By: Antonette Angeline J. Alban
I can still remember the very first day, during my toddler days, when I first got the feeling of fulfillment in eating Balasan’s RCJ bibingka. When I was a kid and staying at Batad, Iloilo, I loved attending the holy mass in Agtalin Capiz, though it is quite far from Batad, because I know that on our way home, we would buy RCJ bibingka and my weariness from the long trip would pay off.
Bingka is the ilonggo term for the tagalong word bibingka which is a native delicacy made of rice or coconut sold in town plazas and a good merienda after the long Sunday Mass.
RCJ Bibingka is owned and managed by the Jaro Family of Balasan. It is named after the sons and daughters of Mr. Reginald Jaro and Mrs. Florenda Cualing-Jaro namely, Roland, Regina, Reginald Jr., Ramil, Ruben and Riza. (That’s Manong Rege and me). It was a business originally owned and managed by the mother-in-law of Sir Reginald and was passed on to them. The said business has been existing for over 50 years; it is even older from their eldest son.
RCJ only uses young coconut so that the fillings won’t be tough. Some other bibingkas I ate were tough and that the strands of the coconut flesh were very noticeable which implies that these weren’t young coconut. RCJ doesn’t use wheat flour because they don’t want their bibingkas to look and taste like bread. They also use refined sugar to give the bibingka the sweet taste. You will notice the yellowish frosting of RCJ bibingka. It is made of Alpine Milk, egg and sugar which they call as the “icing.”
In ordinary days, they can produce and sell bibingkas worth 5 gantangs of rice a day and even more during festival seasons. They get their ingredients from the neighboring towns like Capiz and Estancia.
The Mayor of Batad always invites the RCJ bibingka to participate in their Food Festival. And also, RCJ bibingka can be seen at the Jaro Plaza during the Fiesta ng Birheng Candelaria in February. (In fact, they start selling their delicious bingka at the Jaro Plaza as early as the Christmas holidays).
In 1986, the old SM at Delgado discovered the RCJ bibingka and asked them to have a place in SM; they would bring the name “Balasan Bibingka.” It was unsuccessful because they had to use electric oven so the bibingka ended up tough and the partnership didn’t work well so they decided to go back to Balasan and concentrated their business there.
Due to the fame of RCJ special bibingka, others tried to copy it. There was even an instance in Roxas City where a bingka stand even used the name RCJ! People weren’t fooled for they knew it wasn’t authentic RCJ.
Sir Rege said that the only way you can say that you are eating their original bibingka is when you see them in the shop working. Recently, a worker from RCJ was pirated by a business man who wanted to compete with RCJ. Well, the ingredients may be the same but nothing beats the original.
The RCJ bibingka are very soft and very friendly to my teeth with braces. Even if the bibingka are no longer warm, still, you can eat them without re-heating or steaming. The best way to re-heat the bibingkas is steaming with the use of the steamer or just putting the bibingkas at the top of the sinaing. Re-heating it in a microwave oven would harden the bibingka.
During the first years of operation of the RCJ bibingka back in the 70’s , they sold bibingkas for only P 5.00 per 8 pieces, but now, it is P 10.00 per 4 pieces and the plate size bibingkas are sold for P 80.00 from the old price of P 20.00. That’s inflation for you. Inspite of this increase, it’s still very reasonable considering the quality of such rice cakes.
RCJ Bibingka really captured the heart of the people in Balasan and even those people outside the town.
The right formulation of rice, young coconut, sugar, milk and eggs makes the perfect recipe of the ‘D Original RCJ Bibingka.
When we moved to Nueva Ecija in 1998, the taste of the RCJ bibingka was still vivid in my memory. I didn’t find the Bibingkang Galapong of Nueva Ecija that exceptional. It is made of eggs, white sugar, salt, rice flour, melted margarine, baking powder, and coconut milk with the slice of red egg on top served with grated niyog.
It has a rough texture as compared to RCJ’s. Probably, it’s because of the baking powder that makes the bibingkang galapong look like bread.
Now that I’m back in Iloilo, I can eat as many RCJ bibingka as I want to. I used to spend weekends in my lola’s place in Batad and everytime I go back to Iloilo city, I’d take the bus from the Estancia terminal, which is in the next town, rather than wait in the bus stop in front of my lola’s house simply because I want to Balasan’s pride. Then I always hear the passengers asking the bingka vendors “RCJ na?”
Indeed, RCJ Bibingka IS NOT JUST AN ORDINARY BIBINGKA!
P.S.:Balasan is a 3 hours Ceres ride from Tagbak Terminal in Iloilo City (that “3 hours” is subjective, relative to the lunacy of the bus driver). It is a town right after Estancia.
hi! I’m Antonette Angeline J. Alban, a second year BS Accountancy student at UPV. I was born in Batad, Iloilo but grew up in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija and now claim Taguig City as my home address.
Though I spent half of my life in Luzon, my Ilongga heart drove me to go back to my home province and study here.
This research has never been boring to me; in fact, this was an opportunity for me because i realy love eating native delicacies, specifically puto and bibingka. Eating RCJ bibingka has been my dream since I came back to Iloilo. And this research gave me more reason to love and appreciate RCJ Bibingka!
You can reach me through firstname.lastname@example.org