The Pig Before “The Pigs”…


I arrived on a morning flight to Cebu on Sunday, two days before the scheduled shoot with the “No Reservations” crew. At the office by 10 a.m., several of my crew had volunteered to come in on a Sunday just to make sure that preparations were going as planned and for any last minute instructions. While I am in Cebu often, I am rarely there on a Sunday, as I usually spend that in Manila with family… so on the drive in from the airport, I was stunned to see several street corners with lechon stands set up for folks to buy some “inasal” for their special Sunday meal. Cebu is well known for its inasal, but given the tough economic times, frankly, I was heartened to see that the Sunday splurge on roast pig was very much alive and well in the city. Even if the rest of the week was made up of dinners with dried fish and instant noodles, those who could afford it, and it seems there are still a lot of those folks, purchased some inasal for Sunday lunch. So after half an hour at the office, I decided to take everyone present for a ride through back streets on our way to one of the epicenters of Cebu lechon, Talisay, a 20-30 minute drive away…


It turned out to be a very smart move. And you will see why over the next couple of posts. About 10-15 minutes in the car, passing lechon stalls, on street corners, we got to the barangay of Punta Princesa, in what used to be the barangay of Labangon. There was a concentration of lechon vendors and other food stalls and the shopping was particularly frenetic at around 11 a.m. We passed this scene and a split second later something told me to shout and have the driver stop the car… I jumped out with a camera in hand and walked back to the food stalls to see what was on offer. Part of me says that there was a great deal of instinct at play when I plotted my menu for “the shoot” weeks ago, and I just wanted to get confirmation that it was fairly authentic soul food for a Cebuano…


I expected the aroma and fat floating in the air from the several lechon vendors hacking away at freshly cooked pigs, but what I was a bit surprised to find were several side salads already made and for sale in small portions. I always assumed these would be made at home, but I guess this is modern fast street food… honest yet convenient. One of the coolest vendors I found in this barangay had a “salad buffet” in a pail lined with banana leaves over ice. The center plastic container (in second photo up top) contained some “bat” or sea cucumber in a vinegar sauce. She also had homemade papaya acharra and banana heart salad.


A wonderful pale reddish brown guso salad in another “compartment” of the buffet.


And a cold unripe langka (jackfruit) salad in a coconut milk and vinegar dressing.


The inasal was chopped to order, with the most frequent amounts requested being a “half-kilo” or “kilo” at PHP350/kilo. The discussion that ensued between buyer and vendor about the best part of the pig to purchase was always lively but always ended with a request for some ribs. After the skin, savoring the ribs has to be the mark of true blue cebuano inasal lover. Forget the meaty thighs… give me some ribs! Thankfully, people all have different preferences and whole pig eventually sells out. And if it doesn’t, it’s made into paksiw the next day…


Of course, puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves) in abundance.


The freshest fish grilled over charcoal. And now I was beginning to really understand the way Cebuanos eat. For a sunday meal, a bit of pig/fat/richness/flavor, with rice, and complemented by fresher vinegar based dishes to cut into the fat. If possible, some grilled seafood. And all in all, honest soul food that tasted great, looked good and probably mirrored Cebuano meals for hundreds of years of history… I got back into the car, thrilled I had decided to take this impromptu drive to Talisay, absorbing every little detail I could, hoping this would help in the days ahead.


After a few minutes, we got to the outskirts of Talisay, and I took a photo of this banner announcing the annual lechon/inasal festival that had occurred just a week or two before. Clearly, any town that honors their inasal with a festival, has to be tops on my list.


If there is anyone I would like to drive into the heart of Talisay inasal country on a Sunday noon, it must be Joey of 80breakfasts, an avowed lechon and pork addict, who would likely faint from the pounding of her heart as she laid eyes on these beauties. Guests at the Marketman eyeball in two weeks can really push the envelope by staying overnight on Saturday and having Talisay lechons on Sunday to round out their visit to Cebu! There are several stalls on one street of Talisay, and on offer is the motherload of Cebuano lechons… burnished or lacquered a reddish brown, glistening on their bamboo poles awaiting hungry diners or folks picking up whole pigs for their Sunday meals…


I was amused to catch this woman holding onto the pig’s ears while it was de-bamboo-polated. I always thought the ears were rather brittle at that point but apparently not.


