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The Berba Fruit of My Childhood

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One of the things that I miss about my hometown is the berba fruit. It doesn’t grow tall and has dark green leaves. The tree bears small round fruits that turn yellow to tangerine when ripe. The more yellow the fruit is, the sweeter it is. There’s a seed inside that is thinly coated by pulp that is sweet and sour at the same time. The taste could be addicting.

Yesterday my aunt arrived from Sorsogon and one of her pasalubongs was a basketful of berba. Seeing the berba brought me back to my growing up years in Sorsogon.

There were a lot of berba trees in the backyard of my grandmother’s house. I used to climb those trees and put my harvest on my upturned tshirt. After washing the fruits, my cousins and I eat them with salt. Oh, to be young and so carefree.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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Rice Cakes from Sorsogon

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Suman or rice cakes are popular breakfast and merienda fare in the Philippines more so in the provinces. For my breakfast today, I am having suman which are unsweetened that came wrapped in banana leaves courtesy of Tita Babie. I am taking my suman with a mug of Nescafe Gold coffee with creamer and healthy sugar (made of stevia). Bon appetit!

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Bicol Cuisine

 

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Favorite Bicol Delicacies

Every time I spend Holy Week in the province, I always gain a pound for every day of my stay.  For this year, we went to Camarines Sur and Sorsogon.  Although we ate mostly seafood, I still gained weight.  While in Manila, I only eat oatmeal or a “power drink” for breakfast. It is quite different when I am on vacation.  For starters, my aunt served inun-on and binut-ong among others for breakfast.  Inun-on is a Bicolano fish dish cooked with juice from calamansi, very little water and salt.  From where I come from, fresh small fish like sapsap, turos, tabudios or banak, to you, are commonly used for this dish.  It is best eaten with fried rice and yes, hot chocolate.  I used the hot chocolate as sauce for my fried rice.

Another food I can not resist is the binut-ong.  It is a Bicolano delicacy made of sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in coconut cream and a little salt.  To savor the heavenly taste of binut-ong, tear the banana leaves wrapping to expose the glutinous rice swimming in coconut cream then add a little sugar.  Have a cup of hot chocolate by your side.  Yummy!

Binut-ong

Binut-ong

Sinapot or maruya in Tagalog, is another favorite.  Sinapot is made of sliced bananas of the saba variety coated with rice flour batter, and deep fried to golden brown.  I usually get my sinapot at the Sorsogon City market.  I  patiently wait for my turn to get my orders of sinapot.  When at home, I get a glass full of ice and pour Coke in it.  The perfect merienda!

Sinapot

Who doesn’t crave for pinangat?  Pinangat is made of layers of taro leaves, sometimes with ground pork or  shrimp filling, tied with taro vein and then cooked in coconut cream.  It has become synonymous with Camalig, Albay.  When thinking of what to bring home as pasalubongs to family and friends, the pinangat is the ideal must bring home.  There are several houses and stalls along the national highway at Camalig selling this delicacy.

Pinangat

The first thing that I look for when in Bicol is the nilantang pili, pili fruit cooked by simmering.  Boil it and the pili hardens.  When cooked, peel the pili, dip it in kuyog (small fermented fish) and calamansi combination and eat the meat.  Perfect with fried fish or meat and cocido, a fish soup.

Nilantang Pili with Kuyog

Writing this piece is getting me hungry.  I better stop now.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Bicol Cuisine

 

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Naga Restaurant No More

Right after publishing the article, Going About in Naga City a week ago, I got two comments informing me that Naga Restaurant is no more (to quote Augusto Surtida verbatim).  This sad news was seconded by a good friend of mine, Shirley Rey. I was not aware that a Jollibee branch was constructed in the same place that Naga Restaurant stood before.  It did not occur to me that a landmark like Naga Restaurant would succumb to the lures of easy money. That sad news also means that Naguenos and patrons of the eatery won’t be able to taste toasted siopao, mami and the steamed siopao that I like so much.  Having chicken joy for merienda instead of steamed siopao and mami doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.  I hope Naga Restaurant would resurrect somewhere in the city if only to give in to the locals and tourists like me who have gotten used to bringing home their products as pasalubong to loved ones.

Toasted Siopao

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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Camarines Sur

 

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Going About in Naga City

I am not a resident of Naga City but I’ve been to this city several times that I will find my way back to the hotel even without a chaperone.  My familiarity with the city came about when I reported to the Naga office of Manulife Philippines monthly for almost one and a half years.  I was then with the agency force of Manulife Philippines and our group was tasked to developing the Bicol market.  For four days every month, I called Hotel Mirabella in Panganiban Street my home.  It was a few minutes jeepney ride to the Naga office from my hotel.

