Karasa, Celebrating Catbalogan’s Culinary Traditions

Community News & Features Aug 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm

karasa-book-coverEditor: Charo Nabong-Cabardo, Rene B. Nachura

Writers: Charo Nabong-Cabardo, Nestor Nachura, Rene Nachura, Kalayaan Cabardo

Book Design and Layout: Anna Teresa Cabardo Lozano

Photographers: Eamon Cinco, Ryan Nachura, Joseph Balisacan, Nelson Petilla, Charo Nabong-Cabardo

Food Stylist: Aby Nachura

Project Coordinator: Conchita Nachura

“Karasa” means “delicious” in the Samarnon language. Aptly, this is the title of the new book on culinary traditions of Catbalogan City in Samar province in the Philippines.

Karasa: Celebrating Catbalogan’s Culinary Traditions is a book project of retired Associate Justice of the Philippines Supreme Court, Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura who is this year’s hermano mayor of the Catbalogan Fiesta in Catbalogan on August 24.

The book has five chapters – Chapter 1, written by Charo Nabong Cabardo, gives a background on the history and culture of Catbalogan City that explains the culinary traditions. Chapter 2, written by Nestor Nachura, centers on the everyday food of Catbaloganons – the seafood from Maqueda Bay and the farm products that are stewed, grilled, pickled and steamed. Chapter 3, also written by Charo Nabong-Cabardo, is about the fiesta fare – the delicious meat dishes from the Spanish era and the food brought by our Chinese ancestors. Chapter 4, written by Rene Nachura, is about Sumsuman (in Filipino, this is “Pulutan”) the food that goes with the “protracted” drinking sessions of the Catbaloganons. The last chapter, written by Kalayaan Cabardo is dedicated to “Postre,” the sweet delicacies with stories and heirloom recipes of the Catbalogan women.

The book is edited by Charo Nabong-Cabardo and co-edited by Rene Nachura. The two Catbaloganons have collaborated on three other coffee table book projects – “O’ Catbalogan” (2005); “Calbayog” (2008); “The Diocese of Calbayog: 100 Years” (2012). Book design and layout by Anna Teresa Cabardo Lozano.

Excerpts from the writers:

“Karasa! Our memories of Catbalogan are of karasa. Karasa nga pagkaon (delicious food) associated with our celebrations of life, year-round, from cradle to grave.

“The culinary traditions of the Catbaloganons – with influences from the Spanish regime in Catbalogan for almost 300 years, from the Chinese migrants from mainland China, and local contributions from Samarnons from all over the island who had come for education, for business and residence – has pervaded . . . The promise of fresh kinilaw, the delicious tinola and sinugba invites Catbaloganons to come back to their hometown and to come back again and again for the karasa nga pagkaon.” — Charo Nabong-Cabardo

“The food that Catbaloganons eat daily comes from a range of seafood caught by artisanal fisher folks from Maqueda Bay and farm products from our local farmers . . . everyday cuisines are simple but flexible. Basic is the use of ingredients culled from the immediate environment: fish, shrimps, crabs and shellfish from the seas, rivers, brooks and streams; root crops from backyard farms; rice from the alluvial plains and upland farms; meat from penned domesticates and free-range pigs, chicken, carabaos; meat from the wilds like baboy banwa (wild boar), bugsok (deer), gubgob (fresh water frogs), and even sawa (boa constrictor), garong (civet cat) and bayawak (iguana); and, of course, leaves, bulbs, tendrils, seeds and fruits from the ever-green landscape.” — Nestor B. Nachura

“Sumsuman is a must in the Samareño protracted drinking session. Tuba (local wine) and beer go down well with lots of sumsuman, especially when generously peppered with good-natured banter among the kairignom (drinking buddies). Heavy drinkers as they are, Samareños do not indulge in drinking without an accompanying sumsuman.” — Rene B. Nachura

“With personal histories glazing these desserts, it evolved to be clearly and purely of these women’s. Understanding and appreciating the desserts of Catbalogan then need a sensible consideration of its context and its chief maker, these Catbaloganon women and their sense of devotion.

“She has taken a bit of the influence, mixed it with her locale, its organics (like the root crops in her surroundings, ube and gabi) and her own story, then made it hers, distinctly hers. This is her personal fusion.” — Kalayaan N. Cabardo

From the Publisher

“The realization that we may be losing — if we have not yet lost — a prized cultural heritage of Catbalogan impelled us to embark on this coffee table book project.”

