The Story of Arroz Ecija Restaurant
Our story began in the year 1878 when Don Claro Vèlez set sail to the Philippine islands from his hometown in La Mancha, Spain. Being part of the last wave of Spanish settlers to the Philippines, Don Claro was assigned to establish the justice system in Northern Luzon. He eventually settled in Santa Maria, Isabela where he sat as regional judge. Don Claro was a young lawyer with a special passion for agriculture. While serving as judge, he dabbled in tobacco and rice farming within the expanse of his land. Within several years, his hacienda flourished, compelling him to assume the role of full time haciendero. In 1894, the eligible Don Claro married Patrocinio Alindada, a local mestiza. The couple dedicated their lives to their growing plantation. Enticed by the impeccable weather conditions in Nueva Ecija, the Velézes acquired land in Jaèn as the site of an even bigger rice plantation. There, the Albufera de Vèlez took root.
The Albufera de Vèlez prospered in the early 1900s where it provided jobs for over 300 workers and their families. The lady of the house, Doña Patrocinio, presided over the hacienda’s kitchen from where she fed all those working in the fields. Her long dining tables groaned under the weight of mammoth feasts she lovingly prepared. She warmly welcomed everyone and lavished them with hearty food, attention and cariño.
Life at the Albufera de Vèlez flowed with the seasons. While Don Claro attended to the cycle of soil preparation, planting and harvesting, Doña Patrocino busied herself with creating and re-creating beloved Fil-Hispano recipes according to the best fruits and vegetables of the season. Life was simple, abundant and in harmony with the land. But life for the Vèlezes forever changed in January, 1942. In one tragic assault, the Japanese Imperial Army descended upon the Albufera and pillaged it for everything it was worth. Don Claro and his eldest son, Alfredo, were accosted and in April, were made to join the Death March from Bataan to Tarlac. Father and son did not survive. Arroz Ecija is an ode to the memory of Albufera de Vèlez... a homage to a time when life was beautiful... a time when a good meal was enough to make up for a hard day’s work... a time when every person was part of the family... A time when food was prepared slowly, lovingly and with heartfelt care. At Arroz Ecija, we delight our guests with the same food that came out of Doña Patrocinio’s kitchen. We embrace them with the same cariño that came from her heart. Welcome to Arroz Ecija... welcome to our Albufera de Veléz.
Arroz Ecija Cusina Fil Hispano is located at Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, Taguig City.