Kapeng barako and Batangas beef

[Today’s column]

Everyone believes in something and many consider their beliefs to be causes worth fighting and dying for. For some, it’s hoarding money even when it’s really taxpayers’ money. For others, it’s bad-mouthing whoever sits in power. There are those who seek to protect something like the animals rights activists and the environmentalists. There are also groups that want to deprive people of a chance for a better life like the anti-birth control zealots. And then there are those like the same-sex marriage advocates who cry out for fairness in a society that they feel short changes them at every turn. Many people have made careers out of their advocacy irrespective of whether their beliefs are right or wrong, misguided or otherwise. Perhaps, deep in our hearts, we all just want to make a difference in this world and we’re just trying to find the best way to do it.

When I write about food, I follow an advocacy too. I’m an evangelist for home cooking because I believe that no person should ever be entirely dependent on (overpriced and often lousy) restaurant food, frozen meals and over-processed make-believe food that no one really knows what they’re made of. It’s not something I impose on others, it’s not a cause I recruit people for, but it’s a cause that I have put forth on various media and platforms if only to relay the message that we have options and realistic choices, and that we can all eat better, healthier and cheaper too if we can ignore glossy food ads that say we don’t need to learn to cook because all those companies are there to take care of our needs with their indecipherable mash made more attractive with food color and a stay-fresh-longer status courtesy of preservatives which may or may not include formaldehyde. I like fresh meat, fresh fish (often whole with the heads), fresh vegetables and fruits… And I write about food and cooking in those terms — not always but about 90 percent of the time.

A couple of months ago, I was planning on spending two weeks in Tagaytay City by myself. The goal? Immerse myself in the kapeng barako ang Batangas beef culture and either (1) create a website or (2) write a book about the Tagaytay and Batangas food experience. If neither happened, I figured I’d still have enough materials for at least a dozen Feast Asia columns. It was a multi-faceted approach toward diverse goals — promote home cooking using local agricultural produce and meat, promote the agricultural products of the area, get some work done ahead of the deadlines and get a breather too and spend some good quality alone time.

Long time readers of my blogs know how much I loved Batangas beef, the incomparable bulalo culture in the area and how I never failed to buy beef at Mahogany Market every time we’re in Tagaytay. It’s a romance of sorts — the romance of the earth and its bounty and all the great meals created from them, the mystery of Taal Volcano, the cool breeze, the whiff of ground fresh coffee beans when you drive through nearby Batangas…

I felt bad when the commercialization set in and the roadside bulalo eateries started to give way to Chow King and Yellow Cab Pizza and McDonald’s. The quaint charm that made Tagaytay a favorite weekend destination for families and lovers alike was fast becoming a thing of the past. On our last two visits, high rise buildings were about to block the view of Taal Volcano from the highway.

Still, I wanted to do my part. I wanted to support the efforts that gave birth to establishments like Mushroomburger, Gourmet’s Cafe, Ilog Maria and the Flower Farm. So, I was going to do my “Kapeng barako and Batangas beef” project and write everything about Tagaytay and Batangas that I loved.

Then, the unimaginable happened. I got my story — but not the kind I wanted. The Batangas beef in Mahogany Market that I had been proudly advertising to every clueless city folk and expat who asks for my advice? I wanted to look for all those people and beg their pardon. No more trips to the Mahogany Market meat stalls for me. I’m sticking to the herb and fruit trees section. Why?

casaveneracion.com batangas-beef

Okay, I bought meat from three different stalls — two kilos of short ribs from one, two kilos of beef shank from another and two kilos of beef tripe from a third. The usual two-hour cooking time for beef? Everything I bought at the Mahogany Market had to be cooked for SIX HOURS. Longer, in fact, in the case of the tripe which I had to simmer OVERNIGHT.

What are they selling at Mahogany Market these days? Meat from animals about to croak from OLD AGE? Heaven knows I’m hoping it was a fluke – that I just happened to buy beef on a weekend when only the centenarians showed up for slaughter. My worst fear is that the butchers were passing off carabeef for real beef. And I can only hope that whatever goes on at the Mahogany Market is not a widespread practice over the entire Batangas province.

