In this workshop you will learn how to make Pastillas de Leche (milk candies) wrapped in pabalat (decorative wrappers). You will make the candies first, then work-on the wrappers. This activity requires a little bit of patience and lots of love for sweets!
Pastillas de Leche is a soft and milky candy loved by Filipinos for generations. The name is derived from the Spanish words pastillas (pills) and leche (milk). It started off as a simple dessert cooked by local farmers. The original recipe uses fresh carabao’s milk, sugar, and citrus zest. These candies are commonly packed in plain white paper and sold in delicacy stores. However, the traditional Pabalat (skin or wrapper) is used as an exquisite wrapper for these delectable sweets.
The Pastillas candies originated from San Miguel, Bulacan, a province of the Philippines. Every year a Pastillas Festival is held where people showcase their yummy milk candies wrapped in Pabalat. The designs are not only intricate and sophisticated, but they also illustrate the Filipino heritage such as local huts, flowers and other national symbols.
Pastillas wrapped in pabalat are only made for special occasions and orders. It serves as an eye-catching centrepiece during feasts and fine gatherings. It also became popular among Filipino overseas workers who buy these beautiful confections as pasalubong (souvenir). Interestingly, Bulacan's Pastillas Festival only began in 2006 to celebrate the renewed appreciation for the craft. Pabalat artists conduct workshops so that people can learn their unique craftsmanship.
Nowadays, only a few ladies in Bulacan continue to practice the craft and one of them is Natty Ocampo—a Pastillas Pabalat artist. She learned the skill from her mother, Nanay Luz, who had mastered the art and made a huge collection of Pabalat designs. Natty feels that the art of making Pastillas Pabalat is winding down because it is no longer taught in schools and the youth seem to lack interest. Natty aims to continue her mother’s legacy and to teach the Pastillas Pabalat artistry to the next generation.
I am excited to teach this art piece to keep it alive and to share an awareness about it. I wish to visit San Miguel Bulacan someday so I could earn from the masters themselves and have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the tradition.
Take note: Children under 12 years of age should be supervised by an adult.