In these mountains, watwat is the native term for a portion of meat that is taken home by partakers for the other members of the household to enjoy the blessings of the thanksgiving feast from the hosts or sponsors.
It is customary for everyone to share in this offering given to dead ancestors who watch over the prosperity of the community. The watwat party was inspired for tourists and locals to enjoy this traditional sharing of meat that is cooked the traditional way for P299 at Suvani’s Avong in Datakan, Kapangan, Benguet.
The Ibaloy cultural immersion is an experience that some visitors would like to get, and this is the place to go to eat Ibaloy preparations in the cañao or occasions of thanksgiving. Although, the meat is merely boiled in large vats, the manner of serving this in cut up banana trunks as plates and coconut shell bowls for soup are similar to those for members of the family, the experience of an authentic gathering like a wedding or an offering for the year’s bounties called peshit.
The pork meat is usually cut up in even portions or chunks for each person. This is boiled and distributed during mealtime. Often, this is too much to consume in one meal and the unconsumed portion is taken home to the family members for sharing. Pounded fresh chili peppers with salt or soy are the seasonings that accompany this to give it flavor. The broth from boiling this meat is the soup that is distributed with it which is salted according to personal taste as well.
At the watwat party, the portions given are weighed at half a kilo each and tied together with a strip of bamboo. The binding of the portions are also artfully done. The elders say that these must also be properly knotted to please the ancestors. There is a piece of liver added to the bundle of sliced meat and portions with fat and skin.
The pinuneg or blood sausage is a part of the meal preparation. The blood from the pig is collected in basins and later used to fill the cleaned small intestines and mixed with onions, garlic, a little finely chopped fat, and a little ginger for some.
Then these are boiled and apportioned for as many guests to enjoy the meat at 2.5 inches each. This is also bland and flavored with the salt or soy with chili by those who will eat it. The texture of the sausage is pasty and smooth when there are no rice additives in the mixture.
The pork belly is usually grilled over charcoal to reduce some of the fat. This is served while waiting for the main meal. This is also plain and dipped in your choice of condiments.
The red rice is traditional and homegrown. In these parts, the red rice is planted and produced in many farms. However, this is usually for domestic use or for making rice wine. A cup of rice is placed on the plate, but one can ask for more for those with hearty appetites.
Sticky rice is cooked with coconut milk and sweetened as the dessert added to the meal. This is a traditional rice cake available during large get togethers. The resources for these come from farms too.
The sweet potato that is part of the meal is also sourced from nearby growers. The different varieties of the root crop can be sampled too from the white, yellow, orange, to the purple ones. The preferred ones are the sweet purple stocks, but the available produce is what is served.
There is rice wine for those who would like to sample this which is also locally made.According to the natives, this is also an art and depends on the maker who produces delicious, sweet kinds.
Owner Rose Fianza says that this space is intended to be the showcase of the customs and traditions of the Ibaloysand their clan. It once allowed students to experience planting rice with the farmers and pounding this for their meals. In the future, this may become the hub for learning the crafts and practices of the people. All the items used are from local economic activities so that they may benefit the populace.
The watwat party and the pinikpikan party or boiled singed chicken with smoked ham will be available for the adventurous because these may not be prepared in the customary way in other places but Suvani’sAvong on specific dates for the public.