A Taste of Lumayagan: A Taste of Home
Home is not only where the heart is.
It is also where the stomach is.
Whenever we are far from home for a long time (as I was before the COVID-19 pandemic), we yearn for lutong bahay. We crave for that one particular food, the mere mention of which, reminds us of home.
And for us Oroquietanons or the residents of Oroquieta City, the capital of Misamis Occidental, that food is none other than our very own lumayagan.
Lumayagan or purple-back flying squid belongs to the species Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis which thrives in Iligan Bay, particularly in the vicinity waters of Oroquieta City. Its size is small to medium and is more flavorful compared to the large pusit.
Lumayagan is a popular seafood because of its versatility. It can be eaten raw as kinilaw or semi-raw as kilawin. It can be grilled and fried. It can also be cooked as adobo which many locals prefer to be pinamala or dry. It is the practice here not to remove the ink sac as it adds flavor to the adobo. Lumayagan can also be briskly boiled with ginger, tomatoes, and spring onions which earns it the dish name pakuratan or in Filipino, gulatin.
Of all the delectable dishes made out of lumayagan, my mother’s tinunuang lumayagan is our household favorite. Tinunuan is the Cebuano term for ginataan. Inasmuch as coconuts and malunggay are in abundance in our city and are considered as food staples, Mom includes them in her lumayagan dish. She would sauté the lumayagan with minced garlic, onions, and ginger for a minute before removing the lumayagan and setting it aside. Coconut milk would then be poured into the pan and stirred well, blending its creaminess with the remaining flavor of the ingredients. As the sauce thickens, salt and ground pepper would be added along with long, green chilis. The squid would be put back and as it simmers a few minutes later, the malunggay leaves would be added. After five minutes, the dish is ready to be served for us to relish with much gusto.
Lumayagan evokes nostalgic family memories—of tagging along with uncles aron managbo (to meet) fishermen with their freshly caught lumayagan; of afternoon meriendas in my grandparents’ house where we would devour bowl after bowl of champorado paired with crispy-fried dried lumayagan; and of sipping the subtly sweet sabaw of the pakuratan na lumayagan as cousins banter in an instant tapok-tapok or gathering.
That lumayagan occupies a significant spot in the standee at the Oroquieta City Plaza bespeaks how the city is home to lumayagan. For the Oroquietanons who are in other parts of the country and of the world, homesickness is partly equated to longingness for lumayagan dishes.
Hearing the shrill voices of the street vendors outdoing each other in the wee hours of the morning and savoring later my mother’s tinunuang lumayagan, I know I’m home.