In pre-colonial Philippines, we already had kinilaw and corpses smoked tobacco

Photo via wkimedia commons

By Portia Ladrido/cnnphilippines.com – The quest for a distinct Filipino identity never seems to perish. There are various analyses, dialogues, literature, and works of art that always seek to answer the question: What makes a Filipino?

As a country infused with colonial practices for most of its recorded history, the Philippines’ pre-colonial past can oftentimes be viewed with an air of mystery, a long gone era where beliefs and traditions are nothing but a distant, almost unimaginable memory.

While most Filipinos’ way of life at the present time is largely influenced by the values of our colonial masters, there are still crucial parts of being Filipino — from how meals center around eating rice to the value put on females — that have come from the time before we were in the shackles of our colonizers.

Here are some surprising facts about pre-colonial Philippines, mostly referenced from the book “Kasaysayan: The Earliest Filipinos” and the essays by Filipino writers, scholars, and historians accompanying it.

Kinilaw is at least one hundred years old and one of the earliest food discoveries.

In cultural historian Doreen Fernandez’s essay, “Food At the Very Beginning,” she says that kinilaw, the seafood dish similar to a ceviche, has been in the country since 10th and 13th centuries AD.

During the 1987 Balangay excavation in Agusan del Norte, the researchers also found the tabon-tabon, which is a green fruit, and bones of yellowfin tuna. Fernandez says that both of these were cut in the same way as how the kinilaw is prepared today.

Since kinilaw was made through souring and not by fire, it was highly likely that they consumed this food as it was easy to make. “It was the discovery of seagoing, river-faring people who knew the richness of the waters, the flavors of their wealth, and the high value of freshness,” Fernandez wrote.

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