Latest Stories

Country Cooking

Remembering Papa through the food he ate and shared with us


Genuine Ilocano pakbet

As a cadet at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio, my father would steal out some nights just to get an order of pancit canton at Star Café on Session Road. His drink was Royal Tru-Orange and dessert was Baby Ruth Chocolate.

He never let on if he was ever caught, but his cousins told us how, on some weekends when they visited him, he was marching around the academy’s perimeter fence as punishment for some infringement of the rules.

His mother, my namesake, Micaela, cooked the Ilocano food he loved—kilawing kambing, pakbet, papaitan. He said my grandmother never bought cooking oil but expressed the oil from pig’s intestines given to her by her butcher at the market. That must be the reason why chicharon bulaklak is a special weakness in the family.

My grandfather Alvaro loved to go to market to buy liver from freshly slaughtered pig, have it grilled, then eat it for breakfast. The Fenixes were migrants from Indang, Cavite. Alvaro and his siblings were supposed to go to Ilocos Sur. But the cow that pulled the carriage died on Naguilian Road and so they stayed in Bauang, La Union.

It’s one of my father’s stories—perhaps an attempt at a family fairy tale to entertain his grandchildren. My younger son must have sensed something like that when he asked me if grandfathers lie.

American food

It was only in Olongapo, Zambales, that my father’s nickname became “PO,” pronounced Poe and not the way we say “po” when talking to an older person. Maybe it was because he signed his name P.O. Fenix; Pablo was his first name while O stood for Obra, his middle name.

It was also in Olongapo where my father developed a taste for what I call very American food. He had access to Subic Base because he was the city engineer of Olongapo, then under the Americans. He loved the steak and the cheeseburger he could have there. For me, the base had the best cheeseburger, and nothing compares to it for me to this day.

He also could have bleu cheese, one of the “exotic” food he taught me to appreciate. He could have his fix of Baby Ruth anytime, but he did get other chocolate bars for us.

Pampango bringhe, or rice dish

My parents knew every nook and cranny of Chinatown because they went around with their friends, the owners of Merced Drugstore, to taste what the place had to offer. My father sometimes brought home newly cooked pancit from his favorite panciteria with the steam coming out of the just-opened pack and the best aroma that accompanied it.

That and the taste of egg pie, not cardboard-y the way it is now, are part of my food memories.

Eye of roasted lamb

He worked for some years in Saudi Arabia and he described how, when he was the honored guest, his Saudi host gave him the eye of roasted lamb. His face said it all—not exactly his favorite fare. But he was diplomatic enough to smile when handed the eye, he said, and pretended he liked it. At least his Ilocano palate was used to eating pig, cow and goat innards, exotica as well to those not used to those.

When he got tired of chicken and lamb, he would visit the Aramco compound, the oil company that was considered an independent republic within Saudi Arabia, because dietary rules were not applicable there such as not serving pork and alcohol. Or he visited my friend from high school whose husband worked in Saudi as well. That’s where my father got some Filipino cooking and family life.

My parents stayed with me when they retired and sold their house. Because we always had fish on the menu, my father thought that I listened to his doctor to serve him healthier meals. When he craved for steak, he would call my sister and she knew it was for his steak break.

If he were still with us, Father’s Day should have his medium-rare steak, mashed potato and a salad with bleu cheese. My father never really drank alcohol much, but perhaps a glass of good red wine will make the meal more celebratory. Perhaps my pastry chef friends can do something with Baby Ruth.

On Sunday, Father’s Day, that’s what I will serve to remember Papa.

Pampanga food festival

Pampango sampelot, or guinataang halo-halo

What better way to celebrate Philippine Independence Day than to celebrate Filipino food. At InterContinental Manila, a Pampanga food festival will run until June 26.

A tasting last week had a long list of the usual (bringhe, suam mais, kaldereta). There was pingdang damulag or carabeef tapa that can’t be found in Manila’s local markets. And I now know Kapampangan terms like sampelot for guinataang halo-halo and pepalto for palitaw.

Chefs Jerome Ayson and Atoy Mandap from Holiday Inn Clark will be cooking. Mandap told me his favorite Pampango specialty is talangka fat, but, alas, those small crabs are not as bountiful these days as they used to be, when hordes of the invertebrates blackened the Pampanga river during their season.

E-mail pinoyfood04@yahoo.com

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: Father's Day , Food , Lifestyle

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. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. How to enjoy Buntod
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  7. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  8. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  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. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Smooth Edsa ride up in 2 years, but…
  • Obama: US will defend Japan vs China
  • Santiago accuses Lacson of fronting for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Name names, Lacson told
  • Ukraine FM: We are ready to fight Russia
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Denims that keep you cool–literally
  • Entertainment

  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • OMB exec’s assurance: We work 24/7
  • Business

  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Gaming stocks gain, PSEi eases on profit-taking
  • Cebu Pacific flew 3.74M passengers as of March
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Career diplomat is new PH consul general in Los Angeles
  • US4GG: Aquino should ask Obama for TPS approval, drone technology
  • Complex health care system for California’s elderly and poor explained