|Cover of the Malolos Banquet menu displayed at the Xavier University Museum in Cagayan de Oro|
When I was asked to make an Independence Day menu for the June 12 episode of “Andar ng mga Balita”, it didn’t take long to let the magnitude of the task sink in my head. That’s because what I was supposed to recreate is actually something from the depths of Philippine history, so to speak. I’m talking about the Malolos Banquet, the menu served to the Founding Fathers of the Philippines.
The menu required not only extensive research, but a lot of planning as well. Besides, how was I supposed to present seven appetizers, seven main course dishes, and a myriad of desserts? Nevertheless, it was a great idea to work on.
But let me backtrack a bit.
Historian Ambeth Ocampo says the Malolos Banquet was served on in a feast held on Sept. 29, 1898. This was when the declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite was ratified in Malolos, Bulacan.
The menu was in the form of a Philippine flag with the words “Solemn ratification of Philippine independence.” Inside the menu is the date of the party, and the words “Libertad,” “Fraternidad,” and “Igualidad,” the rallying cry of the French Revolution of 1789.
It is said the chefs of the old Barangay Sulipan of Apalit, Pampanga had a hand in cooking the banquet. (I believe Chef Gene Gonzales, who recreated the Malolos Banquet in 1998, is a descendant of one of the delegates.) The strange part is that the food were in French. Everything is grander and sexier in French, anyway. In layman’s terms, these would be:
Oysters, prawns, buttered radish, olives, Lyon sausages, sardines in tomato sauce, salmon with Hollandaise sauce
crabmeat in its shell, filled pastry shells, chicken giblets, mutton chops with potato straws, stuffed truffled turkey a la Manilloise, beef fillet a la Chateaubriand with green beans, cold ham with asparagus
cheeses, fruits, jam, frosted strawberries, ice cream
Wines: Bordeaux, Sauterne, sherry, champagne
Liqueurs: Chartreuse, Cognac
National Artist Nick Joaquin describes it thus: “The menu is a culmination, like Malolos itself, and should stand side by side with the Malolos Constitution.”
When I asked Ocampo whether it’s possible these were stylized names of local delicacies, he replied, “I’m almost sure the Lyon sausages were imported because if you look at the ads in newspapers at the time they had all the liquor and other ingredients for such a meal.”
Despite having this much info, I had to make do with the little I have, and there were a few adjustments along the way, but we ended up having a grand feast worthy of emulating the Malolos Banquet.
The Andar version of the Malolos Banquet is as follows:
Prawns are usually part of the main course, but I presume that back then, these were served as finger food. The same goes with the sardines, though if we served sardines simply slathered with tomato sauce, we might as well buy the canned ones.
Cooking torta de cangrejo (crab cakes) is complicated, but making omelets out of them isn’t (the one we ended up making is actually similar to crab foo young).
Having jam as dessert is plausible, though I presume this was served with crackers or biscuits along with coffee and tea. As for the ice cream, Ocampo said this would not be readily available until the 1900s when th first ice plant was built in Manila, but it was possible the ice itself was imported.
Now what’s bibingka doing in the menu? Emilio Aguinaldo is said to have a personal bibingka maker, and its salary came out of the revolutionary government.
Someone has yet to find out what our Founding Fathers had on June 12, 1898. It is possible they had lunch or even snacks, not to mention that snack treats such as bibingka and puto are a staple in Cavite. I wish there’s a way to find out. Come to think of it, the Malolos Banquet itself raises many questions about the history behind its dishes, but I will save that for the experts.
Food plays a great role in the history and culture of a country. The Malolos Banquet boasts to the world that the Philippines is a country with a rich culture and a civilized citizenry, and that it deserves independence. Also, it shows that our ancestors know how to wine and dine and party hard.
Tune in to “Andar ng mga Balita” every Monday to Friday, 6:30 to 7:30pm on Aksyon TV Channel 41, for your daily dose of news, information, and FOOD! XD