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Pampanga at the Tip of My Tongue

The Culinary Capital of the Philippines is a title or should I say a brand that the Pampangeños, Ilongos, Cebuanos and Bicolanos among others would be fighting over on a no-ending debate when this topic is brought into the "table".

Many regions in the Philippines would really put out their golden spoon to claim this title to which they believe would attract tourists in their respective provinces. But Pampanga has managed to emerge strong in terms of food and delicacies; backed up by firm history records, providing a marker for their traditions and culture. 

"Our culinary heritage reveals who we are as individuals and a society."
- Felice Prudente Sta. Maria-

Some of Pampanga delectable food. Can you name them?
Believe it or not, Pampanga’s culinary delights have influenced the current daily Filipino diet with some of their authentic creations, for example the irresistible Pork Sisig and some preserved fruits and vegetables (buro) that have been a food culture among Filipino consumers. And let’s not sway away from the fact that a lot of great chefs and culinary experts have emerged from Pampanga. I am dropping the names of Chef Claude Tayag and Lilian Borromeo who among the few have preserved the traditional Kapampangan cooking. 

As Pampanga would like to ink their status as the culinary capital in the category of food tourism, they have injected the history and culture of Pampanga into their delicacy to spice up the tourism industry in the province. This gave birth to the unique Culinary Tour.

The Culinary Tour usually starts with a simple symposium before a guided tour. In our case, the Kuliat Foundation in Angeles City decided to hold the event inside the historic Museo ning Angeles, an old building which once stood as the seat of power in town. While staying in the Museo, we had a chance to hear the history of Pampanga and the connection of their local delicacies to the current day to day lives of the Filipinos. 

Powerhouse speaker and culinary expert Felice Prudente Sta. Maria shared her published research on how food evolved from ancient Filipino ways of cooking to modern day food preparation and how exactly the food we eat reflects our evolving culture. 

"We are what we eat and how we eat."

Actually she put me in total awe-wondering from the start when she said that "WE ARE WHAT WE EAT AND HOW WE EAT". My sweet goodness, I have never thought or at least imagined before how I looked like or how I behave when I eat on the table. Her words made me really conscious on the way I pick the food that I devour every day.

On each break, the organizer prepared some authentic Pampanga delights for us to taste. I must confess and I will put it in a big shout out that “taste is really acquired”. Most of the foods prepared were new to me and my taste buds received it in a very strange way. This could be due to the years of being exposed to Mindanao delicacies that I find some of the Pampanga’s delicacies very peculiar. 

But one particular dish that made me drool was the Pancit Pata Humba where I could really distinguish a unique flavor that made it very special. Then I discovered that it was the grated peanut that made this Pansit different from the rest. Hola! Loved it! Truly recommended!

Cultural performance by the youth of Angeles, Pampanga.
As time goes by my sense of taste started to appreciate the local delicacies of Pampanga. But honestly speaking I was having a hard time to spot their names. During the buffet dinner I was going nut chasing dishes that I have to write all the names in a small parchment of everything that I put into my plate. 

The only familiar dish was the Kare-kareng Baka and the rest (@#$%!?) hahaha, it seems only the Pampangeño could really recognize these meals in a snap and spot on the dishes like Sisig Babi (pork), Pindang (Tucino), Pititsan Babi, and Tibuk tibuk (rice cake) among others. Well, what matter most was that I got stuffed with delicious dishes especially the sweet ones (bukayong kamuti). 

It wasn’t only our gut that was happy that night as we feasted as well on the impressive cultural dance by the local youth of Angeles. Another staggering truth that struck me was the revelation of the calligraphy equivalent of the Pampangeños script known as KULITAN which resembles to the traditional ALIBATA. I even had my pen name written in KULITAN which appeared very tribal in a small white parchment.

Pampangenos helped the Filipino and American soldiers by throwing food.
Since the symposium was held inside the Museo Ning Angeles, we were toured around the building, showcasing the humble beginning of Pampangeños from the colonial inhabitation of the Spaniards to the significant participation during the Philippine Revolution leading to independence. 

Small it may look, Museo Ning Angeles is roofed with great stories where some significant events were kept untold in the current textbooks. 

One corner of the museum displays the horrific pictures of World War II's Death March  during the Japanese occupation. The scenes speak of the hardships, hopes and valor of the Filipino and American soldiers who have surrendered to the Japanese army. The walls were filled with unbelievable stories of food giving/throwing, escapes and how Pampangeños pulled out in secret some of the tired and dying soldiers out of the road before reaching Bataan.

Before the day ended, we rushed for a quick visit to the Kapampangan Studies Museum inside the Holy Angels University. I have never thought that Angeles City shelters such an impressive set of collection that reveals the long history, arts and evolution of Filipino culture in Pampanga and of the Philippines as an independent nation.

