What would ‘Sana’ serve the President on his birthday

Published March 28, 2021, 10:53 AM

by Zea Capistrano

DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte would have celebrated his birthday in a hole-in-the wall eatery, which he frequented  when he was still a fiscal at the City Prosecutor’s Office here. He would be enjoying his favorite beef tapa and beef bulalo for sure.

(Zea Capistrano / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Kung mag-birthday sya diri, special gyud ang tanan. Magprepare ko niyag bulalo na baka and then tapa nga baka, sinabaw isda mao may paborito para namo (If he would have his birthday here, everything will be special. I will prepare beef bulalo, beef tapa, and fish stew),” said 80-year-old Porferia Sagoysoy Valles, the owner of the famous Sana’s Original Bulalo.

“Karon nga Presidente siya dili gyud mahitabo kay gibawal man ang iyang paglakaw-lakaw nga sya ra (Now that he is the President, that will not happen because he’s forbidden to go out on his own),” she said.

When Duterte was still a fiscal in the late 1980s, the now popular Sana’s Original Kabawan had no name yet. The small store is filled with photos of Valles and her numerous customers, including the President and his family.

The former mayor would even bring his friends and guests to Valles’ eatery.

Valles said she has hosted VIPs, local officials and even foreigners who saw or read her interviews  on the internet.

(Zea Capistrano / MANILA BULLETIN)

How it got is name

Valles recalled that when Duterte was still a fiscal and came by their eatery, she asked him, “Sir, what are you going to eat? This one, tapa?”

She was referring to the shredded tapa which is one of the famous dishes they offer.

Duterte asked her where she was from. Upon learning that she was from Jagna, Bohol, Duterte told her, “Ah, nganlan ka nakog ‘Sana’.” Sana (female) and Sano (male) are terms of endearment used by Boholanos.

She refused to be called Sana at first, saying she was “Inday” being the youngest among 13 siblings.

Valles replied: “Sir, dili man ko Sana, Sir. Inday man ko Sir, I’m the youngest in the family of 13 children.”

(I am not a Sana, Sir. I am Inday. I’m the youngest in the family of 13 children).

But the President was insistent. Hence, Valles and the little eatery she owns and manages have become known as “Sana”.

“Pag-abot ni Digong ginganlan na namog Sana,” she said.

(Zea Capistrano / MANILA BULLETIN)

Teacher turned businesswoman

Valles admitted that had she been a teacher, she would not have met “Digong,” the man who would later become President.

“Kung nag-maestra ko dili ko maingon ani sa kinabuhi. It’s a blessing for me from God,” she said.

She and her husband migrated to Davao City where she was supposed to teach. She recalled that life was difficult back then. She had to work hard selling in the park.

“Walang-wala gyud mi. Unsay gihimo nako sa akong kinabuhi, naninda kog saging (banana), gulaman…sa park. Labihang luoya gyud sa akong kinabuhi. Pero ni-strive na ko,” she said.

(We had nothing at all. What I did was I sold banana, gulaman, hotdog in parks. Life was really difficult, but I strived).

(Zea Capistrano / MANILA BULLETIN)

Valles shared that back in their hometown, she even took up a nursing course for two years, however, her father did not allow her to go to Cebu to further her studies.

“Pag migrate namo diri walang-wala gyud. Pero nag maestra ko ha nursing pa ko two years unya wala nisugot akong papa na moadtog Cebu moeskwela kay unya kunog way kwarta, mag-unsa na unya kuno ko (When we migrated here, we had nothing. I was a teacher and I even took up nursing for two years but my father did not allow me to go to Cebu to study because he said what would happen to me if we have no more money),” Valles shared.

She said she had to borrow money from loan sharks to help her business.

Valles shared that when President Duterte was still the city mayor, he helped her get financing to pay off her debts without interest.

With faith, courage, perseverance, and her business management skills which she learned from managing their family’s eatery in Bohol, Valles was able to survive the food business spanning around 40 years already.

“Wala ko kahibalo nga mahibalo ko unsaon pagluto sa tapa, its a blessing again from God,” she said.

Valles said despite the challenges she had to go through in running the business was all worth it because she got to know “Digong” and his family. The President was even a ninong (sponsor) during her son, Joel’s, confirmation.

“Ang mga tao karon moagi kay motan-aw sa kan-anan ni Digong na paborito (People would come by to see Digong’s favorite eatery),” Valles added.

(Zea Capistrano / MANILA BULLETIN)

Now, that he is President, Valles says she understands why her loyal customer was not around to order. She said about “five or six months ago” she was able to send some beef tapa to Manila.

“Maybe tomorrow, I will go to your house to meet you kung imo kong paadtoon. Hinaut pa unta walay mobara nako kung moadto ko kay kana imong mga PSG (Presidential Security Group) mobara ra ba (Maybe tomorrow, I will go to your house to meet you if you want me to go there. I hope nobody will forbid me from seeing you when I go, because your PSG is really strict).

“You and your family are always in my prayer,” she added.