Classic Sta Cruz Laguna Dishes at Aurora Filipino Cuisine

When you say hot spring, there's one destination that crosses my mind, it's no other than Laguna! I've been to the province of Laguna a couple of times but never did I set foot in one of its town called Sta Cruz Laguna.

That's my friend and bride's maid, Aylin. We've been friends since 2010 but we never had the chance to travel together. Look how excited she was finally traveling with me, after six years.

There's something special that keeps me going back to Laguna, I can't wait to rediscover the rich culture and traditions of this province. A few months ago, we were in Liliw scouting for the best women's wedge shoes after our trip to San Pablo. It's a long street where you can find the best shoes in town, durable and pocket-friendly. I bought four, one for mom and three for me. 😘  and very cheap compared to the ones you'll see in Manila and major department stores.

On my last birthday, someone gave me a cook book authored by Chef Day Salonga. I never thought I would meet him that soon.

Located along the old street of P. Guevarra, walking distance from the Immaculate Conception Parish is an ancestral house turned into a heirloom restaurant. I'm referring to Aurora Filipino Cuisine.



You would easily notice this old white house as you passed by. We were told, there were only two remaining old houses in Sta. Cruz, one is the Aurora's. It was built in 1940's and nearly 100 years old. Given its age, there are many stories and memories of the old house. Chef Day shared it survived the Japanese era and was burnt by the Japanese soldiers. Later on, it was rebuilt. His grandmother Auring turned the first floor into a parlor which was very popular during the 1950s to 1960s. While the second floor served as their home. After several years, the parlor moved to Laong Laan and continued to be well-loved parlor during those days. Today, Chef Day Salonga with Chef Mon and the whole family run the converted ancestral house of Salongas into authentic Sta Cruz restaurant. You might think they are just the usual type, serving the regular sinigang or kare-kare. Aurora Filipino Cuisine serves only well-loved Sta. Cruz Laguna dishes at a price everybody would love.

For me it's going to be one of the tourists spots in Sta Cruz, Laguna.


We arrived at Aurora Filipino Cuisine past lunch time. From the door, I immediately felt at home. The stained glass to old photographs hanging on the walls speak of its age. Nothing was new here except for some kitchen equipment, said Chef Day. From the door, the window to the walls - these are all part of the old 19th century house.

For starter, we had Ensaladang Sta Cruz thoughtfully arranged with pako, pickled ubod, salted egg topped with blue ternate flowers glazed with salted egg vinaigrette. They said blue ternate aids in fertility. I think the province of Laguna is known for pako, it's a type of fern. It usually grow at the foot of the mountain. I love the freshness and crunchiness of pako. The dressing was good and has the right sweetness and saltiness of salted egg. In a few minutes the salad was wiped out.

Ensaladang Sta Cruz
I guess there were only few restaurants serving real tamarind juice, right? Chef Day has concocted a delicious, healthy and refreshing tamarind juice made from real tamarind. 


Who says, maruya is just for snacking? At Aurora's, maruya (banana fritter) is served as appetizer with a local dish called minanok. Sound "manok" and yes, it taste like chicken but it's not. Minanok is a puso ng saging cooked in coconut milk, another traditional Sta Cruz Laguna dish. It was one of my favorites among Laguna dishes we had. The sweetness of maruya and the lightness in flavor of minanok blends well in the mouth.

Have you heard of tinuto? It's Sta Cruz version of laing. Theirs has shrimp and buko (coconut). Fish is always best paired with vegetables. We had Tiya Auring's Sinugno, it's a whole tilapia fish cooked in coconut sauce over charcoal heat. My friends were talking about the next dish while I was enjoying the tilapia dish. It's tasty and flavorful, reminds me of my aunt charito who cooks pinangat na tilapia.

Tiya Auring's Sinugno
The problem with giving is expecting to receive in return. Sometimes it's just so hard to become generous. It will come to a point you who have nothing to give because you've given all. I was overwhelmed when we were served this special Pork Estofado in a bandehado, a huge pork knuckle in rich sauce. There are people who are just too generous. The richness in flavor, tender juicy pork just show how much time and love was poured out in this heirloom recipe. Fantastic! This pork estofado is a great example of generosity.

Pork Estofado

They say, there's no place like home. For me, as long as I'm with a company of good people, sharing common interest like food, I call it home. 

with Joy and Aylin
Our long conversation turned even more sweeter as they served Sta Cruz halo-halo and palitaw. Our dessert spread made me miss my husband who decided not to join me in this weekend trip to Laguna. At least I have more reason to come back. Next time I'll make sure he will join me in my next trip to Aurora Filipino Cuisine in Sta Cruz, Laguna.

Halo-halo has the ingredients of the regular halo-halo except that it has yema on top. There's no ice cream but you'll sure to get the same creaminess and sweetness of forever loved halo-halo. On the other hand, we were surprised with Sta Cruz palitaw served with sweet sauce. There's no coconut meat as well but topped with chopped nuts. Interesting! Aside from the two, the Brazo de Aurora, Brazo de Fernando and Bibingka cheesecake are must-try.

Halo-halo and palitaw
Brazo de Fernando
Brazo de Aurora
Bibingka Cheesecake
I learn many things along the way as I take this journey discovering the better side of myself. So when opportunities come, don't ever waste time and regret it. Just like many photographs we stored in our devices, experiences can be stored as well.... in our memories and our hearts.

Ancestral-House-Sta-Cruz-Laguna- s

I hope you would find time to listen to the stories of the past. Rediscover the rich culture and heirloom recipes of Sta Cruz Laguna. You can definitely find it here at Aurora Filipino Cuisine.


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