Chef Niko Santiago during his culinary demo of their family’s generations of native Bulacan cuisine Hamon Bulakenya and pinaso desert. Photo by Anton Luis R. Catindig

CITY OF BALIWAG—“Hamon Bulakenya,” and “pinaso,” two of the native and distinct cuisine prepared and cooked by renowned family of food historians and heritage icons through generations were among the highlights in this year’s 2023 Sining Kalinangan ng Bulacan (Singkaban) Festival “Kalutong Bulakenyo” culinary show held at SM Baliwag on Friday. 

Themed as “Likas na Yaman, Kasaysayan at Kultura, Pangalagaan ating Pamana,” Chef Niko Santiago demonstrated and shared the secret recipe for Hamon Bulakenya as one of the best special dishes for Christmas and the pinaso, a home-made caramelized yema-bread desert.

Santiago, 39, is already a member of the third generation of Bulacan culinary experts. He is the nephew of Bulacan’s famous second generation food and heritage icon Rheeza Santiago Hernandez who died last year. Rheeza is the niece of late food historian Mila Santiago Enriquez who died in 2008.

City of Baliwag Vice Mayor Cecile Quimpo (center) graced the SM Baliwag 2023 Singkaban Kalutong Bulakenyo “Bestival” event with Chef Niko Santiago beside her with SM Baliwag mall officials and National University heads and students. Photo by Anton Luis Catindig

Hamon Bulakenya is served more today in Bulaken’s feasts and tables after Rgeeza immortalized it as a legacy of her aunt.

The menu was also a “victory dish” of Filiipino revolutionaries under Lt. Col. Gregorio Del Pilar on June 24, 1898 after his troops won a battle in Bulakan town.  Since then, based on what Rheeza learned from her aunt, the menu has become the favorite dish of rich families in Bulakan town and in Malolos. 

But for the past years, the Hamon Bulakenya has already been cooked by many people on special occasions. 

Santiago, who is a chef at Bistro Malolenyo restaurant in this city shared the family and Bulacan’s native cuisine to hospitality and culinary students of National University whose campus is located at SM Baliwag mall. 

“I hope that you enjoyed learning the preparations and how to cook our very own Hamon Bulakenya. This is our province specialty passed through generations,” he addressed the students. 

In addition, SM City Marilao, SM Center Pulilan, and SM City Baliwag lauded Bulacan artistry as the malls hosted art workshops and exhibits.

In SM City Marilao, a large gathering of notable artists was held through the ReGeneration Travelling Art Exhibit.

 The exhibition, graced by multi-media visual artist Toym Imao, has been organized by the Mandala Art Festival in partnership with SM Supermalls. 

Featuring the exceptional creations of 25 Bulakenyo artists, every artwork on display represents a unique vision and interpretation of the world, delving into topics of resilience and hope while offering renewed perspectives on life and communal growth. On this rare occasion, art lovers and enthusiasts came together to celebrate the beauty and power of art, while visitors had the unique opportunity to engage with the artwork, learn about the artists’ creative process, and gain insights into the stories behind each piece.

SM Center Pulilan, on the other hand, immortalized the treasured art of Pagpupuni, or leaf fronds folding, through a workshop participated by selected students in Bulacan under the mentorship of Ms. Marichelle Santos, a puni art advocate from Malolos. More than the artistic training it imparted among the students, the workshop is positioned to introduce Bulacan’s pagpupuni as a resurrected art that needs to be rediscovered, more importantly, by the younger generation.

Meanwhile, SM City Baliwag pays tribute to the city’s famous icon through the engaging Design Your Buntal Hat activity. Students from Baliwag South Central School unleash their creativity by designing buntal hats with the guidance of skilled artists from the renowned team of Guhit Pinas-Bulacan.

Capping off the celebration, SM City Baliwag, SM City Marilao, and SM Center Pulilan brought Singkaban festivity to the mall with a street dance parade and cultural performances by some of the finest groups of artists in Bulacan.