Tuesday, January 6, 2009


TIME TO EAT. Mealtime for many of our Kapampangan forebears was dictated by their labors in the field and by their hunger pangs, more than the chiming of clocks.

"To the ruler, the people are heaven; to the people, food is heaven."

--A Chinese proverb

It would seem now strange that Kapampangans – noted for their fine culinary skills—didn’t bother much with their breakfast back in the days of yore. They must either have been so hardworking that they skipped breakfast altogether to till their fields, or that they found preparing meals so early too cumbersome. Which is why, there is no term for “breakfast” in the Kapampangan language. “Almusal” as Kapampangans term their breakfast today, was derived from the Spanish ‘almuerzo”, which may mean lunch, brunch or breakfast. Apparently, the more exact Spanish word for breakfast, “desayuno”, did not catch on among the mekenis.

But ancient Kapampangans did have a term for an early lunch—abacan—taken between 9 to 10 in the morning (Abacan River in Balibago, Angeles City is named as such because traders and travelers leaving Mexico town sailed in the once-navigable river and reached Culiat around lunchtime.).

Today, Kapampangans use the word “ugtu” to mean lunch. “Maugtu tana!” is a friendly invitation to partake of the heavy noontime fare. However, Fr. Diego BergaƱos’s 18th c. Kapampangan dictionary defines “maogto” as “to eat lunch late, after mid-day, about 2 p.m.”, a time closer to the Spanish afternoon snack known as “merienda”.

Dinner for Kapampangans had to be early, too. “Apunan” was timed with the roosting hours of their birds and fowls, which was late afternoon (gatpanapun). The day’s toil had to be finished before darkness overtook them—and that included taking supper.

Odd eating hours notwithstanding, our Kapampangan ancestors ate when they were hungry, not when the clock said so (if there were clocks then!). But when they did eat, they ate with relish and abandon—eating with their hands, guzzling their tuba and enjoying “anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven”-- proof, indeed, that the Kapampangan knew how to get most out of life!

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes". The author wishes to thank Singsing Magazine for most of the information needed for this article)


DaveG said...

Mayup a bengi po!

We just got back to the U.S. mainland from a long (3-week) vacation/family reunion/80th Birthday party for my wife's mom in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga.

It was truly an adventure--because my wife had not been back to the P.I. since 1983... I had not been back since 1971. And our daughter had never been there. We met dozens of cousins, titas, titos, and other remote relatives... and were able to eat lots of pinakbit, palabok, karikare, pancit, adobo, lumpia, and of course, nasi! Manyaman!

I used your blog as "study material" before we went. Thanks for posting!

Dave (aka EditorDave)

alex r. castro said...

Thanks DaveG, Boy, I could have gatecrashed your party! I live in the same town--Mabalacat (weekends, at least!). I am delighted to hear you had a swell time. There's a Caragan Festival (sort of like a street ati-atihan) in Mabalacat, so the feasting continues...
Luid ka!