Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dining on a Chipohu Leaf

To people planning on a vacation to Batanes, I would have to point out that there are very few places to eat outside of Basco proper (actually even in Basco itself -the restaurants are hard to find -on our first day we had to literally go from one end of the town to the other, just to find a manned eatery). It would be wise to pack meals if you go outside of Basco or else you would have to content yourself with common sarisari store fare, in our case cup noodles.

After our whirlwind halfday trip to Sabtang and the rollercoaster of a boat ride (and 2 meals of canned goods and cup noodles), we were already clamouring for a hot home cooked meal but there were no public eating places in the San Vicente area of Ivana town (which is 2 towns from Basco and the port town to Sabtang Island). We again had to resort to cup noodles and bakery bread for our lunch. While still dreaming of that hot meal, we made our way back to our rented rooms in Ivana proper (which I estimated at 1 kilometer away but Pinky said is lesser). While walking on the side of the road, I kept on scrutinizing every tree growing in nooks and crannies. While inspecting a fruiting arius tree, a man coming out from hut just beside of the road approached us and asked if we were tourists (mga dayo - I noticed that most Ivatans knew each other and it was easy for them to recognize non-residents). Ivatans are very friendly people and easy to approach. Most would greet you readily when you see them walking on the street.

The man extended to us a lunch invitation (even though we were shy, our craving for a hot meal overcame our inhibitions). We obliged and we were led to an open beach hut facing the sea. It turned out that what we stumbled upon was the local Ivana municipal government Christmas picnic, and the man who invited us was no less than the Ivana town mayor. We were seated in the company of a barangay captain and members of the local government (good thing our companion, Pinky, was acquainted with Laila Agudo who was also there, buffering our shyness) in front of viands of meat, fish, seafoods. etc. Heaven at last!!!

Laila handed us a familiar (at least to me) looking leaf in place of plates. She called it chipohu, which I recognized as similar to what we call antipolo here in Manila or Artocarpus blancoi. But the leaf seemed darker and shinier compared to an antipolo leaf. Somehow (knowing that it is me the fat guy and food lover) the unusual leaf use has taken my mind off of the enticing appeal of food (which was at that instant already calling out to me). I perused through the broad leaf and skeptic in placing the first viand on it. But eventually the hunger took over me as pieces of grilled pork, fish, squid and sauteed taro made its way onto my natural leaf plate. The sumptuous taste of the food made me forget that I am not using a regular plate at all. When we finally finished, there was no need to wash the plate as the leaf was disposable like a banana leaf that we are more accustomed to. But the chipohu had a much nicer shape than the boring squares that banana leaves are cut into.

I took pictures of the chipohu tree in Batanes which botanist Leonard Co identified as Artocarpus treculianus. To the Ivana Mayor, the Agudo Family and the municipal government, thank you for the hospitality and sparing us from another cupped noodle meal that day. The chipohu leaf meal moment, more than the use of the leaf but the conversation, the ambiance and the company will leave us memories to cherish for a long time.

1 comment:

pinkygendrano said...

Pat, when we were invited by the Mayor, kumain na tayo nun sa may sn.Vicente pier, cup noodles and packs of pandesal (maybe a few days old pandesal)...sayang nga, we could've eaten more venes....;D