Produce Market, Mantalongon Barili


“Bago”. Huh?! That’s the answer to my question posed in Cebuano asking what these young, vibrant green leaves were. I thought she meant they were young leaves. But apparently they were called bago, as in the type of tree. Apparently used as a slight souring agent for soups, like nilangang baka or boiled beef, these leaves are also sometimes added to vegetable dishes, or blanched and eaten with dried fish. I have NEVER seen them or come across them before. Nor did I have any idea what they were called in English or Filipino. Until I googled them and amazingly found this site that lists bago as one of the things Aetas of Morong, Bataan consume! They are considered rather nutritious, and have the tongue twister of a scientific name Gnetum gnemon Linn. Gnetaceae, I kid you not. For me, the bago leaves were one of the more unusual things on offer at the roadside produce market in Mantalongon, Barili, walking distance from the livestock auction market. I almost always stop at provincial markets if they look promising, and this one was wonderful in its simplicity. Perhaps only 20-30 vendors were there the morning we passed by, and their goods were fairly limited, but exquisitely fresh. In fact, most of the sellers grew the produce themselves or were related to the farmers.


The root crops looked really fresh, but the colors, sizes and shapes of the kamote (sweet potatoes) and other root crops were, in many ways, soothingly inconsistent.


This basket of local tomatoes looked brilliant, and were so reasonably priced, that I bought the entire basket!


Bananas, beans, okra and chillies.


A nice pile of kamansi.


Gorgeous and enormous lanzones. I assumed they must have been brought from Mamabajao, Camiguin, but it turns out they were locally grown! And the vendor was so honest, and said “they look good, but aren’t so sweet, not like the Camiguin ones”, so unfortunately, she didn’t make a sale…


Bunches and bunches of green onions, under a make-shift stall.


A lady with baskets of landang, a key ingredient for Cebuano benignit or guinataan.


I noticed this older lady packing some coconut leaf containers with rice to make some puso, but there was something unusual about the rice she was using…


…on closer inspection, it turned out she was adding a few grains of sticky purple rice to the usual white rice, making the puso slightly fragrant with tinges of purple… a little innovation to a product that is otherwise so common in these parts. We purchased a dozen of these puso and cooked them at home.


And finally, after the produce marketing, we stopped to get several dozen freshly baked bibingkas or rice cakes from roadside vendors. We were snacking on them on the drive back to Cebu city, and less than half of the bibingka them made it back to the office! Next up, an answer to the chicharon poll…


50 Responses

  1. Love these open produce markets! A lot of the stuff you showed I’m not familiar with especially the kamansi & will have to click on your links! The tomatoes look like the Italian plum variety! All the veggies look gorgeous!

    Thanks for the post!

  2. britelite, I am not familiar with libas either, though i knew it was a common souring agent, but if this photo/link is accurate, the libas leaves seem more sturdy and smaller than the leaves above, so I might take a GUESS that they differ… Gener, there are so many ingredients across the archipelago that its hard to know all of them… vicky, the tomatoes are gorgeous, but a bit more acidic than sweet…

  3. Those tomatoes look really fresh!
    Were these the ones you used for the sarciadong daing?

  4. cheeseheadeatsushi, unfortunately, not. I made the sarciadong daing many days after this market visit. But they would have been perfect for the dish. britelite, libas and bago do not appear to be the same, libas is listed as Salix Tetrasperma Roxb or salix azaolana Blanco, which varies from the libas scientific names…

  5. Love the “bibingka” photos. I can smell the scorched banana leaf and taste its rustic but mildy sweet/sour cakey texture. Can’t stand the westernized version with globs of gooey cheese, ham and other outrageous toppings they add to it. This old school version is exactly how it should be — simple and rustic.

  6. In Eastern Visayas, that’s where I’m from we have lots of this Bago leaves. My Mom cooked this like adobo and mix it with tinapang tulingan or whatever kind of dried fish available. Lamian kaayo!

  7. The bago leaves bring back memories of my grandma. She used to add bago leaves in coconut milk with daing. I dont remember them to be sour though. They tasted like spinach but not as soft, more chewy and I think more delicious.
    The bibingka is making me so homesick and also fresh open markets like this. I cant wait until I retire so I can go to the market everyday and buy fresh fish and vegetables.

