Adventurer Harly Marcuap has Visited All 81 Philippine Provinces and Tells Us About His Most Interesting EatsMarch 5, 2020
How many 23-year-olds can actually say that they are well-traveled? Harly Marcuap, for one, can. The young geologist and travel enthusiast, hailing from the province of Quezon has been to Abra and Zamboanga— and all of the 79 other provinces of the Philippines in between. Harly documents his travels on his blog, ‘Akros Da Yunibers‘, with photographs and descriptions so detailed and well-written that his comments section is usually peppered with phrases like ‘just by reading your blog, it’s as if I’m actually there.’ As he shares his experiences, fueled by his passion for traveling, we can’t help but become curious of the diversity of Filipino food he must have had after traveling far and wide all over the archipelago. Here is a quick conversation about his gastronomic adventures and unique insight gained from his travels.
1. To begin with, could you tell us a little bit about how you came up with the goal of traveling to all 81 provinces of the Philippines before the age of 21?
I wanted to share, by way of blogging, that each province in our country is rich in natural and historical sites that are worth exploring. At first, I did not really want to put a time card on this, however, later, I realized that at the rate I’m traveling in 2013, I can finish all 81 provinces before I turn 22, which is exactly what happened.
2. What is the average number of days you stay in a particular province?
It really depends on the number of attractions in a province, but on average it’s around 3 days.
3. So, if you stay, on average, 3 days in a province, you have approximately 9 meals to think about. How do you decide where to eat?
I’m not a choosy type of person when it comes to food. Normally, when I get tired after a day of traveling, I just eat in any carinderia near where I’m staying. This way, I can save on costs and at the same time, sample some of the authentic dishes that make up the average diet of locals.
4. Are there any particular considerations you look for when finding a place to eat? And when you’re there, how do you decide what to order?
Although I eat in cheap restaurants and carinderias, I never sacrifice cleanliness. I don’t like eating in crowded and/or unsanitary places. I look for the dish that is most unique or, at least, famous among locals. I also put the cost in mind, as most of the time I travel with a limited budget.
5. Could you tell us some of your favorite places to eat in the Philippines?
I can say that 95% of Filipino food I found on the road fit my taste buds, and most of these delectable dishes and pastries I encountered was in southwestern Mindanao, from Zamboanga down to Tawi-Tawi. Food there has a unique taste that you won’t find elsewhere in the archipelago.
6. What is the most memorable dish you’ve had from southwestern Mindanao? Why was it memorable for you?
Putli Mandi of the Sulu Archipelago—no doubt the yummiest delicacy I have ever tasted. The Tausug locals of Jolo make the best ones; though you may also buy them in most of the coffee shops in Bongao. I am still not sure about the ingredients, but it’s like a purple, mushier version of your regular ‘buchi’. When I visited Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, no morning passed without me eating at least 5 pieces of Putli Mandi. It’s best served with a glass of ‘kawa’ or Tausug coffee.
7. You have had the incredible opportunity to visit all 81 provinces and taste their food. What do you have to say or comment about Filipino cooking and cuisine?
With our country comprising of more than 7000 islands, there are practically thousands of ways people cook their food. Preservation of food, for example, also varies; from the salted and mummified ‘etag’ of the Luzon Cordilleras to the sundried squid of Tawi-Tawi. Desserts number more than thousands, yet it’s common to find those that are made from coconut and milk. I think this is what I appreciate about Filipino food, it is diverse and at the same time unified by certain ingredients that make them truly Filipino. Our food is also flexible. It may be altered anyway we want depending on the preference of the people whom we are serving. My adobo can be sweet or spicy, dry or saucy, with or without pineapple; essentially, no law will tell me that I’m cooking it the wrong way.