Food, Glorious Food!
by Ronnie Hoyle
IF THE way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, men in the
Philippines have no choice but to expand like a balloon…and the women
have to accept us the way they have made us!
Of course, it could also be the responsibility of hundreds of good cooks
and chefs in the region who make men become fatties: take the chefs on
Alona Beach, Panglao, for instance. They have a lot to answer for.
Philippine cuisine may not have the same reputation as nearby Thailand,
but wherever you go in the Philippines you will find that your
taste-buds will have to cope with a new gastronomic experience. Some
foods you will love, and some you will wish you had never eaten,
especially if you cannot stand ginger or really hot spices. Well, you
did ask for it – you are in some of the fabled Spice Islands that the
Spanish, Portuguese and the Dutch went to war over a few centuries ago.
But if you do not like it hot – and we are not talking about the weather
- avoid those little green or red chillies which you see some local
people eating with relish: they are not as innocent as they look! Even
the Devil would go pale trying to eat one of those.
And watch out for eggs…sometimes they may not be what they seem:
especially if they are brought around at night by a guy on a bicycle
with a cooler box on the back calling out the name and they appear to
look like a typical boiled egg. They could be our local eggs with legs!
Filipinos call them balut, which means they are boiled, but they contain
the embryo of a 16 to 21-day-old duck or chicken which is almost ready
to hatch, complete with wings, feathers, beak, brains and crunchy legs.
With the shell broken, the juices are first sucked out with a sprinkling
of salt and then the rest of it eaten with relish, even by the girls who
might eat more than one. Only brave westerners have been known to eat
them with the same amount of gusto.
Local people swear it puts a bit of ‘oomph’ into their love-life and is
less than a tenth the price of half a Viagra tablet, but they say the
much same thing about swaki, which is pinkish centre of some sea urchins
which is eaten raw, like an oyster, or mixed with tuba (fermented
coconut sap) and tastes salty and slimy.
International-style cuisine abounds in Cebu and elsewhere in the Visayan
region, and you can probably find a restaurant that cooks in any style
you want, but now that you are abroad you should try some local food to
tickle the taste-buds.
Some of the guidebooks say that if you cannot peel it, unwrap it or open
the lid, avoid it … and don’t eat anything you find being cooked on the
Take no notice: it was probably written by someone with a queasy stomach
and without the slightest idea of what gastronomic adventure really
means. Try some of the roast pig (lechon) or barbequed chicken (lechon
manok) being cooked on the streets of any town or in any market place
and find out for yourself how good it can be.
Mind you, Filipinos are not adverse to eating animal gizzards and some
other odd bits of intestines on bamboo skewers, so you might want to
avoid that until you work up the courage to try them…and roast dog and
dog stew was actually made illegal ages ago…although I have to warn you
that it is still eaten in some districts!
Unfortunately, the new law did not condemn the eating of snakes and
large lizards, so you could find them on some dinner tables out in the
countryside…especially at private feasts or fiestas.
The trouble is, you do not speak the local language and the menu terms
are a little bit puzzling? Okay, we’ll try and sort some of it out for
ADOBO – Pork or chicken slices or pieces cooked with spices, onions,
garlic, soy sauce and vinegar.
BAM-E – Glass noodles with salted meat and mixed vegetables served
Canton-style in its own sauce.
CALAMARES – Rings of squid-body battered and deep fried: the squid
itself is usually soft, but the batter is a crispy brown. Good with
calamansi (the little round green things that taste like lemons and are
just as rich in vitamin C) squeezed over the top as flavouring.
CATALAN – Salted meat with vegetables (usually potatoes and carrots)
cooked with an addition of ketchup to add colour.
ESCABECHE – Chicken or pork served with a style of sweet and sour sauce,
together with added spices, like ginger.
KINNILAW – Usually the name applied to slices of raw fresh fish (the
fresher the better), particularly with yellow or blue-fin tuna, but
equally to tanigue and other good fish presented in Japanese style.
MENUDO – A style of pork cut into cubes and served with potatoes and
REBOSADO – Shrimps marinated in a light soy sauce, then coated in egg
and flour and fried.
SINIGANG – Pork with a tamarind soup base mixed with vegetables and
SOTANGHON – Glass noodles with salted meat (normally pork or chicken)
and vegetables, usually cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions.
Dried and salted fish are thought of as delicacies by Filipinos but,
unfortunately, it does not seem to suit western tastes…particularly when
it is being cooked: it seems to have a smell that wafts more than a mile
away for some sensitive noses and has been known to make a few people
There are all sorts of different desserts available in the islands and,
surprisingly, spaghetti and macaroni are sometimes used with the
addition of tinned and sweetened milk, together with jellied sweets,
coconut and raisins. Some vegetables also end up on the dessert menu
(like the purple ubi – a sort of potato - which also ends up in ice
cream as flavouring and colouring) after suitable treatment!
Of course, international cuisine is also available for those with
unadventurous appetites and all around Panglao Island you will find
bars, resorts and restaurants to cater for your tastes…although we do
have a dearth of fast-food joints – the nearest are 20 kms away from
Alona Beach in Tagbilaran City – but there are some pretty good barbeque
stalls and several styles of home-produced pizzas are available!
Kilroy Was Here © 2006