10 Family-Friendly Weekend Tours Recommended by a Travel Blogger

By Real Living editor-in-chief Rachelle Medina

You don’t have to go far and spend much to have fun (and learn arts and culture). This blogger shares with us his most memorable destinations.

Affordable tickets and package tours abroad have spawned an insatiable wanderlust for this generation of Filipinos. But have we, as a people, neglected to see all the noteworthy destinations around us?

Blogger and heritage enthusiast Glenn Martinez wishes to change that, one photo (and blog post) at a time in Traveler on Foot. Since 2008, Glenn has spent his weekends visiting nearby (and occasionally far-flung) cultural areas, heritage sites, provinces, and artists’ homes with his son Joaquin by his side, sharing in his adventures.

Unlike other travel blogs, which usually read like itineraries of tourist traps, Traveler on Foot is not only rich in photos, but in the history and cultural heritage of each place. It is also a family album of sorts, wherein readers witness Joaquin grow up, from tiny toddler to strapping teen, strolling through old churches, braving early morning hikes, and walking from one heritage house to another, learning many things along the way. “He grew up as a child who is familiar with local legends, folktales, and characters,” shares Glenn. “He can sense objects and places that have history and are culturally significant.”

Another reason Glenn created the blog was to show fellow Filipinos that one doesn’t have to travel to other countries (and spend so much) to enlighten oneself and discover new cultures. “It stems from the belief that God has given us a beautiful country and He wants every Filipino to experience it,” Glenn explains. “He allowed our nation to have a colorful history so that we could get to enjoy our rich heritage and share our amazing culture with the world.”

A lot of the travel destinations in his blog make for easy day tours for the entire family (some might even be near your own home!). So next weekend, put your walking shoes on and travel to these ten spots (some can be visited for free):

1) ESCOLTA. Glenn caught the Escolta in its early stages of its revival: they attended one of the first few monthly Future X Saturday Markets at the 1926 First United Building hosted by creative group 98B COLLABoratory a couple of years ago. The Saturday Market has since grown to various new creative offices, a coworking space, a hip coffee shop, and the resurrection of Escolta as a whole.

413 Escolta St., Binondo, Manila

READ: 7 Fun Things To Do in Escolta

2) QUIAPO. “A sea of men and women in maroon clothes, struggling and inching their way to get near and touch the ancient images of El Senor Nazareno de Quiapo is a spectacular scene every January 9,” reads their entry on Quiapo and its traslacion, the procession of Quiapo church’s Black Nazarene. Here, both the mystical and historical side of Quiapo is explored, from the arbularyos next to the church and the Ils de tuls, to the beautiful Bahay Nakpil Bautista (above photo), and an adventurous detour to the Ocampo Pagoda and San Sebastian Church.

READ: This Quiapo Day Tour Will Make You Love Old Manila Again

3) BALARA FILTERS PARK. Nestled behind UP Diliman and beside the Ateneo de Manila campuses is a park that time seemingly forgot. The mag-ama revisits this former 1950s-60s weekend destination that was once teeming with tourists and swimming pools. The park is now quiet, albeit beautiful in a mysterious way. You won’t believe that this is right in the middle of Quezon City!

Katipunan Extension, Matandang Balara, Quezon City

4) FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY. Glenn and Joaquin toured the iconic Pablo Antonio-designed University, and revealed beautifully preserved Art Deco architectural details, a magnificent theater, and Botong Francisco murals.

Special FEU tours can be scheduled through Ms. Mae Nerida at (02) 736-4897 or by emailing them at pcc[at]feu.edu.ph. 

5) QUEZON MEMORIAL SHRINE. The joggers and Zumba participants in and around Quezon Memorial Circle may not realize that there is a fine museum in their midst. In 2016, Glenn and Joaquin visited the majestic Quezon Memorial Shrine, where at the base of the pylon is a museum dedicated to the life and times of President Manuel L. Quezon.

