Every time I go back to the Philippines, I always have a list of must-eat foods, i.e. all the Filipino foods that I’ve been missing the whole time I was away from the land of my birth. During my short stay in the Philippines, I hunted down those foods every time I had the chance, knowing that I may not be able to enjoy those delicacies again for some time.

One of the items in my list when I went to the Philippines early this month was the humble bibingka. The bibingka that I had in mind is the type of rice cake that’s made from — you guessed it! — rice flour, coconut milk, sugar and a leavening agent. The mixture is scooped into moulds that have been lined with banana leaves, then baked in a charcoal contraption that allows the bibingka to have the red-hot embers both below it and above it. It’s simple food really but I’ve always liked it. It brings back memories of going to the public market with my mother when I was just a little girl.

So there we were in a small city called Ozamiz. The MPV was maneuvering its way through the narrow street when I suddenly spotted a man walking at the side of the road, balancing a tray on his head. I craned my neck as we passed him then gave a little shriek when I caught a glimpse of what lay hidden under the coconut leaves that covered the tray — bibingka! We actually turned the MPV around just to track Bibingka Guy and buy a few pieces from him. Because yes, I was that desperate to have some bibingka and I didn’t want to risk missing my chance to tick it off my must-eat list.

It turns out that he was delivering his goods to a small sari-sari store (sundry shop) on the other side of the street.

sari-sari store

See what I mean about the bibingka peeking from the banana leaves that covered them?

tray of bibingka

I took the above shot from behind the heavily tinted window of the MPV. Not quite happy with the quality of the photograph, I rolled down the window to get a clearer shot, making  Bibingka Guy break out into a huge grin. He was absolutely tickled that I wanted to take a photo of him with his wares. He must have thought me nuts, but obliged all the same, seeing how I had a huge, “professional” camera.

tray of bibingka

Even the shopkeeper was very much amused. Too bad she looked away right at the moment when I pressed the shutter. And yes, those are bags of bread — sold by piece — hanging on top of her and pots of viands on the counter in front of her available for retail sale (read: based on the amount that one can afford to buy).

tray of bibingka

My verdict on the bibingka? Although it was nice, it wasn’t quite the taste that I was looking for. I wanted something less sweet and just a tad bit more spongey (i.e. having risen just a bit more). It was only a few days later in Davao City that I managed to sink my teeth into the bibingka that I specifically had in mind. But our roadside encounter with Bibingka Guy is something that I won’t be forgetting for a long time to come.

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