Not so known food practices

I’M obviously hooked, just in case you didn’t notice it yet. Hooked on learning how people live with so little up there in the mountains. I’m hooked too on discovering that what I thought I know pales in comparison with what the indigenous peoples know but which they shrug off as common knowledge, fixed in their belief that they are uneducated and thus could never compare with us lowlanders.

I disagree. Especially with regards living and life.

Upland rice is harvested by hand, stalk per stalk.

Used to be, the whole community would harvest one ricefield before moving on to other ricefields. Because of the huge number of hands, even if harvesting means cutting the grain-laden stalks one by one, the work is done by noon.

The stalks are threshed using the feet after which the empty stalks are removed and the grains are gathered for drying.

Feeding the workers is the responsibility of the landowner. But this will be difficult to do considering that it is harvest time, ergo, last harvest’s grains are already used up. The need for a considerable amount of rice is answered by what has been harvested.

Yes, the rice has not yet been dried and therefore would not conventionally be available for cooking. Without proper drying, separating the chaff from the grain will be next to impossible. Forcing it will result to a lot of waste.

The Matigsalug tribesfolk have a way of dealing with this, a process they call “tinanok” from the root word “tanok” (to cook till dry). Palay or rice grains that still has hull is placed in a pot and mixed with a little water, just enough to soak the whole batch. The pot is placed on a fire and the palay is made to cook until all the water is dried up.

The grains are then dried under the sun for an hour or two, just in time for lunch.

This is then pounded in a pestle to remove the hull and cooked like you cook rice.

This is our spread during a harvest of one ricefield in sitio Guilon, barangay Marilog in Davao City in September last year. It’s almost September again, harvest time is near.

How does tinanok taste? It still has the consistency of boiled rice but has the slight fragrant smell of corn boiled in its husk brought about by having been boiled with the hull still on.

In a recent visit to sitio Lapinig, around five kilometers or more farther downhill from sitio Guilon, I was fascinated by how our host dealt with the absence of oil to fry the dried dilis (anchovies) we brought with us.

Placing a frying pan on a fire and pouring the dried dilis in it, they gathered the embers from below and mixed this into the dilis. This will add flavor, we were told, and would taste better than dilis that is just heated on a greaseless frying pan.

After the dried fish look cooked enough, the embers are removed and we got a fragrant batch of ember-grilled dilis.

My mom taught me a lot in the kitchen, but had I not explored farther away, I wouldn’t have known that there are more tricks of the trade out there; indigenous knowledge passed on from generation to generation but haven’t made it outside the mountain terrain in which such practices have been preserved.


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