Filipino comfort food from the Three Sisters

The old Three Sisters

Old photo of Three Sisters

Metro Manila has seen many restaurants come and go over the years. Sadly, even some good restaurants (which seem to have been there forever) have closed down. There are few that are surviving, keeping up with the time and still as good as when they first opened. One of them is Three Sisters in East Capitol Drive, Pasig City.

The restaurant first opened its doors on November, 1941 at Poblacion in downtown Pasig. It started as a small panciteria owned and managed by Lola Rosa Francisco. Lola Rosa would always be in the kitchen, cooking her special recipes for her five children. Her passion for cooking drove her to open eatery. She wanted to share her love for food to anyone who was hungry for good food.

She named her small food business venture, Three Sisters’ Refreshment Parlor, after her favorite talcum powder. Back then, the powder brand was so popular that radio stations would air its commercial. Lola Rosa simply adored the jiggle, it could even be love at first note.

Because her refreshment parlor was located downtown, most of her customers were those who attended the church mass and/or those who have visited their departed loved ones at the memorial park. Her good food, cooked with love and passion, drew the people to her little luncheonette and kept them from coming back for more servings.

But a month after it opened, the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened, signaling the start of war. Weeks later, the Japanese forces began invading Pasig. Lola Rosa and her family fled to Antipolo where they sought shelter.

Soon, the World War II broke out. The Pasig guerilla movement fought bravely against the invading force. In the middle of the war in 1943, Bahang Silangan (overflowing of Laguna de Bay) destroyed not only the rice harvest, but also the remaining hopes of the people. But there were those who remained strong, leading to the Battle of Pasig. The American troops positioned themselves behind the Rizal Provincial Hospital, while the guerillas started their operations against the Japanese. On February 19, 1945, an American flag was hoisted at the Concepcion Mansion. Two days after, the American forces took over the city.

Three Sisters started as a small panciteria at the downtown Pasig.

Three Sisters started as a small panciteria at the downtown Pasig.

While the war heightened, Lola Rosa decided to return home. There was no place to come back home to. Their house and the refreshment parlor had been burned down. War has changed Pasig.

But this didn’t keep Lola Rosa down. Armed with her optimism, she rebuilt everything and reopened Three Sisters. She expanded her menu and introduced new dishes, including halo-halo. As told to her grandchildren, Lola Rosa learned how to make this delightful treat from some Japanese who had settled in the area before the war. (Apparently, these Japanese settlers were spies and strategists.) The Japanese were probably making shirokuma or kakigori, which is Japanese shaved ice dessert.

Even though the terror of the war was still gripping the country, Lola Rosa’s Three Sisters was thriving and seemed to be doing great. After the war, she began serving her special pancit. It was so good that it became popular throughout the city.

Years after, the little luncheonette transferred to its current location, in Barangay Kapitolyo, and became a full-service restaurant, adding and serving more Filipino comfort food such as sinigang na kanduli sa miso, pancit bihon and pork barbecue. Most of her original recipes have been passed on from generations to generations. To this day, her grandson, Paul Pike, is continuing Lola Rosa’s legacy.

Those who grow up eating at Three Sisters would always remember to order a bilao of pancit here for special occasions. Choices are bihon, miki bihon, canton and palabok. Diners can order it ala carte.

For everyday meals, one can opt for their bestsellers combos such as the pork barbecue, prepared and cooked just like how Lola Rosa did it in the olden times. Three Sisters is quite generous to the serving size. They don’t scrimp on the meat — more lean meat, less fats.

Priced at P165, the pork BBQ combo meal comes with two sticks of pork BBQ and Java rice, with pancit canton on the side. For P195, you can either choose the Chicken BBQ (quarter leg chicken BBQ) or Pork Liempo Meal (grilled pork belly). Both meals include Java rice and pancit canton.

Their Crispy Pata is simply divine — tender with a perfect crunch. Kare-Kare is also a must-try, with its peanut sauce in the right consistency. I particularly like their Pinakbet, cooked with bagoong. It was not salty, and came with a generous serving of vegetables.

For dessert, it has to be leche plan. So smooth and creamy, with a sweetness that is not overpowering. Don’t forget to try their halo-halo, topped with one scoop of ice cream and a small portion of leche plan.

Since 1941, Three Sisters truly satisfies anyone’s Filipino food craving. With food trends that are constantly changing, we really hope they would continue to remain true to Lola Rosa’s well-guarded recipes. After all, there are only few restaurants that keeps the Filipino food traditions alive.

Bilao of Pancit, with choice of bihon, miki bihon, canton or palabok.

Bilao of Pancit, with choice of bihon, miki bihon, canton or palabok.


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