By Avril Gamboa
Joy R. Sumagaysay says: Tonight, as I went through old files, I came across several research papers of my students way back in 2003. One of these is on the Bacolod chicken inasal by Avril Gamboa. With many queries on the chicken inasal, this first hand info from a true-blue Bacolodnon will be surely be appreciated. Though this research was done four years ago, Avril’s discovery regarding the inasal’s history in Bacolod is timeless. Thank you Avril. Now its time to share it with the world.
Bacolod City has always been a pride of the province of Negros Occidental. Located at the middle of the Philippine archipelago, it is known as “The City of Smiles.” It has also been the “Sugarbowl of the Philipines” with its abundant sugar produce during the 70s till the early 80s. Bacolod is also known as a bountiful city of food, history and culture.
The piaya (made of muscovado sugar, flour, butter and sesame seeds) and the kalamay-hati in a coconut shell (rice flour, sugar and gata cooked to an ultra-thick consistency) are two extraordinary specialties of my town, Bacolod City.
But what I’m so excited about my hometown is the all-time favorite of all smiling people, the so-delicous Bacolod chicken inasal. I always look forward to a weekend having my good and yummy meal of chicken inasal and rice.
Perhaps other cultures have long been preparing chicken barbeque long before Bacolenos did. But what makes Bacolod chicken inasal special? It’s the marinade consisting of Sprite, lemon grass, calamansi, garlic and soy sauce which gave the identity to the chicken barbeque of Bacolod. The history. The concept of Bacolod chicken inasal first started with small food kiosks at the old Post Office building where the Po’s Marketing stands at present. It is situated at Araneta Street, right at the heart of Bacolod’s downtown. The inasal was made of native chicken or what we call as bisaya. The traditional way of having the chicken inasal is eating it as a sumsuman or appetizer, to go along with a couple of beers. (I don’t know exactly if inasal is a Spanish term or simply a Negrense term for barbeque.)Later, support from politicians came in to further the growth of the Bacolod chicken inasal as a profitable business venture in town. In 1972, the inasal kiosks were transferred to Cuadra St., beside the Bacolod State Cinema. At around this time, the inasal vendors shifted to “45 days” chicken or the white leghorn variety. Because of Mayor Dizon and Mr. John Orola ‘s help, the chicken inasal as a food industry flourished. It was during this time that the Manokan Country was established. One of the pioneering inasal kiosks was Sabel Chicken BBQ. The grandchildren who took over the business changed the name to NENA’s.
During the 1990’s, because of the bogging down of the sugar industry, Bacolod was in crisis. Such collapse caused a fluctuation in both big and small businesses in the province. The Manokan industry was not spared. Aside from the collapse of the sugar industry, the coming in of fastfood chains like McDonald’s, Jollibee, Snackee and others posed a threat to the Manokan country. Still, the Manokan country was able to sustain itself, having established itself as a Bacolodnon food tradition.
I always look forward to going home to Bacolod, not only because that is where my heart is but also because of Bacolod’s chicken inasal, a symbol of my Negrense culture.