This article was first published in Our Mindanao.
Many fancy restaurants and eye-candy fast food joints have come and gone in this city’s malls and streets in an attempt to please the palate of Davaoeños. They, after all, have discriminating taste when it comes to food. Some attempts of these food places were successful and summoned snaking queues for a short while; others were feeble and ended up closing with metal roller doors.
But what is it about this small barbecue place in the downtown area that made it withstand the whirlwind in the fierce food place competition?
And the place doesn’t know when to stop; it’s been drawing in people from all walks of life every 3 in the afternoon for 10 years now. Yes, one decade of pastil in Davao and the people still can’t get enough of it.
To the dainty little miss red-leather-pumps-who-only-eats-in-fake-American-restaurants-in-the-country, pastil (or patil) is said to be a Muslim delicacy commonly enjoyed by Maguindanaons. It’s basically rice that is topped with chicken flakes (or in some versions, saucy innards) and wrapped in banana leaf. But because of the variations of the delicacy, some people have gained a common understanding that pastil is now the chicken topping on the rice (and not the whole banana leaf package thing); and that it can actually be eaten solo or as a staple food with some viand.
Pastil has gained following among young people in schools who prefer their lunch to go. Tradition maintains that the proper way to eat pastil in a banana leaf is to eat it as if it were suman or banana. But it really doesn’t apply to me, whether I eat it that way or with spoon and a diamond-encrusted fork — because pastil is tastes good. And in Pastilan sa Ponce, it tastes really good.
I didn’t know how to describe the scene in Pastilan sa Ponce until my friend Pam from Manila did it for me. “The scene at Pastil Sa Ponce was crazy. People crowded around a table covered with piles of marinated meat on sticks—isaw, pork, catfish, hotdogs, gizzard,” she wrote in an article.
Apparently, I didn’t know that I was among the crowd who were drawn to the raw barbecue (and pastil on rice please). I’ve been a regular Pastilan sa Ponce and my mouth still waters in every visit. In. Every. Visit.
And why wouldn’t I feel unusually ecstatic when I’m in Pastilan sa Ponce? Their barbecue tastes great.
The pastil tickles my savory palate. And the food price drops rock bottom: a pastil with rice costs 7 pesos and barbecue starts at 3 (although I remember it used to be just one peso. Seriously).
These are just some of the reasons why Pastilan sa Ponce is such a hit. Owner Ramil Garcia tells me that, in a day, his kitchen crew would cook up almost one sack of rice; and numerous large pots of pastil.
His customers are mostly students from Ateneo de Davao University, where the food place is located. Pastilan sa Ponce has gained such a strong following over the past decade that it’s even become a living testament to most of the college students (be it a sushal colegiala or a liberal aktibista) in the area: Hindi ka nakapag-graduate sa Ateneo de Davao kung hindi ka naka-kain sa Pastilan sa Ponce (You haven’t graduated from Ateneo de Davao if you haven’t eaten in Pastilan sa Ponce).
And the craze for pastil continues! Ramil tells me that he has extended Pastilan’s operating hours and opened on Sundays!
Pastilan sa Ponce stands strong and proud for 10 years because the food they serve is simple, cheap and savory. Extra rice with pastil please!