The Dangers of Too Many Fiesta Meals, or Adventures with Filipino Eats

I guess it was just a matter of time before I did the obligatory food post about all the interesting dishes that I’ve been trying in the Philippines. Unfortunately what prompted me to type up this post was a string of eating mishaps, of sorts. On Tuesday a nearby barangay (or village) had a fiesta in celebration of its patron saint. As my co-worker informed me, this fiesta was for the Immaculate Conception, celebrating “the conception of the Virgin Mary without any stain of original sin.” Which was a tad hard for me to wrap my mind around initially because it’s celebrating an event as opposed to an actual saint, but I guess this barangay fiesta is the local equivalent of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

At any decent celebration, party, or fiesta in the Philippines there will always be lechon baboy, or roasted pig. The first time I had it was in Cebu, where it’s a local specialty. I had met up with fellow KF9er Ed Coambs one weekend and made a point to try out lechon baboy, since all my HSPFI co-workers kept telling me that Cebu has the best lechon baboy in the Philippines. We ended up getting a tame, chopped-up version in a restaurant recommended on Wikitravel. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. I much preferred lechon manok, or roasted chicken. And to be honest, on that Cebu trip Ed and I gravitated towards American comfort foods. Like McDonald’s and pancakes.

Breakfast at the Pancake House in Cebu

I think this was Ed’s favorite meal in Cebu. He seemed a bit distraught when he learned that there’s a Pancake House in Cagayan de Oro, but not in Bacolod where he’s currently serving as a Kiva Fellow. Sorry, Ed. If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t gone to the Pancake House in Cagayan at all 😛

But I digress. After returning to Cagayan de Oro, I got to eat lechon baboy at a HSPFI project officer’s son’s birthday party; at the after-party for HSPFI Illigan Branch’s 15th anniversary (and Christmas) party. Then I had it at the fiesta this past Tuesday. Twice. During lunch at a HSPFI co-worker’s house, and then during dinner at the HSPFI Executive Director’s.

Lechon Baboy - Roasted Pig

I actually love eating lechon baboy, despite it’s somewhat… intense… appearance. I’ve always thought that you should call a spade a spade. If you enjoy being a meat-eater, you should be able to stomach eating meat that retained its original form and looks like the animal that it actually came from.

…Although I do admit these “after” pics of lechon baboy looks like complete carnage. Which never strikes me while I’m busy stuffing my face with roasted pig.

Half-Eaten Lechon Baboy from the Fiesta

And actually, my downfall at the fiesta meals on Tuesday wasn’t lechon baboy. It was fatty pork. Large, gooey, oily, delicious chunks of pork meat and fat. I’ve always loved eating Chinese fatty pork dishes, so I was ecstatic when I found out that Filipinos like to eat fatty pork too. I ate so much fatty pork with rice on Tuesday (in addition to lechon baboy) that I ended up suffering from the “goldfish syndrome” – a favorite pet theory of mine. If you keep feeding goldfish, they’ll eat until they die. However, I used to have these amazing goldfish that would flip over and helplessly float stomach-up near the top of the tank when they overeat. (In case you were wondering, as my boyfriend sardonically asked when he first heard this story, they WEREN’T dead or dying.) They’d wiggle their little tails trying to flip right-side-up, but they won’t succeed until their stomachs finish digesting. Hence, the goldfish syndrome, which applies to humans too. I suffered from a particularly bad bout of goldfish syndrome after stuffing myself at the fiesta this Tuesday.

Apart from lechon baboy, I’ve sampled a variety of meats and offal in the Philippines. The most exotic dish that I’ve tried by far here though is balut – boiled duck egg with a partially developed “chick” inside.

Balut - Uncracked

I almost never say no to any dishes that my co-workers tell me to try, but I had been desperately hoping that I could get out of eating balut while I’m in the Philippines. I had read a previous Kiva Fellow’s encounter with balut before I ever thought of becoming a Kiva Fellow, and I honestly didn’t think I could stomach this dish. But my co-workers kept telling me how delicious it was, etc. It almost seemed like eating balut is an unofficial initiation rite for Kiva Fellows in the Philippines. So I was resigned when Corroi, HSPFI’s Kiva Coordinator, finally dragged me to a balut stand. I watched her eat one, and then she promised that she would pick one out for me that had a younger, less developed chick.

Balut

When Corroi cracked it open though, I could see the duck fetus all too clearly. I could see a little duck foot. I managed to suck the balut juice, then begged Corroi to eat the chick for me. I ate everything else – yolk, whites etc. which tasted pretty normal. I will admit that the juices, with a dash of vinegar, was pretty tasty. But yeah – I’m glad I can cross balut off my list and put it behind me.

Lechon baboy and balut aside, the main eating mishap that prompted me to write this post was actually me accidentally biting into a chili pepper thinking that it was a string bean during lunch yesterday. It was a pretty painful first experience – but you can thank that innocent-looking chili pepper for this long post on roasted pigs and duck fetuses. 🙂

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