Thursday, January 27, 2011

Exotic Foods of the North: The best of Pangasinan and Pampanga’s bizarre delicacies

**This is my major paper in Anthropology submitted last April2 2009**




Food, glorious food! Where else in the world can you sample delectable and tempting delicacies if not in the exotic country of Philippines. It is hardly surprising that Filipino food is often labeled as somewhat strange but in its own way, a unique mixture of eastern and western cuisine. Philippine cuisine has evolved over several centuries from its Malay roots to a cuisine of predominantly Hispanic base, due to the many Latin American and Spanish dishes brought to the islands during the colonial period under Spanish rule. It has also received varying degrees of influence from Arab, Chinese, and American cooking. Basically, the main purpose of this paper is to show how Philippines’ culture of eating exotic foods came about. In this paper, you will encounter some of my interviews of the people of Pangasinan and Pampanga, observations on their culture of eating exotic foods and the way they try to preserve this culture.
Unlike its surrounding Asian counterparts that uses hot chilies liberally in their dishes, the Philippine cuisine is often labeled as bland and mild. This made Filipino dishes more suitable for those with sedate and sensitive taste buds. As with other Asian countries, rice is their staple food and will be served with most meals. To the Filipinos, simple cooking means fish of different sizes from the sea. They prefer their fish and other seafood such as crabs, shrimps and shellfish to be as fresh as possible. The freshness of the seafood is often complemented by sauces and spices. In fact, seafood is appreciated at its best when left uncooked - in a vinaigrette (kilawin) matrix, grilled (ihaw or inihaw), and sometimes stuffed with onions wrapped in banana leaf.



Pangasinan’s Overview of Culture
Fatalistic tendencies, which I find cross borders and transcend cultures and affinities, render us humans attaching an inordinate amount of importance to luck. So we wish one another good luck, be it for a trifle thing or a grand undertaking. And we consider things, places, days, even persons, lucky or unlucky.
In the Philippines we take this to the extreme. Claiming as the only Christian country in Southeast Asia, we are devoted to our religion/s, so much so that we consider any religious event, icon, and the like, lucky. We wipe statues with our hankies to wipe on ourselves (for healing), we carry their carts during processions in the belief that it will bestow upon us blessings, we pray for wins in the lottery. We keep on our house doors the palm fronds used during Palm Sunday as a talisman against lightning.
The culture of Pangasinan is a blend of the indigenous Malayo-Polynesian and Hispanic and American cultures, with some Indian, and Chinese influences... Today, Pangasinan is very much westernized. The religion of the people of Pangasinan is predominantly Christian and is known as a land of miracles. Whether this remains to be proven or not, the main pilgrimage centers of Pangasinan are the Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag (reputed to be the pilgrimage capital of the North), the Shrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Divine Treasure in Calasiao (known to be patron of the sick), and Saint Dominic de Guzman Parish Church in San Carlos City. Pangasinenses like to party also. They have the Bangus Festival, Pista'y Dayat (Festival of the Sea), and some others. They are alsor known for local dishes like Bagoong and Bangus and others are special delicacies that I will be tackling in my paper.

A Trip to Pangasinan
Last week, we had our family vacation in Pangasinan which was town of my mom. Visiting this kind of place with a lot of culture was an adventurous thing for me. Before doing this paper about cross cultural experience, I really have a hard time figuring out what topic would I tackle on my paper. On our way to Pangasinan, I thought of ‘Bakit pa ako lalayo kung dito sa probinsya naming marami na akong mapagpipilian..’
            We arrived to the local town of Bayambang and luckily it was their town fiesta and there were lots of food around and some were new to my eyes. Then I thought of choosing Filipino exotic foods as my topic. It was a good idea for me to choose that topic because on the table in front of me, I could see insects that were cooked, worms that were still moving and raw sea foods being served up. It was sort of disgusting on my part seeing people eat worms, raw foods and the like. When I went to the table, I saw this old lady in her 60’s and I said to myself that I should interview her to get some information about their culture of eating exotic foods. The old lady allowed me to interview her and I had a good conversation with her. By the way the old lady’s name was Lolita Paz who was a local resident of the town of Bayambang. She was very accommodating I should say because she doesn’t hesitate to answer my questions even if it’s becoming too personal. Here’s our conversation and interview portion:

