Asin Tibuok

Yesterday’s art journal entry is about asin tibuok. I first saw this on the feeds of my friends and of course the appearance was the first thing that attracted my curiosity. It looked like a dinosaur egg, it’s so cool. I looked for an online reseller and ordered one. After a week, it’s here and it looks pretty awesome.

This dinosaur egg-shaped curiosity is a chunk of unbroken sea salt inside a specially-made clay pot. Asin tibuok is a heritage salt from Alburquerque, Bohol. I found this very interesting article about it on Grid Magazine (The Price of Salt). This type of saltmaking technique has been around for centuries, even before the Spanish colonization. I remember the process being described briefly in Pigafetta’s journals, but it was also mentioned in the writings of the Spanish missionary, Father Francisco Ignacio Alcima. The article features one of the last saltmaking families in Bohol and the last asindero of their line, Nestor Manongas. I like how the writer described that salt making  used to be part of their everyday lives, is even a rite of passage for little boys. They still use the time-honored methods that they learned from their elders and which has been passed down from generation to generation. I hope that the tradition can be preserved by the next generation. It would really be quite a loss if we lose the knowledge of how to make this heritage salt.

The little pot is filled to overflowing with asin tibuok. It’s small but heavy. It tastes salty with a bit of umami, it’s a bit savory and smoky. I feel bad that when you look at groceries these days, himalayan pink salt made it to the mainstream, so to speak. We should do the same for our own heritage salts. So many asinderos have abandoned their craft because the production process of asin tibuok and other heritage salts are labor intensive and it takes a long time. Soaking the coconut husks alone takes about 3 months. Add to that the difficulties of getting permits and licenses and that it’s hard to compete with cheaper, more readily available imports. There’s a market for artisanal salt, though. I am thankful for people like those behind for making these available to people like me, who have never even heard of this wonderful heritage salt until now. As I was holding this beautiful pot of salt in my hands, I feel humbled knowing that it’s the product of months of labor of Mang Nestor, and it’s the product of ancestral wisdom and know-how passed on to families for many generations.

Asin tibuok was added to the Ark of Taste by Slow Food back in 2016. This is an online catalog of endangered heritage foods worldwide.