How to Eat in a Town Fiesta

Born and raised in Manila, I never really had the chance to experience a real town fiesta. Do not pity me, our parish does have fiesta in honor of our patron saint. However, it is not as fun as how other places celebrate it. By “real” fiesta, I mean house hopping and getting stuffed with dishes every house has to offer.

I believe I mentioned in the previous blog something about learning from experience (late aircrafts, ugh), and from the town fiesta experience I had in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur just two weekends ago, here are some notes and tips on how to survive eating in a town fiesta.

  • Give your tummy an ample room for the (eating) activity. A cup of coffee or tea may already be enough in the morning. If you have a pretty large storage, a few slices of bread would be fine too. You know when they say “pinaghandaan ko to” (I prepared for this)? It’s the most appropriate for this.
  • Skip rice. Isn’t this already the rule of the thumb? Bet you have done this in buffets or all-you-can-eat restaurants. But if you really can’t say no to carbs, take less than a cup. Or mull over the space it will occupy in your stomach. Feeling guilty now?
  • Get food in small portions. Do not hoard ulam (viand). Sample each dish in small amounts and make papak (to eat with no rice) instead. If you like a dish, you can go back anyway. This is also a good way to not make flavors too empowering.

 Clockwise: Fried chicken wings, fish fingers and honey mustard dip, ginger prawns, Lechon, and Menudo.

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  • Get minimal portions of dessert. In the same household as plate number 1, desserts were individually served and equally distributed: a slice of chocolate cake, a square brownie, and a cup of buko salad. I would have wanted to say no to the chocolate cake and brownie, but I had to finish the dessert plate since it was served in front of me. I already felt a little bloated that time. I wonder how much starch and glucose that was!
  • Opt for greens, or dishes with vegetables. It was a blessing the second house had a make your own salad bar. I would have skipped the dressing, but the veggies needed a little more zest. Also, yes, that’s a lechon rib, because that’s a freaking lechon and rib in one.

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  •  Variety. Get at least one dish for every kind of meat. Get at least one dish for every kind of cooking or taste. From the choice of meat below, note that there are no two dishes of the same meat. Also, I kind of picked them out from the way they were cooked or seasoned. I had something dry (pork), something sweet and bony (chicken), and something smooth but savory (fish), so I wouldn’t get umay (feeling overloaded after consuming too much food or flavor) from similar taste.

Clockwise: Rubbed and deep fried pork spare ribs, roasted and glazed chicken, Fish Escabeche

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  • Skip carbonated drinks (and beer), if possible. I mean, with all the flavors exploding and inhabiting your mouth, you may rinse and burp it out a little with a glass of Coke. However, it is not necessary to gulp it down in every household. Refer to plate number 2, you think soda would go well with the salad, no? You can always request for water anyway.
  • Kill time before or after eating. Drop the little you’ve gained by walking from house to house, or engaging in a chit chat before delving into your food. If you are visiting distant relatives, it’s best to converse about family matters, and good old memories. If you’re dropping by homes of friends of friends, you can tell them about your stay and ask if there are places in the vicinity they suggest you to visit.
  • Do not be shy to ask for a to-go. If you are really really stuffed, you may ask to skip the meal and make pabalot instead. In the last house we visited, we were already too full to function (aka eat), so our Tita Tess asked for a to-go from her niece instead. The to-go landed the dining table the next day and we didn’t even have to say no to the host.
  • Be courteous and well-mannered. Not because it is a buffet sans the fine dining atmosphere means you have to let go of your table manners. Be mindful of your kubyertos, the area you take when eating, and the noises you make. Smile (even when your tummy’s already aching) to everyone you are being introduced or acquainted with. Be courteous when asking for extras like water, table napkins, etc. And lastly, return them hospitality of the hosts by greeting and thanking them warmly.

There, the town fiesta’s ways to a happy tummy.

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Surigao Del Sur Weekend

My boyfriend and I have been itching for a trip to Surigao for years since he has always told me stories of how beautiful and amazing the place is. Fortunately, we were able to book cheap flights late last year. We traveled to Surigao del Sur last weekend. The province’s biggest town, Cantilan, was having their fiesta. What better way to be meet the boyfriend’s relatives but with a celebration!

