LAGUNA | Liliw Food Finds


Inside Arabela Restaurant | Liliw, Laguna
I went to Liliw with quite an itinerary: to witness the Tsinelas Festival, have my history and culture fix with the centuries-old Liliw Church, and go hunting for a handful of well-designed and best priced slippers for the family back home. The quaint town is popular for its charming red church, the vibrant festival held annually, and the thriving footwear industry. But there's more to what I found: Liliw's food scene!
Inside Arabela Restaurant | Liliw, Laguna
Inside Arabela Restaurant

Arabela's Italian deli, coffee, and sweets

Quite a popular diner in town, google for Liliw's "where-to-eat" and Arabela would certainly pop up on the list. The owners established the restaurant-cum-coffee-shop named after their daughters Ara and Bela in 2003. What started from just two tables (where pasta and pastries were put atop for their buyers within the neighborhood) is now a thriving food stop housed in a former silong (basement used as storage) of an early era abode, serving Italian delicacies like pasta and pizza, coffee, cakes and other pastries.
Arabela's seafood marinara
Arabela's seafood marinara

Arabela is located at 503 Plaza Rizal Street. Prices range from PHP 100-800.


Uraro, Liliw's pasalubong specialty

Bite-size, flower-shaped cookies wrapped in papel-de-hapon, Liliw's uraro is the town's staple pasalubong. The delicate and powdery cookies made from arrowroot flour (hence known as arrowroot cookies) are sold along a variety of small biscuits and chips at an alley that serves as the town's pasalubong center.
Liliw's pasalubong center
Liliw's pasalubong center


Streetwise: Pako, crablets, and suso

What were often found being vended in wet market stalls or along market's bustling lanes were being sold in Liliw along a street that's even distant from the town's public market. In Liliw's pasalubong alley, next to the biscuits and chips, one can find pako (fiddlehead fern) and live crablets and suso (snails). Bringing home these three raw deli could mean a crispy deep-fried partner for your beer, a healthy salad, and a hearty ginataan (cooked in coconut milk) dish.
Pako (fiddlehead fern)
Live suso (snail)
Crablets

Pako costs PHP 50 per bundle; suso and crablets costs around PHP 80-100 per kilo.


Appetizing sinantolan et al.

Grated santol (cotton fruit) cooked in bagoong (shrimp paste) and gata (coconut milk), sinantolan or ginataang santol is new to my palate. I got a free taste when I passed by this vendor who was filling food jars with his freshly cooked dish. Sinantolan would be a great siding for rice meal with steamy soup or grilled dishes.
Freshly cooked ginataang santol
Freshly cooked ginataang santol

Apart from sinantolan, one will find an array of appetizing pickled fruits and vegetables (atsara) like pickled green papaya, ampalaya (bitter gourd), and singkamas (Mexican turnip).
Atsara variety
Atsara variety

These food preserves costs around PHP 50-80 per jar.


Lipote-flavored lambanog

Aside from tsinelas and uraro, Liliw is also home to lambanog (Philippine coconut vodka) processing industry. As I stroll around downtown, I found an ambulant vendor selling this local spirit in lipote (Jambolan plum) flavor. Taste is similar to the fruit wines you can purchase in Baguio City.
Lipote-flavored lambanog
Lipote-flavored lambanog
Lipote fruit up close
Lipote fruit up close


Food overload during Tsinelas Festival

Downtown Liliw transforms into a food park under the sun during its week-long Tsinelas Festival. A great deal of food and refreshment stalls fill the town's main roadway and alleys offering almost anything you can think of munching on while immersing in town's festivity.
One of Liliw's food alley during the Tsinelas Festival
One of Liliw's food alley during the Tsinelas Festival

When in Liliw, one won't run out of choice on what to bring home or when the hours-long tsinelas shopping takes its toll on one's tummy.


Getting there (from Manila via Sta. Cruz, Laguna):

  • Bus from Alabang (at South Station); Fare: PHP 80-90 or
  • Bus from Cubao (HM Transport Inc.); Fare: PHP 140 or
  • Bus from Buendia (DLTB Co.); Fare: PHP 140
  • At Sta. Cruz, take a jeep with "Liliw-Nagcarlan" signboard; Fare: PHP 30


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