In Los Baños, giant ‘buko’ pie steals Christmas show
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—This university town in Laguna province skipped the lanterns and the belen (nativity scene) and went instead for a giant buko pie and a chocolate cake this holiday season.
By nightfall, colorful lights come to life, setting the replica of a large pie in a slow spin. Cars stop by as people take snapshots by the Christmas display.
“This is very nice. It’s the first time we’ve seen something like this here,” said a resident of Calamba City as she stepped out of a car.
It would be hard to miss the town’s holiday display because it is along the national highway, in the town’s boundary with Calamba.
Made of plywood, the pie replica, with crust that looked like it was slightly toasted, measured 2.43 m (8 feet) in diameter. It rotated like a clock against a board that resembled a pizza box.
On the other hand, the chocolate cake rose 7.92 m (26 feet) high with layers of fake flower frosting and a Christmas star on top.
Then there is still, of course, Santa Claus on his sleigh and a holiday greeting for travelers in bold, colorful letters.
“Christmas is [celebrated] all over the world, so we thought—Why not make something catchy and unique?” said Rommel Maningas, the town’s tourism officer.
Maningas said the local government spent around P200,000 and employed local artisans for the Christmas display.
In the coming weeks, he said they would put up makeshift tents for vendors of puto bumbong and bibingka (rice cakes), which are traditional Filipino delicacies during this season.
In this town, buko pie has become a mainstay on Christmas dinner tables, Maningas said.
The town’s cottage industry started in the 1960s, making Los Baños known for the coconut and custard-filled pastry.
There are at least four brands of buko pie that can only be found here. These are Lety’s, The Original, Sheila’s, and Nitz’s, selling their pies for a standard price of P200 a box.
Maningas said the stores make a combined sale of at least 1,000 boxes a day. “It’s our number one product,” he said.
Aside from the buko pie, another pastry has made a name for Los Baños.
Mer-Nel’s, known for its soft cakes coated in generous amounts of sweet chocolate frosting, has become a perfect pasalubong (gift) from this town.
The cake is produced by a bakeshop on Lopez Avenue. Couple Merle and Nelson Balicao opened the shop in the late 1990s.
Backdropped by Mt. Makiling and blessed with natural hot springs, Los Baños draws about 200,000 visitors yearly. The town also hosts a campus of the University of the Philippines, the International Rice Research Institute and several research facilities, making Los Baños a Special Science and Nature City in 2000.
With Christmas more than two weeks away, Maningas said the local government found the perfect way and season to promote its products.
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