Search and You Shall Find in My World

14 July 2011

Bohol has a problem

There will always be pros and cons to everything. Especially if your home province is used to rebelling against authorities. Historically, Boholanos waged almost a century of rebellion against Spain and isolated itself from the benefits of the outside world. Nowadays, Boholanos still think that the world revolves around them. Discovering what's outside is a slow painful process most Boholanos could not accept.

And I see a problem here. One of the hindrance to development in whatever form, is Bohol's incessant claims to tradition even if  that tradition is obsolete and no longer conforms to international standards.

This is evidently clear in the production of calamay.

Boholanos, especially those from Jagna, the originators of calamay, claim that their calamay were invented more than 100 years ago. This "invention" of putting the calamay in its original packaging- the coconut shell- involves a lot of problems that would result a domino-effect.

One problem is, these coco shells, aside from the fact that they were ''imported" from Mindanao, are not hygienically prepared. I remember years ago when I went to Jagna to observe and take pictures of the calamay-making industry. I was shocked when the shells they used were just put outside of the producer's house after it was sanded down to get that "clean-shell" look. Worst, those shells, after a hot calamay was poured into them were put in rusty milk tins to cool down. Even that red tape is not hygienic.

After several tourists buying calamay found some already moldy, they spread the word like wild fire affecting the sales of calamay in Bohol. Some were patient enough to send letters of protests to concerned entities. These bad calamays and furious customers paved way to a legislation from the Bohol provincial board to make the calamay better.

Has it?

These calamay producers are still using coco shells nowadays despite health issues. Because Boholanos  insist that this is THE tradition.

Some five years or so, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) assisted the food sector in the province of Bohol so they could cope up with the demands of the international market. A company from Tagbilaran introduced a vacuum-sealed calamay during the International Food Expo in Manila as a tickler on what's going to happen in the food sector of the province. That technology extended the shelf-life of calamay to months because of the packaging. However, the new packaging has never seen the light of day in Bohol. If it indeed was introduced, it lived shortly.

As I was taking a shoot at a calamay last week for the annual Sandugo product expo, I was literally trying to break the shell and pulling the calamay out to make a shot. Like the calamay itself, shooting it nicely is a problem.

For a hundred years, calamay producers are still stuck to their coco shells and air the same problem of shelf life and quality. The same problem they have experienced since a hundred years ago.

Despite the claims that Boholanos are the well-traveled of all Filipinos (there is even an unverified claim that a Boholano already owned a prime lot on the moon), still people in that small island act as if they were unreachable from the outside world. They want to dictate what should be in the market rather than what is the demand of the market.

If Boholanos, especially calamay producers, would not get out of their shell (pun intended), nothing good will come out of their production. They will just remain small time entrepreneurs.

(The author is 100% Boholano, by affinity and by sanguinity.)

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