THE province of Bulacan is rich in history and culture. Everybody knows that the eight rays of the sun on the Philippine flag represent the first eight provinces that revolted against the Spanish rule in the late 1800s, and Bulacan was one of them.
Playing an important part in shaping of the nation’s history was Malolos, whose historic Barasoain Church housed the Malolos Congress, which drew up and ratified the Philippine Constitution that created the First Philippine Republic on January 23, 1899.
It was only fitting, therefore, that Fiesta Republica, the national celebration of the 116th anniversary of the First Philippine Republic which took place from January 17 to 23 was held in the city of Malolos in Bulacan. The series of activities lined up for the celebration, whose highlight was the Araw ng Republikang Filipino graced by Interior Secretary Manuel Mar II Roxas at the Barasoain Church Plaza, was a poignant look back at that significant moment in Philippine history that eventually led to the declaration of Philippine independence and gave the Filipino people freedom after more than 400 years of Spanish colonial rule.
Among the events that took place were Timpalak Awit-Makabayan, a choral competition aimed at reviving nationalistic Filipino music; Raprapan sa Kasaysayan, an open competition of modern Balagtasan; Pasiklaban ng mga Banda, a Brass Band competition that revived the Brass Band Festival introduced by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Malolos in the early 1900s; Dulansangan, a national street dance-drama competition showcasing vignettes of historic moments that led to Philippine freedom and democrary; and Kalutong Malolos, a culinary festival promoting the local cuisine of the city.
Speaking of the kaluto or cuisine of Malolos, it is one of the most interesting regional cuisines in the country because it dates back to the Spanish times. While some of the recipes of authentic Bulakeño dishes have been lost with the passage of time, going the way of other authentic cuisines whose recipes were not passed down by the original creators or cooks to the next generation, there are quite a few restaurants and individuals who have continued to make distinct Bulakeño treats available.
There is Bistro Maloleño Events Place & Restaurant in Catmon, which serves dishes like Nilagang Manok ni Emilio Aguinaldo and Bringhe ng Tagumpay and sells Atsarang Dampalit ng Malolos, Gurgurya and Binanli, among others.
Nilagang manok is said to be the favorite dish of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, to which Bistro Maloleño added asparagus.
Bringhe ng Tagumpay is much like the Kapampangan bringhe, although this version comes in single servings wrapped individually in cone-shaped banana leaf containers. Atsarang Dampalit ng Malolos, which Bistro Maloleño bottles, can hardly be found elsewhere anymore these days. Dampalit, or sea purslane, is a weed that grows wild, and Maloleños of older times loved to pickle them and serve them either as an appetizer or as aside for fried fish or barbecued meat.
Gurgurya is a sweet treat, a traditional cookie or merienda handed down by the women of Malolos, whom our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal wrote a beautiful letter to. A dessert or merienda that’s best paired with tea or coffee, Gurgurya is made by kneading a dough of flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk and margarine, divided into small strips of dough that are then rolled into shell shapes with the tines of a fork, then fried in a mixture of vegetable oil and shortening, dipped in grated dayap rind and rolled in sugar. Gurgurya is one of the traditional Bulakeño food items that food historian Mila Enriquez strived very hard to keep alive, and although she is now gone, her niece Rheeza Hernandez has continued her legacy and continues to promote it.
Binanli is more familiar. It’s a traditional type of square-shaped biscuit with upturned corners, hard on the outside but a bit chalky once you’ve taken a bite at it, that was also handed down by the women of Malolos. It’s much like galletas or egg cracklets.
Then there is also Bahay na Tisa Restaurant, also in Malolos, witin walking distance from Barasoain Church. On its menu are traditional Bulakeño dishes like Puto Caramba and Hamonadong Malolos. Puto Caramba is not like any regular puto or rice cake as we know it. It’s a variation of okoy that’s made of flour, pinipig, shrimps and squash made into patties then deep-fried in hot oil. Hamonadong Malolos is a pork dish that’s slow-cooked.
Not to be missed is Empanada de Kaliskis. It’s a delicious merienda of flaky empanada with chicken and potato filling with a slice of egg. The dough is flattened with a rolling pin, then repeatedly rolled out and folded to create layers of crisp pastry. The empanada is fried in hot oil, bathed continuously with ladles of hot oil until the flaky layers of the pastry display themselves beautifully and turn golden brown.
The Empanada de Kaliskis is an heirloom recipe of Mercy Antonio, who still makes the empanada using the original recipe handed down by her great grandmother Agustina Domingo de Jesus. Agustina and her sister Justina Domingo learned to cook and bake in the 1820s and were often invited to cook for promiment families of Malolos. They became famous for their empanada, whose recipe Agustina passed on to her daughter Trinidad de Jesus Antonio, who later on gave the recipe to Lucila Antonio, who then passed it on to her niece Mercy Antonio. It’s called Empanada de Kaliskis due to the flaky nature of its empanada dough. She still makes it, so people still get to enjoy the flaky treat.
There is also Eurobake, which continues to make traditional Maloleño treats, such as ensaymada de Malolos and inipit, available to those who want to enjoy them. A Filipino sweet bread in the traditional ensaymada coiled shape, Ensaymada de Malolos is a soft, buttery and rich bread that’s slathered with butter or margarine, sprinkled with cheese and dusted with sugar. It also got slices of salted duck egg on top. While the original recipe of the authentic Ensaymada de Malolos is lost forever because the original baker did not pass it to anyone, Eurobake’s Ensaymada de Malolos is as close as you can get to it.
Eurobake is also proud of its inipit, a custard-filled sandwich whose name literally means “pressed together.” Inipit is actually two layers of chiffon cake with a custard filling in the middle.
Rich not just in flavor but also in history, Bulakeño cuisine consists of a lot more, including Asado de Carajay, Kubata de Sebo, Soreche, Hamon Bulakenya, Estofadong Pabo, pochero, pilipit, sapin-sapin, pastillas de leche and a host of other sweets that people just keep coming back to Bulacan for, whether there’s a special occasion or none at all.