Some skewered and fried/roasted? pig’s intestines on a stick.


Broiled kamote with a brilliant tinge of purple and other starches of choice should you choose not to have puso or rice.


Kasing-kasing or skewered and grilled pig hearts.


Beautifully roasted native chickens, also de-bamboo-polated.


Marketman in white pants checking out the salads and hawking some of the brilliant grilled food on offer… not to mention the enormous vat of dinuguan or dugo-dugo in the foreground of the photo…


A visually stunning guso salad with the palest of hues.


Another “bat” or sea cucumber salad drowning in onions and vinegar.


A luscious squid and fellow sea dweller over the coals.


And from an abulant vendor a whiff of my lola… a huge bilao filled with homemade consilva or pinasugbu… fried or baked banana slices drowned in sticky caramelized sugar. This was definitely a sign from lola that she was watching from above, and would provide otherworldly intervention, if necessary, for the success of the upcoming adventure. I kid you not. Also in the bilao were some deliciously thin and light fried kamote chips. I bought several packages of each to snack on in the days ahead.


But the main event of lunch had to be the lechon, and we opted to eat at the largest vendor, Mila’s, on the recommendation of a local resident. We ordered several kilos of lechon and most of the salads plus dinuguan. It was served in a grungy interior room that would make most folks worried about hygeine shiver, but the food was utterly delicious.


The skin was good, but since it was at least one or two hours old, not as crisp as I was hoping to have when the “No Reservations” crew showed up in a couple of days. The flavor, however, was incredible, and every piece of meat was infused with the stuffing/spices. The total cost of this incredible meal was less than PHP200 per person, and well fed, we were now ready to take on the incredible task of preparing pigs for the avowed roast pig lover himself… Anthony Bourdain. :)



82 Responses

  1. I miss Cebu! My dad grew up there and I would spend childhood summers feasting on lechon. I always, always dip mine in vinegar and will choose flavorful, salty Cebu lechon over any other kind anytime. Excited to see your next posts and to watch the episode, please let us know when it will be aired!

  2. The food looks so amazingly good! And the price is really reasonable. I’ve always wanted to go to Cebu and sample its rich culinary offerings. Maybe one summer I’ll be able to do that! =)

    I’ve really not looked into the archives but have you made a Cebu must visit eateries (hole in the wall, small or big restos)list? That would come very handy for 1st time Cebu visitors like myself. =)

  3. Whoa, are you going to be showing Tony Bourdain around for a segment of his Philippines episode? I heard he’s in the Philippines and you would definitely be the perfect food guide for him and his crew!

  4. all that food for less than P200?!!! dami pang lechon…yum.

    i laughed when i saw the chickens–they look scrawny although i’m sure masarap.

  5. Haaay, MM!

    To heck with Hypertension! I am salivating really bad with this new post!

    I hope Chef Tony’s visit here would only be the first of many, many more!

    Kudos again on the No Reservations experience!

  6. MM, Your Lola must really be watching over you. I’ve gone to Talisay on several Sundays for Lechon and consilva and always luck out on the latter.

  7. danggggggggggggggggggg…… its too cold for me to make my lechon…… i can only drool till next summer.

  8. Oh MM, you’re so cruel! :-) Now I’m salivating for lechon and am looking for places where I can have some right this minute.

  9. I’d take the consilva over the lechon. Lola used to send someone to Talisay to buy the consilva on Saturday morning in a gallon tin. I’m glad to see Cebuanos are still feasting on Sunday.

