Meet you at the Sunday market

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Mayo 18th, 2010

Every Sunday, the parking lot of Legaspi Park (in Legaspi Village, Makati) gets filled with stalls that sell almost every imaginable thing. I’ve been there several times already, am familiar with most of the items, but I still get lost since I find myself absorbed with all the colors, smells, and textures of the weekly market.

It is a meeting place of large scale concessionaires, traditional cottage industry businesses, eco-activists, mom-and-pop store owners, florists, bible school evangelists, orphanage benefits, artists, and collectors. And that is just one half of the populace.

These sellers get to know as regulars not just the residents of the surrounding villages, but people who have just come from early-morning marathons, dog lovers, families, groups of friends who pass by before going to the mall, churchgoers, foodies, and fellow members of creative communities.

I usually go before lunch, with friends or family. Though it is not hard to be immediately drawn to the Spanish, French, and Filipino dishes served – not to mention the fresh seafood and produce that can be brought home for personalized recipes – my first stop is always the dry goods section.

There I find leather articles like bags and sandals, antiques, exotic jewelry with beads and stones from Cambodia to Tibet, trinkets, and lucky charms. For homebodies, there are organic soaps, scents, and fragrances, jars, vases, wind chimes, and other sundry things.

Mostly I look for interesting items, such as ethnic figurines made by the tribes of the northern Cordillera provinces. These are sold with foreboding ritual statues used for harvests and burials.

Of course, once I wander into the wine selections and bottled mushroom and fish, my stomach would be grumbling. I would then head to either the pasta stalls for puttanesca or to the Spanish section for lengua. Especially during the dry season, no meal would be complete without ice-cold sugarcane juice or shakes and smoothies from the wide variety of fruits available.

If I would decide to browse again after lunch, I would conclude my visit with dessert, which ranges from baklava pastries to sweet rice cakes (steamed peanuts if I just want something to nibble on).

El Bosquejo


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 Sweet, sweet rice!

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Mayo 15th, 2010

If only every day were marked with fiestas, or if it were that easy to go home to the province every week, then my sweet tooth wouldn’t look for any other confection than those coming from the kitchen of my very own grandmothers.

They seem ordinary, these desserts called “kakanin”, named after their main ingredient (cooked rice or “kanin”) and “kain”, which plainly means “to eat”. With most types made with a few elementary ingredients – glutinous rice, water, sugar, derivatives of coconut, butter, and sesame seeds (with other ingredients such as egg, cassava, and potato added according to local spin) – then wrapped in the same banana or palm leaves, the varieties of kakanin appear to be cloyingly redundant and uninteresting. But the nuances in measurements and proportions, the type of rice, the way the rice is ground, the way coconut milk is extracted, and how it is finally cooked gives the native delicacy an infinite number of enjoyable possibilities.


The most popular in the kakanin family is “puto” or steamed rice cake, which appears white in its traditional form, to be topped with butter. Additions of ube and pandan change its color and flavor. Salted egg is also used as topping. Varieties of puto include “puto bumbong”, which uses a special type of glutinous rice (“pirurutong”) that gives it a distinctly purple color. It is topped with shredded coconut curd mixed with panocha (from muscovado sugar) .


“Puto lanson”, from Iloilo, is made with grafted cassava, while “puto mejia” uses ginger juice. “Puto malcohido” differentiates itself with the use of plantain leaves in the cooking process. Puto has also undergone its own hybridization with “puto mamon”, made with milk, flour, and eggs, and “puto pao”, which is a cross with the popular sweetmeat siopao.


The kakanin that usually accompanies puto in fiestas and other special occasions is “kutsinta” (cochinta), a sticky-chewy brown rice cake that incorporates cassava and uses lye water. It is likewise topped with shredded coconut curds.


Popularly served during Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass) – a tradition where Catholic devotees attend early morning masses from December 16 to 24 – is “bibingka”, joined by the puto variety of “puto bumbong”. “BIbingka”, a type of pudding, is also common in Goan cuisine. Baked in clay ovens, this fluffy rice cake is also topped with butter and grated coconut curds. Both dishes are keenly associated with the cool early morning weather of December that coincides with the warm anticipation for Christmas.

Suman and Tuping

Another rice delicacy with many known variants is “suman”. It is either steamed like puto or toasted, but is always comprised of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk. It is said that there are as many variants of suman as there are provinces, but here are some of the most famous. “Suman sa ibus” (sticky rice in palm leaves) is probably the most widely known, with its nipa leaf wrapping that turns yellow when cooked. “Suman sa lihiya”, my particular favorite, is waxy rice soaked in lye and boiled with its banana leaf covering. Both are served with sugar and freshly grated coconut curds. While “suman sa lihiya” is usually shaped in flat tubes, “suman sa latik”, which is made of the same material, is shaped in triangles and is served with “latik” or cooked coconut milk residue. Cooked without the banana leaf wrapping, it is called “suman sa inantala”; integrated wth a uniquely balmy, minty flavor, it is called “suman sa binuo”. Finally we get to “tupig”, which is ground glutinous rice pre-mixed with sugar and grated coconut curd before it is wrapped in banana leaves and roasted. This final variant I can eat one after the other just like potato chips!