6) PINTO ART MUSEUM. What if you had an immense and varied collection of Filipino art and wanted to show it to the public? This was the initial concept of art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang for Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, and a private villa in Silangan Gardens has since grown to sprawling grounds with multiple galleries, a chapel, and a hall dedicated to a massive collaborative mural by Saling Pusa.

It is worth going back to Pinto every so often as there are always new and fascinating installations and artwork added.

Grand Heights Rd., Antipolo, Rizal, tel. (02) 697-1015

READ: 5 More Things To Do In Antipolo

7) AGUINALDO SHRINE. The Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite is usually the default field trip destination of most Filipino students, but there is always a reason to go back as an adult. In this blog entry, we are given a peek at how the first president of the Philippines lived. The Shrine has since been renovated yet again to improve the museum on the ground floor.

Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit, Cavite, tel. (046) 484-7643, admission is free

READ: 6 Things To Know About the Aguinaldo Shrine

8) SULYAP GALLERY AND CAFE. Father and son are fond of visiting ancestral homes (some of which are still inhabited), but their visit to Sulyap Gallery and Cafe in San Pablo, Laguna, was also an introspection into how ancestral houses must be preserved. Do bits and pieces of other houses comprise an ancestral home. Can they be uprooted from the original site? Nevertheless, they had fun exploring the restaurant, the various houses, and the private museum within the compound.

Cocoland Compound, Brgy. del Remedio, San Pablo City, tel. (049) 562-9735

READ: 7 Things To Do In Laguna and Quezon

9) CASA SAN MIGUEL. Glenn describes this as “an art colony in Zambales,” and indeed, it is. In the sprawling Bolipata compound, a mango orchard, a proper theater, a cafe, bed-and-breakfast, and even a bookstore in a trailer are there for everyone to explore. One thing that is constant in the compound is the passion the Bolipatas have for the arts, and their willingness to share it. Even Joaquin got a violin lesson.

Provincial Road San Miguel, San Antonio, Zambales, mobile 0917-838-2752

READ: Top 6 Things To Do in Central Luzon

10) VILLA ESCUDERO. Villa Escudero is famous as a summer destination mainly for its horse-drawn karitela ride and lunch at the spillway of its hydroelectric dam. But in this post, the fascinating history of this 800-hectare hacienda is revealed.

Don’t miss visiting the pink ancestral houses of Don Placido Escudero and a pink replica of the San Francisco Church in Intramuros, which is a veritable cabinet of curiosities and artifacts.

Villa Escudero Resort, Tiaong, Quezon, tel. (02) 521-0830

Click on Traveler on Foot for more adventures, or take a peek here at Glenn’s home.

Feature article in Real Living here: 10 Family-Friendly Weekend Tours Recommended by a Travel Blogger

– 14 January 2017
Published on the occasion of
Traveler on Foot 10 Year Anniversary

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Published in: on January 14, 2018 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Re-constructing Identities

By Felice Prudente Sta. Maria

A DECADE OF TOF. Ten years of blogging by Glenn Martinez leaves a penetrating image of Philippine heritage.  He peeks and peers into places, objects, and even the lives of people — visual artists being his priority.  His footpath is a contemporary selection of prioritized memory.

CLOSE-FOCUS AND FIRST PERSON. Today it is assumed photos are allowed unless directives clearly state otherwise.  It was the opposite earlier.  Previously third-party liability should someone trip over a camera’s tripod and maleficent effects of flash on artifacts were two reasons hindering easy access to photography. Some copyright arrangements still require written protocol.  But perhaps the fourth reason was a domineering global attitude that institutional collections and venues require formal decorum.

Yet art for all and public access to public heritage steer most missions and visions of cultural institutions.  Tax allocations toward informal education likewise include subsidies that could speak well of government upkeep if managed consistently and with vision.

Glenn maximizes his point-and-shoot camera.  In addition to normal and wide-angle views, his maturing sight has been adding details and close-ups increasingly.  The visual essays are a personal statement of insatiable curiosity, maturing aesthetics, and technological rivalry benefiting consumers.

