A LONG the stretch of Gov. Pascual Avenue in Malabon sits a business that harkens to the taste of three generations: baby boomer, Gen X and millennial.
Fortunately, it’s not bagoong, the fish paste associated to Malabon in a prewar folk song.
Nanay’s Pancit Malabon, indeed, has captured the hearts of locals here for over four decades so much it really enjoys the full support of the city.
Take 60-year-old Priscilla Baldonado who lived and was raised in Malabon. According to her, the restaurant’s noodle dish is a must whenever her friends celebrate or visit.
“Kung may darating akong panauhin o bisita na nanggagaling sa malayong lugar, ’yan agad ang tinatanong sa akin: ‘Wala ka bang Pancit Malabon?’[Whenever we have visitors from faraway places, they immediately ask for Pancit Malabon],” Baldonado told the BusinessMirror.
It was a habit acquired by her 22-year-old daughter Joanne. She said Pancit Malabon from Nanay’s (mother) has been the go-to food of her relatives and coworkers who come to the city.
A paper presented at the 2015 De La Salle University (DLSU) Research Congress traced Pancit Malabon to the Chinese living in the country as pancit or pansit comes from the Hokkien “pian i sit” meaning “something conveniently cooked fast”.
NANAY’S is one of three restaurants the paper said is the oldest business offering the Filipino dish, which is made of eggs, shrimp, pechay (Chinese cabbage), flakes of tinapa (smoked fish), celery, chicharon, pork and special sauce made of cassava.
Nanay’s kept traditional ways of how the dish is served.
“Kung ano ’yung naumpisahan, kunwari ’yung toppings: gulay, baboy, hipon, itlog, ayun ganun pa rin. Wala kaming dinadagdag na iba,” said Bernardita Ignacio, the owner of Nanay’s Pancit Malabon. “Kumbaga iniimprub mo ’yung lasa pero ’yung pinaka-itsura, ganun pa rin [It’s just like how we started. For example, our toppings like the vegetables, meat, shrimp and eggs are all the same. We did not add anything new; we just improved the quality of our pancit’s taste. How it looks today when served stayed].”
Ignacio was referring to the mid-1970s when her aunt Remedios Cruz, popularly known as Lola Remy, began cooking for her friends. She said Cruz used her own recipe and started accepting orders at home from her sister’s colleagues.
Ignacio said orders were made two days prior to delivery because they did not have enough kitchen tools and had to buy ingredients fresh from the nearest market.
Their neighbors eventually also ordered from Cruz, who sold a single serving for P1.50 ($0.25) each.
Baldonado said she was among those who ordered from Lola Remy for her afternoon snack.
“Simula pa lang noon talagang bumibili na ako. Sa bahay pa lang sila nagtitinda, bata pa ako,” Baldonado told the BusinessMirror. “Pero ngayon may anak at apo na ako, Nanay’s Pancit pa rin [I have been buying Pancit Malabon even before when they were still selling in their house when I was younger. Now that I have my own children and grandchildren, It would still be Nanay’s Pancit].”
AFTER 14 years of selling the Filipino dish from home, Lola Remy’s family opened a full-fledged restaurant on November 8, 1984, on Gov. Pascual Avenue corner Santo Rosario Village, Concepcion, Malabon City.
“Sinubukan namin kasi sabi ng mga customers ‘Sige na lumabas na kayo para mas accessible kasi papasok pa kami sa loob ng subdivision [We tried opening our own store because our customers told us ‘You should go out of the subdivision because it would be more accessible’],” Ignacio said.
Nanay’s started with only two chairs and eight tables. They even used the freezer at home to store leftover meat and shrimp to conserve power as electric bill for commercial establishments were higher compared to residential rates. “Kaya ganun muna ang setup…kasi [noon] ’di pa namin kayang mag-produce dahil hindi namin alam kung magki-click kami [Our restaurant’s setup is the way it is now because back then, we did not think that the business would click among customers],” Ignacio said.
After only over a month of officially opening the restaurant, the family business boomed as they received hundreds of orders when Christmas season arrived. This is how they made their name in the industry.
Today Nanay’s also serves breakfast and lunch to customers.
RECOGNIZING the popularity of Nanay’s, the Malabon City included the restaurant in the route of its Tricycle Tours, the city government’s project to preserve and introduce its heritage sites and delicacies to people who are not from Malabon.
“’Yung tricycle Tours ini-improve din niya ’yung kalakalan dito, ‘yung ekonomiya [ng Malabon], at magdadagdag ng employment ’yon kahit papaano,” Ignacio said. “Ang tricycle tours hindi naman para sa [mga] taga-Malabon ’yan eh, para sa mga taong outside Malabon. Kaya kumbaga, lalong nakikilala ang lugar [Tricycle Tours improved the trade and economy of Malabon and it somehow provides employment for others. Tricycle Tours is not for people who live in Malabon].”
She also credits social media as a factor in helping Nanay’s and Malabon become popular.
Before, Malabon City was often associated with “flood”.
“[D]ati kapag sinabi ’yung word na ‘Malabon’ ang unang papasok sa isip ng tao laging baha diyan. Pero ngayon, ang pumapasok na agad sa isip ng tao ay ‘masarap pancit dyan’ kaya malaking tulong ito sa pag po-promote ng Malabon [Back then, people used to associate Malabon with flood. Now, they think of how good our pancit tastes like. This helps a lot in promoting the city],” Joanne Baldonado said.
For Ignacio, every success and recognition that Nanay’s Pancit Malabon had earned since they started as a home-base business entailed hard work.
“Sa kahit anong larangan, it takes patience bago mo ma-achieve ‘yung gusto mo [In every field, it takes patience before you can achieve your goal].”