CALASIAO, Pangasinan -- Forget the rice shortage, even for a moment, and stuff yourself with a big fix of bite-sized puto (rice cake) in this town on Monday, May 5.
Anyone inside the public auditorium of this central Pangasinan town on Monday will be treated to free puto when the town celebrates its Puto Festival, an event first celebrated in this town 212 kilometers north of Manila five years ago.
"It's eat all you can," said Mayor Roy Macanlalay. "But you cannot take it out. It should only be eaten there. Otherwise, you can buy from the stalls."
Some 38 stalls will be selling the stuff in front of the public auditorium at P50 a kilogram.
Calasiao (pop: 85,419) is known for its cup-shaped, bite-sized, soft rice cakes, which are also described as the town's "white gold."
Puto-making has been the major source of income for families in the villages of Dinalaoan, Lumbang, Ambuetel, and part of Nalsian here.
Macanlalay said the town government decided to revive the festival to help puto makers promote their product.
Although Calasiao's puto has established its market in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, there is still a need to expand it, Macanlalay said.
Highlights of the festival will be the biggest puto contest and a demonstration on how to make puto.
Macanlalay said the puto that his town has been producing for about 100 years has never been equaled in taste and quality in other parts of the country.
Some puto makers said the old earthen jars where the semi-glutinous rice is fermented could be behind the taste and consistency of their product.
"I think the secret is the water," Macanlalay said. This town draws its drinking water from deep wells.
The puto, he said, is simply made up of rice, sugar, and water.