A weekend outside Manila took us to Mindanao. A trip down south is always something to look forward to. No matter what the occasion, Mindanao promises to offer only the freshest, cheapest produce, the sweetest fruits and the meatiest cattle.
It has been almost five years since I last visited Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon. The main draw for me in this part of the world is the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Early mornings, cool crisp air, the serene surrounding, the scent of freshly brewed coffee all day long and the beautiful chapel by National Artist Leandro V. Locsin.. Isn’t the description an invitation in itself?
But before we made our way to the mountainous Bukidnon, our hosts treated us to a wonderful, out of this world breakfast. It is out of the usual to say the least.
Foreign guests often wonder how we Filipinos are able to eat heavy meals during breakfast. And when I mean heavy meals, they mean full blown rice meals. It is kinda hard to explain, but our meals are not complete when we don’t eat rice.
I remember a friend who migrated to Europe who starts getting grump if she fails to eat rice three days in a row. When that happens, we know that it’s time to troop to the Asian store to buy rice.
We usually have silog meals for breakfast. Silog is a coined term for si, which stands for sinangag or fried rice, and log for itlog or fried egg. You can practically silog everything. But the most popular ones are tapsilog (with tapa or cured beef), tosilog (with tocino or sweet cured pork) or longsilog (with longganisa or Filipino style sausage). But this breakfast we had last weekend, had none of these. It was one of unexpected goodies in showcase. It is as if Mindanao was really showing off.
We were all hesitant to eat grilled fish for breakfast. It was definitely something we’ll jump at at lunch. But as soon as one of us tasted it, we all lined up for it. The grilled tuna jaw was so fresh, fleshy and juicy. The chargrilled taste called for more servings of rice. And the tart and salty dimension of the soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce was the perfect complement. It was not long til this dish was down to skin and bones.
Another dish on the buffet table that was so difficult to pass up on. For citydwellers like us, it is seldom that we get the chance to eat fresh prawns. Prawns that give off a natural sweetness. The kind that you will only experience from prawns fresh off the catch.
Despite the cloudy morning with the occasional rain, attacking this dish took us straight to the shore, feet up and eating with our hands. Removing its shell oh so slowly and surely revealed the plump shrimp like it was a well deserved grand prize.
After the rice and seafood dishes, it was not yet over. Mindanao wasn’t called the food basket of the Philippines for nothing, if it didn’t have all the exotic fruits on offer!
I am not aware of what we call Marang in English. It had the slightly pungent scent of a durian, but was definitely milder. Don’t let that scent drive you away. This is a fruit that is as sweet as honey. Its pulp tastes very similar to an atis or a sugar apple, but waaay sweeter. Be patient with the seeds as it has many. You will be duly rewarded for it.
Rambutan is one of my favorite childhood treats. I read somewhere that its name was derived from the Malay word for “hairy”. Its skin is characterized by this hairy like exterior, and a tough skin that needs to be pierced slightly to unveil what’s beneath. In its core, is a translucent flesh with a fairly big seed. You are likely to mistake it for a lychee. But the rambutan has a more subtle flavor compared to its cousin . And I like it way more than the seemingly more popular lychee.
You see here below how much fruit they put in the dessert station. I don’t get to see this in the city very often. It takes a lot of shopping and a lot of cash to come up with this fruit buffet. You can just close your eyes and pick one, and you are almost sure they are sweet and juicy.
The durian is the centerpiece of this corner. Its unmistakable scent greeted us as soon as we entered the room. I begged off having a taste of the durian. It was too early in the morning for me. But it was sure to leave its scent on my hair, my clothes, like a memory of an all nighter. Haha
I can’t complain for having such a feast so early in the morning. It just goes to show how welcome we always are on this part of the archipelago. After this magnificent feast, we were ready for our 3 hour ride to Bukidnon. And the weekend ahead. And lechons to come.
Hello Mindanao! Love, Lechon 🙂