Tuesday, July 26, 2011


True story.

I was standing in front of the fridge with a friend, looking at what leftovers we might want to eat.

He said, "Påle', you know what's my favorite food?" as we stood there looking at all the leftovers.
I said, "What?"
Says he, "Balutan."

We all know that, at least in today's common speech, balutan means the food you take home from a party.

But the original meaning of balutan means "to wrap up, to bundle."  Un balutan pugua' is a parcel of betel nut, for example.  So balutan does not necessarily mean food you take home from someone else's party.  You can wrap food up in aluminum foil and put it right in your own fridge, at the site of the party, or no party at all, and it can still be called balutan.

Balutan is a part of Chamorro life.  You almost can't leave a party without it.

When I was priest of Malesso' and Humåtak, I would get between 5 and 10 plates of balutan most weeks.  This was food left over from the nightly rosaries held at the church for a funeral or anniversary.  Some weeks, it cold get as many as 20 plates.  All for one person.  I didn't want to waste it (sin; isao), so I often dropped off the balutan to.....well....I better not say.  But it didn't go to waste.

By the way, the word balutan is also used by Filipinos, for the same thing.

I was getting so many balutan outside my parish, too, that I had to devise a way to transport the balutan and avoid spillage in the car.  Nothing worse than the smell of kelaguen uhang on the carpet that lasts for weeks.  So I bought a deep, plastic tub, with a cover, and put the balutan in it.  If there was a spill, the juices stayed in my plastic fanbalutånan (balutan container), which was easily rinsed clean.  People would look at the trunk of my car and go, "What's that?"  I'd say, "For balutan, nai."

When I just couldn't eat at a party, the one way to satisfy the hosts and not upset them that you didn't eat was to say, "Balutåne yo' fan ya bai hu chule' hanao!"  "Wrap it up for me and I'll take it along."  Then all was well.

Balutan can be abused.  We all see some people, barely invited to the gupot or fiesta (feast) and take home enough balutan for a week.

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