Experiences really makes you learn. I kind of expected our flight to be delayed, so I brought company,  J.D. Salinger (for re-reading) and this ipod. I was right, our carrier was forty minutes late this time.

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It was my first time to ride a propeller aircraft so we had to take (stupid) photos inside the plane. It’s a lot smaller than the ones I have flown. It’s a 40 to 42 seater aircraft. And since it’s small, you can really feel the take off, the landing, and the turbulences along the way.

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Finally arrived! I just had to include this photo since we had a similar one from our first travel together.

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After an hour’s travel in the air, we rode a van bound to Cantilan.

Surigao, I believe, is a beautiful place. It is surrounded with cerulean waters and lush green mountains. However, some of these mountains have been reduced to dark red dust due to mining. Even the bodies of water nearby have been contaminated and have already bled red.

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After almost five hours of travel, we’ve finally reached Cantilan!

Here’s the boyfriend’s extended family from his grandfather’s side.

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And another shot from his grandmother’s side.

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Each household served lechon (roasted pig), seafoods, and carabao meat. It was my first time to try the carabao meat, I would have mistaken it for beef.

This is the Monteclaro house, as my boyfriend would call it. This is Tiya Petra and Tiyo Nic’s home.

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I was amazed by Tiya Petra’s greens! She had chilis, lagundi, orchids, ferns, macopa fruits, sponge gourd (patola), cactuses, and other plants around.

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The beach was just stone’s throw away. It isn’t as beautiful as the beaches of Boracay or Palawan but is promising in its own way. It is more serene, though the waves could get fierce at certain times of the day. It has clear waters, you can actually see your soaked feet midst the dark sand. And a few feet away is the distance between you and fishes.

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We also passed by the cemetery to pay visit to the boyfriend’s ancestors.

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This is Tito Tom’s place. His sari-sari store had everything! From grocery items to hardware finds to gas tanks and unlimited wifi connection/subscription.

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A few blocks away from Tito Tom’s house is the Coraler’s home. The bottom part of the house used to be open and supported by pillars, but since they needed to have a storage for the goods they supply, they needed to have it covered and cemented. Now it also functions as Tito Josue’s pad and office.

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Their house was filled with bougainvilleas of different kinds and colors. They were so beautiful!

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I loved this small and old poso (water pump) installed in their kitchen. Apparently, it still works!

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What gas ranges? This is one medium of cooking their meals.

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Coconuts

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Corn

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Pineapple

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Pigs (I want the smaller one as pet)

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Most people in Surigao del Sur use their motorcycles as mode of transportation. Unlike in Manila which enforces strict traffic rules, they are kind of lax there. People can ride the motorcycle is threes, fours, and so on without helmets. The boyfriend and I even cruised without license.

4×4’s are also favored in the area, considering the trail you have to go through when traveling, you really need a car that can survive the dirt road. I haven’t seen a single sedan in my entire stay.

Public transportation is also available in the area. There are multicabs, which look like baranggay patrol cars in Manila. Tricycles can also be hired. Their tricycles look like Cagayan de Oro’s motorellas. Their only difference is the number of wheels.

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A photo of the Coraler’s.

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This is the kind of food that always greeted us in the morning. Way to go to a long lovely day.

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There was also a spring nearby. We just had to take a dip (and beer and lechon too).

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The boyfriend kind of arranged a simple family reunion for both sides.

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This is me with the boyfriend’s nephew and nieces.

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We had lunch by the beach.

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Lechon, the star of every meal.

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We witnessed men (and women) fishing. We even tried to help them by pulling the net towards the shore. They caught only a few fishes that day, two buckets of dilis (a variety of small fish, anchovies?). The kids asked five fishes from the fishermen for them to keep. They temporarily put them in a plastic cup.

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Boyfriend enjoyed playing with the kids as they buried him in the sand. He had sunburn after.

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And here I am overly happy.

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It was wonderful, Surigao. I can only promise to be back.

 

P.S. Wait, there’s more! Part 2 (How to Eat in a Town Fiesta) and Part 3 (Lanuza Walking Tour) coming up.