In praise of galletas

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

I have been OD-ing on galletas the past couple of weeks, since my family went to Bacolod for the Holy Week and brought me boxes of the thin crackers – Virgie’s, although Sugarlandia makes them too. I would have loved some chicken inasal from Aida’s or Bacolod Chicken House, but I don’t think paa and garlic rice travel well.

They’re all wondering why I love the stuff – flat, oval discs baked to a nice crisp that, I must admit, some say are tasteless (they’re really not), with no filling or flavoring, sometimes described as oversized communion wafers (hostia).

Galletas, barquillos and rosquillos are, for me, the trifecta of Pinoy goodness. I’d take any one of them any day over fancier and pricier confections, even macarons that could go for nearly P200 a piece.

Galletas or galletas pesquera (which means fish crackers, but I have no idea why and Google doesn’t offer up an explanation either) are described as “Filipino biscuits…very thin and disc-shaped…popular in the Tagalog and Ilonggo regions.”

Barquillos are thin sheets of dough rolled into cylinders of different lengths which we as kids pretended were cigars. Sometimes we stuck one on each finger to make “monster hands.” There are many variations – long, jumbo, double (extra thick), short double, flavored (ube, pandan) or, a welcome innovation, baquiron, filled with polvoron.

Rosquillos are round cookies with scalloped edges and a hole in the middle, which allowed you to string several on a finger instead of holding them in your hand. It is said to have been invented by Titay Frasco of Liloan, Cebu in 1907, and is named after rosca, Spanish for ringlet. The town of Liloan celebrates an annual rosquillos festival.

There are many, many more Pinoy baked delicacies with interesting names like pacencia, jacobina, the teeth-cracking lubid-lubid (also called shakoy) and other crunchy delights, from north to south. Do try them all, I guarantee a crunchin’ good time!

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It’s Filipino Food Month, as our columnist Chit Juan reminded us last week, and there’s a lot to celebrate about Filipino food. Proclamation 469 signed in 2018 designated April as Buwan ng Kalutong Pilipino, to “appreciate, preserve, promote and ensure the transmission of the vast Filipino culinary traditions and treasures to future generations and to support the various industries, farmers and agri-communities.”

I’m an old-fashioned purist, so I’m not one for fancy fusion concoctions and those three-hour supposedly innovative degustacion meals where there’s a lecture before each course (thank goodness there’s no test afterwards). I like adobo that tastes like adobo (some variations are better than others, but family traditions are to be respected), sinigang (bayabas is my favorite) ladled over steaming rice, crispy pata that you eat with your hands so you can get those glutinous tendons, with the perfect sawsawan of toyo’t sili.

Of course innovation breathes new life into old favorites, and it’s a good thing there are many young cooks (not chefs, although both terms seem to be used interchangeably, which is not quite right, but I won’t split hairs here) who try to stretch the boundaries and use ingredients in creative ways, sometimes successfully, other times well…experiment pa more.

But whether it’s lutong bahay or nouvelle Pinoy, served on banana leaves or Villeroy&Boch dinnerware, it’s always a delicious time to indulge in and celebrate Filipino food. Kain na!

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