TASTEFUL AND TRUSTWORTHY. Glenn’s travel buddy is his son Joaquin.  Joaquin was still a young boy when I invited the pair to have merienda at home.  For reclusive me, it took a great deal of confidence in them and courage on my part.  But having read the blog for a few years, exchanged private messages with Glenn, and watched Joaquin grow up before my eyes on screen it felt like it was time for “auntie” to ask them over.  They were no longer strangers.

Authors, whether of books or blogs, reveal who they are by what they write.  Glenn is able to create an aura of trustworthiness.  Conversation was disarming.  It shifted from common joys such as a tour of Emilio Aguinaldo’s home given by Vener Veles complete with tower access to concerns such as the controversial changing of street names countrywide and the need to continually interest new generations in linking past with future.

One of Glenn’s goals is to visit places where visual artists work.  In my case, being a writer, it was my bedroom that needed to be seen.  It houses my computers and part of the family library that continues into other rooms and floors.  I still remember Joaquin playing with Lego on my Parson’s table while his dad examined colonial-era documents and books suddenly pulled from their storage.

RESEARCHING REMINISCENCE. While working on my book Antiques and Heirlooms that Gilda Cordero Fernando’s GCF Publishing released in 1982, her sterling pioneers including me did our own walks around towns rich with heritage houses.  Glenn has traveled to some of them such as Malolos and Barasoin to name a few.  It was reassuring to see on his blog the Jose Bautista home built in 1877 with its characteristic caryatids still alert and standing proud.

With the lure of increasingly affordable airline tickets and foreign tours, I hope local venues can compete.  To up their visitor ratings, towns and cities across the archipelago are hosting innovative spectacles and challenges, many of them outdoor sports, in addition to traditional fiestas and pilgrimages.  Traveler on Foot markets the homeland’s cultural properties.  Glenn reads heavily about destinations and interviewees. Following in the footsteps of Rizal’s Ibarra and Quijano de Manila’s Mateo the Maestro, he tracks down where memories were made and still can be.

EPILOGUE. Traveler on Foot is easy, virtual sightseeing. But intense immersion in the blog as a collection of narratives offers perceptions that could enhance any resume seeking to prove well-roundedness of personality and sensitivity to how, why, and when the human condition reconsiders itself badly or weakly and well or nobly.

I’d like to continue re-discovering the country with Glenn because the blog checks up on how Philippine society images itself.  With him having won over Joaquin, the next generation can continue re-thinking and re-making the story of our valuable Filipino lineage.

________________________________________

ABOUT TITA FELICE. Felice Prudente Sta. Maria is a highly-acclaimed writer, an authority, and an institution. She was awarded a knighthood in the Gran Ordre de Artes et Letres by the French Republic and a recipient of the SEA Write Award for ASEAN Writers. In 1980, she received a Kalakbay Award as a travel writer. Her essays and feature articles about Filipino culture and heritage has graced local and foreign publications for decades.

I first read her writings from the iconic Turn of the Century by GCF Publications and from the 10-volume Filipino Heritage of which she served as researcher and picture editor.

Her quintessential books In Excelsis: The Mission of Jose P. Rizal, Humanist, and Philippine National Hero, Visions of the Possible: Legacies of Philippine Freedom, The Governor-General’s Kitchen: Philippine Culinary Vignettes and Period Recipes 1521-1935, The Foods of Jose Rizal, and Household Antiques and Heirlooms received awards from the Manila Critic Circle and prestigious book award-giving bodies abroad. Her books including those she authored for children, Wigan Becomes a Sculptor, Tominaman sa Rogong becomes a painter, What Kids should know about Filipino Food continue to inspire and give us the lead on what town, city, historical landmark, heritage district to visit next.

Tita Felice served as president of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila for eight years and commissioner for the National Commission of Culture and the Arts, Philippine Centennial Commission, and UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines.

In joyful thought for all the things she has shared, the encouragement, and for gracing TOF on our 10th year, we are extremely grateful. Salamat Tita Felice.

