It was a humid day when I arrived in Tagbilaran City. Of course, there are already expectations about what to see and to experience in Bohol because the province is inculcated in our curriculum as the land where the Chocolate Hills is located, and where tarsiers are endemic. But upon setting food on this island province, I was in for more knowledge that my school textbooks did not tell me about.
I visited Bohol to document the food culture of the province. As a Philippine Socio-Cultural Studies major, I am always enthusiastic to know the cultural significance of certain foods that shape the identity of one locality. In Bohol, there is this mighty food that every Boholano knows by heart — the ube. Particularly the most famous variety in Bohol — ube kinampay.
Yes, we know what Ube is. It is the purple ingredient to our favorite halo-halo, and the root crop that we in Metro Manila does not always give high regards to. But in Bohol, it is one of the core defining food that people ultimately treasure. In folk religion, it is a sacred root crop given by the Gods so that Boholanos would survive any famine and drought. In historical accounts, it was the food that sustained the needs of heroes like Francisco Dagohoy when they revolted against Spain.
Furthermore, I was fortunate to be introduced to brothers Allan and Franz Labad, the proprietors of Bohol House of Ube. It sounds strange at first, because I would often meet women whenever I research and cover local cuisine. But here, men take charge of the kitchen.
As I was talking to them, I learnt that they follow traditions when it comes to ube kinampay. They hold the root crop very dearly that they make sure the kinampay does not fall to the ground. If it does, they kiss the root crop and say sorry to it so that it will not be affectively disappointed.
The importance of ube kinampay extends to the supposed special requirements needed to plant this root crop. It does not thrive elsewhere than in Bohol. It may grow somewhere else, but the taste and smell would differ. That is why for the Labad brothers, ube kinampay is a treasure that must be taken care of.
Making ube kinampay is not an easy feat. It takes hours of mixing to make the texture of the jam perfect. With condensed milk, sugar and butter, the jam is mixed until the desired consistency is reached.
Honestly, I am not a big fan of ube products because there is nothing special in the ube jams I tasted growing up. But the ube jam of Bohol House of Ube is different. It was the best tasting ube I ever tasted! It is sufficiently sweet without any hint of over saturation. It smells so good that makes it even more appetizing. Also, the texture is just right — not too rough on the tongue and not too smooth, either.
Tasting the ube jam of Bohol House of Ube makes me believe that the kinampay variety is indeed something special. In fact, I bought 15 ube jams before going home! I even had my friends and family taste it, and they were consistent in saying that it was one of the best ube jams they tasted.
I believe that what makes the ube jam of Bohol House of Ube even more special is the food story attached to it. More than anything else, it feels like an immersion of me as an outsider being invited to the core of Boholano food identity. It feels good to be reminded that in this age of food fusions, there are still genuine Filipino flavors that maintain itself despite the competition brought about by international cuisine. The ube kinampay jam is a simple reminder that what defines us as Filipinos is the food we eat and pass on intergenerationally — and that is quality food, to begin with.
When in Bohol, don’t miss the chance to taste and experience the ube jam of Bohol House of Ube. It is worth your 130 pesos, I guarantee you. You can visit it at #6 Butalid Street Tagbilaran City, near Acacia de Bubu. You can also contact Bohol House of Ube at 0905 546 5724.
If you happen to have tasted the ube jam of Bohol House of Ube, please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.