MANILA -- Anastacio de Alba, whose restaurant Alba Restaurante Español has been serving traditional Spanish cuisine to generations of Filipino foodies, passed away on Sunday morning. He was 89.
Alba, who hailed from Avila, Spain, died from cardio pulmonary arrest, his family said in a statement sent to ABS-CBN News. He suffered a stroke last 2012.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the peaceful passing of our beloved father Anastacio de Alba this morning at 5:30 a.m.,” the family said, noting that their patriarch would have turned 90 on his birthday on August 14.
Viewing will start Sunday night at 7 p.m. at The Heritage Park, Taguig, Chapel 7 with a mass scheduled at 8:30 p.m., the statement added.
Alba came to the Philippines in 1952. He worked for the Casino Español until he opened his first restaurant, Alba Cocina Española, on Isaac Peral, now United Nations Avenue, two years after.
From a modest eatery with only five tables, Alba’s transferred to a bigger location on Florida Street, now Maria Orosa, after a year to accommodate the growing number of patrons, which included top names from government, politics and business.
“I wanted to bring to Manila a part of Spain and its cultural history," he once said.
Soon, his restaurants included La Parilla and Patio Flamenco on Roxas Boulevard, Jardin de Alba in Greenhills and the Alba Patio de Makati. In 1975, he opened La Mancha at the Magallanes Commercial Center, which quickly became a landmark as it was designed like a huge windmill.
Alba, who is also dubbed "Paella King," also put up Casa Colas on Polaris Street in Makati, which has since been turned into an Alba’s restaurant.
Together with son Miguel, who is also a chef, Alba’s remains a true icon in the local dining scene, known for its 18 different paellas -- from the classic Valenciana to new flavors such as Verde and everything else in between (Negra, Filipino, de Pato, Pollo Finas Hierbas, de Verduras, de Gambas, Arroz a la Regencia, de Cordero, Marinera, de Bacalao, de Langostinos, de Cangrejo, Tuhod y Batoc, Setas y Pesto, and Fideua).
Other favorites at Alba’s include the callos, lengua and cochinillo, as well as tapas like chorizos, gambas, sardinas picantes and tortillas.
Fellow chefs immediately took to social media to mourn his passing.
"It is with sadness that today we will mourn the passing of a great chef - someone who loved this country , and who shared all his knowledge in his cuisine to so many," Nancy Reyes Lumen wrote in a Facebook post.
"Don Alba was awarded the highest honors in Spain by the King himself for having propagated Spanish cuisine. It is now our turn to honor the man," she added.
"Salute to the king! I only have respect and deep gratitude to this honorable man," commented chef Sau del Rosario of Pampanga's Café Fleur.
"Farewell and adios Señor! Love you mucho!" wrote chef J Gamboa, whose ventures include the popular Spanish restaurant Circkulo.