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I would have to say that the eatery Panie’s Fastfood did play a big part in the development of my personal food preferences.

Growing up, my Dad and I would always eat at Panie’s, after getting a haircut at the barbershop next door. (Tavern Barber shop, was it called?)

After the haircut, we would excitedly enter Panie’s. As soon as you step inside the restaurant, you can immediately feel the essence of Home. Almost like you’re walking right into your own kitchen.

Even the aroma from the kidchen takes me back about 15 years ago in 2009 when I was in my teens.

The scent of old carinderiyas, the aroma of cheap ketchup, soy sauce, and vinegar; even the smell of Zonrox mopped on the floors, the smell of mothballs (to ward off cockroaches and insects) inside their comfort room; the smell of tables newly bussed-out, and quickly cleaned with Downy;

The aroma of simmering soup and stews full of umami; the smell of fried oil from the back of the kitchen;

Even the sounds feel nostalgic now. The sound of NBA basketball blaring on the TV screen in the background (I remember the rookie then was Lebron James; today 15 years later, Lebron James still plays in the court even though he has obviously grown old and maybe even looking weary);

The sound of the sharp heavy cleaver chopping away pieces of their lechon carajay;

The sight and sound of seemingly-hungry and impatient customers not falling in line, and all 100 or so people wanting to be served first; (believe me, food must be so good at Panie’s it can get so chaotic there at lunch time). Maybe some of them were just upset about their morning; but the high level of excitement there tells me everyone is just hungry!

Then there’s the sound of families chattering, or in serious conversation about what the next step should be in the enrolment process at Silliman; or deciding what they need to buy at Lee Plaza after lunch;

Once, I even overhead a family discussing the liver issues shown in the dismal SGPT results ni Tatay, while excitedly digging into the nilat-ang baka and lechon carajay. Seriously? (I told you food is really good at Panie’s.)

Then there’s the sound of people lamenting:“Wala jud nausob no? Ni mahal lang jud!”

Indeed, the taste of the food at Panie’s has stayed the same after all throughout these years.

Their fried chicken is uniquely their signature dish. I believe they’re the only eatery that uses the Japanese Panko breadcrumb method. And if I may  say, that extra step of “crumbing” takes extra effort. And extra cost, too.

You can tell their chicken is properly brined and marinated in calamansi, salt, and garlic

The Panko crumb actually stays crispier, and locks in more juices inside the bird.

The carajay is just right, not too salty, just enough fat-to-meat ratio, and remains crispy even as you dig into it.

Their nilat-ang baka is my all-time-favorite. For what is nilat-ang baka without a little MSG? I mean, it wouldn’t be complete, right. The vegetables in the soup are crunchy, and the beef is just so tender. And every sip of the soup takes you a few years back in your childhood, and makes you reminisce all the memories (good and bad) that you’ve had.

Last weekend, I was having dinner with Kuya Paul Benzi Florendo, my mentor in content creation, when he said something that gave me that Bitaw, no?! moment:

Kuya Benzi said, “Dumagueteños love restaurants with that old nostalgic feels, and ambiance.”

Bitaw, no?!

If you look at the ones who have stayed relevant in our lives even until now: Panie’s, Habhaban, City Burger, Jo’s Chicken Inato, Don Roberto’ss, Cafe Filomena at Bethel, Neva’s Pizza, you almost feel like a kid again whenever you walk into their restaurant.

And there is so much power in that. It almost wires your brain to act like a child, to feel like a child, and to live life like a child with no worries, no obligations, no responsibilities. Just living in the moment, enjoying every bite, and just being genuinely content and happy.

So if, for any reason, you somehow feel sad one day, just stop by one of your old favorite restaurants in Dumaguete, and the food there will surely help prop up your day somehow.

To the proprietors and the expert cooks at Panie’s, may your business flourish even more, and make you stay in Dumaguete for as long as you are needed. Thank you for sharing with us your passion for good home-cooked meals.


Author’s email: samuellebawasanta@gmail.com



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