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever seen okra that large (I assume that’s yard-long beans in the photo next to the okra). Is that typical? I am not a huge okra fan but I do like them rolled in cornmeal and fried, okra prepared this way is usually only finger sized in my experience though. (I’ll admit I am NOT a Southener!)

    Not familiar with either of those leaves. Salix is the willow tree genus, hence salicylic acid (precursor to aspirin) originally from willow tree bark.

  9. Kurzhaar, Thelma: Evergreen Seeds has them…try to google…it looks like the one in picture up above. …must admit, not a huge okra fan either. I will plant eggplants instead of okra…at least, I can grill or barbecue the sliced eggplants and freeze them for winter use for paninis and my kids’ favorite – barbecued eggplants just dressed with vinaigrette and parmesan cheese.

  10. wow it brings back memories of my mom cooking tadyang ng baka with them, but i did not now they called it “Bago” till now. thanks for the info Mm.

  11. What a wonderful market! A mix of the unusual and unfamiliar… and of course the bibingka stopped me in my tracks! Haven’t heard of bago either. Lots of ‘traditional’ vegetables aren’t used in the cities. Last year, for example, I discovered alagaw (wow!) in a provincial restaurant and couldn’t find it in Manila makets.

  12. hey, MM! I once cooked these bago leaves with fish…they give a smoke-y aroma and feel of the dish. Like tinapa! No wonder the locals here love to put them in their fish dishes! I only did cooked it once though. Thanks for sharing that it can also be used in beef dishes!

  13. wow! nice veggies. if they can only be transported here in manila where the prices of veggies are soaring high due to the recent typhoons.

  14. Bubut, veggie selection in Cebu is great at the moment, nice carrots at Carbon market were PHP70 a kilo yesterday, compared to PHP250 a kilo in Manila a few days ago. But I understand transport lines are opening up to the North, so prices should drop a bit. Of course crops were also affected so it will be months before prices normalize. bernadette and cumin, yes, I wish there was a guide to local veggies, herbs and spices that aren’t commonly known to all, I feel like I am in the dark when I make some of these “discoveries” for myself, which are so common to that one town or province, and so little known elsewhere… pegi, you just put the coconut leaf pouches into boiling water, I have several posts on puso in the archives for your reference. benchorizo, I think libas are different… kurzhaar, yes, those are okra and they are huge, sometimes I think just harvested later than usual as well. Okra seems to thrive in the Philippines and we have lots of it in the markets. brownedgnat, I think it’s probably pretty safe to assume that the veggies brought by the individual farmers are pretty organic, though some might use fertilizers and less pesticides… but I wouldn’t know for sure. Peter V, no kamansi are a type of breadfruit, check link, and not jackfruit. Though I suspect they are close relatives. pinkytab, yes, the lady in pink was WONDERFUL. I stopped to speak with her for several minutes. She was so proud of her concoction and innovation to puso. She was stunned when I asked to buy a dozen if she would make them for me on the spot, uncooked. And so very proper; reminded me of Cebu of a previous generation or two… eej, the bibingka were fantastic and so simple, yet so satisfying.

  15. The chicharon skin is imported from europe. I know the guy who supplies some of the Carcar chicharon makers (JEDCO owned by Jimmy Escano). It makes sense though. Locals never waste any part of the pig so I’m sure local pork skin can’t meet chicharon demand.

  16. Thanks, MM, for featuring the Mantalongon fresh produce market. Actually, Thursday is the tabo. And this has been going on ever since I can remember. I always make it a point to pass by the tabo on my way to Barili or to the city. Hmm, I miss the bibingka. And that bago, I remember it being mixed with the beef soup or sometimes the native vegetable soup which I call utan sa bukid when I request it from our helper. Yumm,yumm,yum. Must give the lanzones lady a point for being honest. The last time a passed by there I went crazy taking pictures!

  17. Bago was my lolo’s favorite vegetable cooked laswa style then mixed with fried fish. This is pretty common in Leyte where they grow as tall as a cacao tree. Only the young leaves are harvested. They are not sour at all MM.

