While we were strolling at Gateway Mall in Cubao, a nicely arranged bread basket at the Mandarin Oriental Cafe & Deli caught our attention. In the olden days, bread has its day in the month of September. During the feast of San Nicholas de Tolentino (celebrated every September 10th), the breads that got blessed and distributed were claimed to be as miraculous as the saint’s charities. The bread (or more of a biscuit) was known as The Curative Pan de San Nicholas.
Bread baking was introduced to us by the Spaniards. When we began baking our own bread, we came up with The Humble Pan de Sal, a pinch of salt that originally gave this simple Filipino bread its distinctive flavor and thus its name. This Creole artifact has become an institution of Philippine culture yet it remains basic and down-to-earth.
During the pre-war days, panaderias or neighborhood bakeshops in Manila began to introduce bread varieties of different shapes, sizes, texture and flavors in glass display cases or escaparate. These breads used to appear so regularly on Filipino tables and that they were traditionally paired with certain dishes.
Also occurring this month is the Mid-Autumn Festival which is also called the Mooncake Festival. It is during this time of the year when the moon is believed to be at its fullest, brightest and biggest. This year, Chinese families would gather to feast and frolic, play games, sing songs and tell Mid-Autumn stories such as the Legend of the Hopia and First Mid-Autumn Celebration under the September moon.
First part of a series on Filipino bread traditions.