By Ma. Catalina Deveza*
I hope I won’t get this computer damaged after retyping this part of my article for the fifth time already! Actually, the “backspace” key of the keyboard is now half sank due to over pressing. What’s wrong with me?
Well, I just don’t know what else to type to make my readers fall in love with my article! Yes, fall in love the way I did when I have tasted Nora’s Carne Prita (Ilonggo for beefsteak). Ridiculous but I have been repeating this introduction for an hour now, still I am not convinced whether, or not, this would be the final (hahaha). And I have been thinking of that day when I got introduced to my favorite Carne Prita.
Amidst the noise of Iloilo City, there goes a small eatery called Nora’s. Uncompetitive as it seems, this carinderia is well-patronized. People from far offices would even ignore the traffic just to have their lunch in this
Another thing that also surprised me is their customers.
What about them?-Well nothing unnatural, they just happen to be city officials and some known businessmen in Iloilo. By the way, I am talking about a small eatery where there is no air conditioning and definitely no five-star class material (just electric fans and plastic chairs!)
Everyday, at around 10am until 1pm, the small pathway going to the Iloilo Post Office and Bureau of Customs Building becomes a parking lot for different models of cars. Normally, their customers would have their tasty sinugba nga isda (grilled fish), alimusan, and baboy (pork).
These dishes, according to the staff of Nora’s, are
not their specialties because everything seems to be a speciality. Everything they display gets sold by the end of the day no matter how pricey the dish can be.
This eatery is owned by a widow named Leonora Palacio or Tiya Nora to others. Now you know where it got its name. Just like other famous restaurants now, Nora’s also started as a very small business. Too small that it could not even be called a “business.” Nora began through selling arrozcaldo (garlic rice porridge) and grilled fish, chicken and pork barbecue. She even sold, (believe it or not) tinanok nga mais (corn on the cob). From that, Tiya Nora was able to save enough capital to put up an eatery near the Iloilo post office, at the side of the Bureau of Customs where it is located up to present.
These dishes are just simple home cooked meals but there must be something about Nora’s, I just cannot identify. Some of the customers said that it’s about the taste. They dont know how elaborate the taste but they said “parang hinahabol-habol mo ang lasa!” (It’s like you are trying
to taste its entire flavor to feel satisfied but instead it makes you crave for more!). “Sa sobrang habol, di ko na namalayang busog na pala kami!” they added (Because the food is so delicious, we did not even notice that we were already full).
I was also able to interview Lorena Espin or Toto, the manager of Nora’s. I asked about their trade secret and she jokingly said that they put some gayuma (love potion) into their food. She also said that their present avid customers are in fact the grandchildren of their original customers. Amazing!
In the past, Tiya Nora did all the cooking but now that she’s
at retirement age, she passed all her secret techniques and recipes to Georgie Pabalinas. After working for almost fifteen years as a food server, Georgie became the chief cook of Nora’s five years ago.
When I asked them about their personal opinion on why people come back after their initial try on their dishes, they smiled and answered: blame the gayuma!
Now, I remember during my high school years, i used
to buy 15php worth of their Carne Prita and with that, i already felt lucky!
Lastly, I asked them about their ventilation and location. Have they ever thought of transferring to a more convenient place or to even at least make Nora’s eatery air conditioned? Their response: If they would do that, people
with no cars would feel hesitant to come in.
Now that you are oriented with Nora’s, can you excuse me for my lunch? I don’t want to keep my Carne Prita waiting…
*Ma. Catalina Teresa G. Deveza
A second year BA Psychology student in the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, Miagao. She loves to eat but never gets fat–not a bit. Her favorite eatery is Nora’s that’s why she featured it.