Friday, September 2, 2016

Two reasons to visit Maragondon, Cavite -- the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church and the Museo ng Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio

Less than 50 years after they were established by St Ignatius de Loyola, the Jesuits were already
off to the Philippines, in pursuit of more souls to convert to Catholicism.  They arrived in 1581,
on the heels of the Augustinians and the Franciscans and proceeded to establish their own missions and parishes, first in Luzon and later on in the Visayas and Mindanao.
However, in 1767 King Charles III of Spain ordered the suppression and expulsion of the order so
the good padres were deported back to Spain. 

In the more than 150 years from the time they first landed, the Jesuits were able to build quite a 
few churches, some of which still stand today.  On our recent Cavite Culinary and History Tour
we visited one -- the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion church in the small but historically significant 
town of Maragondon.  The church stands at the end of a long driveway and with its clean,  
Spanish colonial lines,  is quite a majestic sight.  
The Jesuits established the parish in 1618 but this stone church was finished nearly 100 years later, 
in 1714.  When the Jesuits left the country in 1768,  the parish was given over to the secular clergy and even served as an outpost for Gen. Aguinaldo's men during the revolution. 
The well maintained and well preserved Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion church is one of the 26 churches in the country designated as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Cavite played a major role in the Galleon Trade as the "Manila" galleons were built in the shipyards of the province.  Thus you can see a galleon on the intricately carved wooden doors of this church, along with other ecclesiastical and floral motifs.  

 The church interiors are beautiful.  Behind the main altar is the retablo, covered with beaten silver plates and where the statue of the Our Lady of the Assumption stands, right above the Tabernacle.
The retablo rises all the way to the top, to the ceiling of the church's dome which is painted a vivid sky blue.  I am always happy to see a church that has kept its communion rails and the ones in Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion are polished to a shiny gleam.  

There is an ornate pulpit marked with IHS,  the letters used by St. Ignatius as the symbol 
for the Society of Jesus. The other panels feature the letters AMR which I guess must refer to 
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven (Asuncion del Maria, Reina).

As I was about to leave the church,  one of the ladies in the group pointed out this old tombstone marker almost at floor level.  Mr.  Modesto Porrin passed away on June 12, 1898 -- the date when Philippine Independence was declared in Kawit, Cavite just 30 kilometres away! 
Did he know that the revolution had been a success?  Did he die a happy and fulfilled man?
Was he a casualty of the war?  Or did he die of natural causes?
It does not say how old he was but he must have been widowed as the marker says "ala ala ng mga anak" with no mention of the "asawa" or spouse.  So many possible stories from one small plain tombstone. 

But I could not stay in the church, musing about Mr. Porrin.  Our guide, Cavite historian 
Ige Ramos shepherded us all to our next destination.  
Just a few blocks away from the church is the Museo ng Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio or the Museum of the Trial of Andres Bonifacio.   
This bahay-na-bato, built in 1889 by Teodorico Reyes was the actual venue of the trial where the Supremo was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.  

I was not even aware that this museum existed.  The house had been donated to the government 
and in 1997,  then President Estrada proclaimed it as a National Heritage Site.  I guess this is one 
of the  few good things that came out of his administration. 

A shiny brass door knocker glares fiercely at me.  Perhaps it also does not agree with what happened inside this house in May, 1897

Upon entering the museum, this bust of the Supremo is the first thing I see.  In my opinion, formed  from reading different viewpoints of Philippine history, Andres Bonifacio certainly got a bum rap.  
He may have had his faults but he was tried unfairly, shot and even worse, was never given a proper and decent burial.  Do we even know where Bonifacio's bones lie? 

A museum guide, a young man who is very well spoken led us up to the second floor, where 
the main exhibits are.  Large murals are mounted on the walls and there are written accounts of what transpired here.  

The museum is well laid out, taking visitors through the timeline of what transpired, from the time that Bonifacio arrived in Cavite to the breakdown of his relationship with both the Magdiwang and Magdalo factions and finally to the capture, trial and sentencing of the Supremo.

Our guide ushers us into the main part of the museum -- the room where the trial was 
held.  When we come in, the room is dark.   I can barely make out the life size statues of Bonifacio
his brother Procopio and the members of the military tribunal that conducted the court martial.
The statues  are posed as if they were about to speak.  
And because this is an interactive museum, having been modernised two years ago, we actually 
do hear them "speak".  With the push of a button, our guide sets the show in motion.  
As each character speaks, the spotlight falls on the statue -- it's history as theatre.  
I found it dramatic and powerful.  And yes, quite disturbing.  I felt anger and pain as I listened to the false accusations of treason against the Supremo
Because he was a member of the proletariat, unpolished and unsophisticated -- he never had a chance against the high and mighty,  the scheming and ambitious illustrados of Cavite led by Gen. Aguinaldo. 

