September 16, 2011


tuba - (tu-bâ; Cebuano, Boholano, Leyteño, Waray, Ilongo, Bicolano, Quezonian, and Tagalog [Lagueño] native wine) [n.] coconut red wine (Visayan & Mindanawanon); coconut wine (Quezonian & Lagueño) \palm toddy, for the freshly gathered, sweet, and uncolored ones. 

In Quezon and Laguna provinces, tuba 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, known as the “manangguete” in Visayas and Mindanao or the "mangangarit" of southern Luzon, 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 takong (green pod). 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 manangguete would climb down and proceed to another coconut tree to do the same routine.

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
By afternoon, the manangguete 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 manangguete 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.

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.

The freshly gathered tuba is transferred from the sugong (bamboo tube) into the damahan (5-gallon container) in Sitio Tabuk, Brgy. Tao-taon, Inopacan, Leyte
Swigging a glass of fresh pure sap of tuba (uncolored because it has no tungog in it) but chilled in cracked ice.

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.

Ice-chilled bag-ong dawat (freshly gathered tuba) offered to us by our mother in one of our vacations in Inopacan, Leyte

Everyday thereafter, the manangguete 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 butay (tentacle-like stalks) inside are no longer tender. When freshly gathered, 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 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  immediately from becoming sour, instead the tungog-blended juice would ferment and age 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)

The typical sanggotan (coconut tree cultivated to produce tuba). This one was along the Highway in Brgy. Maljo, Inopacan, Leyte.

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 and discarded away.

After a month of fermentation , tuba is called bahalina (aged coconut red wine) 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 taste sour and becomes vinegar called sukang tuba (coconut vinegar).

The uncolored tuba is commonly produced in some provinces in Luzon that include Quezon, Laguna and Bulacan where tungog is usually not readily available to tuba gatherers. Their tuba is literally sweetish that in Luzon, these recent years, a freshly gathered tuba is processed into an expensive organic coconut sugar

A tagay of tuba in Libungan, North Cotabato with a bowl of soupy pulutan (food served in drinking session) 
Medya galon (half gallon) of tuba and garapon (bottle jars) filled with tuba are for sale in the public market of Talisay City in Negros Occidental

Tuba from Leyte, like this one in the photo (above) from Inopacan, Leyte is deep maroon in color and would taste far bitter than those from other places in Visayas and Mindanao because more tungog is used in it. Similar type of tuba is also produced in Northern part of Leyte that include the municipalities of Abuyog, Burauen, Barugo and Palo. It uses a dark colored variety of tungog. Similar kind of tuba is also manufactured in Argao, Cebu where groups of tuba manufacturers are estbalished for years. They acquired the skill of extracting tuba in classic or old-school way that inspired the municipal government of Argao to celebrate its Pitlagong Festival.

In the picture (below) is the bag-ong dawat (day-old tuba). Notice the ring of creamy froth on tuba inside the gallon as the fermentation has just begun. The picture below is when the fermentation bubbles goes wild.

The fermentation bubbles of a day-old tuba goes wild, creating an illusion as if boiling cold endlessly. This is the reaction when coconut toddy is mixed with tungog (mangrove tanbark)

In Leyte, there are those who are well versed in tagging the quality of tuba by telling its smell, transparency in color and by knocking the glass container (usually a gallon or demijohn) filled with tuba. The sounding of "tonk! tonk! tonk" and "tink! tink! tink!" of bahal (old tuba) and bahalina (aged tuba) is enough to gauge how old the wine is. Telling the age is important just like the European and western red wines - the older, the better.

(above and below) A public market vendor in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur selling jars and gallons of light yellow-orange colored tuba on her stall. This type of tuba would not last long as it would turn sour and become sukang tuba (coconut vinegar) after few days because it has not much tungog in it or the type of tungog used is not the strong variety.

In Visayas and Mindanao, there are at least three common ways of serving tuba: one is sinagolan, another is may chaser, and the manly puro.

  1. sinagolan - tuba is blended with lots of cola (Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, Pop Cola, etc.) making the wine very sweet and fruity to your palate and throat. Usually served when tuba has that kisom (sourish) taste so as to mask the taste. This is also served when drinkers are not brave enough to savor the strong taste of good (not sourish) tuba.

  2. may chaser (a.k.a. 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 tuba poured in the glass

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    1. Tappers are called mangangaret in Luzon.

      The fresh sap is not tuba, it's called dagta ng niyog.

      The fresh, unfermented sap is called "tinamis". The color is rusty brown, but never white. It's very sweet (as its name implies) and if the sahod (container) is newly cleaned, there wouldn't be any hint of sourness or tartness.

      If the sap is slightly fermented, it becomes turbid and cloudy white. This is now tuba, as we know it.

      In the Tagalog regions, the area where sap is harvested is called karitan. The equivalent of sanggotan in the Visayas and Mindanao.

      You have a very informative site. Thank you for sharing and documenting what Pinoy food really is.

    2. Where can i buy pure, uncolored tuba vinegar here in Manila or near Manila? Would appreciate if you could share the info over 19321171389. thanks ahead

    3. The closest is Paombong, Bulacan, famous for its pure vinegar, which as explained above, comes first as tuba. You can be lucky during summer time. I said lucky because, unlike in the past, tuba in Paombong wont need effort to find. But because the Nipa swamps had been converted to fish farms and settlements, you'd need to know a 'magtutuba' (tuba gatherer) to habe a better chance to get a galloon or two of 'tuba ngayon' (tuba harvested today) which is good for drinking or 'tuba kahapon' (tuba gathered yesterday) which is fit for cooking sinigang na manok or isda sa tuba. Sayang, Paombong town nor DENR didnt act with timeliness in curbing nipa swamp conversion.

    4. Here's another kind of tuba. It's from the sap of buri palm inflorescence.


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