Tinapoy. Oh god, Tinapoy. Probably the most delicious thing you can find in Kidapawan.

Fermented rice is yet again an unnoticed link for Filipinos with Nusantara: the culture of fermenting rice is common across Southeast Asia. In Malaysia and Indonesia it’s called ‘Tapai Pulut,’ in Thailand ‘Khao Mak,’ in Cambodia ‘Tapae,’ in Vietnam ‘Rượu nếp,’ and in Myanmar’s Shan area ‘Htamin gyin’ (although Htamin gyin was a savoury affair when I tried it).

But like all such links it is rather rare in the Philippines. I only know of three cultures here that ferment rice to eat it: the Obo Monuvu, the Maguindanaon, and the Maranao (I suspect there are more). Most other cultures which make it here usually make it for the alcohol it produces, or for fermenting fish and vegetables. The word ‘tapay’ is nevertheless in such common Filipino words as ‘tapayan’ (the jars in which food is fermented) and ‘tinapay’ (bread, which is baked fermented dough).

Tinapoy is slightly sour, slightly sweet, and slightly alcoholic (though smells more alcoholic than it actually is). The Monuvu make it by wrapping the rice, which is mixed with a traditional yeast called ‘buvuu,’ in the leaf of a plant called Gintaos to make these photogenic conical bundles. The leaf imparts on the resulting product a rich, grassy aroma that melds with its complex alcoholic fragrance. The Obo also only ferment it for a day, so the alcohol and sourness is still very faint but it is already sweet.

Mac Tiu recorded the Tinapoy-making culture of the Obo in Davao, but three things make the Tinapoy of Kidapawan’s Obo unique: the taboo of letting others know you’re making the stuff, which Tiu records in Davao, is weaker in Kidapawan (if you walk into someone making it, you have to join in the cooking process to make sure the tinapoy ‘ripens’); in Davao it is more common for the Obo to make the buvuu themselves, while in Kidapawan they buy the yeast from the Maguindanaon (which is natural considering their proximity to Maguindanao country).

Most importantly, while the Obo in Kidapawan also make their Tinapoy with rice, they prefer to make it with steamed bigas mais (course corn meal), which produces a lighter product. To date, Kidapawan is the only place I know in the world where fermented corn meal is made.

It’s a bit of an acquired taste for those unfamiliar with it, but I was crazy enough to bring some home, and add some sugar and evaporated milk to it.

The result is insanely delicious. Insanely, insanely delicious. The closest I could get to describing it is like creamy oatmeal with a bit of slightly acidic white wine.

It’s a unique sweet that is paradoxically wild and luxurious at the same time. It was so good I felt giddy, and not just from the alcohol content.

Restaurants should start selling this in Kidapawan, it is so good and so unique, Kidapawan should be famous for it.

Forget the fruits, come to Kidapawan for the Tinapoy!



Catch my feature on Museyo Kutawato on Laan Magazine!


Catch my article on North Cotabato’s Museyo Kutawato in the latest issue of Laan Travel Magazine. With photos by my Marbelina girl Nal, I feature what is to date the biggest museum in Region 12, its rich collection of historical and anthropological artefacts, and how it begs for a history of the province to be written.


Laan Travel Magazine is a Koronadal-based travel and ad magazine published by Yellow Bus Line, and heavily features attractions and products from SOCCSKSARGEN. Get a copy of the magazine in Yellow Bus Line terminals!

I get heavily cited on a paper about Davao Filipino!

The discourse on Davao Filipino moves one step further!

This time, Feorillo A. Demeterio III and Jeconiah Louis Dreisbach of De La Salle University Manila take a look at the two opposing paradigms on Davao Filipino, that by Jesse Rubico and by Leslie Dolalas, scrutnizing the arguments on both sides to give what they hope would be a more ‘acceptable’ assessment on this fascinating language.

Their paper, ‘Disentangling the Rubrico and Dolalas Hypotheses on the Davao Filipino Language,’ was published in the Recoletos Multidisciplinary Research Journal last year.

You can read it on Dreisbach’s Academia profile.

The paper heavily cites my thesis (ironically, as a writer I’ve never been cited to this extent before), and I’m delighted to see I’ve contributed in some way to the discourse.

(If I were in the academe those would have been points!)

The paper – and the greater phenomenon of language contact in Mindanao – deserves a proper response, one which I hope to undertake if time allows me.