After the "light and sound" show, we moved to the next room where we were greeted with 
the haunting and expressive voice of Aiza Seguerra singing "Sa Huli ang Sikat".   The music 
was composed by Ms Seguerra and Francis de Veyra,  and the lyrics are from a poem written 
by Bonifacio's wife, Gregoria de Jesus.
It is at once a tribute and a lament for a lost husband.  Our guide told us that Oriang, as she was called, did not even know her husband had been shot and spent months and months searching 
for him, to no avail.  Underlying the great historical tragedy that was the death of Bonifacio is this personal tragedy, no less great,  where a woman lost the man she loved.

As we leave the room, a very appropriate quote by the Supremo is mounted on the wall.  Indeed, 
no one can hide any secrets,  let history be the judge of what happened to Andres Bonifacio.

Despite his circumstances,  Andres Bonifacio had greatness.  On the wall by the staircase are simple renditions of his "Sampung Utos ng mga Anak ng Bayan" -- his own ten commandments, his "dekalogo".  He wrote these ten simple rules as to how his Katipuneros should conduct themselves, as God fearing, patriotic Filipinos -- ready to give up their lives for love of country and freedom.

This is Jonel, our young,  knowledgeable and yes, very objective museum guide.  
Thank you, Jonel for steering me through this chapter of Bonifacio's and the nation's history.  
I believe this museum is a must visit place particularly for our young people -- it will help give them a better understanding of history and how what we know about the past can help shape our future. 


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Something Old, Something New at Calle Real, Tanza Cavite

It's always a pleasure to discover well and long-loved local restaurants.  With so many fast
food places invading even the smaller towns and municipalities -- it's getting harder to find a restaurant that is so local, it is part of the culinary traditions of the town.  

On our Cavite Culinary and History tour by Clang Garcia's Food Holidays and led by Cavite 
native Ige Ramos, we were assured that we would be visiting (and eating from) as much of this historic province's enduring culinary landmarks as could be fitted into our one-day tour.  
Ige rued that while Cavite has many eateries and dining places that serve  traditional recipes,
 most of these were relatively unknown, except to the Caviteños.
By introducing these places to us non-Caviteños, he hoped that they would reach a new and wider audience. 

Food Holidays'  jeepney-on-steroids and our ride for the day parked in the spacious compound of the ancestral home of the Tahimic family in Tanza, Cavite.  This is where the restaurant Calle Real is located,  run by the descendants of the original owners.

Our group was welcomed into our private own dining room where we were greeted by this lit neon sign.   Cavite hospitality at its warmest best at Calle Real!

Calle Real takes up the entire first floor of this old house.  The interiors are simple but very tasteful.
I loved the elegant chandelier hanging in the dining room.   Ige mentioned that ancestral homes in Cavite do not conform to the magnificent bahay-na-bato that we normally associate ancestral homes with.  Cavite's "ancestral mansions" according to Ige are not as grand and are more unostentatious. 

This is Ms Millie Tahimic Lozada, direct descendant of one of the two Tahimic brothers who 
owned this house.  Together with her husband, they have made Calle Real a showcase of traditional 
Cavite dishes.  Eating at Calle Real is much like being invited into a Caviteño's home, to enjoy 
a meal made from recipes handed down from generation to generation.

We enjoyed fork tender beef caldereta with thinly sliced fried camote on the side.  This was topped with grated cheese, something new to me but which is I suppose how caldereta is served in Cavite

Calle Real served a more modern version of pork binagoongan where deep fried liempo slices had 
been lightly covered with very good, not-too-salty sautéed bagoong.  Lightly blanched eggplant is
the perfect complement.

The dish that I found most unique -- and which Ige said was very traditional and common  -- was 
this noodle dish called "calandracas".  
First of all, I was struck by the name.  When I was young, my father used this word quite often, 
usually in reference to my "kalat" (messiness).  
"Ang dami mong calandracas!"  ("You have so much clutter!") he would say in exasperation, 
while surveying my unmade up room.  
Calle Real's calandracas, is slightly wet but not soupy made with sotanghon, bits of chicken, vegetables and pork.  It must have been cooked with shrimp broth since I could really taste the 
sweet-salty flavour of shrimp.  
Other variants exist,  Ige said some are soup based and use other types of noodles.  It would seem each Cavite family has their own version. 
What is the etymology of "calandracas"?  According to Ige, during Spanish times, when a death occurred in a family, neighbours  came together to help out and donate whatever they could afford.  
More often than not, this was in the form of food -- vegetables from their garden, some fish or 
shrimp caught that afternoon, maybe a chicken from their backyard.  
All these donations made it into one communal dish -- the bits and pieces of kindness and help that people gave to each other in times of distress. What an interesting back story for this Cavite specialty.

