CORDOVA, CEBU- Erik Matti read carefully. “Nasuya ra man tingali na sila kanang nanaot sa bakasi (They could just be envious those that criticized the eel),” Florencio “Entoy” Escabas, 71, told iNews.ph inside his hut yesterday in Karnampay, Barangay Buagsong here.
Escabas said his “Nilarang na Bakasi (stewed sour and spicy reef eel) was his concoction that he never dreamed of being shown in global cable television. He said he started it in 2002, May 2 to be exact (he wrote it in his personal diary), after the town’s former chief of police, a certain Ete Abing, suggested cooking the eel by sauteing first its spices and stewing it later thereby using a little cooking oil.
Before nilarang he already had the “tinuwa (soup)” where he will just cook in a boiling water the eel with its spices which his customers did not find well. “Wa gyud ko magdahum nga maingon ani, katung si anhing Ete Abing, ang chief of police maoy misulti nako nga akong gisalon usa ang mga lamas sa dili pa ilunod ang bakasi (I never expected that it will reach this far, it was Ete Abing, the former chief of police who told me to saute first the spices before I put the eel).
“He said his seaside eatery suddenly became the word of mouth then as Abing and his men would keep coming back bringing along others. The captive customers were the locals who spread the word around. He was still fishing for bakasi at that time as the fish is abundant in their nearby fishing ground as the fish can be caught there since it thrives on its muddy and grassy rocks (reefs) which are aplenty in the area.
So after the “nilarang” became a hit, he decided to focus on his seaside eatery (Entoy’s Bakasihan) along then with his wife Bernarda, a good cook like him who passed away in 2016. Business is at its best during weekends where he said they would cook an average of fifty (50) kilos of Bakasi for customers that already included tourists. Escabas, a high-school dropout, said, four of his grandchildren finished college while helping them in their sort of family-owned business with his children.
One of his grandchildren is already a licensed teacher, two are graduates of business administrations while one just finished her BS education degree. They adopted a sort of “profit sharing” scheme among them on a weekly basis where he has a daily allocation of P200 as medicine maintenance as he suffered from a stroke.
Escabas said their eatery business (they already have other seafoods in their menu) really sustained them and all of a sudden that unexpected “break” from Netflix came. He said they began their shooting in October last year for STREET FOOD ASIA where “nilarang na bakasi” was featured and was shown last April 26.
After the showing, Matti who is also doing another food show for a rival cable television criticized in social media the choice of bakasi as featured food. Escabas, however, have Matti also to thank for because after the comment of Matti became viral, he suddenly became “sikat (famous)” not only to curious locals but to foreign tourists as well.
Last May 1, a labor day, where many went to Buagsong beach, a group of pretty Koreans and a couple of Brazilian women asked him for a “groupie”, (after my team left a group of another Koreans arrived). “Masuya ra gyud sila kay wala ko magdahum mangari na nako mga foreigner kay magpa litrato lang unya mangaon ug bakasi (They will surely be envious because I did not expect it that the foreigners will just come to me and have photos after eating bakasi).
“Today, a known television personality from Manila book him for a feature story in her program and a lot more also want it too. So because of Netflix, he became known in the global tv audience, and perhaps because of Matti too, Entoy, the BAKASI MAN SOARS!
Photos by Allan Defensor