History of SÍSIG: How Angeles City Kept Reinventing a Traditional Kapampángan Delicacy

SÍSIG has always been a part of Kapampángan culinary history. It may have been as old as the history of the Kapampángan nation itself. In 1732, Spanish friar Diego Bergaño recorded the existence of SÍSIG in his Vocabulario de la Lengua Pampanga. At that time, SÍSIG was a kind of salad with a spicy vinegar dressing or any sour snack that included unripe mangoes or guavas. Hence the term MÁNYÍSIG ‘to snack on something sour.’ It was a delicacy once reserved for expectant mothers. It has always been difficult for pregnant women to keep down much needed nourishment in the first trimester of their pregnancy. SÍSIG, being sour, was believed to fight morning sickness and nausea that accompanies pregnancy. SÍSIG BÁBÎ ‘pork sísig’ was originally made of boiled pig’s ears and tail mixed with onions and dressed in spicy vinegar. It was believed that the cartilage in the pig’s ears and tail aid in the bone development of the child in the mother’s womb.

Sísig Púsûng Ságin (Banana Heart Sísig)

Sísig Púsûng Ságin (Banana Heart Sísig)

SÍSIG is not limited to pork or meat however. There is Sísig Manibalang Kapáyâ, half ripe papayas dressed in sweet and spicy vinegar; Sísig Púsung Ságin or boiled banana heart dressed in garlic, vinegar, onions and dried shrimps; Sísig Apaliâ, raw bitter gourd with shallots, fish sauce, pepper and vinegar.

There is also Sísig Bangus that is quite common among the people of Masantol. It is steamed Bangus (Chanos chanos) or milkfish that has been deboned, shredded, and mixed with chopped red onions, the juice of Kalamunding (Citrofortunella mitis), soy sauce and chilli peppers. Among the people os Sasmuan, there is Sísig Éma that is made from steamed mud crabs. Instead of Kalamunding, they use Aslam Sasa or nipa palm vinegar as a souring agent. Kilayin Sísig Talaba is another specialty of Masantol. It is made with raw oysters mixed with grated ginger and chopped red onions, plus salt, pepper and Kalamunding or Aslam Sasa.

In his 1960 book Taste and Ways of a Pampango, Mariano A. Henson of Ángeles listed four SÍSIG dish that he was familiar with: 1) Sísig Bábî (pork sísig), 2) Sísig Pakû (fresh fern sísig), 3) Sísig Páro (shrimp sísig), and 4) Sísig Talaba (fresh oyster sísig). However, in his 1964 book Pampanga and Its Towns, Henson also included Kiló Usa (raw deer) that is prepared sísig style by marinating it in Kalamunding juice, lasúna (shallots) and lárâng linangis (bird’s eye chillis) 

Sísig Balugbug Bábî (Pig's Ears Sísig), a.k.a. Sísig Matua (Old Style Sísig)

Sísig Balugbug Bábî (Pig’s Ears Sísig), a.k.a. Sísig Matua (Old Style Sísig) served at Hardin in Magálang.

Although Sísig was still very much a dish for expectant mothers in many Kapampángan homes until the early 1980s, something happened in Angeles City in the late 1960s that changed the history of Sísig forever. It was in Angeles City that Sísig was first served as Pulútan, the snack that accompanies alcoholic drinks.

According to many Ángeles old timers, it was in the late 1960s that dancing halls, locally known as cabaret, began appearing on Henson Street. Enterprising ambulant vendors grilled barbecue on wooden pushcarts as fish ball vendors would do today. On the carts would be rows of Tiltílan or dipping sauces on aluminium Bear Brand milk cans. Many preferred the strong sugarcane vinegar spiked with chopped shallots, chilli peppers, black pepper and salt, rather than the spicy sweet American style barbecue sauce. The men who prefer the strong spicy vinegar dip for their grilled meat were known as Mányísig and their vinegar-dipped grilled meat as Sísig.

These ambulant barbecue vendors mostly gravitated on the vacant lot at Burgos Street that was sandwiched between Henson Street and Rizal Street. It was a few walks away from the dancing hall on San Francisco Street in what is now known as Barangay Agapito del Rosario. At that time, the more enterprising of these began selling alcohol and brought portable tables and chairs for customers who wanted to relax and drink.

To make their customers stay longer, these vendors also brought sartin (enamel) plates and cutleries. They would remove the grilled meat from their bamboo skewers and served them on these plates with the customers preferred sauces so that the customers could take their time drinking, chatting and munching tidbits of grilled meat in whatever sauce they preferred.

The dish known as Sísig Barbecue was thus born this way, mostly grilled Balugbug Bábî or pig’s ears served on an enamel plate with the strong spicy vinegar. Often times a customer would like his grilled pig’s ears Sísig mixed with “Bárbekyung Spare Parts,” that is, the discarded chicken parts that these enterprising vendors collected, grilled and sold ~  Balunbalúnan (chicken gizzard), Púsû (chicken heart), Até (chicken liver), and even  Paldéwut (chicken tail). This became the usual Sísig Barbecue mix sold by these ambulant vendors at the empty lot between Burgos and Rizal Street.

