A Taste of Maa To Ro’s Bagobo-Klata Heritage Cuisine

As a melting pot of crisscrossing cultures, Mindanao is a land of diverse heritage, where one can savor a myriad of cuisines each distinct to every region. In Davao City, where there are 11 known tribes, a culinary movement aimed at promoting olden traditions of preparing food is slowly partaking in the local gastronomic scene.

the front part of Maa ta Ro in Davao

Maa to Ro—a Lumad-themed restaurant serving traditional cuisines of the Bagobo Klata tribe is quickly generating positive word-of-mouth raves. Translated to “Let’s eat” in English, Maa to Ro serves Mindanaoan tribal dishes aimed to preserve and promote the culinary culture of the tribe to diners in search of sumptuous bold flavors.

Owner Kessia Tar—herself, a member of the Bagobo Klata tribe—explains their process of food preparation. “Our food is authentically native and are prepared laboriously, using only the fresh ingredients like vegetables, spices and herbs that are picked right outside in our garden. The food is then slowly cooked to achieve its ultimate taste”.

Preserving Bagobo-Klata Cuisine

Situated in Purok Rose, Baguio District and near two of Davao's most popular tourist destinations; the Philippine Eagle Center and Malagos Garden Resort, Maa To Ro is built with a traditional vibe—thanks to the mostly bamboo interior—that summons a homey atmosphere as if the guests are invited inside the humble homes of the Bagobo Klata people.

Maa ta Ro's Lol'lot dish

Serving a mouth-watering set of native dishes such as the Lol'lot which is served with meat (fish, chicken or shrimp) grated with coconut and spices that are stuffed inside a fire heated bamboo. Another favorite is the Pletek to Pandan which is chicken wrapped in pandan leaves and prepared with an assortment of herbs and spices. Probably the most unique dish is the Pancit to Iyog because instead of using noodles, strips of coconut flesh are used in lieu of pancit noodles.

Maa ta Ro's Pancit

The other bestsellers like the Pas ni Mor (stir-fried shrimps with corn), Ginataan Ngo Monok (chicken bathed in coconut milk and cooked with a local twist) are also some of the restaurant's must-tries.

If you are a foodie and committed to exploring Filipino cuisine, then Mindanao with its rich cookery culture should be a great place to start. And what better way to kick-off your gastronomic journey than getting a taste of Bagobo-Klata's food culture here at Maa To Ro.

School of Living Tradition

Another special thing about Maa To Ro is the tribe's weaving school built at the back of the restaurant. Called as the "El’lom", the weaving center provided another advocacy avenue for Kessia Tar to preserve the dying tradition of Bagobo-Klata weaving.

“Few years back, as a young Bagobo, I am really in thirst to know more about my tribe, but everyone would just tell me "During the olden days, our elders used to this and that" but us the younger generation could not see how it was made because no one makes it. Our traditions were not passed on; thus, we risk becoming a diminishing tribe. So now, our goal is to bring back our weaving tradition for the next generations to see, experience and learn. We set our journey in bringing back the lost tradition-the weaving. Because it plays a big part of our identity. This would also provide sustainable livelihood to the people in the community and the people of Bagobo Klata” Kessia Tar explains.

As the guests enjoy their food, children belonging to the Bagobo-Klata performs a special traditional dance number accompanied by the upbeat kulintang drumming of the elders—this time promoting the other aspects of the tribe’s culture; the art of dance and music.

The adorable Bagobo-Klata kids Argie, Mara and Gab
Summing it all up; great food, fascinating weaving workmanship and music and dance performances, dining at Maa To Ro indeed brings forth a total cultural experience.