By JUDY CARIÑO
Women from Besao would nod their heads in agreement. But for the rest, gaki are small freshwater crabs, and Balas-iyan is the place where the right variety is found for a successful tengba. Of course, tengba is that fermented mixture of gaki, salt and pounded rice, which is said to help a mother produce enough milk to nurse her new-born baby.
When I gave birth to my first-born, my mother-in-law who hails from Besao brought me tengba. She explained the difficulty in getting the right crabs. Attempts to use available crabs in the Baguio market called kappi, resulted in a bitter batch, while crabs from the river in Besao resulted in a tasteless one. Thus, experience has taught the women of Besao that it is essential the crabs come from the river near Balas-iyan, at the tri-boundary of Mountain Province, Abra and Ilocos Sur. This river is apparently clean and not affected by pollution.
In Besao, tengba is served with etag (Igorot ham) and chicken to guests who come to celebrate the birth of a first-born. This is an occasion for the community to give support to a young mother, to help bolster her self-confidence as she faces a new task to care for her newborn, and to share experience and advice on motherhood.
Of course, the tengba itself offers the right nutrition for a nursing mother. I guess one gets calcium and protein from the crabs,Vitamin B and carbohydrates from the rice and possibly other vital nutrients for milk production still unknown.
What a fine practice to show support to a young mother, far superior to the situation of urban-based mothers who, when confronted with problems in nursing their babies, run to the grocery to buy a can of formula milk!
Well, if you are fortunate enough to have some gaki from Balas-iyan, here is the procedure.
Place your prized catch in an earthen or glass jar. Separate the legs from the body. Place lots of salt, and leave it to ferment for two weeks. Then pound some rice (the ordinary rice, not the sticky glutinous variety) and mix it with the fermented mixture. Allow the tengba to rest for at least one week and up to a year. You can use the paste for soups, with vegetables, or chicken. Enjoy! #