bacon, sorsogon (no pics)

10:01 AM Monday, March 28, 2005

Travelling to Bacon [ba kon], Sorsogon is not a walk-in-the-park... because it generally requires some 12-14 hours via landtrip through the zigzaggy roads of Quezon and Bicol region... the BITUKA part was not called that for no reason... and the QUIRINO HIGHWAY challenges the behinds (and usually results to bumps in the head) of those travelling on private cars... because even the best-suspensioned (?) cars just can't help but 'bow' and 'submit' to the cracks and holes and ditches of this highway stretch.

Which is why, though I didn't really have problems with motion sickness... it took me 16 years to return to the land where I was born... where my maternal grandmother walked seawalls on early mornings with me cuddled in her arms...

That 'visit' was in 1998. I've returned every two years or so to the place.

And it's not the lush picture of trees and plants that beckon to me... not the swaying, majestic coconut trees that give rise to Bicol's copra production... not the powerfully beautiful Pacific Ocean that rages in the slightest suggestion of rain... nor the carabaos lounging in mud that pepper vast expanse of ricefield upon ricefields that convinces me to travel for the better part of two days to and fro...

It's the bountiful harvest from the sea that will forever hold its sway over me... enchanting me forever to be awed by how great-tasting the food there is... how immeasurably incomparable all other seafood are... how wonderfully nature has made sure that vegetables will grow far more tasty and delicious to maintain the sanctity of fish harvested from the Pacific Ocean... cooked without needing salt nor msg... and eaten while sitting on bamboo benches under trees...

That was the heaven I found when I was 21... and that is the heaven I look for whenever I visit.

I didn't know what happened. All I knew was I recharged my batteries but when I loaded my spare, my camera suddenly gave this "Memory Card error" alert. Half of me wanted to go to a camera shop immediately and just forego the trip, because half of me couldn't stand not having my baby, my pet, my toy, my joy... in good working condition. But the other half of me, albeit disgusted and disappointed and frustrated and sad, and the wiser half of me if I may say so, enjoyed the LRT 3 trip to Santolan. I was able to get to Antipolo from Manila in just a matter of 1 hour. We left Antipolo Tuesday night last week, 2 cars filled with kids and expectations of great food and tan.

Mom made her famous buko pandan and spaghetti. My parents and two uncles also kept trying to out-buy each other with good finds from the market and produce from their farms... and out-cook each other...

And so it came to be... that though I didn't exactly binged on food 24/7 (especially since I wasn't into rice cakes and other native delicacies, and is forever turned-off by the cake I bought from Graceland, ergo... no snacks in between meals), I was in food heaven for 3 days at least.

Most fish sold and enjoyed in Bacon cannot be bought nor found here in Manila... or in other provinces. Also, they say that Pacific seafood taste better than China Sea seafood. I couldn't beg to disagree since I was already eternally fascinated and bewitched by Bacon's bounty...

Even my parents don't know the Tagalog translation... or Tagalog counterparts of the fishes they served. Wednesday, we were served with KETONG, cooked cocido-style without veggies, and with veggies. There was also this weird-looking fish that was fried. And of course, there were crabs. I ate 3 huge ones in one sitting.

My parents also went out of their way to find a BULANGAWAN, a kind of tuna that is again best cooked cocido-style with lots of tomatoes, that I fell in love with back in 1998. The one we bought weighed two kilos... who knew how much of it I ate...

We had so many different kinds of tuna actually... the only popular one being the yellow-fin one. Most, again, are not to be found anywhere in Manila.

We also had liswik... this shell (crustacean?) type of food that requires a pin for you to get to the meat part. It's best cooked ginataan-style with fresh kangkong (my uncle's kangkong's stems are as big as the ZAGU straws... but they are far crunchier and crispier and tastier than the regular ones you see in wet markets). Liswiks sell at P20/tumpok (and believe me, the tumpok is more than enough for 5 people).

We also had ginataang langka, with talangka. I loved the talangka because I don't eat langka. Since the moon was on the full side, crab harvest was good and the price (P150/kilo) was really cheap. I think I ate one big crab and 4 small crabs.

And I don't think there are words to describe how gastronomically interesting and how heavenly delightfully all these tasted. And I can't deny how being unable to take pictures of them pained me.

San Juan is a barrio in, or past Rawis. Mom asked my dad to drive us there so she can show us an old watering hole, so to speak... It's 7 kilometers away from where my Mom lived (kalye Paalam) and about the same distance from the school where my Mom taught (it was in kalya Banal, next to our street). Mom reminisced how her students would walk that great distance everyday just to go to school... and how she would retain them and have them sleep with her in my grandparents' humble abode during storms.

