Salud Dayrit-Santos (1883-1970)

Imang Salud
Salud Dayrit-Santos was a legend in San Fernando, Pampanga during her time when it came to good food. The fourth child of Don Mariano Dayrit and Dona Maria Singian, she was known to be among the best cooks in San Fernando. Due to changes in the family fortunes, Imang Salud was not able to receive a Spanish education like her three elder siblings. Thus, she started working at a young age. She married a young widower, Demetrio Pekson Santos, but was soon widowed herself. She had three children namely Mariano, Felicidad and Marcelino.

It is said that of the three Dayrit sisters, Imang Salud was the most hardworking. That is why she became prosperous. She had many businesses, which of course included cooking and baking. She also owned a transportation business, having kalesas, karomatas, kutseros and horses that did rounds everyday. It was said that she woke up at 4 in the morning to groom the horses herself. This hardwork may have been attributed to the fact that she was widowed very early.

Imang Salud took cooking lessons from Paris-educated Rosario Hizon Ocampo, together with her niece Remedios Santos-Pamintuan (owner of Apo View Hotel in Davao City), as did many of the well-known cooks of her time in San Fernando. She learned international cuisine, and improved and improvised on these recipes, creating her own signature delicacies and dishes. Friends later started to order her signature pastries.

Ladies from San Fernando, Pampanga take cooking classes at the home of Rosario Hizon Ocampo
Imang Salud loved to cook and honed her culinary skills by preparing delectable dishes for her family who loved to entertain. Every year, old families in San Fernando looked forward to her birthday celebrations on February 7 which she used to showcase all her wonderful recipes. And her grandchildren fondly remember her bed after the party, which had a huge pile of gifts on it, testament to Imang Salud's many friends who relish her culinary prowess.

Her menu included Gallantina, Cannenones, Pastel, Stuffed Pavo, Arroz Valenciana, Chicken a la King (using homemade crispy heart-shaped crust), her famous Pansit Frito (a delicious tasty broth with fried pasta, meatballs, onion rings and curled spring onions), Shrimp and Green Pepper Salad, Shrimp Rellenado, Lengua Estofado, Steamed Apap with Asparagus and Homemade Mayonnaise and many more.

Imang Salud with her friends Encarnacion
Singian-Lazatin and Sally Hizon
Imang Salud, also managed the kitchen and prepared the food for the lavish parties of her younger brother, prominent sugar planter Joaquin Dayrit. She dished up the best cuisine to suit the impeccable and discerning taste of Kapampangan high society, Don Joaquin’s prominent friends who included Don Juan Nepomuceno, politicians and even well known personalities like Rufino Cardinal Santos and Senator Rogelio dela Rosa to name a few.

Among her most popular pastries and desserts are the Ensaimada (made with Brun butter and topped with queso de bola), Plantanilla, Nogatines, Petit Fours, Empanaditas, Tocino del Cielo, Macapuno Log and dayap-flavored Mazapan de Pili. These recipes were passed on to her daughter Felicidad "Pising" Santos and later, to her daughter-in-law, Catalina "Aling" Magat-Santos, who still makes Ensaimadas in San Fernando. Today, Imang Salud's granddaughter Meliza Santos-Henares continues the culinary tradition of the family and is a third generation Ensaimada maker. These heirloom recipes of Imang Salud are now available in Manila every Sunday at the Legazpi Sunday Market.