My mother used to say that one way of sizing up a person is by knowing about the kind of food he/she enjoys since food is part and parcel of living well. It wasn’t until I left home that I realized that we have so many culinary delights, some of them peculiar only to Kagay-anons – like the much-touted bihod (fish roe) coming from that special fish known as pigok (indigenous to Cagayan and Tagoloan rivers).
There’s the binaki (made from milk and corn meal) that most people in the Philippines don’t even have an inkling of. Then there’s the fresh milk puto from the Soriano kitchen, the yemas, brazo de mercedes, sans rival and boat tarts that only Tita Gely Dayrit can make. There’s also the Elloso’s banana candies and the late Tita Flor Jaldon’s special coconut candies (not macaroons).
From my mother’s kitchen, I learned to make keseo (white cheese from fresh carabao’s milk), budin (bread pudding), jalea (pure mango jam) and fresh milk ice-cream churned from a hand-cranked ice cream maker or garapinera.
Who can forget the late Tita Luz Macaranas’ special ensaimadas, fresh lumpia and masa podrida (a kind of pastry/cookie made from flour with ube jalea filling ), the Castanos’ empanadas, Lola Iling Fernandez’s pastillas de leche (also made from fresh carabao’s milk) and the manticao (or mantecao, small elongated cakes which come in two flavors: cinnamon and butter) and crema de fruta recipes of the Neri sisters (Tita Perla and Tita Flor).
Almost every family had tsokolate at breakfast and dinnertime made from their own backyard cacao trees. What about the kayam? (a kind of fruit, shaped like a shell which is eaten boiled) I remember that my mother had a “suki” who would deliver cooked or boiled kayam to the house. I haven’t seen kayam for a long, long time now.
And who can ever forget the ginamos made from hipon or little fish that come only once a year, usually the first day of February. I wonder if other places in the country have as many delicacies such as the ones that Cagayan de Oro can boast of (except for Pampanga and Bacolod, of course).
(Excerpts from an article by Gwendolyn Ramos Garcia from her book “Memories of the Old Hometown”)