There’s nothing like a day tour to refresh a mental slate with stress and boredom written all over it. And if the trip promises not just a change of scenery, but an interesting combination of food, culture, and history, that to me is an irresistible come-on to hop on a tourist van. Thank you, Tina Decal, for putting together Kulinarya Tagala, a fun way of experiencing the heritage cuisine and enduring traditions of the Southern Tagalog provinces of Laguna and Quezon.
First stop: Patis Tito Garden Café
The café is located in Sta. Cruz Putol in San Pablo City, Laguna. The barangay was named after the crosses found there that marked the burial sites of Filipino rebels who defied the Spanish rule; and because a river cuts through the barangay, it earned the nickname “putol” (meaning, to cut).
May is fiesta time in many parts of the country so it was not surprising that the narrow road that took us to our first destination was festooned with colorful buntings. The café is a refreshing site with an old Filipino-style house surrounded by tall bamboos and various flowering and fruit-bearing trees. A mini aviary, Asian-inspired sculptures, as well as small water installations blend well with the rest of the landscape.
A gallery cum souvenir shop has its own place in the compound and reflects the passion of the lady of the house. Patis Tesoro is a noted fashion designer who has actively championed the revival of the locally woven fabrics industry and related crafts. Her name has become synonymous with formal Filipino wear, landscaping, and environmental concerns. She and her husband Atty. Tito Tesoro now operate the garden café, which used to be known as Kusina Salud.
While waiting for breakfast to be served, we strolled around the garden and came by some nice finds.
With the sound of birds chirping and Filipino music playing in the background, plus the sweet scent of burning dried lemongrass to drive away the garden insects, we sat down for a hearty breakfast of garlic rice, chicken and pork adobo, scrambled eggs, and crispy dilis.
Ordinary-sounding Filipino fare to many, but throughout our meal, we couldn’t help wondering aloud how each of the served food was made to taste notches above the usual.
Tsokolate eh (hot native chocolate) provided additional warmth, while turon con latik delivered the sweet finish.
Happily stuffed, we were soon on our way to our next stop.
Period dressing at Villa Sariaya
There was a time during the pre-war era when the coconut industry boomed in Quezon. The landed gentry in Sariaya vastly profited from this golden age and used their fortune to turn their old bahay na bato (stone houses) into art deco-inspired structures, which were the rage then. This was the era of the great Filipino architects Juan Arellano (who also designed the Manila Post Office and the Metropolitan Theater), Juan Nakpil and Andres Luna de San Pedro (the son of artist Juan Luna). Many stately mansions bearing their design were built in Sariaya, but were destroyed by a fire set by the Japanese in 1945 and by another fire in the 1960s. A few of these structures remain and were declared as heritage houses by the National Historical Institute in 2008.
One such ancestral house was owned by Don Catalino Rodriguez and still stands at the corner of Quezon and Daliz Streets. His heirs have opened the mansion for public viewing and visitors can choose to wear period costumes for reasonable fees and pose for souvenir photos. Now known as the Rodriguez House or Villa Sariaya, the ancestral house also serves Sariayahin cuisine by special arrangements.
When I first visited Villa Sariaya in May last year, I couldn’t get enough of the fine details that made it a historical treasure. This time, with only a handful of visitors, I had the leisure of choosing a vintage baro’t saya and strutting around like a doña or a señora; but I’m not the moneyed kind, so just this once let me usurp the title of señorita (in my case it means a diminutive senior citizen). 🙂
There’s more to this Kulinarya Tagala tour. Please come back soon for Part 2.