RICE is such an essential part of the diet among Filipinos to the point that almost anything edible can be made out of rice.

Colorful kiping pieces decorate windows during the Pahiyas Festival of San Isidro, Lucban, Quezon Province, in honor of its patron saint San Isidro.

Other rice-based native delicacies include kutsinta (an ochre-colored jelly-like steamed snack made with rice flour and eaten with grated young coconut meat); biko (glutinous rice boiled or mixed with brown sugar and coconut cream); puto (steamed rice cake using rice flour) and bibingka (rice cake made with rice flour and coconut milk, and traditionally baked over hot coals).

The variety in rice cakes shows the fondness of the Filipino for his staple grain. As such, a festival was created for an iconic rice cake that uses sticky rice. The suman or budbud use the same ingredients and are both wrapped with banana leaves or alternately, the suman is wrapped with palm leaves creating a criss-cross design.

The town of Baler, Aurora, celebrates the suman every February. According to local lore, it represents prosperity and in the days gone by, townspeople made ritual offerings using the suman to honor the town’s patron saint, San Isidro.

Though not a festival, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental boasts of the versatile budbud served as plain rice log or two-toned one, combining white glutinous rice with rice mixed with chocolate, and rolled together to create a pattern.

The road to the local rice cake delicacy does not end with Baler. Down south, where the sun usually shines brightly, there’s Cebu, in particular Catmon. The northern town is known for its budbud kabog.

It literally means bat’s budbud, but there’s no bat listed in the ingredients or something batty about it. And most of all, and unfortunately so, it’s not made with glutinous rice but ground millet. Technically, it shouldn’t be here but it’s mentioned because according to a local vendor, it originated from Catmon and is therefore very Cebuano.

Back to rice budbud, the delicacy does not have to brown-nose itself just to get fans. It is pleasant to eat even when cold and keeps well for a few days. For a more luxurious feel (as if you didn’t know) it is eaten with ripe mangoes. When eaten plain, most people roll it on white sugar and as a breakfast food, it romances with hot chocolate.

It has been said that it’s difficult to plate Filipino food. Maybe budbud is one of them. There have been attempts to upgrade budbud by drizzling it with chocolate or caramel sauce. Perhaps, this is one way to present the rice cake. And because I like to put my nose to the grindstone, I got busy thinking of ways to introduce budbud to the global table.

Split budbud length-wise. Fill with ripe jackfruit or ripe mango. Drizzle with condensed milk or serve with cream, butter cream, choco syrup or caramel sauce. Top with crushed cashew nuts.

Combine budbud with bacon. Fry bacon until just cooked, then wrap around the budbud; roll in flour and dip in beaten eggs then dredge with breadcrumbs. Deep-fry and serve hot.