In the late 1960s, a huge fire broke out at the railroad crossing when a train collided with a North bound passenger bus. The wooden houses and squatter shanties by the railroad on Galicano Valdez Street were razed to the ground. After the debris was cleared in the 1970s, stalls were built instead and rented out. These became drinking places that sold barbecue as pulútan. The area was simply called Crossing, after the railroad crossing at its corner.

Bápang Cadoc’s Sísig Barbecue is made from finely chopped grilled pig’s ears and onions, seasoned with salt, chili peppers and Kalamunding juice.

Bápang Cadóc (Ricardo Dinio) of Barangay Agapito del Rosario was said to be the first on record to serve Sísig commercially at the Ángeles Railroad Crossing in the early 1970s. He was the owner of the first stall and rented out electricity to the other stalls since he alone had a contador (electric meter) among all the stalls there at that time. According to the story, Bápang Cadóc’s regular customers were the livestock dealers from Pangasinan and Ilocos who, after selling all their merchandise in Manila, often stopped over at Angeles to have a “good time” before heading back to their provinces in the North. They were said to always complain that the only pulútan available in Angeles is Bábî (pork). They missed their kilawên or raw goat meat in spicy vinegar, which they believed was an aphrodisiac. Bápang Cadóc convinced them that he has a pork dish that would make them forget their kilawên while in Ángeles. He served them Sísig Balugbug Bábî, that is chopped grilled pig’s ears, mixed with freshly chopped Lasúna (shallots), Lárang Linangis (bird’s eye chilli) and Kalamunding juice. To his more adventurous customers, he added more chilli and a shot of Ginebra (gin) into the mix. This became a hit among his customers from the North, but very soon, even insurance agents from Manila came asking for Bápang Cadóc’s Sísig Barbecue, the name popularised by the ambulant barbecue vendors around Burgos Street.

Locals often wondered why Bápang Cadoc’s barbecue stall is always filled with boisterous dáyû (non-Kapampángans) from the North and Manila and wondered what he was actually serving them. They could not believe that it was just Sísig Barbecue. It was only then that locals began to outnumber Bápang Cadoc’s non-Kapampángan customers 

Due to his age and his failing health, Bápang Cadoc decided to entrust his stall and his contador (electric meter), as well as his Sísig Barbecue recipé and clientele to Aling Lucing (Lucia Lagman Cunanan) in the next stall. He soon passed away after doing so.

A photo of Aling Lucing’s Stall at the Angeles Railroad Crossing in the late 1970s, posted by Jack Ramblin on the Facebook group “I remember Clark Airbase.”

Aling Lucing, however, decided to create her own version different from Bápang Cadoc’s. Instead of Balugbug Bábî (pig’s ears), Áling Lucing replaced it with the meatier Balíngit Bábî (pig’s cheeks) for added volume. In one of her interviews, Áling Lucing claimed to have obtained for free the discarded pig’s head at the abattoir in the former US Airforce Base at Clark. It was a beautiful story. However, many of the old employees at Clark refuted her claim by saying that there was no such abattoir within the US Base. Every foodstuff was flown in stateside and never locally butchered.

Aling Lucing simply called her dish Sísig and served it in saucers. Her use of the meatier pig’s cheeks produced more servings than Bápang Cadoc’s use of pig’s ears. However, she retained much of the recipé, preferring to use the citrusy Kalamunding juice than the highly acidic Aslam Atbu (sugarcane vinegar) that is quite common among upland Kapampángans. one thing she did change though, she replaced the sharp tasting Lasúna (shallots) with the milder and sweeter Sibúyas Maputî (white onion). Later, Áling Lucing also added chopped chicken liver into her mix, an innovation she obtained from the Táyags, according to the local gourmand, the late Balam Táyag.

Aling Lucing’s use of Balíngit Bábî (pig’s cheeks) had its drawbacks though. Although meatier, Balíngit Bábî  also has a lot of fat, so much so that it congeals into a gel when it gets cold, quite unlike the cartilaginous Balugbug Bábî (pig’s ears) that can be enjoyed as a cold cut. Popular though it may be, the palatability of Áling Lucing’s meatier but fattier Sísig had a time limit and must be consumed fast. It can not last as a Pulútan among those who drank for long hours.

Photo of Benedict Pámintuan (right) grilling pig’s cheeks for Sísig with her mom, Imang Lilay (left), posted by Linda Bondoc Pamintuan at “Benedict’s Sisig Kapampángan” Facebook page.

It was none other than Benedicto Pámintuan, the brother of Ángeles City’s former mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, who would solve this drawback from Aling Lucing’s Sísig. Benedicto decided to serve Sísig on a sizzling plate! This was the birth of the Sizzling Sísig we know today.

Imang Lilay, Benedicto’s mom, owned a restaurant in Sta. Mesa, Manila where she had a collection of sizzling platters. Benedicto decided to borrow several of these and used them for his version of Sísig which he initially named, Sísig Benedict. People, however, simply called it Sizzling Sisig.

