Trying out new and exquisite cuisines, venturing out to faraway places to taste specialty meals, braving exotic food, and experiencing a different culinary culture is part of the adventures that Sweetie and I are constantly seeking and enjoying. Indeed, sampling a region’s local dishes brings us closer to understand and appreciate the history, culture, character, and soul of a place.
And for our first culinary adventure, we decided to visit the municipality of Liloan as suggested by Sweetie’s pretty, sexy, and sensual friend Kim Curtis. We learned from Kim that Liloan has some sort of food market every weekend. Cebuano folks who are traveling to the northern part of the Cebu Island to enjoy the superb and pristine beaches usually stop by Liloan to shop for delicious delights. And since it’s a food festival of some sort, you can expect prices to be very affordable.
We started our adventure at around 8 AM when Sweetie and I, together with Sweetie’s daughter, Alexa, arrived at our meeting point across the now-burned out Alberto’s Pizza in Mandaue. While waiting, a group of cyclists came to rest. Those were really nice bikes! Someday, when we can afford nice off-road bikes, we’ll go cross-country biking, right, Sweetie?
A few minutes later, Sweetie’s friends Jody, Em-em, Imma, and Imma’s mom, Carmen, came. Excited for our food trip, we boarded a tiny jeep to Liloan. Fare is P14 from Mandaue. Riding a jeepney should be a part of any adventure you wish to undertake; remember, it’s the Philippines’ most popular and primary mode of transportation. Never mind the dust, heat, body odor of the passenger next to you, cramped conditions, and daredevil driving that makes you prematurely pray for your last absolution.
An hour later—and out of the blue, we might add—traffic halted to a standstill. That was a sign that we have arrived at our culinary destination, the Liloan town square. Wondering what’s causing the traffic? We’ll answer that in a few moments.
We waited for our guide near the square. A few minutes after, the beautiful Kim Curtis appeared, blooming and fully packed. Kim proudly led us to the much touted food market in her humble municipality.
P.S. If you want to know Kim’s number . . .
Kim toured us around her beautiful municipality. It’s definitely full of life as people congregate here to have a sampling of the best Cebuano dishes. This is also where you can find gigantic, shady, century-old acacia trees that are very well preserved and protected. The clean and well-maintained municipal hall speaks highly of classic beauty, timeless tradition, and clean governance.
We promised to tell you the cause of the traffic, didn’t we? Well, it’s the weekend food market. At the food market, you can choose meals from food stalls that occupy a hundred meters or so at the side of the highway. Everywhere, you can see grills, fruit stands, coconut carts, and vendors. It’s definitely an exciting, lively scene! There are countless food options that it’s actually difficult to choose which one you should order!
Many people order food to go. However, plenty others eat at tables that each stall provides. Check out these diners enjoying sumptuous meals.
Let’s check out a few foodstuff. Here are fresh, young coconuts for you, a refreshing treat on a hot day like this. Trivia: coconut water contains lots of mineral salts and ions that replenish the salts and ions you lose through sweating. That means less chance of cramps and dehydration. Coconut water is Mother Nature’s Gatorade.
There are fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fruits are better alternatives than chocolates, cakes, candies, and any man-made sweets.
But sometimes, you do want to taste man-made delicacies. Try out this masi, peanut paste inside a soft gelatin-like pastry. Liloan’s masis are the best, and you can buy tons of it from these cute kids.
Raw peanuts make great snacks. They provide over 30 essential nutrients including niacin, folate, vitamin E, fiber, and phosphorus. They contain 25 percent protein. Best of all, they are free of trans fat and sodium.
Skewered camote makes excellent and filling snacks at the beach. Too bad we forgot to buy ginamos, which makes a perfect accompaniment for slightly sweet camote due to counterpoint. By the way, counterpoint in culinary terms is pairing two opposite flavors in the flavor spectrum to provide a pleasant combination. Combinations of sweet and sour food or salty and sweet foods are examples of counterpoint.
Budbud is a Filipino dessert. It is made of sticky rice or millet mixed with freshly grated coconut and boiled in coconut milk. The entire mixture, called suman, is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for an hour. Yummy!
Okay, let’s go to the more serious stuff. First, you can find stalls that offer freshly grilled seafood. Unlike in the city where the price of large grilled seafood can practically tear your wallet apart, large-sized seafood here is cheap.
