Hillsides Brimming with Kabog…


I have written about kabog or millet seed for years. It is just one of those iconic marketmanila.com ingredients. In April 2005, just months after I started this blog, I wrote about budbud kabog available at a local weekend market, here. Then in September 2006, I wrote about my attempts to develop a recipe for budbud kabog from scratch, without any reference material or anyone to show me how it was done. That seemingly innocuous post led to this somewhat amusing one, called “Gi Bogbog Ko Sa Kabog!” that is now vintage Marketman-rant-speak. I finally published a Budbud Kabog recipe a la Marketman in October 2006, and we have been making it ever since.

Then in November 2006, I published a recipe of a dear friend (now), Manang Lima, who we discovered selling budbud kabog on the street in Mandaue, Cebu and who so graciously agreed to come teach me how she made her version, which was only slightly different from mine. At the end of that post, I encouraged readers to buy their budbud from Manang Lima, and some of them did. But roughly a year later, I wrote about Manang Lima in the Mabuhay Magazine of PAL, introducing the phrase “JERK MAGNET”, and that article was read by tens of thousands of people resulting in hundreds of orders for Manang Lima, enough for her to make 5-10x what she used to earn selling budbud kabog the street! Manang Lima became a friend, we helped her through thick and thin, and when we decided to open Zubuchon restaurants 5 years ago, she volunteered to and STILL COOKS all of our budbud kabog and biko, even though she is well beyond normal retirement age. And she only does this for us. :) She visits our kitchens once or twice a week to cook these delicacies herself. But I still wanted to chase down millet or kabog to its source. After all, Antonio Pigafetta wrote in his chronicles that they were fed some millet when Magellan feasted in Cebu in 1521, before he was killed by an alleged distant relative of mine… So this post is about that quest to go to the source of kabog, and here in Cebu, that source is now located around the hillsides near Catmon, Northern Cebu.


One of our backyard-raised pig scouts mentioned that she was from the hillsides near Catmon. When asked if she knew any kabog or millet seed farmers several months ago, she answered in the affirmative, and she promised to let us know when it was nearer to harvest time. Last week she said the seeds were heavy on the plants, but it would be another couple of weeks before the harvest, hopefully after some searingly hot dry weather (it has been raining a lot in Cebu). I decided not to take any chances waiting too long and arranged to take a day trip up North. We started out of Cebu at the crack of dawn yesterday, and made it to the foothills of Catmon two hours later, and Manang Lydia met us on a motorcycle. We drove another 20-30 minutes on increasingly narrow and potholed roads, until we got to clearing beside the road and we parked the car. I looked around, seemingly surrounded by cornfields.


We walked through cornfields also heavy with fruit, and just when I was beginning to regret my choice of shorts that morning, we emerged from the corn fields to a fabulous patch of kabog or millet grasses with seeds. Often referred to as a grain, some googling suggests they are seeds, and ancient seeds at that. Think nearly 10 millennia of cultivation. I once wrote I thought these were a variety of foxtail millet, but perhaps they are proso millet instead.


It was amazing to see the plants up close, basically a kind of grass with these wonderful seeds, that don’t need much water or any care at all. No pesticides used, just plant seeds, hope for some rain over the course of the 3 months or so they grow, and hopefully they yield a hefty harvest. They are not irrigated, and they don’t really need a fuss. Kabog costs several hundred pesos per ganta (a measure of volume) that is roughly 2.2-2.4 kilos of millet seed (up to 2.5 kilos of rice) and is increasingly difficult to find, because so few people still cook with it, and therefore less and less farmers plant it. It is a personal quest to bring awareness to this ancient seed, and we serve budbud kabog in our restaurants to try and help the farmers who grow it. It’s trivia, but there is a whole other post that should be written on a gantang or ganta as a unit of measure that is shared with our Malay neighbors…


When it is scarce, kabog can rise to as much as PHP800-900 per ganta in Cebu, or roughly PHP300-400 a kilo from wholesalers! We really should package it up as an ingredient and sell it on our pasalubong tables to further encourage people to discover and use the ingredient!


We drove further into the hills and saw several more areas planted to kabog. This large area on one hillside was a 500 meter walk down a steep hill and another kilometer up so I decided to just take these telephoto shots instead… I was in dire need of a Coke Light at this point, and the nearest source was about 1.5 hours away!


In total, the excursion took some 6 hours or almost an entire day. But it was totally worth it. Now that I have seen where the seeds are grown, met some of the farmers, and appreciate the difficult conditions everyone undergoes to grow them, harvest them, process them, bring them down from the hillsides to the main road, I am going to double my efforts to make the grain available to our customers, and encourage them to buy and use it. Curious what else you can use millet for instead of just budbud or suman? There are lots of interesting western recipes, here.

