[CULTURE: Food] How a Bowl of Goto in Batangas May Come as a Surprise to Non-Batangueños
Just like its iconic version of the pancit lomi, noted for the absence of vegetables among the ingredients, Batangas’ take on the “goto” may likewise come as a surprise to those not from the province. Outside of Batangas, “goto” will probably be served as a congee1 with bits and pieces of meat in it.
This congee was originally named “arroz caldo con goto.” While the name “arroz caldo” is Spanish for “rice broth,” its origin is less European and more Chinese, probably having been introduced to the Philippines by immigrants from China2.
“Goto,” meanwhile, is a Tagalog loan word originally from Hokkien Chinese which means “ox tripe3” “Arroz caldo con goto,” therefore, means “rice broth with ox tripe,” a name which Filipinos, over time, have shortened to just “goto.”
In Batangas, however, an order for a bowl of “goto” will arrive sans the congee. Instead, inside the bowl will be a soup with beef tripe and other ox parts such as “tendon, heart, liver, and beef shanks4” and the soup deliciously flavored with garlic, ginger, onions and black pepper.
This congee-less “goto” is reputed to have originated in the City of Lipa5. The writer, who is Lipa-born and raised, distinctly recalls the association “goto” had as early as the 1960s with the Labac district of the poblacion or city center, because that was where one went to look for a “gotohan,” a diner specializing in “goto.”
In the present day, however, Batangas “goto” is served in countless diners and restaurants not just in Lipa but around the province, although probably more in the eastern section rather than the west, where the “goto” with the congee is still most probably better known.
This delicacy is, of course, ordered with rice. The bowl invariably arrives with red chili, chopped onions and calamondin (calamansi). If one finds the taste a tad bland for one’s liking, then one can always ask for fish sauce (patis) and ground black peper.
Most diners will also offer something locals call “goto laman,” which instead of ox innards will contain pieces of beef swimming in the soup. While it is understandable that this is made available to those who are squeamish about eating innards, the name, however, is something of a misnomer or an anomaly, given that “goto,” after all, is ox tripe.
Author Michaela Fenix, in her book “Country Cooking: Philippine Regional Cuisines,” sees the “goto” as a “good example of Batangas frugality.” She observed, while on a visit to Lemery, that farmers who ordered “goto” at the many stalls around the market “usually bring the rice from their own reserve to save on the cost of the meal6.”
She may be right, and indeed, in Batangas there is a word that encapsulizes this type of frugality — aremuhanan. However, the Batangas “goto” is, in a way like the “lomi” something of a great equalizer. As long as the “goto” is delicious, a diner’s reputation will spread far and wide, and diners will come from all social classes.
Notes and references:1 Congee (or conjee) is “a type of rice porridge or gruel eaten in Asian countries,” something Tagalogs call “lugaw.” Wikipedia.
2 “Janice Dulce Passes along Filipino Culture Via Arroz Caldo,” by Leena Trivedi-Grenier, published February 2018, online at the San Francisco Chronicles.
3 “Hokkien Chinese Borrowings in Tagalog,” by Gloria Chan-Yap, published 1980, Pacific Linguistics, Series 8, No. 71, The Australian National University, online at SEALang.net.
4 “Batangas Food Guide: Taste Batangas in a Gastronomic Adventure,” by Paulyene Cayco, published March 2021, online at Camella Manors.
6 “Country Cooking: Philippine Regional Cuisines,” by Michaela Fenix, published 2014 in Manila.