Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The rainy season always brings back memories of my years growing up in my grandparents' house in Bignay St., Project 2, Quezon City.

Having been born in Davao and raised as a toddler in Iloilo,  I never had a taste of typhoons until the time I moved in with my Lola Pacing and Lolo Greg when I was in grade one.

Lolo Greg and Lola Pacing
(photo courtesy of my cousin, Lora Capule)

Lolo Greg is a WWII veteran, who for a time was countryless and now lives in the very same country that once denied him citizenship. He has always been quiet, dignified and  gentle.  My first memory  of him was when I was six, watching him cut the backyard grass with shears and a bolo.  My Cousin Jenny and I would play and stop only to listen to him tell stories about the Bataan Death March. Afterwards, he would share with us a packet of Growers peanuts and Pop Cola. If we pestered him for more stories, he would get rid of us by bribing us with a shiny Twenty-Five centavo coin to buy Chocnut or chocolate eggs wrapped in foil. My cousin and I would refuse his bribe and demand for a Ten Centavo coin for each of us, which he would oblige us with. We thought were outsmarting him because two coins were always worth more than one. 

Almost every weekend, he would take me and my cousins to Balara to swim.  Lolo Greg could do ten laps in the pool without much effort and almost always ended his swim with two laps of his signature butterfly stroke. After his swim, he would then herd around 8 of us to ride the JD bus home.  He is never one for corporal punishment. He never even needed  to raise his voice. He could scare us out of misbehaving with simple stories. Whenever one of us grandkids would spill rice from our plates or have leftovers, he would calmly reminisce  how he used to receive one belt whipping for every grain of rice that fell off his plate or did not finish. His veiled threat  never got put into action as we would always finish up everything on the plate. Lolo Greg, my only surviving grandparent, was the cool persona that was opposite to Lola Pacing's fiery one.

Lola Pacing passed away several years ago. Her wake was a big to-do, after all she was the matriarch of a family with 13 children and more than 50 grandchildren. She was also popular in the community having served as a Baranggay Quirino 2-C councilor for many years. Each night at her wake was a fiesta. Mayors sat beside tricycle drivers. Artists mingled with bankers.  People she had helped out once shared stories with relatives from Iloilo. The number of people who showed up at her wake was a testament to how truly beloved she was by those whose lives she touched.

She lived up to her name, Pacencia. Although she would call us out for misbehaving or getting the house dirty, she would rarely lose her temper. The only time she lost her patience with me was when I played in the rain even if I had a cold coming.  After hours of racing paper boats in the street canals, I went to the backyard fishpond and caught fish which I "cooked" using the clothes iron.  Lola Pacing was not very happy with my experimental cooking method. Drenched, shivering and high with fever, she gave me  the  only  corporal punishment in my entire life-- an ass whacking with walis tingting (a broom made with the spine of coconut leaves).

Lola Pacing did make it up to me at dinnertime, making Laswa, a hearty  Ilonggo  soup made of vegetables. Since then, the soup has been one of my favorite rainy day comfort food. I recently served it to friends when we had a post-Ondoy powwow. It is also one of the few vegetable dishes that I can get A.  to eat without any violent reactions.  

 Ang Laswa ni Lola Pacing using saluyot (jute) leaves

Laswa  is similar to the Ilocano Dinengdeng but is more soupy and less salty. The simplicity of the flavor never fails to bring me back to the time when life was so uncomplicated.
Ang Laswa ni Lolo Greg using alugbati (Malabar spinach) leaves

Her ingredients are what one can usually find in the wet market. Because of the onion, this version has a homier taste to it.

4 cups water
1 piece small onion, quartered
3 pieces medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fresh shrimps, shelled and deveined (keep the head for the stock)
200 grams kilo squash (calabasa), cut into 2" squares
200 grams string beans (sitaw), cut into 2 1/2" lengths
200 grams okra, cut into 1" lengths
1 big piece eggplant (talong), cut into 1/2' inch thickness 
2 cups saluyot (jute) leaves
salt to taste

Boil  shrimp heads in water. When the shrimp heads turn pink, take them out of the water . using a strainer, squeeze excess juice from the heads with a spoon.  Add tomatoes and onion in the boiling water. Once the water boils again, add in the vegetables, starting with the squash. Once the squash turns slightly tender, add in the string beans, okra and eggplant. When the vegetables are cooked, add in the jute leaves and salt to taste. Mix and remove from fire when the saluyot turns a shade darker.

Serve hot with crispy danggit (dried Rabbit fish) on the side.

