Written by Auxl Reign Dithenna Nava, B.S. in Political Science III.
When you first travel to another place, the sights, smells, and sounds are frequently so new that doubtlessly you are some place you’ve never been. Movement and dialect sounds very distinctive. While these senses all combine to highlight the new wonders that await you. In my case, nowhere is truer than being in my own hometown, the home to which Gen. Leandro Fullons’ Shrine is located and the original Puto Ati or Puto Tapul is made.
In Hamtik, a few things are inescapable: its peace loving people, its quiet environment coupled with a light meal taken in the middle of the morning and in the afternoon, “merienda” – the meal testament to the Filipinos’ love for food and for company at any time of the day. It can be as simple as a kakanin like “sinakol” or a” suman” both wrapped in banana leaves, or pan de sal, often accompanied with coffee. As I grew up, a lot of local favorites have grown out of favor because of the overrated growing popularity of desserts blowing out in social media. Gone are the days of kakanin. But the town of Hamtik, preserved its original delicacy, “Puto Ati or Puto Tapul”
Puto [poo-toh] is a default term for native Philippine rice-based sweets, and its slightly sweet flavor and soft texture makes Antiquenos crave for it. And If you’re a Filipino, you may not consider a feast as a feast without puto. Unsurprisingly, we share this unique side dish with Malay countries around Southeast Asia. Similar to its predecessor, the Filipino adaptation is made with ground rice, steamed to cook, and can be served alongside rich stews or on its own. There are so many variations of puto in the islands in the Philippines. One of the more popular kind is putong puti made from galapong, or rice flour. But one of the people of Hamtik, named as Mrs. Ninfa Singabol, reimagined the plain puto white by using “tapul rice” to add a more original and a sweet aroma of the rice based delicacy, now known as “Puto Ati”. Mrs. Singabol is a local in Barangay 4, Hamtik, Antique and she started her puto making career since her mother started making puto. She proudly said that, “Atun gid tana dya nga mga taga Hamtik ang Puto nga Tapul” which means that, “this delicacy originated in Hamtik”. She only accepts orders 24/7 and wasn’t able to put up her own restaurant because of her age. She said that, making puto is not as easy as we all know since the process to make a perfect one requires patience while putting it on an extremely hot “kalan”. Each puto costs 9.00 but preferably, she accepts in bulk orders. As I know, It is a family-run business, whereas, Mrs. Singabol works with her husband together with children in making “Puto Ati”. And probably one of the reasons why lots of people love its delicacy, since it is made with love by the members of it family. It shows family, and how a family should work together to keep its ties intact. It shows family and how one thing will always bind them together. It’s like the puto your grandmother bakes, that makes you and your cousins jump to the table and enjoy, that makes you and your cousin be “one” even in many differences. This rice-based delicacy in Hamtik shows not only of its fascinating black color but as well as how a family heritage should be kept alive and uplifted.
“Puto Ati or Puto Tapul”
(1) Rice flour (white rice and the “tapul rice)
(2) Baking powder
(4) Coconut milk
Traditionally, the uncooked white and tapul rice, is soaked in water for several times then ground fine in a gilingan, or grinder, into galapong. The rice batter made of ground rice and water is steamed in native molds to make muffin-like rice cakes. Its rice flour, baking powder, and sugar are being mixed together in a bowl. Then add water and mix until well combined. Pour mixture into the native molder with a circled cut of a banana leaf, two thirds full. Place molder in a steamer over medium to high heat. Mrs. Singabol said that its steamer can already occupy 100 pieces of Puto Ati compared before. In the case of cooking, it should be assured that the water is boiling rapidly. Steam until cakes are firm and cooked, about 45minutes. Take the cakes out of the steamer and let them cool on the kitchen counter until they can be handled. Run a knife around the edges and use the knife to lift the cake out of the native molder. Mrs. Singabol added that this kind of delicacy should not be directly exposed to sunlight since it could cause hardness and spoilage. They are best the day they are made but can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container and reheated in a steamer or microwave oven.
Food not only distinguishes and represents a culture, but can also reflect ones personality and its people. “Puto Ati or Puto Tapul” is not just an ordinary rice based delicacy that promotes the town of Hamtik but it has also the essence of a delicacy which a lot of people will love since its sweet flavor represents Antiquenos personality and its soft texture with its aroma that encourages people to visit this place for its rich culture and heritage. Probably Filipinos, considers rice based delicacy as an integral part of its identity since we are considered sweet munchies for desserts made from rice, sweet rice or root vegetables that are slow cooked and usually made with coconut or coconut milk. As time goes by, people will be able to look back to local delicacies compared to those desserts found on their social media account and I do bet that a lot of people still choose the latter part of todays’ very famous delicacies. Time will come that people would rather buy a sticky sweet rice for an hour until it gets chewy. For this, Puto Ati, is one of the delicacies that makes a family gather in a table for siesta and never fails to provide that much needed dose of inspiration in the middle of an otherwise uninspiring day. It can be a lifesaver, for its sweet rice is made of tapul that gives color for the delicacy, cooked in banana leaf that adds aroma to it, chewy, soft texture and takes hours to make – a real labor of love of a family. And definitely made by the locals that make each and every Hamtikanons proud of!