Victorino’s: A taste of Vigan, Ilocos Sur in Quezon City

By George M. Hizon

Victorino-Ilocano-Restaurant        The city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur is the oldest and best-preserved example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia. Famous with its cobblestone streets and Spanish-era architectures like the Vigan Cathedral and Plaza Salcedo, the city exudes a unique European atmosphere. Add to this, the calesa horse-drawn carriages that still meander through Vigan’s streets, one is quickly reminded of the colonial days when Spain ruled our country for more than 350 years.

Vigan, however, is not only famous for its historic landmarks, but also for its exotic delicacies- it is what I may call a combination of Spanish cuisine and indigenous Ilocano recipes. One such delicacy that is now very popular in Metro Manila is called the Vigan Empanada, which is also called the Empanada ti Ilocos.

Empanada ti Ilocos

This set-up shop was the first one to serve the Vigan Empanada in Metro Manila.

This set-up shop was the first one to serve the Vigan Empanada in Metro Manila.

In Metro Manila, the Vigan Empanada had its humble beginnings sometime in the early 1990’s in the quiet street of Scout Rallos, Quezon City. It was a set-up shop and it had a big, painted sign “Empanada ti Ilocos” which literally means Empanada from Ilocos. In a few years, the Vigan Empanada would become very popular, but it will be known with a different name- Empanada ti Ilocos, the name of the store that first served this delicacy in Metro Manila. The store’s owners are Virginia “Queenie” Savellano-Paras and her brother, Deogracias “DV” Savellano. A few years later, DV would become the Governor of Ilocos Sur. To most of their friends, DV is fondly called Gov DV while Queenie is called Manay Queenie.

Victorino’s

         DV Savellano would serve as the Governor of Ilocos Sur from the years 2001-2009. From the year 2009 up to present, he would serve as Vice-Governor. All throughout his political career, Gov DV dreamt of showcasing the beauty of Ilocos Sur in Metro Manila. So one day, Gov DV asked Queenie “maybe we should come up with a really good Ilocano restaurant here in Quezon City”? Queenie affrimatively answered “yes”. On March, 2013 this dream of theirs finally came through when Gov DV, Queenie and their family friend Chef Heny Sison inaugurated a fine dining restaurant in Scout Rallos, Quezon City. It was named Victorino’s in honor of their late father, Judge Victorino Savellano of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. The restaurant is just a stone’s throw away from the now famous set-up shop Empanada ti Ilocos. Interestingly, this set-up shop is still serving the Vigan Empanada for more than 2 decades now.

Poqui-poqui, Dinengdeng, Warek-warek and Lomo-lomo

Ilocano delicacy

Ilocano delicacy

Victorino’s serves exquisite Ilocano dishes like the Poqui-poqui, Dinengdeng, Warek-warek and Lomo-lomo. They may sound strange and a bit funny to most non-Ilocanos who haven’t tried them. But to those who have tried them like me, they are exquisite! Warek-warek is probably the most familiar because it resembles the Sisig, a very tasty Filipino dish which was introduced by the Kapangpangans in 1974. The Sisig uses grilled pork ears with liver mixed with onion and vinegar while the Warek-warek uses pork cheeks instead of pork ears. The Dinengdeng, on the other hand, is bagoong based vegetable stew topped with grilled Tilapia. While Poqui-poqui, is the Ilocano version of the eggplant omelette. Another Ilocano dish that is worth trying is the Lomo-lomo, or lumo-lumo. This is a soup and an entrée all at once. It is made of pork, and other internal organs of the pig and is good to eat with either Ilocano or white rice.

Kare-kare, Bagnet and Pakbet

The Bagnet and the Vigan Longganisa

The Bagnet and the Vigan Longganisa

For the less adventurous, they could try the ever-present Kare-kare. So why is it ever-present? Because Kare-kare could be found in every Philippine regional cuisine, be it Kapangpangan, Tagalog, Ilocano, etc. It was also the first dish that we ordered when I and my family dined at Victorino’s about two weeks ago. After the meal, I asked my daughter Isabella “how was the Kare-kare and does it have a difference with the ones we order at that other popular restaurant? She answered me, “ït was great but if you ask me if there is a difference, I have to answer no. They all taste good, here or in that other famous Kapangpangan or Tagalog restaurant”.

But anyway, the earliest recorded Ilocano restaurant that served good Kare-kare was in 1927. Called Karihan Luvimin, it was located at 149 Yamasitacho, Yokohama, Japan.  It was owned by national hero Artemio Ricarte and his wife, when they were living in exile in Japan.

Other familiar Ilocano dishes served at Victorino’s are the Bagnet and the Pakbet. We could compare the Bagnet to the Tagalog’s Lechon Kawali since both are crispy fried pork bellies. But the difference lies in the Bagnet’s preparation which, I should say is very cumbersome. First, the pork belly is boiled in seasoned liquid and then hung to dry for 24 hours. Later, it will be fried as a whole and then cut up into smaller pieces and then, fried again. This way, the outer part will become crispy but the meat inside will remain tender and moist. Locals sprinkle water into the oil during frying. They say the process creates blisters so the skin will pop.

The Ilocano Pakbet or Pinakbet, on the other hand, is comparable to the Tagalog Pakbet or the Kapangpangan Pakbet. But the only difference is that, the Ilocano Pakbet has a much redder color compared to the other two. If you ask me which is the best among the three, I leave it for the reader to decide.

Chef Heny Sison’s Cakes 

One should not leave the restaurant without tasting Chef Heny Sison’s signature cakes. They are the Cashew SansrivalStrawberry ShortcakeMango Chocolate Torte, Red Velvet Cake, Mango Cheesecake, New York Cheescake, Rustic French Apple Pie and the Old-fashioned Chocolate Cake, etc. But, if there is one cake that I could call my favorite, it is the Lemon Shortcake. And, don’t forget the colorful Caramelized Yemas!

A taste of Vigan, Ilocos Sur in Quezon City

Author's family with one of Victorino's owners, former Ilocos Sur Governor DV Savellano.

Author’s family with one of Victorino’s owners, former Ilocos Sur Governor DV Savellano.

The construction of the place was a very tedious one since they had to make an old Quezon City house (1947) look like an authentic Vigan home. Most materials used had to be hauled from Vigan, Ilocos Sur all the way to Quezon City. They are the old railroad wood called theTraviesa, old wooden doors (1920’s), old Yakal and Molave wood, old Chinese granite slabs called the Piedra China, old Spanish iron grills and colorful Spanish tiles. Furnitures also had to be hauled in. They are the intricately carved Ilocos cabinets (1920’s), antique Vigan tables and chairs, Chinese porcelain plates (Ming Dynasty), old Ilocos clay vases, Batibot chairs, unique Ilocano bottles, among others. Construction was completed in mid-February, 2013. And, what do we have? An old Spanish-designed Vigan home located in the heart of Quezon City. Without the signs, one wouldn’t think that this place is a restaurant.

        Lately, Victorino’s has been frequented by Quezon City bigshots Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. and Mayor Herbert Bautista. Well, this does not come as a surprise to me. From their bailiwick here in Quezon City, they need not travel 399 kilometers away to taste, feel and to see what the beautiful city of Vigan has to offer.

MORE PHOTOS >>  Victorino’s: A taste of Vigan, Ilocos Sur in Quezon City


2 Responses. Have your say.

  1. George Hizon says:

    Victorino’s is located at Scout Rallos corner 11th Jamboree st., Quezon City.(0917) 833-4148

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