What's Cooking In... The Philippines

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 52 of the November 2015 issue.


With the pig on a spit, Joseph prepares to stuff its belly and sew it up. Photos by Sandra Scott

While my husband, John, and I were on a tour in the Philippines in 2008, one of our stops was the island of Cebu, where we stayed overnight at Plantation Bay Resort & Spa (Marigondon Beach Road, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines 6015; phone +63 [32] 505 9800, www.plantationbay.com)

I was impressed with their pools — eight of them, four of which are saltwater lagoons and four, freshwater pools — covering a total of six acres. I never forgot about the pools, so when we returned to the Philippines in March 2015, we again booked a stay at Plantation Bay Resort. (We paid a media rate of $140 per night; the published rate is $197.) 

The resort is designed to resemble a historic plantation village, with a one-mile circular road that passes by the many plantation-style buildings used for accommodation, plus the spa, restaurants and activity areas. 

Riding in the vintage horse-drawn carriage around the property, I spotted the chef cooking a whole pig near one of the pools. Called lechón, the pork dish is served several times a week at the resort’s themed dinners. I returned to learn how it is prepared. 

Chef Joseph at the head of the cooked, carved pig.

Black lechón is unique to Cebu. Legend has it that black lechón was served to Magellan in 1521 when his voyage stopped in Cebu. The word lechón is derived from the Spanish word for “milk,” but today, in the Philippines, it refers to the roasted suckling pig (or, colloquially, to a chubby child). 

It is one of the national dishes of the Philippines, and no celebration, fiesta or family event is considered complete without it. It is especially popular at Christmastime. If you want to wow your family and friends at your next big gathering, serve lechón.    

Sandra Scott can be reached c/o ITN.