In the provinces, a sure sign that some very serious grand-style cooking is about to be done is the arrival of folded banana leaves (dahon ng saging).
Stripped from the midribs, bundled in neat flat rolls, the banana leaves are considered indispensable to effort at hand.
Most provincial cooking is over woodfire with its vagaries of high heat. Long ago, cooks discovered that, without some precaution, anything cooked over woodfire, even in comparatively cool earthenware containers, tends to burn to a precise crisp black crust at the bottom.
Banana leaves were at hand. Growing in the backyard of every rural home, the banana plant waves its fronds at level with the kitchen window. Reach out, cut, line the pot.
For generations of cooks, banana leaves have proven to be a good insulator. Lining a pot of rice, a piece of banana leaf ensures that the grains at the bottom will not burn before the top is done to fluffy whiteness. And even if the bottom should burn to a brown crisp, the crust, stuck to the banana leaf, would not be so vile. In fact, it would be a delicacy: golden brown and toasty crisp, subtly flavored with burnt banana leaf, to be dipped in sugar and eaten as a snack.