Uploaded February 13, 2017
TRAVEL AND POP SEMIOTICS
The Romance in Leyte's
by Jojo Soria de Veyra
EVERY Valentine’s Day, much talk revolves around chocolates and the chocolate, and it’s likely that a famous semiotician has already treated of the semiosis or semioses that occur/s or should occur in that association. He/she may have already warned people with weaknesses about the chocolate’s being an after-lunch or after-dinner sweet seducer of a thing subliminally pointing to darker corners, corners as esoteric perhaps as wherever in the Third World cacao seeds are being harvested.
But Valentine’s Day is not only about hot blushing afternoons or early evening dinners and wines that come after them. Valentine’s Day starts with the morning, even the dawn for some people. And, except for the chocolate in drink form, who would want to talk about eating chocolates at breakfast? So, I ask: what, then, would be a fitting food item for a Valentine’s Day breakfast date?
Well, I have one for you. One overlooked bread or cookie fit for a Valentine’s Day daybreak is perhaps the Leyte rosca, popularly known in the island of Leyte as made specially in the towns of Barugo and Carigara from a combine of egg yolks, flour, salt, sugar, butter, yeast, seasonings, and purportedly also the local palm wine called tubâ as its liqueur ingredient, this last supposedly providing it that anise-like aphrodisiacal kick in the exact same way that rum gives the fruitcake its kick.
And why would these roscas de Leyte be fitting bread for Valentine’s Daybreak, you ask? Well, for starters, just consider its plural or collective name by which it is popularly known, roscas, and realize at the same time that each of these roscas is not really a rosca.
A Majorcan roscon de reyes.
". . . of course, the semiotician wannabe (or pop semiotician) can only guide you through what he has deemed as the signified meanings he saw emergent in a certain signifier."
In Spain or Portugal, a rosca is a ring or bagel of a bread or biscuit.
The Spanish or Latin American roscas de reyes, for instance, each of which would be called a roscón de reyes or rosca de reyes, literally means “kings’ rings”, although such roscas or roscones are not always round but often oval in shape and are actually each a cake pastry. And why reyes? These ring pastries are meant to be eaten on January 6, during the Epiphany, or Dia de Reyes (Three Kings’ Day), which explains the “kings” in that pastry’s name.
Now, as to why the roscones or roscas came to be in the ring form, I don’t know. But they have always been in the ring form, just as the legendary and equally erotic doughnut has always been in the ring form. And that’s precisely why they are called roscas, or “rings”, even today. Now, you might also ask, do I have knowledge if the main plot of the novel The Lord of the Rings that has to do with rings was inspired by these roscas? Well, no, I do not have such knowledge, so let's just go back to the Leyte roscas.
Which, to repeat, are not round or in the ring form; in fact, many a female and gay male recipient of such a pasalubong from Leyte has commented on these roscas’ implying a phallic shape. What balls!, they almost always seem to say, as they gasp at what they probably perceive as the Warays’ bold humor. But that, my friends, is not the reason why I am calling the Leyte rosca a fitting breakfast or merienda fare for Valentine’s Day (a day some people treat as their Dia de Moteles wherein they can feel like a prince or princess).
Did I mention that novel of kings, The Lord of the Rings? Yes, I did. And if you remember the story of that novel and film series, it mostly revolves around power-carrying rings that have to be gathered to thus come together and be able to deliver to their collector their ultimate collective power. But how I see the roscones de Leyte is only half-similar to that—after all, these roscones are not rings, didn’t I tell you that already? I said only half-similar to the Lord of the Rings situation, because I see each roscon of Leyte as a broken half of a whole ring, a broken half of a whole roscon or rosca, which needs to be joined with its other half in order to get their conjoined romantic power by their implied completion, a power that should be fit indeed for a wedding reception in Gondor. Remember the rings in Shazzan?
Mind you, this is probably the reason why the rosca de Leyte halves are usually packaged in their transparent cellophane packing at the Tacloban airport as kissing halves, each broken rosca paired with its broken other inside the pack. Yes! So that each completes the other, as we said, and transparently so for everyone to witness! And there you go! Perfect for Valentine’s Day, didn’t I tell you?!
But if you still feel like debating a rosca-de-Leyte broken half's already being called a rosca even if it's not yet a rosca, and two halves' already being called roscas when they only complete one rosca, I'm telling you now, it's one pair that should make one rosca, okay? But then we can always be liberal with how people use words and thus here give them leeway in calling each half enough of a rosca already, a potential rosca that is, since---after all---we don't really care to know why a pair of pants is daily called pants anyway, do we?
Roscas de Leyte arranged in proper pairs in their cellophane packing at the Tacloban airport.
Now, of course, the semiotician wannabe (or pop semiotician) can only guide you through what he has deemed as the signified meanings he saw emergent in a certain signifier. I can only hope that I here guided you enough into what I deemed as this bread item’s potential or must-be meaning and are now here totally biting my proposal or insistence (instead of only half-biting its plausibility). But, just in case you did really bite the meaning or signification I here presented or exposed, I cannot now stop you from moving on to other meanings, can I?—which is probably why semiotics has often if not always been accused of inspiring anarchies of readings.
Now, I do realize that one such anarchic reading from you on the roscas de Leyte, which is quite a popular reading to be honest with you, may require you---as naughty recipient of this pasalubong---to play with your pair of roscas de Leyte on a plate in order to form a, say, penis with testicles shape, a short penis though it may turn out, or otherwise to flip one of the pair so you could signify a “69”.
Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you, you people in this V/valentine-worshipping Third World with weaknesses. :) [d]
Text (c) copyright 2017 Jojo Soria de Veyra
Photos by Miguel Roxas de Veyra unless otherwise noted and linked to source websites
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