30 April 2009

Road Again

"Mama Mary" on "Romy Sidecar".

Been on the move (and in this weather!). But I'm back and I'm busy. Shaking off the dampness and cold bus rides of last week.

22 April 2009

Public Laundry

The final piga (squeezing water out) before hanging, by the road in Cebu.

It's a common element of Filipino jokes: the henpecked husband doing laundry, after being threatened by his wife, who is wielding a frying pan and ready to whack him on the head.

On the other hand, I see men washing clothes in public all over the country-- and they never look miserable. They are often talking to neighbors or other people hanging out in front of their houses.

I've been too chicken to take photos of those who decide to, at the same time, take a shower, and wash the clothes were wearing, retaining only their underwear. This happens more than you think.

Rubber Stamp Maker

A Shaw rubber stamp maker uses a rubber stamp with his name and "address" on my receipt.

Where do we still see hand-carved rubber stamp impressions? During the holidays, your basurero probably gives you an envelope with purple ink exclaiming "Merry Christmas, from Garbage Collector". Some small stores do not chose to have their receipts or sales invoices printed, instead opting for stamping each page of a pad. Snacks such as espasol and pastillas often use them as well on white paper to indicate the name and phone number of the maker. I will be thinking about this all day.

Often they also do key duplication.

16 April 2009

Inter-Regional Trucking Ads, and Buri Fruit

Bicol, Mindoro, Marinduque.

Fiending for buri fruit at the wrong time of year, I trekked over to Asuncion, Manila for a futile search of the palm goodies. That is where you go for fruit of all kinds. And above are the signs for the trucking services that make the marketplace happen.


All I can do now is stare at an old photo of it and wait until October, or so the other vendors tell me. I bought it from a roving vendor (who told me about Asuncion) selling the chewy, bite-sized, palm fruit chilled on a hot day on Juan Luna Street.

Mmmmmmm- mmm.

15 April 2009

SF Street Food

The crème brûlée cart. Photo from Don H. at Yelp.

I have been hearing from various sources living in the "other city I sort of inhabit" that there is a something of a street food movement coming about in San Francisco, California. Using serious word-of-mouth and Twitter, the crème brûlée cart and the Magic Curry Kart have been popping up (together, yep wow, rumor has it they are brothers) with mobile food production units at Dolores and Linda to sell fresh and relatively cheap delicious things to munch on.

The Magic Curry Kart. Photo from Don H. at Yelp.

It fills my heart with unexplainable joy and excitement as I think about how many more people who cook good food in the city will hit the streets when and where they wish, keeping their costs variable and their overhead nil. Carts like these are able to harness the advantages of a densely populated and walking city. Read a roundup SF street food outfits here.

On a related note. some friends and I have been throwing around (but not doing much about it) the idea of peddling Pinoy home-baked sandwiches, spring rolls with foraged greens, and herbed peanuts on buses and busy hubs of the gritty Metro Manila cities. Because doing this (or even preparing food traditionally) is a bit expensive in a city that doesn't produce much, I don't imagine anyone can make much money off this, but it is a worthwhile experiment to shake things up in the roving street food scene, as well as bring quality food to people.

13 April 2009

Unwarranted Coffee Expectations

Green coffee beans drying out in Sagada.

I was sent a package of roasted coffee from Mindanao sometime ago, and several packets were ground very finely and burnt quite severely. It was bitter, and the solids kept getting into the beverage, when done both on a drip machine and a French press. When I asked my friend, whose coffee ("Kape Moro") is a hit every week at the local wet markets, he explained to me that every town has its own preferred form and way of preparing the bean.

More green beans in Sagada.

Some areas like it roasted until it is extremely bitter. Some like it a little bit lighter. Because they do not own coffeemakers, some people boil grounds with water in a pot or kettle and strain the liquid. Others pour boiling water into a cup containing finely powdered coffee-- and eat the resulting bitter muck at the bottom when they are finished drinking. The bitterness is often a measure for potency and provides a "kick". Apparently, because the Moslems cannot take alcohol, there are some "everyday" avenues for mind-alteration.

