Thursday, May 6, 2010

As Spicy As It Gets

As Spicy As It Gets

By Raneil Antonio Ibay

Dawn breaks as we board our plane to Legaspi, Albay. Nearly an hour after, we arrived and had breakfast of fried fish, longganisa, rice and coffee to start up our sluggish systems. We then went our way on a 2-½ hour ride to the town of Oas on our rented van with Jun K manning the wheel. You see, Mang Jun or Jun K as we fondly call him is running in the local elections as a Kagawad or Councilor, so he gets to campaign while driving us there.

Arriving in Brgy. Iraya, we are greeted by the cool sea breeze and Tata Berto who acted as our guide and occasional model during our trip. Oas is not a usual tourist destination so there are no hotels or resorts around. We had home stay accommodations at Ate Melyn’s place, a nice and homey house with very good home cooking which all of us loved.

Oas was founded during the Spanish Colonization of the Bicol Peninsula. Father Baltazar de los Reyes converted 12 leading natives of the area to Christianity in one day in 1605 to form the foundation of the community now known as Oas. There are three stories that tell about Oas’ origin. But this one is my favorite.

Early Spanish Colonizers reached this section of the Bicol Peninsula and asked about 600 natives the name of the place. “Como se llama este sitio?” they asked accompanied with hand gestures.

“Onan kading lugar kadi, maiwas?” (What place is this, it’s very big?), the natives thought the question to be. In response, they answered “Si, seƱores. Labi nikading iwas.” (Yes sirs, this grand and spacious.). Early Spanish colonizers from then on adapted in their official census the existence of a “rich fertile valley with verdant fields of grain” which is the little town of Oas, Bicol.

Lunch consisted of Cocido (a chickpea-based vegetable and meat stew), fried Talakitok, Botong (rice wrapped in banana leaves and cooked with gata or coconut extract), Dinuguan (cooked with coconut milk extract) and fresh buko juice. A lazy afternoon nap was in order before hitting the beach to shoot some local scenes. It was a bit of an overcast afternoon but it was perfect for shooting a man weaving coconut leaves for roofing, kids playing on the low tide beach, a Kingfisher on the lookout for food and fishermen mending their nets.

We went back to the house for some merienda of freshly fried Maruya and ice-cold Coke. Refreshed, we again hit the beach, hoping for a spectacular sunset. No dice here though, as it was an overcast afternoon, we didn’t get a sunset but there were beautiful cloud formations and local activity going on at the beach. I shot beached boats and rocks and sea urchins on the low-tide waters while my wife Rosy and Framed Shots Camera Club friends Lea, Roselyn, Rellie, Rico, Nick and Geo shot landscapes, seascapes and portraits of children and fishermen strobist style.

Everyone was in high spirits going back to the house with flashlights to show us the way. For dinner we had the hot or spicy version of Pinangat (Gabi leaves mixed with coconut milk extract), crispy-fried Dilis (the fish used here is way bigger than the ones I’m used to seeing for this dish) and of course the spicy and chili laden Bicol Express. For desert, you pick a banana from a cluster hanging by the window of the hut beside the dinning table. Another round of coffee and stories of our adventures and misadventures carried us well into the night. As spicy as it gets, this was just the first day of a six-day Bicol trip.

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