Coconut shells as standard flatware, then and now

It’s been a long time since I last ate on plates made of indigenous material, a decade or more ago if I remember correctly. I was visiting an Aeta neighborhood across the lake that I vowed I’d never cross as beneath it was the entire village that got washed out during the Mount Pinatubo eruption.  The local official and the young person who accompanied me on the trip are among the survivors of that disaster.

Crossing that lake remains as my most stressful travel experience ever because I was in all respect sitting on horror itself. I imagined hands suddenly sticking out of the black waters to pull me down.  I was scared that dead people will rise from beneath the water and I’d have a heart attack from fright.  I thought I heard cries from way down below. So I huddled between my companions and focused my eyes on the hills beyond.

We reached the Aeta community at lunch hour and one of their leaders, another village volunteer, promptly invited us into her house to eat.  We had brought along some packed food and served these on the table alongside the dish of native chicken already there. Then the Aeta leader brought out roughly-hewn coconut shells that to my eyes looked in need of some more cleaning.  My immediate thought was, oh god don’t tell me we’re going to eat from those! We did, and drank water from it too.  Dual purpose.  I laughed, more at my own naivete next to these people’s “street” smart ingenuity.

One could approach this as either a positive or negative experience. My general attitude to such is, if it won’t kill you on the spot it will probably make you stronger or immune for that matter. Besides, I was spent from my imaginings and desperately needed my strength renewed for the return trip across the lake.

But yes coconut shells as standard bowls and plates would now be in.  At that time with the Aetas, ‘green living’ or ‘climate change’ were yet to be coined and popularized which explains why outsiders such as myself found their bowls of coco shell more useful as artifacts than as table ware items.


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