No visit to the island province of Marinduque – best known for the Moriones Lenten rites, butterfly farming, and heritage sites – would be complete without tasting their local food, which range from sweet and light snacks to rich and savory dishes.
Marinduqueño cuisine is influenced by the native food of southern Luzon, but localized with the island’s unique ingredients like arrowroot and native crustaceans like kagang (land crab) and manakla (pistol shrimp). If you love the richness of Bicolano cuisine, you will love Marinduque’s as well, since gatâ (coconut milk) is featured in many of their dishes.
During our three-day tour of the province, organized by Department of Tourism – MIMAROPA and arranged by Dream Favor Travel & Tours, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the local people through their generous spreads of native cuisine. Here are 12 amazing Marinduqueño dishes and delicacies I recommend when you visit the “Heart of the Philippines”:
Let’s start with sweet snacks! Perhaps the most well-known pasalubong from the island is uraró, a soft cookie made from arrowroot flour that originated from the Tagalog people of southern Luzon, particularly Laguna, Quezon and Marinduque. Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) is a root crop native to Central and South America, and was introduced to the Philippines through the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade. The best-tasting cookies are the premium ones with pinipig (pounded rice flakes) made by Rejano’s Bakery, makers of the original arrowroot cookies!
Pangangan is a sweet deep-fried snack shaped like fingers typically made from rice flour in Quezon province. The Marinduque version incorporates arrowroot flour. Could this food item have Moro roots? Panganan is also the name of a deep-fried rice flour pretzel by the Tausug people of the Sulu Archipelago. This was one of the snacks served to us at Casa de Don Emilio after our heritage walking tour of Boac.
Also found in Quezon Province, sinalab – also called sinaludsod – are native pancakes made from cassava or overripe saba, a Philippine cultivar of cooking banana. Again, the Marinduque versions of this snack often incorporates the use of arrowroot flour. We got to try this at the municipality of Santa Cruz, where we were served morning snacks before visiting Maniwaya Island.
One of the classic kakanin or rice-based snacks found across the Philippines is bibingka, the baked rice cake traditionally cooked in a terracotta oven lined with banana leaves and is usually eaten for breakfast or as merienda (afternoon snacks). Made with tubâ (coconut wine) instead of yeast, Marinduque’s version is larger than the typical bibingka and almost the size of a pizza! It is called bibingkang lalaki or bibingkang Boac, referring to the provincial capital where this delicacy is a specialty. The former name, on the other hand, literally means “male rice cake”, reportedly a cheeky reference to the use of eggs in making this dish, which is funny because bibingka is sometimes use as a humorous euphemism for female genitalia.
Similar to bibingkang malagkit of mainland Luzon, pinahiran is another kakanin from Marinduque, particularly from Santa Cruz. Sometimes called bibingkang pinahiran, it is a large cake made from glutinous rice, coconut milk and brown sugar that looks and tastes more like biko than a typical bibingka. A sweet syrup is spread over the top of this dessert, hence its name meaning “coated” or “smeared”.
Dinilawang Manok sa Gatâ
Now for the savory dishes served for lunch or supper. Dinilawang manok sa gata is a traditional chicken stew from southern Luzon, including Marinduque. It is similar to adobong dilaw, literally “yellow adobo”, from Batangas province but includes gatâ or coconut milk. The Marinduqueño version used native chicken meat, which has firmer texture and more pronounced flavor and aroma than broiler chicken meat. Luyang dilaw or turmeric (Curcuma longa) gives this dish its distinctive yellow color.
One of Marinduque’s unique dishes is kari-kari, a spicy pork blood stew not to be confused with the more popular kare-kare, a totally different Filipino dish of oxtail and beef tripe in a savory peanut sauce. Similar to dinuguan or dugó-dugó but with less broth, traditional Marinduque kari-kari is made from pork blood and pork innards, like the heart, spleen, kidneys and small intestines. For picky eaters, the Boac version of this dish substitutes the innards with ground meat. The best-tasting Boac-style kari-kari is served at The Boac Hotel.
Being an island province, Marinduque abounds with seafood – some of them not typically seen at your corner seafood restaurant. One of them would ba mánakla, a native species of giant snapping shrimp (aka pistol shrimp) which has only one large pincer, sourced from the mangrove forests of Santa Cruz and Torrijos. We had them steamed and served with okra and pakô (vegetable fern) at The Boac Hotel. Mánakla is often erroneously described as a kind of crayfish or small lobster. Recently, mánakla has been described as a new species, Alpheus takla, by Kyrgyz zoologist Arthur Anker. With a distribution range from Southeast Asia to Northern Australia, it is the largest snapping shrimp so far, growing up to 90 mm in body length. The specific epithet is derived from its local name (taklâ) in Bohol, the type locality of this new species.
There are two different dishes called ulang-ulang in Marinduque: 1.) a sour soup of ulang (freshwater prawn) and shredded buko (coconut meat), and 2.) stuffed kagang (land crab) wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in coconut milk. Both are served at Casa de Don Emilio restaurant in Boac, where the crab dish is called kinagang to avoid confusion. As its name suggests, the ulang-ulang soup is traditionally made with ulang (freshwater prawns), but due to local scarcity hipon (saltwater shrimp) is often used as a substitute. The souring agent for this soup dish is calamansí, a citrus hybrid predominately cultivated in the Philippines and widely used in Filipino cuisine.
Ulang-Ulang (Stuffed Crab)
Kinagang is kagang (a native species of land crab) stuffed with crabmeat and buko (coconut meat), wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked in gatâ (coconut milk). This dish originated from Barangay Pinggan, Gasan where it is locally called ulang-ulang. This crab dish is offered as “Kinagang” on the menu of Casa de Don Emilio to avoid confusion with the prawn and coconut soup of the same name.
Bagumon, known elsewhere in the country as bangungon, is an edible cone-shaped freshwater snail often found in fishponds. This species is called horn snail or telescope snail. It is often prepared as ginataang bagumon, cooked in gatâ (coconut milk). This dish was served to us at the municipality of Torrijos during our visit to the town’s famous Poctoy White Beach.
Laing na Talbos ng Karlubang
Originating from the Bicol region as pinangat, laing is a Luzon dish of shredded gabi (taro) leaves cooked in gatâ (coconut milk) and labuyo, a Philippine cultivar of chili. At Torrijos, we were served a version of this dish made with the young leaves of karlubang, the local name for cassava, known as kamoteng kahoy or balanghoy elsewhere in the Philippines.
Photos of panganan, pinahiran, bagumon and laing courtesy of Travel Tayo Car Rental & Tours.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Metro Manila, take a bus to Dalahican Port in Lucena City, where Starhorse Shipping Lines and Montenegro Shipping Lines run frequent ro-ro ferries to Balanacan Port on Marinduque island. Travel time takes around three hours. From Balanacan Port, public jeepneys await to take travelers to Boac town, 15 km away.
WHERE TO STAY
The Boac Hotel is a heritage inn founded in 1967, located across the Boac Cathedral. The provinces oldest hotel is the perfect home base to explore the heritage sites of Boac and the rest of the island. The ground-floor restaurant Cafe Ma Mita serves the best-tasting kari-kari, while their pasalubong shop offers local delicacies like premium uraro (arrowroot cookies) from Rejano’s Bakery that melts in your mouth! Find discounted rooms and check availability here.
If you prefer a fancier place to stay, check out Balar Hotel & Spa, where our entire group was accommodated during the entire three-day tour. It’s a short ride out of the town center, 5 km south, but this accommodation offers newer rooms with stylish contemporary interiors. Find discounted rooms and check availability here.