Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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Looking Back

Cavite through its mountains and food

There will be no holiday, no speeches, or commemorations tomorrow, May 10, in what once was  a lonely hill in the Maragondon range known as Hulog. The local government was misguided when it built a tacky theme park there to remind the nation of what it wants to forget. While the historical marker declares that the Bonifacio brothers, Andres and Procopio, were executed in “Mt. Hulog near Mt. Buntis,” some textbooks insist on Buntis or Tala; from bullets, or bolos, or both is still hotly contested because their remains have not been found and given proper burial. Bones were recovered here in 1917 and proclaimed to be Andres Bonifacio’s bones, but even these disappeared, I presume, because they would not have withstood closer scrutiny.

Teodoro A. Agoncillo advised historians to visit historic sites because this helps the imagination give flesh to written accounts or oral lore. Researching for his landmark Bonifacio biography, Agoncillo visited Mount Buntis and heard people from the neighborhood say “kapag nagtapis ng ulap ang Buntis, may masamang mangyayari.” (When Mount Buntis is wrapped in clouds it is a bad omen.) So was Buntis obscured by clouds on May 10, 1897? Following Agoncillo’s advice, I made many trips to Cavite over the years: Once on the trail of Bonifacio, another time on the trail of Aguinaldo, only to realize that history like a mountain range has its ups and downs. You can visit the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit to stand by the window where the Declaration of Independence was read on June 12, 1898, and be elated. Or be deflated as you follow the footsteps of Bonifacio from Tejeros where he was removed from his position of leadership, to Limbon where was captured, to a schoolhouse where he was kept in chains in a cupboard before being brought to the Maragondon house where he was tried and sentenced to death for treason, and end at the mountain range where he was—

depending on the source you are reading—hacked or shot to death.

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My latest trip to Cavite, organized by Ige Ramos, was different because it traced the history of the province through its food. How the Manila galleons landed in the port of Cavite where they loaded mango saplings that were brought to Mexico and gave them what they still export today not as Mexican mangoes but “mangas de Manila.” In this port arrived fruit and vegetable immigrants that have become part of our lives: corn, peanuts, chico and many things whose names end with “-te”: kamote, sayote, tsokolate, etc. Cavite has their version of the tamales different from the original in Mexico or even the transported one in Mexico, Pampanga. Cavite even has a homegrown Spanish called Chabacano that is different from the Chabacano in Zamboanga.

Proud Caviteño that he is, Ramos sees Cavite on the historical map of the Philippines as the province that gave us the First Republic and the First President; of course this is disputed by historians who believe otherwise. He wants Cavite on the culinary map of the Philippines to join Pampanga, Bacolod, and Iloilo, again something to be disputed by cultural and culinary historians who believe otherwise.

As a Kapampangan eating my way through Cavite I realized that the Philippines is an archipelagic country with many ethnolinguistic groups, languages, histories, cultures and cuisines. To know and appreciate the nation, one must dissect the sum of its parts — there may be “isang bansa” but there is definitely more than one “diwa.”

Cavite is usually studied through historical or written records that document the establishment of towns, the peaks and lows of population and demography, the catalog of revolts and revolution that figure in the birth of nation. It is even possible to see its history through the eyes of its heroes and its villains. Ramos chose to trace Cavite’s past through its food and in the process found a history rooted in its food: geography determined the products of the land; waterways explained physical mobility and the transfer of Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, American, and Japanese influences over the centuries that gave shape, color and taste to their distinct food. Ramos’ book, “Republic of Taste: The Untold Stories of Cavite Cuisine,” enriches the growing literature of food from the regions that may one day fuse into a national cuisine.

Comments are welcome at aocampo-@ateneo.edu

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, andres bonifacio, Cavite cuisine, Cavite history, Looking Back, Teodoro A. Agoncillo
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