Kulinarya Tagala, Part 3

This last installment on our culinary tour focuses on a resto that best captures the melding of local cuisine and architectural gems in a charmingly rustic set-up.

Here’s looking at Sulyap Gallery Café

‘Sulyap’ means ‘a glimpse’ or a ‘quick look,’ and that’s what this cultural and foodie destination promises visitors—a glimpse of the glorious past through cultural relics that have been thoughtfully preserved or restored for today’s generation. The cafe/art gallery sits on a two-hectare property in Barangay Del Remedio in San Pablo City, which also houses  a bed and breakfast and a museum. The structure that now houses the museum used to be the Southern Luzon Colleges in the 1960s, but was later transformed into a hotel.

Roy Empalmado, the café owner, is a businessman with a background in architecture  and a passion for antiques. In time he has accumulated a large collection of religious icons, armario, and other objects from an era long gone. Logically, his interest evolved into building, or more appropriately, reconstructing historic buildings to accommodate his treasures.

The two-story Sulyap Gallery Café is a resurrected ancestral house that dates back to 1907. Empalmado bought the house, which was dismantled or deconstructed from its original location in Quezon and transported to San Pablo. Most of the original parts were used in the reconstruction of the Spanish colonial house. Many of his antique pieces now adorn the interiors of the café, giving it an old world ambiance for a unique dining experience.

Capiz windows, ventanillas, and laced canopies induce nostalgic feelings
A cozy nook for two
Tulingan pasta by candlelight

Sulyap is known for its heirloom cuisine, but for our afternoon snack we were served Tulingan Pasta, an interesting fusion of Italian and Southern Tagalog cooking. In Laguna, tulingan (skipjack tuna) is usually seasoned with salt, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed to bring out its distinct flavor. The fish is then flaked and used as a substitute for anchovies in this pasta dish. I only managed a few bites, however, because my mind was already out there in the museum across from the café.

The ground floor of this former school has a rich repository of antiques

Found treasures galore
A Batangas altar table with carabao bone and horn inlays. The design is typical of the second quarter of the 19th century.
There were no aluminum sinks nor plastic basins then, but they had wash basins made of hard wood.
This farm tool used to scare birds and other animals in the rice field is called balakatak. In Batangas, the word is also used to describe a blabbermouth or a loud and talkative person.
There are Jurassics among us who had a chance to use the rotary phone. But this?
Way back when laptops and handheld devices were unheard of.

Just before we boarded the van for our return trip to Manila, I took one last look at the Casa de Obando Bed and Breakfast. This two-level reconstruction used original materials from an 1850s ancestral house acquired in Obando, Bulacan.  Given a chance to build my dream house, I would like to have something similar—rock sturdy and genteel. I could only imagine how beautiful it must be inside because the place was booked, thus we were not allowed entry. Perhaps next time, I’ll take more than a glimpse of this casa of my dreams.

And what is an out-of-town sortie without a hoard of pasalubong? My bag spilleth over with treats from Sariaya and Tayabas: turrones, puto seko, the hard but oh-so-yummy pinagong bread, coco jam, coco vinegar and others whose names escape me. We also managed to pick up espasol and cassava cake while in San Pablo. As expected, my brood got into demolition mode pronto, so there are no photos,  no proof positive that they, too, had a taste of this ultimate food trip without having to leave home.

To join a Kulinarya Tagala tour, call 0927-5630989 or (632) 728-1180.

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