Commercial activity in colonial Cavite was one of the most cosmopolitan in the world. Thanks to Fray Andres de Urdaneta, the Basque navigator and Augustinian friar from Ordizia, who discovered the torno-viaje (or the return route from Manila to Mexico) galleons from Acapulco bearing Mexican silver, salted cod and other produce from Spain and the new world weighed anchor in nearby Cañacao Bay before consigning their cargoes to the aduana. Manned by Sangleys (people of pure Chinese ancestry) smaller boats and clippers from the Chinese province of Fujian Would dock nearby to trade rice, silk, ballast, pottery and at times cheap labor in exchange for the coveted Mexican silver.
Even before the ayumtamiento (municipality) established shipbuilding and dry-docking operations (known as barradero from the Spanish barrar, “to smear”) the Sangleys who came mostly from Fujian, were regular visitors to colonial Cavite. The barradero was where the tripolantes (workers in the dry dock operations) daubed alquitran (coal tar) on the hull of the galleons as insulation against the elements. When the Spanish settlers suspected the Chinese were threatening their security, they fortified the area with muralla (high thick walls) at the same time surrounding it with moats; the place was called Puerto de Cavite (port of Cavite). Following this, the Chinese then decided to establish a settlement on the peninsula in what is now known as Sangley Point.
Having passed the test of time, and with roots that can be traced back to the glorious years of the galleon trade, the bacalao, quesillo, calandracas and tamales are the most enduring culinary traditions from this period. Unfortunately, war, industrial change and rural-to-urban migrations have greatly reduced Cavite’s former splendor. Even the use of the Chabacano language, is now on the decline. What has endured, however, are the culinary traditions still being practiced by a few artisans devoted to the traditional craft of producing those exquisite recipes. But with abundance of global food chains, the standardization of Filipino cuisine and the advancing age of the artisans, theses recipes may eventually become extinct.
Article written by: Mr. Ige Ramos
Posted with PERMISSION
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