Saturday, August 25, 2012

De Pugon

I first heard about this baked treat from my younger sister, Adette, a year or so ago.  When going to Tandag City, the capital of the province of Surigao del Sur which is some 90 kilometers north of Lianga, be sure to stop by the town of Marihatag, she suggested, to buy and try some of the local pan de pugon.  I, of course, had no idea what she was talking about.  For me, bread is bread yet on my next trip north I did exactly as she advised me to do and since then that is exactly what I have been doing every time I get the chance.

Pan de pugon, for the uninitiated, can be loosely translated from the original Spanish as "bread of the hearth oven" and refers originally to home-baked bread using the old fashioned brick oven but now is often used to lump together many types of home-style bread products using all or some of the traditional dough making and baking techniques dating back to the Spanish colonial period until the early years of the last century.

I had lived much of my pre-school years in Lianga but even in the 1970's, bread was something you bought from the neighborhood bakery which happened to be just located conveniently beside our house..  I never had the opportunity to sample  homemade bread although my mother was fond of baking cakes and other pastries.  Bread was mostly thought to be too ordinary, too time consuming and uneconomical to produce in any quantity at home.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Let Down

The term fiesta, I am told, is the Spanish derivative of the Latin word festa which is the plural for festum which means festival or feast.  In many Spanish speaking countries and those like the Philippines which had once been Spanish colonies, it usually refers to a religious festival commemorating a particular Catholic saint who is revered to be the protector or patron of a particular town or city.

Yet even in the Philippine setting, a fiesta is more than a just a religious holiday. It has also cultural and socio-economic overtones and is often connected in the past to the culmination of the local harvest season for rice, corn and other vital agricultural crops.  It is also a celebration of community solidarity and in the more mundane sense, an occasion for people to get together, to feast on good food for a change and an opportunity take a break from the hard work and humdrum that often defines the ordinary in the day to day business of living.

In the truest sense, a fiesta comes out and evolves from the shared cultural and often historical experiences of a paticular people.  It draws its reason for being from a community's desire to highlight that which unifies and binds it together, the collective qualities that makes it unique among its neighbors and peers.  It seeks to recall and glorify the struggles and achievements of the past yet also expresses the hope and prayers for a more bountiful, more prosperous future.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Best Efforts

Renato Miranda, Executive Director for the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF), said it exactly right when he was asked to comment in a recent news interview on the difficulties inherent in the government's campaign against illegal loggers specifically in Region XIII or the Caraga region.  The task force's "best efforts", he said, must be directed not only on confiscating illegally cut timber and other forest products but on coming up with a strategic concept or strategy that insures that these forest resources "remain standing right there on the mountain."  "Every time we confiscated logs and timbers," he points out, "it merely shows that we failed in stopping these illegal loggers from cutting down trees."

His comments were made in the wake of an extensive aerial survey Miranda and members of his task force recently conducted on the so called "timber corridor" of the country which essentially comprises a large bulk of the Caraga and Davao provinces.  The survey has resulted in clear cut eyewitness and photographic evidence of the continued rampant illegal logging activities in many remote areas of these provinces in defiance of the total log ban imposed by President Noynoy Aquino more than a year ago.

While evidence of illegal timber cutting can be found all over these two regions, one area of major concern appears to be what remains of the once extensive forest concession area of the now moribund Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP) based in Bislig City which used to be Asia's largest paper mill. This area stretches the boundaries of  the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur and the Davao provinces.