Sinigang sa Buko: Setting some facts straight

One of the interesting articles from Yahoo’s Fit to Post is Marjorie Gorospe’s “A taste of Albay’s unique ‘sinigang sa buko’”. The article showcases another unique taste from Bicolanos, a taste far from the spicy Bicol Express or the creamy dishes cooked with coconut milk.

But one discouraging line from the article, probably a product of insufficient research, goes:

Sinigang sa buko was created by brothers Beting and Zhar Solomon as they were starting up their gotohan in 1996. (Emphasis supplied)

The attribution is misleading as sinigang sa buko is a public recipe and cannot be therefore claimed as a creation of a person or a group. Gorospe’s claim, though, is not isolated as Rapsa, in 2009, also claimed that” Sinigang na Isda sa Buko is the creation of Alamo’s Eatery inside Barangay # 30 Pigcale, Legaspi City”.

I first tasted sinigang sa buko in the 1980’s though my grandparents claimed that the recipe was just passed on to them by their ancestors. But even my elders could not tell who really invented it as the recipe is well-known in Albay especially in the mountain barangays. The dish is usually prepared after typhoons probably to maximize the young coconuts that are blown to the ground, or after the “bayanihans” to freshen up the neighbors and friends who helped move a nipa house from one place to another.

There are different versions of sinigang sa buko. These can either be seafoods (fish or prawns), pork, beef, or even sardines. The sardines versions are usually prepared when barangay folks receive their share of relief goods after the typhoons.

I have tasted both the Solomons’ and Alamo Eatery’s sinigang sa buko and they both used tomato. Most traditional versions use the young leaves of hog plum, a tree popularly known in Bicol as “libas” or “lubas” (scientific name is Spondias pinnata). If one is using libas, tamarind can be set aside. Or, one can also use lemon as an alternative.

The Solomon recipe is shared in Gorospe’s article. Just add green pepper, though, as it adds more taste and aroma.


A dish called “Kinalas”

The Iriga City visit is still fresh on my mind as until now I am still dreaming of eating “Kinalas”. It’s one of those things I missed in the city, a weird dish unique to Iriga. The last time I ate one was in 2004.

So what is “kinalas”? It’s actually a combination of a soupy Pansit Bato and “dinuguan” or locally known as “inulas”. Depending on one’s taste buds, it is usually seasoned with chili sauce, black pepper and vinegar. Pansit Bato and dinuguan are prepared separately. The typical serving is a bowlful of Pansit Bato with a cup of dinuguan as toppings. It tastes best when served hot and with “turon” or fried banana wrapped in lumpia wrapper.

For our non-Bicolano visitors (thanks to WP our blog is also being read by non-Filipinos based on the hits, emails and IP addresses recorded in my account), Pansit Bato is a locally produced noodle from the Municipality of Bato in Camarines Sur. There are variations of the same (Pansit Legazpi, Pansit Baao, etc.) but one can see and taste the difference as Pansit Bato has small strands and is more tasty. Dinuguan, meanwhile, is a typical Filipino dish made of pig’s blood. But unlike the typical dinuguan, Bicolanos use coconut milk instead of cooking oil and there are more green peppers, of course.

The pond in the middle of Iriga City

PPSA, Bicolanos, dishes and delicacies

There are two things that surprised me in the recently concluded Philippine Political Science Conference (PPSA): The increasing number of Bicolanos, and the absence of a dish or delicacy unique in the city where the conference was held.

This year’s PPSA Conference was held in Dumaguete City in Negros last April 11 and12. The host for the conference was Silliman University through its president, Dr. Ben Malayang III. While I saw familiar faces during the conference, a greater number of them were new.

The new looks include a few Japanese nationals, professors, and students from various universities in the Philippines. Kasabay digdi iyo an delegasyon hale sa Bicol University (BU) headed by Prof. Aileen Balean and Prof. Emil of the College of Social Science and Philosphy. There were four of them actually. Prof. Alex de Guzman, the supposedly fifth member, failed to arrive. Prof. Alex is the PPSA’s Representative for Luzon.

Apart from Bicol University, there are also delegates from Ateneo De Naga and University of Nueva Caceres (UNC). Sa Ateneo, saro lang samantalang sa UNC, apat man if I am not mistaken. This is as opposed to the previous conferences na halos BU lang an representante kan Bicol.

Sa mga ini, an mga taga UNC lang an dai ko nakaistorya. Medyo kaya mga silensiyo masyado. Kun bako pa dahil sa taga-Ateneo, dai ko maaraman na igwa palan duman na mga taga-UNC. Kun sabagay, arog man talaga kaan an mga Bicolano, bako maribok pero igwa palan na ibubuga. Garo arog kan pinangat na hona mo ordinaryong gulay lang pero sa laog palan an siram.

Which reminded of the menu dishes being served in Dumaguete.

Sarong kakaibang obserbasyon sa venue na pinili kan PPSA iyo an kawaran nin mga pagkaon na organic o noted na hale talaga sa lugar. Mala ta kadaklan kan mga ipini-puwesto sa lamesa, either Western o kaya man oriental dish. While there are also Filipino dishes an mga ini either a national dish (adobo) o kaya Bicolano dish (langka na ginulay sa natok kan niyog), o Cebuano (natong na Cebuano-style). And this is also true not only in the hotel but also in the restaurants that flourish in the area. Mala ngani ta feeling ko saro na akong European dahil puro French and British cuisine ang pirming nakalapag sa lamesa. Feeling lang. 🙂

Pero bako lang yan: wara man nin unique na delicacy sa Dumaguete bako arog sa pilinut candies from Bicol durian and durian candies from Davao, or dried mangoes from Cebu.

For these, I wondered: What binds these people apart from the long history of tenancy and sugarcane plantation?

Me kasabihan na an pagkaon daa an nagbuburunyog sa sarong banwa. Ini kaya an dahilan kun nata mas burunyog an mga Bikolanos kaysa sa mga Negrenses? For instance, apart from “pinangat” (pork and shrimp wrapped in taro leaves and cooked with coconut milk), we also have the famous “Bicol Express” (a sizzling hot cuisine made of pork, shrimp and pepper), “tinilmok” (crab meat and young coconut wrapped in banana leaves or in some cases taro leaves), and “tinutungan” (native chicken cooked with green papaya and charred coconut milk). Of course, pamoso man an “kinunot”, a concoction made from malungay leaves and shark or manta ray cooked in coconut milk. But of these, I missed the most a dish which is a version of the Spanish cocido but instead of fresh fish, what is used is sardines and young coconut meat and the young leaves of “lubas” (in some areas, “libas”, a variety of a tree locale in the region).

Whether or not the old adage with regards food and unity is true is still subject to research. But one thing is sure: Tunay na cohesive an mga Bikolano saen ka man magduman. Apwera sa mga Bicolano communities, kadakul man ki mga asosasyon nin mga Bikolano sa mga subdivision, eskuwelahan, asin mga darakulang kumpanya saen man na lugar ka magduman.