Monday, August 11, 2008

Food Trippin' ala- Gagalangin (Tondo), circa nevermind

Bibingkahan at the Manila Hotel began by the Pritil Bridge.

In my young and maiden years in Gagalangin, I’d munch on a cob of roasted corn while reading Liwayway magazine, curled up on the sofa. If it rained, I let it. That was my idea of a perfect day.

Great food then as now came in binary pairs – dinuguan at puto, mangga’t suman, tokwa’t baboy. Mine was gatas ng kalabaw at tapang baka. You pour a cup of the rich milk over a plate of steaming, pandan-fragrant rice, add a sprinkling of rock salt, and top the caboodle with chunks of fried tapa just slightly fringed with golden fat. You close your eyes involuntarily with every spoonful -- feeling all is right with the world. Though I didn’t know the phrase then, it was to me the quintessential comfort food.

There must be farms near Gagalangin for the milk was delivered to our doorsteps still mainit-init, with the top cream two inches thick, in a coke or gin bottle, stopped by folded banana leaves twisted screwlike.

My Tio Kulas, a wealthy hatter, lived in a big house on Cavite Street three or four streets away. They did not only own the only phonograph (the only place I could play a vinyl record some relative sent me) but also the only authentic lusong that side of Gagalangin, with which they made authentic linupak every month or so.

I’d hop-skip my way over to Tio Kulas’, though it was 20 minutes away, if it was “linupak day,” for it was more eagerly anticipated than an official holiday. Authentic linupak is not mashed cassava but saging na saba pounded on lusong, with fistfuls of grated coconut and sprinklings of sugar quickly tossed in between the rising and falling of the giant wooden pestle. Since the banana is semi-ripe, the linupak is not sweet and soft but tart and springy. This delicacy is rarely commercially available in the city, then or now.

(Years ago, in a fit of craving, I tried to prepare linupak using only persistence and a kitchen almires. To say it was a disaster is an understatement.)

I have other scrumptious memories of Gagalangin.

Sunday morning would find us youngsters sitting expectantly by Aling Tisya’s food stall in the talipapa. Aling Tisya opens only on weekends and was worth waiting a whole week for. She served the best goto in the world -- the bowl big, generous and steaming, the porridge freshly cooked and not yesterday’s bahao, the tripe and bituka pieces succulent and just a bit softer than al dente, and the calamansi-patis sawsawan slightly more sour than salty. Followed by ginatang bilo-bilo with langka strips and a curlicue of kakang gata on top, which young heart could ask for more?

One didn’t even have to go to the talipapa for a food trip. If you waited patiently at home, the treats would come.

Itinerant vendors would stroll by with puto-kutsinta, taho, and fresh produce in the morning, including the freshest talangka my Lola would magically transform into the most savory buro, inside which was red-black sinfulness called aligue. Never mind how she did it. (The SPCA did not go after people who tortured tiny crabs by salt-treatment, did it?)

By three o’clock, other vendors would come in succession, bilao perched on the head, basket tucked in the arm, shouting out their ware. We were always in a dilemma which merienda to buy. Corn on the cob? Binatog? Bitcho-bitcho, butche-butche, sapin-sapin? Kalamay, maja blanca? Turon, maruya, lumpia? Carioca? Sometimes, it could be halo-halo, ginatan, or sweet beans with crushed ice – a stall was always a dash away.

Later in the afternoon, a different set of vendors would be passing by, with fresh saging lakatan and latundan, tuba, and paros, a sweetish kind of shellfish we scalded and ate as appetizer.

Nights are stormy when you don’t hear “Baluuuuut….. penoy, baluuuut.” It took me some time to learn which end of the egg to crack so that it opened fetus- side up so I could drink the savory broth-like liquid – never enough, always bitin -- before gulping the whole egg in two bites. No, I didn’t have to close my eyes and we didn’t have an expression then for “yucky” or “gross.”

Mendoza bakery was where we ran to buy galletas de patatas and Marie-like biscuits by the hundreds, at 35 centavos per, when a horde of children was waiting to be fed.

Botika Santos, a pharmacy-cum-PX store, had Horlicks, Baby Ruth, Lifesavers, and Cadbury chocolate bars with fruits and nuts when our sweet tooth craved for something imported and our father was home to give us extra spending money.

