Inubarang Manok is a signature dish in Aklan, an island in the Visayas where Cecilia Nillasca, the domestic worker who raised me, comes from. Though it’s not typically reserved for special occasions, in Cecilia’s household the ingredients required to make Inubarang Manok are rarely bought. That means that when she makes it, she is celebrating. Last time we spoke she was preparing it for her son, who was coming home to visit from Taiwan, where he is employed as a factory worker. Some people substitute heart of palm for banana pulp, or include both in the recipe. Others add fresh chili for a bit of spice. This is Cecilia’s recipe.


(serves 4)

1 whole chicken, chopped
1 whole onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 bay leaves
salt to taste
whole peppercorn to taste
5 cups heart of palm
3 stalks lemongrass


1. Boil the chicken in one pot of water together with the onions, garlic, the peppercorn, salt, and bay leaves.

2. When the chicken is nearly finished cooking, add the heart of palm and lemon grass. Let all the ingredients simmer for 30 more minutes or until the chicken and the heart of palm are completely cooked.

3. Serve with steamed rice.

Cecilia Nillasca at home.
Cecilia Nillasca at home.