Luz Kinilaw, an icon rebuilt




Razed by fire a year ago,  Luz Kinilaw is now a two-storey edifice that still sells their popular classic kinilaw (ceviche) and tuna na panga.

No one can put down a local dining institution which for 47 years have kindled the appetite of residents and visitors alike.

The resto is located along Quezon Boulevard, a stone-throw away from Magsaysay Park in the eastern fringe of Davao City's Chinatown District. It is sandwiched by Magsaysay Park and Mini-Forest, a former tree park which is now the site of a thriving Moslem community.

Luz Bargamento Polache migrated to Davao City together with her parents in 1952. Her father worked in a copra warehouse in front of Magsaysay Park.

"This used to be shoreline before and you can see the ships anchored along the coast" She remembers the place which is now a densely populated community of stilt houses.

Luz recalls that she worked as helper in a Tinap-anan, a stall which sells slightly grilled or smoked fish. It was in 1968 she remembers that someone told her a barong-barong (makeshift hut) is being sold for one-hundred forty pesos. The ramshackle barong-barong had four posts supporting a thatch roof sheltering two tables,  it stands in the present location of the present restaurant.

Wanting to start her own business she initially borrowed P200, She paid P140 for the Tinap-anan and the P60 as a capital for the fledgling business where she bought softdrinks, beer and fish to be sold in the store.

Tending the business hands-on

Luz goes on travels around the world, a much needed respite from work



The business prospered slowly. "I did not spend the profits, I used it for capital."Luz said. She also borrowed money from lenders as additional business capital. As the loans were being paid and she had now debt-free capital to roll, the store expanded.

The signature dishes which is the kinilaw (ceviche) and the tuna panga (grilled tuna jaw) became a hit among Dabawenyos. And the place became a must visited place for tourists.

"I made the recipes myself, its all original, I never copied it." Luz says of her hit dishes. Aside from grilled panga, they also have other grilled seafood specialties like tuna bihod (eggs of the female fish), bagaybay (fish gonads), tuna belly and grilled squid.

One of the famous celebrity customers in Luz Kinilaw is Manila City Mayor Joseph 'Erap' Estrada who started visiting Luz Kinilaw when he was still a  Senator and during his time as Vice-President.

A photo taken in 1999
With a loyal customer, former President now Manila City Mayor Erap Estrada
Luz Kinilaw's famous Ceviche (Kinilaw) cubed tuna meat, relished with onions
radish and ginger. It is mixed with vinegar and salt.

"When he was the President, he no longer visited the place but he invited us in the hotel where he was staying." Luz recalls.

Luz closeness with the then President helped her and the neighboring community secure Presidential Proclamation 85 which declares the area as a human settlement site.

With the surrounding community composed of houses built with light materials, the area was hit by a fire last year (2015) the fire spread quickly and engulfed 57 houses including the wooden restaurant.

A frequent customer, the Mayor of Davao City came to the rescue. Luz says the Mayor promised assistance.

"We always come to him for help, whenever there is a threat of demolition, we would come to him." Luz said of the Mayor.

In jest Mayor Rodrigo Duterte promised to give her five sacks of money to rebuild.

Luz says Mayor Duterte's commitment to her and her neighbors that they could return and rebuild in the same area is equivalent not just to five sacks but to five bodegas (warehouses) of money.

"I will stay here forever." she said.



From a ramshackle seaside hut the present Luz Kinilaw is now a two-storey building, gone is the non-descript facade which has become some sort of a landmark in Quezon Boulevard, in its place is a modern-looking resto with wide dining space that can accommodate about a hundred customers, the foul-smelling stagnant water at the back has been filled up and converted as a parking space for clients.

The icon has risen from the ashes.



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