When unexpected company came, my mom didn’t panic. A Chinese panciteria at the corner of Solis and Juan Luna, opposite Torres High School was open 24/7 – well, maybe 16/7 –which whipped up miki-bihon, hototay, and sweer-sour meatballs faster than you could say yi-er-san-si- go.

At the Torres High School canteen, there was cake I never could get enough of. It had a chiffon base and a custard-caramel topping and tasted to me like a prelude to something ... uhm .. sublime. Anyway, I would nibble on it morsel by tiny morsel, trying to prolong ... uhm ... heaven. At 25 centavos a slice, and my baon usually only 30, it was often unreachable as the ... uhm ... sky.

Around the school were hawkers unlimited who broke into smiles as soon as the bell rang to dismiss throngs of youngsters. Most of us Gagalangin girls literally ground our teeth on manggang hilaw at bagoong, papayang manibalang at heko, and singkamas marinated in salted water. For the sweeter-toothed, there was ice cream sandwich, tira-tira, belekoy, and Milady (pronounced mee-ladee).

Later, when we were a bit older, after a late-night double-bill movie at Scala Theater on Avenida Rizal, there was no way my sisters and I wouldn't stop at this bamboo restaurant at the foot of Pritil bridge, home of melt-in-the-mouth bibingka galapong and to-die for chewy puto bumbong. Put up in 1938 by Ceferino Francisco, it grew so phenomenally that by the 60s it had outlets all over Metro Manila, including one in the Manila Hotel. Its name: Ferino's Bibingka.

Light years away were Jolibee, McDo, KFC, Pizza Hut, Goldilocks, Greenwich and Shakey’s.

Photo credits: The amazing picture was filched from "Sa Likod ng Bahay Kayumangge," (on which I tried to post a comment to ask permission for use of the picture but couldn't as there was a registration process beyond my ken) which gives a more detailed account of the history of Ferino's Bibingka.

I hope the blogger behind "sa likod" will not mind my taking liberties with the picture. But if he/she does, I will delete the photo as soon as he/she lets me know.

Apologia: Tama ka, Rolly Lampa, it was Ferino's Bibingka! -- not Aling Nena's. Wow, what a memory!

More credits: Salamat po, Mario Silva, for reminding me there was a delectable bibingkahan a jog away from Pritil bridge. Ferino's po pala yun!


Abaniko said...

How come you haven't mentioned the 1-centavo square bubble gum in striped colorful wrappers (forgot the brand)?

Rudy said...

Haay... those were the days. Lives were simpler back then and uncomplicated. And yet, I often wondered how, as a child growing up in the sixties, I got by without all the modern "distractions" that kids these days have.

soloops said...

Ms. Anna,

I can't get enough of your childhood memories. Stirs up plenty of mine too. Sadly, I can't write about them like you do, but I can try, haha.

Re: vendors-I remember one in our street in Naga where I grew up. The four of us girls would get those delicious kalamay (which refers to a different food here in Manila) even if we didn't have enough money to pay for it. Come Friday, the vendor would wait by our gate and collect from our clueless Mama. We used to do that with the store renting our komiks too. I was the fastest to run away when the scolding came.

Rowena said...

To add, I also love to watch movies with my grandparents at Rizal Avenue, shop at Fair Center/Plaza Fair, buy groceries at Good Earth and buy books at Webster's. Those were the good old days in my "hometown" este city - Manila. We also have lots of friends in Gagalangin. Siguro we met na in the past MC. ;-)

exskindiver said...

naglaway ako sa mga kakanin na isinalaysay mo dito,
pero hindi ko alam kung ano ang linupak.
and that carabao's milk with tapa description is incredible.

chateau a.k.a. imom said...

Ang sarap naman ng pagbabalik-alaala mo, annamanila! Nakaka engganyo.

Childhood was much simpler, seems much happier back then eh?

I've never had sabang nilupak; I've tried casava though. do they compare?

We had our own version of Botika Santos too in Baguio - called D&S. It had all PX goodies.

Hey, miss you na :)

Cookie said...

This post is absolutely sinful. The way you describe the treats..parang I can actually smell and taste them.

Most of those you mentioned aren't foreign to me. I grew up with my Lola who was a foodie at heart. We would go all the way to Bulacan and Tarlac to eat whenever she had a hankering for her favorite treats.

Yun isa pang nilalako dati yung kesong puti na nakadahon. We would get this from the same fellow who sold gatas ng kalabaw (in a long neck bottle with folded banana leaves na pantakip).

