Well, actually they launched it in 2017, hehehe. This is the second year of the event. But it was my first time to attend.
And the Salonga siblings are not Lea and Gerard. It’s Chef Theodore Day Salonga of Ted’s Kitchen and Chef Gel Salonga of Ted’s Cakes & Pastries.
The two have become regional tourism advocates and on their own, without national government support, put together Sa Pantalan: Biyaheng Katagalugan, A Food & Culinary Heritage Festival showcasing the best of Laguna.
The Salongas hail from Sta. Cruz, Laguna. A couple of years ago, their dad, Ted himself, developed their family-owned compound to house a bed and breakfast with 7 cottages. So now, aside from Ted’s Kitchen and Ted’s Bakery, they also have Ted’s Bed & Breakfast.
Coming into the tourism industry, the siblings decided that it would be best if they also helped promote their artisan neighbors. So in 2017, Sa Pantalan was born. Pantalan means “dock”, because, according to Theodore, Sta. Cruz, Pila Pagsanjan and Lumban used to be pre-Hispanic tradings docks, very important locations for trade during the Spanish era. The title also references a journey of discovery through Laguna’s coastal towns, with Sta. Cruz being the central port.
I finally got to see the annual event this year and loved getting to know Laguna artists. This is Renel Batralo (photo below). He and Cesar Pasco design bags and homeware using water lilies.
Aside from the bags by Sarilikha, there were other straw bags as well.
Laguna is also known for woodworks, specifically form the towns of Paete, Pangil and Pakil, as well as for making the Barong Tagalog, from the town of Lumban, so of course there were such products on display.
At the annex were sculptures and other art. Most interesting was the religious art by Bayani Acala from Paete, who made sculptures of the Sacred Heart.
It was also cool to meet Che Abrigo, the owners of the first zero-waste cafe in Laguna. She also makes all these uniquely flavored flours.
The festival also had on display Laguna delicacies like espasol, puto with salted duck eggs, bibingka, and Chef Ted’s own Bitbit line which includes Sta. Cruz longganisa. I realized from this trip that Laguna is not that far. You can be there in less than two hours.
There’s also a lot to see. Almost each town has an old church. Chef Dino recommends the ones in Pakil, Pila and Nagcarlan. You can also do trekking and swim by the waterfalls in Majayjay and Cavinti. There is an underground river in Cavinti. Caliraya offers water sports. And for those who just want to shop, you can find handwoven barongs in Lumban, footwear in Liliaw and woodcraft in Paete.
For an authentic Laguna heritage meal, try Aurora’s. It is also Chef Theodore Day’s restaurant, with Chef Gel’s desserts, located in the Salonga ancestral home. Aurora is their grandmother. Don’t miss this stop; it’s a great introduction to their regional cuisine.
Thanks, Day, Dino & Gel, for making us realize that there is sooo much to see in Laguna! Sa uulitin!