Negros Food Crawl

Local manuglibod, Maricar, replenishes her basket daily with an array of native delicacies from Silay Public Market

The “merienda culture” of Filipinos pervades all social classes and eras. And in Negros where sugar is everyone’s middle name, merienda fare can easily become a feast. And so, the piaya is just icing on the cake. The breadth and depth of Negrense delicacies, both sweet and savory, parallels the Negrense’s imagination to create new ones and tweak the old. The iconic lumpia ubod has versions so many and distinct, each has to be identified by the creator’s name. Or, its place of origin, as in the case of “lumpia sang Silay”.

Ahh Silay, the Paris of Negros, cradle of genteel living and refinements, is also the undisputed repository of Negrense native snacks. How explain why, to this day, many delicacies continue to be whipped out of this city’s colonial homes? But this is not a story about Silay, though Silay is where we begin our story.

The concept of a food crawl may even have started here, with the manuglibod, the traditional itinerant vendor in her traditional patadyong skirt and kimona top, balancing a round native tray on her head laden with delicious food. Today, wearing hardy jeans, cool cotton shirt, and matching face mask, the manuglibod has traded the tray for an updated bayong or woven tote. Video story teller Kurt Soberano and writer Mayumi Espina are hot on the trail of the manuglibod, from sourcing at the public market to knocking on doors. What’s in the basket? Come see for yourself before the day’s delicacies are sold out. Watch Ang Manuglibod on starting March 10.

Butong-Butong is a local candy made from muscovado that is among the many products of Negros Occidental.

This month, the Negros Season of Culture launches its year-long devotion to Negrense food under the campaign banner, Negros Food Crawl. That is exactly what we’ll do, through several months in 2022, crawling as it were from plate to plate, kitchen to kitchen. This is an exciting project that has been simmering on top of our stove. It’s a one-pot stew of delicacies, culinary traditions, culinary tours, the Negrense entrepreneurial spirit, up-and-coming chefs and the innovative kitchens that they run, heritage ingredients, and how-to cooking instructions.

Right away, we roll out the first of these how-tos, spotlighting a classic Negrense candy. We challenge viewers to try their hand at making this nostalgic takeaway from when baby boomers were just booming. Young boys and girls of that period were never caught without these sweets, relentlessly sucking on them while digging in for a bragging bout, or sharing campus crush gossip. Butong-Butong will bring back childhood memories among the old, of sticky fingers and sticky lips and sticky school uniform sleeves. And then, it will let today’s millennials wonder what the fuss was all about. Wonder no more as you click into starting March 17.

The fun doesn’t end there. At this time of still-limited and still-challenged travel options, the Negros Season of Culture brings more of Negros to the world with a series of virtual tours. We have a list lined up for the entire year, taking on sundry interests, but there is no better place to start than what matters most in a lockdown: Food!

It's a sweet and savoury time as guest vlogger Debbie Oca takes us on a pastry and café crawl across seven new spots in Bacolod.

And so, this month, we deep-dive into what some enterprising millennials have been up to in recent months, nay recent years. Vlogger Debbie Oca takes us on a virtual tour in Bacolod Coffee & Sweets as she hops from one pastry shop/coffee shop to another, all within the city. We chose seven based on strict criteria. It must be local. It must have a differentiating element from the rest of the picks, whether in menu, location, interior design, even experience. And the place must have opened just before the lockdown or right in the middle of it. The latter, we believe, reaffirms the values Negros Season of Culture is rooted on: integrity, industry, and innovation. Especially when the going gets tough.

So, which pastry shop/coffee shop made it to our final seven? Oh, wouldn’t you want us to spill the coffee beans. Hang tight until March 24, then crawl into for the great reveal.

Text by: Alan S. Gensoli
Photos by: Bakunawa Films, Debbie Oca

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