Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pambansang Libingan ng Pilipinas

Nine days after the self-inflicted death of Angelo Reyes, many are still doubting if it was really appropriate that he was buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. The Bayani in its name demands the highest standards of heroism from people who are privileged to call it their final resting place. While many of those who are interred there are authentic heroes by their own rights, either because they lived heroic lives or because they died as martyrs for the motherland, a claim to heroism is something that is always subject to debate and public perception. Unfortunately, Angelo Reyes' claim to heroism will be subject to debate for many years to come.

More unfortunately, the Marcos family and their loyalists are now using the decision of the government to allow the burial of Angelo Reyes at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani to resurrect their demand to have Ferdinand Marcos buried there as well. True, both men served their country for most of their lives, but their claims to heroism are also both not universally accepted. This is not the first case, and will definitely not be the last, of burials in this hallowed place being questioned. If it is the time of Gloria Arroyo to go, will she also be entitled to her own plot at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani as a former president even if the trails of massive corruption during her presidency lead to her very doorsteps?

These arguments can be stopped once and for all by splitting the current Libingan ng Mga Bayani into two separate cemeteries. Uniformed men and women who died in the line of duty and martyrs who gave up their lives for the country should be interred at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani because by their very death, they have irrevocably and unquestionably earned the nation's gratitude as true heroes. They are bayanis who deserve their place of honor at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

Presidents, Chiefs of Staff, National Artists, Chief Justices, Senate Presidents, Speakers of the House, War Veterans and other important public figures can be buried in a separate Pambansang Libingan ng Pilipinas (National Cemetery of the Philippines) where the criteria for entitlement can be more objective. A law can be passed defining who are entitled to interment at the Pambansang Libingan, and the deceased can be spared the judgment of public perception.

If Ferdinand Marcos is interred at the Pambansang Libingan, it will not be because of his claim to heroism but because he was a President of this country and the position alone entitled him to a burial in the national cemetery - nothing more, nothing less. In the United States, there is little debate, if any at all, about burials at the Arlington National Cemetery because it does not lay any claim to having only heroes being laid to rest there. We should do the same here to stop all needless squabble on who deserves to be laid in a hero's tomb.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chicken Binakol for less than P200.00!

I'm taking a break from my Fiesta Series to share with you a new recipe - albeit a borrowed one from the Visayas. Chicken Binacol is the equivalent of Tinolang Manok in Bacolod, Ilo-ilo and other southern regions. The sweet-creamy-salty-tangy taste of its broth is a result of the fusion of its ingredients. I have tasted several versions of this soup/dish in my travels down south, but so far the best is the one I had in Ilo-ilo. I have been reading a lot about this soup/dish in magazines and newspapers but never got around to cooking one myself.

This morning I happen to wake up very happy and decided to do some work in the kitchen, something I have not done so in a very long while. For some reason, the first thing that came to my mind was to experiment with Chicken Binacol. I wanted to try something new, something that I am not really familiar with - virgin territory. Since it is the first time that I am cooking this dish, I had to go back to my memories of eating this dish to be able to come up with the ingredients I need.

So here's my take of this savory comfort food from down south.

Ingredients for 3 to 4 people:

3/4 kilo chicken cutlets
1/2 green papaya cut into 2-inch slices
Lemongrass (Tanglad), bundled into small pieces
1 young coconut (buko), with both flesh and juice
1/2 cup coconut milk (kakang gata)
Fish sauce (Patis)
Crushed garlic, sliced onions and ginger strips
Whole pepper corns

Quick Cooking Tips:

1. Heat pan and cooking oil.
2. Saute ginger, garlic and onion. Put in the ginger first until golden brown to extract the zesty flavor and fuse it in with the oil. Then put in next the garlic and the onion.
3. Put in the chicken cutlets and mix with whole pepper corns until everything in the pan is well-distributed.
4. Drop the lemongrass bundles into the mixture and pour in fish sauce, then cover the pan. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Mix the chicken in 2-minute intervals to make sure cooking is evenly distributed.
6. Add the Green Papaya slices and simmer for around 1 minute. Mix as needed.
5. When chicken is already brownish, pour in the buko juice together with the buko strips. Mix well once then cover again. Add a little water if juice will not be able to cover all the chickens.
6. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then add the 1/2 cup coconut milk while stirring continuously. Add 1 tablespoon at a time if you want a creamier taste.
7. Add more fish sauce if you want it a little bit more salty. Drop a couple of long sili before serving hot.