  10. MM, you must have the metabolism of Michael Phelps! How else would you explain looking fit and trim (in white pants pa mandin!) in spite of all the pork you’ve consumed, are consuming, and will continue to consume?!?! Not fair for folks like me who gain weight merely by smelling food. :-)

  11. MM, the first time i brought home Lechong Cebu to my Northern-bred mom and tita, they loudly complained that I forgot the “sarsa”. It took a while to explain that the wonderful flavors need only vinegar (with onions and sili).

    My Cebuano friends had a laugh at my expense the first time i tried the local dinuguan. Somehow, the reddish color made all the difference whether i consumed it or not. (i haven’t to this day :) )

  12. Hi MM,

    Goood day to you. I understand Cebu provides the best lechon in the Visayas area. But since I stay in Makati, it might be hard for me to get Cebu lechon to be delivered the same day.

    Would you recommend any lechon outlets in Manila where I can get the lechon with the same taste and also affordable?

    Many thanks,

  13. I never realized that eating lechon on a Sunday was such a Cebuano thing to do, and am glad that Cebuanos are still at it. We always bought a kilo or two at the neighborhood lechon stall after hearing mass at Sacred Heart Parish. Mom usually got the “tiyan” with ribs.

    I’m glad we can still regularly feast on Cebuano lechon here in Manila, courtesy of Ulcing’s Lechon – their pigs are especially shipped from Cebu (the proprietress’ mother also makes(?) lechon in Talisay) and are butchered and cooked here. They sell lechon out of their house in JUSMAG Fort Bonifacio, but I think they have a new stall somewhere along Bayani Road.

  14. waaaahhhh now i miss cebu really…gossh…since the lechon festival started i havent had the chance to be there and to think im from talisay.

    you are so right Mr MM, Sunday lunch for Cebuanos always comprises of lechon, grilled fish and some side dishes. years before, we just go the beachfront and eat our lunches there.

    oh dear! in less than two months i will be really really home!

    thanks for this post Mr. MM…somehow, this has been a confirmation of our decision to go home for the holidays!

  15. oh btw, you should have tried kay ken’s in tabunok, they’re the recent favorite of the family. but if we order for the whole lechon, we go to vising’s lechon in san isidro, talisay. you can ask them to cook dugo dugo or have the raw intestines delivered same time as the lechon.

  16. This post is making me hungry.

    When my dad was assigned in Cebu and couldn’t come home to Manila for special occasions, he would send over a whole lechon via PAL. Of course that didn’t make up for his absence but the lechon sure made everyone happy!

  17. oh my—what a treat!!!!!!!!! now we get the story a la Market Man. am eagerly waiting for the next a harry potter fan waiting for the next book………

    thanks, MM! i will be home in 3 months. i’ll definitely visit cebu.

  18. being a bisdak (translated as “bisayang-dako” or slang for cebu-born and grown) myself i truly miss all that MM featured on this post. not only the lechon but also the sea cucumber, guso, puso or hanging rice including the places. im from talisay so everything that MM mentioned here sound so familiar and so nakaka-miss. i wish i was home….like, right now :-( Im so proud they chose Cebu as the venue for the “No Reservations” and also for the eye-ball.

  19. how come I never go to talisay on Sunday mornings?! We either sleep in or head off to liloan’s bistro acacia. It’s the huge acacias outside the church where all the lechons and sinugbas are on Sunday mornings. But we have to give talisay a try.

  20. Longest picture and post ever Mr.MM. Did you get your energy and enthusiasm from Anthony Bourdain?? Must have.

  21. What a heavenly place!!! I would definitely be over the moon walking around a place like this! I want to reach into the screen and grab me a handful of that lechon…and believe me, I have no qualms whatsover eating lechon straight from the pole with no kubiertos! Somebody would definitely have to tie my hands if I had to walk down that road with the lechons unscathed…

    The intestines on a stick sound good too :)

  22. MM, I will definitely visit Cebu with my family on my annual trip to the Philippines next year.
    Will visit Talisay among others.
    Can you recommend a nice place to stay – middle of the range hotel as I have lots of family back in the North who are very enthusiastic about Cebu.

