Local Flavors

For Rainy Days, An Authentic Ilocano Soup

Ilocos Norte

Choose Philippines
Choose Philippines | Oct 07, 2019

Story by Dianne Dy

Photos by Lemuel Salvador

Visiting Vigan City soon?

As one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, Vigan City is not only famous for its century-old colonial structures and cobblestone streets, it is also a place where one can find authentic Ilocano food. For a dose of warmth during the rainy season, Vigan offers a comforting soup called Sinanglao, a dish made of beef innards, tenderized by long, slow hours of cooking and soured with kamias, onions, and a secret ingredient that will pack a punch.

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According to Dr. Eleanor Belizar, Director of the Center of Ilocano Studies of the University of Northern Philippines, the origin of sinanglao can be traced to the agricultural traditions and practices of the Ilokanos.


“The llocano cuisine is influenced by the scarce resources that we have in the region. Caught between the South China Sea and the Cordillera, agricultural lands are limited, so Ilocanos were forced to maximize everything that they have," she relates, "Food is simple which include boiling of vegetables, meat and fish and the use herbs or ingredients that are readily available like fish paste, garlic, onions, and ginger."


Ilocano cuisine also seems to be a reflection of the culture. "The simplicity of the Ilocanos can be reflected on the food that they eat: not extravagant but nutritious with veggies and fish or meat as soup,” Dr. Belizar adds.


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The best place to enjoy a bowl of this famous Ilocano delicacy is 1st Sinanglaoan Carinderia, a food stall that has a small seating area, located inside the compound of Vigan’s Post Office. Due to its popularity, expect long queues of tourists and locals alike, with the line extending past the gate of the compound. The place opens at 5 AM and closes around 1 PM or until the dish runs out. One bowl of Sinanglaw costs 60 pesos with unlimited soup.

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According to caretaker Martha Parpali, Sinanglao was first introduced in the 1970s and the locals kept coming back for another serving until it became popular. The owner loves soup so he came up with the idea to use the organ meat as a main ingredient instead of throwing them away. When he let his friends tried his experiment, it became an unexpected hit and the rest is history.

Tourists like Manny Alquiza never miss out on eating Sinanglao when visiting Vigan. He said it is more special when sharing with loved ones. “I love it, the taste is different, and it’s delicious. A truly authentic Ilocano food,” he states.

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