Episode 95: A Taste of Filipino Halal Cuisine at Dulang Restaurant

Eid’l Adha is coming up on Monday, September 12, which is why most of us are enjoying a long weekend ahead. For Muslims in the Philippines and all over the world, this day commemorates the end of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. It also honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to obey Allah.

Learning about Muslim holidays piqued my interest in halal cuisine, food enjoyed by Filipino Muslims. As a refresher, halal cuisine is a type of food that is ritually slaughtered and deemed fit to eat for Muslims.

For a while I thought I would not find a specialty restaurant that serves halal food, much less one that has a Filipino flavor to it. My search eventually led me to Dulang Restaurant, a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Ermita, Manila.
Dulang’s menu consists mostly of Tausug and Malaysian specialties that are delicious, filling, and affordable. Some that I tried so far are the beef korma (spicy beef stew), spicy vegetables in coconut milk, mi goreng (Malaysian noodles), and their version of suman sa latik for dessert, among others. I have yet to try their other Tausug specialties, such as the Tiyula’ Itum (black soup), and kahawa or native coffee.
Traditionally, Muslims go to a mosque on Eid’l Adha for prayers, and sacrifice a live animal (such as a goat, cow, or sheep) for feasting. They share at least a third of the sacrificed meat to the poor. Those who can’t afford a live animal just buy generous portions of meat.
The last time I came across Dulang was during the previous Eid’l Fitr (end of Ramadan). As expected, the place was filled with Muslims and other local patrons who choose to dine in the restaurant. The situation was the same when I visited Dulang recently. Come to think of it, the restaurant is a favorite among job hunters and workers from neighboring offices.
Dulang is not just a place to enjoy halal food, but also to appreciate the cuisine of our brothers and sisters from Mindanao. A trip to Ermita is in order if you want to try out something uniquely Filipino.
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Dulang Restaurant
1313 M. Adriatico St. corner Padre Faura
Ermita, Manila

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you!

Merry Christmas!
So, how’s your Christmas so far? Did you celebrate Christmas with your family? If not, have you greeted them and everyone else around you? How’s your Noche Buena? Did you and your companions dine well? (Also, do you have a hang-over now from all that partying last night? I thought as much.) Did you complete your nine-day Simbang Gabi and made a wish? Did you play with firecrackers? (I hope not.)

It’s that time of the year again for us to spend quality with our loved ones, hear the traditional Dawn Masses, and spread good cheer to everyone. And yes, sing birthday greeting songs to our Lord Jesus Christ if you will. Yup, it’s his birthday, after all.

We Filipinos never grow tired of Christmas, simply because of the good things it represents for us. It’s actually nice that this year, Christmas Day landed on a Saturday, which makes the holiday more relaxing for some of us. (For all those working on Christmas Day, such as the security guards, call center agents and mall employees, and members of the media, my love goes out to you as well.)

Christmas will never be complete without the usual Noche Buena and holiday feasts. In my childhood I remember that our family would have the traditional bibingka and puto bumbong every Christmas Eve or after Mass. This is a traditional snack I never forgot to have for Christmas even as an adult. (Bonus points if they serve “salabat” or ginger tea.) Fruitcake? It’s been a while since I had one of those. Hint, hint. 
Our Noche Buena would consist of barbecues, fried chicken or fish, lechon kawali (deep fried pork, sometimes), cakes, fruits, and spaghetti. The best part of the holiday feast would be the leche flan and ube halaya, and Mom’s beans and homemade bread pudding (whose recipe she brought with her to heaven; God and the legions of angels and saints would be feasting on beans and pudding by now).

Gift giving is one of the biggest highlights of Christmas. Sure, gifts nowadays cost a lot of money, and we have to sacrifice a lot of time and effort to find the perfect stuff that we could give to our family/friends/co-workers/sweethearts/whatever, but seeing the joy in their faces when they do receive their gifts is something we can never grow tired of.

The most important part of Christmas in the Philippines is our reverence to the holiday’s religious significance. Filipinos have the longest Christmas celebration in the world, ushered in by the nine-day Simbang Gabi on December 16. Some areas also have the “panunuluyan,” the reenactment of the journey of Joseph and the pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary in search of lodging, and other religious events. Most of the time this is celebrated with the singing of Christmas carols and charity work, among others.

The Nativity by Charles-François Poerson, 1667

Christmas is a celebration for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Never mind how commercialized the Yuletide season is, or how people think of Santa Claus and the material matters of the holiday season more often. Christmas not only means paying respects to the child Jesus (especially if you’re a Catholic), or setting aside time to be good to others (one of the secular aspects of the holiday).

Christmas all boils down to sending our love to the world in commemoration of this holiday. Christmas is a time to share part of ourselves to everyone. Christmas is the season of giving, sharing, selflessness, love, and most of all, peace.

Peace be with you all. Again, Merry Christmas!