Cela’s Tapa: Mangaldan’s Stamp on Good Food
Mention this town’s name, and “tapa” quickly comes to mind.
I feel inexorably attached to Mangaldan for unexpected reasons, but one of them is that I got seduced and overwhelmed by the smells and colors and flavors—the look and sound of the place, the at times impenetrable mix of meaty goodness and the warm conversations.
It is one of those places where any excuse to visit is a good one. There’s great food, an ever enlarging and ever more interesting restaurant scene. One of the best food environments, and the best processed beef in Northern Luzon.
I tried to capture that in the first scene of Cook N’ Talk TV—a shot of a woman’s fingers, cutting through the frozen and seamed tapa meat. That’s a particularly vivid image for me, and it’s yet another testament to Romulus that he will be able to recreate it so perfectly.
Scenes like this matter to me. And the ability to imagine a thing—and then see it executed brilliantly, that matters too.
For more than a hundred years, making beef tapa has been a common venture among old families in this town’s local meat industry. Each family has its own distinct taste and personal touch. And the secret of tapa making has been passed on to generations.
Tapa, “Pindang” for Mangaldan folks, is processed beef strip, which is traditionally prepared by curing the salted and heavily seasoned meat directly under the sun. Each strip of tapa comes from selected meat parts of either carabao or cow. Fried tapa has been part of the traditional Filipino breakfast meal called “tapsilog” or a combination of tapa, sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg).
Ate Josephine is a sprightly woman who never seizes to amaze me. With her impeccable cooking skill, and British accent, learnt from a Briton spouse, watching her was a true joy.
Cela’s Meat Products (Mangaldan’s Best) is the brand that led the pack in the local meat industry with its superior quality and taste. The shop’s owner, Marcela Barrozo, or shall I deem, the rightful Tapa queen, the crème de la crème of a successful million-worth venture, has been in the business for more than 40 years. This makes her one of the remaining original tapa makers in town.
At a very young age, she worked as a helper in the town’s public market, running errands for merchants. From there, her ambition to own a stall, and help her family, ripened. Now, she has carved the reputation for the most delectable tapa that put Pangasinan on the culinary map.
I have had many cured beef in my life, but it’s rare to be wowed by one variation: Cela’s. The whiff of her tapa is so tempting.
Generally speaking, there are two distinct audiences for my show: people who like to look at images of food and are interested in where it comes from and how it got to the plate—and people who like conversations and travelling—or like the idea of travel—and enjoy watching images of faraway places and cultures. Oh—and there’s also a smaller group who apparently enjoy watching me do these kinds of faces. But that’s another matter. My name, arguably, might not mean that much—and my face may not be pretty, but they’re mine. (haha)
Marcela Barrozo, and her staff funnily slipped a “Look Up” pose in a photo op.
Barrozo’s backyard factory, which was given an “AA” rating by the National Meat Inspection Commission (NMIC), also processes other meat products such as tocino, hot dog, embutido, and native sausages.