“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” — Benjamin E. Mays

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. My legs burned as I dragged them out in the cold. All I could think about was my ginataang bilo-bilo [gi-nah-tah-ahng bee-lo bee-lo] waiting for me at home. Soft, chewy bilo-bilo — sticky rice dumplings — stewed with jackfruit in coconut cream. The thought of a bowl of ginataan as my reward for running on that cold morning was the only thing that kept me going.

I had been dreading running again after the long holiday break. Christmas came and went and I promised myself I’d return to my routine in the New Year. The New Year came and went and I haggled for more time but I knew I’d be digging myself deeper and deeper into a funk if I didn’t bite the bullet. And besides, I need to get back in shape if I’m dead serious about running another marathon before my fortieth. Yes, I cannot believe it, too. We’re both stumped. I just turned 39.

I can think of a million excuses not to pursue it. A marathon is no walk in the park. I’ve run three in the past and it’s a huge commitment, without a doubt. Between my nine-to-five and my blog, I hardly have the time to pursue other things, let alone train for a marathon. But I am not giving up. I’ve made the mistake of conceding defeat without even trying far too many times. A marathon is a perfect goal to reach before I turn forty.

I ran three miles that morning. I huffed and I puffed the entire time but I pulled it off and it felt great. Running always has a calming effect on me. It clears my mind. It boosts my confidence. It was a small victory but a victory nonetheless. A hard-earned victory to boot. It made the sweet reward of ginataang bilo-bilo even sweeter.


Ginataang Bilo-Bilo Recipe, makes six servings

For the bilo-bilo, sticky rice dumplings

1-1/2 cup glutinous rice flour
3/4 cup water

For the stew

2 13.5-ounce cans coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked small sago (tapioca pearls)
1/2 cup jackfruit, sliced lengthwise into strips
1/3 cup sugar

Knead the rice flour and water in a mixing bowl to make a smooth dough that holds together and separates cleanly from the bowl. With floured hands, pinch off a small piece of dough, roll into a ball like a marble roughly the size of a penny. Place the rolled dough on a plate and cover with a damp towel until they are all ready to be cooked.

Bring coconut milk and water to a boil in a large pot over medium to high heat. Add sago and simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes. Add bilo-bilo, jackfruit, and sugar. Simmer until sago and bilo-bilo are cooked through, about 20 minutes more. Stir occasionally to keep sago and bilo-bilo from sticking to the bottom of the pot. For a thinner stew add more water and adjust the sweetness by using more or less sugar.

Ladle the stew in bowls, serve warm with more sliced jackfruit.


Ginataang Bilo-Bilo

Ginataang Bilo-Bilo


More Gata Recipes


Ginataang Hipon

Ginataang Hipon

Ginataan is the general term for cooking in gata. Practically anything from fish and shellfish to chicken, pork, and vegetables can be cooked in coconut milk. The dishes are typically savory like ginataang hipon, shrimp cooked in coconut milk and flavored with funky bagoong.


Ginataang Halo-Halo

Ginataang Halo-Halo

When the temperature dips, I find comfort in my mom’s ginataang halo-halo. Like the Filipino favorite halo-halo, ginataang halo-halo is a veritable mix of fruits and tubers but instead of enjoying them with shaved ice and milk the mix is slowly cooked in coconut milk.

  • Trish Duimstra

    Thanks for letting me know I am not the only one that has a hard time getting back to the run….it will feel so good after the run is over. My body will feel awake again! I am a little ahead of you in age, will be turning 48 this year, so it is all the more critical that I get back at it. Oh, and I’ll let you know how the Ginataang Bilo-Bilo turns out too. Thanks for the recipes.

  • Katy

    We call this “binignit” in the southern part of the Philippines. We also add saba, yams, ube, and cassava.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Which part of Southern Philippines are you from, Katy?

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Trish. Happy New Year!

  • Anonymous

    Happy New Year and Happy Birthday Jun! Ginataan was always a magical food for me as a child- my parents made it often and I always wolfed it down wondering how it was made. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll have to try it for breakfast soon. Good luck on your marathon training!

  • http://chinadoll-bakingdairy.blogspot.com/ Jeannie Tay

    I love this! Jackfruit is in season now…will try to make this soon!

  • Gemma Chew

    Looks amazing!! And Happy birthday!


  • Katy


  • Row

    I remember this dish! My favourite part was drinking the sweet “broth” after the dumplings were all eaten. Happy Birthday Kuya Jun, and best of luck with your marathon training! :)

  • http://driftersblog.com/ JRinAsia

    Wow, I can’t wait to try this in February. It will be my second visit to
    the Philippines, and I am really looking forward to trying new food.
    Thanks for the great summary of this wonderful dessert!

  • BrandiBEdwards

    Jun your so amazing i think Ginataang Bilo-Bilo is masarap i will try to make it soon. Happy birthday to you wish you all the best and godbless.


  • http://www.facebook.com/marites.lounsburycapistrano Marites Lounsbury-Capistrano

    Hi Jun, thanks for sharing this yummy looking recipe. I didn’t realize its that simple to cook sago. Somehow I thought it’s a 2 step cooking procedure, boil and drain and boil again a second time and cooled in fridge?!?! That’s why I always hesitated trying recipes that called for sago. Thank you for making it simple enough but yet more delicious by adding langka. Can’t wait to try this. BTW, you don’t look your age, truly! Thanks’s again!!!!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Gemma!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Row! Yes — the very creamy “sabaw” was my favorite part, too!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you, Marites! Happy New Year! I use small sago pearls which don’t take as long to cook as the bigger ones. Some people cook the pearls separately and add them to the stew toward the end but cooking everything in just one pot makes it so much simpler. Add saba bananas, too, if you like.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Enjoy your trip, JR!

  • Liz N.

    Jun, thank you for sharing this recipe! This is comfort food for me. Any ginataan brings me right into my mom’s kitchen and my Filipino roots. Happy new year to you. I stumble upon your blog last year and am looking forward to making many of your recipes in 2013 and beyond. Your photography is mouthwatering and gorgeous! Best wishes to you!

  • http://driftersblog.com/ JRinAsia


  • http://twitter.com/hunting4best Dina

    this sounds so delicious! i’d love to try it.

  • http://twitter.com/missTdJ Trina

    Thank you so much for posting, this is one of my very favorites from childhood and now I want to try making it for my little one (maybe with teeny tiiiiny little bilo bilo). Mmmmm I can’t wait to share this with her!

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