After Christmas I was able to go to Bacolod, the former home of my grandmother. Bacolod in Negros Occidental is a small city in the northern part of the southern central island chain of Visayas. This small city produces much of the Philippines’ sugar crop and the most famous of all Filipino dishes, Chicken Inasal. Eaten Kinamut style (with hands and no utensils), chicken inasal is one of the most amazing culinary experiences I’ve experienced. It was so delectable it beat a simultaneous feast of chicken parm night with ice cream and meatloaf at Kimball.
Sugar has been a major crop in Bacolod since 1837 when Yves Leopold Germain Gaston, a French émigré to the Philippines, started his own sugar plantations. My grandmother’s family still has owned a sugar plantation since Spanish colonial times and I was in awe of these huge crops being dwarfed by the even more impressively large and active volcano, Canlaon. I managed to taste a couple of bits of sugar cane and I must say it was quite different than what I expected.
Bacolod was an amazing experience because it was a trip to the Philippines’ past. I saw the Gaston household, a two centuries old Spanish-era mansion and my grandmother’s family’s old farm, currently tended by Monroy, the foreman, who has been working on the farm since the 1950’s. It was a venture to see the Philippines’ old and still beating agricultural heart that keeps the country strong. A core part of Filipino music is the drone, an utterance of repeated sounds that formulate the backbone for the melody. The drone is an endless fixture representing the core values of Filipinos to live true to one’s identity from now until the end of time. It pulls Filipinos around tradition, spirituality, and ideals that have been held true for millennia.
In seeing the people of Bacolod, I found the substance that the drone is describing. In seeing and experiencing the rural tradition, I found the facets of the drone existing in the people who have been performing their families’ duties for years and will continue to do so through technological advancement, natural disaster, and changing social infrastructure. They do this willingly and with perseverance to continue their way of life, Bahala na (In God’s hands).
Paul Fontelo '13