A booming hometown, in rice cakes


ROSARIO, BATANGAS—If you want to picture your hometown as modern day, why don’t you put it in a cake?

See Kristel Ebite’s dream of a progressive Rosario in a longitudinal rice cake: for starters, Ebite’s dream is filled with not just the usual schools or church common in Philippine rural birthplaces. We must have lots of banks, a multi-storey hospital, and more business establishments, says the 20-year-old.

Then after cutting cardboards and coloring these, her sinukmani display that’s served on a bamboo-made stand was where Ebite’s schools, church, banks, and hospital stood. But this first-class municipality already has some of these amenities, not to mention a hill that religious devotees flock to and a car racing circuit that’s the country’s largest.

The annual sinukmani festival in the Batangas municipality of Rosario has propped up residents to make ingenious rice cake designs (photo by Marlon Alexander Luistro)

I just wanted “something more” from my 325-year-old hometown, says Ebite in explaining her sinukmani design that’s among 240 designs lined up in the stretch of Gualberto Ave. during this town’s annual sinukmani festival. “We came up with this (design) because that’s our dream for Rosario: to become a progressive city.”

Rosario is also Batangas’s rice granary, and having a sturdy farming sector is what progress means for the rice cake done by some Brgy. Naumnga residents: a rice field with palay out of green-colored plastic (lined up in squares) having farmers at work, and a nipa hut (cut out of paper and small pieces of wood) overlooking the entire field —err, the cake.

Those faces of progress in this 101,000-strong municipality in the Batangas Local Growth Corridor were baked and designed during the annual Sinukmani Festival. The whole of Gualberto Avenue saw cultural traditions mix up with signs of localized agro-industrial development.

Agricultural productivity here is complementing the incomes that come from non-agricultural businesses, and even from local tourism. Rosario has cell sites, factories, feedmills, a minor central business district that’s filled with local entrepreneurs, a public market, commercial strips along major roads, plus the usual tourist spots such as the Tombol Hill, the Batangas Racing Circuit, the historic municipal plaza, and the municipality’s own classy resorts.

With various economic blessings coming in this town’s way, it’s that time of the year to bake the sinukmani, a local variety of a rice cake (orbibingka in other Philippine areas. The said rice cake is often cooked as an afternoon snack, each sliced into a piece of banana, and is best served with a cup of barako coffee and dessert). Ebite, for example, bonded with her four friends —and spent P2,500— by cooking and deciding on their sinukmani for nine hours.

At this year’s sinukmani festival, 240 cake entries lined up Gualberto Avenue in various designs and colors —all trying to impress judges that the length of their cakes, the quality of the baking and cooking, and adherence to the fiesta’s theme (“Masiglang Bagong Anyo ng Rosario, Batangas tungo sa Masaganang Bukas”) were worth the cash prizes.

sinukmani design can have a word or some words as the design, like what a group of tricycle drivers did in flashing the acronym ATDORO (the name of their local tricycle drivers’ association), stuffed with marshmallows and pinipig (rice flakes). “We just wanted to introduce our group of tricycle drivers so that people will know us better,” Vergara told The Filipino Connection.

A local junkshop’s sinukmani design was rainbow like, made colorful with toppings like strawberry, jackfruit, ube (water yam), vanilla and buko pandan (coconut with pandan leaves). Batangas State University students’ design featured a miniature version of Rosario —the Sto. Rosario Parish Church and the municipal hall and plaza— made out of cut-out paper and cardboards. Local firm Angel’s Poultry Farm stuffed itssinukmani with marshmallows in the middle, and eggs in its corners.

But entries from the Senior Citizens Association of Rosario, Philippine Independent Church and Barangay Balibago won the Natatanging Sinukmani Award, each receiving P5,000 cash prize and certificate. Barangay San Ignacio fielded a rice cake about 28.8 meters long and grabbed the Pinakamahabang Sinukmani Award.

Even as Rosario is 325 years old (established as a municipality in 1687 with the help of priests from the Augustinian Catholic congregation), this annual festival where rice cakes queue on Gualberto Avenue is only on its seventh year. Yet the sinukmani festival had become a hit in the community, and local tourists’ annual delight.

But once the judges eavesdropped on each of the 240 entries, there’s another queue building up: the pile of people craving to attack on the rice cakes.

Ebite’s sinukmani? The throng of hands hauling it can’t be stopped. “That’s my vision of progress for Rosario,” Ebite said, “so have a hearty meal.”

About Marlon Alexander S. Luistro

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