“Pichi-pichi”, a filling merienda staple, is not made of rice, but the grated cassava that is used for it gives it its gelatine-like quality. It is covered in coconut curd in the same way munchkins are rolled in sugar and other toppings.


Another delicacy that can serve as a snack is the delightful “espasol”. It is really nothing but finely ground glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and rolled in cylinders and covered with powdered sugar. This is what family and friends usually bring when they come from the province of Laguna. Each time, I obligingly accept their gift like a child receives candy.


“Palitaw” is even simpler than “espasol”. Sticky rice is washed, soaked, then ground, then scoops of the resulting batter are dropped into boiling water. They then rise (“litaw” in the local language) to the surface in soft, flat discs. The process itself sounds childish, which is precisely why I loved watching our nursery cook prepare this for our everyday merienda. To me it looked like magic, especially after I dip a few discs in sugar, sesame seeds, and coconut curd before I joyfully consume them.


Also made from sticky rice, but with coconut milk and brown sugar, is “biko”, a rice cake that I would like to think is the Philippine’s (one of two) sweet version of pizza. But unlike the Italian dish, this only needs toasted coconut curd as topping.

Maja blanca, maja mais and maja mais panna cotta

If you want to skip the rice in biko and just retain the coconut milk, you need only add cornstarch and sugar and you get “maja blanca”. This has been modified to include corn and milk to make “maja mais”. A further innovation – fusing “maja mais” and panna cotta-produces “maja mais panna cotta”, which replaces the Italian dessert’s gelatin poweder and cream with the local coconut milk and cornstarch.

The most frivolous of the kakanin delicacies, which now and then reminds me of the color wheel and is the second of the country’s sweet pizzas, is the blancmange “sapin-sapin” (“sapin” meaning layer or patch) [cover photo]. It is made with glutinous rice or rice flour soaked into a paste, combined with coconut milk, water, sugar, and food coloring. Each concentric layer comes in a different hue, usually ranging from purple, yellow, and white. Even if they all taste alike, there is always something fun in taking bits from each layer – just to make sure they really do have the same flavor.

Unlike most food in the Philippines, which has its roots in Chinese, Spanish or even American cuisine, the humble kakanin has predated outside settlers and colonizers. It is one type of dish – in all its subtle variety – that can proudly be called native to the country.

Picture credits:
Pansalang pinoy
Latest recepies
Kutsara at Tinidor

El Bosquejo


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 The Raw Emotions of Ang Kiukok

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Abril 10th, 2010

(Angry Figure)

Tangled nets with fish like swords that are as sharp as the fishermen’s hungry and contorted shoulders. Vicious dogs that gnaw at each other’s necks, cantankerous chickens brandishing their claws.

(Fishermen with Catch – The Lovers – Fighting Figures)

These are just some of the violent images that are part of the aesthetic language of Filipino-Chinese painter and national artist Ang Kiukok.

They go beyond mere angst and repressed emotion; they dig holes deeper than the source. I believe that Ang Kiukok is foremost a Filipino painter, and his art a Filipino medium, because his paintings uncover common feelings borne from the same experiences.

(Fish – Fisherman)

He has expressed, even in the originally foreign tools of cubism and expressionism, the collective anger, alienation, and suffering unique to the history of the Philippines-such as the specific event of Martial Law under President Marcos
and the general predicament of poverty caused by centuries of backwardness.

(Crucifixion – Clowns – Mother and Son)

Of course, his works also express the universal, if only seen through the eyes of a nation: a man on fire, limbs entangled in fatal combat or twisted and broken into each other in the embrace of love.

(The Last Supper)

There are angles and edges to the righteous faces of apostles, to the bond and burden between mother and child, the bones and maws of fish, the limbs of desert horses. Finally, Kiukok expresses the machination of what is human by showing the industrially hammered, nailed, cut, welded, sliced, and broken body of the man on the crucifix. We all share in that silent and anguished cry, in tears that run from empty sockets.

