Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tuba - the ever popular coconut red wine in Inopacan

(Left) Holding a tagay while on the floor spread with Inopacan-made banig (woven palm mat) This one in the picture is bag-ong dawat (newly gathered tuba, i.e. less than 24 hour-old tuba) and can easily be identified as it is typically effervescent (bubbling, notice the ring of creamy froth on tuba inside the gallon) as the fermentation has just begun; (Right) Two years ago, Nanay Pita offered me this glass of fresh tuba chilled in cracked ice. Sweetish! (I mean it literally)
Freshly gathered tuba is actually creamy in color if tungog is not yet blended into it. Tungog is a dried bark of a particular species of mangroove tree that would give tuba its maroon-orange color and bitter taste. Tungog would prevent the coco sap from becoming sour and allows tuba to ferment and become bahal, then to become bahalina or siete biernes. The process of tuba-making in Inopacan would make tuba more desirable the longer tuba is fermented and the longer it is stored to age, the better it would become.


(Left) A bundle of tungog bark, the kind used by manangguete in Inopacan; (Right) Tungog is pounded into small bits (or even smaller bits than what is shown in the picture) when used as fermentation agent in making tuba.

Tuba is the most popular native wine in town. This bloody colored wine when shared by fellow Inopacnons tantamount to a ceremonial celebration of continuous friendship and bonding much like that of a blood compact. This organic wine is most affordable and plentiful for a meager budget one can afford to buy a drink. This wine would magically turn someone from being reserved to become a verbosely master of the show. Once it gets into your veins, it would kick warmly to awaken your timid blood, thus virtually make you brave that no mosquito would even dare to sting your numb skin.

It is a symbol of pride for Inopacnon to serve their guest the best tuba in town. Sharing some tagay of bahal is a celebration of companionship or friendship. But when bahalina is served, it is considered a royalty treatment or it must be for a special celebration.

There are at least three common way of serving tuba in Inopacan, one is sinagolan, another is may chaser and the manly puro.

  1. sinagolan - tuba is blended with lots of cola (Coke or Pepsi) making the wine very sweet and fruity to your palate and throat
  2. may chaser (tsineseran) - literally said, tuba served with a chaser of cola or any sweet drink, such as juice, chocolate drink, sweetened coffee, etc.. the chaser is immediately served after swigging tuba. You dare to savor first the true taste of tuba then iron out your squirming face with a chaser.
  3. puro - from the Spanish word puro (meaning "pure"). One has to swig a tagay of pure tuba without sipping any chaser afterward. This will surely give you the truest meaning of saying "Ahhh!" to a drink.

Tagay is that serving of wine poured in the glass
A lot of Inopacnons are well versed in tagging the quality of tuba by its smell, transparency in color and by knocking a glass container (usually a gallon or demijohn) filled with tuba. The sounding of "tonk! tonk! tonk" and "tink! tink! tink!" is more often enough to gauge how old the wine is. Telling the age is important; the older, the better.

And nothing is spared by the ingenuity of Inopacnons that even the kisom (sourness) can be easily masked with cola drinks as pangsagol (mixing ingredient) or by the sumsoman (food served in drinking session).

You must have missed something good in Inopacan if you have not experienced the taste of tuba, the one of a kind we have in town.



For the benefit of those who do not know how tuba is produced and collected from the coconut tree and how tuba from being bag-ong dawat would become a bahalina, read the following paragraphs lifted from Edgie Polistico's Philippine Food and Cooking Dictionary.


tuba – (tu-bâ; Visayas, Mindanao, Quezon & Lagueño native wine) [n.] coconut red wine (Visayan & Mindanawanon) coconut wine (Quezonian & Lagueño) \palm toddy.

In Quezon and Laguna provinces, this is turbid or milky white in color as it is served pure by the tuba gatherer, but must be consumed immediately in one or two days from harvest; beyond that, the tuba sours to become vinegar.

This same kind of harvested palm toddy is made red or maroon in color in Visayas and Mindanao due to the mixture of pounded or ground bark of tungog (a.k.a. barok) to allow the coconut wine to ferment and help prevent tuba from becoming sour.

The making of tuba starts when the tuba gatherer called “mananguete” climbs a coconut tree in the early morning. While on top the coconut tree, he would sit on the base of palm’s frond and looks for a newly sprouting bud of bunch of coconut flower that is still completely encased in its green pod (takong). The bud of coconut fruit (inflorescence) is lopped off by slicing its very tip using a razor-sharp sanggot (scythe) to cause the sap to ooze out from the bud. The stalk of the wounded bud is then pushed down to force it to bend and to position its tip to point downward making it easy to collect the dripping juice as it drips.