Coffee drying out in Alfonso, Cavite.

In a world where a small group of connoisseurs exist for every large commodity, it can be easy to invalidate folk usage. Sometimes we have to be reminded that there is no one (or two, or three) way(s) to prepare a certain food, and we need to be confident enough to explore our own preferences. In a country where many people still grow coffee trees in their backyards for personal stash, there are equally many ways to enjoy it.

12 April 2009

Halo-Halo With Macaroni

High-elevation halo-halo. To keep you cool in the cold. More photos and a video below.

It's halo-halo season now. I dunno about you, but I've definitely stopped for this icy snack on the road more than once since the onset of the blistering heat. For those who aren't familiar, here's a short description of the snack in a Gourmet article on Asian iced desserts:

The gaudiest is surely halo-halo, which has all the exuberant gaiety one associates with Philippine culture at its happiest. Halo-halo means "mix-mix" in Tagalog and is often used as a metaphor for the Philippines' own distinctive mixture of East and West. You can see these cross-influences in the dessert itself, a mélange of ingredients served in a tall, clear glass and eaten with a long spoon. When you get it at a stall in Manila, the bottom of your glass is first covered with a crazy blend of ingredients that can include macapuno (sweetened coconut meat), jackfruit, sliced cantaloupe, mango cubes, bits of plantain, sweetened garbanzos, mung beans, and gelatin made from agar-agar. These are buried beneath a big scoop of ice, then topped with evaporated milk, pieces of leche flan sliced like tamago sushi, and maybe a big scoop of ice cream, ideally yam. Bright, sweet, and bursting with attractions, halo-halo is the Las Vegas of iced desserts.
Some, like Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, claim that halo-halo developed from Japanese immigrants' mitsumame or mongo con hielo (mung bean with ice), which was a snack originally made with snow in their home country before commercial ice shaving came about. Sta. Maria posits that Filipinos began adding fruit and flan to the imported concoction.

I'm more inclined to think that it is a post-ice (this would mean after 1904 for our country) modification of our guinataan, a general snack classification of a sweet soup or porridge made with gata (coconut milk) and whatever bean, root crop, or fruit you want to add.

One should observe the different forms of halo-halo relative guinumis, where some versions use shaved ice (it is the glass on the right) and the others, just coconut milk.

Anyway, the whole point is that such things are constantly evolving with new additions to the market, and there must be so many tangents on their evolution that your guess is as good as mine. But I'm betting ice changed a pre-existing snack drastically and created halo-halo as we know it. Then canned evaporated milk made it easy to assemble and sell on the streets, and then commercial ice cream saw the entry of "special" (a la mode) halo-halo. Now, in Sagada, they've started to add macaroni pasta to theirs (see topmost photo of this post).

Options: corn, camote or sweet potato, gelatin made from seaweed, coconut strips, melon strips.

It might sound hard to wrap your head around this, but among all the crunch and firmness of the beans and fruit, the doughy, chewy nature of a noodle is welcome.

The glass of halo-halo sitting on another color of gelatin, beside sago balls.

Slices of jackfruit and the infamous macaroni.

Here's a video of how they prepare the halo-halo. Note the man in the back eating it-- jabbing his spoon in first to mix the elements together. Also note how she rations the milk with a small shot glass.

Bean Love

Soaking for planting.

I've been pretty much obsessed with beans for more than a month now. Since arriving from Sagada with some in a sack, I've been diving into what old and meager literature exists about the Mountain Province people and their deep relationship with beans.

Sprouted itab or lima beans, with their mottled skin off.