The combination of smoke, heat from the coals, heat from the sun, stink of seafood, and the din of voices proved powerless to overcome the girls’ overwhelming tendency to pose for the camera, no matter what.
We thought we would survive skipping Liloan’s lechon manok, or roasted chicken. After all, lechon manok is almost ubiquitous on the daily table, on picnic tables, on beach mats, and anywhere else. But Kim convinced us to buy one, saying we won’t be disappointed. Good thing we followed her advice. It would be safe to say that Liloan’s lechon manok is undoubtedly the juciest and the tastiest lechon manok we’ve ever tasted.
No one should forget to order a kilo or two of the Philippine’s national dish, the lechon baboy, suckling pig which is stuffed with lemon grass, garlic, onions, ginger, and other vegetables and spices then slowly roasted whole. Cebu does it best due to secret cooking techniques; the meat is delicious even without liver sauce or vinegar and soy sauce, and the skin is exceptionally crispy. It’s no wonder world-renowned chef, food critic, and author Anthony Bourdain praised the majestic lechon, saying that it’s “the best pig in the world.”
And of course, no meal at the beach is complete without puso, or hanging rice. Puso is rice that is encased in weaved palm leaves. During the cooking process, the rice absorbs the flavor and some of the pigmentation of the leaves. Personally, we find puso more flavorful than ordinary boiled rice.
There’s always something here for diehard gastronomic adventurers. Let’s start with the ginamos, anchovies floating in extremely strong brine. Foreigners usually cannot taste the smell of ginamos (in fact, we heard that ginamos is not allowed in airplanes) and are utterly disgusted at the mere sight of fish bodies and eyes staring at them from the bowl or plate. Ginamos makes an excellent counterpoint accompaniment for many foodstuff such as boiled bananas, sweet potatoes, and even rice. We daresay, it is a great appetizer!
That’s fresh sea cucumber; we call them bat in Cebuano. The vendor fills that glass with sea cucumber which is then mixed in vinegar, garlic, onions, ginger, salt and pepper. It tastes really good!
Those are Tanduay bottles filled with sea urchin entrails and guts. We call them swaki and they taste marvelous when eaten with puso.
After getting our orders cooked, we proceeded to Baybayon 1, a community near a beach. Lead the way, pretty Kim!
Purok Baybayon 1 is just beside the road and a 5-minute ride from the Liloan town square. It’s a lovely, quaint area with lots of brightly colored flowers, a makeshift basketball court, and several small huts. And the best thing of all? Purok Baybayon 1 is located right beside the beach!
Well, it’s not even a beach if you’re thinking on the lines of “beach resort.” Our picnic venue is just a table in a patch of sandy private land immediately beside the Liloan coastline. Trees with large canopies provide plenty of shades. We paid the owner P50 for the table.
Kim brought her newly-bought tent. Pink is pretty! Hmmm . . . we should have brought a hammock, Sweetie, since there are trees where we can tie our hammock to.
We hurriedly prepared the food. Yes, we were already hungry from all that jostling in the food market.
Yes, the customary pose before the “battle.” Look at all that yummy food! Mouthwatering, isn’t it? Oh yes, there’s a store just before the beach where we bought bottles of Coke.
Attack! Leave no prisoners!
While we ate our lunch, we enjoyed the snippets of life here: a fisherman tending to his net, sunburned kids enjoying the water, children selling all kinds of goods, and even an occasional musician who serenades you while you eat your meal. Our country is so rich in life and culture; we just need to realize, appreciate, and take pride in that fact.
An old missus passed us by and offered us these luscious green mangoes. Green mangoes are unripe mangoes that are extremely sour. Slice of such mangoes are usually dipped in salt or shrimp paste, called bagoong or hipon, before being eaten.
A young man passed our table and offered us these ice candies, fruit juices or purees that are placed in plastic bags and frozen. We’ve never seen such huge ice candies before!
The ladies, Sweetie included, said today is Cheat Day. Thus, they cheated on their diets and ate dried meringues and sweet and slimy budbud. I wouldn’t blame them; it’s impossible for a dieter to resist all that delicious food!
That’s the northern side of the beach. It’s almost vacant, probably because it is at the border of someone else’s territory. See the seawall?
The south side of the beach, however, was teeming with beachgoers. Probably, it’s because most of the makeshift resorts are here. The atmosphere is very quaint and provincial, even if it’s just a hundred meters from the highway.
