Monday, January 24, 2005

What Happened to SUTUKIL?

SUTUKIL is a contraction of three cooking terms, SUgba, TUwa and KILaw. Each term is in verb form so it does not refer to the cooked food (or dish) but rather to the way the food is cooked. All three terms are in the Cebuano dialect.

I am not great at kitchen or dining terminologies but let us give this a try! Sugba means grill and if your fish is sinugba it is grilled! That’s easy! Tuwa is ah.. well… Stew! Sometimes Cebuanos themselves spell this as Towa or even the Tagalog term Tola. Further, the term refers only to fish and/or chicken. And the soup is always clear. So if your fish or chicken is Tinuwa/Tinowa, that is stewed. Now Kilaw is hmm… even harder! It is raw fish(usually), cooked in just vinegar with a lot of other ingredients like ginger, onions, pepper, peppercorn, garlic, etc., and usually for people in the visayas, coconut milk! More like of a salad really. No heat or fire. In fact, it’s even more delectable if served chilled. So if your food is kinilaw… well, it has been prepared as described! Bottomline, those three methods of preparing food is so popular amongst cebuanos and now even tourists.

Let’s go back to SUTUKIL, shall we?!

SUTUKIL (and sometimes also SUTOKIL) refers to a cluster of barrio-class eateries that sprouted in Mactan just a stone’s throw from the Mactan Shrine or Lapulapu’s monument. This SUTUKIL establishments are right on the edge of the sea (that is during high tide) where the sea view is actually obstructed by a mini mangrove forest (which is rapidly thinning). Coming from the road, one “was” confronted by a mini fish market. And behind them were open eateries (no walls, just the roof and floors) where visitors go to have lunch or dinner.

The “style” in this place was you go find whatever you want in the fish market stalls, bring them to any of the eateries, have your food cooked the way you wanted and eat them there. A very rural way to have supper actually and that gave it the rustic touch which visitors liked so much. It was so popular that politicians, showbiz personalities, busloads of tourists and Cebuanos themselves flocked to this place like it was a mecca!

I can tell you that back in 1995; I had the unlucky chance of standing outside those eateries with kilos and kilos of fresh seafood yet to be cooked. But none of them could anymore take us in since all were full to the hilt. One of those eateries even had a waiting list on a blackboard! Well, that was back then. In January 1998, we altogether avoided lunch in the place since we were having a hard time getting parking space! In my 2001 visit, I literally crawled to the car at 3AM very drunk after a drinking and karaoke spree with 8 of my “barkada” that I was lucky to have been able to gather from everywhere on the globe! I just needed to show-off you know! January 2003, I was back there with a tour group (2 bus-fulls!) and the only place that seemed to be “habited” was where we were having lunch at!

On a Saturday, January 2005 (Sinulog season!), we passed by the place just to fulfill a friend’s wish that she must see SUTUKIL. We were there at 12:10NN and the place was rather too silent. Barren, in fact. Instead of the sea of vehicles parked everywhere, all we could see was a sea of “palay” being dried on whatever pavement there was. No, we were not to have lunch there anyway! As early as before we flew into Cebu, Cebuano friends in Manila were already vehemently advising us to omit the SUTUKIL like it was a leper colony! So when we were there, all my friend could mutter was “how come this place is so popular even with my friends back in Dublin and my cousins in Amsterdam?” My answer was: “it’s such a long story, let’s talk about it over lunch (at Shang) okay?”

So what really happened to the getting-to-be-world-famous SUTUKIL? I can only share what my lowly mind can come up with! I think and I believe the demise of this sorry place is proof of that perfect combination of ignorance and greed! Period.

Let me annotate that “unfair” conclusion, please. Back in 1995, when I visited this place for the first time, everything was a bargain. For P300, five of us already wanted to look for a place to snooze on since we just had a wonderful fill of everything like prawns, crabs, tanguigue, coke, rice – even the delectable chorizos! I really thought that was gluttony! In 1998, the damn tinola was already P200 (good for 4). When I splurged in 2001, beer was already at 32-pesos a bottle – even more expensive than beer at that open air “inuman” called Boulevard! And in 2003, prices were already comparable to dinner at the Midtown (that’s an uptown hotel). Two pieces of less-than-a-palm size crabs was already 250-pesos “because of cooking charge”! Of course in my 2005 visit, there was nothing to buy! What once was the “palengke” or “talipapa” is now an eerily silent eatery with its front-area disguising as a “palengke” or “talipapa”!

Greed. Just because people were flocking to that place, the vendors there thought they can freely jack their prices up. Prices of everything – including the lowly plastic shopping bag (where you put your items into) were ridiculous. At one-point (2001), I was being charged 50-pesos (no receipts) for the first 3 hours of parking! And I was not in a mall but a desolate barrio in Mactan! Where has the law of diminishing returns gone to? (Oh sorry, non-awareness of that law is ignorance, not greed!)

Ignorance. The owners of SUTUKIL establishments never even bothered how much a serving of calamares cost at that dainty restaurant (also in Mactan) owned by one of the military generals. (Is that resto still alive? Its cozy by the way, and I loved it there!) The SUTUKIL SanMigLight was even just as expensive as it was inside the Delta Philippine Dream! (BTW, is that ship still a hotel?) I enjoyed all of my stays there! And how can I possibly be happy with a cup of garlic rice worth 30-pesos when a few steps away I could have it at 8-pesos in a “turo-turo” along the road!

Well, in sum, SUTUKIL died by wanting to be what it was not – an expensive place!

There is just a premium to everything that people (both locals and tourists alike) put to what is “cheap but acceptable” versus what is “expensive but luxurious”.

Lesson: When you are a SHACK, don’t pretend you are a SHANG!

Interpretation: When your eatery is a house on stilts by the swamps where flies land on your food every millisecond, and even if the Gods patronize you, don’t price your wares like you were a Shangri La – Mactan, because you are not.

So, my dearest Roamers (a.k.a. travelers, tourists, visitors), SUTUKIL is gone. Sadly, yes. And don’t insist on going there. It’s just dead. But don’t despair yet! There are a lot of mushrooming eateries (and restaurants) in a place they call Banilad (in the city, not Mactan).

Do watch out for a joint called AA Restaurant along AS Fortuna (there are two of them there). It’s another SUTUKIL just waiting to happen (or fizzle I should say!). The place is good yes. But the prices are like you should have taken your lunch at Waterfront!

When all goes not so well though, there is still the CnT Lechon across SM City. And if that fizzles too (which I doubt), there is always the SM Food Court ha ha ha!


1 comment :

  1. Great blog! I think it's suppose to be TUla meaning tinola. (SUTUKIL)