Latest Stories

Crispy ‘dinuguan,’ ‘lechon sisig,’ ‘ube calamay’–funky Filipino fare in Butuan


CRISPY dinuguan

It must have been during one of the food trips organized by the late Doreen Fernandez, the Inquirer’s well-regarded food and cultural critic (and our English teacher in college), that we stopped over in a town called San Juan in Ilocos Sur to savor street barbecue.

But we weren’t there for the barbecue, but rather for the unique barbecue sauce. Instead of the usual vinegar and spices, the barbecue stick was dipped in a tall glass jar gleaming darkly with thick dinuguan (pork blood stew).

What a glorious, gooey epiphany! Dinuguan as condiment? Who would have thought of such a wicked, wondrous travesty?

But this was not enough. A few towns away, up in the flatlands of Ilocos Norte, was a restaurant across the historic Paoay Church whose specialty, we soon found out, was dinuguan pizza.

This illuminated a running theme in Doreen’s writings—that in the colonial encounter, we Filipinized the foreign and made it our own. We simply gobbled them up.

LECHON sisig

Now, dinuguan has come full circle, of sorts. When we sat down to dinner with some friends a few days ago, we were in for a surprise: crispy dinuguan. Not a condiment, not a topping, dinuguan was respected for what it was—a homey Pinoy dish partaken with kindred spirits with whom you can let your hair down (and flash your dinuguan-speckled teeth in the tête-à-tête), but with a knowing, crunchy makeover.

This was at Red Palm in Butuan City, a cozy bed-and-breakfast affair where those in the know get away from the madding crowd.

“The crispy dinuguan is our bestseller,” said Dante Verdad Reveche, Red Palm’s ebullient manager.

And why not? Instead of the slimy, chopped-up pork intestines you chew on in the usual dinuguan recipe, or the mushy, lean meat bite sizes used in updated family recipes, Red Palm’s dinuguan uses what could only be crispy pata, cut up into agreeable chunks, and then dunked into a separate preparation of the blood stew in its ready-to-serve simmering finish.

This results in a stupendous wake-upper of a dish: flavorful in a familiar way even as it questions the way things are and cracks open a taste of mind-boggling possibilities.

Playful freshness

MOIST chocolate cake

The owner of Red Palm, Elizabeth Dy, went with us to her brother Danny’s place, Café Caliente, right on the city’s main street, Montilla Blvd., so we could try his famous Lechon Sisig.

Technically, it’s not his recipe. The credit goes to his wife, Jocelyn Jaropillo-Verdad, a Manileña born to Ilonggo parents.

Café Caliente started as a coffee shop where families could kill time while their cars were being tuned up or fixed at the nearby garage.

“Our son Danilo Jr. manages the garage and the gun store; our eldest son Dan Paulo takes care of the grocery up front; and our daughter, Joyce Angelica, the youngest, takes care of all the baking,” Jocelyn said. “I don’t like to bake because it is so exacting.”

Seafood feast

What she likes instead is to experiment. And she introduced the darn-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-before idea of the sizzling Lechon Sisig. On our table, it shimmered with generous flecks of peek-a-boo lechon skin, glistened with the sinuous juiciness of the roasted meat, and completed its spell with that endearing, woodsy aroma.

We also tried the Pasta Pirata, a seafood feast nonpareil (pasta is Jocelyn’s specialty).

Danny Verdad of Café Caliente, Rosita Dy-Dayan of Red Apple and Elizabeth Dy of Red Palm

The Double Chocolate Cookie—a passionate meltdown of intensities—lingered on our palate and in our thoughts even as we slalomed inside one of the chi-chi KTV rooms at Café Caliente in the witching hours.

Elizabeth Dy and Danny Verdad are part of the triumvirate of siblings jazzing up Butuan’s food scene; in this endeavor, they are led by Rosita Dy-Dayan of Red Apple.


“You can say that Red Apple goes all the way back to 1954, when my parents ran the Butuan City Restaurant,” Rosita said. “The lomi and siopao of old are still our mainstays.”

Their father, Dy Tong Hai, came all the way from Amoy (Xiamen) in China. He arrived in Butuan with his Bicolano wife, Zosima nee Verdad, at the peak of the logging and mining boom in Butuan.

Their father became the go-to guy for the best Chinese food in town.

Obsession with food

The restaurant below their house would become so busy that the whole household staff would be called to pitch in, and the children would be forgotten upstairs—without food.

ALL IN THE FAMILY. Joyce Angelica, Dan Paulo, Jocelyn and Danilo Jr.

“Perhaps that explains our obsession with food,” Rosita laughed.

While Red Apple is popular for its Filipino breakfast and lunch fare, it is well-patronized for its cakes and kakanin, too.

The bestseller is the Kakanin sa Bilao—a fiesta fare of buko cassava, biko with latik, bibingkang malagkit, kutsinta, maja mais, pichi-pichi, sapin-sapin and ube calamay.

The ube calamay is a fusion of ube jam and that beloved pasalubong from Bohol—the calamay, or ground rice paste cooked in coconut milk and muscovado sugar. Red Palm’s incarnation is almost like dreamy, creamy ube ice cream.

Red Apple’s sweets have found their way to the US, Sweden, Japan, and the Middle East. Declared Rosita: “This is how we Pinoys conquer the world today, bite by delicious bite.”

And that’s exactly Doreen Fernandez’s point.

Call Red Palm, tel. +85-3412000; Café Caliente, tel. +85-3427496; and Red Apple, tel. +85-3425127.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Butuan City , Filipino food , Food , Lifestyle , Red Palm

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • 12 dead, 96 injured in Holy Week accidents–NDRRMC
  • Filipino devotees re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  • Rouhani talks peace, outreach at army parade
  • Rains, thunderstorms on Good Friday
  • Carbon monoxide leak suffocates 20 in Catbalogan City
  • Sports

  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Hopkins, 49, seeks win for the ageless
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Filipina Maryknoll sister honored for years of service