Ronilo Benadero, who is the resident island manager, lives with other CFI staffers in row houses just up the hill from Bottomside. The residences are extremely humble by American standards, but obviously adequate for their needs. Each consists of a small bedroom, bathroom (which is a combination stool and shower called “comfort room” here) plus a kitchen and living room in the 400 or so square foot range. Since they work from sunrise to sundown, and the power is only on after sunset, they are primarily sleeping quarters.
Out back there is a corrugated tin awning that extends ten feet or so. Here the staffers normally prepare their food on open fires to save on fuel costs and to avoid heating the indoors. The last few nights we have been experiencing and enjoying authentic Filipino food. Ron and others have made dinners for us. On Saturday we just had corn nuts and beer, Sunday we had corned beef, eggs, rice, and beer, and Monday we had deep-fried tilapia, pork adobo, rice, and beer.
The tilapia, a fresh-water fish, cost only P100 ($2.00) for a kilo, which amounted to six fish. They were delivered so fresh that Gilbert, the island photographer, said they were still flopping as he scaled them. About all he did was salt and mildly season them and then cooked them whole two at a time in boiling oil, over the open fire. Orientals like to eat their fish with the eyes looking at them. We would compare them to sunfish in size and taste. Delicious. Filipinos think that the flavor is better when the fish are smaller. We noticed that tilapia fillets in the U.S. are from much larger fish.
The pork was slightly more expensive, but even then around $3.00 for 2.2 pounds. Ron marinated the cubes in vinegar, soy sauce, hot peppers, salt, and sugar. He then browned the meat in oil, and added the marinade to the pan, again over the open fire. It simmers for a long time to tenderize the meat. We have had pork adobo many times in the Philippines but this was clearly the best yet.
As far as the beer, we have been drinking Red Horse, which is brewed locally by the San Miguel Co. Their signature beer is just called San Miguel, a pale pilsen, which devotees call San Mig. We are not sure of the alcohol content, but San Mig Light is listed as 5%. San Mig is obviously stronger, and Red Horse is extra strong. It doesn’t take a lot of Red Horse to “feel good,” but interestingly we have never had a hangover. Maybe that says something about additives in U.S. beer that don’t find their way into these brews.
Tonight we are again joining Ron and the guys for an authentic Filipino-made chicken dinner. In addition, work on our solar system is scheduled to begin today. It will be interesting to watch the progress.