Published in: on January 3, 2018 at 5:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lucban

A LEISURELY WALK. Lucban is the first town of Quezon Province when approaching it from Pagsanjan. It is famous for the Pahiyas, a folk religious fiesta held in May on the feast day of the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro de Labrador. On fiesta day houses in Lucban are decked with tropical produce and colorful chandeliers of rice kiping called arangya.

A side tour to Lucban on a non-Pahiyas day is a leisurely walk by the old landmarks at the town proper: The 400-hundred church and ancient Catholic cemetery, an American era monument to Jose Rizal, some ancestral houses that still has its wooden upper floors with sliding capiz windows and stone ground floor with storefronts use to demonstrate the making of Lucban longganisa and the random stalls that serve pancit habhab. 

PANCIT HABHAB. The traditional way of eating the pancit habhab was to directly slurp the silky noodles from the banana leaf that was cut into small squares that fit the size of one’s palm. But for this big serving of habhab at Old Center Panciteria can be all over me if I eat it without spoon and fork.  

The cozy and nostalgic panciteria has been in business since 1937. It claims to be the home of the original pancit habhab. The restaurant has a photo gallery that shows the same old landmarks around town today only that they are in sepia and was taken from an earlier century.

PLAZA DE LA REVOLUCION. Time now to take a gentle stroll around this old town. At the main plaza is an American-era monument to Dr. Jose Rizal. The first Rizal monument in the country was inaugurated at Daet, Camarines Norte in 1898. Lacking a  professional sculptor, the locals build an obelisk topped by a mythical sun as a symbol of freedom to honor the martyred hero. The first sculptural likeness of Rizal was made by sculptor Vicente Francisco and was unveiled at the night of the first Rizal Day. It was Governor Howard Taft, later US President who gave Rizal the title as the National Hero in 1901.

In 1907, local and foreign sculptors submitted their bozetos (scale model) for the future Rizal Monument in Luneta. The work of  Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling won the contest and his Motto Stella is the monument we see in Rizal Park today. Among the finalists for the Rizal monument was designed by Lucban artist Don Ysmael Villaseñor, which now stands at the town’s Plaza de la Revolucion.

LUCBAN CATHEDRAL. Spain’s lasting landmark in Lucban is the church of San Luis Obispo de Toledo. The Franciscan friars introduced Christianity to Lucban. The first church was built in 1595 but the present Baroque church we see today was completed in 1743.

But even before with the coming of the Spaniard, Lucban was already a thriving community. A folktale tells about three men from nearby Majayjay town who went hunting in the forest when they encountered a crow making an ominous sound. They thought to be a bad omen so they scrambled until they encountered a colorful kingfisher in an area in the woods abundant with pomelo locally called lucban. The three hunters enjoyed eating the fruits and eventually brought their families into the area to settle and aptly named it Lucban.

CAMPOSANTO DE LUCBAN. A few walks away from the Lucban Cathedral is the Catholic Cemetery. It must be the same age as the church only that its mortuary chapel remains in ruins.

The Japanese took hold of Lucban and made the cathedral its headquarters. During World War II, the allied forces bombed Lucban while the Japanese imperial army set fire to the entire town before they retreated to the mountains of Laguna.

LUCBAN LONGGANISA. Stores at the town center bloomed with all kinds of food offerings. A storefront across the Bonifacio monument displayed curtains of sausages and demonstrated the step-by-step process in making the popular Lucban longganisa.

I watched intently how the traditional Lucban longganisas were made from stuffing of the ground pork mixture into pork casing to the tying of the sausages using buntal fiber. The sausages were air dried by hanging them by the window.

EPILOGUE: 2017 REVIEW. We end 2017 with this blog about idyllic Lucban. In a decade of travel blogging, we have never been to Boracay, El Nido, Las Casas de Filipinas, Balesin, or in any exclusive resort and transplanted heritage theme park because we always prefer to explore places with rustic accommodation, unpretentious home-cooking and genuine welcome that no amount of money can buy. From the beginning, we curated the images and stories to share with our regular and accidental viewers with hopes that they will also walk the same evergreen paths we’ve taken to experience the indigenous, the art for all, and the timeless yet old-fashioned ways of the living that are still around in this hectic and modern age.

