I have Kapampangan Blood --- Of Course, I Love Food!

Tibok-Tibok Sampelot

Today is Father's Day and I'd like to honor my Dad and our Pampanga roots. 

My Dad, Dave, is 74 years old and still has a perfect set of pearly white teeth. I attribute his oral hygiene to the mighty Bayabas fruit that grew abundantly around our ancestral house in Apalit.  

He would tell us how they would not only snack on Bayabas when they were growing up but also make a meal out of it. Our Inang, my Dad's mother, would use Bayabas as the sweet and sour base for Sinigang (soup) or Bulanglang as it is known in Pampanga. You could use protein foods like pork, shrimp, or fish for the soup and add a variety of vegetables like Okra, Kangkong, Gabi, Radish, or even Eggplant. My Dad also taught us to use the first water wash of rice to thicken the soup (it was all about the starch). 

We grew up eating Bayabas because of these family trips. I especially like it when it's a little soft because of the ripeness plus the inside is bright pink. We dipped it in coarse salt first and when you bite into it you can hear the crunch. 

Bulanglang with Pork and Shrimp

This year, I was invited to the opening of A Cook's Journal, a culinary journey through Pampanga and Iloilo cuisines which is available for lunch and dinner buffet at Tambuli Seaside Resort and Spa in Mactan, Cebu until June 30, 2024. While piling my plate with heritage food, nostalgia settled in and I remembered those times when going to Pampanga was a norm for our family. The last time I was in Apalit was in 2021 to celebrate Rizal Day with my Dad's relatives. 

The Kapampangan dishes featured in the buffet brought me back to the days when I used to attend fiestas in Pampanga. I've been living in Cebu for almost 20 years now and have never had a lot of opportunities to time my vacation during the high fiestas celebrated in our family's hometown. Pampanga has always been hailed as the food capital of the Philippines because of the richness of the land and the culinary skills of its people. 

We celebrate two major ones, the Apung Iro (St. Peter) Town Fiesta in June which is a 3-day event including a fluvial procession, and the Santa Lucia Barangay Festival every December 13th. My parents never missed making those trips to Pampanga and would bring us along especially if those dates would fall on the weekends. There were even times, especially if we had relatives visiting from Abroad, that we would miss school (those were the days). 

As a youngster, I hadn't developed yet my appreciation of cuisines compared to now. Thus, food was not really a priority or an indulgence. However, I was still fortunate to be able to eat different traditional and authentic Kapampangan dishes made by expert homegrown cooks. My palate was definitely cultivated during these food events and opportunities. 

One of my core memories was seeing a battery of hired cooks using woodfire and vast iron cauldrons crowding our ancestral home's backyard leading to the days of the fiestas. Dining room tables will be heavily laden with Kapampangan special dishes. 

The menu would vary according to the event but would often include Asadong Matua (Pork Asado), Lengua Estofado (never imagined myself feasting on cow's tongue but this is one recipe on how I learned to enjoy this dish), Biringhe (Pampanga's version of the Paella that has sticky rice and coconut milk plus yellow turmeric to give color to the dish), and of course, Bulanglang. Sisig only become a popular dish for fiestas or celebrations in recent decades. 

Ube Halaya and Tibok-Tibok never fail to make their appearances on the dessert table. And when we were ready to go home, food containers would be waiting for us filled with leftovers from the main dishes to the desserts. 


Asadong Mantua

Lengua Estofado

One of these days, I hope to be brave enough to pick up the mantle from those cooks and chefs who provided us numerous culinary outings and learn how to recreate their Kapampangan delicacies to bring to newer food fans and gourmands.


Ube Halaya