Eating out with Rizal

Where would you bring our favorite hero for a good meal?

DINE WITH PEPE Rizal (leftmost) in a dinner with expatriates Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera and Juan Luna, and another man standing presumed to be a waiter

As we commemorate Dr. José Rizal’s martyrdom at Bagumbayan on Dec. 30, 1896, we are left to wonder, “Have we come so far 125 years later?” Not only was the Filipino polymath instrumental in ending the Spanish colonial period, but he has also inspired many, especially the youth, to live more meaningful lives by being devoted to a bigger cause—the country. His brilliance, charm, and passion for travel paved the way for Filipino culture to be recognized all over the world. His literary works and sacrifices awakened Philippine nationalism.

We seldom associate Rizal with food. So, a random thought crossed my mind: “What was Rizal’s last meal?” Records reveal that the bodyguard of Rizal, Lt. Luis Taviel de Andrade, told the hero’s sister, Narcisa Mercado, how the historical figure was served a plate of three hard-boiled eggs. Instead of eating them for breakfast, however, Rizal set down the dish for his cellmates, the rats. “Let them have their fiesta too,” he said. Poetic even in his final moments. This led to the next question, “What would have been the perfect dish to serve Rizal? What meal would be fit for a national icon?”

Academicians and historians believe that Asia’s Renaissance man was a foodie. Rizal’s journals, novels, and even his letters to his family would reflect his penchant for food. An avid explorer, Rizal developed a liking for food he encountered in his travels, including France’s mussel marinière, Spain’s cocido, and Hong Kong’s crispy fried noodles. Of course, his favorites were Filipino. All things considered, Rizal could be one of the earliest food bloggers.

Following the meals that the Filipino revolutionary liked in the 19th century, here are some of the dishes I would proudly recommend to him as well as the restaurants I would bring him to if he were alive today. Take note that each of these dishes is worthy of being a last meal.

Tinola a la Mesa

Atching Lillian Borromeo, a food historian famous for preserving heirloom Kapampangan dishes, learned from Rizal’s relatives that he had his own recipe for tinola, one that used kalabasa (squash) instead of papaya. While exiled in Dapitan, the doctor would write his mother Teodora Alonso a letter, asking her to bring him Laguna cheese, mangoes, anchovies, monggo, and this chicken soup. The dish was even used as a political and social jab at the Spanish friars in his Noli Me Tangere.

Some people describe tinola in jest as “manok na may tubig (chicken with water),” claiming that the Filipino soup lacked flavor. These are the folks who haven’t tried great tinola like that of Mesa Filipino Moderne’s, which was dubbed by Taste Atlas, an experiential travel guide to traditional food, as the best in the world, where chicken simmered in coconut water with young coconut meat and green papaya is served in a coconut husk—a bowl of pure comfort.

Mesa Filipino Moderne is at Greenbelts 5, Legaspi Street, Makati, 1209 Metro Manila, Philippines | +63 2 728 0886


Monggo sa bahay

Healthy, hearty, and made with affordable ingredients, nothing beats homemade monggo. Rizal was also a fan of sautéed mung beans with spinach soup. Author Milagros Enriquez wrote in her book Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan that Francisco Rizal Lopez, a descendant of the polyhistor, remembers how the Philippines’ great hero would enjoy monggo soup whenever he visited his nephews and nieces.

A good friend from the culinary scene (who wants to remain anonymous) makes one mean monggo. He shares his recipe in memory of Rizal.



2 cups monggo, soaked in water overnight, then drained

2l chicken stock, use as needed

1 red onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

250g liempo, chopped into small pieces.

Salt and pepper to taste

Chicaron laman (optional)


  1. Sauté until the fat becomes a little crisp.
  2. Take the pork out, then sweat the onion, garlic, and bay leaf.
  3. Add in monggo and fried pork.
  4. Add in chicken stock till it covers the monggo. Simmer till you’re only left with half the liquid.
  5. Add in the rest of the chicken stock, season, and simmer till the monggo is fully cooked
  6. Garnish with chicharon laman.

If I would be so privileged to take Rizal to Iloilo, I would take him to St. Martha, where the monggo, replete with coconut cream, he would find as good as the monggo any of his nine sisters or his mother I imagine would cook for him on Friday, but without the pork bits because in their time, Catholics abstained from meat every Friday, whether or not it was Lent. Plus, Rizal would have the time of his life at St. Martha, identifying the takway or the tendrils of a particular variety of taro, the tambo or bamboo shoots, the alugbati or Malabar, and more as he did naming every single species of plant or animal or flower at his parents’ orchard in Calamba.

St. Martha is at North Fundidor Molo 5000, Iloilo City, Philippines


An avid explorer, Rizal developed a liking for food he encountered in his travels, including France’s mussel marinière, Spain’s cocido, and Hong Kong’s crispy fried noodles. Of course, his favorites were Filipino.


Malinamnam na pancit at cogon ice cream

Rizal was fond of pancit since it was his go-to dish as a student. He and the rest of his Filipino classmates would eat the stir-fried noodles in Madrid after school. Pancit also made a special appearance in El Filibusterismo, in particular, in Chapter 25: Laughter and Tears, where he described it as a “made with mushrooms, prawns, shrimp, beaten egg, rice noodles, chicken, and God knows what else!" 

Among my latest culinary finds this year is the kalukalu bihon, Hiligaynon for toasted noodles. The first and only time I had tried this distinct pancit was on my last visit to the private dining restaurant Linamnam. But the dish is not on the menu. Don Baldosano’s mom made it especially for us as part of our Christmas dinner. The noodles have a very interesting texture as they are toasted. Don’s mother would throw in squid ink, which would give the dish fresh umami hints. Here’s to hoping the young chef serves the kalukalu bihon to his customers, even in his signature progressive style that is always faithful to the original taste.

The biggest winner of that night’s spread was the cogon ice cream, which, lucky for Linamnam clients, is offered by Don on his current tasting menu. The southern Asian tall grass, normally utilized as fodder and in bahay kubos, is repurposed. Roasted cogon is infused with ice cream made of carabao’s milk from Bulacan. There’s a subtle matcha taste to it, with the right amount of sweet and tea flavors. Topped with puffed rice from Isabela, the texture elevates the highly addictive dish. It also utilizes indigenous Filipino ingredients like the buri (palm sugar) as sweetener. Easily one of the best desserts I’ve had in 2021.

Linamnam is at 31 Greenvale 2, Parañaque | @linamnam_mnl | 09175730246


Champorado and tuyo in one bite

Rizal would be surprised by how innovative Filipino dishes have become. His favorite champorado with sardinas secas is given a unique spin by progressive Filipino restaurant Hapag Manila. The rice porridge is transformed into a sticky rice croquette and served as a snack. The deep-fried champorado bite uses Auro chocolate, dulce de leche, and palad dried fish.

ISANG KAGAT Hapag Champorado at Tuyo (left) is served with Keso at Kabute Tartlet as starters

Hapag Manila is at Katipunan Ext, 201 Katipunan Ave, Project 4, Quezon City, 1800 Metro Manila | @hapag.mnl | 0947 560 1853