On the holiest of weeks, we think of one thing: our destinations. Major terminals and airports teem with travelers. Most of them excited to return to their hometowns to spend the Semana Santa with their families. It is a time when faith and family are intertwined.
The sleepy town of Camalig in the province of Albay often awakens when her children returns from where their lives has led them to go. To me, every visit to my hometown is a time to reflect, rest and recreate with my mom and brother who reside here.
It is a time to return to the familiar. On my homecoming after my first year in college, my mom asked me about what I would like to eat. I said: “I want to eat what you always cook for us every day.”
So coming home is about savoring the usual and ordinary fare that has shaped me. One becomes a Bicolano because the food served every single day is Bicol food. If you need to know who you are, tell me what you eat.
For Camalignons like me, it is about enjoying what our town has offered its residents and visitors. We are famously known for our pinangat, however this post will focus on the other things people may not be familiar with.
I arrived on the morning of Palm Sunday. When you see palm leaves, you are reminded not just of the palms that were used when Jesus entered the city of his death, but the palms that are endemic to our town. Except the coconut palms were used not to betray the Lord, but to deepen the bonds that bind us.
Lunch was malunggay (moringa) leaves cooked with crab and coconut milk. It goes best with dried fish or tuyo soaked in plain coconut vinegar. It is eaten with white steamed rice straight from the pot. Take it from the natives: we enjoy the viand by topping the rice with malunggay and its coconut soup. And if you are really into it, take this advice: eat with your hands.
Merienda is a snack, but in the provinces the snack is a little heavy. Adult coconut meat (lukaron) is mixed with sticky rice flour. It is shaped like a rope and twisted and then fried. We call it, biniribid, our Bicol word for “twisted.” White sugar is sprinkled on it before it is served.
You may want to reflect on the biniribid. The death on the cross of a God who loves us is twisted. Many of the values spoused by modern society is twisted.
Holy Week is therefore about straightening our road to our Destination. On Palm Sunday, the very people who praised and welcomed the Lord with their fronds and frocks would be the same people who will put Him to death.