Preparing a Christmas Ham is a tradition that dates back to Yuletime celebrations by the early Germanic people. Due to intermingling of cultures and traditions we Filipinos have appropriated this “ham culture” into our holiday celebrations. Christmas and noche buena is simply not complete without this beloved treat.
For Bacolenos – there’s a special ham that’s been part of their holiday tables for fifty years. That ham comes from a store that has been eagerly sought out by our parents and grand parents every holiday season. It’s no other than the famous James Ham.
James Ham was established in the 1960’s by Luz Sia and Alberto Sia in June 1966. Both natives of Iloilo, they decided to go and venture into the ham making business in Bacolod because as Luz jokingly put it, “Because madamo na haciendero sa Bacolod.“
At first to meet the demand they would order ham from Iloilo to meet the demand but eventually due to modernization and big meat manufacturers such as Purefoods, etc. the ham business in Iloilo died out and now James Ham, an old remnant of the ham-making Cottage industry would soon supply Iloilo’s markets.
James Ham is a Hoc Siu type ham or more simply put, a Chinese style ham. When asked about the difference between a Chinese style ham and a Western style ham, Luz Sia explained that a Chinese style ham is a bit more salty and sweeter (honeycured) than its Western counterpart.
Luz then told us that it makes her and her husband really happy to hear customers tell them that they had fond memories of “the ham that papa or mama would bring home.” Many of their customers would bring their ham as pasalubong back to other parts of the Philippines or other countries in the world. Now as they celebrate 50 years in the business Luz shares with us a secret – that James Ham is named after their eldest son Jimmy who is now taking up the reins of the famous store that has become part of so many Christmas dinners and holiday feasts of Bacolenos over the years.