A couple of weeks ago, Marketman & Company went off to Malapascua, that small island on the Northern tip of the island of Cebu. The next dozen or so posts shall chronicle highlights of our terrific trip up North. A leisurely three hour drive plus 30 minute banca ride from Cebu City, Malapascua is a diver’s paradise and sometimes hailed as a “mini-Boracay” or “Boracay -15 years ago”. Heading North out of the City of Cebu, at the early hour of 5 a.m., we passed Mandaue, Liloan (where the famous Titay’s rosquillos are made), and through more and more rustic towns along the Eastern coast of Cebu. We kept our eyes peeled for roadside bibingkas that one of my crew recalled enjoying on previous trips along this route. Finally, in the outskirts of Catmon, we ran across some roadside street vendors whose stalls were just letting off a phenomenal amount of smoke.
We stopped the van and got out and crossed the street and sure enough, the most amazing little bibingkas were on display. But almost more amazing were the makeshift ovens in which they were baked. Made of some galvanized iron sheets with burning coconut husks placed above and some hot embers underneath a drawer filled with small pans, this oven was hot enough to cook the bibingkas in say 10-12 minutes. Probably better referred to as “puto” in Manila and up north, these simple rice cakes with a little coconut milk and sugar were sublime simply because they were hot out of the oven and done in such an ingenuous, and smokey manner. Cooked in little metal tins lined with banana leaves, these vendors sell hundreds of these bibingkas to passing cars and trucks every single morning (with the possbile exception of Sundays).
I tried to get close to one of the ovens to take some photos but was quickly OVERWHELMED by the smoke! Teary eyed and temporarily blinded, I decided to step back and do telephoto snapshots instead. With 4 guys in the van, I figured a dozen small bibingkas would be sufficient, but we quickly regretted not buying more, because just a few kilometers down the road we ran out of the hot, tasty, baked (not steamed) bibingkas. They were incredibly fresh tasting, the cake springy and lighter than most steamed putos available in Cebu, and they had a subtle coconut milk flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. Perfectly cooked, they had a nice “crust” on top. And get this, at a price of PHP2.50 or 6 U.S. cents each, these were definitely the bargain purchase of the trip!