He grew alugbati in the vegetable garden behind the house. The use of alugbati and winged beans make the dish more hard-core Ilonggo for me. I don't know why. it just does. I find his process simpler, too.

4 cups water
3 pieces medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
500 grams dried shrimp (hibi)
200 grams kilo squash (calabasa), cut into 2" squares
200 grams winged beans (sigarilyas), cut into 1 1/2" lengths
200 grams okra, cut into 1" lengths
1 big piece eggplant (talong), cut into 1/2' inch thickness 
2 cups alugbati  (Malabar spinach) leaves
salt to taste

Boil  tomatoes and dried shrimp in the water. Once the dried shrimp becomes tender, add in the vegetables, starting with the squash. Once the squash turns slightly tender, add in the winged beans, okra and eggplant. When the vegetables are cooked, add in the Malabar spinach leaves and salt to taste. Mix and remove from fire when the saluyot turns a shade darker.

Serve hot with crispy baby galunggong (Mackarel scad) or tawilis (fresh water sardinella) on top.

This blog is dedicated to Lolo Greg and the love of his life,
Lola Pacing.
Thank you for taking care of me.


  1. My friend and Ilonggo tutor Gwyn says:

    Actually, laswa is more of kiniray-a than ilonggo. laswa in ilonggo is -- utan meaning vegetables. when you say laswa, it is a general term for the leafy things-- not necessarily a dish.

    both are called-- guinlapwahan (sinabawang gulay) in antique. i think it is called the same in iloilo.

    very much unlike the kapangpangans, visayans are more likely to trust the true taste of their ingredients. it is basic cooking using shrimp (raw, not paste) and salt to thicken the taste. and to answer your question, yes we do make laswa the same way.

    (I know Lola and Lolo's relatives do speak kinaray-a. When I lived in Iloilo briefly, we had a kinaraya speaking yaya, Nanay Juaning who was as short as a seven-year old and spit her nganga like a sailor. but she's another story and will have to learn more kinaray-a).

  2. Lola's laswa is my mom's medicinal food,,, when she feels guilty that she hasn’t been eating healthy she starts cooking laswa and serves it for a week. =D She actually hates eating slimy vegetables but Lola was able to make her love it.

    I love Lola's alugbati, too, its very simple, ground pork, onions and ginger (sauté) then add water and alugbati leaves heheh =D something like that. I’m not sure if they have a special name for this dish, I did not want to try at first because I only use the fruit from the alugbati vine to make grape juice when playing tindatindahan o resto restaurant with my ate anne(sister) I didn’t think it was edible. When I did try I learned to love it, its best with that flat fried fish (sap sap ba yan) that lola usually prepares with it. I’ve never eaten this soup since lola was gone,,, I guess I only trust lola's alugbati soup. I love Lola,, I miss her and all the happy memories of our childhood with her, she is the greatest =D -Marie (looking forward to my cuzn's posting about Lola's molo)

  3. Thanks for sharing your lola's recipe! The thought of having soupy veggies and danggit really appeals to me right now. Also, I really have to make an effort to serve more greens because I want my kids to have a more healthy diet.

    I dread cooking veggies because I don't relish peeling, cutting and chopping them...too time-consuming for me. I only cook veggies after a trip tp SM Hypermart: they have people who do the peeling, cutting and chopping for me :-)

  4. Thanks Marie and Maan for reading the blog and taking the time to post a comment. I really appreciate it.

    Marie- Go cook the laswa- it's very simple and such great reward when you made it yourself. you can try and do Maan's style- to buy the cut veggies in the supermarket.

    Maan- you can also use the timpladong galunggong fillet which is readily available in unimart- goes well with this and walang tinik :-) I was surprised nga na napakain ko si augie ng mga gulay na ito. so, baka kainin din ng mga anak mo :-)

  5. Hear! Hear! =) reading this makes me want to eat laswa..this post brought back happy childhood memories...i miss lola pacing..

    her pancit molo and leche flan were also winners! i hope you can post them too! anne

  6. thanks for this, mike... brought back memories of lola whom i miss so very much... along with the liver steak she used to cook for me when i'm not feeling well... looking forward to more recipes of comfort food we used to have as kids... remember manong budok's batchoy? and aratilis ice cream? hahaha!
    -cuzn jeng

  7. hey Anne and Cousin Jeng,
    Thanks for reading the blog. Yesterday was Lola's birthday pala. God bless her soul :-) +

  8. carla cantara-wiegandDecember 10, 2009 at 11:59 AM

    love your blog mike, thanks for sharing memories of your childhood, its nice knowing the story behind the food - and the recipes really look enticing!!!! now if i can only find an asian store that sells these ingredients :-)


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