20 Feb2011


We have always known him simply as “Tito Billy”. The man with the scraggly beard that felt like a “brillo pad” brushing up against your face when you kissed him hello or goodbye. :) Even when he was awarded the “National Artist for Sculpture” and his beat up pick-up truck had some of the earliest of vanity plates (part of the honor accorded) imprinted with — “National Artist” — we mostly fondly remembered the days when he used to offer the cousins rides in this horse drawn roman chariot around the University of the Philippines sunken garden. I kid you not. An honest to goodness chariot a la the movie “300” with Gerard Butler. University students from the 1950’s-60’s might remember this era of the eccentric artist on campus. Any one who took a class in the College of Fine Arts would have probably come across this indulgent professor, notoriously generous grader, and eventual Dean. He was over for dinner last night.


In his 80’s and recovering from a bad stroke he suffered a couple of years ago, it was a pleasure to have him as our guest, along with other relatives and friends. I knew instantly that the food would have to feature favorite Filipino dishes, and no fancy plated and served courses. With 16+ guests, we set up a makeshift buffet table under a colorful oil painting by an artist friend, Fernando Modesto. Modesto was a student of Tito Billy’s from way back when, so it seemed like an appropriate setting. More than the usual attention was paid to the preparation and presentation of the dishes…


Serendipity resulted in the finest and simplest dish of the evening. We found the feistiest and freshest blue and cross crabs at the Seaside market in Baclaran. Untied, they could scurry at breakneck speed across the kitchen counters. Ten medium to large-sized crabs weight nearly 4.5 kilos, and we simply steamed them, cooled them down and stored them in the fridge for several hours. At dinner time, they were served with a tasty cane vinegar and garlic dip. ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. The crab meat was naturally salty and sweet and incredibly succulent. Superb with vinegar. It doesn’t get easier and better than that. :)


Next, we had a platter of Bistek Tagalog, but a seriously zhugged up version of it… I started with thin sirloin steaks from Australia, flattened them a bit with a pounder, and seared them them in a hot cast iron pan with a touch of oil. Once they had acquired a slightly caramelized tan, they were transferred to a serving platter; essentially medium cooked sirloin steaks. The pinoy overlay came in the form of one katutak (how is that translated into english?) of sauteed onions in the salty tangy sauce. Again, we were lucky in the markets that morning, as I spotted a large basket of “native white onions”. These white onions are DIFFERENT from Spanish or white onions when they are cooked. The native white onions are more opaque, and mushier. They are the CLASSIC onion used for Bistek, I am told. I sauteed tons of onions in vegetable oil, then added beef broth, soy sauce and kalamansi and a touch of cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Season with freshly ground black pepper and pour the whole lot over the steaks and serve HOT. YUM. :)


The next dish was a labor of love… 3 kilos of pork belly, 3 cups of fatback, coconut vinegar, salt, fresh and dried bay leaves, a dozen whole bulbs of young garlic and peppercorns stewed slowly in a palayok over a wood fire for approximately 3 hours! We made this earlier in the day and the aroma during cooking was almost enough for me to break my diet. This was the recipe that I called the “Best Adobo” I have ever cooked… and yup, it still works wonderfully. The old-timers in the group recognized this as the adobo of their childhoods, and the younger guests were all praises for the buttery soft meat and fat, and the smokey flavor. We don’t make this more than once or twice a year, but it’s ALWAYS worth the effort. And fried leftovers are another notch up. :)


Lechon seemed like overkill at this point, but we had frozen sisig in the freezer, so I made a kilo’s worth of lechon sisig. The entire platter was wiped out!


To balance the meat and pork, we had a chilled unripe langka salad, which for some reason, sucked up all of the dressing and actually seemed a bit dry… But it still provided a lighter foil to the pork et al.


We also served a tomato salad (made up of five kinds of tomatoes from the markets), topped with salted duck eggs and nearly an entire tinapang bangus, first fried and flaked. This was salty, sour, sweet, acidic all in one fork full. Some chopped green onions used for garnish.


We also had a roasted talong and tomato salad, a house favorite.