Me: Lola, bakit po mahilig ang mga tao dito na kumain ng mga ganyang klaseng pagkain?
Lola Paz: Nakasanayan na ng mga tao dito na kumain ng mga ganyan klaseng bagay kasi sa hirap ng buhay minsan wala na silang pera upang makabili ng kanilang pagkain kaya sa tyaga nila, ayon at nkaisip sila ng ibang paraan para lang makakain.
Me: Ah ganun po ba. Sabagay po mainam pa po iyon kesa naman sa wala silang makain. Tanong ko lang po pano naging isang kultura dito sa bayan na ito ang pagkain ng mga ganyang klaseng pagkain?
Lola Paz: Tulad ng sinabi ko sa iyo nung umpisa nagsimula lahat sa hirap ng buhay dito sa probinsya hanggang sa nakasanayan na nila ang pagkain ng mga iyan. Masusustansya ang mga pagkain na iyan kahit sabihin mo pang kakaiba siya sa iyong paningin. Masarap yan kung matitikman mo. Napakamalikhain ng mga tao dito sa baryo na to. Ni ultimo maliit na bagay basta nakakain at malinis eh gagawan nila ng paraan para maihain sa hapag.
Me: Eh lola nakakasigurado naman po ba kayo na yung mga pagkain nay an eh malinis at hindi delikado sa kalusugan ng tao?
Lola Paz: Sinisigurado ng mga tao dito na malinis yan. Bago  nila lutuin yung mga yan eh nililinis muna nila yan ng maigi. Kung titignan mo yang mga pagkain na nasa hapag halos karamihan adobo o pinirito.
Me: Napansin ko nga po lola. Saan naman po madalas makita o mahanap iyang mga yan?
Lola Paz: Maraming mapagkukunan ng mga iyan dito sa baryo naming. Tulad na lang ng adobong daga nayan na nakikita mo. Sa bukid marami nyan lalo na ngayon na tag-init. Nag sisilabasan sila. Sa ilog naman dun makikita yung bunog o yung maliit na batang dalag. Sa mga puno ng niyog naman makikita yung mga tamilok. Yung tamilok eh klase ng uood na nakikita sa mga puno ng niyog at mataas yun sa protina.
Me: Ah ganun po ba. Marami pala kayong mapagkukunan ng makakain dito sa lugar ninyo. Ah lola pwede nyo po bang ipaliwanag yung mga pagkain na nakahain dito sa mesa?
Lola Paz: Sige iha sisimulan ko dito. Itong nakikita mong ito, ito ang  adobong pusa. Kaya mo bang kainin yan? Simple lang ang paggawa nila nito. Ginigisa sa konting toyo, suka, bawang at nilagyan ng dahon ng laurel. Halos lahat ng mga mahilig uminom yan ang pulutan. Gusto mong matikman?
Me: Sige po lola mamaya nalang po medyo busog pa ho ako. Eh ano naman po ito katulad rin po ba yan nung nauna?
Lola Paz: Iba yan iha. Yan naman ang adobong daga. Parehas lang sila ng luto nung adobong pusa.
Me: Lola, bakit po halos lahat ng luto dito eh adobo? Wala na po bang ibang klase ng luto?
Lola Paz: Madali kasi lutuin kapag inadobo o pinirito. Heto tignan mo, adobo rin ito pero adabong palaka. Masarp iyan lalo na kung pinirito. Katulad rin yan ng lasa ng manok. Ito pa pala ay ang adobong ahas at bayak. Masap ang mga iyan at masustansya pa.
Me: Lola, hindi po ba nakakatakot kumain nyan? Tsaka po diba may kamandag ang mga ahas? At yung bayawak po diba kakaunti nalang sila at nauubos na?
Lola Paz: Iha, alam mo ban a bago lutuin yang ahas nay an eh tinatanggalan na ng kamandag yan at nililinis ng mabuti. At yung sa bayawak naman eh sa bukid at sa kabilang bayan marami tayong mapagkukunan niyan. At alam mo ba na yung mga itlog ng bayakaw ang mahirap mahanap pero ito rin ang pinakamasarap sa lahat.
Me: Ah ngayon po alam ko na. Salamat po. Lola, pwede po ba ninyo ipaliwang sakin yung iba pang mga pagkain na nakahain sa mesa?
Lola Paz: Sige iha. Ito ang kilawing bunog kinakain yan ng hilaw. Nilalagyan lang ng suka asin at paminta. Mataas sa protina yan and mabuti sa katawan. Adobong palaka naman ito at ito ang pinakasikat ditto sa amin. Mas malasa yan kesa sa manok. Eto naman ang kilawing kambing. Tulad ng kilawing bunog eh yung karne naman nito ay nilalagyan ng simbuyas, paminta at asin para magkalasa. Sa iba eh iniihaw muna ito bago haluan ng mga sangakap. Dito sa bayan natin pagnapaghalohalo na yung mga sangkap eh hahaluan ito ng apdo para  mas lalo pang sumarap. Itong nasa kaldero naman ang tinatawag na papaita. Gawa yan sa lama loob ng baka o kambing. Ginigisa ito sa bawang at sibuyas at kung minsan pa eh nilalagyan ng luya para matanggal ang lansa. Yung pait naman ay nangagaling sa apdo ng baka o kambing. Bago ko makalimutan eto pala ang mga buhay na hipo. Kinanain naming yan na hilaw at nilalagyan ng suke o minsan eh manggang hilaw at asin. Madali lang gawin pero masarap.
Me: Lola marami pong salamat sa pagsagot sa mga tanong ko.
Lola Paz: Walang anuman iha at kung may kailangan ka pa eh nasa likod bahay lang ako at magpapakain muna ako ng mga alaga kong manok.
Me: Opo lola.

