27 February 2014

Sweet Sticky Rice

At the farm, you are transported into a different place the moment you hear people speak the Ilocano dialect. The community seems to be an anomaly in the southern region but they are just a well preserved history of migrants from the past. I tried Google maps to get directions from Camiling, Tarlac to New Camiling, Carmen and imagined how far people have traveled and how much time they probably have spent. I was glad that Google's recommendation included a ferry. Otherwise, there would be hundreds of kilometers to swim across the archipelago.

I have only heard of Ilocano songs from my mom's dad though I only understood bits and pieces of it. There is this one song entitled Pamulinawen which is about love and which my Grandpa Ed always sang to us before. I had desired to learn my ancestors' dialects but he told me that it is not necessary to learn too many as long as there is understanding. That makes sense because he was married to a woman from the central region whose dialect was much different from his, but which our family has adapted today.

It was not a very fortunate day though for the tenants in the farm since one of the younger men have died of the often misunderstood pneumonia. The widow wore a white band across her head which I guess was because of belief and she looked older than her years. They served us biscuits and instant coffee which everyone actually needed. The mood was not set for taking photos but there was a must to do it. In the dim room, we clicked the shutter button to capture our slightly awkward facial expressions. My little niece peaked through one of the curtains but we warned her not to because she didn't know that it was a bedroom and that there was a baby sleeping in it.

Outside the house was some commotion but actually was just a gathering of people who were paying respect for the dead. The usual tradition of playing card games, drinking and lots of cooking made it look like a feast. Every time a death comes to a family or a community, it is like one big party because people remember, gather together and eventually need to feed.

On a huge table are the women, who were busy rolling sweet sticky rice. I and my family were intrigued and we all watched them masterfully roll the rice into the fresh banana leaves. I was a bit embarrassed when my mom announced that we would like to take photos because it made me look more ignorant than I already was. And yes I did take photos and went an extra mile with a video. It might be the only time that I could witness making this sweet sticky rice delicacy which we commonly called suman so I didn't want to miss the chance.

There were large pots over fire and wood somewhere in the back away from the crowd. It reminded me that in this part of the world, cooking is an art that requires patience and a lot of skill. We had to leave early since there were other things to do and had to make it back to the city before late night so we didn't get to taste any of the food they were preparing. I did bring home something - a stronger root.

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