Cagayan de Oro food trip: around Divisoria
There is a place in Cagayan de Oro called Divisoria. It is different from that crowded commercial district in Metro Manila, known for its insanely cheap albeit bootlegged items. Well, there are also similarities because the Divisoria that I grew up with was the go to place for all our needs – weekly groceries, hardware goods and food.
This blog post then is all about the latter. Over the years, I have been wondering what became of my favorite haunts in what most of us Kagay-anons consider to be the heart of CdeO. So when I got the chance to visit my hometown last December, I managed to squeeze in between some errands the food adventures below.
Sinuglaw – JC or JZ Eatery
Sinuglaw perhaps is Cagayan de Oro’s beloved surf and turf. This dish is made from the surprising combination of kinilaw (fish ceviche) and sinugba (grilled pork). Our version of kinilaw by the way is distinct with the use of mildly sweet tuba (coconut vinegar) and the tabon-tabon, a fruit that gives the fresh fish a slightly tarty flavor.
I usually get my sinuglaw fix at ZC Eatery along Pabayo st. This humble and much lovedkarenderia was run by Zita Cosare-Vequilla but when she passed away in 2009, her loved ones must have taken over her legacy. There are two of such karenderyas now – JZ Eatery and JC Eatery.
Both serve very good versions of the ZC Eatery classic. If you want the old feel of the eatery, go for JZ. The people behind JC on the other hand perhaps are the direct relatives of Mrs. Cosares. There are also loyal patrons who flocked to their new place which is more modern, even if it is just a few meters away from its original location.
Baked Siopao – Persimmon
Although Best Bake in VIP Hotel serves the best siopao (steamed meat buns) in the city, but that afternoon, I missed more the baked buns from Persimmon, which is right across the hotel.
Maybe I grew up too big already that’s why the meat buns looked smaller than the last time I ate them. Nonetheless, they still invoked wonderful memories of my mom who brings my sister and I a few of these after her work.
Banana Turones – Cee’s Restaurant at VIP Hotel
The last time I was in VIP Hotel was decades ago already. It is the first posh hotel or even the first high-rise in Cagayan de Oro. Back in the day, it exuded a certain level of old-style sophistication, which could not be replicated by the newer and hipster-esque hotels in the city.
So you could understand my hesitation in going inside the hotel because I was also too underdressed in my favorite flip-flops and hiking shorts. But my friend Debbie tipped me about the heavenly banana turones from Cee’s Restaurant, so I went inside anyway.
My friend was right about the dessert. The crisp rolls of plantain and jackfruit came with a cashew cream sauce and coffee syrup. The rolls, perfectly caramelized and glistening, successfully tempted me to immediately abandon my dietary restrictions. The creamy cashew dip was a surprising complement to its sweetness. It took the banana turon, a popular snack in the Philippines, into a completely different level.
RM – Lugawan Bulaluhan sa La Croelle
Other places call it ‘Soup No. 5.’ It is called ‘RM’ or ‘Remember Me’ in these parts. It is a hearty broth of mysterious bovine parts – innards, tendons and portions of bull penis. They usually don’t tell that latter detail of course, as it may potentially scare less-adventurous customers away.
Located along Capistrano-Pacaña sts, La Croelle serves the traditional turo-turo meals in the morning. From 3 pm onwards, they serve all kinds of soups – lugaw, batchoy, bulalo and that RM. The RM however, missed the mark for me so I’ll try out their lugaw or bulalo next time, which must come, I was told, with boiled unripe saba banana and ginamos on the side.
Various cakes – Cecil’s and Brew Berry Cafe
After all those meals, one can choose a dessert place before raising the white flag. Try either the blueberry cheesecake from Dew Berry Cafe or the moist chocolate cake from Cecil’s.
I really like how Cecil’s does their moist chocolate cake. It is delectably moist and sweet, and in that particular order as well. So you have to expect to be gloriously messy with every bite.
Chocobutternut – Dunkin Donuts
Dunkin Donuts is the odd one in this bunch. But long before those gourmet doughnut places invaded the metropolis, there was already DD in Divisoria, the de-facto meeting place of our generation.
Not much has changed when my sister, her husband and I paid it a quick visit. The doughnuts are still neatly stacked in rows behind the counter. I then ordered with my brewed coffee a few pieces of chocobutternut munchkin, which is my favorite next to the strawberry filled doughnut. This is definitely one of my guilty pleasures, something which I would have a hard time trading for those with snazzier textures and exquisite flavors.
That’s why I am nostalgic for this particular Dunkin Donuts branch. For me, it represents what Divisoria has been through the years, that despite the entry of big malls with more famous food franchises, it has, along with the many other eateries and bakeshops in Divisoria, managed to survive every single day.
These downtown establishments have been facing that delicate balance between that stubbornness to stick to their long-standing legacy and that urge to make bold steps into the future. And by the looks of it, they are indeed doing a great job so far.