Northwest on Mindoro island is Puerto Galera, a scuba destination in the Philippines with picture-perfect blue skies, a soft sea breeze, spotless beaches, cheap drinks and friendly locals. Just a few of the many reasons why I love this place. However, there is one thing that bothers me in the Philippines. Its food.
Before you start shouting at me, let me tell you that I am not a foodie. My culinary knowledge goes as far as distinguishing chicken from beef and sweet from bitter. When I travel I ask the locals what they recommend to eat because my know-how is limited. Interestingly when I ask this question the locals tell me, not only in the Philippines but across the world, what they believe what is the most popular dish, instead of recommending me which dish they personally prefer to eat.
One dish that seems to be a must-eat is Adobo, a cooked Filipino pork and chicken or lamb in vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper, soy sauce and a bunch of other spices. Another dish I had many variations of was Bulalo, a simple and light-coloured soup. Bulalo is a stew made from beef shanks and beef marrow bones cooked until the collagen and fat has melted into the clear broth.
After several days eating every single possible combination of Adobo, Bulalo, Tapsilog, Dinuguan and raw unions (they call it a green salad here), I was ready to expand my culinary horizons. We were lucky. The initial sunshine that had welcomed us was replaced by dark clouds and constant rain. Several days of dreary weather, drinking, non-stop talking nonsense and endless games of pool, had turned us into a permanent fixture of the hotel bar. It was time to do something radically different. We decided to rent a motorbike and explore the mountains with Ron, the finest motorcycle taxi driver in Puerto Galera.
We followed Ron through the wet mountains and over slippery dirt roads towards Calapan when, after several hours, we finally arrived at the ‘Chez Ron’ residence. Ron’s lovely wife and two beautiful kids, wild dogs, chickens and several other local farm animals greeted us at arrival. While the secret ingredients of vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper, and soy sauce were doing their work, we popped open a few bottles of the most exquisite Red Horse beers; the day after, as my head was pounding, I discovered why locals call this beer the Red Horse. Well hydrated we decided to visit a derelict bridge not far from Ron’s place. We returned after a hour or so and by the time we got back the slowly BBQ-ed Filipino pork and chicken was ready. We sat down and started to eat. The meat was amazing. A rich blend of smokiness, succulency and finger lickin’ sweetness and spiciness. The deliciousness was of the scale but most importantly I uncovered the secret to amazing Filipino food. All you meat is love.