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Food, glorious food


Food is a joyful thing. Sharing food is much more joyous. Thus, it was my great joy to be in a gathering to celebrate food (and eat some) during the launching of Heirloom Recipes of the Cordillera by Philippine Task Force on Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP) and Partners for Indigenous Knowledge-Philippines (PIKP) this week at the Indigenous Peoples Center in Baguio. The book’s content is divided into 7 sections: rice, roots, vegetables; fish, snails and crabs; meat, preserves and drinks. Happy to see Jude Baggo among the distinguished contributors and resource persons.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines heirloom as “a valuable object that has been given by older members of a family to younger members of the same family over many years” while Merriam-Webster defines it as “a piece of property (such as a deed or charter) that descends to the heir as an inseparable part of an inheritance of real property”.

From resident Iloko writer and translator Manang Brenda Dacpano, “napateg a patawid”.

I would like to underscore the word valuable and inseparable. Indeed, such time-tested and viable knowledge in agriculture, food selection and preparation is indispensable. It evolved in the context of positive cultural values of sustainability and passing on to the next generation.

It also stems from the skill in innovation of indigenous peoples in the region, adapting to the terrain and making it productive through perseverance, ingenuity, skill and intelligence, such that rice terraces were already standing in their majesty as early the 13 century or 700 years ago. And they figured out which crops to grow best on certain times of the year. That makes the heirloom recipes valuable. Organic farming was not the fad then, but such was the practice of peasant, farming communities. On the matter of inseparable—rightly so because such practices are rooted in the ancestral land, the material base of indigenous peoples’ identity in a specific territory.

How wonderful to have a book on traditional knowledge on food selection and preparation at the same time express one’s indigenous identity. Such persistence is also an expression of self-determination.

We had the opportunity to chat with Manang Judy Cariño on some insights from the book, to include innovations and challenges. On food preparation, a few innovations evolved, such as the use of kamote as a sweetener, sauteeing the ingredients from  simply boiling and the use of margarine. I was curious, if the roles in food selection and preparation was gendered.

For most of the workshops they conducted in all the Cordillera provinces, the resource persons and cooks were women, except for Kalinga, Ifugao and Apayao where men had actually participated. I guess that makes an un-gendered role, similar to child-rearing among the Igorot. Sabagay, when it comes to big occasions it is usually the men managing the kitchen from butchering, chopping, slicing and cooking.

Manang Judy tells me that one challenge in the preparation of the heirloom recipes is the increasing rarity of some of the ingredients because they are seasonal or that there is a decline in terms of abundance. “There are many more heirloom recipes, what we have in the book is a selection, because that also depended on the availability of ingredients during the workshops”, she tells me.

So do they plan to come up with a second edition? That is the vision, Manang Judy says.

Meanwhile, TFIP and PKIP will coordinate with schools to offer the publication as a textbook for the subject TLE (Technology and Livelihood Education).

Needless to say, the book is milestone. It presents food from an indigenous perspective—that it is more than just a commodity. Food is something to be shared, not wasted. Food should be healthy and nurturing.

Let the cooking begin! # nordis.net

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