  23. “de-bamboo-polated”….hmmm…word of the century :-) this post is definitely the appetizer for the EB (as if we needed any, haha). that last photo is just so mean-looking…aaarrrrghh!!!

  24. Wow! I love anything inasal! I enjoy cebu lechon (not just on sundays). hay!!! I can’t wait for tony’s show ah, or maybe a blog from him.

  25. MM, i just remembered..there’s another type of lechon called “chinese lechon”, and aside from the usual seasonings and spices, it has i think, salted black beans, star anise, 5-spice powder, and i don’t know what else. i remember they used to sell it at rosita’s in fuente osmena, two lechons side by side, one labelled “lechon cebu” and the other, “chinese style”. ever tried it?

  26. Hey Mr. Marketman, OMG i am a big fan of LECHON and the biggest fan of ANTHONY BOURDAIN!!!YOU ARE DARN lucky to be with the ultimate gourmet traveler! would you know when he’ll be back in Manila? i am just so desperate to see him. I am hoping that he’ll be @ fully booked BHS for Bobby Chinn’s book launch.
    anyhoo….i’ll be watching out for this episode i bet this will be a really good one!

  27. I’ve experienced all you talked about in this entry when my Cebu-based cousins brought me to Talisay one Sunday morning. We spent a lot of time going around the stalls and checking out the food. We were even allowed to taste the Lechon from different stalls before we decided on where to finally buy. Now, whenever I find myself in Cebu on a Sunday I beg my cousins to take me to Talisay!

  28. i’m teary-eyed. my dad used to buy lechon for sunday lunches too. lechon connoisseur, what do you think of the s&r lechon cebu? is it worth the fat and calories? i feel like running over right now to get some.

  29. Wow grabe, what an orgasmic feast! I’m from Cebu and never knew all these were being sold in Talisay. The range of salads is amazing! Thanks for writing about this.

  30. this is my childhood right here….haven’t been to Talisay in 30 yrs. thank you for bringing back those wonderful memories… :-)

  31. Marketman! make us Cebuanos proud! I can’t wait for the no reservations episode. I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome one. Just one step closer for Filipino cuisine to step out into the forefront.

    This post definitely reminds me of my childhood. Every Sunday we would go to my grandparent’s in Talisay to have lunch and with no fail there would be lechon, dinuguan and ginabot. Thanks for that walk through memory lane :)

  32. What an incredible foodocumentary! This post alone would merit a chapter in Anthony Bourdain’s book. A pig lover would start salivating seeing these photos. Well done! Congratulations!

    Btw, was it a surrealistic attempt, the photo with the roasted intestines and a nail in the background?


  33. Sister…yes, I too will take the consilva over the lechon. Consilva with Coke was our merienda at the beach house in Talisay every Sunday decades ago.

    I know where I will have lunch this Sunday!!

  34. allright, that’s it! I am definitely heading straight to cebu when I get to the philippines in a couple of weeks!

  35. seeing all these….wow!! i need to re-route our travel plans to PI next year. i will make sure that we visit Cebu. this is really lechon/pork-heaven!!

  36. Hello Marketman,

    Boy o boy I could barely type my on my keyboard. It’s starting to put the “TL” effect (Tulo Laway)on me. Your blog is making want to take a trip to the Philippines. That looks so delicious. Thanks Marketman.


  37. Lechon Cebu is really the best!! Really good even without anything!! And MM–am a salad lover!! All those salads–locally prepared!! They look so good………

  38. cant wait for your post about you Anthony Bourdain encounter…….give him the best lechon ever!!!!! Happy eating marketman.

  39. Note to self: Don’t open close to lunch time. End note. Oooooh… the chicharon bulaklak! all those inasal are just mouth-watering!

  40. hmmm…will definitely drop by Talisay tomorrow after we visit my father in Toledo… i miss those assorted kinilaw paired with boiled camote…there’s also plenty of lechon stalls on sundays here in Mandaue…

  41. Ahhh consilva and camote chips yum. I’m like sister, I miss those more than lechon but only because we can get lechon cebu style here in NY.

