-, June 21, 2016
Being so far away from home and enjoying my golden years, I sometimes wonder if the merienda snacks and delicacies ( mga karan-on) of my youth are still available in Calbayog. They were usually prepared and cooked in the open air, streetside somewhere around the plaza, churchyard or even in some neighborhood homeowner’s ground floor.

“Sinapot” readily, easily comes to mind. (Maruya to Tagalogs) That is banana of the sab-a variety, sliced lengthwise (in the US, Mexican mama and papa stores call them “burro bananas.”) Dipped and coated in thick flour or rice batter flavored with a little salt and sugar, fried golden brown. Munched while still tolerably hot!

For Calbayog folks of my generation (born in the 1930’s and ‘40s), the most popular go-to place for sinapot was “sirong nira ti Conchita.” That means the ground floor of the residence of Sra. Conchita Tancinco de Tuazon. That is along Nijaga St. That house is now the best preserved antiquarian residence in all of Calbayog.

“Sinapot” was one of the topics of our jolly conversation, enjoyed over the last weekend at the Redondo Beach villa of ti Conchita’s daughter, Ofelia. The Pacific Ocean is very close by and just a few miles south of the Los Angeles International Airport. Ofelia graciously hosted an uber sumptuous luncheon for a bunch of visiting Calbayognons, most of whom are US residents.

It is worthwhile pausing and mulling over the fact that there are now legions of Calbayognons in the United States. The Waray-waray/Calbayog diaspora in California alone is very significant. Undeniably, this social phenomenon comes as a long delayed consequence of the Philippines having been an American colony, at one time. Perhaps, someone qualified ought to produce a monogram of this particular branch of the Pinoy migration to the US. I am certain that there are many success stories that can provide inspiring examples worthy of emulation for our children who are no longer familiar with our cultural antecedents. That would be one way to reconnect.

As a young boy, I remember stories of our elders who spoke admiringly of Calbayognons who had come to the US, before the Commonwealth era. Then, there were just really a handful. Less than one hand, in fact. I can only remember three names. There was Pedro Pido who became Mayor. Then there were Eusebio Perez and Sebastian Hernandez whose parents had the wherewithal to send them abroad for further studies. This must have been 1920’s. Today, there is hardly ever any barangay or clan in Calbayog who does not have a family member or relative who is in America. I would characterize that as progress!

Speaking of progress, let me go back to the topic of “Sinapot.” It is really during social interactions, such as Ofelia’s party when Calbayognons away from home gather around and during which reunions they either recall or discover memorable gems of reminiscences.

As it turns out, that “sab-a banana “ operation ‘sa sirong nira ti Conchita” was Ofelia’s first attempt at business. And she was not even a teen ager yet! Out of her savings, as a precocious ‘negosyante,’ she financed her sinapot business. It was truly a charming thought that many of us were her faithful customers, even if we did not know it then.

Let me cut to the chase. Who would have ever imagined that from humble homebound beginnings of frying bananas in Calbayog, Ofelia --- Mrs. Ofelia Tuazon David--- would blossom into a highly successful entrepreneur in the Health Care business in the United States. I dare say and without fear of contradiction, Ofelia is the most successful and most financially substantial Filipina businesswoman from Samar and maybe from the Visayas as well, operating in the U.S. today.

Ofelia’s catered lunch last Sunday had, for starters, an array of appetizers which included home made chicharon and puto con ‘dinuguan’ and several others. Aside from the Lechon, kare-kare, pancit, lumpia (sariwa and fried), vegetable sauté, mango salad and eggplant boil, etc. California wines, red and white, flowed. Plus Cognac to help digest. Desserts were plentiful and varied. Maja blanca, sapinsapin, gulaman, even biko nga tapul. Pero, Por Bida, waray Sinapot!

When I see Ofelia again in Calbayog, in time for pamatron, I will demand my bandejado of fried bananas!

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