Pastil: Versatile One-dish Meal of Muslim Filipinos

Pastil: versatile one dish meal

Of Muslim Filipinos          

By Apolinario Villalobos


If you have ventured into a Muslim community, you may notice a delicacy neatly wrapped in a banana leaf. It is called “pastil”, a special kind of rice with a spoonful of viand on top– either fish or chicken. While the fish takes a shorter time to cook, the shredded chicken takes more, for as long as two to three hours to ensure its softness. The fish is flavored with “palapa”, a hot chili and shallot- based condiment, while the chicken is cooked in its own oil enhanced with a small amount of coconut or vegetable oil, toasted garlic, and with shallot and hot chili as optional ingredients.


In Manila, the place to go for this one-dish meal is the Islamic Center in Quiapo. While it can be partaken as is, some prefer to have other dish to go with it. At the Islamic Center’s halal carinderias and sidewalk eateries, the choices for other main dishes are chunks of young jackfruit cooked in coconut milk, red beans in coconut milk, broiled tuna, mudfish or tilapia, boiled eggs, stir-fried vegetables in herbs, and chicken cooked in thick coconut milk.


For dessert, one can have the Muslim version of “fruit salad” which is a soupy combination of gelatin and fruits in season flavored with milk and sweetened with brown sugar. It is different from the “dry” version of fruit salad which is topped with ice cream and shaved ice.


Variably, “pastil” is also called “patil” in other parts of Muslim Mindanao, and the preparation varies according to the added spice or condiment. The price however, does not vary, as the price is  fixed at ten pesos per wrap.




By Apolinario B Villalobos

Gentle people of South Cotabato –

Epitome of strength who moves with agility

But graceful enough to sway with the wind

With innocent smile easily parting their lips

And laughter that crease their gentle face.

Fortunate people, contentedly they live –

In the fastness of green, rivers, hills and valleys

By God’s will, long- hidden from lowlanders

Which did them good, but then time came –

The haze was parted, and finally, they were seen.

Clothed in patiently – pounded fibers

And woven into the smooth cloth – t’nalak

The men stand proud in the earth-colored garb

While women looking regal in their vivid dress

Seen from afar, they seem to float in the breeze.

People of the rainbow, these people are –

And placid that made them prey to the greedy

But to them, God is kind, made them secured

From harm that only the heartless could inflict

And nature’s wrath, to them could easily wreak.

Straight from their heart, to God they pray

Sincere praises are mumbled by betel-red lips

No pretensions in their offered dances

Pleadings are for their safety and health

That for them are well- cherished wealth…

(The T’boli is one of the indigenous tribes of the Philippines, found in the southern part of the archipelago, particularly, South Cotabato province, island of Mindanao)

Conflict of Ideologies, Abuse of Authority, and Corruption are the Causes of the Indigenous Filipinos’ Woes Today

Conflict of Ideologies, Abuse of Authority, and Corruption

are the Causes of the Indigenous Filipinos’ Woes Today

by Apolinario Villalobos

When the Spaniards colonized the islands of the Philippines way back in the 1500s, the natives were clustered so that they can be easily “managed” which actually means, conveniently taxed. They were made to settle around the plaza with the church as the focal point of the community. To entice those who were apprehensive and afraid to come down from their mountain abode, joyful occasions such as fiestas were held by the friars. The same practice was employed by the Americans when they took over. Some regions were successfully developed out of clustering, although, some tribes who persisted in maintaining their values and culture remained steadfast in their ancestral domains. There was not much problem during those two regimes because, the natives had only two choices – either embrace the imposed authority thereby, live in “managed” communities, or live in the mountains, far from the colonizers, peacefully. Period.

Today, the native Filipinos who live in their ancestral domain are pitifully squeezed between three forces – that of the government forces, the land grabbers, and the subversives. The government has the duty to protect every Filipino, including the indigenous ones. To make it easy for the government to do it, clustering is again used, pulling the natives from their source of livelihood, in the process. The government had to do this because of the intrusion of the subversives into the ancestral domains of the indigenous Filipinos. Unfortunately, some military contingents became abusive. The land grabbers, meanwhile, using fraudulent documents are practically driving the natives farther into the wilderness. On the other hand, the subversives employ psychological tactics in winning the natives to their side, and in some instances, even with force.

In a not so distant past, some tribes were the ones that complained about the intrusion of the subversives into their midst. Their presence required support which of course meant, doubling of effort on the part of the natives to produce more from their tilled lands. It is only when they could no longer tolerate the mulcting of these subversives that they complained to the government authorities. This is the reason why the government came into the picture – to purportedly protect the natives, necessitating their presence in their communities. In cases of land grabbing, the natives approach militant groups for help, and most often, results are not encouraging due to inaction of the government agencies concernced, that is why, during anti-government rallies, this is among the issues being shouted, a sad reality because most land grabbers are government officials using dummies!

Aside from clustering, another effort of the government to provide protection is the organization of the local defense forces composed of the able-bodied male members of the community. The Abbu Sayyaf was “developed” in this manner. Originally envisioned to augment the government effort in fighting insurgency, it later became into what it is now because of many reasons blamed on the government. In the case of the displaced natives who are seeking the protection of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Mindanao, their community-based paramilitary group is called Alamara.

The latest news about the displaced 700 indigenous Filipinos who live under the protection of the United Church of Christ in the Philippine (UCCP), displaced from their ancestral domains for several months now is disheartening. The primary reason why the natives left their homes and farms, is the presence of the military in their communities. The question now is, “who” told them that such presence is not good for them? The quest for communistic ideology is far from being dead in the Philippines. Splinters of communistic groups are well distributed throughout the archipelago even the once-peaceful Bohol, Panay, and Palawan islands.

The issue on displaced tribal communities is not new, especially, as an effect of land grabbing which started when the Spaniards came,  got complicated with the intrusion of Communism in the country, worsened by the politicians who use dummies in this scheme, and got further muddled by the abuse of some military contingents.

As a conclusion, for as long as there are adherents of Communism, land grabbers, abusive military contingents, and corrupt government officials, the problem of the indigenous Filipinos will not be solved. The consolation, however, are the religious groups, one of which is the UCCP, that provide support and affordable protection.