What happens in Vigan doesn’t stay in Vigan. The memories follow us. We were in Vigan City, a UNESCO World Heritage City in the province of Ilocos Sur a few weeks ago. I mentioned a few blog posts ago that we flew from the USA to the Philippines for 20 hours, then drove ten hours by car and reached our destination to celebrate with our Quirino family. It was the 125th birth anniversary of Elpidio Quirino, 6th President of the Philippines. If you recall, I mentioned Lolo Elpidio is the grand uncle of my husband, Elpi, who was named after the late President.
Before the long trip to our homeland and family roots, I started writing an article about holiday foods with Ilocano flavors. The article was half written when we traveled to Vigan. I wanted to experience firsthand the cuisine and the culture of this vibrant city north of Manila, the country’s capital. I had talked to aunts and cousins about favorite Ilocano dishes the Quirino family enjoyed during the holidays. But there was nothing like experiencing up close the crisp Vigan empanada, the robust and tangy Vigan longanizas (cured pork sausages) or even the Vigan bagnet, the Ilocano version of lechon kawali (crisp pork belly).
Ilocano food is strong, vigorous, robust and the flavors stay with you for a long time. I attribute this to the potent garlic and tangy vinegar flavors predominant in many dishes.
TI interviewed our aunt, Atty. Aleli Angela G. Quirino, or Tita Lila, as we fondly call her. She gave me a very informative list of Ilocano dishes which were family favorites, especially the Quirino brothers in their lifetime: Ernesto, Elpidio, Eliseo, Antonio and their sister, Rosa. Read the complete story about Holiday Dishes with Ilocano Flavors is in my feature article of Positively Filipino, a premiere digital magazine celebrating Filipinos. Click here for the story.
Tita Lila had interesting descriptions of Ilocano favorites ranging from Ar-Arosep and Agar-Agar, fresh vegetable seaweeds; Poqui- Poqui, an eggplant dish which was renamed ‘Ponki-Ponki’ by our grand-aunt Lola Alex, for religious and moral reasons; Pancit Musico, a soup meal served to visiting music bands during town fiestas; Dinaldalem or igado to non-Ilocanos which consisted of different pig parts and innards. Tita Lila recalled the liver is marinated in vinegar, and then cut in cubes. The tampalin (pork belly fat) is fried, crushed and the oil is rendered for cooking while the rest of the pork pieces are chopped, sautéed in garlic, all cooked in the tampalin oil. The pork liver is then boiled in vinegar with sliced onions, seasoned then served. Auntie admitted this dish was tedious to cook, but it was a family favorite and often served on special occasions.
Another cousin, Pacita de Adea D’Arcy mentioned the Poqui-Poqui again when I asked about holiday dishes the family liked. Manang Pacita had fond memories of her mama making this easy eggplant entrée with eggs and tomatoes then serving it to the children on Christmas day.
During our reunion of 3rd, 4th and 5th generation Quirinos in Vigan, it was wonderful to reconnect with family we had not seen in a while and relatives we had not met till then. And always, we began and ended the day and events with food. It was the fabulous combination of food flavors that rekindled family memories of the past and connected them to the present. Check out my complete Poqui-Poqui recipe, inspired by our Quirino family which published on ‘The Happy Home Cook’ via Positively Filipino. Click here.
- Photo credits: Quirino clan group photo was taken by The President Elpidio Quirino Foundation (from their Instagram and Facebook pages).
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