TAUSUG IN DOHA: Lugaw: a comfort food for everyone

DOHA, Qatar (MindNews / 02 April) —  In the ongoing ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) in the “National Capital Region + bubble” due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, “lugaw is essential” became viral on social media and Filipino netizens worldwide reacted in many different ways to this trending topic. I would like to share my own story related to this matter.

“Lugaw” or “mistang” to us in Tausug, is always present on our table during the breaking of fasting in the month of Ramadhān. Since I started to fast, this has been what my family eats to break our more than ten hours of fasting. It’s a long day on an empty stomach, so this comfort food is light on the stomach and it helps us feel a bit warmer inside, as well.

It is worth remembering that during my college days at the Universidad de Zamboanga, almost every day except weekends, we would cook this food during Ramadhān inside the premises of our university. Of course, with the permission of the university administration because we had a safe and open space where we could conveniently and safely cook this food.

At around 1 p.m., my friends in the Muslim Student Association would go to the market to buy all the needed ingredients. On their return, we would begin to prepare everything. During those days, we had to cook this food enough to feed 500 to 1,000 fasting Muslim students, who, at sunset would break their fast inside the campus.

Before sunset, this food has to be ready, thus everybody helps one another to finish it swiftly. Well, the bonding while cooking became a great chance for everyone of us to strengthen the brotherhood between and among the Muslim students who were mainly from Zamboanga, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

Moreover, once it is cooked, we let it cool for a while. Afterwards, we placed it in a cup and properly arranged it on the table along with dates, juice, water and some bread, ready to serve at iftār time.

To prepare for iftār, fasting students proceed from their classrooms to the venue just outside the MSA Center, 15 minutes before sunset. Some Muslim faculty members also join their students. To see everyone simultaneously breaking their fasting is indeed blissful.

With the primary objective of helping Muslim students conveniently break their fast, the MSA, a widely recognized group of Muslim students, holds this traditional campus-based program during Ramadhān. As most of students are still in their classes, naturally they do not have time to go anywhere outside the campus and look for something to eat during iftār. So this humble program greatly helps them in. They no longer worry where and what to eat during iftar.

The best thing about lugaw is it is inexpensive and can be served to many people, especially during the time of the iftār. That’s why we consider it our food choice because it’s proportionate to the budget of most students. The expenses for the iftar come from MSA member of five pesos. Sometimes, there are charitable organizations that sponsor the lugaw for the iftar.

Sick people reinvigorate by eating this food. When there are calamities, it is also the choice of food served by various groups during the feeding program for evacuees at the evacuation center because it is economical and can be easily served to feed many starving people, of course, along with water and some fruits. This is indeed a survival food for indigent Filipino families.

I remember when we didn’t have extra money to buy other food, my loving mother would cook this for us and she would say: “Mga anak ku, misan da kuman mistang in makaun natu’, bangman kitaniyu nag aagad-agad mag kaun, makūg na aku.” (My dear children, it is fine, even if we only have this to eat. It’s all about us eating together that matters, and that’s what makes me happy).

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Gamson Jr Mawallil Quijano of Sulu is a registered Radiologic Technologist who works in Doha, Qatar. He was on his way to Sulu supposedly for vacation with his family when the  COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in mid-March 2020 in Zamboanga City. He is back in Doha)

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