by Atty. Daniel Balaoing Valdez*

Camiling is a first-class town in Western Tarlac made famous by Leonor Rivera, Carlos Romulo, Cezar Bengzon and (Gen.) Paulino Santos (the city is named after him). It started as a barrio of Paniqui (not Bayambang as earlier believed) and became a town in 1838 with the influx of immigrants from the North. That explains the dominant Ilocano dialect in a locality surrounded by Pangasinenses and Kapampangans.

Among the districts of the town proper are “Caviganan and "Cabatacan" which, as the names imply, started as small colonies of migrant Ilocanos. One of these settlers was Esteban Valdez, my father's grandfather who left San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte sometime in 1830. Today, one still hears there of ubiquitous surnames like Gorospe, Yadao, Lorenzana, Corpuz, et al. The town, by the way, has 3 Ilocano satellite municipalities - San Clemente, Mayantoc and Sta. Ignacia.

But Camiling is not only known for its illustrious sons. Part of its Ilocano heritage is a delicacy consisting of a 24-square inch parcel of fried pork known as “Camiling Chicharon” - a cousin to Vigan's "bagnet". Camilenios attest to its distinct crispiness and yummy taste re-enforced by a mouth-watering aroma. Partly soaked in Lingayen munamon bagoong, padas or armang with green mangoes, patis with calamansi or big curly native tomatoes ; vinegar con sili ; or spicy banana ketchup, the mix is irresistible. Sliced, it is ideal as pulutan finger food with wine) and as ingredient to indigenous vegetable dishes like dinengdeng, pinakbet and balatong. Health buffs have only to vary the proportions of its salty and veggie/fruit components to suit their needs.

The town's bet in the national government's one-town-one-product (OTOP) project, this endemic food favorite has enjoyed almost 2 centuries of consumer acceptance . Actually, its marketability is enhanced by its nearness to Metro Manila. But it doesn't stop there as its disciples abroad fantasize its nostalgic taste through their hi-tech ovens, turbo cookers and auto-timed grills with little, if any, success. Unbelievably, some pursued maidens (or their reluctant fathers) admit it may have mesmerized them !

How it is cooked is demonstrated during the town's "Chicharon and Iniruban Festival" held every late October. The date, wisely set by the local municipio, immediately precedes "Piyasta Ti Natay" (All Saints Day) of November 1st when Camilenios are drawn home to pay homage to their departed.

To Manaoag pilgrims and tourists bound for the Alaminos's Hundred Islands,Bolinao and Sual's new international seaport, the delicacy is available from the “aglaklako iti karne” or traditional meat vendors/small businessmen at the town’s public market. Supply is augmented to meet increased demand during Sundays, the Camiling town fiesta of May 7-8, Paskua (Christmas), Dagupan and Binmaley's Pista ng Dagat in May, and summer's "Bantay Kalbaryo" (Holy Week), etc.

If fried chicken built a house, here's fried pork selling a town ! - *

* City Legal Counsel (2001-2004); Secretary, Sangguniang Panlungsod- City Council (2004 - ), Taguig City, Metro Manila