In 2017, we explored Casa San Miguel in Pundaquit, Joey Cobcobo‘s Studio in Mandaluyong, Tamawan Village in Baguio, Mount Samat in Bataan, Bacolor, Baliuag, Crescent Moon Cafe in Antipolo, Casa Manila in Intramuros, Bustos, Angeles, old towns around Samkara, Luisiana, Maragondon, Marinduque, and a Calesa Maker’s Workshop in San Fernando. There will be more of the rural, folksy and nostalgic in Traveler on Foot as we celebrate our 10th year in 2018.

– Rizal Day | 30 December 2017

Published in: on December 30, 2017 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Calesa Maker in San Fernando

WHAT ELSE TO SEE IN SAN FERNANDO. I’ve made several trips to San Fernando City to visit friends or take the connecting rides to bring me to Pampanga towns so by now it is already a familiar destination for Kapampangan food, Holy Week activities at Cutud, Giant Parol Festival in December, ancestral structures and World War II historical markers at its Heritage District.

Missing the bus back to Manila and with plenty of spare time, I arrived aimlessly at the city’s historic core. At a street corner, I caught sight of a lone calesa. The cutchero seemed half-awake from a siesta was waiting for a passenger. The horse, scrawny and bored shooing flies with its tail. Done deal, the cutchero agreed to tour me around heritage houses and the old train station.

SIDE TRIP SURPRISE. As soon as I’m seated comfortably in my old-fashioned ride, the cutchero coaxed the horse from boredom by making two clicking sounds with his tongue. Clippity-clop over the old asphalt-covered streets we past the pre-war Lazatin House that once served as residence to the notorious commander of the Japanese Imperial Army Masaharu Homma.  Then there was Casa Nicolasa, home to Nicolasa Dayrit-Panlilio, the heroine who the helped the sick and wounded Filipino fighters during the Filipino-American War. A fictional character in the film Heneral Luna was inspired by her as the lady from Cruz Roa who attempted to neutralize the dispute between Generals Antonio Luna and Tomas Mascardo.

I asked the cutchero about calesa parts and how much an entire conveyance would cost the horse included. Nakulitan yata because after passing a few more ancestral houses, the manong cutchero suggested ‘gusto mo dalin kita sa pagawaan ng calesa?’ What happens next was an unexpected side trip to a calesa maker’s workshop in Barangay San Jose.

CALESA BY LINGAD. The Lingad family in Barangay San Jose are known to make top of the line calesa since 1959. Most of the calesas we see in San Fernando today were made by Benjamin Lingad, a third generation calesa maker who inherited the calesa making business from his father. His grandfather started making paragos, a carabao-drawn sled. The paragos was widely used to hull sugarcane at a time when San Fernando was sugar town that rivaled Iloilo and Negros in sugar production.

In his workshop, we watched Mang Ben shave and shape narra wood to make different parts of the calesa’s framework. Mang Ben explained that each part is then manually assembled to form the cart’s chassis, sides, seat, hood, limbers, and the two wheels. It takes three months to make one calesa.

CALESA WHEELS. The workshop has an area for its smith where Fred Paul hammers the metal reinforcements of the calesa’s wheel.

The calesa was introduced to the country during the 18th century. It was a luxury and a status symbol to own a calesa that was powered by two to four horses, which in the olden days were referred to as coche de lujo or carruaje de primera clase. While the two-wheeled cart drawn by a single horse ferried the common folk to church, marketplaces, and neighboring towns.

EPILOGUE: KALESA. With the coming of new technology in transportation at the turn of the 20th century, the calesa slowly became less preferred ride and only seen as a lowly at least as an old-fashioned historical relic as described in the song lyrics by National Artist for Music Levi Celerio: 

Kalesa ay panghatid tuwina
Nung panahon nina Maria Clara
Mga bayani nitong bayan
Sa kalesa’y dinuduyan

Published in: on December 18, 2017 at 12:39 am  Comments (1)  

Marinduque

MARIN+DUQUE. The legend tells about the powerful South Luzon king Datu Batumbacal who ordered the beheading of a fisherman-poet named Garduque when he discovered the love affair between the commoner and his daughter, Prinsesa Marin. The lovers sailed out into the sea but drowned. A heart-shaped island instantly rose from the waters between Mindoro and Quezon Province. Just like in today’s popular on-screen love teams, AlDub, DongYan, KathNiel, JaDine, and KimErald, the isolated island was named after the tragic lovers as MarinDuque.

