Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breakfast at Made Weti

Spice lovers looking for the quintessential and authentic Balinese breakfast, the search is over. Go over quick to Warung Made Weti in Sanur Beach. Sanur habitues will know this place by heart so ask around. It is beside the Beach Market I entrance at Jalan Segara, right across a Hindu temple.

Ibu Made Weti
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/100s, f/4.8, 24mm, ISO 100

Literally, the warung is as humble as a hut can be. A real ramshackle hole in the wall, its small square of a unit offers authentic nasi campur ayam Bali and just that. Nothing else, no other menu.

Ibu Made Weti
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/40s, f/5.0, 18mm, ISO 200

The stall is operated by Made Weti, the lady cook made famous by her food. She still leads the operation of the enterprise, from the cooking to the serving. About 3 ladies help her out but the lines waiting to be served keep on growing. The place is already open by 7AM and typically runs only until 11. On certain days, like weekends or Fridays, the typical “lazy” day for government institutions, food could be gone by 10AM. What served-in customers can’t finish, the take outers would.

nasi campur ayam Bali
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/200s, f/4.5, 105mm, ISO 400

Unlike other food stalls though, the warung has no table save for one and a ledge ringing the the hut. Most people, from locals to domestic tourists, even foreigners, would merely sit on the wooden benches and hold the plate with one hand while eating.

The food, perhaps by choice, is halal or pork-free. The main attraction is the chicken cooked in traditional Balinese spices, with generous side servings of string beans, mung bean sprouts, even tuna. The sambal, is nothing short of spice heaven.

Made Weti
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/800s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 100, +1/3EV

Recalling the tugging bite of the sambal chili paste and lifting memory of the innumerable spices, I am now a convert. And the cost? Just about 10,000 rupiah. One dollar could not taste any better.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It was only a day trip in Madura.

Time was a constraint so as expected, we could not stay overnight in this island northeast of Surabaya. My flight out of Surabaya was early the next morning so we had to squeeze the visit in only one day.

I have done this before. This was probably my third visit in the last 6 years. The tactic is to leave at sunrise. Madura island is one of the poorest regions of East Java and a vast number of Madurese work in Surabaya but still opt to live in the island. The morning rush from Madura to Surabaya is therefore notorious, as is the traffic late in the afternoon from Surabaya back to the island. Luckily, we are moving against this human mass flow.

Madura boat
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/320s, f/4.5, 75mm, ISO 400, -1/3EV

Getting to Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya was uneventful. The streets at Surabaya were generally free-flowing at 6 in the morning. At the port of Tanjung Perak, there was no long queue so our car promptly got a berth in the ferry.

By about 8AM, we already were in the busy port of Kamal in Bangkalan, West Madura. Our destination was about 120 kilometers away in Sumanep, the easternmost regency of the island. Barring any bottlenecks, we should be there in 3 ½ hours. Basically, the hitches would be the public markets (different days of the week would be market days in various places). We went there on a Wednesday so we missed out too potential Friday throngs at the roadside mosques.

Bangkalan mosque
a mosque in Bangkalan, West Madura. The more than 4 million people in Madura are predominantly Muslim.
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/2500s, f/5.6, 155mm, ISO 200

It was past 10 in the morning when we pulled into the village of Lobuk in Bluto, Sumenep. Quickly, we checked on the seaweed farms.

Madura uses a unique system of seaweed cultivation, using rafts instead of long off-bottom ropes. (The other place which prefers this mode of plantation would be Serewe, East Lombok).

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/2000s, f/5.0, 230mm, ISO 100, -1/3EV

October, being hot season in Madura, is a productive month for seaweed. Productivity is high. Farmers were busy, either planting seedlings or harvesting mature fronds.

line-stripping the seaweed that are ready for drying
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1600s, f/4.5, 80mm, ISO 100, -1/3EV

harvesting the seaweed from the rafts, called raket in Indonesia
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1600s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100, -1/3EV

More work proceeded in a flurry. At about 11AM, we decided to call it a day and made our way back west. Lunch was to be at Pamekasan, the capital at the eastern central part of the island. I was not surprised when we pulled in at the Hotel Restaurant Putri. It must be Pamekasan’s better places as I always got to have lunch there. Menu is Chinese Indonesian and specialty is fresh seafood. Delicious.

While waiting for the food to be cooked, I had some downtime and took some photos of a fully carved wooden screen. It features the distinctive Madurese wood carving. Referred to as Karduluk carving for the village in Sumenep where it originates, the style is generally larger in size and cruder in stroke than the Javanese. The finish is often polychrome paint, usually in red and green. The motifs are Chinese- bird, flower or dragon. (I’m planning to commission one for our home in Cebu so I know lots about carvings).