And it seems that the Igorot from Bontoc, at some given point, had beans as his most preferred food (followed by rice, corn, millet, then camote or sweet potato). According to Jenks in 1904:
The Bontoc man has three varieties of beans. One is called ka'-lap; the kernel is small, being only one-fifth of an inch long. Usually it is pale green in color, though a few are black; both have an exterior white germ. I'-tab is about one-third of an inch long. It is both gray and black in color, and has a long exterior white germ. The third variety is black with an exterior white germ. It is called ba-la'-tong, and is about one-fourth of an inch in length.
From this article and talks with Sagada folk, I have determined the following about the above description. Kalap is the tiny yellow rice bean or what some Tagalogs know as tapilan. Itab is patani or sabatche to us and lima bean in English. Balatong is mungo or the ubiquitous mung bean.

Kalap or rice beans. They grow much like mung beans and have a similar flavor.

These days, eating habits up north have definitely changed, but you still see a few kinds of beans in the public markets. While beans were common and preferred in the past, I didn't eat a single dish in Sagada containing them (but then again, many of them serve Western food due to tourism) except for streetside halo-halo's sweetened assorted beans. It made me wonder about the real food of these upland people, how the mountain sib-fan (stewed beans commonly eaten with rice) would taste, seasoned liberally with fog and whatnot.

Dried kardis or kadyos.

Aside from the beans mentioned above, there was also an abundance of dried kardis (kadyos or pigeon pea), kidney bean (the local name escapes me), a kind of beautiful pinto bean, and Baguio bean seeds (obviously, I was not able to coax some local names out of the vendors).

Kidney beans with a speckled sheen.

Supposedly the seeds of the Baguio bean, I've used it in cooking bacalao.

Very pretty and smooth pinto-ish beans. Uncertain about what it really is.

There is very little documentation I've come across about this plant that used to be such a huge part of Igorot life. Moreover, the plants are given sweeping classifications, often according to their "green" form (sitaw or pole beans are one and the same thing in most markets, no matter how different their seeds look). I've always marveled at the small distinctions between the mung and sitaw beans I buy in the nearby market (where the latter are sold mostly for planting greens as well as for sweetening), and I'm excited to have barely scratched the surface of the upland dried-bean-based culture. I'll surely be back in the Moutain Province poking my head around for local recipes and varieties.

In the meantime, I've been cooking the beans as an improvisation of sib-fan, as well as sauteeing them and making seafood dishes for my seafood-eating family, like the bacalao with Baguio beans below:

Basque-style bacalao, but added white beans and local Indian almond nuts.

11 April 2009

Crates Again

More used fruit crates for streetside selling. I posted about them before here and here.

Cigarettes and oranges.

Shaded vegetables during siesta time.

More vegetables.

Setting back up again after siesta.

03 April 2009

"Indie" Films

Outdoor piracy.

Recently I was trawling some pirated DVDs (a normal occurence here, sorry copyright fans). The Moslem lady manning the stall could sense my non-preference for her displayed items and asked me "You want indie film?". Surprised by her question, I asked if yes, I could see some. She left a moment and came back with an armful of local and international soft gay porn.

Indoor piracy.

Does she even know what an independent film really is? I'm not sure. Now I wonder if "indie films" has gotten to be some kind of secret code for gay porn.

02 April 2009

Pride of South Cotabato


More indications of migration within the country-- a Pasay jeepney's mudguard. Citing your provenance on your jeep is pretty typical. This always gets me thinking-- how do we harness the multicultural nature of Metro Manila?

01 April 2009

Lost and Found

A student, hands clasped in cooperation, and possibly a famous landmark or highway connecting the two areas.

What do tricycle drivers do when they find something left behind by their passengers? If the thing has no value nor any marks of identification, how do they return it? Posted in front of the passenger seat: a card for the Leyte Samar Student Org (since 1982). It has the curious nature of being hand-colored. I couldn't tell if it was photocopied, but if it wasn't-- wow.

(The organization is made up of students in the National Capital Region who are from Leyte and Samar. That this ID was found in a Paranaque trike shows the regionalistic tendencies of the Pinoy, and our predominantly migrant composition in the metropolis.)

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