Tsinelas, Pahiyas, and Coconuts: Traveling in the Southern Tagalog Kulinarya Caravan
In line with the Department of Tourism campaign “Visit the Philippines 2015” is the “Islands Philippines Fun Caravans” by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA). The project “Islands Philippines Fun Caravans”, which was launched in March this year, uses a creative and fun way of promoting tourism in the country with its several caravans (five major caravans and three minor caravans) each scheduled to travel around a specific province or two, ranging from three to seven days.
Sunrise in Sampaloc Lake
The second “Islands Philippines Fun Caravan” to “roll off” is the Southern Tagalog Kulinarya Caravan. The said caravan is divided into two parts, the first leg (April 25-27, 2015) and the second leg(April 27-29, 2015).
I was lucky enough to be able to join the first and second leg, and, because the participants from the first leg was joined by a new set of participants, the caravan was twice as fun!
Early Morning in Sampaloc Lake
We left our departure point Talisay early at dawn, and headed to San Pablo City, Laguna—our first stop for this caravan. We also arrived early, just before sunrise, at our destination. We participants went to Sampaloc Lake for passport stamping and for the short welcoming program.
After we got briefed during the program, we proceeded to Casa San Pablo for a cooking demonstration, and also for breakfast.
I learned that Sampaloc Lake is one of the seven fresh water lakes in the San Pablo, which are the sources of the ingredients for the city’s locally cooked cuisines. The owners of Casa San Pablo also explained to us their restaurant’s menu, which they wittily call the “Seven Lakes Breakfast”.
Sinigang na Ayungin
During the cooking demo, the chefs served seven local dishes, which included a bowlful of Sinigang na Ayungin. The chef said that the freshwater fish Ayungin, which is very abundant not only in Sampaloc but also in San Pablo City’s six other freshwater lakes, was best served as sinigang.
Sweet San Pablo Longganisa
They also served Pinaete, a dish made of sliced shrimps (harvested from the local Palakpakin Lake) cooked in coconut milk.
We also had itlog na maalat for breakfast. It went well with the tomatoes and onions it was served with. The dried Biya (a fish) eaten with the itlog na maalat made the breakfast somewhat more nostalgic, and the addition of the Longganisa ng San Pablo, with its garlicky aftertaste and mild sweetness, gave us all that homey, early-morning feel that Laguna offers.
We had a side dish which the locals called Pantapik. It was salty and sweet as it was made of a roasted tomatoes, and pickled fruits and vegetables.
We had hot Tsokolate topped with crispy pinipig, just to dampen the aftertastes of all those scrumptious local cuisines we just had.
Lambanog Shots in Casa San Pablo Bed & Breakfast
After breakfast we embark on yet another gastronomical adventure under the coconut trees. The local cooks showed us how to make simple recipes out of coconuts. The resort manager explained to us how Lambanog, a wine made from coconuts, was made, before we all had a shot!
Pantapik – local side dish
Like most provinces in Southern Tagalog, Laguna is abundant with coconuts, which is why most of the food in the province uses coconuts as one of the key ingredients. Aside from the Pinaete (the one we had for breakfast), there’s also the Kulawo, which is made from the smoky flavor produced by slightly burned coconut milk, and with roasted eggplant.
Underground Cemetery of Nagcarlan
We stuffed ourselves with San Pablo’s best food, and after that we had to say goodbye to Casa San Pablo and say hello to the town of Nagcarlan. Nagcarlan is best known for its Underground Cemetery… where we had a brief stop. It was followed by a visit to the Municipal Building to get our passports stamped, and for a short welcoming reception.
After that we were shown a cooking demo of Menudong Gulay. And who said we were stuffed already? Of course we had to taste Nagcarlan’s Menudong Gulay! We all had our morning merienda of menudong gulay, pianono, and some espasol for sweets. We were also served fresh coconut juice for drinks while watching some lively performance from a local marching band.
Espasol from Nagcarlan
From Nagcarlan, the caravan proceeded to Liliw, which opened its customary Tsinelas Festival days earlier just for the caravan. The streets were decorated with very colorful umbrellas, which immediately made everyone get set for the festive mood. The mayor, Honorable Ericson Jovellano Sulibit, and his wife, personally greeted us participants. Not long after we were also greeted by a talented group of local hip hop dancers. We danced our way to the passport stamping area.
Before we all went shopping for our souvenirs and our own pairs of colorful tsinelas, a local baker showed us how to make a delicacy called the Uraro. We went to Saint John the Baptist Parish Church afterwards.
Saint John the Baptist Parish Church in Liliw Laguna
After Liliw, the caravan went to the municipality of Majayjay. The welcoming reception was situated in the San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church, which is, according to the locals, almost a century old. After our passport stamping there, we were guided to the office of the Mayor, Victorino Rodillas.
Inside Saint Gregory The Great Parish Church in Majayjay Laguna
Welcome Reception at Costales Nature Farm
One of the other places we went to during the caravan was Costales Nature Farm, which was located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw. But it wasn’t just some farm. We were surprised to see folkloric dancers from Southern Luzon State University greet us with their colorful costumes at the reception! After that we had a tour around the farm. Majority of the crops and products from the farm were organic.
Mrs Josephine Costales giving a short talk about Agri-Tourism
A cooking demo of Atsarang Ubod, made from pickled vegetables, served as our appetizer for our lunch of organic lechon and organic vegetable salad afterwards.
Organic Egg Farming – Costales Nature Farms
The caravan’s final stop was at Lucban, Quezon, a town famous for its Pahiyas Festival. We stopped at Buddy’s Commissary, where we all saw lines of kilos of sweet, juicy, oily, sisig, lechong kawali, and crispy pata. It wasn’t dinner time during then, sadly!
Buddys Lechon Kawali
We were greeted by yet another lively group of rondalla-playing youth at the reception. We were served Pancit Hab-hab. We got our passports stamped one last time that day.
We went to the town center of Lucban, where we witnessed a short demonstration on how to make “kiping”. A kiping is a colorful leaf-like wafer made from ground rice and food coloring. The ground rice is poured on top of a Kabal leaf, and then steamed. The mold is then carefully removed from the leaf and left out to harden in its final form. The kiping, which requires finesse and patience, is used decorate the houses during the Pahiyas Festival. We tried doing a kiping ourselves, and it was not easy!
How to make Kiping
After immersing ourselves in the festivity of the town, we headed to the Municipal Hall. We were entertained by another cultural performance by the locals. The performers played mostly cultural dances and cultural songs with their rondalla-playing instruments, but the musicians gave a little twist to the music and turned it into some sort of reggae, groovy beat which made us all dance. The night ended like a party with the music, and the festivity of the whole town.
After partying and dancing and all that, we all headed to Patio Rizal, our overnight accommodation. We were all beat, and the music from Lucban all played in our heads as we finally dozed off to rest for the day.
The Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), Inc. is a non-stock and non-profit organization of DoT accredited tour operators and allied members actively involved in the advocacy of responsible tourism. For inquiries about upcoming Island Philippines Fun Caravan schedules please contact Tel. Nos.: (02) 812 4513; (02) 822 6964 | Fax No.: (02) 817 4608 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Website: www.philtoa.com.