‘Balut’ challenge


Jullie Y. Daza


So PBBM likes “balut” – and so do lots of brave folks with strong stomachs.

You know what they say about balut, how it fortifies a man’s image as manly. Years ago when a group of US Marines visiting Manila accepted the challenge to be tested for their vaunted bravery, little did they know that it was going to be a game that they couldn’t swallow. Faced with the daunting task of consuming an egg containing the fetus of a duck, they threw up their hands in surrender – at least they didn’t throw up -- and walked away with their faces turning red and pink and orange.

Balut is not only a delicacy, we locals also recognize it as a generator of jokes about a man’s appetite as expressed by his virility and, by inference, his sexual prowess. (So far there have been no anecdotes about women and their flair or aversion for balut.) In the old days of the last century, as kids we heard stories about guys in the neighborhood holding balut-eating contests. Those were the days when the balut peddler’s familiar voice could be heard calling out his wares late at night, loud and proud, after dinner every night.

Where have the roaming, roving peddlers gone? Are they with their pals in the beer garden? In our neighborhood, the night seems lonelier now, and longer, without those shouted words, “Balut! Balut!” breaking the nocturnal quiet hanging from the drapery of moon and stars. I don’t eat balut but I miss the sound of that one word repeatedly punching a hole in the night as it creeps toward midnight.

Along with the nostalgia there’s the mystery of what Pateros is doing to keep up with the changing times and changing climes even as the town continues to produce more than half a million duck eggs each and every blessed day for balut and “itlog na maalat” (salted egg). Times have changed but perhaps not in an industry as traditional as this one? Can technology hurry up hatching time?

If balut can scare off an American Marine, imagine what the sight of “dinuguan” – a dish cooked in pork blood – could do to his heart, the color of his skin, and his sense of pride.