Once a year, a beheading is staged but nothing in reference to the star-crossed love team. It is about the one-eyed Roman centurion Longinus who regained sight when a drop of blood from the crucified Christ spurted into his blind eye. His conversion into Christianity and beheading is reenacted in a rowdy and flamboyant Holy Week street theater complete with masks and garb in the towns of Mogpoc, Boac, and Gasan. Spectators crowd the piers and this island province becomes a little harder to reach at this time of the year. When the yearly Moriones Festival ends in Easter, Marinduque goes back to sleep again.

TOO EARLY FOR LENT. We arrived in Marinduque four months before the next Holy Week. At six in the morning, its provincial capital, Boac is still suspended between slumber and wakefulness. The shops located at the ground floor of old houses are still closed. At least there’s warm taho to nourish us from the seven-hour trip, first four by bus to Dalahican pier and then the rest by ferry to Balanacan port.

Boac has an endearing blend of old-fashioned charm and practical modernity. During our gentle stroll along the narrow streets of the sleepy town center, we gazed at the facade of centuries-old ancestral dwellings named Casa Narvas, Capitan Piroco Mansion, and Casa de Don Emilio Lardizabal. Other old houses seemed to be restored, repainted or rebuilt following their original pre-war bahay-na-bato configurations and some with Art Deco design elements. These post-war houses fit in perfectly both as dwellings for its old time residents on the upper floor and stores of modern conveniences at the ground level.

BREAKFAST IN BOAC. At around eight, Boac began to stir with activities from the early joggers doing their stretching right in front of the old Casa Real and Tribunal and the store openers of cafes and gift shops at the ground floor of heritage houses surrounding the town plaza.

Our first meal for the day of corned beef, tapsilog, and lomi noodles soup immediately made us feel at home in Marinduque. Tap-si-log is a contraction of tapa, sinangag, and itlog. Tapa is beef strips that were marinated in calamansi juice, salt and pepper and then air-dried under the sun until they are chewy like beef jerky. Then they are fried and served with fried garlic rice (sinagang), sunny-side up eggs (itlog), and vinegar dip. Lomi noodles are thicker than spaghetti. Its sauce is thickened with starch. Its flavor is from the sautéed garlic, pork meat and liver, soy sauce and calamansi juice mixture.

BIGLANG AWA DEL BOAC. After breakfast, we explored the Boac Cathedral and its ancient fortification. Like in the case of most islands during the Spanish period, Moro raids were a common threat to local communities. Moro pirates would raid towns to kidnap the natives and then sell them to the slave market so the natives built a wall of river stones around the cathedral.

A massive Moro raid took place in the mid-18th century. The natives ran to the cathedral-fortress for refuge. Brave men defended the outer walls  while the womenfolk and children prayed the Rosary before the image of their patroness, the Immaculate Concepcion. Food started to ran-out and defeat was impending. Then during a sudden storm, a lady clothe in pure white was seen on the walls of the fortress waving her hand like shooing away the invading Moros. Frightened, the Moros retreated. The natives later found image of the Immaculate Concepcion with mud around its skirt and train. This is the first miracle attributed to the Immaculate Concepcion which received the name as Nuestra Señora de Biglang Awa del Boac.

BOAC CATHEDRAL. An enduring legacy of the Franciscan friars to Marinduque was Catholicism which they introduced in 1580. The Cathedral architecturally known for its massive buttresses, stone parapets, fortress wall were built by the natives using river stones from Boac River.

Local craftsmen carved the Cathedral doors with bass-relief of the four evangelists and the Baroque retablo that is graced with images of saints and the Nuestra Señora de Biglang Awa del Boac that was brought in by the Jesuits to Marinduque.

