Keso de Gallo in Pampanga

Yesterday (Christmas Eve), I had an opportunity to travel to Pampanga, the province of my birth. Kraft (through the GeiserMaclang PR agency) had invited a group of bloggers to witness the last leg of their project called “Keso de Gallo“. So I, along with Juned, Hannah, Vince, Coy, Fritz and other blogger friends left Manila at the insanely early hour of 2am so we could be in Pampanga by 4am.

Catholic Filipinos typically attend mass (misa de gallo) in the wee hours of the morning during the nine days before Christmas. Kraft provided hot chocolate and cheesy squash puto to the parishioners of San Guillermo Church in Bacolor as a way to promote creating dishes using affordable local ingredients (in this case, squash) and Eden Cheese.

Keso de Gallo: San Guillermo Church

San Guillermo Church at 4am

I was asleep in the van and hadn’t been briefed on exactly which church we were heading to in Pampanga, so when I opened my eyes I was pleasantly surprised that I was revisiting a church I’d been to during a Living Asia trip in 2007. Since that trip, the church has become the filming site for ABS-CBN soap “May Bukas Pa”.

The church looked respendent, decked out in Christmas lights in the pre-dawn darkness. As I listened to the priest intone a homily in both Kapampangan and Filipino, TV crews from ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda set up their lights and cameras. Winnie Cordero was even on site to cover the event for UKG.

Keso de Gallo: Lantern

a different kind of Green Lantern’s light

As the sun rose, we were packed back into our van for the short trip to Angeles City. We were about to breakfast at Chef Claude Tayag’s house, Bale Datung. Meals at the gracious chef’s place are only available through registration, so it was a real treat to sample some traditional Kapampangan dishes. Each bite was a flavor explosion in my mouth, while Bale Datung itself was a feast for the eyes because Chef Claude is also an artist who creates sculpture and paintings by commission. (Check out the Multiply album about my Christmas Eve trip to Pampanga.)

Keso de Gallo: Chef Claude Tayag

Chef Claude Tayag

Before we left Bale Datung, the team from Kraft and GeiserMaclang gave out awards for the best photos taken at Keso de Gallo. For third place, Juned won with a lovingly photographed multiple-exposure of San Guillermo Church’s steeple. Hannah ran away with the contest though, taking both second and first place with an angled shot of the steeple, and a close-up of a Christmas lantern.

The rest of us walked away with heavy, heavy gift packs of Kraft Eden cheese. (I ended up handing them out to my friends later that night at the Christmas Eve service I attended in Victory Ortigas.)

Even though I was half-dead from lack of sleep by the time we got back to Manila at noontime, the Keso de Gallo and our festive breakfast afterward had me in a wonderful mood to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. ?

(Thanks to Ms. Amor of GeiserMaclang and Sir Alex from Kraft who made our trip possible. Merry Christmas!)

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