If there’s one thing I dreaded for our family’s Cebu Christmas last year, it’s the food. Cebu, as we all know, is the lechon capital of the Philippines, and as a vegetarian, I don’t eat lechon anymore. (In 2010, for our Christmas celebrationsss and our grandparents’ golden anniversary, I devoured lechon every single day and returned to Nueva Ecija at 68 kilograms and no clothes fitting.)
Nor do I eat many of the quintessential Cebuano fares anymore: danggit, chorizo de Cebu, tapa, and Carcar chicharon. I used to eat otap, mazareal, torta, and [my weakness] rosquillos, but since I have made up my mind to give up dairy and eggs, not anymore.
So, how did I survive the 5-day vacation in Mama’s hometown? On nuts, raisins, oats, and fruits. And rice and soy sauce. (Thankfully, they made budbud and biko for Christmas. Budbud is the best suman in the world.)
Going back, at first I was worried about the pasalubong I would take home to my friends back in Nueva Ecija. Of course, they have to be vegetarian, too, right? My success rate, however, is just 50%. It’s my fault for not pre-planning. Now that I know that, I’d do better next time.
So, here’s to help you and me on picking vegetarian pasalubong for our next Cebu trip:
Dried mangoes*. Need I say more? Once upon a time, Mama brought home wholesale dried mangoes and we got to indulge to our hearts’ content. I don’t know where she got that though. The downside is Cebu dried mangoes are available everywhere already. But if you fancy something, well, fancy, there’s Cebu Best Dried Mangoes. These boxed chocolate coated mangoes are pricey. Check the ingredients though since not all variants are suitable for vegetarians.
Tian Seng Taiwan Macy* (P160 per box of 20’s, export quality). Made of glutinous rice, peanuts, sugar, flour, and water, macy (pronounced mah-see) is mochi in Mama’s memory. Made from Mandaue City, my office mates found it delicious as well. I found them at Metro Market in Naga and SM Cebu. There’s another brand in yellow box but taste-wise, the red one is way, way superior. I love it so much I could be its ambassadress for nothing but monthly supply.
Tablea. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like chocolates [and peanut butter, but this post has nothing to do with peanut butter, so…]. I love the local, unbranded tablea my Auntie Aileen brings from Leyte. It doesn’t even have sugar unlike those you can buy in groceries everywhere. Tablea is perfect with budbud (at least for me since I have fond memories of Mommylo’s cooking) and my champorado.
Budbud.* I am obsessed with kakanin and Cebu’s suman is hands down my favorite. I have fond memories of Mommylo making budbud for us for breakfast. I know for sure that the preference for their suman is not an acquired taste since my fellow lectors/commentators at Church once tasted it and they all raved at how delicious it is. Unlike suman here in Nueva Ecija and anywhere else, it isn’t as sweet and even has a slight savory flavor from the ginger. I didn’t do this on our last vacay but my idea for my next trip is pre-order from someone I trust, freeze it, and take home. Needless to say, steam before eating.
*Not necessarily cruelty-free because of sugar.
But if you feel limited by these choices, you can always buy non-food stuff like key chains and shirts at pasalubong centers. (We found puso key chains in Mactan.) If you’re feeling extra-generous, you can buy guitars at Lapu-lapu City. And there’s no problem finding religious articles for your Catholic friends. That should be better than bringing home stuff you won’t eat, right?