IN SEARCH OF FILIPINIANA & FILIPINO FOOD IN VALENCIA
Updated: Sep 21, 2022
by Gene Alcantara
It's not so easy to find a genuine Filipino restaurant in Valencia. Unlike in Madrid or Barcelona where you are almost spoilt for choice.
Tired from roaming around the largest fleamarket in Valencia City, Rastro de Valencia, in a drizzle, then rain, in search of any Filipiniana items, I bumped into a couple of fellow expatriates from Switzerland, Erick and Rose Jarin. Like me they were walking round to see what took their fancy and I saw them expertly haggle over 3 collectible mugs, with Rose already holding a bag with a figurine she got.
To initiate the conversation, I said, "Maganda iyan a." (Those are nice). And the couple looked up smiling, saying, "Ah, Filipino." And after they have paid the stallholder, we all stopped and chatted for a while.
They have not been here very long, having been posted by an international organization, first to New York then Switzerland and now Valencia. We exchanged notes about our jobs, getting Spanish nacionalidad after 2 years of residence in the country, our third culture kids (they having grown up overseas and therefore not fully Pinoy), and eventually retiring in Spain, and buying property here cheaply.
I showed them a couple of my purchases (not Filipiniana) -- an antique silver-plated figurine of the Virgin Mary and child Jesus, with her crown fallen off and needing fixing, and a silver plated letter opener, plus lots of beads for my other half.
Anyway, they told me about these two Filipino restaurants in Valencia, one called Punk-o Punk-o (which appears to mean food in one of the dialects), and Restaurante Manila I believe they said.
So having had my fill of numerous stalls of bric a brac, genuine antiques and what the locals referred to as "rubbish" -- glasses and vases, old toys, dolls, pictures, figurines, necklaces, trinkets, books, clothes, knives, religious icons, rusty farm implements, old laptops, etc etc, I decided it was time to find the Pinoy restaurants.
I found the first one quite easily and managed to find really tight parking for my rented Citroen. Unfortunately Punk-o Punk-o, located in fashionable and very busy Russafa District was cerrado, closed, and nobody answered the phone.
Ironically and happily in one of the many bazaars in the street nearby I found what looked like a carabao horn letter opener, although the Spanish female owner insisted it was from a tortoise shell, "clearly a 1940s souvenir". I didn't argue anymore. I didn't care -- I managed to find Filipiniana by chance (and not at the fleamarket)!
Disappointed though that the Pinoy restaurant was not open, I then drove in more rain to Restaurante Manila. Sadly when I got there I could not see any brown skinned kababayan – it evidently was not a Filipino restaurant at all. The Valencian-African owner said it was just the name.
It was fairly busy with old men and women drinking wine and beer and chatting loudly, and families dining, but the menu was all in Spanish. I didn't really know what to order so I went for ensaladilla Rusia (Russian salad) then calamares Valenciana (squid fried in batter). The third thing I ordered was a bocadillo ternera. The waiter/owner nonchalantly repeated my order, "Sandwich?" And I said yes.
I thought I ordered beef sandwich, but it turned out to be toasted baguette with langgonisa and, wait for it, pig's blood. Did I make a mistake? So imagine a toasted baguette with dinuguan and langgonisa fillings. It threw me but clearly it's a Spanish delicacy so I tried it anyway. It was alright; I finished half of it while the salad and squid were demolished completely.
Next time I go in search of Filipiniana in Valencia, I think I would prefer to relax afterward with a genuine Filipino meal next time. Just need to know when this Punk-o Punk-o place opens. And I might just head for the numerous bazaars around first, instead of spending almost fruitless hours in the fleamarkets.