Back to Bauan
Manila born and bred, my Batangas roots are revealed in the way I eat my breakfast. The first time my husband, and, later on, my sons, saw me eat breakfast in my parent’s home, they were horrified when I poured tsokolate on top of my rice. The triumvirate of rice flavored with chocolate, bits of egg, and the crispy longanisa gave my taste buds a flavorful explosion of salty and sweet. Perfectly cooked longanisa is crispy on the outside and biting into it makes a satisfying crunching sound. Its flavorful blend of pork laced with fat, salt, pepper, garlic with just a hint of vinegar laced with siling labuyo is enough to make one forget about the other temptations on the breakfast table.
Better yet, if the longanisa came from Ka Corazon who sold it from the aplaya, a barangay in my parents’ hometown of Bauan. In the 1970s, my family often visited Bauan on weekends to see my paternal grandmother. Growing up in Parañaque, I looked forward to these visits where we grandchildren had a run of the place, exploring our ancestral home’s nooks and crannies, and enjoying my Lola Amada’s legendary cooking. I never saw how the food was prepared so I never found out what made the food tastier than what we ate in Manila. Not only that, the quantities seemed endless. Lola Amada’s champorado called for malagkit and tablea, totally different from the store bought mixes we regularly had for breakfast. At home, I normally didn’t eat the unattractive blood stew—dinuguan—but I eagerly consumed several bowls of it when it was Lola Amada who prepared it. Another dish Lola Amada cooked was Chicken Asado. It was a simple stew of chicken simmered in vinegar, garlic, onions, atsuete, and tomatoes with touches of salt, paprika, and pepper. I suppose it tasted better in Bauan because they had access to fresher ingredients.
One of the great attractions on our visits was our kalesa ride to the town’s only bakery, affectionately called the panaderia. Unlike the grocery store where we were only allowed to select one type of cookie, my mother generously told us to pick as many cookies and pastries as we desired. My older sister preferred the meringue and plaka, while I liked the mamon tostado covered with pink sugar. We also brought back with us the mamon, pianono, pan de sal, pan de agua, uukan, and several other biscuits to last us until our next visit.
By the time we returned from the panaderia, it was time for merienda. Suman was ordered from the Aplaya, as well as the special pancit with homemade miki noodles wrapped in banana leaves from the panciteria across the town plaza. We all rushed over to the dining table happily consuming the suman and pancit while Lola Amada enthralled us with stories of Papa’s childhood pranks.
Some years later, after Lola Amada died, the trips came few and far between. But we continued to have a regular supply of longanisa from the Aplaya, thanks to relatives and friends. The quality and taste remain the same, though the links, usually about half the size of a Vienna sausage, seem to grow a little smaller each year. (My mother-in-law calls them “short-ganisa.”)
The longanisa of Bauan is a flavorful mix of chopped pork, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper, with the strong, garlicky tang being the most dominant. Mama says in the 1930s, households concocted their own longanisa using the same ingredients but with proportions according to taste. Sometime later, when busy homemakers had less time to make longanisa, most people bought them from the market, carinderias, and stalls, though some, like my Tio Tony, preferred to make their own version. Mama’s family preferred Ka Corazon’s longanisa that was sold at Aplaya. We never found out Ka Corazon’s last name.
We only knew that her longanisa best suited our taste buds with its secret blend of spices. Ka Corazon has since passed away but her recipe lives on. Her children continue her legacy of making the spicy, garlicky longanisa that they sell for P10 a piece in a stall in front of their house.
Our household used to cook longanisa the traditional way, pricking the sausage casing, putting the longanisa in skillet, letting it simmer in medium heat until the water evaporated, and then frying it in its own fat. Boiling ensured the pork was fully cooked, while frying ensured a nice crispy skin. It also left many a cook with greasy pans to clean. Later, while attempting to make longanisa healthier in today’s more cholesterol-conscious times, Mama discovered the joys of turbo broiling, resulting in a less greasy sausage with a nice crunch to it. This was to Papa’s delight since he absolutely insisted on a crispy longanisa. Papa dipped it in vinegar spiced with siling labuyo, a practice I thought a little strange, until I tried the bold blend of salty and spicy flavors.
We switched briefly to the sweet, skinless longanisa from Pampanga when local grocery stores carried them in the late 1980s. We also had longanisa every morning when in Baguio, enjoying the fat, Baguio sausages, their crispy skin and salty filling. The popular Baguio longanisa is produced by the Dipasupils and people used make special trips to the Baguio market just to purchase it. Mama said the Dipasupils hail from Bauan. No wonder we like the Baguio longanisa so much! But despite the great variety of longanisa now available—whether pork, beef, or chicken; sweet, salty, or spicy; packed in casings or skinless—longanisang Bauan, with its secret spices, is still our family’s favorite.
My older aunts who live in New York agree. They greatly miss the taste of longanisa that on their way back to New York from a visit to the Philippines, they sometimes “smuggled” them in, risking the wrath of customs agents in the process. They wrapped the sausages carefully in newspapers and then packed them in cans to prevent detection. I am not as daring as my aunts and have settled instead for temporarily satisfying my cravings with the Vigan longanisa, either Tito Al’s or Magnolia’s version, two commercial brands sold locally where I live now.
These substitutes are, of course, nothing like the real thing. Away from my family, I continue to crave for longanisang Bauan, each succulent, imagined bite reminding me of many childhood memories and happy meals.