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Last edited 09 Apr 2023
Argamasa egg render
Argamasa mortar (and render) is the name given to the exterior finish of many of the churches found in the Philippines, it is notable because of it's white appearance and novel technique of adding egg white to the mortar or render mixture, which in turn led to the creation of a local delicacy called San Nicolas cookies from the remaining egg yolks.
Argamasa renders and mortars can also be found in the Philippines from the period of the Spanish occupation, where egg-whites were used as emulsifiers for lime renders by various religious orders, right through from the Augustinians and Franciscans to Jesuits and more. The Spanish colonial era lasted from the mid 1500's to the end of the 1800's and the Philippines was an important trading centre for the Spanish empire and many stone churches were built to mark both the Spanish presence and religious beliefs.
A culinary historian from the Philippines Pia Lim-Castillo noted “Taking into account all the churches built then, the number of eggs used ran into the millions.” As a culinary expert she also noted that it was after the Spanish had arrived that a local delicacy, which still exists today, (long after the concrete replaced these materials) called San Nicolas cookies were made, most probably because of the remaining egg yolks left from the construction of the churches. “The extensive use of egg white and eggshells brought about the ingenuity of the Filipino women who saw all these egg yolks being thrown in the river,” writes Pia Lim-Castillo. “Recipes were created to make use of the egg yolks, like pan de San Nicolas, yema, tocino del cielo, leche flan, pastries, and tortas.”.. “the number of eggs used ran into the millions.” (Eggs in Cookery, proceedings of the Oxford symposium on food and cookery edited by Richard Hoskin Prospect Books 2007)
A Spanish Dominican historian Fr. Pablo Fernandez OP, author of History of the Church in the Philippines, further confirms that the use of stone and masonry construction in the country can be attributed to the Jesuit missionary Antonio Sedeño, who history shows was said to have “knowledge of quarrying [and] finishing stone, erecting arches, and measuring distances. [His] work was copied by others and carried throughout the archipelago.” Dr. Michelle Sotaridona Eusebio, from the Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, supported the claim that that eggs were combined with lime, sand, water, and various ingredients to make the mix.
Pampanga churches such as the Holy Rosary Parish Church in Angeles City, San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, St. Augustine Church in Lubao, and St. James the Apostle Church in Guagua, are good examples of churches which contained eggs. Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila, used duck eggs as shown by the expenses list for the mortar made by Friar Mariano Gomes of Cavite, in 1824. Highlighted in the paper 'Eggs in Philippines Church Architecture and its Cuisine', by Pia Lim-Castillo higlights "records show that the dome of the Manila Cathedral was sealed in 1780 with a layer of lime, powdered brick, duck eggs, and bamboo sap."
A similar technique, used internally can be found in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu in Southern India, with the use of what is called Chettinad egg plaster, a traditional technique of lime plastering that can be found on many of the mansions in the area built around the 1700's by the wealthy trading community known as Nattukottai Chettiars, and is notable for its particularly smooth light finish.
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