The one dish I forgot to photograph was a guinataang kalabasa at sitaw or kabocha squash and long beans in coconut cream with peeled shrimps. We also started off dinner with a bowl of chicken binakol soup. All of these recipes above have recipes in the archives.


After a dessert of native kakanins, budbud kabog, fresh ripe mangoes, pomelos, conversation and “catching up” began in earnest… Over a cup of tea or coffee and more sweets, my aunt noticed we had a copy of Tito Billy’s newest book, a wonderful catalogue of hundreds of his sculptures over the decades, and she asked if it was autographed… She then asked my uncle to autograph it and he dedicated it to our daughter, who will treasure the book for many decades to come…


It was a lovely evening. The food merely a backdrop to the gathering that just happened to include a sculptor, family and friends.



  1. Mimi says:

    Artists are human too, even if we elevate them to demi-god status, which they do deserve for presenting their talent to the rest of us lesser mortals. Food preparation is a dynamic art too. What a memorable evening! Thanks for sharing the experience, MM! P.S. ‘katutak’ = tons and tons?

    Feb 20, 2011 | 11:27 am


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  3. cherryoyvr says:

    Awesome buffet MM! This will inspire our next Filipino feast at home. Thank you.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 11:29 am

  4. wisdom tooth says:

    Presentation of the food enhanced the beauty of the art work. Bilib ako sa iyo, MM. napapangiti mo kaming mag-anak everytime we go to your website. Thanks!

    Feb 20, 2011 | 11:37 am

  5. Chowhound says:

    Ditto wisdom tooth, very impressive indeed. It has a restrained elegance. Lovely!

    That version of adobo is what I grew up with (I’m in my late 20’s pa lang po by the way :). So true about it being a labour of love, it takes a lot of time and patience to make and the aroma! just imagining it makes my mouth water. I guess I know what I’ll make for dinner tomorrow.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 12:13 pm

  6. ariel says:

    I remembered Prof Abueva had that chariot, I think I took a sculpting class under me, he really made you think on your design.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 12:48 pm

  7. Tonito says:

    Maraming salamat, Mr. Napoleon Abueva, a great Philippine sculptor!

    Feb 20, 2011 | 12:50 pm

  8. Bijin says:

    Oh my gosh, I graduated from UP in Fine Arts and he was one of my professors! There was Prof. Agbayani, Prof. Abueva and several more that escapes my memory. At that time a few of the celeb students we had in the CFAA was Fernando Poe’s mother, Boy Leonardo and a fellow classmate Willie Nepumoceno is now a celeb too. I think all my professors were eccentric but it was expected in the college! Yes, Prof. Abueva was and still is an icon in the arts! I will send the link to a few classmates.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 1:25 pm

  9. Peach says:

    Marketman, how cool that you got offered to ride Prof. Abueva’s chariot! :-) I did not get the chance to see the chariot as it had become just an urband legend during my UP days. What a wonderful dinner that must have been! Great food, excellent company.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 2:46 pm

  10. bagito says:

    Love the spread. Simple but a lot of thought put into it–I like that the focus is more on quality, not quantity. (Hmm, might adopt this menu for our next get-together.)
    May God also bless Prof. Abueva with many more years of life!

    Feb 20, 2011 | 3:07 pm

  11. moni says:

    MM, I was a student in UP Diliman in 1966-70 and I used to see Prof. Abueva on horseback. Immediately after graduation, I was offered a job at the UP Institute of Mass Communication and Prof. Abueva used to visit our office, the Plaridel Hall, as he was friends with our dean, the late Dr. Gloria D. Feliciano. I have fond memories of him, every smiling to us awestruck students.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 3:44 pm

  12. ZharMagne says:

    Where did u get your serving dishes? Love them… :)

    Feb 20, 2011 | 4:01 pm

  13. ZharMagne says:

    Wow love the spread, food looks really yum! Where did u buy ur serving dishes? I like the ones elevated.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 4:08 pm

  14. Carol says:

    Hi MM – nice combination of Filipino dishes you have there! That’s how I always cook my adobo and we usually have it at least once a month! :). Nice to know you are related to Prof Abueva. His house is located near our subdivision and I always look intently at his house whenever we pass by it. He has some interesting sculpture pieces which one can view from the outside of his house! :)

