Festival organizers failed to stage the biggest empanada, instead they came out with the biggest empanada in volume amounting to 2,000 pieces of the traditional meal as the city government opened its Dulang food festival on February 8.
The food fête, a component of the annual city fiesta, is a key event in the month-long celebrations hosted by the city government. Laoag dubbed its annual festivity as Pamulinawen festival, which was derived from the popular Ilocano song.
The empanada is the Ilocanos answer to Mexican tacos. The one-dish meal is made of grated papaya, mongo, egg and longganiza all stuffed inside an orange-shaded flour and deep-fried in simmering oil.
Chevylle Fariñas, wife of Laoag Mayor Michael Fariñas and city tourism council chair, did not hide her displeasure at having failed to showcase the biggest empanada in the Ilocos region.
“We went through a lot of trouble preparing for this year’s food festival. It was unfortunate that we could not come up with the biggest empanada this year because of an accident” Mrs. Fariñas told the festival crowd.
Fariñas was referring to a fire that broke out while the food committee was about to cook the empanada early Wednesday morning.
The specially assembled huge metal plate that would have been used to cook the empanada was reduced to twisted iron when it caught fire while it was heating up.
No one was hurt in the incident but the organizers were unable to save the metal plate specially designed to cook the empanada.
“We might have fallen short of your expectations by our failure to showcase the biggest empanada, but we won’t give up easily and cancel the event altogether,” Mrs. Fariñas said.
Mayor Fariñas chose to highlight the empanada this year to promote other Ilocano traditional food products like Ilocos longganiza and vinegar as well.
The ingredients that would have been used for the giant empanada were instead used for the more than 2,000 pieces of the meal that were put on display at the city basketball court for the festival.
“We may not have the biggest empanada, but we certainly have the biggest empanada in volume,” Mrs. Fariñas said in jest.
The event organizers used 50 kilos of longganiza, 10 sacks of papaya, five sacks of mongo, 30 cans of cooking oil and 30 trays of eggs for the empanada.
Oral history shows that empanada originated in Batac town. Empanada-production had since become a steady business in various Ilocos towns and provided competition to fast food chains.