Sad, really, because I was prepared to go ALL OUT for the “Kapeng barako and Batangas beef” project to the extent of learning how to clean and prepare testicles and penises to make Soup #5. Maybe I can ditch the Batangas beef part and stick to a kapeng barako project. Or I can look for another location to gather my materials.

~End of column

[Click the link to page 2 if you want to view photos of what go into Soup #5.]

What is Soup No. 5?

It’s a soup made from these — the bull’s penis and testicles.

casaveneracion.com soup-number-5

casaveneracion.com bulls-testicles

Soup No. 5 is reputedly an aphrodisiac and has been featured in Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods. Now, I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an aphrodisiac, really. I’m more convinced that it’s all in the mind and that the only real aphrodisiac is one’s own hormones and a partner one is attracted to.


  1. ice says

    Carabeef is everywhere.. even in “imported” cornedbeef which city dwellers buy in grocery stores… :)

    • Trosp says

      Ha ha ha. This carabeef… Once I was with my CIC in Mahogany and we thought we got a bargain for a beef camto and then later found out that it will take 2 hours to tenderize it in pressure cooker.

      Actually, we’ve been there a lot of times since 90s and our lesson learned on that last fiasco is to go marketing there in the morning and not in the afternoon. My CIC and her sister will do the marketing while I will be in the eating places opposite the beef market. It’s still strange to me that beef papaitan and Batangas goto seems to taste better in Manila’s eating places than in Mahogany’s.

      But don’t get me wrong, it’s different once you’re invited for a lunch or dinner around that area – t’yak sabog ang ihe mo sa sarap ng papaitan and Batangas goto.

      Even on a nearby places like Amadeo.

  2. says

    Sassy although I know how great your advocacy sounds and by all means should be practiced by more, I think the age of Julia Child is gone inasmuch as we look at genuine local-sourced ingredients as the basis for home cooking. Locally-raised meat will really be even more difficult to verify as to its source and how it is produced, so now we’re just down to seeing the essential fresh vegetables and fruits we can at least still have some method of control and acquisition over. Hell, it’s a Knorr and Purefoods world now, and everytime a grocery or supermarket opens here in the metro or in the country, more and more of these places are just every inch the marketing properties of the food-processing conglomerates.

    • says

      I also think that when the day comes that the wet markets become scarcer, then it will be a pretty ominous sign. But I hope that will never happen, not in our lifetime at least. The older I get the more I am appreciating how good local vegetables and our bounty of fresh fruits are when they are well-prepared in our own native recipes. That is something we have so long taken for granted, and what a lot of people just plain ignore. I mean, screw the italian, the french, the spaniard and the american ways and even the way some established media chefs here try to fuse or replicate what foreigners do with regard to locally-sourced ingredients, it’s time we keep building on our own food tradition and not care about what the rest of the world thinks or does. We have more than plenty if we just focus on our own proverbial plate.

      • says

        Re screw the Italian… Way… Cooks oughta care only about their own way. And the best cook is one who can create a delicious meal using whatever is on hand.

    • says

      You know I’m not one of those that will complain if wet markets — as we know them today — become extinct. What I’d like to see are real farmers markets and meat shops that can guarantee the sanitation and quality of their products and that sell under sanitary conditions too.

      • emyM says

        Connie….that’s SAD…please try shopping at Indang or Mendez Cavite where the locals get their meat and know their “suki”,it’s not far from Mahogany but you should go there early.
        Ben,I share your sentiments…last Sat. I was lucky to buy
        “sibuyas na mura” sold at the swap meet here in LA for
        $1.00 a bunch

  3. lemon says

    Exactly, Ms. Connie, methinks the people involved in the scandal can only benefit from all this publicity.

