According to a piece by Leticia Suarez-Orendain that was published in Sun.Star back in 2007, the name Larsian is a combination of the names of two sisters, Pilar and Siana. The family of these two people had a grilled food stall that was one of the first in the area near B. Rodriguez Street and the Fuente Osmeña Circle in the middle of Cebu City.
As customers started to flock to this barbeque strip in Cebu, more people put up barbeque stalls. After a beverage ad was shot close to the Larsian stall and the ad came out on TV, the area became known as Larsian. The area came to be considered a food haven and was frequented for decades by nurses and doctors working nearby, as well as students, middle-income people, and occasionally, foreigners.
Vendors served affordable grilled meat and fish dishes that were served with puso (hanging rice). This well-known barbeque place was open twenty-four hours but perked up at around 6 p.m. until the very early hours of the morning.
In March 2007, the Cebu Capitol transferred the barbeque stalls from its original fifteen-meter stretch to an adjoining provincial lot. About thirty stalls in the lot sold grilled pork, chicken, or fish. The grilled food vendors usually had people to usher customers toward their stall. These people positioned themselves near the entrance to Larsian and called out to the customers coming in.
Change came again for Larsian when Governor Gwen Garcia announced in April 2012 that she wanted the area to become known as a wholesome and environmentally sound eating place in Cebu City. She met with the Larsian Vendors Association president about a charcoal use agreement that involves the smokeless charcoal made in the town of Tabogon, Cebu. These charcoal briquettes were said to be made from forest twigs and carbonized coconut shells and were described as capable of grilling faster and longer than the conventional charcoal that was used in Larsian.
Other changes the governor wanted to introduce in the Larsian area included solar lightbulbs, not allowing vendors to display the raw or half-cooked food out in the open air, uniforms as well as hairnets for stall attendants, and standardization in the portions of food to be grilled and sold. While the area was renovated, the Larsian vendors moved to a spot behind RCBC, beside Robinsons Cybergate.
Sun.Star reported that the Eco-Larsian Development Project was ready for operation after the raffling of stalls conducted at the Provincial Capitol on August 23, 2012. Twenty-five members of the vendors association qualified to have their own stall at the renovated Larsian with its forty-nine barbeque stalls plus ten fruit stands and three souvenir stalls.
Each of the new barbeque stalls had an area of four square meters, with rental fee ranging from Php1,500 to Php2,000 per square meter. More vendors would have qualified for the raffle but only twenty-five of the thirty-six members of the association submitted the requirements to join. Some were unable to get their clearances from the provincial treasurer’s office because they had pending balances to be paid. The president of the vendors’ association said that some vendors dropped out when they learned how much the rental fee was going to be.
Provincial engineer Quiroga, who headed the raffle, said that other members would be given the chance to submit their requirements so that they can qualify for raffling of the remaining stalls. The stalls at the entrance of Larsian were up for bidding at Php2,500 per square meter. Engr. Quiroga also said that Capitol would deploy security personnel and a manager for the operation of the Larsian development project and that their salaries would come from the stall owners’ rentals.
Owned and operated as a business enterprise by the Cebu provincial government, the improved Larsian featured an open space for grilling, in the middle of the lot, to ensure that the diners will not end up reeking of barbeque smoke odor. The washing facilities and toilets were also improved to address sanitary concerns.
Some local people who remember Larsian as it used to be in the old days think that Larsian after the changes is not the same exhilarating experience that it was. According to them, the smoke, the hubbub and so forth were important parts of a true Larsian dining experience.
Another place also called Larsian is located on A. S. Fortuna Street in Mandaue. This area also has a number of other well-known barbeque vendors, like Matias.
Larsian, which is near Chong Hua Hospital, was said to be reopened by October 2012. You can get to know more about Larsian when you check out the following Facebook page: