Quiapense. It means a person from Quiapo. That term I learned from Chona Trinidad who once served as our guide during one Fiesta of the Black Nazarene (every Jan. 9) when we dared to go through this fabled Manila section before the millions could descend on the place for the annual religious procession.
Our starting point was where marching bands assembled, on Carlos Palanca Street, which in my time was called Echague.
We then walked through alleys where some street people were cooking their fiesta fare of kare-kare minus the meat but who graciously offered us some. I love this Filipino trait of sharing whatever food even if there is hardly enough for the givers themselves.
We reached our destination, Platerias Street, which once held music stores selling piano books and sheets. It was where I bought requirements for my short-lived piano career.
Our host, Sari Tiongco Canicosa, not only played the background music but also served her specialties of pamplina and pancit manok.
Pamplina is like callos but without the tripe, and pancit manok is white sotanghon or pancit puti.
Sari closed her music store years ago. In later years, Rockwell habitues would know her as the gracious pianist who would play standards at the Power Plant Mall’s food court. (She passed away recently, according to Chona.)
After that merienda, we proceeded to the tall building of the Picaches right across the Quiapo Church for lunch of fiesta buffet fare. From the top floor one looked down on the crowds waiting for the appearance of the Black Nazarene, and when it finally did, we were led to the second floor for a closer look of the dark black icon passing very near the ledge of the building.
The Picaches have since sold the building, according to Chona.
‘Treasured Home Recipes’
Through those many changes, the Quiapo fiesta goes on.
How this was celebrated in the old days is chronicled In the book, “Treasured Home Recipes” (Fourways Publishing, 2000) by Julia A. Iturralde. The Iturraldes were pure Quiapense and relatives of Chona.
Iturralde writes: “By lunchtime, the medium-sized Mesa de Convite (the table with hanging panels) had expanded in size… There would be the hand-embroidered white napkins and the spread of different viands—lengua from Ambos Mundos, morcon, Arroz à la Valenciana, salad, chicken soup, relleno.”
Ambos Mundos was a Quiapo restaurant that opened in the 1800s, changed owners, and has moved. But the food is no longer as good according to those who have eaten there.
The book contains everyday as well as fiesta food in the Iturralde home, recipes of Julia’s mother, Dominga Alvaro, and her father, Jose Iturralde.
The wedding feast of her parents was cooked by the bride’s family with ingredients bought by the groom.
Julia’s aunt, Eriberta Iturralde, also did her share of cooking, such as the sweets done days before the fiesta like jams of mango, guava, and ube (purple yam) and sweetened macapuno. Her aunt also bought other desserts like dulce seca from La Suiza and from San Miguel, Bulacan, pastillas de leche wrapped in intricate papel de Japon cutouts done by hand. The sweets in their colorful wrappers also served as decorative centerpieces on the Mesa de Convite.
The fiesta celebration in those old Quiapense houses were formal affairs. Iturralde writes how the “guests wore elegant clothes, the men usually in coat and tie; the women, in colorful terno with beaded black lace tapis and long skirts with trains.”
How different from today’s fiesta-goers like us who came dressed in shorts, T-shirts and “Good Morning” towels to wipe away the sweat of having to wade through crowds!
How I wish I could have seen the old Iturralde residence when we went to the other side of Quiapo, to the residential area where the Quiapenses used to stay in the once upscale part of town. Many of the children studied at the Holy Ghost College (College of the Holy Spirit) because of its close proximity.
Julia Iturralde studied there through grade school and earned a bachelor of arts and bachelor of science in education degree in history, then taught in the school for 38 years. She earned her masters in Sociology at Ateneo Graduate School and masters in East Asian studies at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
She was regarded as one of the best teachers of the school.
A bit of good news was recently relayed by Chona Trinidad. It seems the Iturralde house will be restored through the efforts of young architects who will finance and supervise this proclaimed heritage house starting this year.
Julia Iturralde writes how their house on Arlegui Street used to extend to where Quezon Bridge now stands (that space was expropriated). “Our old Spanish colonial house (had) thick walls, wide narra floors, high ceilings, sliding capiz windows,” she writes in her book.
Two important news: Chef Marc Aubry clarified that his restaurant, Champêtre, is still open until the end of January. It will close for renovation, then reopen in April in the same location but with a new name, “Sagana.”
The Tagalog term is used because the “concept will be about finding the best that the Philippines has to offer, product-wise, which we plan to sell in the épiceries, French for grocery, part of our concept as well as to use in our kitchen to cook traditional French dishes.”
He clarified that the restaurant will remain French, not a fusion of French and Filipino.
The deadline for the Doreen G. Fernandez Food Writing Competition has been extended to Jan. 31, 2017.
Subject is “vinegar.” Each entry of some 800 words must be submitted to [email protected] and must have a pen name. A contestant must submit another file with his/her real name, home address, e-mail address and contact number.