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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Coastal Cuisine of Cavite

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But for the Province of Cavite, the Philippines would not have become a republic.” This, rather sweeping, if not arrogant statement would no doubt infuriate more than a few of today’s historians. But arrogance could certainly be applied to Aguinaldo’s spectacular menu devised for the meal to celebrate the proclamation of the republic. It was, as history tells us written in French the language of food, elegance and diplomacy.Without a doubt, the Philippines in 1898 wished to become a part of the community of nations by showing the world that we were a refined and enlightened people and along with self-governance, ready to embrace the post-colonial era.

Cavite’s strategic geographical location played a vital role in the country’s history, and its design helped shape its culinary destiny. Cavite’s topography is divided into three distinctive features: the coastal area on the West North-west fronting Manila Bay and the west Philippine Sea; the highlands and rolling hills in the East South-east terminating in the Tagaytay ridge; and the fertile central plains that were previously friar lands or haciendas providing produce for and hence serving as the food basket for the capital, Manila.

Caviteño cooking as in most Tagalog provinces appears deceptively simple. But look deeper and an astonishing culinary revelation can be found in the markets and kitchens of Cavite. During a fiesta in any of its town, kare-kare, morcon and menudo glowing with hues of bright vermilion extracted from achuete (annatto) seeds, is invariably served. But there’s more to this generic offering than meets the eye, for the true essence of Caviteño cuisine is a very personal matter. Cherished recipes only appear on the dining table during close family affairs such as wakes and Easter and Christmas holidays.

In other provinces, there’s a great divide between pagkaing pang mahirap (food for the poor) and pagkaing pang mayaman (food for the rich). In Cavite, the dichotomy is between pagkaing pambahay (food for home) and pagkaing pambisita (food for guests) as home-cooked meals are not normally shared with guests or strangers. This dichotomy is even more evident in Cavite City during the fiesta of the city’s patron saint Nuestra Señora dela Soledad de Porta Vaga. Every second Sunday of November, the food served is clearly for guests, but as the celebrations continue on the thirds Sunday, the food is exclusively for Caviteños.

The usual palengke (market) selection of tamales, quesillo, and bibingkoy is considered by residents as everyday fare, but visitors regard them as specialty threads. Because of their limited shelf life, these local market fares are rarely offered outside the province.

Sadly with the exception perhaps of such gastronomic outposts as Josephine’s in Kawit and a handful of fine dining restaurants and eateries found along the Tagaytay ridge, the food culture of Cavite is virtually unknown to the outside world, especially when compared to the popularity of the regional cuisines of Pampanga, Negros, Bulacan and Bicol.

For all intents ad purposes the cooking of Cavite is not much under-rated as it is unrated.This the type of cooking that is patronized by locals, who would partake of them in traditional eateries but would much prefer to cook them at home.

That said, Cavite’s potential as a culinary destination is undeniable especially given its proximity to Metro Manila. Its nearest town is a mere 18 kilometers from the southern tip of Roxas Boulevard via Cavitex the causeway that connects the Coastal Road.

The province cuisine is confluence hewn by generations of Spanish, Basques, Mexicans, Fujian Chinese and Filipinos and not forgetting of course the Mardicas. The latter is a Malay Tribe in Ternate whose roots comes from a small Spanish colony in the spice island of Moluccas ( now part of Indonesia) who volunteered to go to Cavite to support the Spanish against the threat of invasion by the pirate Coxinga (Limahong). When the Mardicas settled on the Bahra de Marogondon now known as the town of Ternate, the brought with them a way of life that eventually brought about the evolution of Cavite’s language and cuisine.

This creole influence is still evident amongst the older inhabitants of Cavite City, who with their insular upbringing might still refer to the people in neighboring towns as tagalabas (outsiders). This harks back to as far as 1595, when the forts of San Felipe and Porta Vaga (the Chabacano word for “new gate”) were constructed to cloister the Caviteños apart from the Tagalogs who lived outside the walls. While also preferring to be known as Caviteño a dentro (from the inside) as opposed to a fuera or outside, they also use their fracture Tagalog as a status symbol, fostering the adoption of Chabacano as the lingua franca.

Article written by: Mr. Ige Ramos 
Posted with PERMISSION 


To read complete Cavite food article and other Philippine Regional history and cuisines kindly get a copy of FOOD HOLIDAY Philippines. 

A handy culinary travel guide that will take you to a fascinating journey to 25 gastronomic destinations in the islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. 

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