I did my first foray into cooking this wonderful dish for less than P200.00 (or roughly P50.00/person), so this should be an affordable and easy to prepare comfort food especially on a rainy day.

Happy eating!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pateros Fiesta Cuisine Series #2 - Meat Rolls

For this posting, I would like to introduce you to a group of fiesta food that can be prepared days in advance. This saves the hosts some time so they can concentrate on dishes that must be prepared on the eve or the day of the fiesta itself. Considering that visitors are expected as early as around ten in the morning, these time-saving food can come in very handy.

Lumpiang Shanghai (Fried Meat Rolls)

First on my list is the ever-reliable Lumpiang Shanghai. This is a dish that is an all-time favorite in restaurants, fast food and even as a street food. For my version of this dish, the filling is a mixture of egg, ground pork, minced onion, carrot, bell pepper and kimchay. These ingredients are mixed together in a bowl and sprinkled with rock salt and ground pepper. If you want some crunch, you can add chopped water chestnuts into the mixture. Small portions are then wrapped in fresh lumpia wrappers and then fried until golden brown.

The lumpia can be chopped into bite size pieces to make it easier for the guests to munch on these yummy rolls. Dipped in either catsup or sweet and sour chili sauce, lumpiang shanghai is great both with rice or as pulutan (bar chow) while drinking.

Embotido (Meat Loaf)

Next on my list is the bigger cousin of the Lumpiang Shanghai. The Embotido has almost the same ingredients as the lumpia, except for a few differences. It is technically a meat loaf, made from finely grounded pork, chopped onion and bell pepper, minced carrots, raisins and sliced boiled eggs. For special occasions, I would pour evaporated milk into the mixture for a more creamy taste. The ingredients are mixed together until they attain a consistency that will allow it to be rolled into 6-inch logs.

For a more authentic Embotido, the log is wrapped in a membrane taken from a pig's stomach cavity. This whitish membrane is strong enough to keep the mixture together during cooking, and is edible so there is no need to unwrap the embotido before serving. Cooking the embotido is a two-step process. First, the meat logs are wrapped either in aluminum foil or the more traditional katsa (cheese cloth) and then steamed. Although it can already be eaten after being steamed, the logs can also be sliced and then fried. This dish can be dipped either in catsup or mayonnaise, or a combination of both.

Hamonado (Filipino Pineapple Ham)

Another pork dish that can be kept in the refrigerator until needed is the Hamonado. This dish does not require a lot of stuffing, in fact it can do without any. It relies mainly on the sweet-salty flavor of the meat. The lean pork is carefully cut into thin sheets that can be rolled into logs. The meat is marinated overnight in a mixture of pineapple juice, salt, sugar, and beer. And may I hasten to add, it has to be San Miguel Pale Pilsen.

When the meat is ready, it is spread out in a large flat dish and then finely sliced strips of Chorizo de Bilbao is spread out on the surface before it is rolled into a log. The log is secured by running a string around it to secure the edges. The meat logs are then arranged in a saucepan together with the remaining marinade. The meat is then boiled using the marinade until almost dry. The Hamonado is cut into medallions and served topped with the pineapple tidbits.

Morcon (Beef Rolls)

I saved the best for last. Morcon is one dish that ages gracefully. The longer I keep it in the ref, the more delicious it becomes. This is why this dish is better prepared the day before it is to be served. Like the Hamonado, this is a rolled meat but using beef instead of pork. The meat is marinated overnight in soy sauce and calamansi. For special occasions, red wine can be added into the marinade.

When the meat is ready, strips of carrots, celery and red pepper are spread over the meat - and then topped with slices of Chorizo De Bilbao, olives and boiled eggs. Then the meat is rolled into a log and secured by running a string around it. The meat logs are put into a pressure cooker with the marinade and tomato sauce added to it. Water may also added so that all the meat logs are submerged into the mixture. Laurel leaves can also be added for an exquisite flavor. The meat is then boiled until tender and the sauce becomes thick. Chopped carrots, bell pepper, celery and olives can be added to the sauce for added flavor. Like the hamonado, the meat log is sliced into medallions before the sauce is poured over it.

These meat dishes are my so called "after-fiesta" food because they can be kept in the ref, then heated or fried as needed. Totally not recommended for those with hypertension!