josef george kamel, s.j. drawing of alagao leaf
Alagao (Premna odorata Blco). Alagao or alagaw is a small plant, more of an oversized bush than a tree, with heart-shaped leaves covered with fine hair. It blooms on the terminal of branches producing a bunch of whitish berries that ripen to deep purple.
Alagao hardly figures in daily use although it has culinary uses, limited it seems to a few lakeshore towns in Laguna province. In the town of Angono, young alagao leaves are used for wrapping fish prior to roasting or steaming. The leaves give the fish a subtle piquant and mint-like taste.
When the late chef Bey Fernando, who established Crescent Moon Café in Antipolo, learned of alagao’s culinary possibilities, he developed a salad based on the Thai Mieng Kum (Leaf-wrapped savories), which uses edible leaves or lettuce. Crescent Moon uses young alagao leaves. Alagao trees grow just outside the cafe, so the leaves are as fresh as you can get.
Crescent Moon is also the home of Lanelle Abueva-Fernando's pottery studio. Trained in the Japanese tradition of pottery, Lanelle makes stoneware fired in the very premises of Crescent Moon. Diners at Crescent Moon are served not just a feast for the palette but also for the eyes as well Bey's alagao salad is served on Lanelle's art work. Crescent Moon is on Ascension Road, perpendicular to the Antipolo-Teresa highway; the crossroad is near Robinson's.