Wherever you go, you will find the ubiquitous pancit, the dish handed down by the Chinese, that comes in various sizes, shapes, tastes and preparation. There are your lomi, miki, bihon guisado, canton and what have you.
In Cagayan, a variety of pancit--the batil patong--is satisfying every customer's palate. Many Cagayanos and visitors love to partake of the batil patong, considered a specialty in the province.
Whether one is in the Tuguegarao City proper or in its barangays, one cannot miss a restaurant or makeshift canteen offering the batil patong.
The noodle is served with a half-cooked, unstirred egg. A customer is served soup with stirred egg as appetizer for every order of the batil patong. Some restaurants serve sliced fresh red onions and soy sauce to go with the noodles.
An order of the special batil patong costs P30, but it can feed two people. The noodles are mixed with ground meat, chicken liver and gizzard, sliced carrots, red chili, mongo sprouts, cabbage and onions.
In Tuguegarao, more than 40 carinderias are serving batil patong to 50 to 100 customers a day. Many canteen owners produce their own miki (noodles), mostly by hand, using a mix of ordinary flour, cassava flour, soda ash and food coloring.
Food stall owners say the batil patong is the most saleable on their noodle menu.
Luz Escobar, 50, a panciteria owner, said the batil patong's unique taste makes her customers ask for more.
''To win one's heart is to know his favorite food. And for us, it is pancit,'' she said in Ilocano.
Her canteen is selling about two to three sacks of miki a day and her earnings have supported her family of seven.
Escobar, of Ugac Norte in Tuguegarao, has been in the business since 1972. She said she learned the trade from a distant aunt, Ampay Balao, who owned a chain of panciterias in the 1960s.
Escobar started helping in her aunt's stalls when she was 13 years old. At l7, she met Jose, a regular customer, and whom she later married.
With a P100 capital given by her aunt, Escobar started her own business. Together with her husband, they started selling bananas and opened a stall in the public market.
They also tried running a bakery but they did not succeed.
Finally, they opened a panciteria, and the rest, as one would say, is history.
Their hard work enabled them to send their children--three girls and two boys--to college. Escobar and her husband now have two nurses, a teacher and an accountant, thanks to the batil patong.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 30, 1999