    Feb 20, 2011 | 5:37 pm

  15. daphne says:

    MM,i was just curious about your “best adobo”,didn’t you add soy on it?It seems that it looks like a mestizang adobo?I want to try that recipe also.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 6:50 pm

  16. teacupmoments says:

    Thank you for confirming to us in the lower UP batches that the chariot story is not myth! I like everything you prepared MM. It seems you went with some classics with the flavor volume turned up. Very classy and suited to your guest. You are really a master of entertaining well without overreaching.We all have so much to learn. :)

    Feb 20, 2011 | 7:51 pm

  17. jean says:

    This post is particularly memorable, MM, starting with the food and ending with the tight shot of the book jacket. What a great way to provide resolution to the nagging question of “Who is this sculptor?” Although I attended the UP after Prof. Abueva’s tenure at the College of Fine Arts, I always enjoyed traipsing up the steps from the Main Library to the Fine Arts classrooms. It had a such rarefied air of genius-inspired wackiness!
    Thanks for sharing the evening you and your family had with this National Treasure!

    Feb 20, 2011 | 8:19 pm

  18. millet says:

    wonderful! MM, you always manage to elevate the simplest pinoy dishes to fine dining, with no fusion confusion and no fancy plating.

    there is a permanent (i think) exhibit of a number of abueva sculptures at the malagos gardens; the masses of orchids and foliage provide a perfect foil for the beautiful sculptures.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 10:50 pm

  19. Divine G. says:

    Even if you are on a strict diet you can still manage to make such delicious and delightful dishes,I admire your strength around those temptations. I have heard of Prof. Abueva’s work when I was still in the Phils. and him becoming a National Treasure. I never really thought that he’s in 80’s now, but I am happy that he still around. You MM are a magnificent and well-balanced host.

    Feb 20, 2011 | 11:56 pm

  20. cuci says:

    what an elegant dinner set-up ! congratulations MM ! we wish mr. abueva good health !

    Feb 21, 2011 | 12:20 am

  21. betty q. says:

    The simplest things are indeed the best! To Mr. Abueva…like Cuci, …good health wishes!

    MM…you made me laugh with “brillo pad”…haven’t heard that and “katutak” for ages!!! I think I was still a littel girl last I heard it!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 1:12 am

  22. Vettievette says:

    Wow what an amazing evening. Reminds me of when we would visit w/ my mom’s aunt – Isabel Santos aka Tita Bills – Bayanihan’s head costume designer and tour director. Always a treat to hear her stories and to see her latest work. She is almost 90 and STILL keeping herself busy with the dance company and her personal artwork.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 3:49 am

  23. Mary-Ann says:

    Wow, pati crabs artistic and dating! Ang daming food at makulay ang salads.
    I just cooked sirloin steak and Bistek Tagalog also, before I saw this.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 6:38 am

  24. aly says:

    a good combination: good food and good company.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 6:52 am

  25. juanang says:

    OFF TOPIC!!! Hi Everyone! The 10th Philippine Food Expo will be held this February 24 to 27 at the World Trade Center. Me and my friend will again attend the exhibit. This may also interest you guys out there. For details you may visit http://www.philippinefoodexpo.com

    Feb 21, 2011 | 7:52 am

  26. Quillene Petite says:

    To Mr. Abueva, I wish you good health!

    MM. I love the menu spread! Simple, aestthetically beautiful, comforting and definitely, delicious!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 9:05 am

  27. mary chen says:

    nice post mr MM! i too am from UP Diliman and i heard about it. totoo pala. Prof Abueva is an instituion. and i am grateful that you took a picture of him at your house. i havent seen him in ages. and i also love your menu. very filipino and the setting is laidback elegant. katutak is heaping in english. (?)

