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Sweetness of a Kusilba

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Just three months ago, my neighbors in my new hometown have shared us foods that they were proud of. I didn’t know why but it grew a deep interest inside me. As I tasted these foods which they preferred as the delicacies of the place, I was surprised to find out that these different flavors made my mind ecstatic. Though I can say that these foods are certainly rich in flavor, there is this one certain delicacy that has captured my heart – the food “KUSILBA.”

I’ve heard that this delicacy is a native food here in Butuan City specifically in the town of Banza. They say that this recipe has been made by the old people in this place a long time ago; they are called ‘lumad butuanons.’ The sweetness of this delicacy is indeed an appropriate way to say that the people from this place have great values of hospitality and kindness. This rich history has kept me searching for more information and details about this recipe.

Coming from one of the people who had made this certain delicacy, she explained how to cook and prepare kusilba. Upon hearing this, I became excited. Imagine. I can eat kusilba anytime I wanted if I knew the ingredients and the procedures how to cook it.

The steps were very easy. First, we just have to gather the ingredients which were 1 ¼ kilo of brown sugar, a gallon of coconut pulp, 2 tablespoons of vanilla, 2 Calamansi and coconut milk. Aren’t these ingredients simple to find? We can see them in the local markets. Indeed, no one can imagine that these few ingredients can create a delicious delicacy. Next, we have to cook the scraped coconut pulp with coconut milk and let it boil until this becomes sticky. Then, we add the sugar and mix them well. We put the vanilla when the water is not already seen and mix them well. When it is cooked, we then get a clean container and place this newly cooked sweet delicacy. Kusilba is now ready to be served and eaten.

I have seen these delicacies in most occasions I went with my friends in Butuan City, but the thing is I have never seen these in restaurants. Wouldn’t it be great if these foods are seen in them? Wouldn’t this represent the proud culture Butuan has and how each Butuanon take pride of their delicacies?

This Butuanon  delicacy, known as Binuntaan was familiar to me ever since I was a child. It has always been a favorite dish for the family. During special occasions like birthday, fiesta and Christmas get-together, I can recall, it is one of the dishes that we look forward to. During fiesta celebration, it is also one of the recipes that the visitors delight with.

It was during the conduct of this study that I began to ask, why Binuntaan?

I asked my father who is a pure Butuanon. Buntaan or buntaah is the common name but its original name is Binuntaan. It derived from the  term “binunutan” meaning  ‘ taken with’. Because some of its flesh and fats are taken, added with extenders and flavors/seasoning to create a distinct taste.

Way back when I was still very  young, I remember my Tiyo Tanong, my father’s cousin. At the mention of his name, I can always associate him with violin. He was the first person I saw playing violin. He used to come to our house at night and spend time talking with my father over some local wine. Sometimes, I heard both of them going out with big flash lights and some other tools with them on a boat sailing along Banza river. Butuanon say, “manuu sila”. That means going out over a sulu (light) for a catch. They usually get crabs, shrimps and lobster. That was the time when Banza river was still abundant with fish and other resources. Since they often had a good catch, these led to developing a new recipe other than simple boiling of crabs or cooking it with gata. And that was the birth of Binuntaan. As coconut was also abundant in the place, many of  the recipes including Binuntaan are prepared with either young coconut or being cooked with gata (coco milk). Like any other recipes, it went through a series of try outs before it came to be the original Binuntaan.

With this study, I was able to bring back beautiful memories—–old house along the Banza river…..singing session with a violin….Binuntaan….crabs and lobster….and the bonding of family and friends. That was very much a part of our very own culture, a Banzahanon way of life.


Culture has always been a part of everyone’s life. No matter where you go, no matter where you are, it stays forever within you as your treasure meant to shine and be valued. And a part of this treasure is the cuisine that makes culture contain rich flavor to attract attention. Aside from attracting attention, these favorite foods of certain places has endeavored the hearts and minds not only in the native or citizens of the place but also many foreigners around the world.

But as time passes by, delicacies have turned to this – an enigma. And so, this too is what has been happening to the art of cuisine of a town in Butuan City, Banza.

Unheard, unspoken…

These are the two things that best describes an enigma. You don’t hear people talking about Butuan’s favorite foods anymore especially out in the open, unlike the people or our ancestor decades ago. The culture and recipes of the foods in Banza has been kept for so long. It has not been passed to the next generations. If this continues, what will become of Banza’s cuisine? Will it be entirely forgotten and replaced?

There is still time! It is not yet too late.

At all costs, we must not let this catastrophe happen. Though Banza’s culture and cuisine are simple and unique, when you go and see through them, you would see. They have the value greater than of gold. They have the importance to every Banzanians since these have lived on since our ancestors ‘til the present. We must cherish them like the way our ancestors did or even more. Through preservation, there may still be a chance for these not to be lost. We may not be hearing people talk about Banza’s culture and cuisine, but soon we shall.

If we look closely at our surroundings, there still remain traces of Banza’s culture and cuisine. Just like pieces of a map ready to be connected. And once completely formed, we’ll find the treasure through this guide. Working together, searching for clues, data and information, we shall find the way that may lead us to the once more fair Banza and its beautiful, restored culture and cuisine, and the foods that represents the rich flavor of Banza itself.

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