining tables of the obrero and hacendado. We started our curiosity tour at Hacienda Adela in Silay City. Sugarcane workers had uga (dried fish - tabagak, gumaa, and sapsap), laswa (mixed veggies - alogbate, takway, kalabasa, tugabang, balatong), green shells and ripe sab-a banana for dessert.
A city hall employee (next day) invited us to have lunch with his family. Bong was amazed to taste Negros KBL (kadyos, baboy, langka). Kadyos was fresh and soft. The pork came from a pig that was butchered in the morning, and the langka was just picked from jackfruit tree in the backyard. The lemon grass gave that naughty taste to the broth. The added attractions at the table are alimusan paksiw with gata, gabi with bagungun, and the adobong takway. The lunch was not expensive, just great.
I arranged a simple dinner to be hosted by a buena familia. Dinner was at seven but we arrived thirty minutes before the agape. The hacendado host explained to Bong the physical and economic cycle of the sugar industry. He emphasized what is legend and what is reality in the business. Fifty years ago, he was proud of his 150-hectare hacienda. Now, he is worried on how to divide the farm among his seven children. The price of sugar is uncertain in the local and world market.
There was the ringing of the dinner bell to announce that it is time for the family to eat together. The 80-year old grandma had grace before meals in Latin. The host and his wife explained the food in front of us. The rice is magsanaya (aromatic rice). The seeds are well kept after the harvest in preparation for the next season. It is not every day that they have magsanaya. It is offered only to special visitors. The plates for us are the vintage Noritake collection with matching silver spoons and forks.
There was beef pochero de Negros, grilled bangus (from the host’s fish pond) stuffed with onions and tomatoes, CPA (chicken-pork adobo) cooked with the finest tuba vinegar, ginisang talong, pinakbet Ilonggo, and karne frita. For dessert, we got banana turon and salab (fried young coconut). After the heavy dinner, the generous host offered us his imported red wine. Long talks followed as the wine neared its bottom—politics, religion, price of land, problems with wives and situations in the countryside.
Negrosanons are always remembered because of their affinity for the food that they eat. The food of Negros makes the Negrosanons. The varieties of food cooked for the family or visitors contain the ingredients of culture peppered with emotion and tradition. Our food reminds us of our struggle to be united, of our aspirations to rise above our common selves, of our wish to attain prosperity, of our dream to reach a sparkling future, our hope to remain as lovers of freedom.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 25, 2013.