The Act of Sharing – Uniting the Hearts of the People
Large chunks of meat are sizzling on a scalding stone slab. Whether it is the meat of a boar or a hare, every evening’s feast relies on those brave and skillful souls who have trudged over mountains and rivers to put their hunting skills to the test. It is the pride of tribal warriors to be able to share their catch with the tribe.
Although animal husbandry has more or less replaced hunting in today’s society, “dividing the catch,” as it is known, is still a very important matter in tribal communities. Whether it is a wedding, the completion of a new home, or the glory achieved by a tribesperson in competition, all must be celebrated with ample feasting. When ‘dividing the catch ’, it is of the utmost importance to follow the tribe’s rules and distribute the cuts of the meat according to age and status. Each portion must be measured carefully, as its size indicates to the receiver a sense of the honor of the rank which they have achieved and, to those who receive a smaller portion, the honor which is yet to come.
Unspoken rules run deep in tribal tradition. While the cutting of the meat at a feast lets us observe the tribal hierarchy organization, there is also a special significance, far larger than merely filling the stomach, of eating a pot of Shaking Rice at the family table together.
For as long as anyone can remember, ‘Sha k ing R ice’ (Pinuljacengan) has been made by boiling millet in a large pot, then adding red quinoa, Garland chrysanthemum, black nightshade, and other seasonal wild vegetables one by one. While cooking, one must be careful to stir the stew from time to time, using a large wooden stick, to stop the bottom from burning. The name ‘Shaking Rice’ is derived from the way that one’s body shakes while stirring.
After bringing the large pot of stew to table, the ‘vuvu’ [a name for grandparents in the Paiwan language] will tell you that one must not start eating from the middle of the pot. Each family member must use their own spoon to dig in from the place closest to them. Furthermore, one must eat slowly, with a grateful heart, and remember to save a bite of food for those who are returning home late. Therefore, sharing a pot of Shaking Rice displays a heartfelt sense of warmth and community, with a deep reverence for what it means to be family.