For the working class who are budget conscious, a carinderia (a term coined for a local eatery selling and serving affordable viands) is the go-to place for satisfying home-cooked meals that are pocket-friendly. Identified to be a diner for the masses, it’s very unlikely to see popular personalities eat at humble eateries where common people flock.
But to a person who’s used to breaking the status quo, President Rodrigo Duterte finds a humble eatery located along J. Luna Street in Davao City, Sana’s Carinderia – Original Kabawan, a favorite place to eat at. The unassuming place has nothing fancy to offer. Situated at the ground floor of a two-storey wooden house, inside the modest diner are tables covered with linoleum and an assortment of plastic and wooden stools available for dining customers. And despite the elections being over, a portion of the eatery’s signage is obscured by Duterte campaign materials that looked as if they were badges of honor.
Owned by a humble homemaker from Hagna, Bohol who permanently relocated in Davao in the early 70s, Proferia “Sana” Valles proudly boasts her delicious home-cooked meals beyond the shabby appearance of her simple eatery.
The Carenderia’s popular and best-selling dishes which are also favorites of President Duterte are Shredded Tapa (cured Carabaco beef), Balbacua (Oxtail stew) and Hinalang (Spicy carabeef soup).
Sana’s Shredded Tapa are thin strips of tender carabeef marinated in vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper and vetsin. It’s then deep-fried into crisp, tasty, and golden flakes.
Balbacua, a dish said to be inherited from our Spanish colonizers, is a well-known fare among the locals in the Southern part of the Philippines particularly in Visayas and Mindanao. Sana’s version of the balbacua (Ox Skin and Tail stew) was hearty and filling just as we expected it to be. The meat was fall-of-the-bone soft. The soup’s slightly thick consistency and savory taste that go so well with a cup of hot rice was so gratifying.
From the Visayan word “halang”, Hinalang is also a popular soup dish among the locals. Sana’s version of Hinalang is not too spicy compared to what we expected but the warm and peppery taste of the soup is enough to make you sweat and eat additional cups of rice more than you allow yourself. The small slices of carabao beef in the soup were soft and chewy.
According to Proferia, whom President Duterte fondly call “Sana” an endearment for married woman in Boholano dialect, the president has been frequenting the eatery since the 80s when he was still a fiscal at the City Prosecutor’s Office. Other members of the Duterte family also ate at the carinderia, Nanay Sana tells. She also shared that during the campaign period, when President Rodrigo wasn’t able to drop by the carinderia with his busy schedule, he sent someone to buy him his favorite fares. And sometime in May, after the elections, President Rodrigo enjoyed a meal at his favorite carinderia just like how he used to as a regular patron.
Upon entering the carinderia, you would be greeted with a wall dedicated to Nanay Sana’s personal collection of President Rody Duterte’s photos and memorabilia. She proudly shows off her collection to everyone who visits her humble eatery and enthusiastically shares stories about President Rodrigo Duterte’s visits at her eatery. She fondly recalls how simple the man is and how happy she is that he has won the presidency.
With Rodrigo Duterte’s catapult to being the most powerful man in the country and his rise to popularity, Sana’s Carinderia has also been enjoying a good deal of attention from tourists and both local and foreign media who want to know the ways of the unorthodox leader. Sana’s Carinderia has been and continues to be, featured in both local and national newspapers, tv, online news, and blogs.
After sampling President Rodrigo Duterte’s favorite foods at Sana’s, we inferred that the man has a perceptive palate — one that loves local flavors, tasty and well-seasoned dishes
Despite Davao’s burgeoning food scene and an increasing number of food players planning to set-up their business in the President’s home turf, a must in your list when you’re Davao bound should be exploring local flavors and humble food places that’s truly unique to the city. It’s the best way of getting to know the city’s people, its culture, and traditions.