Torres Street in Davao City is now a bustling hub of nightlife and restaurants. I pass that way everyday to and from work and I can’t help remember my childhood days when it was an out of the way street we would visit only on special occasions. Though the old Torres Street was usually avoided at the time it was secluded and “out of the way“, lined by unkempt banana trees and very dimly lit, that was a special and almost magical place from my childhood. The reason was that Harana, my parent’s favorite restaurant was there. To this day, the Harana of my childhood has changed with the times but the food and the ambience still echo the happy memories we had there. Even now, when the family finds an excuse to eat out together, Harana is still the place to go.
A Brief History of Harana Restaurant
Harana has a history that started in 1966, when it began as a simple place where friends and family could get together in the backyard of Attorney and Mrs. Fermin Abella in Matina, Davao City. The house specialties, which you can still order to this day, were sinangag (fried rice) and spare ribs, the original recipe of Mrs. Rosario Abella-Lizada. The “outdoor picnic feel” of the place attracted friends and neighbors of the couple to come over with family and friends, especially in the evenings when the yard was lit by little gas lamps. Eventually, word of mouth made the little place popular with Dabawenyos for its good food.
In the 1970’s a bigger Harana was set up in a new site along McArthur Highway in Matina to cater to the growing number of patrons. Knowing that Harana was a family restaurant, the owners added a playground with the intention of making Harana a place where families could spend their quality time together. Harana’s popularity grew with the laughter of children and families having fun filling the free flowing garden ambience. On its opening night in June 29, 1970, the Feast Day of St. Peter, Harana cemented its place as one of Davao’s most beloved places for special family occasions and as a place to relax and unwind over a special meal. I find my memory jogging down memory lane as I walk around the restaurant, remembering the times when I was there with my parents. It always seemed like one big family reunion whenever we were there. My parents would even relate the times they were still teenagers and enjoyed a meal or two with their families at Harana. There was always more than enough good food, light conversation and children’s glee to go around.
Davao’s Food Street?
On June, 28, 1979, the second Harana was put up along Torres Street, encouraged by the continued swell of the number of its patrons and the start of Davaoâ€™s boom as a city. The bright lights brought the dim street to life and the cheer of the place made its patrons forget the world outside. Most Dabawenyos consider the opening of Harana along Torres Street as “the day Davao’s Food Street came to life.” Over the years, the children who once played on the gardens of Harana have grown and had families of their own. Still, their childhood memories of the place keep them coming back and year after year the playgrounds of Harana have seen children grow from toddlers to adults. The benches around the gardens has been the site of many a whispered first â€œI love you” and marriage proposals. The original Harana customers have handed down the â€œHarana dining experienceâ€ to younger generations that at present, its common place to see groups of friends and even young couples to enjoy the original house specialties. Even until now, the menu hasn’t changed much. Also on the property are the Mongolian Garden, which serves its signature Mongolian barbecue, and Sarung Banggi Steak House. Now manned by the third generation of its original owners, the Harana tradition of family values and good food is alive and thriving in this one of a kind place that is beloved by generation upon generation of Dabawenyos. What was once a backyard family affair has now become synonymous with good food and family memories.
This article is written by Monique Musni. Obviously, she loves this restaurant. If you have not been there yet, you will love it too.
She would like to give special thanks to to Mr. Carlo Aquilar for helping her out with the history of Harana Restaurant.