Hotel Mirabella is my choice when looking for a place to stay in.  It offers rooms for couples, families and singles.  The place is clean so with the room, beddings and bathroom.  These are my barometers in choosing for a place to stay when out of town.  The room rates are affordable and made more affordable with a discount. It has a wing for budget-conscious individuals like travelling salesmen.  From the street, the facade doesn’t look like the facade of a hotel.  In front are stores with the main hotel at the back.  A small signage of the hotel can be seen at the side of the stores leading to the driveway.  The budget rooms are located at the top of the stores.  I learned from somebody connected with the hotel that the stores are long-time tenants of the owner of the hotel and has maintained a good relationship with them.  The landmark in going to Hotel Mirabella is the Petron gasoline station at Panganiban Street which is just beside the hotel.

There are other hotels that are priced reasonably along Panganiban Street like Matt’s, Sampaguita but I prefer the homey ambience of Hotel Mirabella.

Looking for a place to eat?  There are several eateries one can go to for a decent meal.  Before the invasion of SM Naga, most of the food chains and local restaurants can be found at downtown Naga City or Centro for short.  The city is no stranger to the popular ones like Jollibee, McDonald’s, KFC.  Not to be outdone, local food chains are also represented at the Centro:  Bigg’s and Geewan.  Bigg’s prides itself as homegrown and the biggest Bicol food chain.  Geewan, another quick service restaurant, is a must go.  Local delicacies like Bicol express and laing are among the viands of the menu.  Buy them frozen before your trip and these could be  ideal pasalubongs.

Another landmark at the Centro that I don’t fail to visit is the Naga Restaurant for their steamed and toasted siopao.  My colleague from Manulife who studied at Sta. Isabel de Naga introduced me to the toasted siopao.  Subsequent visits led me to try the steamed version.  It was sooo good.  My husband and children loved them all.

For the past several years, there were developments in the Central Business District (CBD) with the contruction of SM Naga and along Magsaysay Avenue.  Typical of any SM mall, the Naga branch houses a department store, a supermarket and eateries.  Choose among homegrown eateries like Crown Park and established brands like Mang Inasal, Red Ribbon et al.  Crown Park boasts of the hung ma, hung ma bread and pancit canton.

When there is more money to splurge on food, take a pick at the restaurants at Magsaysay Avenue, Naga City’s restaurant row.  Because the venues are better, viands cost more.  Our family’s favorite is Red Platter which serves a fantastic version of pinangat and Bicol express.  Along the stretch, there’s a Japanese restaurant, various restaurants serving grill fish and meat, Yellow Cab Naga, other local eateries and coffee shops.  If chilling out is what you want, go to Magsaysay Avenue.  The famed Villa Caceres Hotel, site of wedding receptions and business conferences is along Magsaysay Avenue too.

What else can one do at Naga City aside from paying a visit to the restaurants?  Do a mini-Visita Iglesia even if it’s not Holy Week.  There are four big churches (cathedrals and a basilica) at Naga City alone.  The venerated Penafrancia, the patroness of Bicolandia is in the basilica.  The churches are not situated far away from each other so transferring from one to the other will not pose a problem.  Take the tricycle or jeepney.

Bring home some dried salted fish from the Naga City People’s Mall.  The dried fish section is located at the second floor.  Park your vehicle at the third floor of the building.  Your best bet for pasalubong are the abo, low-salt kitkit (smaller version of the espada of Damortis fame), and biti (boneless dilis, very crispy).  There are a lot to choose from.  Take your pick.

While at Naga City, you can spend a day or two at CWC for some watersports fun at the nearby Pili, Camarines Sur.  Take a shuttle at Naga CBD when going to CWC.  It’s free. At the CBD, you can practically go to anywhere in the Bicol region as there are vans and buses going to all points in Bicol.  Caramoan, one of the 35 towns of Camarines Sur, is four hours away from Naga City.  Spend 2 to 3 days at Caramoan for that idyllic summer getaway.

Now how do you get to Naga City, Camarines Sur?  Naga City is accessible by land, air, and rail.  You can drive your car or take the bus at either the Cubao Terminal or Pasay City (for Philtranco).  When commuting by bus, I am partial to Isarog buses.  I can have a good night’s sleep during the trip because of its spacious chair cum bed. Local airline carriers have regular flights to Pili airport.  For budget conscious people, go by rail through the recently revitalized PNR trains.  There are bunk beds in a compartment which is ideal for families and barkadas travelling together.  Or stay at the conventional reclining chairs.  One thing with travelling with PNR trains, you pay approximately 40% less than the bus fares.

Take a breather from city life even for a week and have fun in Naga City (also CWC and Caramoan).

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Camarines Sur

 

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A Day at CWC

My family didn’t have plans of going anywhere for the Holy Week holiday as my son’s final exams are due after Holy Week.  Plans changed when my brother got reservations for a one day stay at CamSur Watersports Complex or CWC for short. I couldn’t pass up the chance. For months I had been dreaming of going to CWC, intrigued how something man-made could attract a lot of tourists, local and foreign alike.

