Traveling down the country side- north to south of Luzon alone - will give you clues about the kind of people we are. We hate uniformity, specially in our cuisine. Like how we establish personal beliefs and superstitions, you can’t stuff into our resilient palates right away what we are supposed to do. Ask the country manangs. They will treasure ancient recipes more than sophisticated, kitchen- tested inventions from a modern culinary school. Then as dialects change at every border, so do flavors… and what is most evident is the traditional country sausage, the inviolable longganisa.
Our sausages are as diverse as the 1700 islands. No two flavors are the same. Tiya Pusit’s sausage is a pepper- spice different from Tiya Maria’s skinless. And while Mrs. Banting’s pineapple- laced craft is simply irresistible, the city butcher hangs his meat garlands with so much pride you’ll be curious what is in there.
Sausages are also most likely to tell you where you are. Glance over the bus window and you know you’re in the long strip of the Quezon province when you see the dangling Lucban longganisas along the road. And in Bulacan, north of Manila, when there are the peddlers of the longganisang Baliwag. Still up north there is the Pampanga province, which has made serious meat and culinary business successfully such that their products made their way to the supermarkets and restaurants in the big city. Then in the picturesque Ilocos region is the famous longganisang Vigan, as legendary as the ultra- delicious “bagnet” (bag- net).
History, culture and the people’s essence are mixed into the bloody ground pork, each with its own proportion of salt and spice, of ingredients within reach. Indeed, no two flavors are the same. Likewise in the process of filling, curing, preserving- everything is performed with a distinct uniqueness that spell of regionalist pride and originality.
Longganisang Baliwag “Masarap!” (delicious!) “Malaman!” (meaty!) “Malinis!” (clean!) “No Sugar!” “Bawang Flavor” (garlic flavor).
Passion. Perspiration. The squeal of a hog for butchery. The sweltering kitchens. All of these are stuffed in the food that is so classic and appeals to almost every tongue- young or old, bourgeois or middle class, the pretentious and the true. Originally consumed for breakfast, but are now eaten just about anytime of the day for their flavor and ease of preparation. But nothing beats the longganisa breakfast platter: from the lady neighbor’s to the butcher’s to Lucban’s to Baliwag’s to Vigan’s- tossed into the frying pan. Best served very hot, with vinegar laden with chili and crushed garlic, super garlicky fried rice, fried eggs with just the perfect yolk, plump tomatoes, piping hot coffee with or without milk.
Some cynics blame the diet as the cause of terrible Filipino drivers’ temper on the road. There’s something in the food they eat, they say, they eat a lot of pork. I don't know if it is true. But with these country sausages, one thing I can say is, you are most likely to forget… a fraction of your sanity.