El Bosquejo


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 Barako Coffee. For the Brave

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Abril 5th, 2010

In the Philippines, “barako” is the word used to describe men without fear. Originally pertaining to the male stud used for breeding, it now embodies the macho image – strong, brusque, and tough.“Barako” (also spelled “baraco”) likewise pertains to a variety of coffee grown in the country, particularly in Batangas and Cavite provinces. “Barako” coffee, which belongs to the Liberica family, got its name from its strong taste, full and powerful body, and distinctively pungent aroma. It arrests the senses and sometimes shocks the uninitiated.

A personal favorite and loved locally as the coffee of choice, “barako” has a unique place in the country’s culinary and economic history. It is said that in the 1740s, a Franciscan friar brought three gantas of coffee beans on board a galleon headed to Manila from Mexico. The tale continues after the death of the friar, when his servant boy dug up the coffee plants the priest planted in Laguna and replanted them in Lipa, Batangas (both Laguna and Batangas are south of Manila). An alternative story tells of the Macasaet family planting the first barako tree in Batangas in the 1800s from a cutting that originated from Brazil.

(Liberica cherries)

From that time, the Philippines became the fourth largest coffee-producing country in the world – with the rare and exotic Liberica variety grown only in three countries. In 1887, Queen Isabella of Spain made Lipa into a city, named Villa de Lipa, owing to its prosperity.

Though most of the country’s coffee plantations have been eradicated by an infestation called “coffee rust” or have been transformed into farms for more lucrative crops, barako coffee remains a sought after variety in the country and across the world – a decidedly strong and frank flavor that can stand its own alongside the famous Kona from Hawaii and Blue Mountain from Jamaica.

In fact, the barako bean has been enjoying a recent resurgence as intrepid local coffee shop owners have stood up to the challenge of foreign chains. As long as drinkers across the Philippine islands turn to it every morning for their caffeine fix and shop owners keep their doors open to those who seek a swift kick, “barako” remains a bold choice for coffee lovers.

El Bosquejo


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 Philippines Fabrics

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Marzo 24th, 2010

The most distinctive stamps of Dries Van Noten clothes are his modernized prints, so much so that they are instantly recognizable as coming from the designer. (Bagobo tribe)

For his recent collections, Van Noten is reported to have sourced or gotten inspiration for his fabrics from 6 continents. No wonder his clothes are so unique, possessing that same unplaceable quality that world music has.

(B’laan tribe)

What Dries Van Noten has done is a celebration of different cultures. In a way, he has raised their value by pushing indigenous textiles into use by current times, by showing that the fabrics, like any product, can have a global audience.

(Itneg cloth, Northern Philippines)

Of course, there is always worry that locals could be exploited in the mass production or co option of what for so long has been restricted to self sustainable communities. But if this is remedied, and with due respect and reverence, one can look at this use of indigenous fabrics as a way to extend the life of a culture and its communities.

(Bagobo tribe)

This brings me to my main topic of Philippines Fabrics. Personally, I would like to wear some of the intricate and beautiful patterns by the many tribes of the country as tailored shorts, shirts, pants, even as a kilt (replacing the tartan) or skirt shorts hybrid.

(Maranao textile)

(Dagmay cloth)

Just imagine the possibilities of indigenous fabrics mixed (in outfits or in thread) with the textiles from other countries. It just takes a new perspective.

(Tboli tribe)

Many of these fantastic patterns are considered dying arts in the Philippines. The newer generations are less keen to carry on traditions. I feel that in this regard, modernization can help indigenous communities, from any country, to help themselves in their self determination. In the process, the national culture can also benefit by becoming richer and truer to itself.


El Bosquejo


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 Style in Manila

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Marzo 19th, 2010

At first I thought it was impossible to even think about it. A streetstyle blog that documents style in Manila. My apprehensions included my perception that there just weren’t enough stylish people, that it’s impossible to dress up well in a tropical country since we couldn’t use many layers, and that, well, the Philippines is a third-world country and one needs money to dress well.

Guess what? I was proven wrong time and again.

The pictures I have taken for my other blog, La Folie Douce, show that people with different personalities have their own way of showing them through their clothing, which even in a single layer are more than enough. I have found stylish people not just in fashion shows and amongst the fashion crowd; I have also spotted them in the numerous malls scattered across Manila, bumping into them while walking in the business district or finding my way in the dirty, littered streets of the old capital. Of course, not all of them were wearing designer clothing. I have found that the more creative and sophisticated are the most well-versed in flea-market bargaining.

Indeed, style is everywhere. One need only to pay attention and look close enough.

Someone asked me what I looked for when I took pictures. I said that no matter what they were wearing, every piece should be them, a part of their identity, like an unmistakable badge. I know it’s very abstract, but you’ll know it when you see it.

I find that such stylish people find it easier to smile and laugh at themselves while staying confident. This I’m sure is true not just for Manila, much less, just for the ‘third-world’.

El Bosquejo


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