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Special Lomi in a Village Called Pangao

Mention Lipa City to an outsider and the latter almost instinctively makes a connection with either or both of two things: its former Mayor, Ate Vi, incidentally now Governor of the Province; and pancit lomi.

Lo mien, the Chinese will probably call their version of the latter; and indeed, elsewhere, the very same named pancit lomi will probably look not unlike the incarnation which is preferred by citizens of Lipa and nearby cities and municipalities.

The stark difference, as everyone who hails from Lipa knows, is the absence of vegetables. Indeed, it is almost sacrilege to mention the word in any authentic Lipeño lomi haus.

To go to one, you cannot be squeamish. Lomi, in a sense, is symbolic of the Lipeños’ simplicity and even frugality. Cheap and heavy in the belly; this sums up the humble lomi of Lipa.

And so thus, the archetypal lomi haus is not found in an airconditioned mall. Although there are spacious al fresco lomi hauses in some parts of the city, such dining establishments are frequently found as adjuncts to some enterprising family’s household.

The lomi is basically the same everywhere in the city: thick miki noodles, kikiam, slices of pork liver and meat balls; probably some quail eggs and chicharon or crackling as well. There is always bound to be bottles of soy sauce, chopped onions, chilli pepper and fried garlic on the tables.

It is the caldo – the thick broth – that separates the good lomi from the great ones; and what secret ingredients owners lace the broth with to gain competitive advantage is profound enough to be the topic of an MBA research paper.

Most visitors to Lipa will probably just saunter off to the nearest lomi haus. Indeed, they will not be disappointed because tasting Lipa lomi in any haus is an experience in itself.

There is, however, this little known lomi haus in a small village to the west of the city that is called Pangao. The joint is called the Traveller’s Lomi House.

Indeed, the Pangao is just 10 minutes from the city proper; yet going there is like being teleported into a different era. The ambience remains basically agrarian; vehicular traffic is sparse; and it is hard to believe that there is a bustling city almost a stone’s throw away.

Traveller’s Lomi House blends right into the landscape. Anyone who does not know the place will probably drive right past it. It is just this humble barong-barong of the sort one finds in any agricultural community.

Yet, to lomi aficionados, the external appearance of the diner is the factor that matters the least. It is always about the lomi. In this regard, Traveller’s Lomi House probably ranks among the city’s best.

In the old days when I first started visiting, the fried garlic was its competitive advantage. Any customer could help himself to as much as he or she wanted as these were made available in plastic bottles sitting on each table.

Economics subsequently must have caught up with the place, as the fried garlic was later served in plastic sachets and only upon request. In time, they did away with the garlic altogether.

Yet, people continued to come: those from the neighbourhood in their dirty t-shirts and slippers; students from the nearby schools; office workers in their crumpled barongs; and wealthy businessmen who arrive in their 4-wheel drives.

There is nothing in this joint’s lomi that one cannot find in other hauses. At the end of the day, it is the broth that makes the lomi here truly special.

So special, in fact, that one of the crudely drawn caricatures that is posted on the wall boasts that Bin Laden evaded capture because agents stopped there for a meal. Indeed, the caricatures double as entertainment while one waits for the steaming bowl that, thankfully, never takes more than a few minutes to arrive.

Those who have never been there and wish to visit, make sure you go with somebody who has been there before. It is easy to miss. Do not go on a Tuesday as this is the house’s self-declared day of rest.

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