Tucked behind a line of commercial stores along Kilometer 4, La Trinidad is a little, charming coffee shop called The Cabin. It was opened by a local nurse who decided to pursue her passion for food and leave behind the world of dextrose drips and syringes. Instead, Apriline Mae Golocan now serves her own “java dextrose” in many variants to her patients, er customers.
For a clearer “Cabin dextrose” that is sure to help akalinize one’s system, one must order an iced tea curiously named Cubali. Cubali is an acronym for cucumber, basil and lime. During their visit to the café, the Joseph Digest staff paired Cubali with the café’s Etag pasta, the café’s signature pasta dish. The combination helped balance the richness of the Etag and the acidity of the tomato sauce.
It was quite a new food tasting experience in La Trinidad, where the food landscape is continuously being redefined as the demographics become younger and locals get exposures outside of the country in their travels.
If it is an indication, the daily influx of people in the fastfood chains that now dot La Trinidad’s highway means people are veering away from the usual local eatery type meals. They want something different. But this became a concern for Golocan as she observed that fastfood has become a mainstay in most locals’ food lifestyle. Being a nurse, she knew an alternative to fastfood must be available for the locals to have a better option from a daily consumption of fastfood. Thus, The Cabin was opened. The interior of the café is decorated by old knickknacks and recycled sewing machines as tables.
To be true to its intentions of being an alternative to fastfood, Golocan said she uses local organic produce in the menu. Through social media, The Cabin has attracted a growing clientele from its own neighborhood in La Trinidad and even from nearby Baguio. ***JD/LPader
HEALTH 101 RESTOREANT
Okay, let’s admit it. We, the people of the Cordilleras are meat eaters. We only shave off our meat intake once the numbers in our blood pressure chart start to rise. Or those painful gouts and arthritis give us no choice but to keep calm and let meat go, because the fats and over consumption of red meat plus greasy pork are now bothering us. So, before we beat ourselves and hate our health for not being cooperative as it used to, a shift to a semi-plant based diet might do the trick at Health 101 Restoreant. Located one kilometer away from The Cabin along Kilometer 5, La Trinidad Highway, Health 101, a semi-vegetarian restaurant serves burgers, lasagna , juice, salads and breakfast all prepared with of course, vegetables. For meats, it is replaced with the well-known Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP). What accounts for its status being a semi-vegetarian is it serves eggs along with its breakfast, among other things.
Owned by teacher Elmer Macalingay, Health 101 Restoreant is one of the three vegetarian restaurants he opened in La Trinidad and in nearby Baguio. Health 102 has a semi-vegetarian concept while the other two, aptly named Health 100 and Heath 102 are built on pure vegetarian menus. The restaurants’ aim is to help restore the health of its customers hence the name Restore-ant.
Health 101 is closed on Saturdays but open the rest of the week.
The Joseph Digest team who visited the restaurant observed the Health 101 waiting crew to be knowledgeable about the items on the menu and the owner even showed the kitchen where the meals are prepared. With “honest ingredients” used in its food preparation, this restaurant seems able to build a solid clientele today and the future as more people realize the value of their health. Besides, anyone can take eating to vegetables anytime versus being hospitalized for unhealthy eating habits and food choices.*** JD/HSalenga
SUNGO-AN SA BUYAGAN
That peculiar “kanyaw taste” craving for simple, boiled and broiled meat sometimes comes to Baguio and La Trinidad based Cordillerans who were blessed to have experienced kanyaws (native, Igorot feasts) outside of Baguio as they were growing up.
Since life in the mountains necessitates coming to Baguio and La Trinidad to study, settle, work or do business, an entrepreneur set up an eatery type local food joint to cater to this kanyaw meat craving of locals without staging a real, expensive, kanyaw or Igorot feast and celebration where a number of pigs and cows are normally butchered depending on the affluence of the celebrant.
Sungo-an Sa Buyagan, the eatery along Buyagan road serves boiled pig snout as its main entrée, or sungo in local parlance. It literally serves either the whole upper or lower jaw of the whole pig snout per order. Served with rice, the sungo sits un-adorned in a bowl surrounded by a lake of hot soup. The sungo is either eaten by hand or with a thin knife to scrape and pull out all those succulent and tasty bits of soft meat hidden underneath the skin and the nooks and crannies of the snout. These soft succulent bits of tasty meat are then dipped to a mixture of soy sauce,fresh chilli, and calamansi juice. It is sublime. Cracking the snout’s jaw with a bolo exposes the best part of the sungo—the gooey, off-white marrow that somehow tastes more superior than the marrow taken from other parts of a pig.
Unknown to many in the Cordilleran urban areas, the sungo is a symbol of privilege and status during a kanyaw. The snout is only given to a recognized community matriarch, elder or favored visitor.
For the uninitiated, it is much like eating the once rejected tuna panga that used to be thrown away by fish exporters until the Filipino workers in the piers and docks picked them up, roasted them and served it for dinner. The sungo, served boiled or roasted costs P80 with one cup of rice at the Sungo-an sa Buyagan. Tourists, according to Sungo-an owner Mercy Taltala, cop out from eating the exotic sungo. Maybe it shocks them to see a boiled pig snout directly staring at them with all the pig’s teeth still intact served hot in a bowl. “Haan da gamin nga sanay ti inlambong,” (They are not used to boiled dishes), Taltala said.
In Madrid, Spain, tourists are treated to a common local fare that consists of pig’s ears eaten with toothpick like tapas, together with deep fried lamb’s intestines. Food being cultural is relative. Lowland tourists may frown on the sungo but highlanders won’t also take to eating one day old chicks with gusto on the street as lowlanders would.
While sungo eateries abound in Baguio tucked in the alleyways of the Baguio Hilltop market, the Sungo-an sa Buyagan gets its own local customers from the vegetable farming community. These are male Igorot farmers, drivers, pahinantes, vegetable dealers and other locals.
Regulars at the Sungo-an say the sungo dish is chewy and the pure flavor of pork that is undisturbed by any spice in the broth is reminiscent of the watwat meat served during a kanyaw. In fact, what makes the now famous Japanese ramen so delicious and well received the world over is its broth made with pork bones and meat simmered over a long period of time until it tastes gamey or “kanyaw-ish”.***JD/LPader
A fairly new kid on the block of La Trinidad’s exotic restaurants, Farmer’s Daughter restaurant along Tam-awan Road, La Trinidad has built a fast reputation on social media about having the best restaurant quality pinuneg (blood sausage) in town. Cordilleran pinuneg recipes vary from province to province, cook to cook, but one thing is sure : Cordilleran pinuneg can only be made with a freshly butchered animal because it is only available during native feasts like in a kanyaw. But thanks to Farmer’s Daughter resto owner Jimmy Ano and his family for making this Cordillera kanyaw favorite available when cravings hit. Usually made with fresh pork blood, native red rice and salt then stuffed into clean pork intestines much like Filipino longganisa, pinuneg is always a run-away hit even among kids in a kanyaw.
At Farmer’s Daughter resto, their pinuneg is complemented by their best selling dish made of kinuday, a Benguet province native bacon specialty which is like a cousin of Etag, a Mt. Province cured pork specialty. Of course, the Cordilleran’s native chicken stew pinikpikan occupies its own place in Jimmy Ano’s menu.
The restaurant, housed in a Cordilleran inspired hut house is open from 10 am to 9 pm with dishes costing a reasonable Php 70-120. No wonder, locals in the community come trooping to the Farmer’s Daughter to appease their cravings for pinuneg, kinuday and pinikpikan.***JD/EEReyes