Sanitary Bakery turns 70 in August

July 11, 2017 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment


By Yolanda Sotelo

DAGUPAN CITY – This city turned 70 on June 20, and a “corner bakery” would also turn 70 years, two months later.

 

It is still located on the same old building where it was established on August 13, 1947, near the corner of AB Fernandez and MH del Pilar streets.

Seen

Seen Seaw (Isabelo) and his wife Alejandra during their younger days.

That year, as the city was rising from the ashes of World War II, seven Chinese friends who just arrived from Mainland China to escape their country’s repressive regime, embarked on a journey that would help define this city’s taste for bread.

The seven Chinese friends  are Wong Tak, Lee Sam, Lee Ung, Lee Luk, So Cheng, Liong Shin and (Isabelo) Seen Seaw, actually started different business ventures, but later decided to pool whatever resources they had and put up Sanitary Bakery and Grocery.

The business prospered, but the partnership broke in 1962, or 15 years later.

Wong Tak, who had the biggest share in the company, prevailed upon the others, who were hesitant to leave the bakery to (Isabelo) See Seaw, prevailed upon the other to take over the business as a single proprietor. (Seen adopted the name Isabelo when he married Alejandra, an Ilocana girl.)

Seven decades later, Sanitary Bakery remained like it was when it was first established – a corner bakery where, on early mornings, the aroma of bread being baked waft towards the streets, and where one can buy pandesal placed in the thin brown paper bags.

There is hardly a development on the building which used to be a warehouse for softdrinks. In a city where franchised bakeshops abound, the bakery evokes of the “old Dagupan” feeling where still sleepy but smiling sellers put the bread in paper bags early in the morning.

“We still bake our breads and pastries in pugon (oven that uses firewood) the way the original owners did it,” Conchita Seen, 71, says. The first pugon, located in a neighboring property, had to go when a wall was put up by the owner. A pugon was built in 1952 and is still the one used until today.

Jesus, the eldest, managed the bakery until Conchita, the only unmarried  child, took over 1969 and remained there until her father passed away in 2007 at the age of 98. Their mother Alejandra helped tend the store nd mind the cash register until she died in 2016.

Conchita says the bakery never expanded nor modernized and continues to bake and sell “old style” biscuits, cookies and pastries.

The pandesal remains to be the best seller, however.

“Our recipe is the same throughout the years,” she says. One time, when she was not looking, a baker tried to tweak the ingredients, saying the pandesal was “salty.”

But Conchita and his brother Jose immediately spotted the difference in taste, and reprimanded the worker.

The recipe was based on a baking book which a British gave to him, and he experimented with the ingredients and  came up with a pandesal that clicked with the Filipino palate.

“We stick to the formula through the years,” she says. But she does not mind sharing the recipes with others, as she claimed that one new bakery in the city offers the same products that taste exactly like Sanitary’s. But she said no one can beat the original.

The bakery, now sans the grocery, still stands on the same site where it was established 70 years back. It was transferred after the 1990 Intensity 8 earthquake that devastated the city.

When typhoon Pepeng devastated the city with floodwater in 2009, the pugon was filled with water. The owners repaired t for two months, stopping the operations.

But the business was soon back to normal, Conchita recalls, ever thankful for the bakery whhich was the source of the family’s expenses, especially their education.

 “We are now 70 years, and we shall continue serving our customers, old and new, and maintain our legacy to our people,” Conchita says.

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Entry filed under: News.

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