Leah’s Tinu-om

Cabatuan, Iloilo


It was just this week that I first went to Cabatuan, Iloilo. I guess it is destiny that Sev and I became partners in doing our research proposal. I’m from Aklan and I haven’t been to some parts of Iloilo. Sev is from Cabatuan and that’s where the idea of researching for a traditional dish there, the Tinu-om na Manok, started.

It takes about an hour to get to Cabatuan. It has been a great experience travelling around our local towns in Iloilo. I got to see a lot of places, like the Coca Cola plant in Pavia, and then the town of Sta. Barbara. The long trip going there was quite exhausting but finally arriving there made it worth the time and effort. We got off at Cabatuan’s town plaza and walked to Leah’s Tinu-om near the town market. Lola Sabel was not there and so we went to her place. It’s funny realizing how we Pinoys are, no matter where we come from. You ask directions from someone (at Leah’s Tinu-om) and she doesn’t say the house number but rather she tells you the directions through landmarks or through someone famous’ house near your destination.

leah's tinuom

“It’s a family business!” said Lola Sabel. She’s referring to Leah’s Tinu-om, the only carinderia in Cabatuan known to serve the town’s remarkable dish. Lola Sabel says that she has been in the business for almost 30 years, both handling and cooking for the carinderia that was passed down to her by her parents, her father being the first to experiment in making the Tinu-om. She also told us that the Tinu-om was the reason all of her 6 children got to graduate from college. The restaurant was named “Leah’s Tinu-om” after one of her daughters.

Tinu-om is a native dish of the Cabatuanons is made up of native chicken seasoned with onions, tomatoes and lemon grass(tanglad) wrapped in banana leaves. It is served with broth that builds up inside its wrapping following a heavy steaming. Tinu-om in native language means “balot”, so Tinu-om na Manok means binalot na manok.

A serving of Tinu-om, which has 3-4 slices, costs Php50 at Leah’s Tinu-om. From a student’s point of view, yes, it is expensive but it’s worth the cost. Lola Sabel proudly says that every weekend many people from nearby towns visit her carinderia to taste her Tinu-om. Many carinderias in Cabatuan tried to make Tinu-om too, but failed in the process. One theory on why they failed would be because of the “timpla”. “Timpla” means taste proportionality of the mixed ingredients. This would mean that there are no specific measurements on how many teaspoons of vetsin there would be. The great thing about it is that it gives her confidence and it encourages her to continue making Tinu-om and to help promote the culture of Cabatuan.

When we asked Lola Sabel about her recipe in making her delicious Tinu-om, with no hesitation, she immediately replied.

The ingredients used are:


*Bumbay/Sibuyas (Onion)

*Kamatis (Tomato)

*Tanglad (Lemon Grass)

*Vetsin (MSG-monosodium glutamate)

*Asin (Salt)

*Tubig (water)

*Native Chicken – must be 7-14 months old.

*Banana Leaves

*Bamboo string or any string for tying up the tinu-om

*2 bowls for preparation

After enumerating the ingredients, she then told us how to do the Tinu-om na manok. There are 5 easy steps:

(1) In one bowl, place the chicken and season it with onion, tomato, vetsin and the salt and then add some water. The 7-14 month old chickens will have to boil for about 30 minutes for it to be ready for serving. Older chickens will take almost an hour. The picture on the side shows lola Sabel cutting up the chicken parts. One order of tinu-om would have 3-4 pieces.

lola sabel

(2) In another bowl prepare the banana leaves to be used for the wrap. Lola Sabel advices that you use Saba banana leaves rather than other kinds of banana leaf. It affects the flavor, aroma and outcome of the Tinu-om.

banana leaves

banana leaves

(3) Eventually, pour the marinated chicken into the bowl lined with banana leaf, gather the edges and tie it with a bamboo string or any piece of string. Make sure that it won’t leak.

mixed ingredients

mixed ingredients

tying it up

tying it up



(4) After tying it up, place it in a casserole full of water and then place it on fire. You may steam it but Lola Sabel strongly suggests that you place it within the water casserole for a better result when it comes to taste. Then wait.

tinu-om na manok


The continuous cooking and practice of making Tinu-om na Manok has lengthened its existence in Iloilo culture and tradition. The aroma of spices, chicken and banana leaves mixed together will always remain in the hearts of the Cabatuanons now and of the generations yet to come.