Hay, sarap talaga balikan.

Teka, yung sinasabi ba ni Abaniko ay yung Texas bubble gum?

kathy said...

Lovely, just lovely.enjoying your Gagalangin series. I'm thoroughly I could almost imagine you smacking your lips while you remembered those delectable kakanin and other goodies way back when. It also made me sigh with disappointment (literally!) because I am quite unfamiliar with several of the native delicacies you mentioned (except probably for kutsinta, binatog, taho and bibingka). It is quite unfortunate that I lived in an era of fast food, hamburger chains and what-have-you which competed with local products.

Ano lasa ng gatas kalabaw? I've no idea!

rapahella said...

himyrna. i love reading your blogs...reading the last one about your growing up in gagalangin makes me see what a rich and full childhood you had...
hope to see you someday...

raqgold said...

oh, do you know what, we still enjoy those things in our corner of pasay! dami pa ring nilupak, bibingkahan, binatog, bananacue, taho with sago,etc and my fave of course, karioka! the only difference is the price, hehe

Gina said...


AM naman, nakakagutom naman itong post mo.

I luvvv linupak, and it's fun using the lusong! We still have one at home in Samar.

Nyl said...

"no place like home"..iba talaga ang tatak pinoy.

nice site.:)

lady cess said...

ang sarap sana maging food blogger noon =)

i know linupak!!! oh i loved that! the last time i was able to get my teeth on one was about 15 or 16 years ago, when my family went to my dad's town in bicol. his cousin cooked linupak for us. it tasted exactly like you described it.

Toe said...

I had to stop reading as early as the part of the gatas ng kalabaw because I got so hungry I had to go down to find something to eat. :) That description was fabulous. Diba you buy that na in SM? I remember you told me before... can I impose myself on you and ask you to feed me that with the kalabaw tapa? ;) I want to try closing my eyes involuntarily in ecstasy over that. :)

ysrael said...

Siguro may nagra-rasyon din sa inyo ng magnolia milk at choko(makapal ang bote nito)Gumagamit rin ba kayo ng Purico oil nuon? Ang Star margarine nasa lata pa ito. at sa halagang 5 sentimos makakabili ka na ng caramel candies, texas bubble gum,white rabbit atbp. Ang sarap talagang alalahanin kasi ang mura ng bilihin, imagine sa halagang 50 pesos nakakapamalenke na ang mother ko.
ang paborito ko nuong araw ay 'yung biko na inirarasyong sa mga tindahan ang isang slice nito ay 10 sentimos at yung tira-tira candy (mahaba at makunat ito). Dyan nga pala ako gumaradweyt sa Torres High School nuong 1975.

Leah said...

What great memories AM.
Nakakagutom nga. Sarap mag-food tripping. Ang ala-ala ng kahapon ay kay sarap balik-balikan.

eto ako - nagmumuni-muni tuloy.

lei said...

kakagutom! haha. i also like nilupak na saging than cassava kase mas maganda yung texture.. and also binatog and carioca. :)

nowadays kakanins costs 5 pesos per slice in bite sizes. haaay..

Heart of Rachel said...

I enjoyed reading this post. It made me hungry too. :)

I remember my younger days when I used to live in Vito Cruz with my family. There were always vendors; some were even our "suki". I remember the lady selling different kinds of kakanin like palitwa, kuchinta, puto, sapin-sapin, bibingka and biko. It was always different each day and she would always stop by our place to ask if we were interested in her merienda. My yaya would always buy something for us.

julie said...

Wow, and you were able to remember everything, including the taste, texture and even where these could be bought?

We used to have carabao milk too, in Zambales, but I did not take a liking to it, too much for me but I would eat a supot of carabao milk pastillas anytime.

I also enjoyed the different native kakanin, especially those that were made for us during the pabasa when saome women come over to make suman for the pabasa singers.

But I must admit, I enjoyed more the chocolate bars my papa would bring home from work :(

Wonderful post, MC, as always. May I ask if you still have your pictures when you were much, much, younger? That would good to see too :)

bw said...

gatas ng kalabaw in kanin and tapang baka? Wow, that's very exotic... First time I've heard it. I would love to try it :)

Great post - boy, you have excellent memory :)

Edmund said...

glad to read a blog about Gagalangin... about Torres, Santos, Pritil... haaayyyy.... thanks for sharing...

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