Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Niño , the province’s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.
Around one and half hours travel south of Cebu City, the heritage town of Carcar provides a welcome break from the typical urban sprawl that characterizes the city and municipalities that lies before reaching this place. Antillan designed houses with their amazing woodwork, typical bahay-na-bato that has stood the test of time as well as the onion like dome, surely moorish inspired, of the 19th century neoclassic church with elements of baroque make Carcar a unique town. From one end to the other, it is possible to encounter different architectural styles starting from the Spanish colonial period, the American, the roaring 20s on to modern but uninspired and drab houses and buildings.
Carcar is especially located at the intersection leading to the south and west side of the island province. As a result, it’s a hub of trade and economic activity. It is this unique position that spurred the development of food and delicacies that, for the traveler, one just has to stop, buy and savor the unique tastes.
For many Cebuanos, Carcar is synonymous with chicharon, that cholesterol laden pork rind, fat and meat. For me, it’s the best of its kind in the country that even those from San Miguel in Bulacan pales in comparison. Eat it solo or dipped in spiced coconut vinegar or as viand paired with hot rice and you’re in heaven. Never mind it’s health effects as long as eaten in moderation.
At the rotunda, where the only 1920’s era kiosk exists in Cebu, several stalls line one side where mounds of freshly cooked chicharon are covered with plastic to protect it from the pollution. It’s available by the kilo. For those in a hurry, packed (plastic) morsels are ready for the taking and are available in 1, 1/2, 1/4 and even 1/8 of a kilo. Interested to see how these are cooked? Head on to Guadalupe where majority of these are prepared.
The typical pasalubong stall consists of chicharon, ampao, bocarillo and, when in season, takoy.
Ampao anyone? I just love that crunch, texture and sweetness that defines this delicacy. Simply put, ampao is pinipig, cooked rice that is left out in the sun and when dried, fried until it is puffed white. Sugary syrup binds it together with pieces of fried peanuts that breaks the monotony. Sold as pieces of squares, it has been part of my childhood as my grandmother or househelp brings one from time to time.
Another delicacy that a traveler must try is the bocarillo. Strips of young coconut cooked in sugar syrup and colored brightly, it provides a sweet and soft dessert. It’s really delicious that one can easily lost count of the number of bocarillos consumed.
Before Davao pomelos made its mark in Filipino’s taste buds, we Cebuanos always looked forward when takoy, the local pomelo variety grown in Carcar were being sold by ambulant vendors back home. It is semi sweet, and the meat is pale white compared to the pinkish color of the ones found in Davao. Unfortunately, this variety is becoming rarer.
Rounding up our Carcar foodstop post, is the town’s lechon. Okay, I only tasted this once and cannot fully say if it’s better than our town’s lechon, but Carcaronon’s are indeed very proud about their roast pig. As they say, with bias, their’s is the best.