  42. Yipee, just found out that a chinese owned (but manned by a Filipino) eatery sells Cebu lechon (sold by pounds) during weekend. Its just 30 mins. drive from my house, so I am going this Saturday. Mag-dadala na rin ako ng bottled sauce, at kung meron silang kanin, ehehhe sa kotse na ako kakain. Ako lang, kasi ang dalawa kong sister, ayaw dahil cholesterol daw. Ay naku, ewan ko sa kanila.

    I am coming home to Pinas next year and aside from Quezon Province (where I am having a children’s clowning ministry), I was wondering where to take my staff… well.. kwentahin ko kung kaya ng budget ko na pumunta ng Cebu, if not, baka kaming apat na mag-pinsan ang pumunta. And I am going to eat, eat, eat, eat. hehehhe. Thanks MM

  43. MM, I just noticed in one of the pics, the unripe langka with the coconut dressing. Do you have recipe for it? have you tried doing it before. Interested ako kasi tuwing umuuwi ako for my annual trip in Pinas (to Quezon province), laging hindi pa hinog yung mga langka sa farm. And I wanted so much to eat some of harvest of my Nanay’s bukid (parang naalala ko siya). So pakisuyo if anybody wants to share with me how to cook this langka salad. Thanks.

  44. Gimingaw uruy ko sa Cebu da….we too used to buy our lechon in Talisay after church, then we’d proceed to my Lolo’s beachfront house in Naga for lunch. Lechon with puso, guso and lato! Yummm….

  45. Those pictures make me want to go home. I am sure adding Cebu in our yearly visit to the Philippines sure makes it BONGGA!I am so happy that No Reservation chose you as their host . I am sure that you will not disappoint us.I have seen Howie Mendez,and Mr. Simmermann portraying our country and I was not impressed.

  46. mm, i miss kilo cebu lechon. Can i copy paste this last pic in your post and put in my facebook? I want everyone in my friends’ list to drool and salivate to the max. My friends know me as the lechonaholic. Have fun on your lechon EB. I sure wish i was a part of it, hu hu hu

  47. Hi MM, stumbled on this site a week ago and have been frequenting it a lot. I am a pure blooded Cebuano, but have been living in Manila for the past 8 years. I’m a bachelor and didn’t have a knack for cooking until recently that’s why I’ve been scouring the net for recipes.

    You should try Allejos Lechon which is also in Labangon, I think Katipunan area. The best Lechon there is. They have a technique of getting spices infused into every part of the pig, even the thick thighs. It is really worth the time to drop by their place.

    Speaking of Punta Princesa, there’s a place there (think in the marketplace) that sells “tungol”, I think it’s breaded stomach or something of the pig. Great with vinegar, garlic and sili labuyo, and puso of course.

    I read somewhere here of another person eating Lechon only with vinegar, that is the same I guess for every Cebuano, even my eight years in Manila hasn’t changed that.

    Thanks for the great site, great reading, great recipes for the ordinary Juan like myself. Can’t wait for “No Reservations” Philippine episode either…

  48. yes mm, don’t worry it’s only for my personal use in my facebook and friendster. Thanks again mm. the photo was just too good to pass up for copy and paste and browse thru food pics folder everytime i’m in my pinoy food depression phase. thanks again.

  49. good that my morning banana diet could allow me to “pig-out” and this halad-inasal is definitely worth it. btw, is that mila’s the same with mila’s lechon in manila?

