A taste of Mandaya culture

Maya M. Padillo

Mati City is not only a haven for surfers but also for those who love to try local cuisine. Apart from Dahican Beach, sleeping dinosaur and empanada, Mati also takes pride of its authentic Mandaya delicacies. 

Determined to take advantage of the booming travel industry, Angie David who is a travel and tour operator, is now promoting authentic Mandaya cuisine to attract domestic and foreign travellers. 

David’s mom Virginia opened Kuzina Virginia last September 8 this year, which serves authentic Mandaya and Filipino dishes. 

“We know Mati is popular for empanada but it is not a meal. That is why we conceptualized this restaurant. Most of the travelers will ask for local food and I have to make this to bring people, have a taste and experience the Mandaya food,” David said in an interview.

The Mandayas in Davao Oriental have a rich tribal heritage that is very evident in their colorful costumes, bead works, and food.

Eating Mandaya dishes is as simple as having coconut and camote at home. These are the ingredients used every time they prepare their dish to ensure it does not lose the original taste.

The cold tuba (coconut wine) shake and the mouthwatering pudding de Mati showcase the flourishing coconut industry of Davao Oriental. The tuba shake will not give you hangover only delight!

Another Mandaya way of cooking is wrapping the banami (shrimp) in banana leaves grilled in a pan. The banana leaf adds flavor and makes the banami juicier inside.

David said using banami aims to promote also the shrimp industry of the province. According to her, there are around 123 shrimp growers in Mati. 

“Most of the food comes from the products we have here in Mati Davao Oriental,” she added. 

The Mandaya tribe is popular for their L’lulot dish. These are usually composed of meat (pork, chicken or shrimp) and rice that is cooked in a bamboo along with coconut milk with a mix of ginger, onions and garlic.

At Kuzina Virginia, Lut is being served as a labor of love. 

“But you have to order it ahead of time. We make it like we have to cook it within three to four hours. We have to buy the Lut every other day because the bamboo can be used only within 24 hours and beyond that it does not taste nice kasi wala na yung moisture. The bamboo stalk that is being used is different. It must not be too young and too old,” David said. 

The paru-paru de baga, which is a minced innards of the beef looks like bopis but more tasty.

“Spicy siya because Mandayas love spicy food that is why we also have the dumang (dried minced chili). Even those people in Davao Oriental love chili and always ask for chili,” she said. 

A coffee concocted from corn is perfect to cap the meal.

“By nature we love to cook and eat. If you notice our food we don’t have to measure it and all our cooking is “mata-mata” kung gaano karami. My mother is a Boholana but my grandmother who is a Serrano is a Mandaya,” David said. 

David said opening Kuzina Virginia will cater to those guests, locals and foreign, who are craving for authentic traditional cuisines. 

“I am now in a travel industry so I have to come up something that is very authentic, very Mandaya and very Mati so that is why we have this resto,” she said. 

The David Family also owns VMD Travels and Tours and the DXVD Dino 90.3 FM in Mati, Davao Oriental.