It was beautiful and sunny the following day we arrived, fitting for what we planned to do first in the city of Cebu. Since I’ve been here several times, as expected, I prepared an itinerary for the first-timer – my hubby of course! He had also been looking forward to this tour, as this was going to be the start for him to truly explore what my home country has in store, beyond the beach life that he’d ever been
We started our morning with a stopover at the uptown Cebu’s cosmopolitan mall – the Ayala Center. I started acting out as my husband’s tour guide, nonchalantly telling him, “It’s my favorite mall chain that’s owned by the Ayalas!” I sounded as if, I’m close to this rich and affluent family, and he knows about them. I later on confessed that I’m in this generation who grew up in a prevalent “mall culture” in the Philippines. That’s how I started my “Pinas 101” with him.
Malling is a deeply ingrained, favorite pastime of Filipinos. The love for shopping malls runs deep in the Philippines, to the extent that “malling” is a coined term to describe an act of spending time in the shopping mall. Evidently, the Philippines has the three of the world’s 10 largest shopping centers. And these giant malls, along with other dozens of equally popular ones, never run out of foot traffic (weekends are the busiest times of course). To date, there are over 80 major malls all throughout the country, and still counting.
I’m not quite sure on whether I should feel proud about it, but I’m used to be one of those who find these shopping malls as ballparks for conveniently finding everything I need (and want). Well, in the 80s and early 90s, malling used to define the status quo, because only the well-to-do’s could. Before the Mall of Asia, there’s SM Makati and North Edsa, which for me as a kid, were big amusement parks! It was already considered extravagant to go there mainly because it’s far from where we lived.
Eventually, more and more shopping malls are being built; the more it’s getting easier and more convenient for everyone to visit. Overtime, the malls have not only become a place to shop and dine, but also to watch movies, play games, workout in the gym, relax in a spa, see a doctor, make bank transactions, pay the bills and many more. The country’s biggest shopping mall chain, Shoemart (SM), must have started it all; as obviously, they’ve lived up with their slogan – “We’ve got it all for you.”
The Filipino masses got caught up and since then, malling has become a Pinoy way of life.
Believe it or not, I was flabbergasted when I first found out that there’s not much shopping malls in Geneva. It could even be boring to stay around too, since malling here isn’t as interesting, dynamic (and chaotic) as it is in Manila. People would simply come-and-go, purely just to buy things or for a quick drink or bite. You wouldn’t see big families or barkadas (group of friends) roaming around. They even wouldn’t dare to spend a day in a shopping mall. Most Europeans would rather spend their time either staying outdoors to do camping, hiking or to play sports, strolling (or biking) around parks and villages, visiting museums, reading a book, watching a movie (at home), gardening, among others. It then didn’t come as a surprise for me when my hubby admitted that he doesn’t fancy malling. Or it has something to do with being the typical guy he is – window shopping just ain’t their thing!
After buying a few important stuff and coffee break, we left Ayala Center and spent more time strolling around the business district instead. Until we felt hungry, I suddenly salivated for Cebu’s roasted suckling pig. We went on as planned – Zubuchon’s next!
Lechon isn’t uniquely Filipino. It’s originally a Spanish word (lechón) that refers to a roasted suckling pig. Lechon is most likely served in special occasions such as birthdays, graduations, Christmas and fiestas (town festivals). The pig skewered on a large bamboo stick, roasted over a pit filled with charcoal for hours, and drenched in oil. Such cooking process makes the pork skin crunchy, which is what Filipinos enjoy the most. And in the Philippines, the best lechon you can ever find is in Cebu city.
We took a cab even though it’s just a few meters away from Ayala Center. We were less adventurous at that time because we’re already hungry. We just let the driver go figure it out and take us there. We arrived in Escario Central and quickly saw the red Zubuchon pig at the corner. Not much people dined in, it’s too late for lunch that’s why. “It’s gonna be a good, tranquil lunch for us,” we both agreed.
He also loves lechon as much as I do. I started teasing around that we could get half a kilo of lechon for each of us. Of course, we wouldn’t. “Maybe one-fourth?” he added. The waiter then suggested we share one-fourth kilo of lechon. Sharing didn’t sound like good news for hubby, but I assured him, after having one-fourth kilo serving of lechon just for myself in CnT, I trust the waiter’s advice.
Alongside lechon, we also ordered a full plate of stir-fried rice, a bowlful of pumpkin soup and a leche flan (a dessert, an egg caramel to be exact). I got curious with Zubuchon’s kamias shake so I took it as my thirst quencher. Kamias is essentially a tropical fruit grown from bilimbi tree (or also called as cucumber tree or tree sorrel). It is typically used as a sour agent for a few Filipino dishes. I thought the said drink could be as extremely sour as my equally favorite green mango shake. Surprisingly it wasn’t,
and even more the taste complemented well with lechon’s oozing greasiness.
I had my first CnT lechon two years ago, but regardless, I can still clearly tell the difference between the two. CnT is one of the earliest litsunan (lechon stores) in Cebu that was able to thrive over time. Zubuchon’s quick claim to fame is hugely attributed to Anthony Bourdain’s musings about their lechon – the best pig ever, as he claimed so. CnT certainly has kept the Pinoy rusticity and mass appeal; spicing up your stay by seeing these red-and-yellow clad women unforgivingly hacking away every lechon they get for everyone to partake. Zubuchon on the other, is a modern casual dining restaurant, with a more sophisticated ambiance and smooth service. They’re both as crispy as hell, but CnT has
richer (and saltier) flavor and Zubuchon is more balanced.
CnT is like watching “Breaking Bad” – damn dirty good; while Zubuchon is “Big Bang Theory” – wholesomely satisfying. What does it mean then? I can’t deny it, but I just love both!
About the author
Perpie Poblador is living in Switzerland with her Belgian husband. A self-confessed information junkie, she loves sharing and blogging about topics that interest her. Most likely, she shares stories about her travels and food adventures; and her peculiar curations that spell coffee, life inspirations, something geeky, or anything in-between. Follow her blogging at coffeechatwithperpie.com.