Agriculture, especially rice, is the main source of income for many residents of the San Mateo, Rizal, area in the Philippines. And they don’t just harvest the rice — they also have many creative, and tasty, ways to serve it up.
TThe residents of San Mateo even have a celebration dedicated to rice and the many dishes made from it. The Kakanin Festival of San Mateo is on Sept. 9 each year, and coincides with the feast day of San Mateo’s patroness, Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu.
There are more than 1,000 children, youth and elders sponsored through Unbound in the San Mateo area, and each year many participate in the Kakanin Festival parade along with their families and Unbound staff members. After winning the title of Miss Barangay this year, sponsored youth Xena Mae rode in a float as one of the contestants to go on to the Miss San Mateo pageant. Though she wasn’t crowned Miss San Mateo, she was awarded for being the most eloquent of the contestants.
Richard Gumabo, the program coordinator in San Mateo, said, “It is an enjoyable activity [for our community] to join the Kakanin Festival. Children and their parents are dancing in streets to the tune of drums and other instruments played by different bands. We also gather in the office after the parade to eat our own cooked kakanin prepared by the mothers.”
At a festival celebrating rice dishes, the food is, of course, rather important. Aida is a sponsored elder who helps prepare food for the Unbound parade participants and has been making kakanin dishes since she was a child.
“I’ve learned this process from my parents,” she said, “[and] then I was able to carry it until now and share it with other people, especially to my children.”
Though some kakanin dishes are more difficult and time consuming than others, having many people come together to make the dishes makes the work go easier and lends added joy to the festival atmosphere.
“I feel happy and excited because I am cooking a lot,” Aida said. “This is to share with the sponsored members who will be joining the parade and for the parents, too. I am thankful that my daughter Anabell and the other parents are helping me to cook these kakanin.”
Check out this video of two other kakanin dishes made by families in the Philippines!