Bilao-full of Goodies

Around 4pm everyday, a kakanin vendor would pass by our gate like clockwork. We call her Day, a variation of the term of endearment “Inday”. Strange is that she’s Tagalog, not Bisaya.

She carries her bilao on top of her head, reminiscent of the old vendors that peddled goods in old Manila. Paglalako (peddling) as a form of selling is as traditional as it gets. It existed long before the westerners came. How this selling technique survive to this day is one of the mysteries in Filipino historiography!

What’s in Inday’s bilao?

Maja blanca, buchi (fried), banana que (caramelized banana on sticks), palitaw, biko, ginataan (bilo bilo), pancit guisado, turon, puto, kuchinta, palabok and a recent addition Spaghetti, extra sweet with sliced hotdogs. Inday’s bilao is always covered with banana leaves. She told me that it delays the expiration of her kakanin.

Bote Dyaryo Garapa

I wonder if taho was peddled in the 1800’s in those stainless cans or if binatog were sold by bicycle riding vendors with the familiar bell  they strike to call their parokyanos. What about the balot vendors? were they allowed to call their customers by shouting balut late at night?

When I was in grade school my mother allowed me to keep the money from used newspapers and empty glass bottles we sell to a man called Arriba. I don’t know if that was his real name but he was one cool cat. I’ll wait for him every Saturday morning when I have something for him. He announces his arrival by honking his “pot pot” and shouting “bote-dyaryo-garapa”.

Remember the sorbetes being sold on those brightly colored two wheeled pushcarts? I still see some of these  beauties around but I’m seeing more of those magnolia and selecta ice cream vendors on bikes these days. I don’t know what’s next for the dirty ice cream. Why they call it dirty ice cream, I don’t know – never had a tummy ache eating dirty ice cream. The connotation that its dirty probably came from it being from the streets.

Even magnolia chocolait used to be delivered at our doorsteps in the 80’s. I’ll never forget the bottle it came with. And who can ever forget the Yakult ladies with their cooler trolley-full of lactubacilus shirota-strength? They’re still around. Same uniform, same trolley bag- and I’m still buying!

In a time where modern technology has advanced the way we do business there are traditions that defy the parameters of our modernist lifestyle. We would see less of these lako and its possible that decades from now generations of Filipinos would only see them in photos. We can only hope that they’re still around for our future children to experience.


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