10 May 2007


I TOOK time off yesterday afternoon to visit my Sagrada, Pili hometown for the "pamalaye" ("pamanhikan" in Tagalog) of our youngest brother Dennis aka Patty. It is the traditional Filipino custom where the date and arrangements for an upcoming wedding are negotiated.

It is preceded by "pamalagta" among Rinconada-speaking peoples, where the date for the "pamalaye" is set between the involved parties.

Yesterday's affair was a joyous occasion, bringing together friends and kins who comprise the strong social network of the clannish inhabitants of southern Camarines Sur. It is where you renew bonds and reciprocate favors earned, mostly in the form of preparing food for the little feast that followed.

A week ago, this was the topic of my conversation with Johann de la Rosa of the Naga City People's Council, a native of Baao which -- together with Iriga City, Nabua, Bula, Bato and Buhi -- comprise the 4th congressional district, otherwise known as Rinconada.

If the event were the wedding itself, it is a cardinal sin to miss a relative among the invitees; an unintended error of omission can easily be interpreted as a slight that can drive a wedge between kins and trigger the so-called "urulian nin kandila" (literally, returning candles).

But yesterday's event was merely a prelude to the big thing, and so inviting only the closest relatives is acceptable. Yet, in a way, it was already our family's "paaso-aso" -- ostensibly derived from the smoke emanating from homemade cooking -- which is how home-based receptions are usually called in our part of the region.

Because during the "pamalaye" it was agreed that the reception following my brother's wedding will be held in a restaurant. On the one hand, it will be a lot more convenient to take this route, considering that the time, effort and energies expended in a home-based reception will all conveniently go away.

But on the other, it is clearly a case of convenience trumping tradition and the opportunities for social capital building and nurturing that go along with it. For instance, it is only in home-based receptions that I get to partake of the unique flavor of "kaldereta," pork steak, "igado," and pata tim that secret recipes from experienced cooks in the clan are able to conjure.

I have a fond attachment to the more traditional arrangement, because that was how we celebrated our wedding 15 years ago. It appears that modernity has caught up even with our family; in yesterday's "pamalaye" I felt we lost something but I did not have a clear idea what it was. Reflecting on it this morning, now I know what it is.