            I really had a good time talking to Lola Paz. She even told me how those foods became a culture for them. During our conversation, she gave me a plate with exotic foods on it which were the tamilok and the adobong daga. It was really bizarre seeing those foods on my plate and I was hesitant to eat those. I went to the table again and wonder about the foods. The foods were different indeed and it was really new to my eyes to some foods served were ordinary to me like caldereta, menudo and the like. I grew up living in a normal society wherein all the foods I was eating were normal and not beyond the extreme. When I see the people of the own eating those kind of foods I was amazed how their culture and creativity has passed from their generation to our generation now.
            In the town where people enjoy eating rare and exotic foods, I could see in their eyes how they love and enjoy what they were eating. In my own culture, I was trained to eat properly eat healthy normal foods but with these people it was their culture and creativity that has driven them to eat those kind of exotic foods. Let’s go back to my experience last week. You know that I was hesitant to eat the foods that were served to me by Lola Paz but then again I thought of my paper about cross cultural experience and I took the courage to eat those foods. Honestly speaking, the foods served wasn’t bad at all though I could say that I don’t like the texture of tamilok (woodworm) which was too slimy but it tasted great when marinated in vinegar and spices. All in all it was an adventurous trip for me because I was able to experience their culture and at the same time enjoy their delicacy. After a few days of spending some time in Pangasinan, my family decided to go to Pampanga to visit some of our relatives and from there my second adventure will start.