I had recently given a lecture on Davao Filipino in Ateneo de Davao under the auspices of my old club, The Society of Ateneo Literature and English Majors, what was perhaps the first lecture on Davao Filipino ever given. In it I asserted to expand the study of language contact in Mindanao, specially in linguistically diverse Cotabato Region, to take a look at the other manifestations of hybridization in this land of many tongues



Mocha Uson and the Other Side of the Lumad Struggle

As if a grenade had been hurled from the Southern mountains to Metro Manila, the war between the Philippine government and the New People’s Army in Mindanao left an explosion last week in the halls of Congress.

The explosion was the resignation of Mocha Uson.

(Read the rest of the article on Tingug!)


Policy Recommendations on Culture and the Arts for North Cotabato

My home province of North Cotabato, the second most linguistically diverse province in the country and perhaps the most ethnically diverse, is starting to mature in terms of culture and arts. The shiny new Museyo Kutawato, one of the best museums in the country, is a striking testament to this.

The province has a rich reservoir of human experience and creativity to tap, a resource which surface it has barely even scratched.

As North Cotabato celebrates its 104th anniversary, I found myself reflecting on what can be done to help it address its shortcomings and move forward in actuating its cultural and artistic potential.

Here are some of my thoughts. Some of them are very idealistic, but it is always better to hope for the difficult best rather than settle for the easy but mediocre:

(Read the rest of the article on Tingug!)

The Davao Genocide: The American Atrocity Duterte Should Be Talking About

President Rodrigo Duterte made international headlines in 2016 when, before departing to Laos for the ASEAN summit that year, he mentioned the Massacre of Bud Dajo in 1906.

The Massacre, which saw over a thousand Muslim civilians (including women and children) slaughtered by American soldiers, was part of the battle of Bud Dajo in Sulu, the final battle of the Philippine-American War. The United States has yet to issue an apology for the atrocity more than a century later.

In his State of the Nation Address of that year, he mentioned another American atrocity – the Balangiga Massacre in Samar – and revived the decades-long diplomatic row over the Balangiga bells, which the American soldiers stole as war booty after perpetrating the massacre and which the US still refuses to return (in an act of paramount hypocrisy, two US Congressmen, Randy Hultgren and Jim McGovern, sought to deny return of the bells over Duterte’s war on drugs).

Whatever the motivations behind these moves, Duterte’s raising awareness about two incidents that have been forgotten by the majority of Filipinos delighted history aficionados like me. It is refreshing to hear a historical incident being talked about in the streets, much more so if it is about Mindanao, which has long been neglected by the national attention.

But as a Davaoeno (my mother happened to be in Davao when I was born), I cannot help but express frustration, if not disappointment, that our former mayor has not talked about Davao history yet.

(Read the rest of the article on Tingug!)

Heritage is Local and Dynamic: Problematizing the National Cultural Heritage Law

I am privileged to have been invited to sit in the meetings of Kidapawan’s Culture and Arts Promotion Council.

Set up in 2017 by mayor Joseph Evangelista, the CAPC predates the recent DILG directive to all LGUs to set up culture and arts councils, and in spite of that directive today seems to be the only municipal-level culture and arts council in North Cotabato (like the mandatory representation of Indigenous Peoples, the DILG memorandum needs to be enforced more rigidly). The CAPC is trailblazing in a province that has largely neglected its culture and arts, and other towns in NorthCot can learn from it.

The CAPC’s membership is sectoral, with representatives from the private sector, the education sector, the tourism sector, the tribal communities, and the city council, among others. The City Tourism Office, ably headed by Joey Recimilla, is currently functioning as secretariat.

Among the CAPC’s many efforts right now is the cultural mapping of the city. The cultural mapping, a project done under the guidance of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, is a comprehensive inventory of the city’s cultural properties, from buildings and artifacts of historical significance to intangible properties like skills and oral traditions. It will let the city and its local government know what cultural assets it has, so that it can begin planning how to use these.

Kidapawan’s cultural mapping will be led by Ms Shiela Madrinan, who is one of two proactive private individuals helping the LGU with its culture and arts projects (the other is me). If I am excited about the endeavour, she is doubly so, and she and the CAPC already have a battle plan to make it successful:  tapping the youth of each baranggay, not only to make the job easier, but to make sure the youth are taught to care about their baranggay’s heritage. It’s hitting two birds with one stone.

But before the cultural mapping can be conducted, extant criteria for recognizing cultural properties needs to be reviewed, and as I did so several problems in the law already came to my attention.

(Read the rest of the article on Tingug!)