Nana Dalen: Sunshine Through the Rain

Passing On the Masrtery of A Craft

Indigenous abel weaver Magdalena Gamayo was awarded a Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or National Living Treasures Award in 2012. Torrents of rain poured down from dark skies before we reach her village in Pinili. A tiny structure made of concrete blocks with a signage came into view when I made up my mind to head home to Laoag and visit the weaver some other time.

MotionDimPinili Weavers

She had attended Sunday service at a church. Took the opportunity to ask about her from her students and apprentices, including her 11 year-old granddaughter, Arabella. Turning 92 in August, Nana Dalen, as they call her, goes to the center everyday and persists on teaching newer generations everything about the craft she has mastered, against the shriveling popularity of locally handmade textiles.

Magdalena GamayoAwarded by no less than President Aquino in 2012.

I had visited various abel loom weaving communities in Ilocos and Abra. Most of Nana Dalen’s designs I’ve never seen before. Inubon a sabong (string of flowers) best illustrates her masterful art. At the age of 16, her skills on the loom were honed by her aunt.

Abel de PiniliAbel de PiniliAbel WeaverAbel de PiniliTawa-tawa, binalbalatong, sinukitan are among her designs.ArabellaInabelYoung WeaverLola Dalen

The rains stop. Nana Dalen arrives. The unassuming lady obliges for a photo-op. She smiles as she recalls the days when she fashioned her own fabric into a pandiling (long skirt). She brings out a collection of various antique skirts that look not quite too old.

Her students wish for their own cotton tree farm, a wider space perhaps and more pagablan for others.

More essential than the recognition that was bestowed upon her, she has inspired others to preserve a threatened tradition.

Manlilikha ng Bayan Weaving Center

To reach Mrs. Magdalena Gamayo or the Manlilikha ng Bayan Weaving Center, text or call: 0909 7596885.

Photographed by BlauEarth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015

Keeping the flames of the oldest Vigan restaurant burning

Sanitary Restaurant

The capital city of Ilocos Sur, Vigan, acclaimed for its well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets, is well-defined in many aspects. Relative to its multi-colored history, other than traditional bagnet and longaniza, Mexican-influenced pipian and delicacies of Hispanic origins like masa pudrida, turones de mani, canatillo and torta, is a subsisting Chinese eatery named Sanitary Restaurant that serves mainstays, such as canton Luzon (pancit), kwekeng (also known as ngoyong), maki, hongkue (stuffed boneless chicken), carne agre dulce (sweet and sour meat), kimlo, lomi and the more popular siopao, mami and siomai. Passed down through generations, Sanitary is said to be the oldest restaurant in Vigan. Married into the family of the original owners, its current keeper, manong Vicente “Vic” Chua, does not know exactly the year it was established. All he remembers is that Sanitary was already in existence when he was little.

Vigan, Philippines

Sanitary Restaurant is not foreign to me. I’ve heard about it from, of all people, Manila-based Chinoy friends. I remember Vigan resident Mr. Bonito Singson also recently mentioned about his occasional breakfasts at the old Chinese restaurant. A visiting friend gave us kwekeng, fried pork rolls similar to kikiam, from her Vigan trip, but I really never had the time to go there myself until yesterday. We went to Vigan only to eat kwekeng, and then we ate more.

UntitledA photo with manong Vic.Sanitary Restaurant, ViganCanton Luzon

Canton Luzon (they also have a bihon Luzon) is very similat to Laoag’s La Moda pancit, but instead of lechon de carajay bits, it is topped with meatballs and pork; the flat noodles are also narrower. I liked the bun of the siopao — dense and very old-fashioned. The carne agre dulce (there’s also chicken and  liver) is presented differently, wherein snow peas and Chinese cabbage take the place of the more common carrots, pineapples or cucumber. Compared to most makis in Binondo, theirs was runny. Likewise in the menu, hongkue, a kind of rice-stuffed chicken steamed for a long amount of time, should be ordered one day in advance. That was what my husband really wanted to try because his dad, who passed away last year, made the best hongkue. My top picks from all that we ordered were siomai and kwekeng with the accompanying sauce.

Locals go there to eat pancit and siopao, but kwekeng, according to manong Vic, is bought in bulk as pasalubong or sent to Bigueños living in Manila.

Ilocanos who grew up wishing pancit instead of spaghetti, will always feel the nostalgia of good old Chinese food.

Siopao and SiomaiBola-Bola SiopaoKwekengSanitary’s  well loved kwekeng.Sanitary RestaurantMaki MiCarne Agre Dulce

Sanitary Restaurant 18 Gen. Luna St., Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Sanitary Restaurant exterior photos by Reny and Brandon Tan
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015