ABUYOG, Leyte—This town is known for its Buyogan Festival, which was the Philippines’ bet to the World Culture Festival 2016 last March in New Delhi, India. Now there’s another reason for tourists to visit this first-class municipality, the largest in Leyte by land area.
It’s “moron”—no, not the English word for stupid, but the glutinous rice cake popular in Leyte and Eastern Samar. And not just any “moron,” it’s Mary’s Abuyog Special Chocolate Moron at Iba Pa, which is leaving lovers of this delicacy wanting more each time they get a taste.
This brand of rice cake, also known as “bakintol” in Waray or “suman” in Tagalog, has leveled up in taste and packaging, says its owner Esmeralda “Mary” Diorico Manaog. Aside from glutinous rice, the typical moron recipe uses regular rice, coconut milk, sugar, and cocoa tablets or chocolate. Once cooked over a low fire and steamed, it’s wrapped it banana leaves and makes a quick snack.
“There’s butter in the ‘tableya’ [chocolate] and it is packed with a better leaf-wrapper,” Manaog said of her rice cakes, which are sold at the Bahandi Pasalubong Center at the Tacloban City airport and in streets across the province.
Mary has been making these special chocolate “moron” for the last 23 years, yet she has kept churning them out because she finds it both self-gratifying and financially rewarding.
“I enjoy the task my mother handed down to me, and I have considered it a family heirloom. Over the years, it has given us so much privilege to live a decent life,” she tells Manila Standard.
Manaog says modestly that her daily gross income is more than the whole-month salary of an entry-level school teacher. “But by gross income, it means I still must pay for my workers and cooking materials,” she points out.
Mary buys “tableya” from Davao at P190 a kilo and processes it to suit the taste of her moron products. But because of “Yolanda,” she has had to import banana leaves from other provinces that were spared by the super typhoon.
A member of the Eastern Visayas Producers Association, Manaog managed to recover from her losses to “Yolanda” with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry and AUSAID, the Australian overseas aid program. Back in 2008, the Department of Labor and Employment named her the “Best Choco Moron Maker” in Eastern Visayas.
Soon after “Yolanda,” DoLE granted her a steamer, gas stove and liquefied petroleum gas tank to start over. “Without it, it would be hard for me to cook in just one round some 700 rolls of our famous chocolate ‘moron,’” she shared.
Before “Yolanda,” she would receive thousands of orders for her rice cakes, and even filled one order for a fiesta in Tacloban in which she delivered 6,000 pieces, enough to fill a “multicab” or small truck.
Now that she is doing brisk business again, Mary Manaog is more than happy to bring people to Abuyog and give them a taste of her “moron”—and its stupefying goodness.
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