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Maguindanaon, Tausug foods featured in ARMM festival

TOURISM • 02:18 AM Sun Aug 9, 2015
John Unson
Visitors flash the peace sign during Thursday’s native food festival at the mock Tausug village in the 32-hectare ARMM compound in Cotabato City. (John Unson)

COTABATO CITY -- Hongkong-trained chef Tony Wang was amazed to learn that the Chinese and Mindanao's Muslim communities use almost the same herbs and spices for centuries-old recipes cooked traditional ways that continue to transcend modernity.Wang, who works in a plush hotel in Cotabato City, was one of the chefs invited by officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to Thursday's food festival at the 32-hectare ARMM compound in Cotabato City.The food festival was held in the mock Tausug and Maguindanaon villages, which are showcases of the daily goings-on in typical Muslim villages in the provinces of Sulu and Maguindanao, respectively. Most of the spices and herbs the Chinese and the Muslim folks in Mindanao use for cooking are the same, Wang said on Saturday.There are Asian history books that have summaries on the trade and cultural ties among Mindanao's Muslim communities and the Chinese settlements in what are now Malaysia, Indonesia and in seaside areas in China even before the coming to what is now the Visayas of explorer Ferdinand Magellan on March 16, 1521.The setting up of the model regional tribal enclaves, which include the Samah, Maranaw and Iranun dwelling sites, is an initiative of the ARMM administration, intended to educate the public on the region’s culturally-pluralistic settings.The designated Maguindanaon chieftain, ARMM Natural Resources Secretary Kahal Kedtag, and his retinue on Thursday served their guests native foods made of ground rice, such as kumukunsi and wagid and the renowned pastil.The Maguindanaon pastil is boiled rice, topped with sautéed shreds of chicken meat, wrapped in fresh banana leaves.Visiting dignitaries, among them ARMM’s chief executive, Gov. Mujiv Hataman, were also served with sinina, also a longtime Maguindanaon recipe, while at the Maguindanao village.Hataman is an ethnic Yakan from Basilan province, which also has its mock village in the northeastern side of the ARMM compound in Cotabato City.The sinina is an indispensable course in Maguindanaon inspired banquets. It is made up of small cuts of chevon cooked in heavy coconut cream laced with burnt coconut shavings, ginger and hot pepper.The Tausug village, on the other hand, served guests with spanner crabs, most known as curacha, which thrives only in the ocean floors around ARMM’s island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.Village chieftain Engineer Don Loong, who is ARMM’s public works secretary, said he is grateful to Tausug employees of different regional line agencies for helping him put up a good show of their native foods.Traditional Tausug foods are mostly harvested from the sea. Besides rice, cassava is also an alternative staple for Tausugs, which is grated and cooked either as pyutu, which is puto in most dialects, or sianglag, which is similar to the generic Filipino sinangag.Engineer Don Mustapha Loong, who is ARMM’s public works secretary, said he is thankful to Tausug employees of different regional agencies for helping put up on Thursday a good show of their native cuisines.So unique is the Tausug village inside the ARMM compound that visitors could see there a replica of the astana (royal house) of the early sultans in the island province.It was in the astana in Sulu that sultans received visitors and from where they ruled a sultanate that once covered the disputed Sabah, now an island state in Malaysia, the Zamboanga peninsula and Tawi-Tawi.The Tausug village also has a makeshift mosque made of indigenous materials such as bamboos and palm leaves as roofing. Visitors that come at nighttime can also watch Tausug dancers perform the `pangalay,’ which is one of our very old dances,” Loong said.Among the visitors to the Tausug village last Thursday were the chief of the ARMM’s Regional Crime Laboratory, Supt. Sajid Hassan, his administrative assistant, Inspector Abdulsaid Alamia, and their forensic chemist, Senior Inspector Larry Villasor.The visiting police officers were accompanied to the Tausug village by lawyer Laisa Alamia, who is ARMM’s executive secretary.Thursday’s food festival in the Maguindanao and Tausug villages was preceded with a similar event at the nearby Yakan and Maranaw enclaves, also inside the ARMM compound in Cotabato City.

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