By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — When I decided to visit my hometown last Christmas, I made myself a list of the things I wanted to do when I get there, and yes on top of my list was food trip.
Batikul, ginga, agudung, yuyu (Japanese eel), ugadiw (fresh water fish) pihing (gabi), tanghoy (water cress), kunde (a leafy vegetable), binakle (rice cake), baya (rice wine)…and my list went on. Batikul, ginga and agudung are fresh water snails which according to my Mama Lourdes “you must kiss before you eat”.
There were also fruits I was dying to sink my teeth in like lituko (ratan fruit), galiwgiwon, upang (macopa) and lansones but I knew they were not in season.
Thinking about the food I have missed for over a decade now, childhood memories flooded my thoughts.
Those days when I would pick freshwater snails, catch yuyu and harvest tanghoy or kunde with my Mama in the nearby rice field of the late Apu Binyun. It reminded me that I was not able to perfect the skill of catching yuyu. The old folks tried to teach me that skill of catching yuyu by hand like they did, as if they were just picking stones in the rice paddies but I was a very slow learner. (Besides, there were nets already at that time so why complicate my life?)
Apu Binyun was our next door neighbor and roasted pihing was her specialty. Sometimes, when somebody brings ugadiw on market day, her roasted pihing becomes more special. This small bangus-like fresh water fish becomes the centerpiece of the pihing roll.
As a child I frequent her hut to listen to her stories and get my share of pihing or boiled gatuk (sweet potato). In return, I pick hapid (betel leaf) and moma (betel nut) for her. The memories were so vivid that I could even smell the aroma of the pihing wrapped in banana leaves being roasted over her dalikan.
But to actually get to taste her cooking is wishful thinking as she had passed away a few years back. So I should be satisfied with my try-hard version of it.
My children are not as lucky to experience such a childhood as they were born here in the city. I tagged my first born along on this homecoming for him to see where I grew up and have a feel of my hometown.
So we arrived at Nagawa, Tuplac, Kiangan, Province of Ifugao and it was raining! It actually rained through the whole five days we were there. The rain did not dampen my excitement though, after all it was my first time to visit home in 12 years (or so as I am not even sure when was the last time I went home).
Like they say, in life things do not usually go as planned. The late Apu Binyun’s ricefeilds which used to be the home of the freshwater snails, Japanese eel and vegetables is now a residential area. Mama told me that I must wait for market day, which is on Saturday in Kiangan, for a chance to grab some snails, tanghoy, kunde and yuyu; and that yuyu is even hard to come by. She also added that a glass of edible snails would cost P40 to P50. There goes my roasted pihing, snails and yuyu.
What was I thinking? It has been more than a decade ago. Of course things have changed. The rugged muddy road to Nagawa is now concreted. There are more houses now and some of them are a lot bigger than the houses before. The large old mango tree that used to tower above all structures in the middle of the road area has been cut down. The vegetable garden beside Apu Binyun’s lot is now a road and parking space for the KMS bus line.
A gym and a fire station now stands at the town hall grounds. I saw at least two mini groceries, a gas station and the number of stores and stalls offering various services and goods also tripled from some ten years ago. Even the Ibulao River is a far cry from what it used to be after years of quarrying. These changes proves that this laid back town is now trying to pick up the pace of this new era. And though it may take more years before it becomes highly urbanized, it is inevitable.
Urbanization, as in the experience of most cities and urban centers in the country has its price. If we turn our rice fields into residential areas, pave our gardens to make way for parking spaces cut down trees then we lose our vegetation. If one takes away truckloads of sand and gravel from our river, more than what it can give, then we will surely lose it too.
Since urbanization is inevitable, with how things are going, we should start striking a balance now before it is too late. We should learn from the lessons of other urban areas and draw up a long term development plan for our beloved Kiangan before we end up losing our rivers, rice fields and other natural resources. While it is imperative that our respected town officials should take the lead in this endeavor, it would be best to involve the whole community because in the long run the success in the implementation would require everyone’s cooperation.
Too much of the unsolicited advice from a long wandering Kiangan lass. Now back to my home coming feast.
Since my plan did not materialize, I settled for boiled native chicken and kunde lovingly prepared by my Uncle Raymund and Auntie Bae. I may have missed almost all of those hometown delicacies in my list but nothing beats a meal shared with family and friends. # nordis.net