Sunday, October 09, 2005

Tagbaya, Ibajay, Aklan

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I had a great time in the Philippines with my baby, Rosi, and her family. Now that I'm writing about it I miss Tagbaya and Rosi more with every word I type. Taking incredibly refreshing horizontal showers each morning in the knee-deep river (the heat at 8am is like a very hot summer day in Edmonton). Going to the beach with a bunch of the local kids, Rosi, Rowena and her brother Robert. Meeting all of her charming and friendly relatives and neighbours, like Albert (4th time expectant father, now dad to a 2 day old and still nameless baby girl). I just suggested Elsa (via Chikka txt), as a potential name because it was the town I grew up in, and also by the way the name of a smart, tough, Manila, business-woman with character who helped me book a room at the Executive Plaza in Ermita, Manila for a mere 2000 pesos (that's about $36 US, she also helped me exchange some currency but I did have to fight for an inferior exchange rate of only 55 pesos to the US dollar).

I remember meeting Albert on our walk back from "the mountain" where Rosi sometimes goes to wait for "bars" (network signal for her mobile phone). We had Rowena in tow and we stopped at a water pump so I could wash my dirty feet. Honestly, I don't know how Filipinos can keep their feet so clean on those sandy beaches and muddy paths, I have to learn how to walk all over again. Albert was lounging on his patio with a big clear bottle of booze packed high with Ginseng at his elbow. He asked how our day was going and then invited me to join him. I asked him what he was drinking he said it was "Gin and Sing". It certainly was both! Very potent.

Albert farms 2 hectares of rice fields -- one hectare is irrigated and the other is a "rain field", as he called it. In exchange for the use of the land he pays the owner with half of his harvest which I believe he said was about 100 bags (maybe 5000 kg). After getting very nearly wasted on his "Gin Sing" I took my leave of him, but not before I received an invitation for grilled chicken for the following day. We then returned to Rosi's parents house where I stopped to wash my feet once again after a mere 200 metre walk! Time for a nap and a little bit of affectionate embracing. Then we had some dinner and played a card game on the porch with her Tatayi (dad). Finally, it was off to bed at the very late hour of 8 -- pitch black, no street lights, and nothing to do but play horizontal sports and sleep.

The next day we went into Kalibo "just because" and wound up buying a nice maternity dress for Rosi and then heading back to Tagbaya again. On the way, it started to pour cats and dogs so we stopped at her step-sister's for some shelter. The rain was unceasing for 1 and a half hours. This made us about 1 hour late for lunch at Albert's but he greeted me in his kitchen as if he had expected me to arrive precisely at this hour. The roast chicken was amazing and the "gin sing" was exactly as I'd remembered it. Somewhat daunting was his food storage technique, however. He had roasted the chicken breast only and left the rest of the chicken on his kitchen table under a cover waiting for my arrival to make what turned out to be a tremendously delicious chicken soup. Looking at the plate of raw legs, organs and such I was curious about their shimmering black appearance -- Ants. The shimmering black curtain on the raw meat was a hoard of tiny black ants which he calmly rinsed off in the sink and proceeded to make into a soup, as if it was an ordinary part of any kitchen. Indeed those ants are an ordinary part of the typical Tagbaya kitchen, perhaps of most Filipino kitchens even.

Which has gotten me to thinking, how does one prepare ants. They are so very plentiful. Why not turn them into a convenient low-cost meal? So, my next project is to think about ways to harvest and prepare those tiny little ants, that are simply everywhere, for a tasty and delightful dinner, lunch or snack. Any ideas?

1 comment:

  1. I have a cousin who used to live there in Ibajay, I'm from Buruanga. Nice blog you have here about our province. Thanks for the information. Philippines DFA Branches- Ana


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