    Feb 21, 2011 | 9:11 am

  28. Nancy says:

    MM My dream spread, want to have that when I get to visit Phil sometime soon. You don’t get that here in Oz. If you could only get Phil Tourism to present that buffet here in Sydney that would be wonderful. It would be a very good introduction to Phil food for my Aussie co-workers, its simple yet got that bongga feel. Thanks MM.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 9:50 am

  29. Gej says:

    Napoleon Abueva is your uncle!? That’s so cool! National Artist and National Treasure!

    Isn’t it “sangkatutak” or “lots of/whole load of” in English?

    The adobo looks really good!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 10:11 am

  30. Gia Mayol says:

    Mr. Abueva’s son used to be my grade school classmate. I remember seeing him during school events like elocution contests. I wish him and his family well. Tnx for this post, MM. It sure brings back memories.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 10:46 am

  31. jo says:

    wow, awesome!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 11:03 am

  32. E says:

    Star-struck with the last 2 pictures. I remember running into Prof. Abueva about two years ago at the UP CFA while having a pottery lecture there. He was teaching a Saturday sculpture class and working on a new piece with some hardwood. He’s simply the kindest great man I’ve ever come across.

    Agree MM, he so deserves the BEST ADOBO.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 12:01 pm

  33. tipat says:

    I would consider that to be a dinner worth remembering talaga. Good company and good food. It’s amazing how you are able to make ordinary dishes and appear so elegant and high class just as millet had described. Nagutom tuloy ako… Now i’m craving for everything that you served, especially the eggplant salad, adobo and the ginataang kalabasa… YUM!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 12:08 pm

  34. millet says:

    “one katutak” made my weekend, MM! LOL!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 2:13 pm

  35. Cherrie says:

    I enjoyed reading this, MM. It had a lot of heart.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 7:26 pm

  36. DJ says:

    Ow, i remember visiting and touring his wonderful house. i wonder why i was not able to ask for his signature though, i’m so excited exploring his house :-(
    Mr. MM, your talong and tomato salad is exactly what we have for lunch last saturday paired with inihaw na tilapia. missing my hometown and the staples, yum!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 8:41 pm

  37. tonceq says:

    No Sinigang? Wow! what a spread MM! the only thing i can say is that you outdid yourself (again)! I have a question though, if i understood it correctly you steamed the crabs and then refrigerated them… and then served them afterwards without reheating? sorry! just wanted to clarify!

    BTW, i know this does not impact the post in any way but your paragraph about the bistek tagalog preparation has freshly ground black pepper spelled as “gorund”. another great post MM! :)

    Feb 21, 2011 | 9:19 pm

  38. Marketman says:

    tonceq, will edit typo, thanks. Yes, the alimasag are served CHILLED. They taste great that way. Not at room temperature, but chilled. :) Everyone’s translations for katutak are helpful, thanks… I like “heaping” the best. :) Millet, my uncle’s family has a connection/link to the Puentespina’s, hence the sculptures loaned to their gardens… daphne, while in a poll 80% of respondents say they NOW add soy sauce to their adobos, the original adobos had no soy sauce. In fact, until the early 1900’s, I suspect most adobos were made as they were described in the post above. Soy sauce was probably only made commercially available some +/-80 years ago, so for hundreds of years before that the vast majority of the Philippine population probably wasn’t using it. ZharMargne, the serving dishes are everyday white platters and bowls, purchased from Noritake restaurant line for some PHP500 or less over a decade ago. The elevated dishes are simply sitting atop metal things that are sold in restaurant supply stores specifically for buffets, raising trays of cold seafood on a table, etc.

    Feb 21, 2011 | 9:31 pm

  39. Leah says:

    Oh my, oh my. What a spread!

    Feb 21, 2011 | 11:05 pm

  40. horti_guy says:

    Tried Google translate with sangkatutak (one word) and it translated to “innumerable”. Sangkaterba translates to “pile”. There was no translation of sangdamukal though… :)

    Feb 22, 2011 | 6:11 am

  41. joyce says:

    a lovingly made meal taking the freshest and the best of what the local markets can offer is always the best. the lechon sisig made my mouth water lol

    Feb 22, 2011 | 9:59 am

  42. Ted says:

    sangdamukal = sangdamakmak

    Feb 23, 2011 | 9:10 am


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