Capiznon Cooks ‘Bam-i’ for Rizal’s Despedida

This year’s Pista sang mga Minatay or All Soul’s Day, all cemeteries are closed to the public.

This historic measure aims to prevent the spread of the Corona Virus Disease by banning mass gatherings.

Mama Pesing, my grandmother and my aunt—all my beloved departed—are buried at the Sigma Roman Catholic Cemetery.

One of the musuleos in this cemetery is the Arcenas Family mausoleum—simple yet elegant, it can be seen by anyone passing the national road.

Entombed in this mausoleum is Don Pedro Arcenas y Rubio.

Born in Roxas, Capiz, Don Pedro studied and traveled in Europe and married Doña Concepcion Andrada of Sigma, where he eventually settled.

The couple had two children Antonio, constitutional delegate in 1934; and Benjamin a graduate of Sugar Engineering from the Louisiana State University.

In his letter to his friend, renowned journalist Felix Roxas dated January 6, 1927, he rekindled their moments in Europe and their encounter with Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

In his memoir entitled My Travels with Doctor Rizal,” Maximo Viola wrote: “Before his departure abroad, we decided among various members of the Filipino colony to offer him a modest dinner whose characteristic dish was pansit prepared by a fellow countryman, Pedro Arcenas, with bijon and mique obtained from a Filipino family.

“Those who attended that fraternal dinner were Felix Rojas, Pedro Arcenas, Cándido Reyes (a former military man), Rafael Ampuero (R.I.P.), some Cubans, and the present writer.

“The speakers were brilliant, especially our guest of honor whose important speech I don’t know where it could be found now.

“The following day we bade him goodbye at the railroad station where he boarded a train for France.”

Probably this was the first time Rizal tasted this Visayan dish. Although Viola never mentioned the name of the dish, “bam-i” fits the aforesaid description.

This Despedida took place in Barcelona in 1886— a night before Rizal left for Paris.

Who says Capisnons are not good cooks? Here, it’s amazing to know how our local dish had spiced up even the pages of our history—and no less than the life of our national hero, Jose Rizal.