Sunday, July 27, 2008

Roaming Ilocos: Laoag 2nd Dinner, Nightlife

Ehem! There is supposed to be nothing to blog about my second nite in Laoag City. This was supposed to be a private dinner with friends who were staying at Fort Ilocandia but were driving around the Vigan and Paoay area for the day. They tried to retrace my roam yesterday. They were happily out and about. Even went to places that I did not anymore go to, like the Malacanang of the north and so on. But alas, they had what I did not have – the convenience of their own car, which turned out to be the bummer for the day! Hmm, that affected me incidentally.

Why? I ended up alone (again) at dinner. Hmp! I should have stayed overnight at Pagudpud! Argh! Anyway, as if am not used to this hehe, I caught myself at the agreed venue, La Preciosa, on a reserved table for 4 but I was all solo! Good that my friends who reserved the table did not pre-order the food, otherwise I could have been out for a night of gluttony (again) hehe. Where were my supposed dinner companions? Out and lost on a desolate part of a provincial side-road where their ‘socialite’ of a Honda civic decided to rest in peace! Awrrr! While they did so, I had to do some calls of my own lest my unlucky friends be in harms way. Turns out, they were at some ‘walkable’ distance from their fort Ilocandia. Gosh!

So, I feasted on “Bagnet w/ KBL” and a fish affair that am not sure if it was “Nilengta Nga Ikan” or “Bucto”. Don’t panic my dears, I’ll describe them for you! First is the “Bagnet with KBL”. Bagnet, you probably alredy know about it. That’s the main Ilocano pride of a delectable meat dish. That’s what you see in many pasalubong stores and market stalls all over Ilocos. Meat hung to dry in the open, and when fried, yummy crispy pork, similar to but definitely tastier than the ‘crispy liempo’ in Manila. The other dish on my table was fish wrapped in banana leaves and stewed in vinegar. Whether it was named “Nilengta Nga Ikan” or “Bucto”, it tasted like “paksiw” to me! I do believe it would have been the nilengta cuz knowing myself, I would have been attracted to the word “ikan” since that is the very same word for fish in Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia. Plus, both are supposed to be stewed in vinegar anyway. Plus, I must have had second thoughts on reading “local exotic fish”! When it comes to my tongue and tummy, I am almost sure anything called exotic, I will not want to try hehe. So, nothing fancy here, just crispy pork and paksiw. I am not that adventurous on food, remember?!

My waiter probably took pity that I was dining alone at an upstairs round table for 5 or 6 diners. So, every available lull period he had, he stayed nearby to keep me company and answer some of my questions or tell me things that I wanted to know or was curious about. That was my table btw, before the food was served. However, I discovered there is some kind of a verandah area that also had tables and chairs. I transferred to that part when I was just trying to finish my coke, so I could smoke. And at least I was away from those big tables with lovers, families or groups who were definitely wondering why there was just me, myself and I on my table hehe! Waiter followed me there and suggested drinks, so I said SanMigLight. And I asked more questions , and he gladly answered!

Here are some of the stories…

Long long time ago… when freezers and refrigerators were still unheard of, the people of Ilocos discovered a way to preserve their pork, since they could not eat all of the pig in one sitting, right? If in other provinces our forebears salted their meat, the Ilocanos came up with a better idea. They’d boil the untouched meat to “half-cooked” then sun-dry them before being kept in containers, or just hang them over the cooking areas of their houses. That way the meat would not easily rot. They’d come to slice a piece if and when they saw fit to eat the pork again, which was not too often anyway since Ilocanos ever since were/are more on the veggie lovers than true-blue carnivores. They would usually grill the bagnet, but when the ‘fry everything era’ came, everyone realized how tasty the bagnet was when fried. As the years passed, the delicacy was passed from generation to generation and people from other places noticed it, such that it became not only a “technology to share” but even “a product to sell”! That, my waiter educated me, is how bagnet came to be. He did inform me that these days, due to demand, many supposedly bagnet vendors already omit the open-air drying portion.

KBL. Well yes, that was/is the famous political party of the ‘great Ilocano son’. Still is in this part of the country, I think. If in Metro Manila we are now used to hearing that KBL means “kasal, binyag, libing” (the policemen in motorbikes who accompany you on such events – weddings, baptisms and funerals) in La Preciosa they made the KBL as catch-phrase too, but it means Kamatis(tomatoes), Bagoong(shrimp paste) and Lazona(onions). Waiter intimated that it is just their way of making the thing more catchy. Anyway, I asked if “ikan” is an Ilocano word for fish. He answered yes but said that others also call it “sida” though. And as if he read my mind, he continued to regale me that the word “ikan” also means fish in Malaysia. I added “and Indonesia too” and told him I speak the language. So the topic naturally swayed a bit towards similar words in Bahasa and Ilocano.

Well, I enjoyed my dinner at La Preciosa just the same even if I was alone, since the suppsed dinnetmates ‘paralyzed’ the rest of their travel plans thanks to their pesky little car. But I moved on!

After dinner, I opted for a leisurely walk around. I knew there are bus stations in the area, so I thought I might as well check them out perchance I discover something better than Maria De Leon for my trip back to Manila tomorrow night. But OMG, I instead chanced upon this restaurant called Ravanden’s Grill. The place looked attractive so I went in. Not to dine again, hello, but just to see the place. Hmm, nice! If La Preciosa is of the old aristocratic house setting, Ravanden’s Grill is of the farmhouse and garden type. I like the outdoor area, its tastefully done. But what else do I do in such a lovely restaurant when I just came out of La Preciosa?! So I ordered a bottle of SanMigLight hehe! Nice place to come back to in Laoag. Noted!

On with my walk and I oscillated towards the city hall since that would be my way back to Hotel tiffany. Plus, I thought I might as well pass by the Farinas Bus or Maria De Leon to reserve a seat on my tomorrow night’s departure. I knew these two big companies are near the city hall. Hmm, circling around the Farinas Bus Station, I chanced upon this place named “Cockhouse’ that was a hub of some nightlife activity. It looked fairly regular to me, I mean the so-so not so swanky kind of joint. But when I entered, I was surprised that drinking and smoking place as it is, there were families with kids in attendance. Well the band with sexy girls for singers was good, and the crowd liked them. Alas, some folks kept coming to ask me if I wanted girls. Even everytime a waiter puts down my beers, the some question would be asked. Pimps! After my third bottle, which incidentally was just after the band finished its set, I bolted out and continued my walk.

The city hall area and the park/monument areas teem with ‘dark-of-night’ activities. I just passed by and paused a bit for a good view of their capitol that looks mighty grand with those lights.

Well, that was some really long and interesting day!


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