Just got back from a counseling mission in Daraga, Albay, where the people--many of them, anyway--remain optimistic and passionate. Albay is a place of myth and its people, firm believers in the power of story. Camalig, the town we were in, lies at the foot of Mayon. It's difficult to describe Mayon without sounding like a press release from the Department of Tourism. The phrase that immediately came to mind when I got my first look at that voluptuous volcano is "magandang mabagsik." Later in the day, I would talk to a woman who had a similar perspective. Mayon, she said, takes her beauty from the lives of the people she kills. Mayon, like Albay, like its people, is both beautiful and fierce. Unrelenting, feral, passionate.
But this isn't a note on Mayon, as gorgeous as that bit of rock and molten lava is. This is a note on the other thing that makes Albay famous: gata. I'm not a big fan of coco milk. It scares me, to be honest. I never know how my stomach will take it. Gata, after all, is not for the faint of heart and queasy of tummy. It's quite like Mayon, I think, in that it caresses your tongue and palate beautifully, sensually, then crash lands into your tummy and explodes out of—ahem, you get the point.
Anyway, when in Bicol, one must have Bicol Express—which, for the ignorami amongst us (or is it ignoramuses? For that matter, is the plural of hippopotamus hippopotami or hippopotamuses? Both, or neither? Questions, questions. Too many questions, never enough answers.), is pork cooked in gata. Not exactly health food heaven but what the hey. So had Bicol Express I did. Partnered it with Laing, in fact. Definition: Laing – gabi leaves in, tadah!, gata.
Will state the obvious now: tummy very happy. Full of air but very happy.
In the air,
on my tongue;
in my tummy,
out my bum.
I Thank You.