MANILA, NOVEMBER 30, 2007  (STAR) TURO-TURO Text and photos By Claude Tayag - Much has been written and touted about Pampanga being the culinary center of the Philippines. Of course, that’s a very contentious claim, but coming from a proud linguistic group that used to encompass parts of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, and Bataan, it seems a very natural claim from this land of plenty. Pampangos owe their prosperity to their industry and the fertile land that has been irrigated by the Rio Grande de Pampanga, defined by cycles of flooding and planting when the waters recede, resulting in bountiful harvests that, even during the colonial times, had always served as the food basket of Manila.

And this claim, however regionalistic it may sound (after all, I’m a Kapampangan, too), doesn’t end in the kitchen. Pampanga has produced many firsts in Philippine history: the first Filipino admitted to the Society of Jesus; the first Filipino nun; the first Filipino priest; the first Filipino doctor in any field; the first Filipino layman to become a doctor of laws; the first Filipino woman to establish an orphanage; the first Filipino woman author; the first to write a zarzuela in any Philippine language; the first Filipino president of San Carlos Seminary; the first Filipino priest executed by the Spaniards; and the first to write an English novel in the Philippines. Up to the present, Pampangos continue to excel in their chosen fields in the metropolis, whether as wood carvers, carpenters, seamstresses, cooks, restaurateurs, interior designers, couturiers, businessmen, showbiz personalities, and artists (three National Artists, namely, Galo B. Ocampo, Vicente Manansala, and Benedicto Cabrera). It has also produced two Philippine presidents Diosdado Macapagal and his daughter Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. All this is according to the Juan D. Nepomuceno Center for Kapampangan Studies of the Holy Angel University in Angeles City.

Pampanga’s prominence came not only in times of plenty but also when the occasion called for it. As early as 1584, Pampangos have led several uprisings against the abusive Spaniards. Pampanga was one of the first eight provinces to join the fight for freedom in the revolution of 1898 against Spain, while years earlier an Ilustrado from Bacolor, Valentin Ventura, financed the publication of Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo, much in the same manner Jose Magdangal Alejandrino of Arayat also aided his roommate Jose. In the same struggle for independence, a young man from Angeles, Servillano Aquino, founded one of the first Katipunan chapters in Concepcion, Tarlac, and became a general in the Revolutionary Army against the Americans. Apung Mianong, as he was called, is the patriarch of the Aquinos of Tarlac, including its most prominent son Ninoy, whose selfless martyrdom triggered the downfall of Marcos leading to the 1986 People Power at EDSA.

It was with the same zeal that Pampangos rose and fought against a greater force in 1991 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. It left a major portion of the province buried under lahar, with the national government ready to relocate several towns. But with foolhardy determination and adaptability, the brave kabalens rebuilt their homes literally from the ashes, refusing to leave the land of their forebears. Again, this brave front was witnessed nationally in the last May elections how ordinary people can triumph against overwhelming odds fighting corruption in government by electing the (erstwhile) priest “Among Ed” Panlilio to become governor.

It is this pride of place that my kabalens are in a double celebratory mood these days. The Aldo Ning Kapampangan (Pampanga Day) and the Sinukuan Festival will be celebrated simultaneously from Dec. 1 to 12. The province is marking its 436th founding anniversary, while the Sinukuan was started by the Foundation for Lingap Kapampangan Inc. ten years ago to boost the morale of the locals, having just come out of the devastation from Mt. Pinatubo. There will be food and crafts fairs, mangroves reforestation, medical missions, cultural shows, painting and dance competitions, a jobs fair, beauty pageant, street dancing, etc. (For inquiries, call the Pampanga Tourism Office at (0450961-6939 and 0916-3737455).

How’s your Pampanga TQ (table quotient)?

Lacking a seacoast, Pampangos looked to their fertile land and freshwater from the Rio Grande de Pampanga for sustenance. Generations have subsisted on plentiful homegrown and often wild-gathered food. Like most indigenous cuisines, there’s a common straightforwardness, simplicity, and an abundance of flavor and a closeness to nature. We all have in our collective childhood taste bud memories of what our mothers nourished us with, and the food we grew up with in our immediate environs.

Let’s test your Pampango affinity if you recognize some or all of the food listed: betute; bringhe; kamaru; balo-balo; burong talangka; burong asan; pindang damulag; Guagua chicharon and longanisa; Everybody’s Cafe‘s murcon; sariwang lumpiang kapaya; panara; tidtad; kilain; sisig; begukan babi; sisig pusong sagin; pansit luglog; okoy; gatas damulag; inuyat; balikutsa; Cabalantian tamales; kundol espasol; suman bulagta; Apung Salud’s ensaimada; guinilu; sampelot; binatirol na tsokolate; mochi; plantanillas; pastillas de leche; sans rival; silvanas; tocino del cielo; turrones de kasuy; sanikulas; puto seco; uraro; etc.

If you’ve become hungry or drooled just a tiny bit while reading through the list, you should come attend the Food and Crafts Fair on Sunday, Dec. 2, at the historic Consunji St. in San Fernando City. The usually busy street will be closed to vehicular traffic from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to give way to a food and crafts fair. All of the food listed above will be offered to the public and much, much more.

The largest Bringhe —Vying for the record

The following day, Monday, Dec. 3, I will be leading a 20-man team composing of HRM students of the Angeles University Foundation in cooking the largest bringhe. The 10-foot-diameter iron pan (resembling a batya or wash basin) took the AUF Engineering Dept. head Kit Macapagal and his staff some two weeks to manufacture. San Miguel Purefoods is a major partner in this feat with 100 kilos of chicken breasts and soup stock provided by Magnolia, while Purefoods is supplying the 50 tins of chorizo bilbao. Two cavans of malagkit (glutinous) rice will be supplied by PhilThai Rice. The rest of the ingredients will be supplied by Essel Supermarket. The venue will be right in front of the kapitolyo in San Fernando. Mise-en-place will start at 9 a.m., cooking at 3 p.m., and actual serving to the public at approximately 5:30 p.m. An all-Pampango talent concert will follow at 7 p.m., written and directed by Chris Cadiang. The public is welcome to witness and partake in the event.

So, what is bringhe, one may ask? The late Doreen Fernandez wrote: “Eating paella, therefore, is ingesting the Spanish landscape. Eating bringhe, however, is ingesting the Philippine landscape — the chicken running around on the farm, the coconut from a nearby tree, and the malagkit for fiesta cakes. This is a clear example of the indigenization through a change of substance, spirit, and nature.”

A Star is born

Backtrack to Saturday, Dec. 1, is the Duman Festival in Sta. Rita, Pampanga. This yearly event celebrates the duman in a musical concert by the Artista.Rita Performing Arts Group. Venue is at the Sta. Rita Church grounds. Starting at 5 p.m., food sellers will be offering local delicacies like duman (but, of course) with binatirol na tsokolate, patco, bringhe, asadong babi, panara, and many more.

What is duman, and what is so special about it? Duman is the young rice harvested before its full maturity — hence, its yellow green color — and is solely from the breed lakatan or malagkit (glutinous variety). It is planted solely in the barrios of Sta. Monica and San Augustin of Sta. Rita town in Pampanga, during the months of April to June. And unlike the regular rice variety, 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 a bountiful one. The golden grain duman is sold at P1,800 to P2,000 per kilo.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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