  18. Hmm… I remember these bago leaves in a slightly sour soup served to us with bisugo fish, which we caught ourselves on a secluded Palawan resort near Underground River. It was the first time I came across that produce.

    Nice post always, MM.


  19. Oh, yes, “bago” that’s the vegetable my mother used to send to her sister in the city as it is her favorite! Thanks to the bloggers here, I now know it can be cooked several ways aside from being mixed in the simple vegetable soup, “kalamunggay, squash, batong” that is common in the barrios. So delicious, to think it is only seasoned with salt and thrown into boiling water with green onions and tomatoes!!! Always long for this and have it for lunch and dinner whenever I am in Barili of which Mantalongon is part of it’s municipality. I remember “bago” having a hint of bitterness rather than sourness though. Thanks for featuring Mantalongon, and the pictures look great that you’d think you can just pluck those vegetables out!!!! Usually, there are lots of produce there sold that it is all so attractive. This happens only on Thursdays as pointed out by Farida. The kamansi, a breadfruit, is peeled and quartered into bite sizes and cooked with the vegetable soup or cooked with beef stew. It tastes good!

  20. MM, have you heard of “eba”? I don’t know what category it would fall under, vegetable or fruit, as it can be eaten fresh seasoned with salt as it is so darn sour, it will make your lips pucker and squint your eyes!!! It growsabundantly on a tree and can be seen in most backyards in the province. But it is good as a souring agent for “inun-unan”, a fish dish with ginger, garlic, bittermelon and eggplant. I don’t know what this dish is called in other regions, but this is what we call it in Cebu. You can also pickle “eba” and I even brought it this way to California!It can also be sliced and tossed with bagoong as an appetizer.

  21. nenette, I think you are referring to “iba” or “kamias,” I have a post or two on this fruit in the archives. I guess I need to cook with this “bago” the next time I see it so I can actually taste it.

  22. libas and alubihod are different. they are souring agents as mentioned above.

    we used to spend summers in a small barrio in kabankalan (neg 0cc), and lola would coarsely slice the bago leaves and saute it with ground beef or pork. makes great soup. it’s texture is somewhat similar to collard greens..also takes that long to cook!

    i also remember lola slicing breadfruit (kamansi or kulo) thin and frying them into kamansi chips, or slicing them a bit thicker and cooking them a la camote cue…deliciously starchy!!

  23. hi there! nice site you have here…i’m out of the topic, just wanna it safe to feed my 10 yr old kid red or brown rice? just want to be safe on what im feeding my son..thanks alot n God bless!!!

  24. I love bago! It is quite common here in the Visayas and we use it in tinowa or law-uy. I think the English name is Spanish joint fir (how unwieldy is that, eh?). It’s got a bite to it when undercooked, which is how it should be done (as with most veggies).

    BTW, have you heard of kulis/kolis, MM? It’s used in inun-onan/pinamalhan; looks a bit like bago, but bigger and brighter green in color. My mother tells me they used it to line the palayok or wrap the fish in, back in the old days…

  25. toping, thanks for the english name. And no, I haven’t heard of kolis… I am getting a bit frustrated now because there is so much I don’t know with respect to local ingredients, herbs, etc. and they are a disappearing breed… I just want to record all of them, and get people to use them more! :) angelwings, I am not a doctor or nutritionist, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I don’t see ANY reason at all why you couldn’t feed a 10 year old with red or brown rice.

  26. Unlikely I will ever run into this at my local farmers’ markets but I am a sucker for any interesting edible plant, so I looked it up:

    Food Uses:
    Many parts of Gnemon are used for food. The leaves are used to wrap food and as a vegetable and the seeds are eaten raw, boiled or roasted.
    In Vanuatu the leaves and young cones are boiled and flavored with coconut cream for consumption. In Papua New Guinea the leaves and young cones are cooked with meat. In Indonesia the mature seeds are ground into flour that is made into a flat cake, fried, and eaten as crackers. The fleshy coating of the seed is also fried which produces a chewy snack. These products constitute an important home industry in Indonesia.