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/40s, f/4.5, 100mm, ISO 100, -1.0EV

After lunch, we were on our way home. In the same haste, we had no time at all to stop inasmuch as I wanted to. All I did was merely put to mind several scenes that I would love to photograph someday. My photos are just “drive by”, that is, taken only from a moving car.

children by the roadside at Sampang, Madura
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1250s, f/5, 150mm, ISO 200

Maybe some day, I would be able to go there on a more leisurely pace. Next year, the long delayed 5.4-kilometer bridge connecting Surabaya and Madura might already be finished. It would then be the longest bridge in Indonesia. And it has a nice name to boot: SURAMADU. I couldn’t wait for it to be completed.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/2500s, f/5.6, 155mm, ISO 200

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The salt farms of Bima

Salt making is a traditional enterprise in many cultures. Using the powerful heat of the sun, seawater is evaporated and concentrated until rock crystals are formed. Sea salt “farms” were fairly common when I was growing up in the 80s but modernity brings in the convenience of imported salt (especially Indian salt) that comes out cheaper. I would be hardpressed to find sea salt ponds in Cebu.

In my frequent travels, particularly in Indonesia, I still see that this saltpanning tradition is still strong. In Java, the biggest salt tracts are in Madura island.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/500s, f/8.0, 55mm, ISO 100
salt ponds, Madura island, East Java, Indonesia

Whenever I am in a plane I always watch with curiosity these salt ponds and they are all over the country. Most recently, just this last week, I flew to Bima in the island of Sumbawa and finally found the spare time to visit thriving salt ponds.

aerial of Bima salt ponds
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1000s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 200

Bima, the capital city of Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB) province, is hot and salt farms dot the landscape at the bay, just where the airport is. The principle is well, simple. During the hot season, sea water is introduced into the plains by opening dikes during high tide.

Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1000s, f/8.0, 18mm, ISO 100

salt pond
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/800s, f/8.0, 47mm, ISO 100

The salt water is fed into evaporation ponds made of compacted soil and separated by levees. Water can only take in so much salt so upon continued evaporation, it breaches “saturation point” which technically means that the solubility limit is reached. Salting out then begins. In saturated brine, salt would remain solid and would be panned in mounds and harvested. During the dry season, salt is collected at least once a week and could yield 2 tons per hectare.

mound of salt
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1250s, f/5.6, 300mm, ISO 100

The salt ponds are typically maintained independently, some by cooperatives but often run, by families. In one pond just a few hundred meters from the airport, we chanced upon a man being assisted by his daughter who could be no more than 10 years old. It was Sunday so school was off. All throughout the time that I was around, she seemed to be thoroughly into her chores. Collecting salt cannot be all fun, especially under the heat of the biting sun, but she balanced the salt she collected on her head confidently, prancing barefoot across the pond, as if it were the most natural thing to enjoy.

Helping out the family never falls out of favor.

collecting salt
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1250s, f/5.6, 180mm, ISO 200

helping hand
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/2500s, f/5.6, 155mm, ISO 200

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

the Cacing Diaries #17

I am here in Indonesia. Just arrived yesterday. It won’t be until next Friday that I will be back home in Cebu. Meantime, I have to content myself with viewing the pictures I took of my daughter who is getting feistier and louder by the day.

Sure I would no longer have to wake up twice at night to give her a bottle of milk. No more interrupted sleep but somehow, I miss that. For now, I don’t have to race back home in the afternoon for her second bath of the day. No more wet splashes and soap encounters for now.

Intermittently in the next few days I will be out of internet coverage but my heart and mind (and yes, my cellphone) will be tuned home. I will be back sooner than you think!

wild hair
She’s lying on her back here, on her cradle, ready for a bath. Her hair is wild!

I need my robe now, please
With her long hair, she needs to be toweled off completely

I know something you don't
This is not the sharpest of images but boy, isn’t she sophisticated with toussled hair?

I can teach you something
Cacing can be bossy at times!

my first doll
This 2008 US Open doll is gift from my sister. Its her first doll but she still hasn’t taken to playing it.

Learning to play with her tongue, she keeps on sticking it out nowadays.

loving colors
She loves the colors of this restaurant and it shows in her face.

Kisses she loves.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

To the Northern Islands of Bohol

Finally, after a botched plan to visit the seaweed farms in North Bohol last Tuesday (Sept 30), canceled by the typhoon Pablo, we were able to take advantage of a lull in the weather on Thursday (October 2). The sun was up, the monsoon winds were leashed and the waters were still. Calm. Just the way I like it. To Bohol we went.

Bohol has 3 municipalities which are substantial seaweed producers in the region: Jetafe, Talibon and Bien Unido. Traditionally, the most productive is Bien Unido, specifically the island of Hingutanan which sits on the nutrients-rich Danahon reef.

I often go to North Bohol at least three times a year. We would just rent a boat at the Buot Port in Mactan, Cebu. A day trip nowadays costs about 5,500-7,000 pesos, depending on the size of the boat and the destination islands. While we always make boat arrangements before a trip, one can always do this on the day of the departure. As North Bohol is about 3 hours away from Mactan, we also start early before 8AM so that we could get back before 5PM.

