Tapa, sinangag at itlog: a high five for your mouth. During weekends as a child, I remember waking up excited especially when breakfast was tapa, tocino or bangus with sinangag, weekend silogs as we call it.
My siblings would disagree because for them, an exciting breakfast meant bacon and pancakes. I like those too, but what can top the best Filipino breakfast? Sweet marinated beef, salty fried egg served with pungent garlic rice and atchara on the side. It’s simple, sweet and savory, a meal every Filipino around the world enjoys.
Tapa was invented pre-refrigeration days. One of the safest ways to eat meat back then was to preserve it with salt. Instead of discarding day old rice it was made into sinangag and served for breakfast. To make the morning optimistic, add a fried egg.
Primarily served during breakfast, it’s now made available 24 hours. Tapsihans all over the city became our version of the American Diner serving our choice of Tapsilog (tapa), Longsilog (longganisa), Tocilog (tocino), Bangsilog (bangus) just to name a few. All are served with fried egg and garlic rice.
From weekend special, tapsilog became my favorite morning-after meal. Whether on a rush, on a budget, undecided, still intoxicated, embarrassed, or looking to regain energy post-coital, this meal never fails. It’s also become something of a litmus test for guys I’m dating. When a guy brings me to a tapsihan for Date Number 4, I can tell we’ll get along. But on the first date?
I remember checking Twitter soon after I said agreed to go out with this random guy, and the first thing I saw? A tweet from him: “Time to find out if she’s chill and down to earth. Dalhin sa tapsilugan.” I panicked a little. My mind said I’m sitting next to Scrooge McDuck but my tummy grumbled a resounding yes!
My intuition, as always, was correct. Five minutes into the date, I knew I wasn’t going to like him. It would’ve been a complete and utter disaster if not for the fact that he brought me to Rufo’s Famous Tapa. We all know Rufo’s for its “sauce pa lang, ulam na” slogan but we all love it for its Batangas marinated beef and sweet sauce, garlic rice, and fried egg. The house blend of brewed coffee completely washed whatever icky feeling I had from the rando dude.
I was still reeling from the horrible date two days later, when I received a message on Viber from Aman: “I want SEX right now.” Full disclosure: I wasn’t sure what Aman and I were. We’d message a lot, occasionally hang-out, and flirt with each other often. Surprised, I asked, “WTF, is this a wrong send?” No, he calmly said and then: “Sinangag Express tayo.” Ohhh, SEX.
Sinangag Express is originally from the south that opened a branch near my area, Katipunan. While it offers an assortment of silogs like Embosilog (embotido), Chicksilog (chicken wings), and Chosilog (chorizo), there isn’t anything like the original tapsilog. It was a good decision: The Tapa SEX serves is shredded but juicy. The serving size proved small for my large appetite. I can’t say it was better than the deed, but the place is cheap and delicious, so yes to SEX.
It was also Aman who introduced me to Tapsi ni Vivian. We were enjoying a night cap one evening, but before going home he mentioned that I needed to try the tapsilog at this placed called Tapsi ni Vivian. I said “Tapsi nino?” He was shocked that I never heard of it, me the girl who loved tapsilog.
And so we made a quick detour to Marikina. Apart from the tapsilog, we also ordered the most curious item on the menu: The chichasilog had beautiful pieces of chicharron bulaklak on top of garlic rice and fried egg. It was definitely a treat, but the tapsilog was a most delightful experience. I can still taste the sugary grains from the shredded beef. The cane vinegar served was a homemade blend of local spices, perfectly complimenting the tapa. Together with the crunchy chicharron bulaklak, this Tapsi ni Vivian meal was a harmonious pleasure that I will always remember.
Nothing ever came of Aman though, or of the guy who brought me to Rufu’s. I went out with another guy, Martin, who introduced me to Recovery Food’s Tapa de Morning. It was a completely different experience from the two previous roadside hoopla: freshly made tapa served with a choice of organic white, red garlic, or talangka rice. But still, nothing.
The search for The One is exhausting and lonely. Somedays, I wonder if I’ll ever find a man who can love me the way I love my tapsi—unconditionally, and forever and ever more.
But it’s hard to be miserable. Not when you can have tapa, sinangag at itlog: a high five for your mouth.
Illustration by Madel Crudo