  50. Hey Ms. EbbaMyra: ..Though I am not from Bicol, I just love anything with langka and gata…ulam or sweets, I am not picky!!! I sometimes have a craving for these things , so I head out to Vancouver to satisfy my craving BUT I always come home TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED…I am after a certain taste and most of these places do not come close to the taste I am after. So I said to myself, how hard can making this langka salad be…Anyway, here is what I have been doing for so long. Try this: I think you will like it… I don’t have a clue to how big your Nanay’s langka is…So I’d say maybe about 4 to 6 cups, sliced unripe langka…Put this in a kettle and add water and about 1 tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. vinegar. Boil this until tender. Watch it though…you do not want it to turn to MUSH!!!. Then drain and cool thoroughly. Put in a bowl and add about 1 small knb of ginger (just give it a good whack squeeze it to get the ginger juice!)…Add 1 large tomato, coarsely chopped or 1 sweet red pepper chopped (use either tomato or pepper. I just add this for color!)…about 2 tbsp. choppped green onion. Season with patis, a little salt, and 2 to 3 tbsp. vinegr and a pinch of sugar. Toss this together. Then lastly add about 3/4 cup to 1 cup cacang gata. If you want a bit of bite, add some chopped jalapeno ( I just use the pickled hot banana peppers).

    If you want this as ULAM though, then maga gisa ka ng garlic, onions and pork and shrimps. When they are all nice and happy and flavourful, add your langka and cook it until done. Lastly add the gata! Hay, ka sarap!…But watch your cholesterol though….it is MAKANIN!!!!

  51. even with a half body pic MM looks …. :)

    was just in cebu… MM should try Abaca Restaurant in Mactan :)

  52. Makes me really homesick! I’ve neer been to Cebu, planned to but neveer materialized. I’ll make sure next year, I’ll be there for sure even if I don’t know anyone in Cebu.
    I wish there will be more postings like this for other parts of the country. Great article! Thanks.

  53. im not sure if someone already mentioned it here but the best about cebu lechon is that you don’t need mang tomas sarsa (and they dont even have it)… if i remember it correctly, my fave lechon in cebu is CT lechon

  54. way back in college, a friend hosted a party where they served lechon. the unique thing about it was that the lechon skin was left whole and intact but a slit at the back where you pick the chopped up lechon meat. the skin served as the vessel for the meat. unfortunately, i didnt get to know where the lechon came from nor locate the friend and ask her.

    there was also this lechon stand across the sta cruz church in laguna. it was also unique in a sense that the lechon, even late in the afternoon still had crunchy skin, but very fatty underskin.i was told by the stall owner this lechon was not cooked the usual as in impaled with a pole and roasted over coal. instead, the pig was slit open, marinated, then laid over a thick sheet of iron, then covered with another iron sheet or what she called plantsa. then i dont remember if its baked or placed over coal until its done. i asked how they served the lechon whole. in a big bilao, they arranged the neatly chopped meat in concentric circles with the head at the center. never got to see ith served that way, though. the last time i went there five years ago, the owner’s dead (bless his soul) and the stall’s gone.

  55. Oh my goodness!!! I saw your appearance at the “NO RESERVATION” of Anthony Bourdain…that lechon is awesome!!…me and my husband wants to go and visit Philippines for vacation…what i want to know if you can send me information about this Milas Lechon place in cebu…and that dried fish market that You and Tony Bourdain visited…now that i know this website…i will be visiting more frequently…

    All the best to you Marketman,

    Dessa g.

  56. hi MM. is it only on sundays that they offer such a feast? i’m going to cebu tomorrow but may not have time on sunday. can i just take a jeep going to talisay or i need to get a cab? thanks man! you’re the man!!!

  57. I have to say I’ve been in food heaven the last few days reading back and forth through your site. I’ve been spending about an hour a day reading, then I go cook and eat! Such food porn!

    Thank you!

  58. I just want to apologize for using the term “food porn’, as I actually dislike that term and it may offend some. It’s just that food sometimes brings out that raw and primordial sense in me. Eloquent and entertaining writing, MM!

  59. my eyes feasted over to what i saw. those salad are amazing but the star of the show syempre is the lechon. but what is the difference between a bacolod and a cebu lechon ? i love grilled sea food. i ratd this segment 9.0 MMMMMMMMM. you rock me to the core market man…ila

  60. I so miss cebu after reading this..the best memory i have of Cebu is eating fresh grilled fish on the beach together with bat, guso and lukot on the side…makes me wish i were back in Cebu….



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