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The Disappearing Skill of Making the Buro

There is irony to the success of Aling Apolonia’s pickling business. In years gone by, housewives amused themselves by lovingly peeling local fruits and slicing these into thin flat strips; to be immersed in solutions of salt and sugar dissolved in water. The formula for these solutions was sometimes even a household secret.

The sliced fruits stayed inside large round garapons – or jars – for anything from a few days to a whole week; or until Mother said it was alright to try them.

This was the art of pickling – or pagbuburo, as we say in Tagalog – a disappearing skill and industry for the creation of what used to be a favourite appetizer and snack. In the old days, those who went to the market for the binuro were only those who were too lazy to do these themselves.

Otherwise, the glass jars containing the fermenting fruits were ubiquitous. They were in just about every household’s kitchen or dinner table.

These were long before the days of salty junk food neatly packed inside colourful foils; or fastfood joints that serve cheap spaghetti and burger meals. In those days, children played in the yard; and when famished from all the running and climbing, went back to the house to ask Inay what there was to eat.

If they were lucky, Inay’s burong mangga might have just fermented enough to make a good mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Perhaps, Inay had prepared santol instead; or singkamas; or duhat; or just about any fruit that she could lay her hands on.

Alas, these days, how many of the younger generation even know how the binuro tastes like? More importantly, how many mothers still make this for their young; or even just buy this from the palengke to bring home to the children?

Thus, Aling Apolonia’s binuro stall in the Lipa Public Market flourishes because there are few competitors, if at all. There are still, apparently, those who pine for her pickles once in a while. Those who do probably learned to eat the binuro from their parents; but either never learned how to make it or are just too busy to even try.

No prizes for guessing that those who do buy are probably of an older generation.

Not surprisingly, Aling Apolonia inherited her stall from her parents, who first opened it way back in the seventies. Her bestsellers are the burong mangga and santol, which she also sells as fruits.

In between talking to customers, she herself peels and slices the fruits to prepare these for pickling in neatly lined colourful jars in front of her stall. Because of her industry, she is able to send two of her children to high school and another one to college.

More important than her personal achievements, she is keeping alive a traditional Filipino household skill; perhaps in the hope that one day even the younger generation may once again develop a taste for this former Filipino favourite.

Those who wish to try Aling Apolonia’s binuro will find her stall right next to the entrance of the wet section of the Lipa City Public Market.

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