Sitting here at Pa-a Bakery with an P11.00 order (5 pieces) of their famous pandesal and a mug of black instant coffee, I am transported to my childhood vacations here in Jaro with my Lola Lucy and Lolo Ramon, who are now in heaven.
I miss the old tree trunk posts of the original balay nga bato. An enlarged reproduction of the cover page of Food Magazine in March 2008 hangs on the wall of the bakery now. Food Magazine featured Iloilo’s culinary heritage and had a full article on Paa’s Bakery. To quote the writer, Eugene Jamerlan, a good colleague in heritage work, “Today [that was 2008] Panaderia ni Pa-a can still be found in its original location, but in a new low-rise building that doesn’t have the character of the old house.”
Indeed. I witnessed, back in early 2000, I think, when this iconic landmark of Jaro was skinned, dismantled , the old tabriya of the ground floor wrecked and the entire lot cleaned out to give way to a three-storey, concrete commercial building. The original house of Panaderia ni Pa-a would have been a significant visual reminder of Jaro’s long past.
Well, there’s no use pining over what’s done. At least Paa’s pan de sal is still around and going strong.
I recall going to Pa-a with my Lolo Ramon as a little girl. Paa was not just a mere bakery. It was the go-to place for groceries like canned goods, milk, chucheria and even hardware materials.
That’s why I smile as I sit here now. Memories of the old Paa are still around as I see straw lace, laundry bleach, cellophane wrappers, cooking oil, catsup, pork and beans, milk and mushrooms, laid out neatly on rear shelves while the assorted cookies and breads occupy the glass shelves on the left side of this square space. Of course, the star takes center stage with a cool signage in bold red letters hanging from the ceiling and calling in the patrons, PANDESAL HERE.
That must be the idea of the great grandchildren of Pa-a, who now manage this more than a century-old bakeshop. Pa-a’s real name is Chiquito Uy, an immigrant from China. His photograph, along with his wife’s hang on a side wall of the bakery. What’s great about this pan de sal is that it is still baked in the original brick oven of the bakery.
In my grandparent’s home in front of the Huebesan, we would usually have Paa’s Pandesal in the mornings together with native tsokolate. We would tear off a small piece and dip it in the cup of tablea. At other times, when my Lolo’s Guimaras mangoes were aplenty, my Lola would make mango jam. This would be our pandesal palaman.