Sometimes, food is the only thing that can make you feel a little better. A few weeks ago, I lost a dear and wonderful friend -- too quickly and too suddenly. No one had the chance to say good bye.
Bambi Borromeo, friend for over 35 years, was a true blue "Bacolodian" and in a serendipitous turn of events, suddenly found himself immersed in a second career after retirement -- as indefatigable and much sought after tour guide in his beloved hometown.
These past years I had been to Bacolod to visit Bambi and had taken his tours a number of times -- he put a lot of effort and work in planning the perfect itineraries for me -- and yes, it always ended with a fantastic, sumptuous Ilonggo meal.
I discovered Emma Lacson's most scrumptious pili tarts through Bambi, who whisked us up to the owner's kitchen to see, to taste and yes to buy.
Thanks to Bambi, my friends and I were able to gain access to places that no ordinary tour guide could have arranged for -- such as the esteemed Rev. Monsignor Gaston's ancestral home, Hacienda Rosalia. Because Bambi was a good friend of the Monsignor's, we were treated to a feast of the family's favourite recipes, not the least was the Monsignor's very own french onion soup.
From a Spanish era hacienda to a seaside kubo (native hut) on stilts over the mudflats of Balaring Bay ... every meal with Bambi was a discovery of the richness and expansiveness of Ilonggo cuisine.
And throughout each meal, Bambi gamely discoursed on the origins and back story of what we were eating or who owned the restaurant and what its history was -- always told with the perfect blend of information and entertainment.
Here's a photo of Bambi and me at Pendy's in Bacolod -- probably waiting for our batchoy to be served. I am grateful for all the inasal, piaya, mango tarts, laswa, tinola, etc etc that we shared together.
Not to mention the bottles of wine and beer from our "salad days" as Will Shakespeare would have said (and Bambi would have agreed, being the erudite Atenista and English Lit major that he was).
So I am sure, as I write this with a heavy heart, that Bambi approves of my having found comfort and solace in a good meal during my short trip to Bacolod to attend his wake.
He would have understood the fact I made the time to have a good dinner, in a place that he definitely would have endorsed.
Forgive me ... this is a hybrid tribute and food post but it's hard to separate Bambi from my Ilonggo food memories as he gave me so much to taste and treasure.
It made perfect sense to have a pre-wake dinner at 27th Bascon, which was right across the funeral parlour. It may seem gruesome but as Bambi would have said in his own inimitable fashion ...
"Hala Mamoosh, go!"
The menu is of a blend of both Ilonggo and spanish-influenced dishes. We had their version of a black paella which interestingly had the black rice and the squid set off on opposite sides of the sizzling plate. The squid was marinated in a slightly sweetish spicy sauce which made me think of chinese food. It may have been a slightly confused dish but no matter -- it tasted good.
We ordered the Ilonggo standard -- KBL or kadyos (a black bean), baboy (pork) and langka (green jackfruit). The soup was pleasantly sour and the pork was very tender. I loved the langka but I wished there were more of the kadyos.
We had hoped to toast Bambi's life and friendship with a good bottle of wine and some cheese but 27th Bascon only had beer.
I guess our wine and cheese party in his honour will have to wait.
As we were in the sugar capital of the Philippines, it would have been remiss and thoughtless
(and Bambi would have been aghast) if we did not end our meal with dessert.
In addition to the restaurant, 27th Bascon has a cafe right next door specialising in sugar laden cakes, pies and desserts.
Abe and I shared a mango pavlova -- plus strong black coffee to fortify ourselves through the rest of the night.
I spent just about 12 hours in Bacolod. I was up at dawn to catch the first flight back to Manila.
A short but much needed trip -- comforting to have paid my last respects to an unforgettable friend and comforting too to have enjoyed a good meal in his honour.
Bambi Borromeo 1950 - 2014
Till we meet (and eat) again
Till we meet (and eat) again