Bibingka Bonding Moments

Cynthia Batin
4 min readFeb 5, 2024

It was a hot afternoon when my officemate Sarah and I pigged out on yesterday’s leftovers when Grant came and handed out these so-called fancy bibingkang galapong, her pasalubong (English translation: souvenir) to us after almost a month of not seeing each other.

Bibingkang galapong is among the many types of bibingka, a general term for indigenous baked rice cake in the Philippines. For bibingkang galapong, its main ingredients are soaked ground glutinous rice, water, coconut milk, and sugar. The mixture is put in clay pots lined with banana leaves.

The pasalubong, which according to Grant, was from Tagaytay, was different from the usual bibingkang galapong offered in Laguna. As Sarah and I giggly told Grant, “Ang sosyal ng bibingka. Pangmayaman.” (English Translation: This bibingka is fancy. For the rich’s palate).

The fancy bibingkang galapong from Grant

The fanciness of the bibingkang galapong was noticeable in its appearance. There was a huge slice of cheese and strips of salted duck egg as toppings, which was not common in regular bibingka. It had a mild buttery smell. At first bite, one can already taste an excellent combination of cheese, milk, and butter mixed into the dough and feel its moist smooth fine bread-like texture. The proportion of cheese, milk, and butter was very well thought out, which implied that this flavour is a signature of the brand. The salted duck egg on top was not too salty and complemented very well the cheese toppings. This bibingka is one delicious food, a 5/5.

However, this fancy bibingkang galapong lacked the smoky flavour I love from the traditional bibingka. This bibingka was baked using a convenient modern oven.

Traditionally, bibingka is cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves. The baking happened using the heat coming from charcoal. There are two sets of charcoal — one set on the bottom and another set on top. The charcoal on top, contained in a metal pan, is placed when the cooking of the bibingka is about to finish. The combination of the flavor coming from clay pots, the banana leaves lining, and the charcoal gives its distinct, smoky flavor. Its bitter burnt top is just too precious and gives it authenticity.

Reminiscing the past with a friend

Eating the fancy bibingkang galapong, made me miss my childhood favourite breakfast — our barrio’s signature bibingkang galapong peddled by a middle-aged lady in my small barrio.

Our barrio’s bibingkang galapong is made of ground glutinous rice, enriched with shreds of young coconut meat. It has a moist creamy texture of glutinous rice, exemplified by the combination of its smoky flavour, burnt top, and mild sweetness coming from the sugar and young coconut meat.

While silently reminiscing the taste of my old breakfast, Sarah surprised me by saying, “Yung Ateng naglalako sa Mayondon, favorite ko yun.” (Translation: The old lady peddling in Mayondon, that’s my favorite). It is indeed a fascinating discovery that Sarah and I came from adjacent neighbourhoods and that we shared a common favourite bibingkang galapong. Those were sweet memories, and I could see that Sarah shared the same nostalgic feeling from the smile on her face.

Reminiscing the past with my Mom

When I went home, I told my Mom that it’s been ages since I last ate bibingkang galapong, and I can’t help but crave it.

My Mom used to buy me almost every day traditional rice cakes when I was younger. As a former rice cake cook and businesswoman, she always made sure that we were connected with her through the food she enjoys and crafts.

I also asked why she is not buying bibingka anymore. Mom didn’t answer me right then.

She reminisced about her youth instead. She shared how she and my Tia During, during the 1980s, were excellent cooks of bibingkang galapong. She also shared that they used to receive an unimaginable number of orders per day. Witnessing my Mom’s fondness for these memories was a great feeling. Her storytelling made me travel in the past alongside her, imaging how she and Tia During could have looked like in their youth while making their homemade bibingkang galapong,

After sharing her heartwarming memories, I asked her if she was going to make one. She replied that she couldn’t do it anymore because of the difficult cooking process. I then asked her to buy me one if she happened to go to the market. Unfortunately, no one who sells it now as the only person who used to make it, Aleng Stella, had already passed away.

Oh, my bibingka cravings can never be satisfied.

All’s well that ends well

Two days later, on a Saturday, I heard someone shouting, “Bibingka!”

It was Aleng Ana, whom I hadn’t seen selling rice cakes and desserts in almost a year.

Aleng Ana’s traditional bibingka

It was a happy ending for my cravings as I was able to taste the smoky flavour and sweetness of bibingka cooked traditionally. This experience will surely be a good memory for me.

Nostalgia

Food indeed stirs memory: same food name but different flavors; same food shared but with different people. It’s amazing how food connects people and experiences.

With the flow of time, with the rapidly changing technology, with changing tasting buds, I wonder if traditional recipes will soon be just memories.

Life is indeed just a fleet. Oh, my bibingka memories.

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Cynthia Batin

I wander gleefully like a petal in a windy day. Food lover. Food waste hater. Got 19 beautiful cats. I write to remember.