My grandfather, Tony Diaz, whom I fondly called Lolo Daddy, was a huge figure in my life.
He was a father to me, a model and a mentor. Having had just passed away only this year, I now more than ever miss his stories, his reprimands, his idiosyncrasies and his presence. Being the notorious politician that he was, my grandfather was a tough man who rarely displayed mercy to anyone. But the first time I saw him cry was during my college graduation, and I tear up every time I look back and remember the proud look on his face the day I stepped on stage to receive my medal. He had that same look the day I finished my thesis, the day I got my first job interview and on the day I got hired at my first job.
A trip to Zambales meant indulging on Lechon baboy, papaitan, crabs and shrimps, diningding, Ilocos longganisa, inihaw na tilapia at hito, ensaladang hilaw na mangga tossed with tomatoes, onions and Ilocos bagoong, tawilis, pinakbet, kalderetang kambing, adobong pusit, bulalo, durian, mangoes, kesong puti and my favorite, carabao milk pastillas—for every single meal of every single day.
Pastillas de leche are sweet candies made from carabao’s milk.
Papaitan is an Ilocano dish, a slightly bitter soup made of stewed beef or goat innards, particularly tripe, liver, heart, intestine, kidney and pancreas.
Ilocos longganisa, also known as Philippine chorizo, is widely known in the country for its garlicky and salty taste, best dipped in vinegar and eaten with rice.
Inihaw na hito is catfish grilled in charcoal fire, best dipped in soy sauce and taken with rice, and eaten with your hands! (My lolo used to own his own hito culture in his Consuelo farm)
Ensaladang hilaw na mangga is a salad dish made of green mangoes, tomatoes, onions and bagoong. It is best paired with grilled meat and rice.
Moreover, Lolo Daddy wasn’t the type who splurged on cars, property or watches. If anything, he spent all his money on food, where eating was alone a joy to him whether it be an expensive dinner at a gourmet hotel restaurant or a sinful takeout order from McDonald’s or Yellow Cab (which he called “Yellow Taxi”), or even a simple home cooked meal where he would concoct the most unlikely combinations like oatmeal with pork and beans or spaghetti and vegetables.
Lolo Daddy’s favorite Ilocano dish was pinakbet. So today, in memory and in honor of my favorite man in the world, here is a simplified recipe of pinakbet, as relayed to me by our cook at home.
2 cups of water
¼ kilo Pork
5 pieces of okra
1 head of Garlic
4 tablespoons of bagoong na alamang or bagoong na isda
- Dice pork.
- Dice onions, tomatoes and string beans.
- Chop the squash, eggplant and ampalaya into quarters then dice.
- Place the pork in boiling water to tenderize.
- On a separate pan, sauté garlic, onions and tomatoes.
- Add two tablespoons of bagoong then add squash.
- Add ½ cup of boiling water.
- Add string beans, lima beans, ampalaya and lastly, eggplant.
- Add more salt or bagoong to taste, if not salty enough.
- Serve while hot.
Pinakbet, or Pakbet, is an Ilocano traditional dish. A stew made of meat and vegetables, this is my grandfather’s all-time favorite—a dish that always and still reminds me of him.