I t was the middle of January when we found ourselves on the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. We had long dreamed of coming here, as its beaches and beauty were rumoured to match that of Thailand. We spent a day exploring the capital of Puerto Princesa before heading north to the paradise known as El Nido. The journey itself is between six to eight hours. We were almost there when we decided to read our guide book more in depth. It turns out there were no bank machines in El Nido. It also turns out, that we had no money. We immediately jumped off the bus after confirming this rumour, only to find that the next bus back was not till the next day.
After three days of travel and eight bus break downs (this is just a guess, as we stopped counting after five and are so common you stop caring) we finally arrived in the seaside village of El Nido. After two hours of searching for accommodation, we settled on the first place we looked at. We always did. We were tired, hungry and cranky. It was time to eat and forget about the last few days.
We stepped out of our guest house and saw a little canteen fifty feet away. It was a non descript little place with a with a faded wind and sand blasted sign that used to say M and D Canteen in what were surely bright red and blue colours. There six seats along the counter where the food was served and one table off to the side under the roof. At that point in time, they could have been serving raw bull testicles; it wouldn’t have mattered because we still would’ve eaten it. Thank god they weren’t though.
There were four dull aluminum pots that had probably been sitting out all day that were filled with food. The older lady with the long black squiggly hair, missing tooth and glowing smile serving the food was Mummy and the guy with the constant whisky in his hand and smoke in his mouth in the back was Daddy. We were a little sceptical but after trying their food, we immediately asked to be adopted. It was life changing. On offer that day was pork adobo, beans adobo, afritada and a meat and plantain soup. We all had a bit of everything with some rice. With every bite came a new flavour and admiration for our new favourite mother. We were all humbled by how good this simple food really was.
We instantly befriended Mummy and Daddy whose real names are Lucy and Bert. Over the coming weeks we shared meals, drinks and laughs with them on a daily basis.We would eat there two sometimes three meals a day. If we didn’t eat there it somehow felt like cheating. Once we caught a fish and brought it to them and they cooked that for us too. We had to try other places and other foods but nothing else even came close.
Every day they would wake up before sun rise to start the preparations, as a lot of their dishes were stew based which takes longer to make. The menu changed daily, and if one of the four or five dishes would run out then they would prepare something else for the remainder of the day if it was still early enough. They worked hard for their business and the pride they took in their work was evident in every mouthful you ate.
On one of our last days in El Nido, they invited us into their kitchen/house to teach us a few of our favourite dishes, including pork adobo, lechon paksiw and afritada. It was such an honour and an experience we will never forget. We arrived before sunrise to start cooking. The kids were running around, Bert was smoking and drinking while cooking and teaching us, and Mummy was constantly making us laugh. Our travels were not always easy and at times they took their toll on us, but it was incredible moments like these which reminded us of why we were doing this trip in the first place.
Click HERE to see a short video of how they make authentic Pork Adobo