Mangan Kapampangan through the lens of the Clasios

I had a wonderful time with the Clasio family. It was their sense of humor that made this tour more fun. I’m beginning to think that this food tour is really for families, fraternities, associations or barkadas. My recent tour with this close-knit family serves as a perfect example.

I was asked to meet Wynzyl’s brother-in-law, Carl, in Taft  at 4:30 in the morning. The gods were on my side because I almost got mugged (this deserves a separate post) before taking a cab to reach the rendezvous. After picking up the rest of the group in Taguig and Las Piñas, we made a quick trip to the town of Guagua.

The group was a bit  surprised to find out that Lechón pugón also known as liemporn will be served for breakfast. Yes, we started the day right and healthy. It was a glimpse of things to come.

Here are some photos taken from the talented lens of Karl Marx Photography.

Lechón pugón. This was the star of the breakfast table.

The Pugón. This is where the magic happens.

The hearty breakfast in Lapid’s Bakery deserved a brief stroll through the old church and a quick stop at Galan’s Chicharon Store. Pampangos also play the Filipino Name Game a lot, from Sinabon (a laundry service in Guagua) and Poracay (a resort in Porac, Pampanga) to its sizes of atchara found in Galan’s.

To each his own poison. Take your pick.

Our next stop was the nearby town of Santa Rita. We took time to visit the Ocampo-Lansang factory, which is known to create those sinful sweets such as the sansrival and turrones de casuy. Our timing was just impeccable because it’s the Duman Festival.

We’re lucky that the doors were still open because Tito Ramon (We could be related because my grandparents lived in the next barangay.) told us that they will close shop early for the fiesta.

Sansrival. Take a bite, it’s all right.

Lunch was served at Atching Lillian’s place. It’s quite interesting to note that she was able to connect with guests that I tour on a deeper level. This time, we found out that her uncle used to be neighbors with the Clasios when they were starting out. Amazing.

Atching Lillian with her apo, Jacob and the Clasios.

We made a quick stop at Carreon’s Sweets for more pasalubong and a brief demo, a secret in making its life-extending plantanillas. What more can you ask for more? ;-)

Plantanillas. The secret’s still kept.

Angeles City was our next stop. We were given a special tour by the museum guide, Kim Tinio. He shared a very interesting story about Culiat, the old name of Angeles and historical figures that shaped this city.

All ears. Kim Tinio describing the Kapampangan kitchen.

The facade of the Holy Rosary Church. We stopped by this beautiful church before leaving for San Fernando.

It’s probably a fitting way to ask for blessings and space in our belly before heading to Everybody’s Café. Mark, the photographer of the family, needed it most particularly because of the exotic food served.

Betute. It’s frog stuffed with minced meat. Really, really good.

My tour with the Clasios ended on a good note. They were happy and very much full. I am thankful that they decided to take my tour. One of the things that I like about this group is the way the Clasios (especially the brothers) treated each other. They reminded me of my time growing up with my brothers.


My mekeni roots

Cezario Ocampo and Epifania Alfonso. My lolo’s from Sta. Rita while my lola’s from Betis.

I’m in my 30s and I’m in this stage of my life where I want to know my purpose, my roots and what I can do for myself and for the world. I sometimes envy friends and online acquaintances who know their family history, their relatives and colorful stories in the past. They have a province or an ancestral home to visit during the holidays. My family used to do that but I only have vague memories of an old house, the scent of fresh grass, native chickens and a language that is not Tagalog.

Lola Panyang in her younger days.

It was last year when my lola passed away. I miss the old woman and I regret not being able to keep my word to visit or even call her. I tried and succeeded but found it more convenient to make excuses. A traditional Kapampangan woman, Epifania Ocampo knew her way around the kitchen. She can transform an ordinary instant noodle into something truly malinamnam. My favorite dish that I still long for is her lutong toyo, which I later found out to be called asado.

Lola Panyang’s family hailed from Betis. She told me that during the war, they weren’t really affected that much because the Alfonso family was involved in supplying food for the town. They were pretty much well-0ff. She married a lanky young man from Sta. Rita. His name was Cezario Ocampo.

My Lolo Sario came from a poor background. He only finished elementary but it was through his skill, perseverance and adaptability that he was able to raise 10 kids with my lola and have them all finish college. He was a carpenter and learned the ropes in construction as a foreman, which helped him in establishing bottling plants in the country. Even in his sleep, it was said that my lolo would give orders to his workers.

Lolo Sario and his hommies. He’s the fourth guy from the left.

My grandparents make me proud of my Kapampangan roots. It also helped that food drew me closer to it. I associate Pampanga with its sansrival, petit and turrones de casuy that were a huge treat for a sweet tooth like me. It is however unfortunate that I only know a few Pampango words but I can tell if one is Kapampangan in a public place by their tone of speaking and some words that I’ve heard whenever my relatives would talk among themselves.

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My lolo worked in Manila and would go home on weekends to be with his family in Pampanga. He eventually had a regular client who gave him a big break by assigning him to set up bottling plants in exchange of land in Manila. What they didn’t know was that the property was located near the public cemetery. Lolo Sario probably didn’t mind. His eldest finished college and was able to help in supporting the studies of the other kids. They then built a mom-and-pop store on that plot of land in Caloocan and named it “El Pinoy”.

El Pinoy of Memory. It’s a symbol of hard work and love of family.

We don’t know how they came up with it but it inspired my little brother to adopt it as his name in the art world. He puts it best in an interview “the pseudonym is to remind me that with real hard work and an honest goal, you’ll be able to accomplish great things.” Perhaps it’s my lolo speaking through him.

Sta. Rita: Turrones de casuy, sansrival, at iba pa

Kampampangan historian Don Mariano Henson listed Pampanga as one of the most prosperous provinces in the 1930s. The cash crop that made it wealthy? Sugarcane. This abundance of sweetness produced heavenly treats such as the turrones de casuy. The cashew nougat is wrapped in white paper-like wafer, which might remind you of Mass on Sundays.

See how they’re made and meet the oldest worker in Ocampo-Lansang’s Delicacies. Take this tour and discover other offerings that you might want to take home.