The Jagna Calamay: A Labor of Love

I watch as strong, sure arms stir the sweet-smelling, sticky, dark brown mixture in a kawa, a cookware resembling a wok but almost one meter in diameter. The arms belong to a young man named Ruben, who has been preparing calamay (pronounced ka-la-MAhY) almost daily for three years now. Sweat is trickling down his face, and it is not just because of the heat from cooking – he has been stirring for three hours already. And, from a light brown, slightly thick mixture, the calamay has now become dark, gooey, and almost unyielding to the luwag, the big spatula-like stirrer made especially for calamay making.

The calamay, a true fruit of love and patience, is a specialty of Jagna, Bohol.

Preparing the calamay looks deceptively easy, as it only has three ingredients: ground glutinous rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. Peanuts are optional. The secret behind the delicious Jagna calamay, though, is the hours of constant stirring. Not doing so would result to an unevenly cooked calamay, or worse, burned calamay, once it sticks to the bottom of the kawa.

Ruben stirring Jagna calamay for the first hour

The last 30 minutes of stirring

Pilang Bajao of Bunga Ilaya, Jagna, has been making calamay for over 30 years. She and her people prepare everything from scratch – they grind the glutinous rice and grate and squeeze the milk from coconuts. The entire process from preparation to cooking and packing is done in four to five hours. All ingredients are fresh – Pilang Bajao, lovingly and respectfully called Nang Pilang by some of her neighbors – does not store ground rice or coconut milk before preparing calamay. The calamay itself is cooked over a wood fire with constant stirring.

Coconut shells filled with newly-cooked calamay

Nang Pilang and Lod sealing the coconut shells

While I was watching Nang Pilang and her people prepare calamay, I could not help but notice and appreciate their sense of community. Even though Ruben does the stirring every time they make calamay, a neighbor stepped in to do the stirring when Ruben had to leave for some minutes. All the people Nang Pilang work with in calamay making are her neighbors.

Indeed, the calamay is not just a product of love, but the shared love of a community.

Enjoying warm calamay fresh from the kawa 

The finished product


 

 

Where to buy Jagna calamay:

Most souvenir shops in Bohol sell Jagna calamay.

You can get Pilang Bajao’s calamay at Jagna port (an hour’s van or bus ride from Dao terminal in Tagbilaran).You will also be passing by Jagna port if you go to Bohol by boat from Camiguin or Cagayan de Oro.

For bulk orders in Jagna, call Pilang Bajao at 09154699686. She sells calamay both in coconut shells and plastic containers.

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18 thoughts on “The Jagna Calamay: A Labor of Love

  1. Yummy! Too bad I haven’t had breakfast. Haha!

    I’ve had my share of stirring like that when we were making halaya for my debut party. Grabe, nangalay na ako, nasugatan pa ako! Sobrang labor talaga yan. With that smile on his face until the last 30 minutes, I’m sure his loving energies were also transferred to the calamay. Penge! Haha!

    Mare, make sure to chillax in Pamilacan Island ha. Fris and I both fell in love in that place. <3

    • Yes, I was really surprised to find him smiling at the last 30 minutes – maybe because he knows he’s almost finished hehehe. Just joking.

      Will be going back to Bohol most likely next year with my family and will make sure to go to Pamilacan that time. We spent our time mostly in Jagna for the barangay fiesta where our friend lives. =)

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  3. You can also find this in Candon City ….. wrapped in two’s or four’s in a dried banana stalks ….. i will try to get a picture of that and tag it to you …… but for the last few years they have initiated what is now popularly known as “impidas” – a flattened small amount of the calamay placed in a small plastic sheet and then put in a small paper bag …… and very recently they produced a rolled calamay and have several pieces in a box ….. they have also a “Calamay Festival” where they make the biggest calamay in the world for the Guinness Book of Records …… Tita Vissia

    • Hi, Tita! Yep, I’ve tasted Ilocos kalamay many times. The taste is different, and the pronunciation is different, too! =) I haven’t watched the process of kalamay making in Ilocos, though.

    • Thanks, Kaye! :) You can always go back to Bohol. ;-) And I think some specialty stores in Manila carry calamay but I’m not entirely sure.

  4. WOW! I didn’t know that preparing calamay would be THIS hard!!! I love calamay and this post made me appreciate Bohol’s delicacy more. :) And oh, if you don’t mind, I added you on Facebook. :) Consider me as your fan! :)

    • Yep, it really is a labor of love. That thought made the fresh, warm calamay they prepared all the more delicious for me when I ate it. Accepted your FB friend request. :)

    • Thanks, Lakbay Diva! I agree that we sometimes take for granted the worthwhile travel destinations in our hometown. I explored Visayas first before actively exploring my home town, Las Piñas.

      Where are you from in Bohol? Are you just close to Jagna? =)

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  6. Hi, san ba to ginagawa? yung exact location pls kung san nila linuluto ang calamay? and what time sila ng luluto? Haha sorry. I’m going to bohol this weekend and I wanna see how they prepare this treat :) Thanks!

    • Jagna is about an hour’s van ride from Tagbilaran, then a tricycle ride to Barangay Bunga Ilaya. They started making calamay early in the morning during my visit – I stayed with a friend nearby so I just walked to Nang Pilang’s house. Best to contact Nang Pilang through the number I posted on the blog entry to ask the schedule to be sure.

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