Pampanga’s Overview of Culture
The Pampangeños share the general culture and traditions of the lowland Christian Filipinos, especially of their Tagalog neighbors to the east and south. However, they speak a distinct language, which is a source of ethnic pride. Spanish chroniclers and early anthropologists have remarked on the distinctiveness of that language and they have proposed theories that the Pampangeños may have come to the Philippines from Java or elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
The Pampangeños apply themselves to the same industries as the Tagalogs but are renowned for certain crafts for which they excel. They are exceptional jewelers and goldsmiths, as well as furniture makers and woodcarvers. Antique jewelry and furniture from Pampanga are considered valuable heirlooms by Filipino families and as priced possessions by antique collectors.
The province of Pampanga had been held under the influence of the Catholic Church since the beginning of Spanish colonization. Some of the most colorful and interesting observances are connected with Christian holidays. During Good Friday, several towns in Pampanga hold atonement rites. Masked flagellants parade in the streets of beating their bare backs with whips and kneel before the church. Others are "crucified" onto wooden crosses in passion plays that mark the important Christian day.
Every year, during Christmas time, Pampanga becomes the hub of a thriving industry centered on the making of colored lanterns alit with blinking patterns of light. On the 24th of December, the provincial capital, San Fernando becomes the focal point of the Giant Lantern Festival. A kaleidoscope of lights and tinsel from giant lanterns come together to compete and showcase the ingenuity of the Pampangeños.
Pampangeños are renowned throughout the archipelagos as excellent cooks. They have ingeniously incorporated indigenous, Spanish and Chinese elements into their cuisine that have made the Pampanga food preparation and culinary arts both exotic and sumptious. Among the more known specialities of the Pampangos include buro, which is meat, fish or vegetables preserved in brine or fermented with rice, tapa, or dried beef or venison, tocino, or cured pork, longaniza or spiced pork sausages, aligi, or crab fat, and sisig, or sizzling pig cheeks. And besides having those sumptuous meals, they also have their own rare or exotic foods which then became a delicacy to some part of Pampanga and again I’ll be citing some in the latter part of my paper.
Pampanga’s Best Delicacies
            Early morning, we packed our things for it was our trip to Pampanga. It was about 1 to 2 hours drive from Bayambang to Bacolor, Pampanga. When we arrived at the place, there were lots of foods being served for us and this gave me an idea to compare my experience in Pangasinan to here and investigate at the same time if they will be serving up some exotic foods. I wasn’t feeling well that time so I decided to take a nap.
            Okay let’s start my adventure and end my story above. Pampangeños were known for their way of cooking and the creativity that they made in every little thing that they were doing. They were also known for making the best dishes up way in the northern part of the Philippines. It was around 2 in the afternoon when I decided to go to the backyard and see what’s the happening and what were the people doing there. I looked around and I saw my aunties cooking foods and some were cleaning the chicken and the vegetables. I went to my aunt named Sol Dias and I decided to have a conversation with her because I’ve been seeing obscure things around me. Again just like what I had in Pangasinan, here was our conversation:

Me: Auntie ano po yang ginagawa nyo?
Auntie: Ah eto ba? Nagluluto ako ng pulutan ng uncle mo. Mukang may gana nanaman uminom kasi nanjan ang daddy mo.
Me: Eh ano po yan auntie?
Auntie: Naku eto ba? Bakit ngayon ka lang ba nakakita nito? Ito ay m,ga salagubang. Hinuli yan ng pinsan mo kanina doon sa may puno ng magga kasama nitong camaro at tipaklong. Itong mga karne na nakikita mo eh karne ng kambing at aso. Yung hinuhugasan naman ng Tita Dory mo eh yun yung paniki na bigay ng pinsan naming. Specialty ko yan kaya dapat tikman mo.
Me: Ano? Titikman ko? Auntie naman pinaglololoko ako. Hindi ako kakain nyan noh baka ano pa magyari sakin.
Auntie: Oo kakain ka nun. Sige ka magtatampo ako sayo. Wag kang mag alala malinis yun at sigurado akong magugustuhan mo yun kasi masarap at di mo iisiping paniki yun. Nga pala naikwento sakin ng daddy mo na may ginagawa kang paper tungkol sa culture bay un? Matutulungan kita jan.
Me: Sige auntie susubukan ko pero hindi ako nagpapromise ha. Opo auntie may paper nga po kami tungkol sa cross culture experience. Yung topic ko po eh tungkol sa mga exotic foods. Naisip ko po iyon kasi nung nasa Pangasinan po kami eh ang dami rin pong mga pagkain dun na kakaiba sa paningin ko kaya po swerte ko kasi pagdating ko dito eh may mga nakita akong kakaiba. Salamat po auntie.
Auntie: Wala yun no. Oh sya tanungin mo lng ako pag may kelangan ka pang malaman ha.
Me: Opo auntie. Nga pala auntie bago ko makalimutan, pano po ba naging isang culture sa mga tao dito ang pagkain ng mga ganyang klase ng pagkain?
Auntie: Masyado kasing malikhain ang mga tao dito at halos lahat ng tao dito sa parting norte kaya lahat ng alam nilang pwedeng makain eh kakainin hanggang sa nagpasa pasa na sa henerasyon. Naalala ko nung bata pa kami ng daddy mo yung lolo naming ang hilig manghuli ng palakang bukid tapos pag uwi nya sa bahay gagawin nya itong adobo at kami naman ng daddy mo eh enjoy na enjoy sa pagkain.
Me: Auntie sure ba kayo na hindi delikado yang mga yan?
Auntie: Oo naman. Alam mo bang bago yan hulihin eh inaalam muna ng huhuli kung yung tinitirahan ba nya eh malinis o hindi? Yung mga insekto na ipinakita ko sayo kanina eh galing lamang yan sa puno ng mangga kaya masasabi ko na safe kainin at niluto din yun nag maigi. At yung iba naman eh sa bukid o kaya sa mga kagubatan makikita.
Me: Auntie one last nalang. Paki explain naman yang mga foods na nasa table please.
Auntie: Okay sige. Ito yung sinangag na salagubang. Common na yan dito basta may puno ng mangga kasi madalas eh dun sila nakikita katulad rin yan nung tipaklong. Parehas lang sila ng lasa pero mas malinamnam ang mga salagubang.adobong paniki naman ang tawag dito pero para maiba naman hinahaluan naming ito ng gata ng niyog. Oh eto naman yung kanina mo pang kinakain. Yan ang kamaro o crickets sa English. Nakukuha yan kadalasan sa palayan bago mag anihan. Ginisa ko yan sa bawang, sibuyas, at sa olive oil. At eto naman na ipapakain ko sayo eh ang tateg. Silkworm ang tawag nila nyan sa English. Ang ginagawa ko dito eh deep fried para malutong at kung minsan ginigisa ko sa bawang, sibuyas, kamatis at paminta.  
 Me: Auntie ok naman pala hindi na masama. Salamat po pala.
Auntie: Sige maiwan muna kita at kung may tanong ka pa eh tawagin mo lang ako ha.
            Pampanga’s cooking was really fantastic I should say. They’ve been the best cooks as what others would tell me and it shows on the foods that they were making. It amazes me every time I see special delicacies which were made by kapangpangans because of how creative they can be despite of a tight budget. Just like what I did in Pangasinan, I had come to this town of Bacolor to finish my mission about my final paper. Trying out those exotic foods was a great adventure for me and not only did I educate myself but also satisfied myself.
            My over all stay in Pampanga was awesome. Tasting those bizarre foods that I never thought I would be eating was fun. I did taste the ginisang tateg and for me it became my favorite. It was chewy but it really tastes good. Another thing that I liked was the crispy fried camaro or crickets. It was served with a special sauce made by my aunt and it was the best I should say. And from there my adventure ends with a big satisfaction in my heart.