Ige said that cooking with squid ink is very common in Cavite -- he claims that Caviteños introduced the use of squid ink in food  to the Mexicans via the Galleon Trade.  We all know paella negra which is squid ink paella.   I enjoyed Calle Real's version -- so tasty, with full-on squid flavour.  It almost tasted as if the rice had been cooked in adobong pusit!

After that lunch of delightful Cavite dishes, Ms Millie invited us all to go upstairs and tour the 
rest of the house. 

If Calle Real is for groups and families and serves traditional home cooked Cavite favourites, 
Ms Millie has transformed the upstairs part of the house into a very comfortable hang out place 
for younger Caviteños.  A dainty table greets us as we go up the stairs and gives a hint of what's 
in store.

Isn't this just too charming?  The second floor of the ancestral Tahimic Mansion has taken on a new look!  Swathes of bright pink, baby pink, light pink, carnation pink -- all shades of pink  are festooned in between the antique furniture and decor.  This place is called ... what else but The Pink Table.

The rooms of the house which used to be the family's bedrooms and sitting rooms are now
small parlours where guests can sit, have coffee, iced drinks and light snacks.   The Pink Table 
is adorable --  girly, whimsical  and yes,  so instagram worthy! Notice the antique wooden chairs?

Here's how they blended the old with the new in this slightly bigger but oh-so-cozy room -- period chairs and the sofa are spruced up with chintzy floral cushions, pink velvet pillows and dark pink curtains. Notice the "sliding panels" on the window?  These are common in old houses and allow fresh,  cooling breezes  to flow through.  It's the pre-cursor of air-conditioning!

A small dining table has been placed in this room with pretty mint green walls.  Floral, lightly faded curtains add a country cottage touch.  Small frames with sayings such as "I love you a bushel, a peck and a hug around the neck"  keep the mood sweet and light.

I expected nothing less than these old fashioned coffee cups!  

These vintage  creamer and sugar sets certainly look very much at home at the Pink Table!

I was too full of calandracas and paella negra from Calle Real so I begged off from trying the cinnamon dusted churros served with Cavite's special chocolate eh.  I did try a cookie which reminded me of camachile biscuits.

Here's our entire tour group gathered in the delightful sala of the Tahimic Mansion, now also known as The Pink Table.  There is our host, Ms Millie seated on the leftmost --  most appropriately dressed in a pretty pink blouse and shiny pink flip flops.  
Who would have thought that I would find this enchanting and yes uber-pink coffee nook in the middle of Tanza, Cavite?

It was certainly a treat to have discovered  a local restaurant steeped in local culinary traditions 
plus a contemporary, cozy cafe' -- right in the same place.    Here's to Calle Real and The Pink Table ... old and new existing beautifully together!


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bienvenido a Mercado del Ciudad de Cavite y Carinderia al Aling Ika!

Hola!  Que tal man usted? 

Chavacano, a spanish style dialect is still spoken in very few places in the Philippines -- the most well known are Cavite and Zamboanga.  Jay and I recently took a Cavite Culinary and History tour  and I heard chavacano being spoken,  right in the heart of the Cavite City Public Market.
It certainly made me wish I had paid more attention during all those spanish classes in high school and college. 

Our air conditioned jeepney arrived at the Cavite City Public Market in Barangay San Roque at a time when most of the early regular shoppers had come and gone.  But since it was a Saturday and "market" day,  the place was still bustling with activity.

Nothing like a visit to the public market to get a feel and sense of a town and its people.  
The orderly and neat palengke certainly speaks well about the people of Cavite City

Our tour guide, Cavite son Ige Ramos walked us through the stalls where the local specialties were sold.  This is his suki for tinapang salinas, a smoked  dried fish that Cavite is famous for.

This little table stocked with homemade bagoong (shrimp paste) and patis (fish sauce)  looked 
so tempting!

I really wanted to buy some of the local patis.   Cavite's patis is darker and more intense with 
a deep, umami rich flavour.  However,  the fear of causing a pungent stink in the coaster kept 
me from taking a few bottles home.

The province of Cavite is a peninsula, jutting out into Manila Bay.  Its location makes it a prime source for fresh fish and seafood.  I hadn't seen torsillo in such a long time!  This barracuda like fish was a favourite of my father's, for making paksiw. 

Another paksiw favourite that my father liked was chabeta.  It was nice to get re-acquainted here, 
in the Cavite City palengke.  If I had explored some more, I am sure I would have found more familiar favourites. 

