MANILA, December 17, 2004 (STAR) TURO-TURO By Claude Tayag - For the last three years, we have been attending Pampanga’s Sta. Rita Duman Festival usually held at this time of the year. From its simple beginnings as a musical presentation staged in a makeshift outdoor setting in front of a humble house with bare earth floor, lighted with a naked incandescent bulb and the performers in ragtag costume, the festival has morphed into a full-fledged spectacle. Its performers, the semi-professional (most of them still students) Arti Sta. Rita Performing Arts Group, recorded their first CD last year and merited an invitation to guest in Lea Salonga’s concert Home for Christmas at the Big Dome last Dec. 8.

Not too many Filipinos are familiar with duman. For Pampangos, in late November of every year, a motley group of itinerant vendors (normally two elderly ladies accompanied by a man) comes knocking on our doors selling this precious and delicious delicacy. This ushers in the immediacy of the coming Christmas holidays.

Duman is from the rice variety of galapong or malagkit (glutinous rice). It is planted solely in the barrios of Sta. Monica and San Augustin is Sta. Rita town in the early part of June. Unlike the regular rice varieties, which can be planted and harvested three times a year, duman can only be harvested in the cool air of November, otherwise it will not be bountiful one. For every hectare, a farmer can only produce a maximum of 30 cavans of duman, while he can produce a maximum of 300 cavans for a regular rice variety. It is no wonder duman is sold at a whopping price of P800 to P1,000 a kilo.

Duman is like no other. It has a beautiful golden green hue with an irresistible fragrance. It is best eaten with pure carabao’s milk or hot tsokolate (made of local cacao and carabao’s milk), or toasted till crispy, sprinkled with sugar, much like rice crispies, or made into kalame (rice cake).

For those not in the know, Sta. Rita is a small town on the fringes of bustling Guagua, the center of the Manila- Pampanga-Bataan trade since colonial times via cascos or barges plying the Manila Bay-Pasig River route. In the olden days, it was denigrated as Sta. Rita de Lele (tabi-tabi or peripheral) that it seemed destined to be sidelined by its other prosperous neighbors, like Bacolor and Floridablanca.

Yet it is exactly this seeming insignificance that gives its residents a sense of pride, where continuity is still a virtue and the goodness of the common folk still counts. It is this devotion to tradition that gave rise to its gastronomic fame: The precious duman and the popular turrones de casuy and its incomparable sans rival (literally "without rival" in French).

As we arrived at the Sta. Rita church plaza last Saturday evening, the festive music of the Betis Rondalla from the nearby town famous for its woodcarvers, playing native Christmas carols, filled the cool December air. The sight and sweet smell of bibingkâ and other kakanin with steaming hot tsokolate made with carabao’s milk no less greeted us.

As we queued at a food station, there was an enormous amount of food being served, cooked in kawas (cast iron vats) of traditional Pampango noche buena fare. First and foremost was the hearty nilagang pasku or boiled chicken-pork and assorted vegetables, slow-cooked for several hours over charcoal, deeply flavored with ham hocks.

There was also the famous Sta. Rita specialties asadong babi (pork asado) and biringhe (savory sticky rice cooked with coconut milk and chicken, topped with boiled quail eggs and raisins). Plenty of homemade kakanin were offered for sale like tamales, haleyang ube, bibingkâ and suman.

The Arti Sta. Rita Foundation, or ArtiSta.Rita for short, started three Decembers ago when the local parish choir was organized to stage a Christmas Eve concert, under the direction of Andy Alviz (resident choreographer of Miss Saigon in Manila, Singapore, and Hong Kong) and musical direction of Recy Pineda and Randy del Rosario, all natives of Sta. Rita. This year’s Duman Festival was headed by Nova Martin.

Our spirits soared with the enjoyable company of fellow kabalen and balikbayans, coupled with the delicious native food and magical music. It makes one feel good to be a Kapampangan, and ultimately, a Filipino.

Apung Trining’s Asadung Bariu

(Lola Trining’s Barrio-style

Pork Asado)

With due apologies to Apung Trining Alviz, I took the liberty of quantifying the ingredients. The recipe handed to me went something like this: "Ditak a makanini, kasakmal a makanyan (A little of this, a fistful of that…)." This is not kitchen tested. Make your own adjustments. Again, my apologies.

2 k. pork kasim
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1 liter water
3 cups tomato sauce
1 k. potatoes, quartered
1/2 k. onion, diced
1 head garlic, minced
3-5 bay leaves

Marinate whole meat slabs with soy sauce and vinegar for an hour. Boil in a covered pot, adding about one liter water until meat is tender, turning meat every now and then. Add potatoes and half of the onion and simmer till almost dry.

In a separate cooking pan, sauté garlic, onion and tomato sauce and add the cooked meat. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Slice meat and serve.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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