Talisay lechon

Visiting a lechon roaster in Talisay

Rose adroitly stuff garlic into the pig's hollow cavity

Rose adroitly stuff garlic into the pig’s hollow cavity

Smoke rose up the roof as the Leslie lechon spit had two pigs skewered with long bamboo poles over a pile of embers. For the past one and a half hour, Rose Enjambre-Inoc, 55 years old, seated at a low stool adroitly manipulated the poles, turning these to the left for a couple of minutes, then to the right.

She’s a veteran in Talisay City’s lechon industry, having gained a solid 40 year experience working first with the city’s  premier manginasalay (literally, roaster) and acknowledged mother of the city’s lechon industry, Nanay Sana, and now  with her daughter-in-law, Leslie.

The spit is then stacked with wood and lit.

The spit is then stacked with wood and lit.

Despite what other places claim, Talisay City has long been known as having the best roasted pig: the succulent yet crispy skin, the supple yet flavorful meat has put the city in the gastronomic map that it’s no surprise her lechon can travel from spit to airport to Metro Manila in a few hours to be consumed at a party.

The Talisay City lechon industry started with Susana Enjambre or Nanay Sana as she was fondly called, when in the 1940s started selling at Maroca, a popular swimming pool.

Rose Enjambre-Inoc, 55 years old has worked for the past 40 years roasting lechon and has supported her family thru this business

Rose Enjambre-Inoc, 55 years old has worked for the past 40 years roasting lechon and has supported her family thru this business

In the 1950s, she transferred selling at another popular swimming pool owned by Nang Empin Fernandez, while her daughter Dulce and daughter-in-law Berta started selling near the Yarrow Beach Resort. The latter is still the best place to buy lechon in the city during weekends and Sundays, even if Yarrow is only a memory.

Ang maayo pang lechon ay ang native nga baboy gyud, (Native pigs are the best pigs to roast) Leslie avers. She sources her animals from various contacts and markets in southern Negros Oriental. During December, the peak season for lechon, they can have as much as 80 or more pigs roasting per day with these placed on motorized roasters because of the volume.

Sangke (star anise) gives flavor and a wonderful aroma on the lechon

Sanke (star anise) gives flavor and a wonderful aroma on the lechon

Simple ra man ang pag andam sa baboy, (Preparing the pig for roasting is just simple) Rose says, after adeptly cleaning from head to foot and removing the insides of the typically 15 kilo animal, leaving a hollow cavity.

After the bamboo poles are passed through, she prepares the pigs for seasoning. With just a few ingredients: salt, garlic and sangke (star anise), she then lavishly spread these inside the cavity. Ayaw pud daghana ang asin kay mo parat ra kaayo ang lechon (Don’t put too much salt or the saltiness will overpower the flavor of the lechon) she advises. She then sews shut the belly slit and then pours soy sauce over.

For a 15 kilo pig, it takes 1.5 hours to roast

For a 15 kilo pig, it takes 1.5 hours to roast

After almost two hours now, the skin of the two roast pigs have turned into that familiar dark red color that many Pinoys go gaga over. After making a few twists and turns, expertly inspecting every inch, Rose smiled. Luto na! (It’s done!). By then, it will be hauled off the spit, the poles removed, packaged and sent off to a party somewhere.

The lechon business in Talisay City has come a long way. From the humble beginnings of Nanay Sana, its now a fully fledged business carried on by her children, in-laws and grand children not only in Talisay, of which Leslie’s Lechon is known, but reaching as far as Manila. Other manginasalays in the city learned the business from Nanay Sana too while new ones continue to carry the name of Talisay as the best place for lechon.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.