  27. kurzhaar, OMG, OMG, this is the same or very closely related tree to that in Indonesia that bears the fruit/nut belinjo or melinjo, that is pounded into a cake that is fried into a bitterish cracker. I HAVE had this several times… cool. Thanks for that.

  28. hi MM! bago is one of my favorite ulam! in our province (Sibuyan Island, Romblon) we cook it with coconut milk, green langka and daing. it’s best prepared torn by hand. you should really give it a try.

  29. Very interesting! The Visayan region sure has a lot of surprises. I am saddened by an article in the recent World Mission magazine about patenting of seeds and plants by large multinational companies like Monsanto so they can monopolize them in the future. How else can we rediscover and enjoy these beautiful plants we enjoyed as children? What would happen to the farmers?

    On alighter note, I enjoyed the A Bourdain feature on the Phils. Congrats to all those who presented our luscious cuisine…to MM for the lechon, Claude Tayag for Kapampangan cuisine, and the others. After the show was Chef Abroad who featured a foyager who would source the freshest ingredients within 150 km or mile radius for a Google canteen. What an enterprising chap!

  30. In the interests of accuracy here, plants/seeds can only be patented if they are newly developed kinds. “Old fashioned” or land-race or heirloom varieties cannot be patented and are free for anyone to use. Patent rights expire after a period, they are not forever.

    It is not just “large multinational companies” that patent plants. So do individuals, horticultural nurseries, universities, etc. If you ever look in a plant/flower/bulb catalogue and see varieties labelled with “PP(number)” or “PPAF”, it means that is a patented variety (PP = Plant Patent, PPAF = Plant Patent Applied For). I love herbs, for instance, and see many patented varieties of mints, oreganos, and so forth. And think of all the patented flowers (roses, lilies, hydrangeas, coreopsis, salvias, etc…does anyone complain about their developers “monopolizing” the marketplace with their new plants? Of course not!

    Just this year I planted a couple of patented plants…a gorgeous blue Veronica (speedwell) and a spectacular new Echinacea (coneflower) in my own garden. I am under the legal obligation to not propagate these plants by cuttings or otherwise, whether for my own use or for someone else’s. I have NO problem with that. I think it is only fair that a company or an individual who put in the enormous amount of work to develop a new variety be able to hold (temporarily) the exclusive rights to sell that new variety. After all, nobody makes you buy that particular plant, whether it is a flower or herb or crop seed.

    Patented plants are not necessarily genetically modified. But, with regard to patented genetically modified plants, there is a knee-jerk reaction I see frequently where people are immediately anti-technology (“no GMOs”) and make emotion-laden remarks without understanding the facts. Remember that gene transfer has occurred in nature for millenia. There are far nastier practices that go on (the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock, pesticides on crops, “factory” production of eggs and meat), but the average person continues to buy such foods without questioning that. GMOs by the way are also the source of many valuable substances that most people are quite happy that we have…medications, vaccines, even some microorganisms used for making cheese or beer. If you believe that GMOs must be bad, then skip your flu vaccine this year.

    For the record (and I think my past posts attest to that), I am a huge fan of farmers’ markets, heirloom produce and humanely produced meats, buying local, and so forth. But I am not anti-technology and certainly not anti-patent.

  31. For some reason, I think local food taste better when wrapped with banana leaves like pancit taste better when wrapped with it. I can’t imagine bibingka tasting better than on burnt banana leaves.

  32. Hi,
    I’m working in a permaculture farm, Cabiokid ( in Cabiao (Nueva Ecija, North Luzon) and I would like to visit some organic market in Manila. Do you know some niece places?

  33. hello,I’m so happy to get your blog site coz of KMJS.Para na rin akong nanalo sa lotto.Nabasa ko ang tungkol sa dahon ng bago.Marami ditong may puno sa Bats.Nilalaga lang kasama ng kamatis,sibuyas,at bawang.Timplahan ng asin at vetsin kung gusto.Pwedeng samahan ng ibang gulay tulad papaya ,patani atb. pa.Ulam na partner ng sinaing na tawilis.Simple pero masarap.Medyo mapait pag baguhan pa lang ang kakain pero pag sanay na e da best.



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