‘Kaman kanen di Igorot’-A A +A
Thursday, July 12, 2012
I HAD once a good conversation with a taxi driver about Cordilleran nutrition. While passing by a newly opened branch of that fastfood chain well-known for grilled chicken and unlimited rice and softdrinks in La Trinidad, the cab driver said, “Mayat iman sina yan ta kaman kanen di Igorot di makan ngem nangina. (It was good there because the food is like what Igorots eat but it’s expensive.)”
He clarified that what he meant by “kaman kanen di Igorot” is that the menu in the restaurant tastes like native chicken. He went on to say that native chicken meat menu of Cordilleran is boiled. Whether it be the ‘pinikpik’ style of the i-Benguets or the ‘kolo’ style of the Ifugaos, as long as it is dressed through the fire and mixed with etag, it will surely make a soup so delicious that it would satisfy every single cell in the mouth and the esophagus before finding its place in the stomach. This is the real Cordilleran food, he concluded.
I asked him about other native foods. He shared that when he was a growing up in La Trinidad, jojo (a kind of fish) still abound the swamp area now better known as the Strawberry Farm. It is usually cooked deep-fried or boiled while wrapped with sugar-cane or banana leaves, he shared. Edible mushrooms were once also found in the hillsides, he recalled. There were also the native varieties of pechay; and watercress abound in swampy areas which one can pick free without fear of being poisoned for the creeks and rivers then were not so polluted.
His recollection made me remember my childhood in a barrio in Ifugao. I recall several breakfasts of tinawon (native rice) and broiled dolog (mudfish) or fried yuyu (jojo) which my grandmother caught those same mornings from the payo (rice field) nearby. Dinners were often with boiled native shell foods like battikul, kulippo, aggudung, or tikkam, other insects/animals found in rice farms, or latud (a kind taro leaves) my grandmother gathered from wherever the rice fields their ububbo has worked. (Ububbo was a common practice then which involves a group of farmers helping each other with farm chores by turn.) My grandmother also maintained a habal (a swidden farm by the mountainside) where she cultivates lapne (sweet potato), balatung (mongo), kuldi (peas) and sometimes gahhilang (corn). She would also often bring to the plates edible mushrooms from and other food from the forests. In special occasions and during harvests, the community would taste native chicken or native pig.
Nowadays, though, many of the native foods could not be tasted by the present generation. For instance, jojo no longer abound at the Strawberry Farm, perhaps made extinct by the ‘ticides. In Ifugao, the battikul was replaced by the government-program-introduced golden kuhol which according to some is edible but most wouldn’t dare because of its horrible look. The small tikkam were replaced by the giant clams, but is actually not an indigenous specie. In urban La Trinidad and Baguio City, there are not much backyard poultry for native fowls, if not because of lack of space and time to raise, it is because of fear of thieves or because the chickens are killed anyway by the ‘ticides if the house happens to be near a farm. In canaos and similar Cordilleran occasions, it is doubtful if it was native pigs that were butchered.
One thing I have observed, native food are plants that grows from the land or animals that are fed from what the land produces. I wonder if the extent of destruction in the region’s biodiversity is leading us to be contented with kaman-kanen-di-Igorot foods. If the trend continues, time will come that we would no longer be worthy being called native Cordillerans. We are what we eat, is it not?
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 12, 2012.