Kamuning Bakery’s pan de suelo: taking a bite out of history

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Kamuning Bakery was the first bakery to open in Quezon City. After more than seventy years, it still stands on the very spot it did it 1939, and continues to supply Filipino families with traditional breads that are free from preservatives.

Kamuning Bakery is the oldest bakery in Quezon City. It first opened its doors in 1939, and was among the earliest structures built in Kamuning, Quezon City, along with a barber shop, a grocery store, a church, and a handful of schools.

Cakes for all occasions are on display. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

Cakes for all occasions are on display. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

According to writer Rain de Ocampo, back then, Kamuning was such a scenic area that former President Manuel Quezon decided it would be the site of Quezon City’s first residential area. Kamuning became known as the first Barrio Obrero or Worker’s Village for government employees.

Marcelo and Leticia Bonifacio Javier were given the task of establishing a bakery in Kamuning. And so the Kamuning Bakery was born.

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It is not hard to imagine baskets of Pan de Suelo and condensed milk, a favourite combination among Filipinos, set on the breakfast table during those early days of Kamuning’s development. The whiff of freshly baked bread must have drifted down the street, permeating the few homes in the neighborhood.

The bakery. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

The bakery. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

The success of the bakery can perhaps be attributed to the strength of character and business skills of Leticia. Leticia was a lawyer at a time when only a handful of women had access to education.

Though widowed in 1945 when her husband was killed by the Japanese during the Malate massacre, Leticia found the strength to raise her three children on her own, supporting herself and the children through the bakery.

Under her stewardship, the bakery boasted of 385 varieties of freshly baked breads served year-round. The shop survived the bombings of World War II, years of steep flour prices because of the war, modernization, and the mushrooming of bakeries in the area.

S shelf laden with various breads. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

A shelf laden with various breads. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

It has been seventy-seven years since the fires of this bakery’s pugon ovens (traditional wood-fire brick ovens) were first lit. The community around it has grown into a thriving business and residential area. But the one thing that has remained constant is the bakery.

The bakery was sold by the Javier family to Wilson Flores in 2013. And while it has a new owner, Kamuning Bakery still stands on the exact same spot it did in 1939—still serving freshly baked Pan de Suelo for its loyal customers to enjoy on their breakfast tables, as well as other traditional breads perfected by Leticia’s loyal bakers, and passed on through the generations.

An old camera. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

So much history on its walls. Photo by Donna Demetillo-Mendoza

The bakery also serves more modern baked goods and meals, such as blueberry cheesecake, birthday and wedding cakes, and cinnamon rolls, to name a few.

“Our breads are artisanal. We bake by hand, [which is] labor-intensive and time-consuming. We bake pan de suelo on the floor, which Filipinos used to do a century ago.  The Americans were shocked to see bread baked on the floor, so they demanded it be done on steel trays, which gave rise to the pan de sal, which used to be a lot bigger, not like the small buns we have today,” Flores said in  article by Queena Lee-Chua on The Inquirer.

Stepping into the bakery for the first time, I looked around and felt the history within its walls. A picture of Leticia and her children greeted me at the entrance. In the café adjoining the bakery, there were various antique items on display, such as an old camera.

And in the kitchen, there they stood—the original pugon ovens from 1939 now blackened with age.

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Before leaving the bakery, I was given a bag of Pan de Suelo. Clutching it close to my chest as I waited for a ride home, I felt like I was holding a remnant of history close to my heart.

Later that day, as my children enjoyed the Pan de Suelo (sadly without the condensed milk), they, too, became part of the history of this little old bakeshop in that once little barrio—just as countless of Filipino families have in the past.

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