 Kapampangan Museum Studies showcased the rich history of Pampanga. This museum is housed by the Holy Angels University.

The Sweet Tour

Turrones de Kasoy and Sanz Rival | Sta. Rita Pampanga

Turrones de Casoy by Ocampo-Lansang Family in Sta. Rita
Excited to have our first taste of the tour, we left IMEREX hotel rushing towards the bus  in front of Museo Ning Angeles. 

Our first destination was the town of Sta. Rita, Pampanga, the birthplace of the famous Turrones de Kasoy

This century old business emerged in 1920 when Mrs. Lansang learned the secret of making the sweet delicacy from the Dominican Sisters that was originally prepared as giveaways during fiestas. Now passed on to the third generation, the recipe was kept secret that made this sweet delight a success in Sta. Rita. 

The Ocampo-Lansang Family also makes the ever delicious Sanz Rival that was cooked thinly. If you wish to order in advance just ring this number: (+6345)9000.027 / (+63)918.586.0328, look for Mon Ocampo.

Burquillos and Patko | Sta. Rita Pampanga 

Still in Sta. Rita, we dropped by at a house where the pasalubong expert Ms. May made a demonstration of their famous Burquillos and Patko. Looking amazed on the way they cooked the burquillos, I requested to try making one and guess what, it wasn’t as easy as  you could effortlessly bite on each stick of burquillos. 

Patko on the other hand was the local crepe equivalent, filled with coconut grates then wrapped in banana leaves. Patko is suggested to be consumed while still warm. 

For advanced order you may contact Ms. May Mercado at (+63) 916.845.1509 

Burquillos and Patko making in Sta. Rita, Pampanga

Side Trip at Bacolor, Pampanga

Before heading to our next sumptuous destination, we requested for a side trip to the half-buried church of Bacolor, the San Guillermo Parish Church. Half of this church was buried under the sand during the ravishing flow of lahar from Mt. Pinatubo. 

Inside the church were the remains of everything that was salvaged during the attempt to recover the altar. The upper mezzanine served as a museum with paintings on display showing how the people of Pampanga faced the wrath of nature and triumphed to survive the unimaginable lahar that destroyed the whole community.

The half-buried church of San Guillermo in Bacolor, Pampanga


Lunch Date with Atching Lilian | Mexico, Pampanga

Lilian Borromeo is a living treasure of Pampanga due to her diligence to preserve the traditional Pampanga cooking. The tour organizer set the lunch for all the participants at Atching Lilian's house in Mexico, Pampanga. She even shared her famous San Nicholas biscuit recipe to which everyone of us enjoyed

What a privilege that it was Atching Lilian who also personally prepared the food for all of us. But as I mentioned before, the meal was great but names were a little strange. I guess I need to get acquainted with a Kapampangan to get used with their dialect and make it easier for me to shallow the names of their delicacies. So, any volunteer? 

Together with Atching Lilian Borromeo, the champion of Kapampangan Traditional Food.

Imagine eating the following Pampanga Cuisines: 

Sisig matua
Bobotong asan
Bulanglang bangus
Paku salad
Pindang babi
Buru and gule baryu
Ningnang/pritung asan
Pindang babi
Paksing demonyu
San Nicholas biscuits
 You’ll get hungry already wondering what these foods are, right?

Historic Camalig Restaurant | Angeles City

The gastronomic surprises never stopped when we were brought to an old camalig (rice storage) turned restaurant in the heart of Angeles City. This resto is home to Armando’s Pizza, offering their patrons some unique pizza flavors with a touch and taste of Pampanga. This cozy establishment made their pizzas sound very “pinoy”. 

My favorites were the Marco’s 3-way with toppings of sun-dried tomatoes and kesong puti in three Filipiniana flavors: tuyu, tinapa and classic adobo. The other one was Doy’s Kapampangan with toppings of lunganisa or kapampangan sausage, ebun-ebun (salted duck egg), onion and pickle relish. 

The old Camalig, turned into a restaurant, housing Armando's Pizza

Armando’s Pizza is located at #292 Santo Rosario St., Angeles City. They are open everyday from 8am-12 midnight and you may contact them at (+6345) 322.5641/888.1077 or (+63) 923.473.1694.

Our deepest gratitude to the hospitable staff, officers and volunteers of the Kuliat Foundation and to the Museo ning Angeles for making this culinary tour possible. Also, I would like to extend my thanks to Mr. Wyatt Belmonte of Wyatt's Kitchen for inviting me over and extending his assistance to complete this article. Thank you Pampanga for a delectable experience!

For those who wish to visit Angeles and discover the exciting and mouth watering delicacies of Pampanga you may coordinate with :

Museo ning Angeles
Mobile number (+63) 943.262.3950

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