Bohol’s best kept secret: Bakery

(Editor’s Note: First printed in the Bohol Chronicle’s lifestyle section dated March 5, 2017, this article along with the photo was contributed by a foreign national who fell in love with a Boholana and the one-of-a-kind pan de sal of Central Bakery that Tagbilaranons have long loved to munch every morning.)

No one here can tell you how to get to the New Central Bakery but if you ask around for the best bread, someone is likely to be able to show you.

There is a little storefront bakery in Bohol. Tucked away slightly below the street level, it is almost impossible to find.

They do not have a sign. As far as I know, they do not need to advertise at all. They open before I am awake and close when they run out of bread, often by 6:30 am.

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They make only two things, a small round roll and a slightly larger round roll; each identical, except for the size. As near as I can tell they use only yeast, water, and flour with a little salt. It is very basic bread. Chewy, with a dry crust. Simple, good, pure. A bag of 10 rolls is embarrassingly inexpensive. To balance the scales I have to donate the money to the church further down the street. The grace of that bread has resulted in much generosity to the faithful.

I have been going there for years. Without reading labels, nothing about the place looks of a bakery except the scattering of bag rolls. Further behind the counter are bins with the balance of the morning’s inventory. Several times I have bought the last of their stock. I always imagine that long before the sun is up and the room is filled with bread, but I am never that early. If the door is closed, I know I am too late. They have a noisy mynah bird in a cage and I can be sure am at the right closed metal door as I can hear the bird.

Once I asked the man behind the counter, “What do you call this bakery?” He looked at me with a blank stare, like I was asking a fish what he might call water. Some things just are.

The one-of-a-kind pan de sal Tagbilaran old-timers have been enjoying for more than half a century already.

An older man, who I assume was the father then looked up from the back and said “New Central Bakery.” I doubt those words are written down anywhere on anything in the building that is not unseen seen in a drawer that does not get opened. I asked him to repeat it twice to make sure I heard him right as we are far from the central part of the town and other from the morning’s bread, there was absolutely nothing “new” about the place. “New Central Bakery.”

By any name, it is excellent bread and for years I travel half way around the world and I am not truly in Bohol until I have been there.

If you are ever in the Cogon neighborhood of Tagbilaran before 6:30 a.m., the New Central Bakery is about a block north of San Jose, along Lamdagan Street. Don’t ask for directions, though. No one here can tell you how to get to the New Central Bakery. But if you ask around for the best bread, someone is likely to be able to show you.



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