At the crack of dawn of Holy Wednesday, my family together with my parents and two brothers, motored to Bicol. Somebody tipped my husband about the road works in Quezon, the province just before reaching the Bicol region. It was not going to be a smooth trip. True enough, we were rerouted twice by local authorities that made the trip longer in distance and time aside from slowing down at the construction sites.

We had a late lunch in Naga City. While at Naga City, we proceeded to the public market to buy some dried fish to bring home to Manila. It has been a while since we have eaten “abo”, the local dried fish delicacy. Having bought a boxful of dried fish, we then headed to CWC, a good thirty minutes drive from Naga City.

Dried salted abo at the Dried Fish Section of Naga City People's Mall.

CWC is located in the Provincial Government Complex at Pili, Camarines Sur (contrary to popular belief, Naga City is not the provincial capital of Camarines Sur). It attracts the young crowd, much like the one in Boracay. There are several tents sponsored by Smart Communications which backpackers can use for free. I was informed by the staff at front desk that one need not be a guest of the different living quarters within the complex to avail of the watersports facilities. When not indulging in one’s favorite watersport, one can have a relaxing massage by the lake or right in one’s room. Or have a tattoo that could last for three weeks.  My son and my brother had tattoos on their arms while another brother had a massage.

Massage area by the lakeside.

The real attraction of the place is the wakeboard park. Watersports tournaments for wakeboarding, waterskiing and waterskating are held in the main park. The same park is for the exclusive use of professional wakeboarders and skiers. Beginner riders are delegated to the Winch Park where they are taught the basics of wakeboarding at a controlled environment. Only one person is allowed each time to prevent accidental collision.

Main Wakeboard Park

A CWC vacation is not complete without wading one’s feet at the park. Here are the steps to take to use the wakeboard park:

1. Go to the administration counter and accomplish a waiver for liability form. For those below 18 years old, parents should sign the form.

2. Give back the duly-signed form to the counter to get another form to be presented to another counter for the release of the helmet, lifevest and a wrist band signifying the time of use.

3. Proceed to the Winch Park, line up and wait for your turn. A CWC staff will brief you of the basics of wakeboarding.

I found out from the experience of my daughter that two hours will not suffice to learn how to balance on the board.  It will take many hours of uninterrupted practice to learn wakeboarding.  The momentum is destroyed if one keeps on lining up for a turn on the board.

There’s a restaurant where one can eat meals.  Cooking is prohibited in the rooms though I think the administration will not mind if you eat something you brought inside.  Just dispose of trash properly.  We ate our left over sandwiches from our trip upon checking-in in our room.

CWC Restaurant

Breakfast of bacon mushroom and cheese omelet plus coffee.

There are swimming pools for adults and children right beside the main wakeboard park.  After spending time at wakeboarding, a dive at the swimming pool is in order to feel refreshed.  Since I can’t learn to wakeboard, the swimming pool is the only left for me to enjoy.  Hope there were wakeboard parks when I was young.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Camarines Sur

 

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Speaking Bisakol

My Dad’s job with the Philippine National Railways brought us to Sorsogon.  I was only three years old when my family migrated to Sorsogon, Sorsogon (Sorsogon City today) from Kamuning, Quezon City.  At that age, I only spoke English as was the practice then.  When I went to school at the nearby Colegio dela Milagrosa, it was expected that I will learn to speak the local dialect, Sorsoganon.  Since my elementary years, I speak Sorsoganon very fluently even if my family went back to Quezon City after ten years in Sorsogon.

Bisakol is the Bicol dialect spoken in Sorsogon and Masbate.  It differs from the other Bicol dialects as it has a scattering of Visayan words.  It cannot be helped as Sorsogon and Masbate are located at the gateway of the Visayas.  My husband will always tease me that my dialect is not Bicol but Visayan.  He insisted that his dialect (the one spoken in Naga City and most of Camarines Sur) is the true Bicol dialect.

My grandmother came from Bacon, Sorsogon and her dialect is the same one being spoken in Legaspi City and neighboring towns.  Bacon used to be part of Albay.  Because I was always in the house of my grandmother then, I began speaking with words from her dialect.  Batag and saging both refer to banana and I used them interchangeably.

When I got married to a Bicolano from Naga City, I learned that sugok is egg.  Before that, egg is bunay.  Kupya is a hat in Camarines Sur while it is called kalo in Sorsogon.  A lot of different words referring to a thing but luckily for me I understand them all.  My story telling sessions with my grandmother did me good so with my one year stint in Naga City during my Manulife days.

What about you?  Do you understand the other versions of the Bicol dialect?

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Sorsogon

 

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