Memorable Meals Around the Table: Gerarda’s

11 months ago


HO LIM MUST BE BEAMING WITH PRIDE FROM UP IN HEAVEN. As a busy wife, mother, and grandmother in the 1950s all the way up to the early 2000s, she spent many long hours in the kitchen cooking for her brood of ten children and thirty-something grandchildren, plus an extended family of cousins and friends. This she did willingly and happily, not
out of a sense of duty, but because serving home-cooked food was her language of love. Six years after she left this world, youngest son Alex decided to honor her memory by opening up a restaurant serving her culinary gems in their ancestral home in Tagbilaran City. Now with his daughter Aimee Calatrava Lim at the helm of Gerarda’s operations, this family-friendly restaurant is considered a haven for comfort food in Bohol.

A warm and welcoming atmosphere greeted us at the door as we were ushered in by the smiling staff. Tassled drapes adorn the windows while family portraits and random figurines line the walls; it felt as if we had arrived at our lola’s house, and the waiters were there to spoil us.

Gerarda’s offers the Lim family’s favorite dishes featuring traditional Filipino fare and “Filipinized” Chinese dishes. Gerarda’s husband Felix Sun Lim was, after all, the son of a Chinese couple from mainland China who settled in Bohol in the 19th century. Having received the Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor for three years (2014, 2015, 2016) and the Top Choice in Asia award by for two years (2015 and 2016), Gerarda’s has become quite popular among local residents and international tourists eager to sample Boholano food.

Surprisingly, one of the most outstanding dishes on the menu is actually the simplest: the Ubi Kinampay Guisado. While most Filpinos know and love ube as an ingredient for sweets, this
is a savory dish of sautéed ube strips with shrimps simmered in shrimp stock. It was so delicious and delightful; everyone at our table had second and third servings. Aimee explained that the special local variety of ube called ubi kinampay is favored for its firm to chewy texture and deep purple color.


Boholanos apparently love soups and that’s why Gerarda’s Seafood Kare-kare is soupy and even mildly sweet. This guilt- free kare-kare has white shrimps, split blue crabs, tender squid rings, and lowland vegetables. As we mixed the peanut rich seafood broth into our rice, we agreed that it needs no bagoong at all.

For those looking for a healthy viand, there’s the Nilaw-uy, a mélange of vegetables in a broth fortified with the essence of ginger, squash, okra, alugbati, patola and the mild fragrance from the bago leaf. Nilaw-uy or law-uy is apparently quite common all over the Visayas and Mindanao, with different versions made with whatever vegetables can be plucked from the garden, and often times flavored with yesterday’s fried fish.


Aimee also keeps up to date with
food trends and infuses fresh ideas into Gerarda’s as she is about to complete her culinary degree from Cebu. Take the case of the Dinakdakan. Aimee upgraded the Ilocano favorite into a dish that’s meatier, using grilled pork belly instead of the
usual “maskara” or pork face. The crisp and creamy bite is still present, thanks to the umami-rich mayonnaise as a substitute for pork brain, while chunks of crisp, green Bohol tomatoes add another layer of texture and flavor. You might say that this Visayan rendition is a Filipino classic with a twist.
Chinese dishes also figure prominently on the menu with a whole page dedicated to different types of pansit. The most special and unusual of the lot would be the egg noodles tossed with mixed seafood and vegetables in a black squid ink broth. We also enjoyed the Sizzling Chicken Omelette, a tasty chicken chop suey encased in a thin egg crêpe.


With Daddy Alex and Mommy Inday (who does the marketing for fresh produce daily) helping out, Aimee hopes to expand the family business into another Gerarda’s branch near the Tagbilaran airport. Looking around the spacious dining room filled with the noise and laughter
of families and friends bonding over delicious food, I realized that Gerarda’s greatest gift to her children and grandchildren lives on. It’s in the tradition of cooking dishes with love that they serve to their customers every day.

Words by Nina Daza-Puyat
Photography by Floyd Jhocson of Studio 100
Art direction by Regine Paola Velilla


30 J.S. Torralba Street, Tagbilaran City, Bohol

Call (038) 412-3044

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