PULILAN, Bulacan–Farmers in this rice, vegetable, poultry and hog producing town who have their carabaos kneel in front of the parish church during annual May 14 Feast of San Isidro Labrador also serve their best produce “gatas ng kalabaw” in their unique and distinct Pinoy’s halo-halo.
“Carinderia ni Ka Enteng,” owned and managed by Vicente Esguerra, a farmer who raise organic poultry animals, plant organic vegetables, took a degree in veterinary medicine and studied culinary courses to become a chef offers local halo-halo with best creamier “gatas ng kalabaw” giving the favorite Filipino desert its own different version.
It was not until summer of 2018 when the overload halo-halo was first introduced by Esguerra after people coming to his then simple carinderia long for more taste and creaminess. Part of the levelled up halo-halo was then the use of fresh carabao’s milk instead of the commercial evaporated milk.
Almost all of the 29 villages of Pulilan are rice farms with carabaos for milk production, a regular daily source of fresh carabao:s milk.
Noel Mauricio, president of Pulilan Farmers Association said the fresh carabao’s milk remains very in demand in the market and many of them earns huge from this backyard industry. A bottle of the milk has a P40.00 farm gate price and is sold at P50-P60 in public markets.
But Esguerra said, because of the great demand for fresh milk, there are times there was none left for their halo-halo and there were times they have no fresh milk for their famous desert.
However, the halo-halo has other specialty–its turon toppings. The long, crunchy turon made Carinderia ni Ka Enteng halo-halo an overload and instagrammable for everyone’s excitement and delight.
Esguerra conceptualized putting cheese and ube turon as toppings for as another unique and all original Pinoy taste with the native ingredients–saging, kamote, sago, beans, leche flan, nata de coco and gulaman.
Not only that the restaurant serves best Pinoy summer quencher, but also the comfort food lugaw tokwa baboy (LTB), goto and arrozcaldo for rainy days. For all time merienda lovers, these are served everyday, 24 hours.
The porridge and congee made from organic ginger and herbs are also served 24 hours.
On top of these meriendas are about thirty best seller native dishes–crispy dinuguan, crispy kare-kare, bistek Tagalog, pakbet, pritong bangus, fried, adobo, kalderetang itik, sinigang na pink salmon head, etc.
Carinderia ni Enteng, named after Vic’s father then Pulilan Mayor Vicente “Enteng” Esguerra, a farmer himself was put up by Vic in December 2017, after he had just finished his culinary and pastry studies.
Raised by a farmer father and a plain housewife mother, Vic wasa chemical engineering student who grew in his father’s dogma that being a farmer, living in the farm and working there under the sun all day is unbearable. He was discouraged to follow the path of being a farmer to become a degree holder someday, a professional and not just be another farmer in their family.
“Lumaki kaming magkakapatid sa bukid. Dinadala kami lagi ni Tatay pero di niya kami tinuturuan kasi ayaw niya kaming magsaka, gusto nila makatapos kami ng kolehiyo, tulad ko, gusto niya maging inhinyero ako. Parang ginawang panakot ng tatay at nanay namin ang pagiging mahirap at pagiging magsasaka. Nakita ninyo mahirap ang magsaka at maging magbubukid, maghapon nakabilad sa araw, kaya mag-aral kayong mabuti,” his fathers constant reminder to him.
When their poultry and native pig and vegetable farm grew bigger and bigger, from being a chemical engineering student, he shifted to agriculture major in animal science and his interest in growing organic animals and vegetables further developed. After he graduated and worked in a feed mill mix, he witnessed how unhealthy the feed mix could be for animals.
He then intensified breeding his own ducks and native pigs and green leafy vegetables and started to serve them for their daily dishes and during family’s occasions and events. Their visitors will always praise the food he was serving and he would tell them they were organic food raised from their family’s backyard farm.
In June 2016, Vic ended his six years work in the municipal government of Pulilan as administrator. That time, his father had just finished his three term as mayor.
Recalling his first love, his life before he served in the government, he thought of going back to their family’s more than a hectare backyard farm in Barangay Tenejero and to tend to his native animals and vegetables. But, then reprieved from mountain of works as six years municipal administrator, just being a plain farmer caused Vic some psychological and emotional stress and even caused him to consult a psychiatrist
His doctor then advised him to study again so that his mind would be once more preoccupied to address the current health condition that time. He decided to take culinary and pastry courses with the idea on his mind of putting up a “farm to table” restaurant.
When he finished his months of culinary and pastry studies, his chef classmate invited him to put up a restaurant in a food park in the town. They called the restaurant, ” The Grannary Sizzling Steak”. In that same year however, the food park unfortunately stopped operation.
Vic’s staffs then, around ten of them lost their means of earning and encouraged him to put up their own new separate restaurant. That time, Vic was adamant to positively respond to them saying to himself, it will also not click in Pulilan because the town folks never patronage its own food parks and restaurants were merely just shutting down after a year or months.
“Dito sa loob ng Pulilan, sa kahabaan ng daan na ito papuntang Calumpit walang nabubay na restaurant, doon lang sa highway, sa junction. Ang mga taga Pulilan, doon kumakain iyan sa San Fernando (Pampanga), sa Baliwag o kaya luluwas sa Maynila,” he told NEWS CORE.
But then, based on persuasion by his staff, they put up Carinderia Ni Ka Enteng on December 2017 serving ordinary day to day Pinoy dishes. Since then, Pulileños fell in love with the lugaw, the lumpia, the halo-halo, the dinuguan, the bistek Tagalog, etc.
“Buhat noon, ang mga taga Pulilan ginawa na itong Pangbayang Kainan. Dito sila nagdadala ng bisita nila at dito nila ginagawa ang marami nilang occasions at dinarayo na talaga ito. All occasion all the time food ang hinahanap ng mga tao at dito nila iyon natatagpuan,” Vic claims with pride.