Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adobo, a Filipino Icon

Garnished chicken-pork adobo

Adobo, which is Spanish for marinade, sauce or seasoning, refers to a food cooking process that involves the immersion of raw food into a preparation, in the form of a sauce, of different components, including paprika (from red peppers), oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar, which are mixed according to the place of origin and the food with which it is intended to be served. The concoction is primarily used to preserve and enhance the flavor of food. The cooking technique is native to Spanish cuisine, which became widely used in Latin America, and was subsequently adopted in other countries, such as the United States. Adding tomato, corn, avocado, and potato in adobo is of Mexican influence. On the other hand, Venezuela has its own version of adobo, which refers to a concoction of salt with various spices, technically known as sal condimentada (seasoned salt).

When Spaniards ruled this country in 16th century, they encountered a local cooking procedure that involved stewing with vinegar and called it adobo. Since then, dishes cooked that way have been called adobo and the local term, if ever there was, was forever lost to history.

The Filipino adobo cuisine involves usually pork or chicken or a combination of both that are marinated and slowly simmered in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, minced ginger and black pepper, taken out once the meat becomes tender and then fried in a pan to get the desired crisped edges and brown color. Afterwards, the sauce is poured back for gentle simmering a little while and then the dish is garnished. Being a Filipino dish, it is served as a viand paired with rice, the staple food in the Philippines. In visiting northern Luzon, particularly Nueva Vizcaya, I found out that adobo is not confined to either chicken or pork or a combination of both or seafoods, which are universally served and accepted in all parts of the country with an exception—Muslim communities consider pork adobo as unacceptable. In Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya, there is a restaurant offering bizarre and creepy adobo dishes—of frogs and of bugs, which I relished along with other exotic dishes.

In the present-day style of cooking adobo, potato, beans or pineapple chunks are sometimes added for variation and flavor catering specially to the health-conscious. Creative chefs use deep-fried rice noodles, oregano leaves, and a long-variety of chili for garnishing. 

This dish is commonly served in local restaurants for lunch and dinner. It is the favorite packed meal by Filipino mountaineers and travelers because of its relatively long shelf life without refrigeration, which is due to its vinegar ingredient inhibiting the growth of bacteria. 

Whenever there is fiesta in any town or an engrande celebration of birthdays, weddings or anniversaries of wedding or even of death, adobo is always part of the menu composed of pansit and its variations—canton, bihon and sotanghon—and an array of pork-based cuisines ending in “do”—menudo, igado, estofado, embutido, mechado and hamonado—served for guests lined-up and in batches specially if you are in the Bicol region. 

There was even a film bearing this name, American Adobo, featuring actress Cherry Pie Picache, the central character, the star cook whose signature dish is Filipino adobo—a metaphor of the complicated relationships between friends and family in a foreign setting.

Simply said, adobo, despite the origin of its name, is a Filipino icon, diversified and yet delightful.

When you decide to have fun in any of the  7,1o7 islands of the Pearl of the Orient, don't forget to have fun eating Filipino adobo--of chicken, of pork, of beef, of shrimps, or even of bugs and frogs.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Philippines, the Organ Capital in Asia

The Philippines, being colonized by Spain, has become the only country in Asia blessed with an organ patrimony since 1581 with Bishop Salazar’s bringing along a portable organ when he set up the Diocese of Manila. This first organ, however, was destroyed together with the nipa-built church in a fire two years later. The three centuries of Spanish colonization is also the glorious era of pipe organ acquisition and building in the country—not only in Luzon but also in the islands of Visayas and Mindanao. It is safe to assume that all Spanish-built churches in the country before World War II have organs in support of Tridentine liturgy.


These organs was constructed with trumpets structured horizontally, divided keyboard and without pedal board typical of Spanish organs.  They were usually placed not in the middle of the choir loft but at the side of the nave instead.
San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila
Of these countless historical—a hundred years old or more—pipe organs in the country, only 15 managed to survive the test of time.  Six of these were restored—thanks to a scholarship program introduced in Las Piñas in support of its annual Bamboo Organ Festival.  The famous bamboo organ itself needed repair and was brought to Bonn, Germany in 1973 and stayed there until 1975 while the St. Joseph Church is also undergoing renovation.  The repair ushered the new dawn for Philippine organs. Many of these organs were in such condition that it is almost impossible to have them reconstructed as some of the parts are somewhere else if not totally wrecked and many of which are so small that only seasoned organ craftsmen would be able to identify. Strict restoration procedure is employed like the use of original materials and joining techniques.  Some parts are made of materials that cannot be found locally; they had to be imported.


The country’s inventory of historical pipe organs includes those in Manila—in the churches of San Agustin (restored in 1998) and San Sebastian; in Las Piñas—the bamboo organ in St. Joseph Church (restored 1975/2004); in Cebu—Argao, Boljoon and Dalaguete; in Negros Oriental—Bacong (restored 2008); in Bohol—Baclayon (restored 2008), Dimiao, Garcia Hernandez, Loay (restored 1999), Loboc (restored 2003), Loon and Maribojoc, in Zamboanga del Norte—Dapitan; and in Misamis Oriental—Jimenez (restored 2011).
Actors in the Restoration

Guy Bovet, the Swiss organ master.
The restoration of the pipe organs does not end in repair making them playable again. It would be useless and meaningless without Filipino organists to play these instruments; hence, there is a training program for would-be organists composed of young Filipinos who come from the different parts of the country where these priceless gems are located.  Swiss organist Guy Bovet thought of recording his own recitals using the restored organs around the country to come up with CD collection project entitled as “Historical Organs of the Philippines”. For every purchase, a contribution would be made for the said training program.

The Diego Cera Organbuilders, Inc., is the only company of its kind in the Philippines. Founded in 1994 by Filipino Cealwyn Tagle, the second recipient of such scholarship, after six years of study and training with master organ craftsmen in Austria and Germany, it is responsible for the restoration and maintenance of the country’s six historical organs.  With this Filipino organ builders and the training of organists in place, the survival of our organ patrimony is ensured.


The author holding Mr. Bovet's CDs
The locus of these historical organs in Philippine tourism is that they form part of our cultural heritage that places our country in a unique and advantageous position among Asian nations. Hence, the Department of Tourism encourages and supports the preservation and restoration of constructions of historical significance such as these. Definitely, local communities should contribute in these efforts, if not by direct financial assistance, at least by supporting the creative expressions of these gems for as long as we patronize them today they will live on tomorrow for our posterity to enjoy and share with their guests...reinforcing the Philippines: the Pearl of the Orient.