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Shrimps, squid, oysters, smoked fish flakes, pork cracklets and duck eggs laid over fat rice noodles. That was how the dish Pancit Malabon was served before in the town of Malabon Tambobong (now divided into two municipalities, Navotas and Malabon).

In the 1880s, this delicacy, which they called “pancit bame”, was already common in the locality since toppings abound in the area. However, it was only at the onset of 1900’s that Manileños, thru big name stars, discovered this noodle variety when the latter stopped for food to and from location shootings. They called the town’s specialty “Pancit Malabon” referring to the (only) place where it is found. The dry, firm, fat white noodles were made of 70% rice and 30% flour. From Bulacan factories, where the current supplies still comes, the noodles where delivered to pandahas or small eating sheds on the shoreline where travelers, mostly, buyers and sellers on their way to the market, wait for bancas that transport them.


Once such pondohan was owned by a cousin of Impong Inay of the big Caligay clan of Navotas. This was situated in “Bandayo Sinko” which still exists now as Ferry Station 5. Impong Inay of Navotas was married to a Tondo man but they raised their family in Navotas. Extremely proud of their local culinary fare, she would bring “pancit bame” to family reunions in Manila, which was fondly called “Pancit ng taga Malabon”, or pancit made by the Malabon folks. The Caligay eatery, which was established in 1911, was in brisk business until a few years after Second World War. It was only closed when no more Caligay clan member was enthusiastic to continue the endeavor.
The Caligay thought that was the end of their “pancit bame” business.

But in 1965, Impong Inay’s grandchildren and now her great-grand children accidentally revived the old business this time in the far municipality of Marikina. From Impong Inay’s daughter Emilia Buntan (married to Raymundo dela Cruz) came Jose, the eldest, who became a monsignor and parish priest of Marikina: Ismael: Rosa, the only girl and foundress of Pancit ng taga Malabon chain of restaurants: Arsenio: and Pedro, who married Leonora Villegas of Malabon, and had nine children who promoted and developed the restaurant chain to its heights. Before 1965, this family was involved in fishing and patis making. No one ever thought of establishing eateries until Jose, saw the potential of the residents in shoemaking, which was then an infant industry. He joined the late mayor Osmundo de Guzman and several key people in organizing the first major trade fair in the area. Several shoe stalls were set and being involved in the organizations themselves, Rosa and cousin saw the need for a food booth. They established a food corner, sold “pancit bame” and thereby introduced the townspeople to the dish they started to call “Pancit ng taga Malabon.” After the fair, the residents loved the special noodle dish so much that they ordered from Rosa and cousin for special gatherings. Because of the food response from the people and the numerous orders, Rosa decided to open a small restaurant along the parish (side) church. Take home food were placed in native bilao of varying sizes.

From 1966, when the first restaurant “Pancit ng taga Malabon” was opened, several branches were developed one after the other. The first branch along Aurora Boulevard corner Harvard Street came two years later in 1968. At present, they have seven (7) branches.

Indeed, “pancit bame” has gone a long way. And the pondahan of Caligays developed into a famous and growing chain of restaurants which can be attributed to the nine enterprising sons and daughters of Pedro and Leonora who took it to themselves to manage the branches. They have already introduced innovations like using styroboxes and included other well-loved Filipino dishes in the menu but the sauce,noodles,and the tradition continues, and with the guidance of Impong Inay’s grandchildren or Emilia’s Sons, the new Caligay generation’s enthusiasm will certainly bring “Pancit ng taga Malabon” to far greater heights.

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