On this particular sunny October day, the community was buzzing with activity. The Sama Tribe in Bgy. Tagbaobo, Samal Island were preparing for the death anniversary of one of their tribe members, and we were smack in the middle of it.

The tribe knew that I was coming to visit, I was housed next door and had previously spoken to Ms. Zenaida, their Community President. I approached the busy group awkwardly that morning, and it was then I was greeted with a local dance and then offered amik (local rice snack) and coffee (ground with corn).

The story goes, amik is what the Sama Tribe will offer guests and family members during the death anniversary celebration itself. The actual anniversary date is November 11 and since they need to produce at least 200 pieces, the whole barangay is up to their elbows in work. And thankfully, they were willing to let me pitch in.

The Sama Tribe on this island is a cheery bunch, all working together, cracking jokes, swapping stories with me. It seems they enjoy what they’re doing and having a visitor (who is fluent in Bisaya) made it all the more exciting.

How to make Amik

I have tasted this sweet rice snack a month prior in General Santos City during Southern Weaves, a formal fashion event featuring prolific Filipino designer, Rene Salud. I had taken a liking to amik, getting 5 pieces and shoving them on my plate during dinner time. Here’s how they make it according to the Sama Tribe:

First, high quality rice is soaked in water before grinding and mashing. The rice is ground via the traditional method using lusong (the wooden boat-like mortar) and alho (the pestle).

Both tools are made of hardwood and are heavy, which makes sense that the men in the village opt to do this. I could only lift and pound it several times, I best leave it to the professionals.

Amik requires super fine ground rice, so it is sifted twice. Initially via a regular sifter, then through a finer silkscreen-like fabric. Anything that isn’t up to par will be brought back for further grinding.

Nanay Florentina Mamada (74) is tasked to do the second sifting. Seated on the floor, she sifts the ground flour diligently for most of the morning.

Afterwhich the rice flour is mixed with water and brown sugar to form a sticky paste similar to kalamay.

It is mixed and kneaded a couple of times and then transferred to the coconut sieve.

And as if on cue, the tribe firmly taps their wooden utensils on the coconut sieve to faciliate the dripping of the paste into the very hot oil. There is a certain rhythm to it that’s almost hypnotizing. And then we start to cook.

The thick amik batter is carefully folded into its rectangular shape using a pair of tools fashioned from carabao’s horns.

After just a couple of seconds, it is finally golden brown and ready for storage. Or in my case, eating.

These anahaw bowls and cups are part of the Sama Tribe’s culture. In lieu of plastic spoons, forks, and flatware, they create these out of anahaw leaves. Very sustainable and eco-friendly.

Warm coffee made from beans grown on the island paired with freshly-fried amik equals a delicious and very filling brunch. I am holding the bakas (cup for coffee) and tapisi (small bowl) with the amik. I prefer my amik crunchy, but others prefer it chewy. Just expose it to air and it should lose its crunch in a matter of minutes.

Have you tried Amik or Tinagtag? Did you like it? What other local delicacies have you tried?

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Interested to visit the Sama Tribe in Samal Island, Davao City? Get in touch with DOT-Accredited Tour Guide Samuel Libre, Jr. at 0917-1497130. 

All photos including video were shot using my Huawei P9.