SAGURONG is the falls that end on the beach of San Juan. The view from the barrio was majestic... with the rolling, almost-always angry waves crashing on the beach... as if seeking to pull anyone and everyone playing on its sand back with it to the ocean. Mom lost a classmate to this ocean. They say this sea has taken a lot of lives already which is why it was respected.

One would counter that, among the thousands of people who swim and play in this sea over the years... having a so-so number of people drown in it is actually inconsequential... trivial in fact.

But not, as my Mom said... when dead bodies return to its beach all lined-up as if they were purposely laid there... as opposed to the haphazard discarding of a corpse or a coconut or seaweeds or garbage on a beach.

Again, pictures would have proven how great the view really is/was... but alas, you'd just have to take my word for it.

It lasted for over 30 minutes... attended by more than a thousand-strong of Bacon's population... some even travelling to the mainland via tramping vessels from the islands surrounding Bacon. Children come with their parents and grandparents... braving the rain that came to stay since Friday morning and the rough seas. I failed to count how many statues/images (for lack of a better term) were paraded in their resplendent outfits with the praying public, but it ended with the image of Christ lying on a glass coffin.

Such statues/images are usually kept, maintained, dressed, and protected by the more prominent families of the barrio... their outfits embroidered to perfection, using the finest materials.

After the procession, the VIGIL for each patron house started... and then the SOLEDAD (I don't know why it's called that, but it's the SEARCH FOR THE FINAL RESTING PLACE), another procession starting at 10 PM would be beheld... attended by people clad in black... with only St. Peter, Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and another Mary statue the only ones being paraded.

Of course, we missed the SALUBONG... where typically, women of the barrio would walk with Mother Mary's statue...while the men would walk with Christ's statue... Mary would be veiled... the two processions would meet in front of the Church... and fretful pretty girls dressed as angels will be lowered down to remove Mary's veil and 'reveal to her that Christ has risen' as they sing.

I am not very religious... but it was in such times that I couldn't help but marvel at how tradition and religion has been so preserved in our country... and how it has sooo united our people over centuries...

Some might say that it has been reduced to pomp and nothing else... but seeing Filipinos come together will always be exquisitely touching for me.

For pictures, as I have none, you might want to check out Sassy's post.


The new parish priest in Bacon banned the SIETE PALABRAS... another procession.

I also missed the PENITENSYA... a procession where you walk barefooted throughout the barrio... while some of the more religious/fanatics whip their backs raw.

Because we felt the long drive would frustrate him, we left him behind with his father. And everytime we saw a carabao... we thought of him. How he'd have loved the beach. How he'd have chased the ducks. How he'd have tripped and fallen running about. How he'd love the kids who'd play with him there.

And how he'd have loved the fish. Sigh.

Inasmuch as we really enjoyed the food... every meal was marked with a thoughtful silence, wondering what he's eating... and how he'd be fattened up in no time if he came along, because the fish was just really that good, he was sure to eat a lot.

As it happened, his Dad gave him a haircut. Now he goes around saying... "Away ako bak-la". Yes, the haircut was awful and he cried a lot.

I have often asked myself if I, in my self-designated role as official photographer, am inadvertently taking away from my own experiences... after all, I do get to spend more time looking tbrough my LCD projector rather than participating in games and what-nots.

Anyway... that may be the case.

And though I still feel bad about not having pics to share... after all, it is the last time i'd go there as a single woman (ahh... sooo many lasts this year... but that's another entry in itself)... maybe it was for the better.

Because I got obssessive in taking in the details... the scent... the feel... the taste of everything.

And I can still feel the fresh saltwater air of the barrio where I was born.

And yes, I didn't necessarily go home without. Because i also re-discovered a childhood favorite... the BAO or AMIS, a pure-sugarcane candy shaped like a bowl... the candy I enjoyed all those years ago with my grandparents...

A vivid memory of me sitting by the stairs, my Lola cutting me several slices and handing me one... with only this oil lamp on the table...

The gift of memory is truly a blessing. The gift of good memories a true privilege. And as I am again taken back in time to early memories of being loved and happiness... I cannot help but smile through the lump in my throat and my watery eyes...

How can there not be a God indeed?

Meanwhile... check this baby out. In my dreams... bwahahaha

Hope your vacation was just as refreshing and recharging as mine


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