The engineers and officers arrived from that nearby hill they went to. Interesting to overhear them that there is actually another barangay on the other side of this island (Magsaysay). Ah, I should have gone with them! Too late for that. Add kalamansi to the wound, I still heard one of them say, "the views are great from up there". Argh! Mea Culpa! But I consoled myself with “at least I had just my first-ever tilang encounter”!
Okay, lunch was: Fish, lots of them in various colors and sizes, some fried, some grilled to perfection. Do you know how to tell if grilled fish was fresh from the sea versus fresh from the freezer? I do now, thanks to these folks in Kerikite. No I’m not telling here! You have to roam the islands and learn for yourself! This is proof of what I keep saying that travel is mainly education too. Aside from being fun, our islands are big classrooms too!
Pasayan (shrimps), some boiled in aromatic herbs, some sautéed with butter! Then there was nokus (squid) grilled alive, they told me! There was Pugita kinilaw (octopus ceviche?). Hey did you know the pinkish hue of the kilawin sauce (vinegar and cocomilk) comes from the octopus skin? Yeah, red means strong emotions of fear, anger, excitement – so the pugita probably turns red in panic or desperation before you chop and cook it. Hindi naman siguro love ang color na yan in this instance hehe. Tinolang manok bisaya (native chicken) that I snobbed in favor of the seafood plethora! Masag (sea crabs), OMG I spent an unashamedly voracious love affair with one where a whole “kagat” (arm?) was probably a foot long – and meaty!
I am no fan of vegetables but there was grilled eggplant and I liked it! Particularly tastes even better with the “lamas” (a mixture of chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, etc., sprinkled with vinegar). This lamas looks and tastes more like salsa, and it really goes well not only with the eggplant but with everything else on the table. The whole affair of lamas and eggplant becomes like ensalada, with a very clear taste of having been grilled. I like! And this goes well with the “kalinayan”. Ah, for those not in the know (yet), kalinayan is a variety of rice with a reddish purplish color. People say it tastes better than regular rice. Well, it tastes like ah, rice to me – though I concede it smells more delectable! I know tough, that it’s the more expensive kind - the staple of only the wealthy waray-waray dining tables!
There was cooked banana in two kinds! One was sweeter with a ‘yellower’ color in the middle and smells fruity, though I still liked the regular cooked “saba”. It was only this time I was able to test that it was a good, sometimes better substitute for rice in terms of making your nose, tongue and tummy happy. Yeah, the saba! I did not ask nor did any of my companions tell me. I was watching what they were eating and I actually just emulated them without telling anyone! Now, why do we pity those calamity victims who have no rice so they just eat cooked bananas?! I wonder, isn’t this thing called ‘staple food’ just a mere psychological conditioning of our brains through the years? So, let’s go bananas!
Now now, where did the Tilang go? Ah, it came as we were already devouring all that we could see on the table. But it was what everyone seemed to have been waiting for. Am not sure, I think the way it was done was like “kinilaw” (ceviche) but I saw for myself it was initially dunked into hot boiling water. Not sure what did happen in between hehe. They asked me to try it. Ahm, ah… it tasted like “talaba” (oysters) especially that kalamansi was a dominant taste. But the texture was more of ‘rubbery’ on some parts. Maybe those were the muscles, or the flesh protruding out of the shell - as I was poking it with a stick of Marlboro Lights when still alive! Whatever, at least I can now say, I already ate tilang!
The joke on the table was I should've kept watch as those men sliced the tilang so I could get the 'pearl' that they casually threw out into the marshes! Wheh?! But seriously, I have just seen and eaten the very creature that produces pearls? Hmm, how come "mother of pearl" shells are very thin? That shell where this tilang came from was thick and heavy, probably weighing 5 or 6 kilos!
That’s not all. There was a bevy of ‘panghimagas’ like ira-id, and sweetened bilanghoy, etc., but what grabbed my attention was this big puto. I think they call it “puto bagul”? Ah, where did I last encounter this? Tudela, I think. I had to grab a knife and slice a bit for myself as I know I can’t finish a whole of it. Seeing me do so, one of the ladies sliced them all into quarters. And OMG, this thing has a double-filling pala! I have always liked this kind of puto. The “dough” is made of grated cassava and the filling is bukayo. Only problem is: they’re always too big wherever I see them being sold or served! Ah, I think I saw a bite-sized version of this thing over at that little eskinita called Pelaez Compound (P. Pelaez Ext.) that connects B. Serrano Ave., near Camp Aguinaldo to JP Rizal St. in Project 4, QC!
There were fruits fruits fruits as I mentioned earlier, AND there was Coke. Yeah, THE LIFE!
Alright, all throughout lunch and after, they were still busy talking about the project so I left them to it, as I knew that was rocket science to me. That, until we decided to go back to Calbayog. But did we go back straight to Calbayog? Ah ehh..,
Wait for my next story. A pleasant surprise, a wonderful find, you’ll be interested to know!
For a chronology of this trip's stories, click these numbers: