Lingayen’s Quest: Be as Ubiquitous as Bagoong
by Maielle Montayre
Photos by Romeo Peralta, Jr.
COUNCILOR JUDY DE LEON-VARGAS OF LINGAYEN SHARES HOW THIS TOWN, KNOWN AS PANGASINAN'S PROVINCIAL CAPITAL, STRIVES TO BE KNOWN FOR SOMETHING ELSE.
If there is one condiment that could be identified as truly Filipino, it has got to be bagoong. That salty, fishy paste we love to put on mangoes and serves as a base for many of our beloved Filipino dishes is popular everywhere in the Philippines. The smell may put some people off, but its unique taste deepens and enhances the flavor of our favorite vegetables, meats, and even fruits.
There is one town in the Philippines vying for the title of “Bagoong Capital.” Lingayen, the provincial capital of Pangasinan, is known for this thriving industry. The town has 56 bagoong processors, wholesalers, and retailers that each produce at least 1,500 boxes of bottled bagoong every month.
We want to be known as the Bagoong Capital, not just of the Philippines, but of the world,” says Judy de Leon-Vargas, the young and energetic municipal councilor of Lingayen responsible for the town’s branding using Bagoong, when she authored the resolution to designate bagoong as the “one town, one product” (OTOP) of Lingayen. “For years, people have been recognizing Lingayen as the kapitolyo of Pangasinan, and nothing else. With bagoong, which we call Pasig, we contend that we do not just have the best bagoong in the country, but it is also the foundation of our identity as a town.”
Lingayen and Bagoong a Historical Pair
Lingayen’s name came from the Pangasinan word “lingawen” which means “to look back,” since the people of the town in the early days developed the habit of constantly looking back at a big tamarind tree growing in what is now the town’s plaza.
The town is also historically significant, being the birthplace of Former President Fidel V. Ramos. It also played an important role during World War II, as it was where the Allied forces landed its amphibious operation in 1945 to commence the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese.
Lingayen’s product of pride, bagoong is also special in Philippine history, since the Spanish colonizers were never accustomed to the smell or taste of bagoong, and even described it as “fish which has started to rot and stink.” To which, Rizal reacted with “this fish, that cannot be good until it begins to rot, is bagoong, and those who have eaten it and tasted it know that it neither is, nor should be, rotten.”
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