The Smell of Freshly Baked Pandesal

I feel the gentle taps on my legs as a voice whispers my name, “James… James, son… it’s four o’clock in the morning.”

As far as I could remember, my father would always wake up this early.  He would sit up on his bed and with his head bowed he will proceed in a deep, pious communion with God that will go on for about 15 minutes. Then, he would start the stove, cook the rice, turn on his radio and as the voice reads the day’s hottest news my dad would lift some weights and jog around our big yard.

This morning, however, is different. He woke me up as I have asked him the night before. When he saw me awake, he smiled at me before he left to scoop five cups of rice into a pot, wash it and place it on a stove with the fire crackling and dancing for the brand new day. I yawned as I stretched my two arms as high as I could until I could hear my bones snap. It is too early in the morning for an eleven year old, but this is the day I have been waiting for. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on new clothes and as I was about to leave, my dad handed me a bag made of a carton box with an old towel inside and a made up strap. I placed the strap over my head to rest on my left shoulder and I marched to the market to a place called “Avenue” – the local panaderia or bakery.

Several other school boys around my age congregated there with their boxes in queue on the counter top. I placed mine in the end and as we waited we could smell the sweet and delicious scent of a freshly baked pandesal or sweet roll. Pandesal is a common food staple in the Philippines that Filipinos have favored to have with their morning coffee. Some like to dip it in a freshly brewed java. Some enjoy it with a margarine spread that has melted by the roll’s warmth.

The baker gives the signal that pandesals are ready; each young boy would raise his twenty pesos in exchange for 100 pcs of that delightfully sinful bread. With their merchandise neatly stocked in their boxes, each one is off to walk the streets of the town of Guimba yelling the words “Pandesal! Hot and tasty! Great to have with your cup of joe!”

I still remember my friend Rommel, who, the week before, told me that he started vending pandesal and how he could easily make a five-peso profit every morning before school. Five pesos was a lot of money, considering that I get less than that in my daily allowance. Out of sheer curiosity and after making a case with my dad, I have embarked on my first crack on entrepreneurship.

I chose to walk the path where a lot of people I know lived. Yelling the magic phrase that I have rehearsed for a couple of days, I teased all the houses in the streets that mine was too tasty to refuse I was already running out of supplies. My first customer was my fifth grade teacher, a spinster who lived alone. She was surprised to see me and reminded me to be careful and to not be late for school. I see more lights on the front porches lit up and people emerge on their robes waving at me with their money.

It didn’t take long until I ran out of pandesal. As I walked home to account for my funds, I realized I made five pesos. Not bad for less than an hour’s work. As I returned home, I saw my dad sweating as he was jogging in the yard. I held my hand up and gave him his twenty pesos back. He saw the satisfaction on my face.

The next day, out of deep slumber I felt the gentle taps on my legs as my dad’s voice calmly called my name. When I opened my eyes I saw him smiling at me. He pat me on my head before he left my room. I yawned as I stretched and at the corner of my eye I saw resting on the table the five peso bill I made the day before. I looked up on the clock and it was already six. Time to get ready for school.


A bag of pandesal: taken from

WP’s PostADay challenge: The Transporter. “Tell us about a sensation — a taste, a smell, a piece of music — that transports you back to childhood.”


2 thoughts on “The Smell of Freshly Baked Pandesal

  1. Pingback: We’ll Never Smell That Way Again | The Jittery Goat

  2. Pingback: Never Get Board of the Past | Keyboard Pizza

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