The best lechon (roast pig) in the Philippines is found in Cebu. And the best one in Cebu is traditionally from Talisay City. Twelve kilometers south of Cebu City and facing the rising sun, it is where my roots are from. My hometown. It is named after the mantalisay tree used to be abundant in the area.
Talisay City in Cebu is my home. Where its soil and once abundant waters (until lately, sourced from the aquifer of MCWD, the water district) has nurtured me. It is where I have always yearned to come back whenever I have problems or just want to rest from the weariness of my body and soul.
The recorded history of my town goes back to the beginnings of Spanish colonial rule. As early as 1589, the first recorded rebellion in Cebu happened here when land was acquired by a Spanish colonist and angered a few Cebuanos who then rebelled but were swiftly quelled, executed and their possessions sold at auction.
Eventually, it became the hacienda, estate, of the Augustinians, founders of many towns and cities across Luzon and Visayas. Its inhabitants were mostly farm hands. In the 19th century, it was one of the top sugar producers in the province during the sugar boom and because of the sizable population at that time, it became a separate parish and built its present church.
World War II has been so cruel. The Americans bombarded the poblacion that it was razed to the ground. When the dust settled, many of its heritage were gone except for the facade and remnants of the nave of the church with its unique Graeco-Roman architecture that has a few parallels around the country.
But what Talisaynons can be proud of is that it was where the American Liberation Forces under General Douglas McArthur made his landfall for the liberation of Cebu, of course, aided by the guerillas of the Cebu Area Command. There are actually three markers that commemorate these heroes: the McArthur landing with its ugly sculpture of soldiers at the beach (1st photo), the marble monument near the former municipal hall (top), many attest to this, and one near the church dedicated to the Cebuano freedom fighters.
Talisay is still popular for the best lechon in the country, whatever others say. Its the crisp red skin, the succulent meat and the subtle aroma of lemon grass at its belly. The saltiness is just right and liver sauce is alien to us. A celebration is not complete without it.
One has to eat lechon with bare hands alternated with puso, hanging rice, which is basically rice wrapped in woven coconut leaves and cooked in batches that is still being done in some tribes in Mindanao and Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.
Talisay is my hometown. Where my heart and soul is. Even if I’ve left her many decades ago, I have always heard her silent call and can’t resist to come back to her warm embrace.