Insights about My Own Cross Cultural Experience
With stomachs of steel and a hearty appetite for both food and adventure, the rural Filipino sees all animals, no matter how frightening, as opportunities to create a delicious bite, whether it's a meal, a snack, or even just an appetizer to go with their beer and gin. We have no qualms about swatting, cooking, and eating pretty much anything that moves: beetles, pythons, locusts, bats, field rats, sea urchins, frogs and so much more. Which is why in the Filipino kitchen, nothing is ever wasted. Every bit of the animal is used. A pig, for example, offers a cook more possibilities beyond pork chops. Its blood, ears, intestines, cheeks, and tail are used as a matter of course - literally - for various specialty Filipino dishes. This creativity and resourcefulness in cooking and consuming the exotic is motivated by hunger and survival as well as the enjoyment and thrill of eating the unusual.
I’m a person who loves to venture on new experiences; like trying new cuisines or even exotic foods from different countries around the world. But I do have my limits as well. I may try certain exotic foods but sometimes I would doubt myself if I should put it in my mouth. Some exotic foods are very nasty to look at but once you eat it, it would actually taste good. Like they say, looks can be very deceiving.  The time I was doing my paper, I was asking myself if what benefits I would get if I ate those kinds of foods. I searched the internet and suddenly I found out that those foods were even richer and has more protein and vitamins and minerals than those foods that we regularly eat.
Both my trip to Pangasinan and Pampanga was a reflection about culture. A culture that was indeed creative and a culture that was shared. As for my observations, I could see that the people from the northern part of Luzon specifically Pangasinan and Pampanga shared a common culture which was the culture of eating exotic foods. In this sense, the people showed their creativity in their way of life and it gave a big impact on their lives and this culture had passed on from their very first generation up to now. This paper had encouraged me to take the adventurous part of life. I mean enjoying others culture with respect and experiencing what was their way of life.