Carmelita “Mita” Rejano-Reyes is undeniably the Uraro Queen of the Southern Tagalog province of Marinduque. She’s at the helm of the family-owned and operated Rejano’s Bakery in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, which is home to the province’s very own uraro (arrowroot) cookies. These are made using flour from the rootcrop. The supply was so inconsistent and insufficient, and the process of making flour from fresh uraro took such a long time, until Mita took the problem into her own hands. When she took over from her parents, Crisostomo and Belen Rejano, she sought the assistance of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to acquire processing equipment that made the processing of arrowroot flour easier. The Department of Agriculture (DA) then helped her organize the Arrowroot Industry Council, which organized farmers into groups and professionalized the industry of growing arrowroot.
Her efforts earned her such recognition in 2013 with the Best Technopreneur Award from the DOST MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) Region.
On the domestic front, Mita is a good cook. She took after her Nanay, Belen Romay Rejano, who, like a typical Filipina housewife, cooked and fed her family very well. The sixth child in a brood of nine, Mita loved to watch her Nanay cook when she was little, and picked up the skill because her mother took the time to explain the cooking process to her. Among the heirloom recipes that she inherited from her mom was Dinilawang Manok, native chicken flavored with natural herbs and spices. It’s incredibly flavorful and healthy!
She now cooks the dish not just for her husband, former Marinduque Governor Luisito Reyes, and their children, but also for guests, as a specialty dish at Café Mamita of the family-owned The Boac Hotel in Boac, Marinduque.
- 1 tbsp. ginger strips
- 1 tbsp. chopped onion
- 2 tbsps. cooking oil
- 1/2 kg native chicken, cut up
- Pepper to taste
- 1 stalk lemongrass, pounded
- 2 tbsps. vinegar
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 tbsp. luyang dilaw (turmeric), peeled and cut into strips
- 1/2 raw papaya, peeled and cut into triangles
- 1/2 cup kakang-gata (thick coconut cream)
- Heat oil in pan, and sauté ginger and onions.
- Add native chicken. Tenderize with pepper, lemongrass, and vinegar.
- Put coconut milk in a bowl, add the luyang dilaw, and squeeze the luyang dilaw to extract its natural juices and color and incorporate it into the coconut milk.
- When the vinegar is cooked, pour in the coconut milk mixture and stir. Add the raw papaya and cook until it is done, but still firm.
- Pour in the kakang-gata and simmer until thick.
- Serve the chicken with freshly cooked rice.
Photographs by Rafael R. Zulueta
This article originally appeared on Asian Dragon Magazine’s July–August 2015 issue, available for download on Magzter.