Motorized outrigger interisland boats are quite noisy. Conversations are difficult to carry unless you shout over the din of the roaring motor. Soon enough though, this would just be white noise and the views of the outlying islands of Mactan and Bohol would more than provide moments of peace. Mostly, my companions would use this time to take a nap. Or, in my case, I would take photographs.

First stop in this trip was Hingutanan island. It was nip tide so the waters weren’t deep enough so we could not use the north route which goes directly to the shallow Danahon Reef. Instead, we took the more circuitous route via Talibon, where the deeper channel runs.

beyond the still waters
Canon EOS 350D, 1/3200s, f/5.6, 300mm, ISO100
a fisherman in the sea near Talibon, Bohol, the Philippines

When we arrived at Hingutanan, it was already way past 10AM. The seaweed platform was a hive of activity, as always. Seaweed harvests were being delivered to the farmhouse for weighing, accounting and sundrying. While it was too early for lunch, there was a bounty of seafood waiting for us so who are we to say no?

freshly harvested seaweed being delivered to a farmhouse in Hingutanan, Bien Unido, Bohol, the Philippines

After some amount of work, we then headed off to Danahon Reef to check on the health of the spinosum farms. This type of seaweed is basically growing “wild” and are hardly farmed at all. They just roll on the reef and are collected during low tide. Danahon is such a vast stretch of reef and the part north of Hingutanan is one which is relatively shallow. As the depth is probably about 3-5 fathoms deep (1 fathom, or "dupa" in Cebuano is 1 breadth of outstretched arms), the waters are not scarily dark at all but sport bright shades of aqua and green. Perfectly tempting for snorkeling!

approaching Danahon Reef, Hingutanan
approaching the Danahon Reef (Hingutanan side), Bien Unido, Bohol, the Philippines

farmhouses at Danahon, Hingutanan
seaweed platforms on Danahon Reef (Hingutanan side), Bien Unido, Bohol, the Philippines

Dotting the reef are close to twenty platforms, used as farmhouses for the collecting and drying of the seaweed. The area is regulated by the municipal government of Bien Unido and hectares are being leased for a minimal amount on an annual basis.

farmhouse at Danahon, Hingutanan
spinosum being delivered to a farmhouse in Danahon Reef (Hingutanan side), Bien Unido, Bohol, the Philippines

platform at Danahon Reef, Hingutanan
spinosum being dried in a farmhouse in Danahon Reef (Hingutanan side), Bien Unido, Bohol, the Philippines

At the reef, we had a bit of a setback as our engine conked. The detour was luckily short and we quickly found ourselves on the way to Jao island. This island, by some twist of gerrymandering, is composed of 3 barangays. (A barangay is the smallest political unit in the Philippines). One barangay, Pinamgo, belongs to Bien Unido which it faces. The western half of the island, however reports to another municipality, Talibon. Such a small island but two distinct municipality affiliations. Go figure!

The eastern coast of Jao, specifically the sitio of Lawis in barangay Pinamgo is already surrounded by monolines of farmed cottonii seaweed. It seems that growth rates are higher here than in most other islands so the coast is decked by long lines of farmed seaweed.

Jao 100208_052-1
cultivation lines of cottonii seaweed near the shore of sitio Lawis, barangay Pinamgo, Bien Unido-side of Jao Island, Bohol, the Philippines

For lack of space for drying, farmers in Jao prefer air-drying the seaweed, hanging them like clothes, instead of cutting the seaweed free from lines and spreading them over a platform. It is not technically the preferable mode as cleaning out plastic tie materials is difficult when the seaweed is dry.

platform at Lawis, Pinamgo
harvested lines of cottonii seaweed being air-dried in a farmhouse off sitio Lawis, barangay Pinamgo, Bien Unido-side of Jao Island, Bohol, the Philippines

airdrying of seaweed at Jao
harvested lines of cottonii seaweed being air-dried in sitio Lawis, barangay Pinamgo, Bien Unido-side of Jao Island, Bohol, the Philippines

hanging seaweed for drying
closeup of cottonii seaweed being air-dried in sitio Lawis, barangay Pinamgo, Bien Unido-side of Jao Island, Bohol, the Philippines

Of course, we had another meal in Jao island, our second “lunch” of the day. This time, we had sumptuous freshly steamed crabs and wasay-wasay shells. Work always is easier when the stomach is full, or kept full to be more exact. Too bad that we could not dilly dally as we needed to get back home.

The trip back to Cebu was uneventful. It took us 2.5 hours. Maybe our boat really was slow. Or maybe not. Distance and time have a way of warping when I visit the islands.

Jao sandbar
a DENR substation in the sandbar of Jao Island, Bohol, the Philippines

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