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*By Jovy Ann Valera 

It was Saturday, the thirteenth day of September when I decided to stroll around the Miag-ao market to find something to be featured.  Before that, I tried to check at the municipal hall and ask someone there.

As I was looking around the hall, I saw enlarged photos of  wonderful natural spots here in Miag-ao.  Also, there were pictures of the patadyong (plaid handwoven cloth used as a wrap skirt), kuron (pots), and many others. All of these are made by Miagaoanons.

Of all the attractive and eye-catching framed pictures, what caught my attention was the creative carving of a wooden ladle by an old man. This wooden ladle is locally called as luwag.
The luwag is made of paya (polished coconut shell) and kawayan (bamboo). The paya here constitutes the rounded portion of the ladle while the kawayan is what the elongated handle is made of.  The length of a luwag ranges from 1-2 feet. The deep bowl is tightly attached to the bamboo handle by  means of rivets or nylon.  The traditional fastening material is uway, a kind of vine.

I interviewed Ernesto Empinado or Tay Erning, as I call him, a luwag-maker from Barangay Sapa, Miag-ao, on how he makes a luwag. He said that he only uses not the bolo knife nor the usual knife but the kutsilyo bilong-bilong (a Cebuano term for a particular kind of knife) in making the entire luwag.

The bamboo- made handle and the deep bowl are smoothened. Gina-lagis–that is process of smoothening the bamboo with the help of sharp objects such as knives. On the other hand, kiyas or kiskis is the process of smoothening the coconut shell or the paya. After this, the paya is attached to one end of the bamboo handle and prest0! A luwag is born.

Inspite of modernization, in the age of aluminum and teflon, the luwag is here to stay.  Here in the Philippines, particularly in Miag-ao Iloilo, the wooden luwag is still patronized by many households.  As what I observed in many houses, cooked rice are being karikad (scraped evenly) with the aid of luwag before being served on the table. Furthermore, during special occasions, country cooks prefer to use the luwag instead of metal ladles in cooking traditional fiesta fare like valenciana, lauya and KBL.

When preparing native rice cakes such as suman, kalamay-hati which require longer cooking time, the wooden luwag is also preferred.   The main reason why wooden ladles are chosen over metal ladles is their characteristic of absorbing less heat when exposed to fire. Unlike metal spoons, the luwag can also be safely used without scratching the bottom of a pan. And still, another advantage of wooden ladles is the price. You can buy these native wooden ladles at twenty-five pesos to thirty pesos only.  In an interview, Tay Erning told me that the pricing is dependent on the size of the ladle. The larger and longer it is, the more expensive is the price.
So you see….. Wooden ladles are playing their important roles in our busy kitchens everyday and Miagaoanons are there to continue the skills which we almost forgot. And that is the art of making the luwag.

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Jovy Ann Valera is a second year B.S. Biology student
of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas.
When she learned how to swim, she began to love
exploring the wonders of the sea.
Contact #: 09153219289
Email address: japv_vp@yahoo.com