SALAGUBANG is a Filipino word for a group of scarabs (a kind of beetle, photo at right), specifically of the subfamily Melolonthinae. In my dialect, Cebuano, it is called bakukang, which is also a collective name for the same beetles and also includes species of the subfamily Dynastinae. Of course, more varied forms from other families are called other names but salagubang is the most common.
The Philippines being mainly an agricultural country, its farmers and rural folks are very much familiar with these beetles which are considered both a boon and a bane. A bane because it has inflicted considerable damage to crops with the larvae eating on the roots and adults the leaves. A boon as they provide a rich source of protein once fried to a crisp and at the same time, provide a psychological salve as revenge for the season’s crop’s loss is exacted. And this is what prompted the people of Tuy, Batangas to mount their Salagubang Peste-Val. A rather witty play on the word peste or pest, marked by salagubang eating contest (both fried and raw – in the latter case, its the larvae), salagubang mascots, contests, contests and contests in the typical style of the convivial Filipino fiesta.
More than that, it provided for countless children’s enjoyment, including me. Not really a sadistic ritual as adult beetles are strung and agitated to make it fly in frenzy, alas, tethered, as but a cheap alternative to the rather expensive, non-biodegradable toys that have now flooded the market. These beetles evoke a distant past. A happy one. Of days and lazy summers spent in the provinces. Of rice paddies and mango trees.