Let me guess, you’re in the car frantically searching where on earth (or, to be more specific, where in Candelaria, Quezon) is this famous crispy pata. You’re also trying to figure out which tastes better — the JIJF crispy pata or the Lutong Bahay ni Inay crispy pata. Let me start by saying that there’s only one famous crispy pata in Candelaria — the JIJF Lutong Bahay ni Inay. Scroll down to see the exact location of the two branches of JIJF.
We originally planned to have lunch in either JIJF or Lutong Bahay ni Nanay on the trip to Legaspi City, the stop-over area before the final push to Donsol. We planned to see the butanding (whale shark) and we figured we need all the energy to swim after the butanding.
We left Manila real early and we arrived in San Pablo City when it was still dark. We thought the San Pablo – Tiaong – Candelaria leg would take hours, but we were wrong. We passed Candelaria at 5:20 a.m. There goes our lunch plan. And there goes the crispy pata, which is not as bad because we thought we didn’t know the exact address anyway. We’ll capture the crispy pata on the return trip. We’ll know the travel conditions and travel time by that time.
The sheer number of beautiful churches along the way messed up our return trip schedule. At 2:30 in the afternoon, with our stomachs in serious upheaval, we reached Candelaria. First option, ask around. “Manong, pwede magtanong? Saan po yung masarap na crispy pata ng Candelaria? JIFJ yata pangalan nun.” He was clueless. We repeated the process three times. No luck. We resorted to the time-tested tool, the internet. We tried it before but didn’t find any clue. We found one clue — there’s a branch in San Antonio Village.
Wonder of wonders, that’s the exact time we saw the arch with the big, lovely “San Antonio Village” on top. It’s nothing short of a miracle, really.
Hit the breaks. Look at the rearview mirror. Reverse gear. Pedal to the metal on reverse gear. Dust and pebbles flying on the unpaved highway shoulder. Get out of the way, you freakin’ 10-wheeler container van! We were trying hard to control our temper. If that 10-wheeler is the only thing between us and the crispy pata, I’d reveal my secret identity, retrieve my golden barbell, and shout: Captain . . . you know the rest.
A structure that resembles a guardhouse stands at the end of the 50-meter entry road. There’s no guard inside. A few big houses. Not a soul is stirring in this open-space village. There’s a sign — JIJF Lutong Bahay ni Inay, with a big red arrow pointing left.
My gulay, it’s the most beautiful sign I’ve ever seen. Well, not exactly all-time, but nothing comes close to it at that time. I wanted to stop the car, step out, run to the sign, and hug it. Give it a big kiss for good measure. Hunger could make a man do strange things. With the last ounce of sanity, I followed the sign. Must . . . have. . . crispy pata.
We were the only guests when we arrived. We ordered, what else, crispy pata. We added Sinigang na Sugpo for variety. Then we sat and waited. Argh, waiting for lunch at 3:00 in the afternoon is torture. The sound of boiled pork leg (sounds more enticing that pig trotter) frying in deep oil, that’s worse. I couldn’t take it sitting down. I needed to do something. Run around the village? Too tiring. Connect to the internet? Good idea, but my son apparently thought of it first. Ah, I’d talk to the people of JIJF.
“Kayo po ba ang may-ari?” (“Are you the owner, sir?”) I asked the man sitting at the other table. I figured he’s not a guest and not a staff. If he’d cross his eyebrows and throw a thunderbolt my way, I really don’t care. I had to take my mind off that crispy pata.
I was expecting the worst. But then he smiled and gently answered, yes, he is the owner. Sir Gin, it turned out, is in charge here, while his wife is manning (or wo-manning?) the main branch in town. “Where’s nanay?”, I asked. This is Lutong Bahay ni Nanay, after all. “She’s in the house,” he replied. I’m not sure if he’s kidding, but he was smiling.
He must have thought I’m crazy, asking weird questions like: Why don’t you have a website? What does JIJF mean? What is the exact address here? How about the branch in the town? What time do you open? What time do you close? Of course I didn’t ask it that way. Sir Gin was kind enough to answer my questions. And draw a map where we can find the main branch.
Oh, yes, the taste. Sorry I got carried away. The Sinigang na Sugpo, with large sugpo as compared to other restaurants, tastes great. The prawn is big, fresh and fat. The soup is full of flavor. Not too thick and not overpowering. It tickles the tastebuds and preps it for the crispy pata.
The crispy pata, on the other hand, is one of the best we’ve tasted. The famous crispy pata both of Malabon (Judy Ann’s) and Navotas (Amelia’s) has a tinge of sweetness. The JIJF crispy pata has a tinge of saltiness, but not salty and not overpowering in flavor. More of a subtle blend of spices. This is crispy pata that is real crispy, you’d eat it to the bones. This is the reason why the JIJF crispy pata is sought after in this part of the Philippines.
We told Sir Gin we’d write an article about the JIJF Lutong Bahay ni Inay so other hungry souls would have an easier time looking for the place. Serbisyo publiko kumbaga. We paid our bill and drove home happy. This is crispy pata that we’d willingly come back for more despite the distance. We’re keeping that promise through this post.