DTI's pet adobo isn't Cebu's crispy, dry adobo

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

I had to debate with myself for quite a while on whether or not to join the fray stirred by the Department of Trade and Industry's desire to come up with a standard on cooking adobo, a measure it now euphemistically calls guidelines owing to the public backlash it generated. If I am now writing about it, though, it is not because I am for or against the measure. To me food is to be eaten and enjoyed, not intellectualized.

I am joining the fray because I strongly suspect that by adobo, the DTI means the Tagalog adobo. Well, there is a Cebu adobo that is loved by the millions of Cebuanos and Cebuano-speaking people in the Visayas and Mindanao. Unlike the Tagalog adobo, it is dry and crispy. Those like me who never learned how to make it crispy have settled for the more tender version, which is just as lovely and delicious in its own way.

I do not know if the Cebuano adobo is what the Ilocanos call bagnet. But I think bagnet, if not for its much bigger portion of meat, is closer to the Cebu chicharon (make it made in Carcar) than it is to the Cebu adobo. The Cebu adobo is just medium-sized chunks of pork and fat, not oversized ala bagnet. And they are not deep-fried but cooked until it fries in its own oil.

At this point, let me make it plain and clear that I am no cook, much less a chef (susmaryosep). I am just a when-the-urge-hits cook. Before I retired from office work, I used to be a day-off cook, meaning I would cook for my family on Mondays, my rest days. When I do, the Cebu adobo of the more tender variety is always part of the menu. My youngest daughter Nina calls it square meat and we all took to calling it that way among ourselves.

My cousin Igan, who is by far a more accomplished cook than I am, says the secret to cooking the best humba is to use pork that had first been adobo'd. Having tasted his humba, I cannot but agree fully. The best Cebu adobo I have ever tasted is being sold at a small carenderia at the public market of Compostela.

My earliest recall of the heavenly Cebu adobo goes way back to the early 1960s. At that time, travel was still very difficult. From where we lived at the time in Mandaue City, it was not easy to go to Dumanjug on the other side of Cebu where my mom's sister, Mama Bating, lived in order to join her and her family for the town fiesta, during which they would throw a large banquet.

But because Mama Bating doted on her only sister, she would never fail after the fiesta to send my mother a can full of adobo swimming in its own oil, or lard, when the oil "sleeps". Now, this was no ordinary can. It was what is called in Cebuano as "taro." It was a container for cooking oil or kerosene. So you can just imagine how many weeks we got to savor the perfectly preserved adobo.

Back to my working days when I would cook on my days off, I used to tease Quennie Bronce and the other editors about what I happened to be cooking. And they all would fake a groan and tell me what a bad boy I was. If this article seemed desultory, maybe it took after the DTI. Why not let the adobo be, especially if you do not even know there is another adobo known to and loved by millions of Cebuanos and other Bisayas.

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