In the Philippines, a town is usually best known for the product it produces. This is specially true in the province of Bulacan where practically all towns have arts, crafts and food products not only popular in Manila and elsewhere in the country but also abroad. So travelers from as far as the North and the South whether riding in public transports or private cars see to it to drop by these places to purchase at factory prices “pasalubong” and souvenir items for their loved ones back home. Among their favorite side-trip destinations are: Bocaue for pyrotechnics, embroidery products (Barong Tagalog), and lechon kawali; San Miguel for chicharon, pastillas de leche, and kakanin; Baliuag for furniture, buntal hat and bone-in laid; and foods like pandesal Baliuag, cornik, chicharon, butong pakwan, sweet beans, popcorn, mango, serkele, puto bumbong, bibingka; and La Familia Sizzling Restaurant; San Ildefonso for bags and handicrafts; meat products – tocino, fresh chicken, longganisa.
During our recent media fam tour to Bulacan, hosted by Gov. Josie dela Cruz, we had the opportunity to meet some product producers in above-mentioned town whose success stories we found inspirational.
Let us start with Bocaue, our hometown:
Long before the mushrooming of nightclubs and pyrotechnics stands along our MacArthur Highway, Bocaue had been a favorite stopover of travelers to buy a kilo or two of Liempong Bocaue.
There is no written account as to when this industry actually started but according to Zosimo G. Sagana, Sr., owner of Aling Neneng Liempo Stand located at Brgy. Biniang 2nd, it could have started during the 1920s.
"Fried liempo is very much different from lechon kawali or Chinese lechon. This mouth-watering delicacy is cooked not in a frying pan (kawali) but in a huge native kawa."
Meanwhile, in Baliuag, during a dinner hosted to us by the La Familia chain of restaurants, we were privileged to meet its owners for an interview.
Briefly, in 1985, its owners, the couple Romy and Normita Alejo took over their mother’s sari-sari store with a canteen. Although they retained the sari-sari store, the husband and wife team concentrated on serving food, particularly to jeepney drivers plying the Angat–Baliuag route and med reps servicing the area.
Located on a street corner near a bridge bordering the towns of Baliuag and Bustos, the eatery soon became a hit for breakfast and afternoon snacks, with its version of goto and LTB (stands for lugaw and tokwa’t baboy) as the best seller. As their clientele grew, customers clamored for variety. Lunch and dinner were served; store operations were extended to 12 hours, 7 days week.
La Familia became a by-word in Baliuag because of Mrs. Alejo’s cooking. When friends started to request Normita to bring her brand of cooking to their homes they knew that it was time for them to grow. That marked the start of their catering business.
Today, La Familia is located in a 2,000- square meter sprawl with four function areas that include two air-conditioned rooms and two al fresco venues that could accommodate from 50 to 500 guests. Last July 2001 they opened their branch in Malolos.
Likewise, the story of the popular San Miguel Pastillas de Leche is also an interesting one.
In the early 60’s, the widowed Olympia Sevilla, sold pastillas de leche, pastillas de yema, and pastillas de ube near the town market of San Miguel, Bulacan to raise her three children. Her sweets became widely known for their good taste, and she soon attracted buyers even from the nearby towns.
When her eldest son, Santiago, got married, she decided to pass the livelihood to him and his wife, Caridad. Two years and one child (Gemma) after this, they were evicted from their lot, because they were really just squatters. Armed with just about R70 in cash and their talent in sweets making, they rented a lot along the national road.
What could have been a tragedy turned out to be a positive twist of fate, for in their new place they were able to have more customers who appreciated their products. Here, Santiago and his wife, Caridad gave birth to a promising business, simultaneously with giving birth to two more children: Geraldine and Gerard.
The spouses, with their gift of dealing with people, their patience, diligence, and religiosity, had the major hand in the growth of the business. Under their management, additional products were added, mostly cooked by the matriarch, Olympia. Business really boomed, specially during the 70’s. Travelers from Manila to Nueva Ecija, up to Cagayan Valley would habitually stop in that store along the highway in San Vicente to buy their pasalubongs.
In 1975, with a new addition (Grace) to the family, they moved to a different barangay, also along the national road, as a big step towards the progress of Sevilla Sweets. A bigger store of pasalubongs, together with a restaurant was built. With a bigger parking space followed an increasing number of customers.
In 1982 Santiago decided to open a branch in Greenhills, which proved to be a very good decision. Sales there quickly picked up, and at present it is one of Sevilla family’s major earners.
In the late 1980s, it started to produce more than 30 new products, and also added a variety of special products from other places. Right now, among the pasalubong stores in San Miguel, Sevilla Sweets has the widest choice of special delicacies.
Presently, Sevilla Sweets has its main store in San Miguel, Bulacan, and has five branches in Shoppesville, Greenhills; Shangri-La Mall, Mandaluyong; Robinson’s Galleria, Ortigas; Market Market, Global City and another in Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall, Cainta.
Other Bulacan towns and their famous products are:
BALAGTAS for its leathercrafts – bags, shoes, etc., and food like bottled sardines BMK;
BUSTOS for minasa, binusang Mani, Barquillos, Lengua de Gato;
CALUMPIT noted for its old potteries; and foods such as ulang (lobster); longganisa, pugo, hito, bulig;
HAGONOY for seafoods such alimango, bangus, sugpo, talaba tahong;
GUIGUINTO noted for its different species of plants displayed along MacArthur Highway, bamboo products, bihon factories, and puto pao (steamed w/ giniling);
MALOLOS CITY for ceramics, metalcraft and ensaimadang Malolos, inipit, tarts, pastillas de leche;
MARILAO for putong Marilao, cochinta, pancit Marilao, bibingkahan sa dos;
MEYCAUAYAN for jewelry-making, leathercraft and delicacies like suman sa antala, minatamis, macapuno, putong Saluysoy with giniling, pancit palabok, pitchi-pitchi, empanada;
OBANDO for foods like tibok-tibok, leche plan, dampalit;
PAOMBONG for vinegar and nipa palm products;
PLARIDEL for goto, cochinta, putong puti, sinigang sa Miso
PULILAN for bone in-laid-19th century finest, magnificent chest drawers and other furniture inlaid with bone from Carabao, wood carving, bamboocraft or bamboo furnitures, Food Sweets Ensaimada, Pastillas, Tarts, Minatamis na beans, Nata de Coco, Macapuno, Manga’t suman;
SAN JOSE DEL MONTE CITY for fresh egg with two egg yolks;
SAN RAFAEL for orchids; cochinta (galapong), bibingkang malagkit, putong puti, food processing, pastillas de leche, chicharong baboy, kesong puti;
STA. MARIA famous for its chicharon and candies; while ANGAT is noted for its espasol and bibingkang malagkit.