Growing up, I would hear my dad and the help speak in Waray. Hailing from Samar, my dad spoke fluent Waray and I would pick up some words, especially the bad ones. Although I could understand it, I couldn’t really speak it. What I got exposed to, though, was a lot of food from Samar—tamalos, kayug, sisi and quisio, the salty Waray kesong puti. All these became part of my comfort food.
On a recent visit to Calbayog, Samar, all these familiar food items came to life again.
We visited Ping Ping’s tinapa factory where the fish looks like galunggong, but is not. It is alumahan fish blanched in paksiw sauce until cooked, then smoked using a particular wood to give it that reddish color. It is then vacuum-packed and sold as a Calbayog speciality.
We stayed at Ciriaco Hotel where owner Marilen Tan asked me to try nutty and spicy tamalos with sticky tender pork, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. There was also freshly smoked tinapa and a few others.
The new dish I tried during this trip was sinakugan, which is sticky rice mixed with black rice and cooked in coconut milk. Sticky and dry, thick and mildly sweet tsokolate is poured over it and served with fish escabeche. In my case, it was a dry and sticky humba. For someone who is on intermittent fasting and does not eat rice, all diets were off. I ate so much. It was that delicious.
We were there for the 5th Calbayog Tinapa Cookfest. Although many of the participants’ entries needed a bit more creativity, there were some that were brilliant.
Marilen sent me home with three pieces of tamalos, a very well-made version with the creamy-peanut consistency and the perfect amount of spice.
I have another reason to visit Samar. There is talk that the famous bells of Balangiga will be returned to the country. My connection? The hero of Balangiga, Capt. Eugenio Daza, happens to be my great-grandfather, dad of my Lolo Gabriel. Proud moment for the Dazas.