    • says

      Public reaction can be so strange. Filipinos have developed this “people power” mentality. Look at the reaction in the Alec Baldwin issue. Every time they don’t like something, the mob goes wild. Very few seem to realize that democracy also means being able to live with things we don’t like.

  4. apt088 says

    Hi ms. connie,

    If you are still looking for a real beef within batangas/tagaytay area, you might want to try the one near the boudary of tagaytay and nasugbu. You can also try the one sold near Alfonso arc. I am currently working here in Nasugbu and likes to eat tapsilog. According to the owner of the store, they bought their tapa in stores near the boundary as they are cheaper and much assured that it is real beef.

      • says

        Mahogany Market/Tagaytay is in Cavite. The Taal Volcano and Lake is in Batangas, but the ridge overlooking the volcano and lake is in Cavite. Cavite profits from the Batangas landscape and view. People go to Tagaytay looking for Batangas Beef and Kapeng Barako.
        Explore Taal Lake from the towns of Talisay or Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas. You can buy beef from Taal, Barong Tagalogs and Balisong.
        More Power

  5. givenswayne says

    Connie , Im an American living here in the Philippines , Lucena area , I love it here , But the carabeef dont get it for me either I miss being able to buy a good beefsteak , or a pot roast or specially a good thick cut of chucksteak that you can pit in the oven with potatoes onions and carrots for 3 hours and have a delicious meal for the whole family . Please if you find another place in the area to reccomend for their beef products i would be forever grateful if you would email me where to go for it .. , stangivens@gmail.com

  6. lemon says

    Ms. Connie, everytime we go to Tagaytay and see another high-rise or fastfood place, nakakalungkot. We love Tagaytay, m husband specially, and we used to dream of buying a property there for our retirement. Lately, parang ayaw na namin.

    My sister introduced me to Ilog Maria and our friends now swear about how good their products are.

    Re: beef-it has happened so many times to us, buying meat that we had to boil overnight. Nakakapikon di ba, all that effort and money and you end up with the same thing that supermarkets and wet markets here also offer.

  7. you know me says

    had i known that you’ll be having this project, sana napakausap ko sa’yo si misis and her mom. having lived in tagaytay for a long time, perhaps they’ll have tons of information to share on batangas beef and kapeng barako.

    maraming anomalya about the high-rise buildings and other commercial establishments including who the owners are and how they managed to get building approvals. kaso lang, even if things were being committed right in front of you, you can’t even allow yourself to talk about it in public in fear of seeing yourself (if you still could see) or your family members hanging on steel hooks alongside the carabeef in mahogany market.

    not that i’m saying those photos are of dead people, haha.

    ahhh, so many things – politics, i wish i never knew.

    you could moderate this comment.

  8. acidicboy says

    We had the same experience at Mahogany in the past. I also swore never to buy from a place that would sell to out-of-towners such low quality beef… buti nga sa iyo you still cooked it, ours was so bad even after cooking we had to throw the food away. Sayang talaga! Anyway I learned my lesson- everytime we go up and opt to cook we bring beef bought from S&R para sigurado. I don’t want to support local businesses that are seems dubious.

  9. mariz says

    hi connie,

    sorry for this but i don’t know how to send you this request. i would like to get your legal opinion on the uploading of videos that are scandalous and humiliating to women ( i guess, you know who i mean). i’m really bothered by this. no, i’m so mad at the person that i can’t even mention his name. i have 3 daughters and i really feel for the victims.

    what can we do as parents and citizens to ensure that this kind of thing don’t happen again and scums like him are eradicated from the face of the earth? how do we protect our daughters from sick people like him?

    thank you and more power on your blog.


  10. says

    What is it exactly that you find disgusting? And how do you know it wasn’t something both parties agreed to to generate controversy to boost their going-nowhere careers?

    UPDATE: You might be interested to know that Kho was not the only one with copies of the videos.

    Halili claimed the doctor also told her manager that Dr. Vicki Belo, Kho’s former girlfriend, had copies of these videos.

    He guilty of doing the taping, no doubt, but who exactly did the circulating is anyone’s guess at this point.