Liloan’s sand is not white but light brown. However, this should not be a deterrent in visiting there. Remember that each beach has its own characteristics. Many of the beaches in El Nido, Palawan, for example, are rocky. But being filled with rocks doesn’t take the magic away. That’s the same with beaches with dark sand.
Serene, uplifting, and relaxing. These are what visitors feel whenever they witness the beautiful seascape of Liloan, where the blue sky and sea kiss each other at the horizon.
“Our world is always changing,
From ocean depths to mountain peaks,
Mother Nature moves and speaks.
While telling stories of our past
She tries to teach us how to last.” – Edith Phinazee
Do you know what’s the best thing when embarking on adventurous food trips with the one you love? Well, you get full, you have fun, and you get to cuddle each other in the most adrenaline-filled way possible.
After we had our fill, we headed to our next stop, which is the famous Liloan Parola. The heat was extremely oppressive, but that didn’t stop us from visiting Liloan’s most famous landmark. Getting there required hiring a tricycle. We paid P16 per person considering that we rode the tricycle straight from Baybayon 1 to the lighthouse. Normally, a person needs to pay only P8 if he/she rides a tricycle from the town square.
The historic lighthouse of Liloan rests a few hundred meters from the sea at Bagacay point. The present Bagacay Point lighthouse was erected in 1904 by the order of Willard Howard Taft, who was the very first Governor General of the Philippines. The structure is 72 feet in height and still functions as, well, a lighthouse.
A marker at the side of the Bagacay Point Lighthouse summarizes its history. The parola was declared a National Historical Monument by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on August 13, 2004.
As mentioned earlier, the lighthouse was constructed in 1904, which is stamped at the lighthouse’s entrance. However, there is a much older lighthouse, which Spaniards built in 1857. It rests nearer to the sea and is now in ruins. We weren’t able to take a photo of the older lighthouse because our camera ran out of battery.
The lighthouse is eco-friendly and partly runs on solar power. That’s a solar panel array.
The view from Bagacay Point is simply spectacular. You can see ships sailing through Camotes Sea towards the northern and eastern parts of the country. Clearly, this is a great place for shipwatchers. Due to the scenic view it offers, Bagacay Point is a favorite venue of photographers, couples on a date, shipwatchers, and locals.
We should do this food trip again, guys and gals!
1. Liloan’s weekend food market occurs during weekends. To have the freshest food available and to avoid crowds and oppressive heat, it is best to arrive at the place early. 9:00AM would be a good rule of the thumb. If you come at noon, there’s a chance that many of the foods will be out of stock.
2. The food sold at Liloan’s weekend is very affordable. In our case, we just spent less than P130 per person for a huge load of food and drinks, including the P50 rented table.
3. Be sure to order the lechon manok, lechon baboy, and the exotic seafood. They are not to be missed.
4. To get to Purok Baybayon 1, just ride a Compostela bound jeepney and ask the driver to stop you at Baybayon 1. He will stop at the junction; just follow the dirt road, and in a couple of minutes, you’ll be at the sea.
5. Don’t expect a white-sand, exotic beach. The Baybayon 1 beach is just a public beach, a piece of brown coastline where locals relax and enjoy the sea. Don’t be demanding of luxuries.
6. Table rental is P50, but take note that on weekends, the tables may be filled up. If that’s the case, you can just spread a picnic mat on the sand. Don’t worry about getting burnt to a crisp because the picnic area is in the shade. Every once in a while, vendors selling all kinds of stuff (we even encountered a young man selling board shorts) may come across your way. Take your pick; all their wares are very affordable.
7. Be sure to prepare a lot of P1 coins. That’s because vagabonds may come to your table and ask for alms. Sometimes, buskers, or public musicians, visit your table to serenade you. Those P1 coins will come in handy.
8. You can go directly from Baybayon 1 to the Liloan Parola without stopping at the town square. Simply flag down a tricycle and negotiate the rate. We paid P16 per person for a one-way trip (normally, you’ll have to ride a tricycle to the town square then ride a second tricycle to get to the lighthouse. In both trips, you need to pay P8 per person per trip). Point to consider: insist to be taken to the foot of the lighthouse. Some drivers ask for extra money to negotiate a gently steep slope leading to the lighthouse. Don’t fall for that trap; a tricycle can easily climb that cemented slope.