April 24, 2007

Malatapay madness

Malatapay wednesday market

Oohh there it was, that familiar jagged coastline of Dumaguete. My heart did a little back flip. This is my favorite city in all of the country, my dad's hometown. Though discovering new places is thrilling, I cannot resist the lure of this place I have come to love as my second home.

From my window seat on the plane, I could see the long stretch of beach to my right where we spent many memorable Easter breaks. To the left was the runway we were heading for that jutted out into the water. That extended stretch of tarmac meant planes no longer had to screech to a stop within 2 seconds of touchdown. Now they can ease up a little and do it in 5. That extended stretch also meant we lost our little spot on the rocks at the edge of the original strip where we spent many nights stargazing and boozing up on rum cokes (the 'state drink').

It had been three years, but it may as well have been twenty. The airport was exactly the same. I walked on the blazing hot tarmac alongside the cart which held our luggage. There are no carousels here, just strong armed porters who take your claim tags and join the pack to rummage through the rising pile of bags on the floor.

At this point, as is always the case, the constant process of bumping into familiar faces in this small town begins. I counted three. It wasn’t officially Holy Week yet, after all. The throngs of people were not expected until the next day. My cousin was already outside, ready to whisk us off to our first order of the day, the Malatapay wednesday market. This was my special request and the reason I groggily stumbled out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5 am to catch the first flight.

I don’t remember precisely when I was at Malatapay last since it was so long ago, but I remember it well. Experiences like that are not so easily forgotten. Often when you revisit a place from your childhood, you are startled by how much smaller it seems to have become. Not this time.

Malatapay is located about 20 minutes south of Dumaguete in the town of Zamboanguita. On a regular day it is a relatively quiet patch of coconut trees and huts and a beach that serves as the jump off point for Apo Island. It is in the middle of the week when it springs to life, and like a sleeping giant whose slumber is disturbed, it awakens with a roar and rages on all day.

Apo island from Malatapay

Apo Island in the distance

You can’t miss the junction of Malatapay. The first sign are the long lines of trucks and side cars parked carelessly on both sides of the highway. More trucks being loaded with cattle and then we arrive at the entrance to Malatapay. Locals, tourists, animals, pedicabs spill out from the now cemented path that leads through the market and down to the beach. My cousin slowly steers the car into this sea of chaos, careful not to harm any stray goats or pigs in the process, and immediately we are in the thick of it. I stare through the window in disbelief. When did it get so big?

animals auctioned  off

No place for an animal lover like me

We finally get to the makeshift parking area where we parked under the shade of coconut trees and next to a man napping on the roof of his jeep which had a sullen looking cow tied to it’s rear. I walked over to a colorful display of native bags, hats and slippers and notice that here the crowd has thinned slightly. My ears pick up loud noises. I follow the noise with my eyes beyond the hanging abaca bags to a coconut grove where, apparently, the livestock auction is taking place. I see a large group of ranchers who appear to be shouting at once, standing amidst cows, pigs, goats and, is that a horse I see?

Malatapay collage

I bought the bulad (dried fish) on the bottom right picture for bacalao
You see that bread on the upper right?
That's tuba bread made with tuba (alcoholic drink from coconuts),
it's very dense, sweet and so so good !

We retrace our steps back down the path we came from this time on foot, eyeing the items proudly displayed for sale (or barter). People from neighboring towns, from villages up in the mountains and even from nearby islands bring their products here so there is a wide variety of items. Aside from the usual fare of fresh fish and meats, you there are also grains and feeds, dried fish, dried tobacco leaves, knives, ropes, mats, live chickens, produce, kitchenware, native handicrafts, farming implements, fishing implements, bread, shoes, and clothes. Somehow I was surprised, and yet not really, to see pirated DVD’s for sale, complete with a 14 inch TV for testing.


"Kitchen and dining"

The further down we went and nearer to the highway, the tighter it got and we found ourselves tiptoeing over stuff laid out on mats just to save our hiney from being run down by a truck or headbutted by a furious goat. Along the way, we shop for our lunch then head back towards the water to the shaded “dining area” where my cousin’s husband (incidentally, my source for the kinilaw recipe) has reserved us a table. He brings out his “sushi kit” and ceremoniously unzips it revealing the contents. From within he pulls out metal chopsticks which he distributes, cute little fish-shaped dishes, a bottle of pickled ginger, soy sauce, some calamansi (native citrus) and a tube of wasabi. This is so like him! He has the man there slice up some tuna for sashimi and instructs him on how to clean it.

fresh tuna sashimi

I see a lechon (roast pig) with skin that glistened in the sun, I could almost hear the skin crackling. I couldn't resist so I go buy some for our group of ten. We hand over our clams and fish to the manang for cooking and order some liempo (more pork!). These are brought over with mounds of rice and some beers. I sink my toes into the sand and my teeth into one of the most delightful meals I’ve had in a long time. Ahhhh...the island life! :)


Clams on the grill



Cute local

Cute local who was sitting at the next table
I loved her pose and couldn't resist taking a picture. :)

You can read my previous post about Dumaguete here.


