Two days of Pangasinan
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2014 - 12:00am

 Pangasinan has had a magical hold on me on account of historical events and people skyrocketing to positions of power in the national government, and some individuals who have become close personal friends. The invasion of the Gulf of Lingayen, the province’s capital, has been drummed into our ears since high school. President Fidel V. Ramos is the first Philippine president from Pangasinan (specifically, from the barrio of Asingan in Lingayen). His sister, former Sen.  Leticia Ramos-Shahani, is also from the barrio. Former Speaker Joe de Venecia Jr. served six terms as representative of the 4th district of  Dagupan, and House Speaker (1992-1998 and 2001 to 2008), and his wife Georgina “Manay Gina” de Venecia is into her second term as representative of the same district.

I’ve swam and grilled fish on an  island at the Hundred Islands Park in Alaminos, visited the shrine of the Nuestra Señora del Santissimo Rosario  in Manaoag, dined in carinderias and bought bawang and bagoong at the Pangasinan highways on the way to Baguio.

During this last Undas (All Saints and All Souls’ days), my family visited friends in Lingayen, Dagupan and Binmaley. We stayed in the Dagupan compound of the De Venecias which, surprisingly, has not been developed into a swinging resort farm — truly reflective, says my hubby, of the simple lifestyle of the former Speaker. Needless to say,  the trained househelp served us good meals, chiefly with fried bangus as the centerpiece.

Our first visit was at the Lingayen home of Juris de Leon Vargas, daughter of the late Romy de Leon, founder and president of the Rural Bank of Anda  and a close friend of my hubby.  Juris, a lively lady, is now president of the bank which has eight branches in the province of Pangasinan. Banking is hard work, Juris told us, but she is pleased that clients continue to grow and  avail of the services of the bank.

Juris  has four children – Judy, who is a Lingayen councilor; Doris, who is vice-president of Rural Bank of Anda-Lingayen branch;  Donna Nikki, a third year communication arts student at the UP Baguio, and  Marcelino, an eighth grader at a local school.

Councilor Judy is making waves in the local political landscape. At age 25 she is smart and good-looking. She is vice president of the Philippine Councilors League-Pangasinan Chapter, and  Junior Chamber International 2015 LO president. She has just been appointed to chair the provincial bagoong festival, a celebration to be held on Jan. 23 which Judy said we should not miss.

Judy is mainly responsible for the municipal ordinances passed prohibiting the use of plastic bags in the town and encouraging the production of local handicraft, including bayong. It took a long time for the ordinance to be followed by vendors, she told me, but now everyone is aware of its importance in preserving the environment. Judy has strongly promoted the reproductive health law. It’s important that people have the freedom to plan their families’ size and have access to family planning facilities, she said. Being articulate and hard  working,  Judy has a bright future as an effective provincial and national executive.

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For dinner, Juris took us to Papa Dong’s Grill & Resto, an arm’s length  from her home on Roxas street.The owner, Ferdinand Fajardo, was around, hopping from table to table to promote his dishes. He was right about how  good  his  buttered  talaba was. The secret for  his resto’s success, he said, is  his  dishes’ affordability  and good taste. He ticked off his best-sellers: Angus Beef Pigar-Pigar, crispy hito and sisig, sinigang pink salmon head and salmon belly, binagoogang crispy hito, and kare-kare gulay.

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My BFF, Norma Liongoren, enthusiastically took us to people and

places to see. The first was the Crisologos’ Travellers Inn, a modest boarding place patronized mainly by students and out-of-town visitors. On the ground floor as the Mesh Room, a place for what Norma called  “art- making on the run” and food, run by cousins Rye Crisologo Barodi, artist and interior designer, and Boeng Miraoda CRisologo, artist chef. Miraluz “Bing” Crisologo and husband Bobby Barodi, a craftstman from Tugaya, Lanao del Sur, operate the inn.

Bing served us a nice glass of tea, and her favorite dough filled with preserved durian fruit.

At the back of the inn was  the Crisologo compound, where live the “most successful” of Norma’s siblings, Bok, a distributor of Bok shoes mainly from China.

Inside the compound was  a series of buildings,  two or three of which are used as production units or commissary of Norma’s niece, Kamela Crisologo Sison, who is the “local girl” who made more than good.  A few minutes away from the compound stands a new building at Tapuac, Lingayen. The nice-looking building has a bakeshop and Dine Inn  restaurant where, aside from a menu that Manilans enjoy choosing from, also makes available the best-selling Plato Wraps.

Plato Wraps is a trademark of Panaderia Antonio Food Corporation (PAFC), a Filipino corporation controlled by Antonio and Kamela C. Seen.  PAFC was incorporated in 2003 and was originally a single proprietary business started in 1999 as a bakery with retail shops in Dagupan city and Urdaneta.  It has six bakeshop outlets and stalls at supermarkets in Metro Manila

The Plato Wraps Food Cart was introduced in Dagupan City in 2001 as Panaderia Antonio Food Corporation’s first venture into food service.  The grilled wraps product with a choice of popular fillings, hit a niche market and cart operations, and  soon expanded in Metro Manila and 12 stores in the provincial operations.  Plato Wraps is currently developing expansion programs for the key cities of the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

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Next, Norma took us to the Lingayen Provincial Capitol, which, she said, is the best in the  country. How right she was. The capitol was built in 1918, during the Commonwealth period, reconstructed in 1949 during the time of Gov. Enrique Braganza, and rehabilitated in 2008 under Gov. Espino’s term. It is an architectural wonder, bathed in sunlight and lights at night, its interiors featuring a spiral staircase with an eagle at the front step,  its floors and wallings of hard wood. On the floor at the lobby is the seal of Pangasinan province put together with colorful wooden blocks.  The governor’s office is sparkling bright and elegant, said to be designed like one of the rooms of the White House.

Outside, across  the capitol building, was  a  tree-filled park where  romantic music was  being played. On display were remnants of the war machines used by the Americans during the invasion of Lingayen Gulf.  

Throughout our two-day visit,  our car painfully wound its way through  traffic jams  caused by hordes of people walking, or tarrying, toward the cemeteries. Beyond those jammed streets, we breezed through three-laned, well-paved streets – the handiwork, my hubby said, of Representative Joe de Venecia.

Of course, we filled our stomachs, and loaded our vehicle, with bottles and boxes of guinamos and patis, frozen boneless bangus, Calasiao’s puto, and tupig (grilled rice and coconut  wrapped in banana leaves). On our last morning, I hied off to Dagupan’s wet market for fresh shrimps and fish. The next day, at lunch, I made steamed bangus – the best, my hubby said – and that’s because the fish came fresh and smothered with crushed ice  from Dagupan.





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