Papa Be’s Balbacua (Part 1)

By: Lucel lLarawan

The kitchen never becomes bare again with the usual viand of tulingan that defines the family’s identity. I say this because my father, Papa Be, brings home half a sack of carabao legs, around seven kilos, in the last week of April 1987. He says that this is for balbacua. Thank God, we can expect something exciting because the next day is Tagbilaran City’s fiesta.

For me, nothing can beat the sumptuous balbacua made from the legs of water buffalos served hot with lawot-lawot that chracterizes the soup. I can tell because a few days after fiestas, I long for more of this menu to savor. I wish it replaces the usual tulingan that we bear, albeit one should consider arthritis if one grows older.

But because balbacua is mouthwatering, no one cares about anything else. Forget about health issues; I am still a teenager.

For Papa Be, however, his outlook is different. “Bahalag magkinaun sa basta mo pahinungod gyod  ta sa fiesta,” he firmly said when I asked if we should really miss some viands for this fiesta. His resolve seems chiseled on stone: “Bahalag di ta kasud-an usahay basta magpista.”

Papa Be reveres Saint Joseph, the city’s patron saint, such that no king or calamity can weaken his commitment to celebrate the day. He sacrificially saves a portion of his daily wage as a house painter. The outcome: our fiestas become memorably sumptuous with dinuguan, humba nga baboy, adobong manok, hinili sang baboy and menudo. Among them, I cannot forget the balbacua.

Not only does balbacua proffer the fiesta delight. Many Lobocanons, whom my father was, serve it during Christmas. Nevertheless, no one can brush it aside as an option when kin and friends have a fellowship.

As Papa Be cooked balbacua, one day, I asked where he bought the carabao legs. “Inambit ni sa akong amigo sa Loboc,” he replied as he boiled the meat in the dirty kitchen. Carmen sellers supply carabao meat regularly. This is where my father’s friend bought it for resale.

Every year since childhood, I visit Loboc until my teen years. One time, my father brought me there to visit friends and relatives. In most cases, however, our whole family goes there to rekindle our ties with tiyo Aton, his wife Shirley and my cousins Dario, Niel, Toto and Ondoy. We also visit our distant relatives and friends.

My father was an OFW in Saudi employed as a factory worker. He later came back in 1987, still the only bread winner of the family by working as a contractual house painter. Our living condition improved when Mama Linda teaches in Valencia.

Papa was a good provider though he would drink Kulafu almost everyday. After he died of renal failure (a type of kidney disease) in 2008, he left the legacies of hard work and faithfulness to his family. He went from one acquaintance or friend to another looking for a house painting contract. When he would find one, he climbed the bamboo damba—sometimes reaching the second floor– or painted indoors until the job was done with satisfied clients. After five in the afternoon, he would go to the wet market in Cogon and bought a kilo of tulingan.

But one of the best memories of Papa Be is the balbacua menu.