The Cebuano Fiesta Fare
Elena Peña (The Freeman) - January 18, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It’s fiesta time in the city. Visitors are coming over – in hordes!


Their numbers are just too many that the hotels are fully booked and fiesta visitors swell into city homes.

In many cases, the homes are even the first preference of visitors. Grandparents and uncles and cousins and close friends from faraway places would choose to stay with relatives in the city. And having several guests around for a number of days, the host homes have to prepare well to cover for the needs of guests.

Days before the arrival of the guests, the whole house is cleaned up and freshened. The available bedrooms are readied, with fresh or new linens. And the kitchen is fully stocked.

Food is major matter. Aside from the daily meals of the house guests, the host home also has to prepare a feast on the very day of the fiesta itself. In Cebu, as anywhere in the Philippines, the fiesta fare is a key feature of the celebration.

Cebu has quite a duteous attitude when it comes to food. Especially with old families, fiesta food is prepared like the family’s very honor is at stake. The family women often take the matter into their own hands.

The fiesta is one of the important occasions where so-called heirloom recipes surface. These are dishes that have been proven winners many times over, and the technique handed down from generation to generation. Each family in Cebu would have its own way of cooking lechon or adobo (which is different from the Tagalog variety) or embotido or caldereta, or maja blanca or leche flan or the native biko.

Despite the current prevalence of catering services, some families would insist to be the one to prepare certain dishes. And, indeed, the family’s heirloom recipes always taste much better. The reason perhaps being that these are prepared by family members themselves to serve to people they know.

Lechon is a Cebu culinary pride, and thus is expected to be present in the fiesta fare. Those who are wondering why Cebu Lechon is tastefully different may know from this recipe from the website

Cebu Lechon


1 whole native pig (live weight 18 to 20 kilos)

salt and black pepper to taste

soy sauce

For the glaze

1 liter of Sprite or 7-Up

For the stuffing

10 bundles of lemongrass (tanglad)

¼ cup of star anise

6 pcs of laurel or bay leaves (cut into small parts)

5 cups of crushed garlic

2 kg green onion leave

8 pcs of halved saba bananas (half-cooked thru boiling)


• First, shave hair follicles of the pig and remove the innards. Rinse the pig and make sure there are no more lumps of blood inside the stomach.

• Then rub the insides with salt and pepper, including the body as well.

• Rub a little soy sauce on the inside of the belly.

• Stuff the belly with saba bananas, anise, green onion leaves, crushed garlic and laurel leaves.

• Next, stack the lemongrass in the center belly and stitch, making sure that no ingredients slip out.

• Skewer the pig with a mid-size bamboo pole and split roast over hot charcoal. Do not put the charcoal directly underneath the belly of the pig but on both sides, slowly churning the pig roast.

• While slowly roasting the pig, glaze it from time to time with Sprite or 7-Up using a sponge. This will make the skin extra crispy.

Roast for a couple of hours until the meat is tender. Chop and serve hot.

Caution: Do not overcook the lechon.

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