This book, “Karasa” -

- celebrates continuity, as it keeps alive Catbalogan’s best culinary traditions

- book presents the common daily fare of the fisherfolk, the farmers, and the ordinary townspeople as well as the town’s culinary specialties – a celebration and renewal of life

- gives us a clear glimpse into the Catbaloganon’s identity. — Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, Hermano Mayor, 2013, Catbalogan Fiesta

From the Foreword:

“What will prove invaluable as well are the local terms for ingredients, the way of cooking and the names of dishes and specialties especially to those still learning about our Samareño cooking, food writers and researchers and the many culinary students interested in regional cuisine. For those of us who know and cook them, they will surely bring smiles as we recall our hometown food, the sounds of preparation, the smells that waft from our kitchens, the tastes that we know can only come from the freshest ingredients and the expert way these are utilized.

“If one word can describe this worthy endeavor and the effect it will have on its readers, it is the book’s title: Karasa!” — Glenda Rosales Barretto, Culinary Expert


Profiles of the Book Team Members

The Writers

Charo Nabong-Cabardo

Editor, author and historian, Charo has edited many books on Samar including “Ani 13: Samarnon Edition,” the first anthology on Samarnon literature, published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1990. She has also co-edited and co-written three coffee table books: O, Catbalogan, Calbayog and Diocese of Calbayog: 100 Years: The History of the Local Church in Samar and has written many articles on Samar’s environment and culture. She graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman with a degree in AB Journalism and from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) with a masteral degree in Development Management. She has been engaged in developmental and environmental work in Samar Island for more than two decades.

Nestor B. Nachura
Nestor is a development worker, Civil Society networker, and a Local Government Unit (LGU) planning consultant. He has co-translated the book, “Our Health, Our Lives” into the Samarnon language and was a contributing writer in “O’ Catbalogan.” He is actively involved in Civil Society and Government partnerships involving Samar and Eastern Samar and well versed in the Samarnon fisherfolks’ and farmers’ traditional practices, songs and dialect.

Rene B. Nachura

Catbaloganon: teacher, development activist, and student of history: has collaborated with Charo in the publication of several books (O, Catbalogan, 2005; Calbayog, 2008; and Diocese of Calbayog: 100 Years, 2012).  Retired and resident of Antipolo City, he is still involved in NGO development activities in Samar.

Kalayaan N. Cabardo
A writer and producer, Aya develops TV concepts and scripts as the headwriter of Mega Production, designs campaigns for her boutique agency, Inup, and writes almost anything from coffee table books to product labels. She was a consultant for the Asian Development Bank, ABS-CBN, Knowledge Channel Foundation and other private companies of different industries. She is also a managing partner of Aklat Eklat, Local Loco Deli and Alon Island Essentials and a mermaid at the Manila Ocean Park. She took up Creative Writing in Filipino at the University of the Philippines and Film Production at New York University School of Continuing Studies. She lives with her books in Quezon City.

Art Director Anna Cabardo Lozano
Anna has worked as a freelance Art Director for broadcast and print projects, including various coffee table books such as, “Calbayog Diocese: 100 Year,” “Calbayog,” “Homecoming: The Buncio Collection of Philippine Art,” and “Calamba.” As an aritist, she has participated in 14 exhibitions presented at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Ayala Museum, UP Vargas Museum, Liongoren Gallery, Magnet Gallery and Art Informal Gallery. She is a graduate of the only art high school in Asia, the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling, Laguna, and of the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines, Diliman.

The Photographers Jobal Balisacan
Jobal graduated from the University of San Carlos-Technological Center witha bachelor‘s degree in Computer Engineering. He has also taught computer classes at Sacred Heart College and Samar State University at a time when computers were practically unknown in the countryside. His four years in WESAMAR influenced him to launch BBCS Data Systems (BitsnBytes), a small desktop publishing company. It later ventured into I.T. Sales and Solutions, opening the gates of information superhighway in Samar Island as Samar’s first internet service provider. He has also implemented and installed Catbalogan City’s LED Billboard and city-wide WiFi CCTV System, also the first in Eastern Visayas. He is a photography hobbyist.

Eamon Cinco
Eamon Cinco is freelance photographer. His passion for photography started with a disposable camera given by his older brother and eventually grew into a full business. He continuously studies under famed photographers, Joe Avila and  Manny Librodo, in his constant quest for beauty in a shot. Born to a family of medical professionals, Eamon is also a registered nurse practicing in Catbalogan. He has two children, Amanda Rudi and Marcus Luis, with this wife, Rowena Baclay.

Ryan B. Nachura
Nelson Petilla

His work as MIS Expert for the Western Samar Agricultural Development Program and the Samar Island Biodiversity Project has brought him to many beautiful places in the Eastern Visayas region and has moved him to embrace photography as a professional. He was the photographer for the coffee table books, “O’ Catbalogan” and “Calbayog” and one of the photographers in “Diocese of Calbayog: 100 Years.” He is also the Photo Editor of the magazine Espejo.