Having grown up in Cebu, I was confident that I would be familiar with a number of the local delicacies and cuisine. But when Teresa, the Founder of our NGO partner CAFEi shared this story about
, it was my first time hearing about this ingredient. It was even more special that we were served this delicious treat at Arapal Farm in Northern Cebu.
What makes this particular dish so special is the
, which is part of the bark of the buli or buri tree.
can only be harvested when the tree is at least 50 years old
(yes 50!) and as it is preparing to die. You’ll know the season because the tree flowers only once in its life—just as it is about to die. It’s as if it were calling out to say
“look at me this once before I pass on.”
There are very few families that still know of the age-old tradition of cutting the bark part by part in a very particular fashion to remove the edible matter. When the buri tree’s life is about to pass, these caretakers call each other to say it’s time. People have tried many times to propagate and ensure this tree’s survival but have failed. The seeds have to be coated in bat saliva for them to germinate.
This is one of the best examples of how connected everything is in nature and the delicate balance on which everything dances.
is the pink, slightly amorphous spheres in the dish. Nowadays in Cebu, it is more common to see sago balls in its place but the original recipe calls for
. This dish has various names in different parts of the Philippines and the ingredients vary slightly from one region to another. In the South, we call this
, while in the North, this is called
This is slow food. This is traditional. This is heritage.
This is us in these islands.