Pancit Bam-i, fried lumpia with five spices, and lumpiang sariwa with white sauce ala Carcar
By Sol Vanzi
Photos by Noel Pabalate
Every year, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Ateneo de Manila University celebrates the diversity of our country’s culinary heritage by focusing on the cooking of a particular region.
This year, Professor Fernando N. Zialcita and his class immersed themselves on the island of Cebu and studied some of the unique dishes of Carcar. They also enjoyed the exquisite flavor of the cacao tableyas of Argao. We recently reaped the fruits of their research at a special dinner.
Carcar and Argao, located south of Cebu City, are what many refer to as the Cebuano Riviera. The drive from Carcar to Argao down to Boljoon and Oslob is a picturesque one as the highway passes between the blue sea and forested mountains, coastal villages, and ancient churches of white coral stone.
For generations, Carcar has supplied Cebu with some of its best playwrights, poets, and painters. It has also become nationally famous for its lechon, chicharron, and ampao, which are available every day at the market. Less known is that Carcar has produced unique dishes that require much time and preparation and can only be enjoyed at private homes.
At the special dinner, we relished some of Carcar’s recipes as creatively reinterpreted by Chef Waya Araos Wijangco. The daughter of a Cebuana physician, she spent summers in Cebu where she learned how to cook the Cebuano way.
Fernando N. Zialcita and Chef Waya Araos Wijangco
From Argao, we were given a taste of tsokolate. Cacao is so widespread in Cebu that cacao trees are a common feature of Cebuano gardens. Guilang’s Tableya stands out for the way it has roasted and blended cacao into delicate and tasty tableyas. Chef Waya served the tableya, not as a tsokolate drink, but as ice cream accented with a Carcar invention called bocarillo from young coconut strips.
The recipes were gathered by two students who participated in the Ateneo Social and Cultural Laboratory last June to July. They are John Matthew Yuching, who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Communication, and Maria Teresa Villanueva, who is working on her MA in Anthropology.
Inun-an dish composed of fish stewed in vinegar, Humba ala Carcar, steamed rice, and utan Bisaya
Homemade chocolate ice cream featuring Guilang’s Tableya ng Argao with carcar ampao toppings and bocarillo
Gathering the recipes was facilitated by key figures in Carcar. Zarah Castro, whose cook Tata Quindala prepared the lumpiang sariwa and its special sauce, the humba, and the hamonado in the late 19th-century kitchen of her ancestral house, the Silva Mansion; Evelyn Bacus and Johanna de los Reyes, who shared other recipes, and Leonides Cortez, who, with very simple instruments, spun out strips of tender buko meat to be cooked into rosette-like bocarillo.
Kilawing tanigue and enseladang lato
Run by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in partnership with the Fine Arts Department, the History Department, and the John Gokongwei School of Management, the Ateneo Social and Cultural Laboratory is an annual field school that aims to train students in doing qualitative methods of research, introduce students to the wonders of local heritage, help a particular community in documenting aspects of its heritage, and promote heritage-based products.
Its students come from various disciplines. While most are from Ateneo de Manila, the course has a tradition of welcoming students from other universities both locally and abroad.
The dinner event was a project of a team of students in the first semester course Introduction to Cultural Heritage. The arrangements, visuals, and media kit were all prepared by members of the team: John Matthew Yuching, Alannah Mitra, Lennon Villanueva, Sophia Habana, Bruce Fearno, Dee Catimpo, Enzo Villacorta, Enrique Escober, Jouie Ferrer, and Nanako Takeuchi.
This course is the fruit of partnerships with two institutions, the Institute of Philippine Culture and the Mama Sita Foundation, which sponsors the annual dinner that pays homage to the diversity of Filipino culinary heritage.