MORIONES MASK. From Boac we traveled to neighboring town of Mogpog. Here, sculpting wooden masks of Roman centurions with fierce facial expressions for the traditional Lenten street drama of the Moriones begins as early as December. But all-year round, the sound of chisel tapping on frangrant santol wood and flying wood dust fill the workshop of Dick Malapote who has been carving morion masks since 1979.

Masks are worn by the menfolk in Marinduque during the staging of the Moriones as a life-long vow or panata. The first Morion actor was a kampanero from Mogpog named Tata Bentong. Later, the tradition flourished in Boac and Gasan. During World War II, Moriones masks were placed at the beach front to trick the Japanese invaders of fierce warriors that are guarding the island. To save the first Morion masks, some were buried in earth along with santos while others were kept in the silong. Those that were buried in soil did not last the next century. Upon reaching old age, a Morion actor have the option to pass the mask to an heir in order to continue the family ritual or have the mask buried with him upon death to signify the end of a life-long panata.

CASA DE DON EMILIO. After all the walking to look for the old structures in Boac and searching for the Moriones mask maker in Mogpog,  we headed at ancestral house of Don Emilio Lardizabal in Boac which was converted for adaptive reuse as a restaurant conveniently located right in front of the old town plaza.

The house has a floor plan of a typical wealthy land lord’s residence during the Spanish period. The lower floor or silong that used for storing grains was converted into a modern cafe. The upper floor had a caida with doors that lead to the sala mayor and comedor. With some old-looking furniture and artifacts displayed the Kusina sa Plaza provides an evocative setting of Marinduque in the olden days to its patrons.

MARINDUQUE FOOD HERITAGE. In Marinduque, people love to eat and that love is extended to its visitors at Kusina sa Plaza. Served were the hearty sour soup with shrimp and buko strips called ulang-ulang. The kare kare, not the comfort food with peanut sauce but in Marinduque this dish has the similar texture and taste of sizzling dinuguan. Adobo sa dilaw sa gata that tastes heavenly when paired with steaming fragrant rice. All have coconut cream flavor.

Coconut-based dishes are known in Marinduque. Buko is young coconut popular for its juice. The buko meat is scrapped to make pies and salads. The bingi is the in-between stage coconut when the meat is plaint and soft but has enough body to survive cooking. It is used for Southern Tagalog dished like pancit buko, sinigang sa buko, ulang-ulang. The mature coconut is off course is known as the source of coconut milk. First squeeze of a grated coconut meat is called kakang gata. Second and third squeezes water is added to produce coconut milk. Grated coconut meat is used as toppings for bibingka and binatog.

GASAN’S ULANG-ULANG. An old timer in Boac suggested that we look for kagang, Marinduque’s seawater crab in Gasan. Since we have lots of time to spare, we traveled south of the island to Gasan market but the crabs were nowhere. While waiting for a ride back to Boac, I chatted with a local. Told him about the purpose of our visit in town. He volunteered to drive us to Barangay Pinggan to take chances in finding the kagang. We found what we were looking for at the beach for 15 pesos a piece. Now, how to cook them? No problem. The locals were kind enough to prepare our second lunch in Marinduque.

Proud of their food heritage, Mely Sadiwa prepared the dish called ulang-ulang by opening the shell and flaking the kagang crab meat. It is mixed with buko strips. Spiced with onion and salt, the mixture is stuffed back into the ube-colored crab shells. Nothing is wasted because the rest of the mixture is wrapped in banana leaf ala-suman and is tied to the crab. All this is cooked in a big kawa of coconut cream.

EPILOGUE: MARINDUQUE ALL YEAR ROUND. The highlight of our trip to Marinduque on this chilly yet sunny December is having paluto-style lunch by the beach in Gasan. We’ll miss this ulang-ulang delicacy in heavy coconut milk.

Marinduque is not only at its best during Moriones Festival in summer. At anytime of the year, you can expect romantic towns, heritage food, and unmatched kindness from its people.

Published in: on December 12, 2017 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment