ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 21 Sept)—The winner for this year’s “Indigay sa Litson” (or Lechon Contest), held at the city public plaza here on Wednesday, is Barangay Buru-un, their entry cooked by barangay officials who didn’t have experience making lechon at all.
“We wanted to tap experienced lechon makers in the barangay because we have a few here in Buru-un, but we were worried it would be expensive. And what if we won’t win?” said Barangay Kagawad Angelita Calleno.
The local government has changed format this year, because since its inception in 2010, participants to the “Indigay sa Litson” had always been restaurants specializing in lechon. The contest is one of the series of activities of the Diyandi Festival in the runup to the city fiesta on Sept. 29, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel.
“The reason for this is to find out which barangay makes the best lechon, knowing that we have many talents in every barangay, so they can promote their own products,” said Mayor Frederick Siao when interviewed by reporters during the contest.
“When you say ‘Iligan lechon,’ we have many ways of cooking it and they all taste different. But all that I have tasted here are delicious,” he added.
Calleno said that when they decided to join, they agreed to do everything by themselves. “We did it just for fun, for the barangay to have an entry. But we didn’t expect to win at all,” she added.
All seven officials, including Barangay Captain Marianita Paradela, went to the plaza the night before to build the booth where they will display the lechon. They finished it around midnight, then went back to Buru-un, around 10 kms away, being Iligan’s last barangay in its boundary with Linamon in Lanao del Norte.
“We didn’t have time to sleep anymore as we started working on the lechon at 2 a.m.,” narrated Calleno.
Three males among the barangay councilors slaughtered the pig, and they even debated what ingredients and spices to use, recalled Calleno.
According to City Councilor Marlene Young, in charge of the contest, the secret of Iligan’s lechon, which she claims is even better than Cebu’s, can be found in the mix of tanglad (lemon grass), atsal (bell peppers), ahos (garlic), sibuyas (onion bulbs and leaves), laurel leaves, and iodized salt.
“We took turns rotating the lechon pole. We were not used to the heat as the charcoal kept burning,” Calleno said.
They were supposed to bring the lechon to the plaza at 7 a.m., but they were an hour late.
They took home the P20,000 cash prize plus trophy. They also won in the booth contest, which came with a prize of P10,000.
“All our efforts were all worth it. Our happiness is beyond measure,” Calleno said.
Jazzel Toling from Barangay Dalipuga won second with P15,000 prize and trophy, while Barangay Tomas Cabili’s entry won third with P10,000.
Jazzel said she and husband Arnilio also didn’t plan to participate, but joined for the first time for the experience. “He made sure this lechon, cooked with love, would be delicious,” she said.
Arnilio’s Lechon has been around since 2015, “with customers that kept coming back even if they only have to buy a kilo each,” boasted Jazzel.
One of the frequent winners in previous contests, Jaime’s Lechon Bayug, opted not to join this year because of the new format.
Marc James Abitago, son of owner Jaime, said that Barangay Hinaplanon, place of their residence and where their lechon facilities are located, asked them to join representing Hinaplanon. But Barangay Poblacion, where they have a lechon restaurant, also urged them to participate.
“Papa got confused and opted out,” he said.
Jaime’s Lechon Bayug also has branches in Barangays Palao and San Miguel. (Marivic Omandam Davis / MindaNews)