Latest Stories

Country Cooking

‘Pinikpikan,’ oranges, Arabica coffee–but also yogurt and gravy in Sagada


ETAG is salted pork that is smoked and air-dried.

I had promised myself that I should see the Banaue Rice Terraces, and soon. My nationalistic conscience bothered me when friends from foreign lands would ask me if I had been to this wonder of the world. When that happens, I change the subject matter to other places like Batanes and Tawi-Tawi, faraway places I had been to, which, at the time, almost no one had visited yet.

And so when the offer to go to Sagada was made, I grabbed the opportunity.

My lack of geographical knowledge was evident; I didn’t even know that the Halsema Highway from Baguio didn’t pass through Banaue, and so every terrace look-alike seemed a possibility, even if what were grown there were vegetables. And the long, six-hour trip made me regress to my five-year-old self, bothering my companions with the question every hour: “Are we there yet?”

The adventure part certainly was eternally present as we seemed to zigzag through the top of mountains forever. The dizzying height made one companion comment that, if we ever fell into the ravine, we still had time to call our loved ones.

Chilly weather

We arrived finally at 9 p.m. in a darkened Sagada; our lodging, Rock Inn, was a few minutes outside the center of town. It was only in the morning when we connected the name with the limestone formation at the road entrance—limestone natural sculptures being an attraction in other places in Sagada.

The chilly weather required hot soup, and how great that there was sinigang na baboy to warm our stomachs. I don’t think chicken noodle soup would have done the trick. Nothing like sour soup to alleviate hunger while at the same time readying us for more food, because we were hungry from that long trip.

‘Killing Me Softly’

Still, another chicken soup should have sufficed for me, the pinikpikan which Rock Inn had in the menu. But I would have been the only one from the group, since the rest were wary about this Cordillera soup that had a reputation based on the title of the song “Killing Me Softly”: The chicken is tapped with a flat stick until unconscious and then finally killed, the tapping also producing blood clots that add flavor and texture.

And so I had to wait till the next day to show them how good this soup was, and that the flavor came from etag, the salt pork usually smoked and dried out in the cool Sagada air. It is used sparingly because protein is hard to come by in the mountains.

How disappointing to hear that during our visit, the Sagada orange season was over, according to Fely Capuyan Omengan, owner of Rock Inn. But there were still some on branches in the grove, which grows about 2,000 trees. It was only in recent years that Baguio has begun selling Sagada oranges. Every time I was offered one, I thought the vendors were just taking advantage of the Sagada tourism fever.

How unfortunate to know, when we were about to leave, that the Masferre farm still had some oranges. Eduardo Masferre’s daughter-in-law, Monette, brought out several pieces for us to take home from the family farm, smaller than what the Baguio vendors claim is Sagada orange—really sweet, thin-skinned, not too many seeds.

The trees aren’t that big, she said, and always heavy with fruit, so that they have to prop up the branches to prevent them from breaking.

LEMON Pie House uses Sagada lemons.

Eduardo Masferre is a revered figure in the Cordilleras. He documented in striking photographs the people there—his people, actually, because his Spanish father, a Catalan soldier turned farmer and Episcopalian pastor, married a Kankanaey, one of the Igorot tribes of the Cordillera, found mainly in Sagada and in Basaey.

Masferre’s legacy not only includes the striking photographs and the oranges, but also the Arabica coffee planted in the sloping highlands of Sagada. We visited one of the coffee houses, Bana’s, where the Sibayan couple roast the beans onsite but out of sight of visitors like us. They also brew the coffee, and the aroma is so enticing that the simple bread they offer there becomes also a must to partake of.

Small town

Because Sagada is such a small town, you bump into tourists, both domestic and foreign, everywhere. There are a big number of women among them, which probably means they find the place safe.

Yet while Sagada is beautiful and reminded me of long-ago Baguio with its healthy pine trees and quiet, sleepy atmosphere, the food is geared to foreigners, with sandwiches proudly offered, many places serving battered pork and chicken with lots of gravy, and yogurt, which has become a specialty even if fresh milk can’t be easily had in these mountains.

We wondered why fresh fruits grown in the place aren’t always served, like the blueberry that grows wild. But we were glad the Lemon Pie House uses Sagada lemons. We wondered why the celebrated chef is French. And the day we left, dinner at Masferre Inn, where we also stayed, was going to have another foreign chef cooking for the mostly Greek and Israeli tourists he was accompanying.

If there is one place one should visit, it is Sagada Museum where owner Christina Aben gives an enlightened introduction to her Igorot culture through her collection of kitchen utensils, woven blankets and clothes, hats and bags and pipes, and stories about why women then wore tattoos.

She told me that a demonstration and tasting of the pinikpikan is now part of most tours. I am glad for that, but I hope it’s not the “killing me softly” process that is emphasized, but how this dish is part of Igorot culture—that it is this ritual food that keeps them in touch with their ancestors.

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: Arabica coffee , Banaue Rice Terraces , Filipino cuisine , Food , Pinikpikan , Sagada , yugort

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. Lover’s quarrel linked to hunger – study
  2. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. ‘Heaven is for Real’: Nonfiction book on life after death reaches screen
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  7. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  8. Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  9. Encounter with a ‘Mangkukulam’
  10. Finalists announced for best translated books
  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. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  5. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  6. South Koreans crave Asia’s smelliest fish
  7. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  8. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Prince William fuels speculation of second royal baby
  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. Ex-Givenchy model fights for ‘Yolanda’ survivors


  • Luzon grid power reserve ‘enough’ for Holy Week
  • Pimentel proposes incentives for companies that will hire ex-convicts
  • State seeks guilty verdict for Abalos
  • SBMA execs, 2 others face graft raps
  • Pangasinan beachgoers warned vs jellyfish
  • Sports

  • My ideal weight is 140, declares Pacquiao
  • Freddie Roach: I’m satisfied; Manny Pacquiao did well
  • New-look Azkals tie Qatari side
  • San Miguel Beermen eye No. 2 slot, battle Air21 Express
  • Filipinos yield to Iraqis anew Asian club volley
  • Lifestyle

  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  • Entertainment

  • Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels US concert
  • Otaku Summer Jam 2014: Summer’s hottest J-rock/Cosplay event
  • 2NE1 returns to Manila with “All Or Nothing” Tour
  • Gary Valenciano just keeps moving
  • Noisy celeb spews venom, backs off when confronted
  • Business

  • Longer TRO sought on rate hike
  • Make a stylish statement with the all-new Yaris
  • Hearing set in Olarte case
  • BOC sues steel importers
  • BIR continues to miss collection target
  • Technology

  • Tech company: change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  • Opinion

  • We may never know
  • Couple of things
  • Mommy D’s magic
  • Stop bizarre and bloody Good Friday rituals
  • Holy Week taboos
  • Global Nation

  • No travel restrictions to Middle East amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Measures set against entry of MERS-CoV
  • Japan backs PH in case before UN
  • Las Vegas union starts pickets over wages, benefits
  • Fil-Am Daly City councilor has eye on Superior Court seat