More tales of Tagoloan fiesta

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Saturday, February 8, 2014

LAST Saturday, we talked about the fiesta of my beloved hometown of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, in northern Mindanao, Philippines.

I thanked all the reactions and comments worldwide. This article is the sequel to fire the memories. At least I could work up my brain quite a bit.

Here's my recollection on the food served during the annual town fiesta.


Four days before the fiesta, residents would cook the “torta.” The torta, I think, is a close cousin of the cake and is best eaten during breakfast with hot coffee and “suman” (glutinous rice shaped like a tube and wrapped in banana leaves).

It's not only a good breakfast treat, it can also be a dessert for those who came late during the fiesta and are so full that they only want to eat a light snack.

I remember “Iya Oling,” who cooks the best torta in Tagoloan town that my Nanay (mother) would often go to whenever she wants it served during meals or the fiesta itself.

I forgot her family name but she lived at the back of the house of my classmate Santos Casiño. She wore her hair in a bun. I don’t know if they are related though.

Overnight I would be commissioned by Nanay to bring the basket containing the flour, margarine, eggs and sugar to the house of Iya Oling. Iya Oling’s house was always busy and smelled of “pugon” or smoky rice.

I recall she has assistants that go in and out of her house clad in aprons. She has this big native oven that uses “charcoal” and coconut shells to cook the cakes and tortas.

Aside from Iya Oling, there's “Iyo” David Pacheco, the father of my childhood friend Toto Pacheco-Nairn, a nurse now based in California, and Gangga Lepon.

Iyo David would tap me as his assistant while hovering around their kitcken at the back. I don't beat and mix the eggs, I just bring the coconut shells to the kitchen. It's a dirty job but at least I get to be among the first to taste the torta.

Torta is usually eaten after the first Mass. There are those by the way who would be early for the fiesta and go home after a light breakfast of torta, suman and coffee the following day.

They would carry with them plastic bags filled with freshly butchered pork meat. In the old days all homes have pigs to butcher for the fiesta. Rarely does one see anyone buying meat in the market especially on the eve of the fiesta.

The butchering or “massacre” of the pigs (apologies to animal rights activists and vegetarians, but that's Filipino culture) starts at the eve or the “bisperas” of the fiesta so the meat would be fully marinated overnight.

A cut of Mary's hair A lot of people also have to clean the inside and outside of the butchered pig before it is marinated and it takes several hours especially if the pig is big.

Some households butcher the pig three days before if they have a lot of guests. If one happens to visit Tagoloan and hear the cries of the pigs, it usually means it's fiesta day. Still others would butcher, clean and roast the pig on fiesta day itself.

Fiesta time is quite fun in those days especially when there's the peria or carnival. The carnival is stationed either at a large vacant space in the old market or in the area fronting the homes of the Marianos and the Eduaves families.

The carnival would usually arrive a month before the fiesta and the town plaza would become a big house during the day and a noisy, busy beehive of activity at night.

As I mentioned last week, the Church is kept busy preparing for the novena, the cleaning and changing the clothes of the blessed Mary.

During the changing of the clothes, Sueing (ConselueYa-Sabio) told me that Tital Alde Mariano leads the praying the Rosary. Among those participating is the Women for Christ group consisting of Maricel Sy, Gemma C. Principe and Rosebelinda N. Casiño.

Other members of the group are Dotie Y. Antillon, Ophelia Casiño, Mai-mai Saldon and other choir members headed by Bobby Lee.

During this time the male volunteers clean the altar. Sueing mentioned that MaricelSy would shampoo the hair of Mama Mary this time. This year I think Maricel noticed that the hair of Mama Mary has grown so she cut it.

For the believers they ask a cut of Mama Mary's hair. If I was there I would volunteer also and probably would really ask for a piece of the hair. There are many more stories to tell but I would have to reserve that for the next fiesta, next year.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 08, 2014.


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