Saturday, April 9, 2011

How To Chicken a Larsian. Vice Versa.

My love for chicken can be summed up by one elementary correlation: I worship sushi, but chicken makes me mad. It's a bird. It's a foul. It's a domesticated pheasant. Every part of a chicken is a travelogue on its own. Like, the wing is Tibet, the neck is Nepal, the legs is France, the butt... uuhhh... the butt is all American!  Isaw (intestine) is undoubtedly Filipino.  But it's just me. A chicken fan.

Coming to Cebu is a gastronomic adventure similar to a trip to Disneyland. There are chicken barbecues everywhere. When I say everywhere, it's like every five-meter radius.  Not to mention that a whole roasted chicken  can be feasted on for only Php99.00; Php130.00 max.  Hey, that's only in Cebu. So read again before you attack the roasted-chicken vendor at the corner of E. Rodriguez, Quezon City for selling you Php250.00 a whole chicken.

So imagine now when I discovered Larsian. It's one place near Fuente Circle right next to a hospital, where everything chicken is skewered, bathed in all sort of sweet, sour, soy sauces and laid on flaming coal. Paired, of course, with ubiquitous puso and more soy sauce (or vinegar) with lemon juice and chili to dunk it in before having the delectable morsel disappear in your mouth.  Then you convulse. 

But Larsian is more than just about roasted chicken. If I wanted chicken, I told you they're all over Cebu.  Larsian is a fascination in food, culture, and... ahm... food. And culture.  It's all about the manner of eating and the food you eat. That's because Larsian is not your typical eating place.  It's devoid of air conditioning (what exhaust fan?),  ambient lighting (they're trying), fine tables and silverware (not even plastic). It's not  a place to bring a date, unless you're dating Angelina Jolie who's always on the lookout for an Asian orphan to adopt.  You eat with your hands.  You can choose to have your hands gloved in plastcc or wash from a jug of water.  I prefer the former as washing means having to endure the water splattering on my feet and having it flow on the crude cement floor towards somebody else's table. The plates are made of coconut fronds or some native materials that are not suppose to be washed. Which explains why they're all covered with plastic. Say, do the dishes... waterless. 

Some of the best eating experiences I had were done in hotels, classy Japanese, character Italian with all the finery of high table manners.  But a great eating experience I would rather have is where one could simply slack at manners. Larsian has such feel. Go put your other feet on top of your seat. Chew and speak at the same time, and discover a newfound talent. Go grab anything from across the table. Avoid asking somebody to hand you something. It's rude to interrupt somebody in a feeding frenzy. You can smoke all you want. It can't be worse than the smoke coming from all the grills all over the place. You can drop your leftovers on the floor and nobody will give a hoot. Reminds me of a friend who drops his leftovers on the floor instead of putting them on the side of his plate. He'd love Larsian.

One can also feel like a celebrity upon entering Larsian. The marketing scheme among consignors involved having customers almost wrestled to their tables although they're all selling the same lovely cuisine (one of my BFF's describe cuisine as food prepared artistically):  barbecued pork, blue marlin (at Php60.00?! a piece), squid, siomai (to die for), liempo, chorizo, chicken innards, butt, wings, breast, legs, nothing human. For rice, there is always Cebu's national cuisine (really artfully done) puso.  

Segue: to eat puso, one simply has to break it open from where the wrappings have been slit by a knife. Then take the compacted sticky rice by hand to mouth.  If it's too big, just take a bite. You will know somebody from Manila or outside Cebu when they spread the rice on their plates.  Wrong! That's like having dinner with a spoon in Canada.

Upon finishing everything served, you can wipe your mouth of all the grease from all the chicken skin you ate and the sauces dripping from your mouth. Have a glass or two of soda from a large bottle of Coke.  Then pay. Kaching!! all for Php350 (even less) for three or you can stomach-space-is-the-limit for Php500.00.  Where you even? (Sa'n ka pa?)

For those who do not read, here's a pictograph on how to eat at Larsian.

Go find Larsian. It's at the opposite side of Fuente Circle coming from Mango Avenue. It's next to a Chinese-sounding hospital. Go ask.

Enter the hollowed grounds and look for a vantage seat. The place can be an interesting venue to people watch. Don't listen to waitresses calling you to pick their table. Don't be gullible.

Step 3
Choose a vendor. Oh, this one has kinilaw, tinola, siomai and hot soup.  Ahm, this is the only picture I have of a vendor so I am not necessarily endorsing this one.  Your choice is as good as mine.

Pick and choose your poison. The fun starts here.

No! You don't eat it right away. Ask an attendant to have it cooked.

No. This is not the attendant. This is the bouncer in the guise of me.

While your chicken parts are being cooked, go back to your seat with your plate of puso.  You might be handed a bunch but you don't have to finish all of them. Return the excess as long as they are not opened.

Eat! Swallow! Munch! Gorge! Devour! Gobble! Bon a poulet!

Don't forget to document. Click! Click! Click!

