How do you cook adobo?
- Lydia Castillo () - May 13, 2012 - 12:00am

It was cooked 16 ways in Taal, at the culmination of the culinary competition that highlighted the celebration of the town’s 440th Foundation Day.

The trip to Taal was on impulse. Our friend Chita called and wanted to know what the Elpasubat festival was all about and convinced us to go to Taal where the event was going on. With another friend, Blanche, we traveled on a rather circuitous route to the town, which has been dubbed the Grand Lady of Batangas and a heritage town. Along the way we encountered some street dancing that prepared us for a fiesta. 

We found our reliable friend Dindo at the town plaza where the activity was going on. He clarified that elpasubat is an acronym for all the things that make Taaleños proud – embotido, empanada, panutsa, suman, balisong, barong, tawilis, tamales, tulingan (we miss adobo and embroidery here).

The festive air pervaded the town square which was dressed up in colorful buntings. In the covered area there were two rows of vendors with their respective wares, mostly food unique to Batangas, a collection of balisongs (fan knives which reminded us of our youth in Tanauan), some baby items and footwear. It was a hot day, but the warmth of those who welcomed us was comforting and much appreciated.

Dindo is a passionate advocate of everything Taal – its history, culture and cuisine. It was just apt that he was the punong abala in charge of the whole palabas.

There were 16 culinary contestants, men and women, all looking eager yet nervous, from culinary students to barangay officials to housewives and shipping crew, who were to cook their own version of adobo, specifically the town’s original adobong dilaw (with turmeric). There were three judges from De La Salle Lipa Institute of Culinary Arts led by Shirley de Jesus.

We thought the innovations were rather imaginative, with some entries using various elements – sweet potatoes, pineapple strips and juice, sayote, malunggay, even garnishings like pechay and finger chili. In some versions, however, the true essence of the authentic adobo was lost. This made us sad, for the flavors of this “national dish” must not be diluted.

Therefore we felt vindicated when the simplest of all the entries, meaning no borloloy, the recipe which we were honored (by Dindo) to have chosen as “Lydia’s Choice,” was declared unanimously as the winner. Home cook Marieta Riza produced the least decorated entry, but it has the original flavor of adobo, a perfect blend of vinegar and soy sauce and lots of garlic, laced with juice of turmeric. The three judges agreed.

With our last minute and surprise appointment to the judges’ table over, we hied off to the selling area and got our brood’s favorite pork tapa and longaniza from Nennette Panganiban at P220 a kilo each, a portola (sardine tray) of bibingka galapong at P50 per, ube halaya for P20 each, matamis ng mane (unique to Batangas) at P20 each as well. We did not get any balisong, but noted the wide array ready for takers.

Embroidery is another handicraft that has been maintained and sustained by the Taaleños. And just as well, because from their hands come the most exquisite and delicate pieces ranging from barong Tagalog, ladies’ wear and a collection of table linens. Each item is done by hand, by women of families who have engaged in embroidery for generations.

For the table linens, prices range from P120 for a round doily to P1,000 for a runner and P3,000 for a table cloth for eight. The money one pays is like an investment in a treasure.

Treasures they have a lot of in the many ancestral homes that make a visit to Lipa a trip back to the years of the Commonwealth. Their owners have all been generous to open their houses to visitors. There, one relives the glorious past, and perhaps wishes their quiet dignity and elegance would have rubbed off on the new generation.


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