A container called pasok (small and short bamboo tube with a diameter enough to fit the size of the bud, also called sugong in the western part of Leyte) is then attached by inserting the wounded tip of the bud into the mouth of pasok and sealed by wrapping around a sheat of ginit (coconut sheat) and tying it securely with lapnis (strips from coconut frond’s bark or strip of rattan). This is done to prevent the rainwater from contaminating with the collected sap if the rain comes. With the availability of plastic cellophane and synthetic straw string, ginit and lapnis are sometimes no longer used as wrapper and binder.

Pasok is then left hanging on the tip of the bud for the whole day to collect the slowly dripping sap. The mananguete would climb down and proceed to another coconut tree to do the same routine.

By afternoon, the mananguete would climb back to gather the juice collected in the pasok and pour it into the hungot or kawit (big bamboo pole container) brought along by the mananguete which he hung behind his shoulder (a wooden hook that fits the shoulder is attached on it, making it easy to carry up and down in the tree). The emptied pasok is then cleaned using a pitlagong (bamboo plunger, also called patok or patek in Ilonggo) that would scrape off the sediments left behind and the assorted kinds of insects that came into it. The waste is thrown out by tapping the pitlagong on the frond of coconut palm.
1)The manangguete (tuba gatherer) lops off the bud of coconut fruit (inflorescence) using a razor-sharp sanggot (scythe). Refreshing the wound will assure continuous oozing of sap from the bud. 2) A bud of coconut fruit (inflorescence) still encased in green takong (coconut pod)


Then the tip of the bud is sliced off again to freshen the wound so that the coconut juice would continue to ooze out and drip. This is necessary because an old wound retards the oozing out of sap from the bud. The pasok is placed back on the tip of the bud before the mananguete would climb down

At the ground, the collected tuba is stored in glass or plastic gallon; and if plenty, it is stored in damahuwana or damahan (demijohn) that is now commonly replaced by 5-gallon plastic container shaped like a jerry can.

1) Tuba content is transferred from the sugong (bamboo tube) into the damahan (5-gallon container) in Sitio Tabuk, Brgy. Tao-taon, Inopacan, Leyte; 2) PET bottle is now used as receptacle to collect the dripping sap. Conventional receptacle is one made with bamboo tube. This sanggotan (coconut tree cultivated to produce tuba) is at the Reclamation Area (Pasil) that I found along the dike of Inopacan river.


Everyday thereafter, the mananguete routinely tend to the same coconut bud until about half of its length is totally sliced off and the bud’s takong (pod) would start to burst open and the tentacle-like stalks (butay) inside are no longer tender. When freshly gathered from the coconut tree, tuba is milky-white in color, tastes sweet, and effervescent (continuously producing tiny bubbles creating a cream-colored froth). This freshly gathered tuba, with no tungog in it, is said to be good for nursing mothers (as a last resort).

The unblended tuba will last only for one day as it immediately turns sour on the next day that eventually becomes sukang tuba on several days more. If the freshly gathered tuba is mixed with tungog (a.k.a. barok), it tastes bitter-sweet and turns reddish-orange in color. If tungog is added the earliest possible time, as if the juice is still in the pitlagong or sugong, the coconut sap is prevented from immediately becoming sour, instead the tungog-blended juice would ferment and would be aged over time to become bahal or bahalina. A tuba that is freshly fermented with tungog and still effervescent is called bag-ong dawat (a day-old or freshly gathered tuba).
1) A newly gathered tuba would froth to the brim. It is typically effervescent for bag-ong dawat (a day-old tuba); 2) The typical sanggotan (coconut tree cultivated to produce tuba) in Inopacan.

After about 12 hours of fermentation, the effervescence stops and the coconut wine becomes bahal (or lina in some other places), meaning the wine is a full pledge tuba. For the first 2 weeks, tuba is filtered by siphoning to decant it out from its storage, leaving behind the lawog (sediments) that settles at the bottom of the container.

After a month of fermentation, tuba is called bahalina that is darker in color and tastes and smells like a fruit red wine. The longer it is aged the better it becomes. Tuba must be stored under shade, better if not totally exposed to any form of light, that is why some tuba maker bury their jars of tuba in the ground or hide them inside the house and covered the jars with black cloth to avoid the souring bacteria to subsist that is responsible of the souring of tuba. The container must also be filled up to its brim, devoid of any air inside, and tightly sealed the opening to prevent the airborne souring bacteria from contaminating the coconut wine. A contaminated tuba will tastes sour and becomes vinegar called sukang tuba.

For more about tuba, click here


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Author of Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary. A lexicographer since the age of 14.  Filipino Linguist. Blogger with 11 blog sites. Researcher of food culture, pop culture, places, structures, transportations, churches and whatever interest him about the Philippines. Visual artist. Photographer. Traveler who had been to all four corners of the Philippine archipelago, and still setting more footprints. 

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