Anonymous said...

That sounds just marvellous Nens! You are making me miss my childhood summers in Iloilo...Love the food spread, especially with the sand in your toes and a cold beer...the best! And super fresh tuna sashimi...lucky you! :)

Watergirl said...

ooh, can you get your cousin to write up the instructions in bisaya on how to clean the tuna so we can have fresh tuna sashimi like yours? YUM!

Anonymous said...

What a great article. I feel like I was right there with you...walking the streets and enjoying the culture.

christine said...

Hey jo! You know what I'm talkin about! :) Good food, cold beer, and the sea. Can't get that much better than that no?

Hi Mila, haha I'll ask him. I love being around him, his passion for food is infectious! He's a natural chef too with no professional training. I'll never forget how he would whip up all sorts of seafood plates in my tiny apartment kitchen in London and with such joy. It was always such a treat and I wished he was my flatmate. :)

Hi Kristen, thank you! And thank you for dropping by and "introducing" me to your lovely blog. :)

Sidney said...

Home sweet home!

You really captured the "spirit" of the provinces far away from Manila.

So, you cook bread with tuba? I need to taste this one day. Do you get drunk from eating it? ;-)

Anonymous said...

only been to dumaguete a few years back and hopped to a ferry for a quick tour of siquijor

it's a nice city and hope to go back there someday

32 flavors said...

nens, im headed for dumaguete in november. i RANDOMLY picked it out during the mad dash for cebupac P1.00 tickets. what a coincidence. now i'm really excited! i read your first and second post so i guess i'm a dumaguete expert now. heehee. anything to add?

christine said...

Hi Sidney, haha no you don't. I didn't and I had like 8 pcs warmed in the toaster and then slathered with butter. Gosh, I'm drooling thinking about it now. I suppose in the process of baking, the alcohol evaporates? Hmm too bad no? ;)

Tutubi, it sure is! Siquijor is so near and yet I have never gone beyond their shores to explore the island. I was just telling my brother we need to do that next year. Did you like it there?

Katrina, that's such a cool coincidence! Are you taking your family, with the girls? I have like another 8 more posts or so coming up hehe, I'm just such a slacker when it comes to posting. So abangan! :)

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely delightful post to read Christine. Tuba bread? Never heard of it and I feel like I've come away with learning something uniquely special. One day...maybe one day I'll get to experience this.

christine said...

Hi Rowena! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. :)I hadn't heard of tuba either until that moment. I was so surpised how HEAVY it was! Maybe you and I can trade places for a couple of weeks, I would give anything to be where you are now for a while and have authentic Italian food and wine everyday! :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

You capture so many different moods in your photos that I feel as if I have been transported. I am taken with the little girl's photo--she's captivating.

Anonymous said...

I love, love your posts, even if they make me realize my life is insanely boring compared to yours!

Ari (Baking and Books)

christine said...

Susan, she is! I couldn't resist the stolen photo,thankfully she didn't mind. But she did get slightly self-conscious after that. Nice of you to drop by! :)

Hi Ari!! How can you say that? You who has travelled to Jerusalem and loads of other interesting places I can only dream of! :) So good to see you.

wysgal said...

Alcoholic bread ... what a great concept!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,thanks for sharing your great pictures,one of those was of the cut bits of lechon in banana leaves,makes me droll hahahaha.
Can't wait ,we'll be back in dumaguete for a month soon in July ,surely will never miss out those lechons,the Jo's chicken,tocinos and many more.Have a lovely day,keep posting.;-)

christine said...

Wysgal, it is! :D

Anonymous, you're welcome. Enjoy your trip to Dumaguete! :)

Joansdottir said...

I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing your world!

My own blog is quite different, but written from the same gypsy spirit:


christine said...

Hi joansdottir, thanks you, so glad you enjoy it. :) Thanks also for sending me the link to yours. I'm on my way there now.