by FATIMA B. BADURIA
TASTE BUDS have been sources of little yet thrilling pleasures, but even this can be filched by the virus. Most times, it steals other things aside from the senses: life in its various, and subjective meanings. There have been different ways in which people savor life’s sweetness. Now, their narratives are similarly smeared with the displeasing tang of COVID-19.
Ang Mga Nawawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa depicts this pervasive truth within a smaller scale of reality. Director Kevin Jay Ayson with co-director and writer Mark Moneda zooms in their lenses to the rich, steaming pots of Ilocano cuisine. It is in this aspect that they tell a story tarnished by the virus. By spotlighting bona fide Ilocano food entrepreneurs, the documentary recounts another pandemic outcome: the fading taste of prosperity.
Ilocos’ array of delicacies is vast. Its famous miki, igado, and poqui poqui among others are teeming with distinct and alluring flavors. The result is a constant crowd of customers and enthusiasts, lining up to satisfy their palates. Their cooks have learned to sustain the flames of their stoves, ready to serve in an instant. However, its cookfires have been blown to an ebb by the threat lingering in the air.
Doors to the eateries have been forced shut. Then vibrantly bustling and sizzling as the pride of its region, the cuisine’s life now wanes. Testifying to this reality are local cooks and entrepreneurs who unfortunately experienced it firsthand.
In a flash, full tables and countertops are left idle, giving the viewers the sense of loss experienced by the locals of Ilocos. Still, it is not the dwindled tastes that overpowered the film, but the recovered flavors and hopes enriched by the people.
When supported by a community upholding the same culture, individuals prove heftier than the hurdles ahead. More than a heartfelt story of loss and struggle, the documentary is a spring of inspiration that will spark anyone’s appetite.
The storyline is like an exquisite meal itself. Each tale of the featured Ilocanos has a unique savor, but the meticulous preparation ensued a perfect blend. This marked artistry extends throughout the film, constantly conveyed in its narration: styled using tastes and flavors. Garnished with aesthetic frames and music, the documentary comes to life even more. Its overall charm and refinement, however, may leave its viewers in need of further satiation.
Though brimming with regional culture, the film is not meant for Ilocanos alone. Its authenticity gives a clear but disheartening sense of familiarity; the problems they have endured due to the pandemic are experienced by everyone. Beyond the portrayed kitchens of Ilocos, the same issues are in motion at a larger orbit.
Nonetheless, distress is not their only theme. Both reality and film contain the pursuit as well as attainment of triumph amidst hardships. Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa tells a story that is condensed into bite-sized pieces, but like a delectable meal, holds fast to its significant flavors.
The virus is indeed a fearsome antagonist in otherwise blithe narratives. In Ilocos alone, COVID-19 has taken so much: livelihood and life alike. However, heritage and culture cannot wither so easily. As long as its people cherish it, the Ilocano cuisine will remain prosperous. With hope, it holds true to reality on a larger scale. F