With Benedict’s innovation, Sísig would once again undergo another cultural transformation in Ángeles City. Benedict Pamintuan was the first to serve Sísig as a family dish rather than just as a Pulútan at his restaurant, Sísig Benedict’s at Sugay’s at the garage of his in-laws’ residence on Lakandúlâ Street in the early 1980s. Years later, he moved his restaurant to Miranda Street where the Imrex Hotel now stands.

Sísig found its way to Manila in the early 1980s when Benedicto’s mom, Imang Lilay, introduced his son’s dish at her restaurant in Sta. Mesa, Manila. At the same time Dan Táyag, another Ángeleño, also began serving Sizzling Sísig at his Trellis Restaurant in Diliman, Quezon City. Adding Até Manuk (chicken liver) was a Táyag innovation to the evolution of Sísig Bábî. Dan Táyag says it was reminiscent of the 1960s Sísig Barbecue with chicken “spare parts” that was popular in the 1960s at Henson and Burgos Street.

Sizzling Sisig by Aling Lucing

Not to be outdone, Áling Lucing also began serving her Sísig on sizzling plates at her place in Crossing. Being strategically placed at the crossroads of many travellers coming to and from Angeles City, Áling Lucing’s Sizzling Sísig became popularly known even outside the city. Rumor has it that Bongbong Marcos, if not President Marcos himself, was her patron. It was said that Áling Lucing would be whisked away to the presidential palace in Malacañang where she would cook Sísig exclusively for Marcos and his guests. Aling Lucing undoubtedly became one of Angeles City’s icons because of her Sísig. Catering to a wide range of clientele for more than two decades, Áling Lucing outshone and outlasted many of her local competitors and became the undisputed “Sisig Queen.” By the 1990s, Aling Lucing’s version of Sísig would become the only version known to most Ángeleños. Yet throughout her “reign,” many of the old time patrons still visited the by then semi-permanent barbecue stalls at the vacant lot on Burgos Street that still sold their off-the-menu Sísig made of grilled pig’s ears and barbecue chicken “spare parts” until the mid-1990s. Instead of calling it Sísig Barbecue however, they called this version Sísig Matua or the old style Sísig, since it has long been eclipsed by the ubiquitous sizzling version.

In Barangay Santo Domingo, far away from the railroad crossing and the dancing halls, Ápung Mila (Milagros Gomez) continue to serve the old style “original” Sísig, which in their version is simply boiled Balugbug Bábî (pig’s ears) in spicy vinegar at her restaurant, Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy which she opened in 1989. She also has her own version of Sizzling Sísig made of chopped deep fried crunchy Buntuk Bábî (pig’s head) mixed with red shallots and mild green onions. Quiet and reserved, Ápung Mila did not earn the title “Sísig Queen” but she could have been a “Sísig Empress” in her own right with a strong fan-base that includes a number of famous national celebrities and personalities that often visit her place to relax and enjoy authentic Kapampángan dishes quietly and incognito.

Remaining faithful to Bápang Cadoc’s recipe, his son Ronnie decided to revive Cadoc’s Sísig Barbecue in July of 2021.

In July of 2021, Bápang Cadoc’s son, Ronnie, decided to revive his dad’s Sísig and opened up Cadoc’s Sisig and Barbecue, remaining faithful to his dad’s simple recipe of smoke-gilled pig’s ears, onions, chilli pepper and Kalamunding juice.


Bergaño, Diego. 1732 (reprinted 1860, English translation 2007). Vocabulario de la Lengua Pampanga en Romance. Manila: Imprenta de Ramirez y Giraudier (1860 version). English translation by Venancio Q. Samson. Angeles City, Pampanga: Holy Angel University Press.

Bergaño, Diego. (1732). [Reprinted 1860]. Vocabulario de la Lengua Pampanga en Romance. Manila: Imprenta de Ramirez y Giraudier.

Henson, Mariano A. (1960). Tastes and Ways of a Pampango. Ángeles, Pampanga: By the Author.

Henson, Mariano A. (1965). The Province of Pampanga and Its Towns: A.D. 1300-1965. [4th ed. revised]. Angeles City, Philippines: By the author.

Sources (Personal Communication):

Mayor Edgardo Pámintuan and Mrs. Herminia Pámintuan

Marco D. Nepomuceno

Dan Táyag

Cecile Yumul

Ernesto Díniô

Angela Larrica

Carol Santos Rodrigo

Ámung Samson (Venancio Samson)

Ápûng Nénâ (Eléna Limcolióc Táyag Manalóto)

Adoracion Táyag Manalóto

Maria Felicia Táyag Manalóto Pángilinan

Also recently published as:

Pangilinan, Michael. (2016). History of SÍSIG: How Angeles City Kept Reinventing a Traditional Kapampángan Delicacy. In Sálángî kó pû. July-December 2016. pp. 27-32.

Also read:

Kari (Curry) versus Kari-Kari (Curry-like).

© Copyright 2016 Siuálâ Ding Meángûbié

3 Thoughts on “History of SÍSIG: How Angeles City Kept Reinventing a Traditional Kapampángan Delicacy

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