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Chasing kabog back to the source? Done. :)


22 Responses

  1. EbbaBlue, sorry, autocorrect spelling is really becoming a bother. It was supposed to read “budbud or human”… I have edited the post. :)

  2. More farmers should take note of this since you say that it doesn’t need much irrigation and care. I am glad you are doubling your effort to promote its many usage….that is why you are so blessed!

  3. Love the pictures. It is so green. MM, I’ll “share” this post with a farmer friend in Iloilo. Thanks.

  4. Way to go MM! If you open a restaurant in Manila, please please include kabog in the menu. Btw, awesome penultimate aerial picture. If you did not mention that you drove up hills, I would guess that you flew a drone.

  5. This is comparable to your post about making Tinapa from almost ten years ago that I find myself revisiting from time to time. A fitting complement too to your tumultuous posts on budbod kabog. Glad to know it afforded Manang Lima a felicitous finale.

  6. Beautiful photos!

    MM, if you carry millet at your Zubuchon branches with a mention that a recipe for Budbud Kabog can be found on your blog… I can almost see the hordes of people fighting to get the last available bag! I know I’d be one of them.

  7. Would Negros Oriental also have tracts of land planted to millet? Budbud kabog is always available in the Dumaguete market.

  8. cumin, yes, it’s more of an agricultural crop in Negros. But still subject to the vagaries of weather as far as supply is concerned. A storm at the wrong time can wipe out nearly half of the harvest… Kasseopeia, we are thinking of doing just that, and I bet only a few dedicated readers will even have a clue what it is! :) Footloose, yes, for me, this was one of those incredible mornings spent in pursuit of something good, and ends up with something much, much more memorable. I need to do more quests like this, it is the heart of this blog really.

  9. This post has reminded me why this is my favorite blog. I love budbud kabog too!! By the way MM, we love your guava jelly. The husband said it brings him back to his childhood when his father made it for them using the native variety. We’ve consumed 3 bottles in 3 weeks but we’re taking it slow now because the very recent blood sugar result was borderline.

  10. Ley, I use the native variety too. Just made a batch of 36 bottles in our home kitchen for a new store we are rushing to open in time for this weekend’s Ironman crush… more on that in a day or two. But let me know if you need more, there’s a fresh batch and we don’t stock it for more than 3-4 months as there isn’t enough native guavas on offer in markets… There’s something about honest, pure, native dishes that are so endearing. And if you want to experience the jelly/jam in a new way, try it over slices of manchego cheese on a cracker, it’s surprisingly addictive. :)

  11. It is really amazing to see the lengths you have to take to get to the very source of the food you write about and this is the reason why we still read your blog.
    Marketmanila Field Notes: Kabog.

  12. MM, budbud kabog was how I discovered your blog. I was yearning for budbud kabog and since they don’t sell that here in the US, I had to figure out how to make it. I searched the web and found your recipe. There is one part in the instructions that amuses me to no end. That part where you say to keep on stirring but you don’t know how long in minutes but to know that you are almost there when you start to feel perspiration in your armpits. Classic MM!!!!

  13. pinkytab, I remember the line. And now that I have watched Manang Lima make it dozens of times in our air-conditioned commissary kitchen, she NEVER seems to break a sweat, and she makes 4-5 times the amount I make in one go! I think I am just a break a sweat kind of cook. :) Lee, amongst my other wish lists of tracking down to source are the elusive wild mushrooms in Albay, would love to watch muscovado making in Negros, lansones at harvest season in Camiguin… the list could go on and on. :)

  14. i have never forgotten the kilo of kabog you airmailed to me simply because i told you i wanted to try the recipe but could not find any kabog here. this was ten years ago, and we had just lost my Dad then, and i needed to do something, anything at all, to get my mind off my grief, and the recipe came out a couple of weeks after we buried my Dad. so receiving the package in the mail was a very happy surprise for me.

    after making the budbud, i sent some to my Mom’s home, and when we talked about it later, we both said, “sayang, Dad would have loved this”, and of course, that brought us to tears once more. I have never told you this before, MM, but you don’t know how much your gesture meant to me, and brought some joy at that painful time.Thank you, MM, and thank you for continuing to bring us to interesting places and insights.

  15. millet, I had no idea obviously. But so glad you did get to make the budbud. A poignant recipe for the family now perhaps. Faust, it’s millet.

  16. MM, my sister saw your packaged millet seeds. /she was tempted to buy one so she could plant them at the farm. I discouraged her as she has her plate full already. She still has to harvest her mongo (now all harvested) and then has peanuts to plant after. regretted later as they looked so freshly packed. Hope you still have them when I come back. I was just reviewing your post of your trip to Catmon. Beautiful pictures of the kabog plants.

  17. Hi, for those who want to buy kabog or “millet seeds” just give us a call/text. 0928-731-3136

  18. We are from Catmon, We have stocks of Kabog or millet seeds (P450/Ganta only) just call or txt @ 0928-731-3136



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