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PIA Press Release

Ilocanos laugh their way through world recession

by Cristina Arzadon

Laoag City (11 February) -- Ilocanos are phenomenally known as tightwads but even the global recession will not stop them from holding their month-long city fiesta. February is also a time for the annual Pamulinawen festival which displays the best of Ilocano traditions.

And expect the Ilocanos to jiggle their way out of the economic slump by either dancing or laughing.

"This year, we want to show unity in times of want," said Alegria Valenciano, coordinator for the food fair that has become one of the crowd-drawers in the month-long occasion.

Laoag Mayor Michael Fariņas had emphasized the need to be low-key while observing the annual feast because of the world depression that has affected local economies.

"The long and bumpy road that we traversed (last year) has put us together to look into our inner strength as a community and overcome more obstacles along the way," Fariņas said in his festival message.

Interestingly, the festival committee found an inspiration in the worldwide slump by forming a rounded wire mesh to represent the globe.

The round mesh was used to hold thousands of "busi balls" or sweetened popped rice which was the featured Ilocano culinary in last week's Dulang food festival.

"Busi" traditionally part of a food assemblage that is commonly offered for the dead as "atang" (offering) but it has become part of Ilocano's food delicacy.

"For the last 13 years, we always come up with native delicacies to feature. The "busi" represents the people and when put together, they can be cohesive and strong to make life easier to live," Valenciano said.

And to forge unity among nations, festival organizers attached the flags of select nations like the United States, Korea and Singapore around a platform holding the globe-shaped mesh that was filled with thousands of rounded pop rice.

The committee spent a modest P50,000 for the ingredients made of glutinous rice, molasses and white rice to produce around 5,200 busi balls. A fraction of the amount was used to subsidize international and local cuisines that were later offered to festival participants.

The busi balls have been pre-cooked before they were displayed at the city hall compound but on one side was a lit "banga" (clay pot) which was churning freshly-popped rice. A "dalikan" (earthen stove) was used to fire the clay pot.

Valenciano said glutinous rice can only crack using slow fire from a native stove. Unlike pop corn cooking, busi is prepared using controlled fire and constant turning and stirring to prevent the rice from burning.

"And while stirring, one must laugh all the time so that the rice will pop perfectly. That was how our elders prepared the busi," Valenciano said.

After the rice has burst, granules are then transferred to a bilao (woven round tray) then shaped like a ball using syrup made of molasses.

Other festival highlights include "ay-ayam" which features traditional games that the Department of Education has prepared. Most anticipated are the dance parade and the Pamulinawen grand parade where various groups show off performances that represent Ilocano industries. The festival ends on February 28. (PIA) [top]

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