Plastic is getting a lot of flack all over the world for polluting our oceans and over-filling our landfills, the world nowadays is awash in plastic. Everything seems to be wrapped or contained in plastic, the worst being single-use ones. I dread seeing photos of the ocean floor littered with plastic rubbish. I cringe when I see beaches filled with plastic detritus covering the sand.
People will decry and lament the situation, but is there a sincere collective effort to stop this plague? Yes, it is a plague that has descended on our lives. Are we ready to stop buying water sold in plastic containers? Are we willing to buy food not wrapped in cling plastic from the supermarkets? This is hard to contemplate but there is no alternative.
In the Philippines, there was a time when people used biodegradable wraps and containers like leaves and bamboo. The banana leaf or dahon saging was the most available and the most convenient for this. Especially in the towns.
The school childrens’ lunch were wrapped in banana leaves which when opened gave off this chlorophyll green aroma mixed with the corn grits and fried fish or whatever viand accompanied the rice or corn grits. In the market, the roundish leaves of a certain tree was used to wrap dried fish, meat, sugar and salt.
Buhkayo, coconut strips cooked until dry in muscuvado syrup, was sold in coconut shells. Fish when bought fresh from the market was brought home strung with a length of rattan. Market goers, even in the city, brought a big basket made of rattan to contain what they bought.
What brought on this sortie to memory land was a recent trip to Biñan, Laguna. My host served us Binalot for lunch as per my request. Binalot consists of rice and viand , usually adobo with sauce, a ripe tomato which is placed under the hot rice and a hard-boiled egg which is wrapped in wide pieces of banana leaves. I’m sure this started as a “ baon” for the farmer, which his wife prepared every morning when he went to his rice fields. Laguna used to be characterised by wide tracts of rice fields which stretched to the foot of Mt. Makiling before these were usurped by subdivisions and malls and theme parks.
In the 80’s Binalot started being sold in lean-tos along the highway from Biñan to the outer reaches of Tagaytay and Batangas. These were perfect picnic food. It pleased me no end that it is still sold wrapped in banana leaves. How can one call it Binalot if it is served in styrofoam boxes?
In Cebu, nowadays, banana leaves are still used to wrap glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk, or budbod pilit , and all the other ingredients that make a particular budbod.
It is used as a lining for the making of bibingka. It lines the steamer for our puto maya, that unerring pairing for the sikawate , the Cebuanos’ favorite chocolate drink for the morning and afternoon painit .
Indeed, the dahon saging is indispensable to the making of our delicacies.
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