Doña Juana (left) with Becca Godinez at Premium Chorizo de Bilbao manufacturer, La Espanola Meats, Inc.

WITH Christmas around the corner, Filipinos carry certain customs with them wherever they are around the world. One of them is the noche buena feast following midnight mass on Christmas Eve — a cultural and religious observance learned from the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. 

Queso de bola (Edam cheese), ham, hot chocolate and pan de sal are considered must-haves. At the center of most tables is the paella, which Filipinos have embraced as their own, typically served in a wide and shallow cast-iron pan with chorizo, chicken and mixed seafood neatly organized atop the rice. Rice is a staple of Filipino cuisine and Filipinos have accepted and adapted the paella dish as their own. But the dish’s significance extends beyond that as it invites meal guests to be sociable and interactive.  

Filipinos in Southern California luckily have access to ingredients to make a paella using Premium Chorizo de Bilbao. Chorizo de Bilbao is a Spanish-style savory semi-cured sausage fondly enjoyed back in the Philippines. Carrying on these food traditions is a core mission of Doña Juana Faraone, a native of Valencia, Spain who founded La Espanola Meats with her husband in Southern California in 1982. 

La Espanola Meats’ growth mirrors the humble immigrant story as it started with the purchase of a small Spanish deli where Doña Juana taught herself how to make different chorizos. Today, she owns and oversees a USDA-inspected facility that manufactures sausages that are artisanal, high-quality and without extra preservatives. 

How La Espanola Meats chanced upon this beloved chorizo from the Philippines is thanks to a longstanding relationship with Filipina singer and actress Becca Godinez who met Doña Juana through a mutual friend in the early 90s. Godinez, who had moved to Los Angeles from Manila a few years earlier, sold some of La Espanola Meats’ products on the side and helped export the chorizos to Rustan’s back in the Philippines. 

“When Doña Juana’s and my life crossed, it started simple. Eating humble pie, I sold and delivered the products myself,” Godinez said. Years later and after clamor from Filipinos looking for Chorizo de Bilbao, she partnered with La Espanola Meats to perfect a recipe for a Premium blend. 

“It took a year and two months, of testing to perfect the Premium Chorizo de Bilbao,” she added. The Doña Juana Premium Chorizo de Bilbao is now available at all Seafood City locations in the United States for Filipinos to delight in, and has been a best-seller since it hit the stores in October.

Whether it is used for callos, afritada or a paella, the Premium Chorizo de Bilbao isn’t just an ingredient — it is a piece of tradition that reminds us of family and this holiday season. 

“At the end of the day, I want customers to enjoy and remember these products from home and keep our traditions alive,” Doña Juana said. 

Doña Juana’s Premium Chorizo de Bilbao is a product of GODinUs Productions, distributed by Food for All Inc., and manufactured by La Espanola Meats, Inc. 

RECIPE: Doña Juana’s own Paella Mixta

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