After the feast, go back outside and play "Name That Building."
Next stop: Pungko-Pungko

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Homeless on Sinulog... Almost

More like my first and a half Sinulog. In one of those business trips I had in Cebu way back late nineties, I was sent to again organize an event for Islacom. I thought it was just one of those events they usually do in SM City. I noticed though that people were always in a frenzy. And the buzz around town was about a festival called Sinulog. I didnt know Sinulog was a big thing in Cebu then until I went back to Cebu Midtown Town Hotel, amidst horrendous traffic and an ever-dancing-to-a-beat-I-don't-know-where-it's-coming crowd, only to be told by the receptionist that I have to vacate my room since it has been reserved and extending my stay, as requested by Islacom, means I have to seek accomodation elsewhere. The next scene was characterized by sentences ending in exclamation points. I was hurling fire and brimstone while there were celebrities at the lobby. Maurice Arcache was there, palangga.

Cut to: Me settling back to my hotel room amidst the drumbeats outside. But then, I only had half the fun. Mostly from making a scene at the hotel lobby.

Last January, I get to see what Sinulog is really all about. For lack of words, it took the wits out of me. I could have used words like awesome, spectacular, great, and nice but you'd rather find that in Philippine tourism sites. It is indeed the mother of all Philippine festivals with neighboring islands participating in the events. It was a whole month celebration that featured, aside from a mardigras and religious processions that usually characterize Philippine fiestas, singing contests (Cebu Pop Music Festival and Cebu Idol), street parties, band concerts, art exhibits, photo contests, a short film festival... the list goes on. Of course, road traffic stands still on procession and mardigras days and walking is the best option. Or get a hotel near the parade routes. I will publish detailed info on event schedules and parade/procession routes here next year. Maybe I'd throw in some names in cheap accommodations as well just to make that smile grow a little wider.

Luckily, I have enough visuals to sum up what I can say about Sinulog. Otherwise, this entry would have been riddled by words such as awesome, spectacular, great and nice.

Fluvial Parade at dawn taken from Mactan-Mandaue Bridge.

Photos above courtesy of Doc Mon Federe.

The Grand Price Winner of this years Sinulog Photo Contest

Sinulog 2011 Short Film Festival, SM City CebuSinulog 2011 Short Film Festival opening number

Me goofing with trophies at Sinulog 2011 Short Film Fextival


Sinulog crowd at Mango Square composed of locals and tourists from all over the Philippines... and a dash of international colors, too.


I just have to document myself in the crowd. Otherwise, what's the point of these photos?!

Local singing goddess, Dulce, at the Cebu Pop Music Festival.

Yes, I'm serious when I said walking is the order of day on Sinulog days. Here with my good friend Prof. Arelio Vibar of UP and the skinhead guy is my, ahm... no, I dont know him.

And, yes, I made the video below. Music produced by Sony Columbia, Ode to Joy by Beethoven. Credits music by Yani, Flower Duet.

Smitten by Cebu

Cebu. I first came here way back half of the nineties at the height of my advertising career. I was handling what used to be Isla Communications Company, a.k.a Islacom. During those times, I think, there were no advertising agencies in Cebu that companies based here would have to hire agencies from Manila. Those were weekend trips from Manila to Cebu to supervise events and sales blitz at SM City Cebu for Islacom. But every time I drop my bags in my room whenever I arrive back in Manila, I have that strange feeling that I somewhat left my heart somewhere else. Then there's the after-taste of barbecued chicken butt and the image of rice wrapped in woven coconut fronds. I crave to hear the intonation of a dialect that verges between singing and begging (second only to Bacolod's). Makes me smile remembering food servers, cashiers, and sales ladies who take their time meeting requests as if tomorrow is just another day or that you have the whole week to sit and wait. In spite of the annoyance, I appreciated that life doesn’t have to be in a hurry. And that street bounded by a circle at one end and a capitol at the other started to beckon, so does a bar beneath a hotel located up the hills. Towards my fifth trip, I came to resolve that some day, I would find work and live in that place that kept whirling in my thoughts.

Pass a decade, I now find myself working at Bigfoot Studios and live in Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island right across Cebu. It would be complicated to explicate why not live in Cebu City considering that I am “already there but not yet.” Let’s just say I want to continue admiring Cebu at a distance and would, from time to time, run to it and steal it a kiss or two. Besides, Mactan is still within Metro Cebu.

So much has changed since. Changes made in the awesome way. The Terraces, Ayala Centre is mini Greenbelt. SM Cebu has done much renovation with IMAX, quaint cafes and al fresca lounge area. Multicabs, Manila’s jeepney counterpart, are coded as to their routes and destinations. Traffic is next to Manila’s which makes it second only to worst. Skyscrapers mushroom here and there. The nightlife rages. Restaurant in all tastes and styles jotting across the city. Yet one eatery in Cebu that will always make my day is Larsian – domain of all barbecued chicken parts! But that would be another story.
And! Only now did I know that one can be catapulted from Cebu to Malapascua and Bantayan Islands; Bohol, Negros and Camiguin by simply being shot there from a canon.

For now, let this page be a preamble to what life could be had in Cebu, the island in the middle of it all. In this blog too one may read Metro Cebu and neighboring island adventures (and misadventures, the interesting part) in food, nightlife, beaches, events and festivals, hideaways, destinations, great finds, and local anecdotes that make Cebu linger in one’s mind.
Larsian always make my day!
A college classmate, Atty. Constantin Agustin, tries out arts and craft... and food. In short, puso -- sticky rice wrapped in woven coconut fronds.
Ride a multicab. But beauties like these not always included.
New additions to Cebu skyline, Crown Regency, behind my home during Islacom days, Cebu Midtown Hotel
Some photos by Doc Mon Federe and Mochie Cuyco