Just as Lola Sabel said, the recipe doesn’t have anything. It is not a secret. There is no secret ingredient. “Sa pagtimpla lang guid na ya, amuna siguro indi nila kami magaya sa pagluto sang Tinu-om.” (It’s in the proportioning of the ingredients to go side by side, maybe that’s why they can’t cook Tinu-om the way we do.)

You may find Lola Sabel at Leah’s Carinderia, Bermejo Street, Cabatuan, Iloilo. You can find Leah’s beside the street between Cabatuan Church and Cabatuan Wet Market. You can also contact her via text or call at 09287671244.

I assume that you have already read our article about the tinuom. In this section I will tell you about my views and insights on making this feature.

In my own perspective, having this paper work made me realize some things and question myself. Questions like what is Tinuom? What does it really mean to me as a Cabatuananon? Is it really the Tinuom that defines a Cabatuananon and its culture?

Every time I try to ask myself these questions I can find no right answers at all but thanks to this research work I was able to find some. Before our cultural festival Hirinugyaw was renamed to Tinuom in the year 2006 (it’s because of some conflict with other municipality’s festival name), I never knew that we have this tinuom that is said to be our delicacy here in Cabatuan. As told by the elders, those who have lived in the most number of years here in Cabatuan, Tinuom is indeed a mark of a Cabatuan. This is based on the stories they had inherited from the past generation just like what Lola Sabel said. Some of them says that it is but can’t find any explanation how it became such they just believe in it. My classmate’s grandparents told me that tinuom is indeed a mark of Cabatuan because we, Cabatuananons are the ones who had it first. Tinuom certainly defines what Cabatuan is and showcases the creativity of a Cabatuananon.

Yes, it is believed that Tinuom is a native of Cabatuan, but still some questions trigger me. If it is our delicacy then why is it that it’s not practiced in every household unlike other municipalities here in the Philippines having such delicacy like in the Miag ao, during fiesta every household has this KBL (kadios, baboy and langka) which is known to be their local dish served in their table.

I asked my friends and their parents if they do practice having this tinuom served in their table. Some of them told me that it’s because time passes by and things changes. There are some that carry out this tradition. It’s not lived out mostly in every household because several find it expensive to prepare tinuom especially when it comes to the cost of chicken. Some told me that it’s not easy to prepare, it takes time to cook it. Some that prefers to cook tinolang manok than to have it in tinuom because tinolang manok is faster to prepare than to tinuom. Some don’t even know how to prepare and cook tinuom. And there are some that knows how but are lazy enough to cook it, in my family’s case for example.

It’s sad to think that the past generation failed to pass this great tradition to the present generation. (It’s not that I’m blaming it all to them). Maybe it’s also because at one point in time we, Cabatuananon forgot that we have this legacy that we should preserve and pass it to the next future generation. That’s why I’m so thankful to Lola Sabel and her Leah Tinuom carinderia for not giving up and still having a business serving Tinuom. To her it may be just her simple way of earning a living, but for me she’s one of the people worthy to be recognized for preserving the culture of our town.

From the time we finished this paper, I realized what does tinuom means to me. Now I can proudly say that “Tinuom” is an evidence of how creative and special a Cabatuananon is. And this tinuom is a reminder to us Cabatuananons that we should preserve a tradition and a legacy that will be known in the whole world in the near future. Hahahahaha. And there’s no doubt about the tinuom being a definition of what a Cabatuananon is. No need to ask because it is what that defines us, believe me it is.

And now being able to feature “Tinuom” truly makes me feel proud as a Cabatuananon. Showcasing what a Cabatuananon has and can do gives me a sense of pride. Hope this entry or feature would further help promote tinuom and Cabatuan. And also would encourage other people to come and visit Cabatuan. Taste tinuom and experience Cabatuan.

About the authors:

Severo Caspe, Jr. and Christine Celeste Zaulda are both second year college students at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas. Sev is taking up BSBA Marketing while Bam is taking up BS Accountancy. You may contact us through email at nonoy_nami@yahoo.com and cceleste_z@yahoo.com

the researchers

the researchers