Cuenca’s Rustic Food Secret


Tucked away in a rustic corner of the Municipality of Cuenca in a village called Emmanuel is a little diner which, it is said, people travel way off-road to just to eat. Such is Batangas these days, however, that roads to obscure little villages are well-paved with concrete.

The diner makes no pretensions; and asked what the name of the place is, a kind middle-aged woman behind the row of pots filled with delectable home-cooking simply replied “Marele’s Store.”

Essentially that is what it is: your average neighborhood sarî-sarî store with the inevitable candies for the kids, sachets of shampoo and odd bits of chichiria.

The food is almost an afterthought; and, indeed, there is just one large table flanked by wooden benches for those who wander to these parts in search of a meal.


On the day we visited, among the day’s offerings were pinais na dilis (anchovies wrapped in banana leaves and cooked with dried bilimbi or calamias), pinais na galunggong, caldereta and the inevitable adobo. The carnivores will not feel forgotten.
Those who do will quickly come to the conclusion that the food is well worth the trip, not to mention the bother. It is home cooking in its purest form. That is, cooked right at home probably by nanay herself; and food as found on the tables of many authentic Batangueño households.

For instance, a whole sinaing na tulingan (flattened tuna simmered for hours) with gulay na mais (corn soup) for a balanced meal, the malunggay leaves swimming in the bowl with the scraped corn probably plucked from a tree somewhere in the backyard.

Add a cup of rice and two small bottles of softdrink and everything amounts to a grand total of... 76 pesos. Budget dining seldom comes as cheap as here.

On the day we visited, among the day’s offerings were pinais na dilis (anchovies wrapped in banana leaves and cooked with dried bilimbi or calamias), pinais na galunggong, caldereta and the inevitable adobo. The carnivores will not feel forgotten.

The only downside to dining at Marele’s is that the food is served cold. Then again, this is no different from other turô-turô diners anywhere else. If it is any consolation, hot soup is served for free.

This diner will not be easy to find if one is not from the municipality. It will be a good idea to find someone who knows the place and ask for a specific directions. Bear in mind that you will be looking for a sarî-sarî store, not a diner.













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