Once upon a time, there was a businessman named Jack who would have his lunch at his restaurant in La Trinidad, Benguet. His meal consists of chicken, chopsuey, lechon, egg, and rice. All of these are served in individual plates paraded to his table.
One day (in 1965, so the story says), Jack decided he’s had enough of seeing so many plates on his table. Being a practical man, he suggested to his chef, Cook Baruga, to arrange all of the viands into one plate. This, he said, would save preparation time and lessen the plates to be washed. Since then, Jack’s meal would be served in this manner.
Some time later, a customer saw Jack’s personalized meal and insisted that he be served the same thing. The customer was served what he found to be a complete and hearty meal.
And so it came to pass that Jack’s meal would be known as an innovation and a hit among patrons in the Cordillera Region. Thus, “Jack’s Rice” was born.
“Jack’s Rice” is the trademark meal of Jack’s Restaurant, owned by Igorot businessman Jack Dulnuan. This meal catapulted Dulnuan’s name in the Cordillera Region’s restaurant industry.
Jack’s Restaurant started as a sari-sari store in La Trinidad, which expanded into a bakery, and then into what it is today.
Dulnuan himself has a simple story. He started his business using his P1,000 savings, which he earned from working as a houseboy and delivery boy in Baguio. Soon he built his own farms (which supplies the vegetables and meat for his restaurants), a repair shop, and a vocational and technical school. A few years ago he acquired the rights to a Cordillera-based bus company, whose company shares he opened to the public.
Dulnuan follows a few but very sound business tips – live simply, learn to save and avoid unnecessary spending. Hard work, perseverance, and practicality helped Dulnuan expand his ventures. Thanks to Dulnuan’s sound business sense, “Jack’s Rice” is now a household name and his legacy to Igorots everywhere.
My family and I had dinner at Jack’s Restaurant at Session Road during a recent visit to Baguio. Back then, the largest Jack’s Restaurant branch was in a building in La Trinidad; now there’s a similar one (albeit smaller) at the center of Baguio, and a few others around the city.
Jack’s Restaurant’s menu hasn’t changed much over the years. The restaurant still targets families and big groups, and so do their dishes, some of which have medium and large sizes. The single-serving meals are the same as before, still big enough to fill big appetites (extra rice is optional :P).
The famous “Jack’s Rice” remains the top-grosser of what the restaurant calls “Jack’s Highland Toppings.” In college I was addicted to the Cordilleran lechon, lightly fried pork bursting with fat and topped with a thin, crispy layer of skin. This is not quite like lechon kawali (pan-fried lechon slices), it’s juicier and not as oily. Add to this the roasted chicken, the fried egg, and the freshly cooked chopsuey and you have a complete, filling meal.
One of the newest favorites here is the Lechon Pechay, lechon slices with sauteed pechay. The pechay retains its fresh taste, while the lechon stays juicy and crispy even while swimming in the thick vegetable broth.
I don’t remember having any of these crispy noodles before, but my sister says this is one of the better-tasting stuff in Jack’s Restaurant. True enough, the crispy noodles are, well, crispy, but they’re also tasty. The vegetables on top are fresh as well, and the chopsuey broth adds to the flavor without making the noodles soggy.
One of my favorite meals in college was “Jack’s Rice”. Back then, one serving would cost P50 each (P50? P55? P60? The price went up through the years). Of course, “Jack’s Rice” is a complete meal in its own, with all of my favorite meat dishes in one plate. For a budget conscious student like me, Jack’s Rice for lunch/dinner was a blessing.
When I started working as a provincial beat reporter, I usually go to La Trinidad. I end up eating at the Jack’s Restaurant branch there whenever I’m nearby. Sometimes, my colleagues and I would meet there before going to an event out of town. I even notice some local personalities dining there with their families. That’s because the place is welcoming and homey in it, and it looks like a relaxing place for people to gather. (Bonus points for the coutryside feel and the music.)
I tend to think about how my life in Baguio turned out. I started living in Baguio on my own, albeit with some support from my family back in Metro Manila. Walking to and from school, saving up and stretching the budget, studying and following a strict schedule were some of the things I learned to appreciate.
Among the things I learned is that I was somehow able to adapt to Cordilleran culture (or at least some of it). Sure, I was unable to speak the local dialect, though in my years in college I had the chance to learn about a culture that’s not my own (UP Baguio is a melting pot of cultures, after all). I gained friends from the local community and other places, and then some.
I’ve learned that Igorots are hardworking and strong-willed people. They lead simple lives. They hold their families in high regard, and make time for them despite their busy schedules. They care for their friends. They are peaceul but brave at the same time, and they stand for their beliefs and rights. They have a high respect for their culture and the environment.
Most of all, I learned that Igorots deeply value the good things in life. They celebrate life’s occasions in the liveliest ways possible. They find great pleasure in the weather, music (which explains the popularity of country music), food (and wine), family and good company, and just appreciating everything around them.
Dining at Jack’s Restaurant reminds me to appreciate the good things in life. I mean, it’s nice to have a good meal that’s within my means, with every single one of my favorite viands on the plate. And by extension, living in Baguio and enjoying life in all its simplicity is something to be greatly thankful for.
Up next: Reuniting with a long-lost friend… and revisiting an old and famous hang-out place.
Jack’s Restaurant (Baguio Branch)
#102 Manahan Bldg.,
Session Road, Baguio City
Telephone Number: (074) 4449888