Himos ni Kulas: Celebrating diversity

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The earliest memory of Mayor Neil Lizares as a kid growing up in Talisay was slurping down hot broth with pork dumplings cooked and made by his lola.

That recipe — otherwise known as pancit molo – found its way as one Mayor Neil’s food memory, along with the fresh lumpia and the pancit and bijon of a local joint.

But, as the mayor pointed out, that recipe has not exactly been jotted down for the use of future generation so lola’s pancit molo could remain just that – a memory.  Unless of course, somebody enterprising enough would note down the ingredients of that beloved dish that Mayor Neil so loved as a kid.

His story reflects what could well be a common experience among Talisaynon households, with families cooking their, um, literal HOUSE specialties.  The Lizareses, one of the oldest and well-entrenched families in Talisay, certainly have their share of those well-kept family recipes.  But the question is, how can these recipes be preserved?  Or better yet, what kind of food could be considered truly Talisaynon.

HIMOS NI KULAS

La Paz has batchoy. Bacolod the piaya.  When you think of Manapla, there’s the legendary puto.  Cadiz has the uga (dried fish).

In an island known for its diversity, food has become a stamp, a mark of cultural identity.

That quest for the identity is what pushed the Pasidungog Foundation, led by its President Dr. Rodolfo Patiňo, to come up with Himos ni Kulas Food Festival, a food expo that features, displays, and offers dishes cooked and prepared by Talisaynons. 

To raise awareness and hype for the food prepared by Talisaynons and to find the city’s culinary identity, Himos was conceptualized by Dr. Patiňo, along with like-minded private individuals and member of the Foundation: Lucy Lizares-Yunque, Atty. Rowena Lizares, Carmen G. Adad, Rafael Ignacio “Chino” L. Coscolluela, Adrian V. Lizares, Dolores B. Lopez, Ma. Isabel “Maris” V. Lizares, Nanette E. Lizares, soon-to-be-lawyer Charina Magallanes-Tan.

Tita Yvonne’s Callos are among the heirloom recipes featured in the food festival. | Photo by Hannah A. Papasin

Dr. Patiňo said Himos is a pet project of Dolores Lopez, with initial plans to hold it in front of the old house Tana Dicang, but “we were already pressed for time, and for funds”. 

So the initially-conceptualized Himos ni Tana Dicang became the Himos ni Kulas, because the food festival is held instead along the grounds of the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish.

Himos” of course is the Hiligaynom term for “prepare”, or in the context of Negros, is often associated with food preparation, usually during a party.  “Kulas” is in reference to San Nicolas de Tolentino, the patron saint of Talisay, upon whose Church grounds the different food stalls were set up.

FOOD AS HERITAGE

Dr. Patiňo said the whole point of the Himos ni Kulas is to gather people – as with every festival – and share the bounty, or in this case, “heirloom recipes”.

The doctor, a true-blue Talisaynon, said while other cities and towns are known for a particular type pf food, Talisay has none.

Which is why, he says, Himos ni Kulas is an opportunity to discover recipes and food that are deeply-identified with Talisaynon culture and heritage.

His observation was backed by no less than the Mayor, who said that the food festival – the first of its kind in Talisay – might hopefully pave the way for the city to finally find its cultural identity through food.

“This is a start,” he tells DNX, adding, “ma amat-amat ‘ta (we’re taking this step-by-step). Because through Himos ni Kulas, the Talisaynon is given a chance to present heirloom dishes that they have known since childhood.”

A CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY

With a gathering of 19 concessionaires, Himos ni Kulas boasts of an impressive spread.  From well-known institutions like Cookies ‘n Crumbs, to Tinay’s Lechon and Siomai Kingdom, to the fresh oysters from GladyLan talabahan, the food fest is a celebration of diversity.

City Tourism Officer Renea Torres said the food fest gives Talisaynons an opportunity to showcase their “famous delicacies and heirloom recipes”, as well as possible opportunities to earn for people in the food biz.

In fact, one of the concessionaires featured is Cookies ‘n Crumbs, a popular café and restaurant based in Bacolod but whose owners are Talisaynons.

The restaurant owner, Bing Gustilo-Ermac tells DNX that some of offerings of her joint are heirloom recipes from her mom, Nena Ereneta-Gustilo, and these types of cooking are just part of the legacy that she intends to continue now that she has her own business. Among those – which eventually became the bestsellers – were the desserts like the brazos de Mercedes, the dulce de leche cheesecake, and of course, the delectable leche flan (made from the exact same recipe that Bing grew up with). 

Cookies ‘n Crumbs’ brazos de mercedes is another heirloom recipe shared by owner Bing Ermac from the kitchen of Nena Ereneta-Gustilo. | Photo courtesy of Agnes Lira-Jundos

Then there’s Lola Yvonne’s callos, and the no-need-for-knives softness of Ceeby’s Grill and Bistro.  Craving for sweets?  Why not try Crstl’s Coffee and Cake Studio?  Or how about the honest-to-goodness cooking from Nino Lizares’ Pwerti Food Truck (“I like the name; it’s playful,” the owner says).

Lechon from Tinay’s is a best-seller. Owner Tint-tin Rojo says she has discovered the key to maintaining the tenderness of the meat. | Photo by Hannah A. Papasin

Or, if international flavors are more to your liking, Hawkin’ & Smokin’s chicken tarragon and bacon-wrapped pork loin might do the trick (“I prefer to call it crossover, not fusion cuisine,” owner Archibald Tuvilla, Jr. says).

Really, there is no lack of food memories, or food recipes, or food PERIOD as far as Talisay is concerned.

In fact, the city’s media consultant Agnes Lira-Jundos says that this is just the start of a grand tradition of exposing the food of Talisay not just to neighboring cities and towns but to the rest of the province (or indeed, the rest of the world).

Agnes says the ultimate goal is for Himos to be a food mecca of sorts, with diners, revelers, participants going from one iconic house to the next to sample offerings and heirloom recipes. 

UGYON TALISAYNON, KAUSWAGAN PADAYUNON

There is after all, unity in strength.

And for Mayor Neil, what better way to bind his city but through their collective love for food?

Mayor Neil says that Himos – which he assures would be a yearly affair – would bring foodies from all over the city, from the young one to the formidable institutions of Talisay.

“This is one way to show the Talisaynon spirit of camaraderie and cooperation,” he says.

And perhaps, give it a few years, and Talisay will finally find its food identity.  Whether it’s molo ala Lizares, or the leche flan of Nena Ereneta-Gustilo, or the callos of Lola Yvonne – who knows?

One thing is sure, though. Talisay is as rich in culture and food as Silay, Bacolod, or Cadiz. 

And trust the Talisaynons to find THAT identity – and soon.

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