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The feast of the golden green Pampanga’s fresh offerings for local travelers

Text and photos by Ma. Glaiza Lee, Contributor

Just before the golden hue spreads throughout the field and the stalks droop under their own weight, the farmers wake up at dawn and begin to harvest duman, a special kind of glutinous rice that is planted solely in the barrios of Sta. Monica and San Agustin in Santa Rita, Pampanga.
For duman, timing is crucial. As the ripening period gets shorter, the harvesting time lasts just for a brief moment, creating a narrow window for optimum picking. When the last of summer heat passes and the cool air of November invades, it is the right time to harvest. The young rice is reaped before it reaches full maturity.

After harvesting, the farmers perform the ipaspas, a process where the stalks are beaten to the ground to separate the matured palay (rice grain) from the malagu (young palay). At this stage, the mature palay usually falls off easily from the stalks, while the young rice stays on the stalks. The farmers then churn the stalks to loosen the malagu.
The malagu is then gathered and moistened with water. Placed in a large palayok (pot), the young palay is slowly toasted for at least two hours over wood fire, stirring constantly to keep from burning and for an even toast. After cooling it down by spreading the toasted palay on a rice mat, the duman is ready for pounding.
Using a huge mortar and pestle made from solid wood, the men would continuously pound the grains, following a certain rhythm that echoes the hard labor that comes with planting and harvesting rice. The pounding continues for at least three hours until the duman comes out of the husk, revealing the delicious yellow-green grains.
Not everyone is familiar with duman. Even among the Pampangans, this delicacy is a rare treat. Farmers can only produce approximately 4.5 cavans of duman in a planting. Unlike other rice varieties that are often planted thrice a year, duman can just be planted once and harvested only in the cool months of November and December to ensure a good harvest.
Because it is produced in small quantities, only a few people know about and have tried this precious grain. When the time for harvesting comes, there are those who would pre-order the duman. Some would even pay already while it is still being planted.
Also, the small produce dictates the selling price. For local people, duman is like gold because of its steep cost. High-quality duman can be sold for P1,000 to P1,500 per kilo. In the market, a takal (measurement of about the size of a small glass) of duman can be bought for approximately P50.
For those unfamiliar, they associate it with pinipig. Local people, however, say it is very different. Duman can be eaten plain and munched on like pop rice or popcorn. Some would sprinkle sugar on it before eating, while others would pour fresh carabao's milk or hot chocolate on it. One can also make rice cakes or suman out of it.
If one wants to have a taste of this seasonal treat, head to popular kakanin (rice-based treats) places in Pampanga such as Susie's Cuisine in Angeles or Butchie's Recipes in San Juan. Both food establishments serve small amounts of duman and duman suman.

The taste of duman
And if you want to really know about this local delicacy, experience the Duman Festival, which happened during the first Saturday of December in Santa Rita, Pampanga, known as the best producer of the grains.
Based on Vocabulario de Lengua Pampanga, written by Friar Diego Bernardo, duman-making traditions dated back to the 1700s. Back then, other towns in Pampanga had been producing duman, but only the town of Santa Rita endured and preserved the tradition until today. It was only in 2002 when the Duman Festival was launched in Pigulut, Santa Monica. In 2015, the local government of Santa Rita officially adopted the festival.
It is said that the festival began when the townsfolk found themselves gathered in the streets, pounding away at the green palay on large wooden mortars. ArtiSta Rita Foundation, a group of cultural volunteers founded by cultural visionary Andy Alviz and writer-musical director Randy del Rosario, took the helm to organize the festival. The first few years of the festival were held at the church patio of Pisamban Maragul or the Santa Rita de Cascia Parish Church. When the festival attracted more tourists and revelers, the celebration continued at the Santa Rita Eco-Park Amphitheater.
On its 16th year, the Duman Festival is a feast for all the senses. There are stalls selling authentic Pampangan and Filipino food, such as biringhe and asado. At the amphitheater, people can watch the Pampangan sarswela, featuring the performing group ArtiSta.Rita.
Coinciding with this year's festival was the inauguration of the Sacred Monument of Apung Dita (also known as Sta. Rita de Cascia Monument). Located at the eco-park, the sacred monument symbolizes the grace and divine protection, as well as stands for the unwavering faith and resilient spirit of the Sta. Rita people.
According to local stories, there was a woman who looked like a nun in a black habit, resembling the familiar image of Apung Dita, who would pray to the heavens — arms widely stretched towards the sky — to save the town of devotees from the onslaught of lahar in the 1990s. The local people believed that the woman was their beloved patroness, Santa Rita de Cascia. The monument is a reminder of Santa Rita's miraculous intercession that saved the town from the disaster. 

Places of interest

On the way to Sta. Rita for the festival, you can stop by the San Fernando train station. This station was inaugurated on February 23, 1892 as part of the Bagbag-Mabalacat stretch of the Manila-Dagupan Railway System. Historical records show that Dr. Jose Rizal disembarked from this station on June 27, 1892 to visit his friends in San Fernando and Bacolor, possibly to recruit them as members of the La Liga Filipina.
The train station also served as a witness to the harrowing Death March during the World War II. In April 1942, it was the ending point of the 102-kilometer-long march by the Filipino-American prisoners of war from Bataan to San Fernando. From the train station, the POWs boarded the box carts and were transported to Capas, Tarlac en route to Camp O’ Donnell, their final destination.
From the train station, one can take the calesa tour around Lazatin Street in San Fernando. Here, one can see old houses such as the Lazatin House, which was built in 1925 by Serafin Lazatin y Ocampo, who founded the San Fernando Electric Light and Power Company. He lived here with his wife Encarnacion Singian y Torres and their children. During the World War II, the house was appropriated by the Japanese Imperial Army and became the residence of General Masaharu Homma, the 14th Army Commander, in San Fernando, Pampanga.
In the nearby town of Guagua lies the Betis Church. The church was named after the timber tree (betis) growing in the site where the church now stands. The tree was so tall that it would cast a shadow upon the nearby towns of Guagua in the early morning. Also known as the St. James the Apostle Parish Church, it was dubbed as the Sistine Chapel of Pampanga because of its intricate ceiling mural.
When visiting the baroque church, don’t missed the original painting of the Holy Family by painter Simon Flores, and the artesian well in the patio, which was dug in the 1800s, making it the first well in the country to be so situated.
Have a picnic at the Lubao Bamboo Hub And Eco-Park. Enjoy the different activities in the park such as fish spa, biking and boating. For some adrenaline rush, try wakeboarding at Pradera Verde, a 495-hectare property located in Lubao that offers leisure activities and accommodations.
Children can also go on an educational tour here and learn about vermi-composting, plant nursery management and organic agriculture, bamboo technology and best practices on solid waste management, among others. Continue the learning at Nayong Pilipino, a park in Clark showcasing the diverse cultures of the Philippines, from the Cordillera region down to Mindanao.
Experiencing the Duman Festival is one of the many interesting things to do in Pampanga. Just an hour or two away from the capital Manila, Pampanga has a lot to offer — whether you are interested in a culinary quest, a historical journey or an ecological tour!

1 comment

  • Mathew Othoudt

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    Mathew Othoudt Monday, 05 March 2018 13:26 Comment Link

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