After days of starvation, due to an unfortunate stomach flu, my mind thought of nothing other than food – from the delicious dishes cooked by Potter’s resident chefs, Ate Ming and Ate Ding, and the various meals we have eaten at different places during our month long stay here in El Nido. It was then that I realized food is one of the most important parts of my life in El Nido. Food was life, and I can say the same for the other fellows, as well (or Pillows, as we are fondly called by the Ates and the Kuyas). I observed my fellows this week as we were tirelessly working on the website and trying to gather as much content as we could from our respective offices. I noticed that 90% of the time, we talk about food. If we are working at Lio Tourism Estate, we wonder what amazingly delicious dishes Ate Ming and Ate Ding have prepared for us at Potter’s. Or, maybe we should grab a quick snack in one of the restaurants at Lio. If we are working at the Central Office, someone will surely suggest getting a massive falafel or shawarma during our quick break to hold us over until the next meal. After having something to eat, we would always be more energized and eager to tackle the day’s challenges.
Throughout our stay here, I have also learned more about the team of wonderful fellows by getting to know their favourite and least favourite foods. For instance, Ty eats absolutely everything. He seems to enjoy every dish that is placed in front of him, showing that he is not afraid to try new things. From hearing about his travels to various parts of the world, I figured that it has shaped the way he sees each dish– as a new experience that one can learn from. Some fellows are the complete opposite of each other—Annie C. loves sweets and Annie B. loves spicy. Sam dislikes shrimp because it reminds him of how frequently he used to eat it during his childhood. Experiences and feelings associated with certain dishes also shape how we see these dishes. After our visit to the piggery at The Farm of El Nido Resorts, Job and I decided to stop eating pork because we felt saddened by seeing pigs in the farm that we knew would be slaughtered for our consumption. Each of our food preferences shows our team diversity, which also translates to our different unique capabilities that we are slowly realizing as each working day passes. But, no matter how different we are from each other, one thing is for sure– we love food.
Food is also a big part of social interaction, especially in the Philippines. Everybody we’ve ever talked to is always so eager to feed us! This week, we were treated to a scrumptious Sunday lunch at Tambok’s, leaving us all very stuffed afterwards. We found ourselves oohing and aahing over every dish that was placed in front of us until all we could hear was the sound of our utensils scraping the last bits from our plates. A lot of good conversations also happen during a meal or merienda (snack time)– people are more opened to sharing their ideas and stories. Many ideas form whenever we have discussions over a meal. From our lunch at Tambok’s, we had a great idea to feature the beloved restaurant on the website that we are currently working on after learning more about how Tambok’s was conceptualized and how they keep the people coming back.
Learning about a town’s specialty is also a way for us to have a glimpse into the very intricate culture and tradition. We were able to have this opportunity when we embarked on the journey to Sibaltan– which we would call “Chocolate Town” because of their famous dark chocolate covered cashews, dark chocolate cashew bars, and white chocolate mango bars. Cashews are grown locally and El Nido is known for their nutty and sweet taste. As I learned more about the process of producing the cashew nuts, I realized that it really is a long and tiring process. Shelling them with your bare hands can cause you to have some burns because the nuts have two layers of hard shell between which have cardol and anacardic acid. During our conversation with the Agricultural Officer, she mentioned that from 4 sacks of harvested cashew, only 1 sack of edible cashews can be obtained. Through this, we see the hardworking nature of the people from El Nido. By incorporating it into a chocolate bar, their ingenuity is also displayed. Now, these chocolate cashew products always go out of stock in the all the El Nido Island Resorts and in Kalye Artisano. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the chocolates because we tend to devour them all in seconds.
In the future, when we eat the food we’ve eaten throughout our stay here, we will surely remember the time that we have spent together here in a place I’d like to call our second home. For instance, when we eat leche flan again, we could think about that time we tasted the best leche flan ever made at Tamboks when we were treated out to lunch by Tita Bea and the jolly owner, Josef. When we eat curry, we’ll always remember that the best curry we’ve had was made by Ms. Marigs. Birthday cakes will always be a reminder of the two lovely chocolate cakes that Ate Pat baked for Father’s Day and for Nathan’s 3rd birthday! I’m sure one thing that we will surely miss when we have to go our separate ways are the meals we have everyday at Potter’s, specially cooked by talented Ates Ming and Ding, which have always made us think of El Nido as our home away from home.