Last week, a video of a delivery rider being stopped at a checkpoint went viral on social media. In the video, checkpoint authorities were not allowing the delivery rider to pass through even though he was delivering food (lugaw) which is considered an essential good.
Netizens were quick to make memes and funny posts regarding the video, with some even jokingly debating whether or not the Filipino porridge is an essential good. But whether or not authorities consider it an essential good or not, lugaw has undeniably become a part of Filipino history and culture that even Vice President Leni Robredo’s campaign team in the 2016 national elections sold the porridge to fund the VP’s campaign.
So where exactly did lugaw and our love for it come from? What is the history behind this delicious and filling dish? My Pope Philippines investigates! (Read: What Do Eggs Have to Do With Christ’s Resurrection?)
An Early Filipino Dish
In a Facebook post by the National Quincentennial Committee (NCQ), it is said that lugaw is one of the earliest dishes of our ancestors. According to the 1613 Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala by Fr. Pedro de San Buenaventura, lugaw (spelled ‘logao’ in the book) is rice mixed with water or milk or both, thus called a rice porridge.
On the other hand, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) says this dish is traditional Filipino comfort food. Those who are sick often have lugaw for meals as the warm soup helps with colds, and it is easy to chew which makes it perfect for the ill. (Read: 3 Hearty Soup Recipes That Popes Eat During Cold Seasons)
It is said that the lugaw is partly influenced by the Chinese’s congee, a similar dish that has a different topping. The congee has meat and vegetables, while the lugaw sometimes has a whole boiled egg.
Up until now, 500 years since its earliest documentation, lugaw is still essential in every Filipino household. We sometimes eat it for breakfast, and carinderias and street vendors earn a good income from it by selling lugaw in the afternoon as a merienda option.
Aside from this, lugaw is also often served during natural disasters to help those who have been gravely affected by storms or typhoons. (LIST: The Best Food Items to Donate for Disaster Victims) Relief operations include serving this classic Filipino dish to people in evacuation centers— proof that the lugaw is a staple food and is engrained in the Filipino culture.