She brought Pampanga’s singular style of tocino (sweet cured pork) to every table in the Philippines and to Filipinos abroad. Leticia Olalia Hizon a.k.a. “Apung Lolet,” founder of food brand Pampanga’s Best, died on Sunday, Oct. 3. She was 84.
Pampanga’s Best’s Facebook page paid tribute to Apung Lolet, saying, “Her smile, charisma, and love for people (have) made a mark in the food industry. Her original Tocino remains the top food choice of every Filipino.”
Apung Lolet was an elementary school teacher when she established Pampanga’s Best in 1967 on a P3,000 capital.
Known for Filipino breakfast viands like tocino, tapa and longganisa, the company’s beginning was “an act of benevolence,” and its products are now exported to Dubai, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and some countries in the Middle East.
According to a Go Negosyo story published in the Philippine Star in 2007, when a neighbor of Hizon’s was left with five kilos of unsold pork, she offered to “process the excess produce into tocino, wherein cured pork is marinated in sweet red sauce for meat preservation. The sweet-tasting meat immediately sold like hotcakes.”
This experience led her to quit her teaching job, which she felt unworthy to do because she was always absent-minded, “thinking about her husband’s whereabouts…who was managing his trucking and gasoline business and frequently traveled.”
She told Go Negosyo, “I felt guilty and unworthy of the job, because my heart and my mind was just not into it.”
Hizon pawned a ring as collateral “to expand her kitchen for the pork processing. With only about five kilos of meat for her first venture, Apong Lolet successfully sold her finished goods to the butchers of the San Fernando Public Market.”
And the rest, as they say, is food history.
Her family said in a statement she will be remembered by her thousands of employees, family and friends for her “beauty, strength, generosity, faith in the Lord, and love for family.”
Apung Lolet was “a philanthropist in her community, serving San Fernando and Bacolor selflessly throughout her life. As the founder of Pampanga’s Best and the one who formulated the original tocino, her contribution to the Philippine economy is immeasurable. Likewise, her influence on Filipino cuisine cannot be overstated.”
Hizon leaves behind husband Anfelo Hizon Jr., 12 children, 61 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.