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The Much Beloved Kamuning Bakery Will Rise Again

Breads and pastries at the counter

 

Last February 6, we woke up to the alarming news that a treasured 79-year-old institution, Kamuning Bakery, was on fire. While the fire was quickly put out and no one was harmed, the two-story building sustained major damage, with all of the baking equipment destroyed in the fire. The two original pugon or wood-fired ovens were water damaged but can still be rehabilitated. This landmark bakery has been baking its famous pan de suelo and other traditional Filipino breads since 1939 from its original site at the corner of Judge Jimenez Street and K-1st Street in Kamuning, Quezon City.

 

Baking pan de suelo in the pugon oven

 

Just baked pan de Espana or Spanish bread

 

Amy Uy, author of the award-winning book Panaderia, related the story of Kamuning Bakery in FOOD Magazine’s February 2015 issue. She writes, “The breads here are still handmade using time-honored techniques, without preservatives, and baked in the trusty pugon. They still bear old names like pan de España (Spanish bread) and bicho-bicho (doughnut twist) and there are still the otap, lubid-lubid, ugoy-ugoy, faborita, pan de coco, pan de Rizal, pinagong, and pan de limon that have delighted generations.” The photos featured here show the bakery in its former glory, with pan de suelo baking in its wood-fired oven, its age-old equipment still in use, and its bakers shaping the dough all by hand.

 

Freshly baked pandesal

 

Kamuning Bakery’s present owner, columnist-entrepreneur Wilson Lee Flores relates his dismay at the destruction, “We’re trying to find ways to recover from the loss.” What Flores didn’t expect was people’s emotional reaction to the tragic news. He shares, “Firemen told me during the fire, there were customers crying beside them.” On TV, he saw scriptwriter-director Bibeth Orteza Siguion-Reyna saying that she and her two brothers cried upon hearing about the fire. The painter Aba Lluch Dalena also cried while passing by the fire site, according to another TV news report. The granddaughter of rock icon Pepe Smith, a Kamuning suki or regular, sent him a touching message. Third-generation customer, 79-year-old Joaquin “Joaqui” Roces, son of Chino Roces and grandson of the bakery’s first suki Don Alejandro Roces, visited the bakery as well.

 

Cinnamon rolls ready to be baked

 

Despite the heavy loss, Flores is nonetheless thankful for all the support he has received since the news of the fire hit. He says, “We thank all the unprecedented outpouring of support from many people from all walks of life, from families, to writers, artists, politicians, activists, and even many other bakery owners here and overseas.” He also made sure to thank the Quezon City firemen and Filipino-Chinese volunteer fire brigades from other parts of Metro Manila and even as far as Bulacan, as well as QC Administrator Aldrin Cuña who personally helped save paintings and memorabilia from the fire.

While the bakery needs extensive renovation, Flores is committed to rebuilding the site, restoring its old façade, and mindful of the history of the place. Thankfully, the bakery still sells its breads (except the loaf bread), cakes, pies, and cookies at its branches in Scout Delgado corner Tomas Morato Avenue, and at SM North Edsa (2/F East Bridge). Flores hopes to open several more branches as a way to provide work to the bakers and staff while the bakery is being renovated. While we wait for the old Kamuning Bakery to rise from its ashes, we’re happy to continue enjoying its old-style breads, cakes, and pastries as our small yet meaningful way of honoring this much beloved institution.

 

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Photos by Justin de Jesus