In the late 70’s, long before there were fancy fast-food chains and restaurants in the city, there was a humble party needs place and eatery that was very close to the Angelenos hearts. That place was called Nelson’s Balloons and Party Needs.
Nelson’s Bibingka was named after Mr. Nelson Mananquil, the late husband of Ms. Evangelina Flores Mananquil. Nelson’s Balloons and Party Needs was then situated in Plaridel Street which made it a perfect go-to-place especially for families who wanted to dine after attending mass.
Because of the growing demand to provide cakes for their party needs clientele, Ms. Evangelina took up lessons and learned how to make not just cakes, but bread and pastries alike. Soon after, they already had fast selling products like buko pie, ensaimada, and empanada. However, it was their original version of bibingka that caught the people’s discerning palate and had them lining up for more.
Ms. Evangelina Mananquil is no stranger to the food business. She is the daughter of Bernardino and Virginia, also fondly called as Apung Iniang who also owns the popular eatery called “Iniang’s Place”. The eatery specializes in pancit luglug and halo-halo, which at that time also has a solid following and clientele.
Nelson’s Bibingka made a significant mark not only in the city’s business scene but in the heart of every Angeleno who spent their special family occasions in this place. Their party needs and food business flourished until the devastating eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 that spared almost no one in Pampanga, including Nelson’s Balloons and Party Needs. With the entire city in a state of shock and recovery, Nelson bid goodbye to the public.
Two decades later, in one of the biggest and busiest food hub in Angeles City called The Quad at Nepo Center, on one corner you’ll find a humble food stall with a familiar sign in bright green that reads Nelson’s Bibingka. Quiet and unassuming, knowing that a lot has changed in the food business for the past two decades. But it’s that nostalgic aroma coming from the combination of rice flour, butter, salted egg, and cream cheese cooked carefully on charcoal that brought people to discover that the well-loved, all-time favorite bibingka in Angeles City is finally back.
When asked what made Ms. Evangelina decide to re-open Nelson’s, she said that it was her son Noel Manankil that urged her to start selling again. Even during the times when Nelson’s was closed to the public, Ms. Evengelina continued to make bibingka mostly for Noel to bring to special occasions and meetings, and the feedback they get from people didn’t change. Everyone still loved every bite of it and they couldn’t get enough of it. Skeptical at first but what really caught her attention was when Noel told her, “Ma, sige na. Magtinda ka na ulit bago nila tuluyan makalimutan” (Ma, please sell again before they completely forget it). So, with all of her original ingredients still available in the market, Ms. Evangelina started making the famous Nelson’s Bibingka again.
What makes this kakain extra special is the fact that the recipe is genuine and Ms. Evangelina didn’t change anything in it. The flavor that you will taste today is the same flavor that people loved two decades ago.
From my observation during the time I stayed with Ms. Evangelina to observe how she makes these kakanins, what caught my curiosity was the ingredients she was using. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, muscovado sugar, freshly grated coconuts, and so on. These ingredients are all great, but they are not cheap! And considering the price range of what they sell, I asked her if she’s even making money at all.
She simply said that she’s not cooking to make millions of money out of it. And that she will never compromise ruining her recipe by making cheap alternatives to her ingredients. She said, “people will eat what I cooked, and I want them to remember the food because of its taste and quality. The revenue should only be secondary”
In a world full of fusion, with authentic dishes being twisted here and there, it’s comforting to know that there are places where you can still go to experience an authentic, original flavor. Yes, change is inevitable, and we need to adapt to the current trends of this time. But we can adapt to change without compromising our roots, our beliefs, and especially our dishes. The same simple but outstanding dishes and flavors that propelled Pampanga to be the Philippine’s Food Capital today.
Experience the authentic flavors of bibingka, puto bumbong, pancit luglug, tsokolate batirul, and halo-halo any time of the year at Nelson’s Bibingka. They are located in The Quad at Nepo Center, right beside Fresh Options and Wiggies Ice Cream.
Nelson’s Bibingka accepts bulk orders and they can also vacuum seal and pack the kakanin for our balikbayans who would like to bring them abroad. Just make sure to call and place your orders at least 2 days ahead.
More photos are published HERE.