Monday, June 27, 2011

Ang Manuglibod Sang Silay

Silay is not only known for it's heritage houses but also for its food.  I grew up enjoying gustatory delights such as lumpia ubod, dulce gatas, ibus mais, tortitas, masa podrida, pianono, señorita, piaya, bread pudding, butong-butong, salab, bañadas, butse, bichokoy, paño-paño, chicken empanada, chicken pie, panara, bitso-bitso, etc...brought daily by the friendly manuglibod (literally meaning, a person who goes around to sell aka a street hawker) for us to buy, of course!  One particular manuglibod whom I will never forget is Tya Sitang.  She was small and rotund with a really happy face, wearing a baro't saya and balances on her head this wide flat native basket (nigo in the vernacular) full of these food stuff but neatly and securely covered with white cloth.  She walks around the city with this on her head and I used to be fascinated with the fact that it never falls off.  The secret I later learned was in the white cloth that is rolled tightly and turned into a round circle to be placed between her head and the basket.  This little "cushion" was the thing that stabilized and balanced the basket.

(Picture retrieved from:
The manuglibog would balance the flat basket seen above on their heads similar to this woman with the jar (Retrieved from:

Every day at around 10 in the morning she would pass by my grandparent's house and we (both kids and adults) would eagerly watch as she would open her "nigo". Tya Sitang would always give me a rosy cheek smile and she would be very patient with us while we took our time looking over her "nigo" and choosing what we want to eat. The food items would always be placed in an orderly and circular manner so that it was very pleasing to the eye. It was always difficult to choose since, everything looked delicious. I would always reach out for the tortitas and pianono as we kids were allowed only 2 kinds each.  Sometimes, I would look at my Lola and she would allow me an extra ibus mais, or butse.  After the apos, my Lola would then buy merienda for her afternoon "pangingue", usually it's the panara or empanada.   In the past, the source of all these food were only two or three families who sold their "specialties" through the manuglibod.  Later on when other people started making similar food which they sold at a lesser cost, the manuglibod had alternative sources and a small industry developed.  Today, there is the so called "barter market" in Silay Public Market held every early morning where food items are displayed for sale or consignment to the manuglibod, most of whom now ply the Bacolod route, since Silay is no longer a lucrative market. The story I got from the traders was that initially it was an exchange system wherein each vendor would bring in only one kind of food and they would exchange products with each other however because of many problems encountered, the system is now generally COD.  The days of the flat basket are gone too and replaced by the regular native basket lugged around by the manuglibod, seen mostly in offices.  So what happened to the original flavors?  Since the manuglibod no longer source the food items from them, these families began taking direct orders, so that today the originals can still be bought directly from the homes either through phone orders or by just stopping by.  Of course, one has to pay a little more if they want the taste of the originals because even though how much people try to imitate, quality suffers because they scrimp on ingredients and of course, there are the mixes that the families have never shared with anyone, not even with their manugluto (cook), much more their manuglibod.  Emma Lacson's lumpia, señorita, chicken empanada, paño-paño and pili cake can never be equalled.  El Ideal's tortitas, chicken pie and bread pudding will always be one of a kind. The Legaspi sisters' piaya will always be the best.  I do not know who made my favorite pianonos but today's version can never match the taste of the past.  And Tya Sitang and those like her? They are a thing of the longer do we see gently swaying middle aged women walking down the road with laughing children greeting her excitedly over what goodies she has to offer. I miss those days...I miss Tya Sitang.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Semana Santa

In the past up to about the early 80's, Semana Santa or Holy Week was an important family affair during summers in Silay.  It would be that time of year when families or children based or studying in Manila and other places would come home for vacation and family reunions. The processions during Holy Thursday and Good Friday were en grande or big events as prominent families would be actively participating either as carosa owners or plain marchers.  It was always a big privilege when  a male member of the family would be asked to be one of the escorts of the Santo Entierro.  To be invited as part of the cortege was an affirmation that you are a respected member of Silay society, so you can imagine how some people would actually lobby to be included in the list.  Holy Week also meant new dresses and/or shoes to be used during the processions since marchers were expected to be wearing their Sunday's best.  The route would always pass by the big (now ancestral) houses in Cinco de Noviembre and Mckinley Streets where family members would sit and gather in their verandas or balconies with a lighted candle to watch and comment on the procession and the participants.  We would wave or give a little nod when we pass by these houses, a  practice not unlike to paying homage to royalty or heads of states.  What is ironic is that what used to be fun and exciting then, strikes me now as having really nothing to do with the essence of Holy Week.   Then everything changed in the late 70's...a new parish priest who also belonged to a prominent Negrense family was assigned to Silay. He "revolutionized" the parish, instituting many positive reforms and practices that have stayed to this very day. He broke down class barriers and for the first time, rich and poor came as one in all church-related events. When I came home in 1980 after studying in Manila for several years, gone was the pomp and pageantry of Holy Week processions...most of the carosas were replaced by actual people performing on moving platforms which I presume was his way of bringing Christ's sacrifice closer to the people.  Today, many of those antique carosas are back but because of this one priest's dynamic ways and quest to communicate what real Christian faith looks like to the people of Silay,  the Holy Week activities remains focused on its real essence, which is to reflect on the meaning of Jesus' death on the cross.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monte, Mahjong, Panguingue Atbp...

When I recall my growing-up years in Silay, one thing stands out...gambling.  As a young child up to my early teen years, I was exposed to Monte, a Spanish gambling card game, Panguingue, a rummy variation using Spanish cards or Baraja Español and of course, Mahjong. This was at a time when gambling was not yet illegal and my grandfather saw that he could earn money from it since he never gambled himself. I was fascinated with the copas, bastos, oros and espadas and would eagerly help my grandmother put docu cement (this has long disappeared from the Philippine market) on the side of the barajas to preserve the edges. I remember seeing men sitting in the monte table who were identified as "personal"..although to this day, I do not know what their roles were. In this house and my grand-aunt's house next door, I saw properties exchanging owners and fortunes lost. I remember someone arriving in a car and leaving on foot since he put up his vehicle as collateral.  After a few years and some ruined lives, government put a stop to monte and that was that for my lolo.  Of course, my lolas continued their panguingues and mahjongs with close friends but limited only to afternoons and family gatherings.  Still other houses both in and outside our neighborhood continued to hold these monte sessions which by then have become more uncontrollable and contentious since it was opened to the public unlike ours which was by invitation only. One weekend, while my lola was having one of her recreational sessions with her amigas, rapid gunfire was heard!  We all ran into the bathroom and huddled together.  Later we learned that one of the gamblers (a policeman) was losing and in his rage walked out and started shooting his gun in the air. Since it was happening a few houses away from ours, it was scary to say the least. But in spite of this environment, neither our parents nor us learned how to play any of these games.  And we are all the better for it.  My one regret is that I should have asked my lola for those fascinating these are rare finds and I could probably make money out of them today ;)