Kalamay has the power to make me stop dead in my tracks.   This is a bilao of a Caviteño delicacy -- 
a latik-topped rice cake that is eaten with a ginataan sauce.  

We passed by a stall that makes lumpia wrappers -- see the hot griddles where the batter is spooned out.  See also the lumpia wrapper maker napping on one side -- taking a break from the rigours of  lumpia wrapper making.

The lumpia wrappers are packed and waiting for buyers.  When I was young, they were stacked 
in 10s or 20s with banana leaves in between.  Now they're wrapped in more sanitary air tight plastic bags.   I much prefer the old fashioned and environmentally correct packaging. 

The dry goods section has all sorts of indispensable household stuff  -- including these Hello Kitty and robot drummers.

Ige finally manages to shepherd us all to our eating stop --  Aling Ika's carinderia.  I suppose every full blooded resident of Cavite City has at one point in his life eaten and enjoyed Aling Ika's food.  Ige also said that balikbayans  make a beeline for this place, to recapture the much craved for 
tastes of home.

The carinderia dates back to pre-war days so Aling Ika has long since retired to that huge airy 
kitchen in the sky.  Her surviving family members run the carinderia, keeping her memory and 
her best loved recipes alive. 

Since it's past peak dining hours for the carinderia when we arrive, the ulam (viands) in the eskaparate (glass showcase)  are nearly  depleted.  But no matter,  Ige reassured us that he has "reserved" the best for us to taste.  

What we normally call ukoy or shrimp fritters, the Caviteños call "basag ulo" or literally, "smash heads".  "Basag ulo" which is slang for a fight or scuffle refers to the heads of the shrimp, 
pounded or "smashed" for flavour before being fried in a batter along with the chopped vegetables. 
Dip the "basag ulo" in a spicy toyo and suka sauce and experience a pounding of your tastebuds. 

Thank goodness Ige had them put some pancit puso aside for us to try.  This uniquely Caviteño noodle dish uses bihon (rice noodles),  miki (egg noodles) and strands of puso ng saging 
(heart of banana).  
I think the thinly sliced puso ng saging is first made into a  kilawin (cooked in vinegar) before 
it is sautéed with the noodles --  thus giving the pancit a deliciously  light tart taste.  
Aling Ika's version comes with chicharon (pork crackling) pieces which add a salty crunch, tying 
all the flavours together.  
I very much enjoyed my mouthful of pancit puso  and strangely enough, it reminded me of a 
mild version of my all-time pancit favourite ... pancit malabon.   It must be the "maasim-asim, maalat-alat" flavour profile.

Caviteños love their chicharon.   The fresh vegetable lumpia or lumpia fresca as they call it in chavacano is generously topped with more chicharon bits -- a welcome variation from the chopped peanuts that I am normally used to.  The lumpia is so good, there is no need for any sauce. 

Aling Ika's tortang alimasag (crab omelet) is one of her best sellers.  It's such a crowd favourite that the carinderia runs out of it very early in the day.   Thankfully, one large slice had been set aside for us so we each had a small bite.  
The tortang alimasag was excellent!  The crab was sweetish and fresh and tasted like it had just 
been  caught that morning -- as it probably had been.  
No extenders or fillers in this torta -- just a generous amount of fresh alimasag sautéed with 
onions and tomatoes,  with a bit of red pimiento perhaps?  A bit of paprika maybe?  I guess I'll just have to eat more to find out!

For dessert, we just had to try Aling Ika's version of the popular bibingkoy.  It starts off as plain 
mochi -- glutinous rice cake squares with a browned almost blackened top crust and filled with 
soft sweet red beans.   We have the same rice cake in Bataan, where I come from.   I have always liked the gooey-gummy mouthfeel of mochi. 

But wait, don't eat that bibingkoy just yet!  Wait for the coup de grace  --  a topping of  creamy, 
rich ginataan (coconut cream dessert)  mildly flavoured with langka (jackfruit) and studded 
with bilo bilo (glutinous rice balls).    I felt like I was eating two things at the same time, the chewy, bean filled mochi and the classic ginataan.  Dessert overload at Aling Ika's carinderia!

It's business as usual despite all of us crowding around and trying to take photos of the carinderia and the food.   Ige said that food runs out as the market closes towards noon so if you want to eat at Aling Ika's and order the specials, it's best to get there bright and early!

I leave Aling Ika's and the market with smiling tastebuds.   It's unheard of that I go to the palengke and leave without buying anything.  But we still had a few more stops to go on our Culinary and History tour and the things I wanted to buy were either perishable (the fish) or potentially "offensive" (the patis).  It does give me the perfect excuse to plan  a trip back to the Mercado del Ciudad de Cavite soon! 

Gracias,  anda ya yo!