I am an Igorot, a Filipino, an earthling. My ethnicity may have made me different, but so does yours and the others out there. Our disparities may be glaring at times, however, if we look through our heart, we will notice our commonality as human beings.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tapey! Rice Wine! Anyone?

(There are already articles in the web about "tapey", the only rice wine in the Philippines specifically from the Cordillera, and I did have second thoughts making another one. I fear that I have nothing new to add about this popular Igorot alcoholic drink. However, my desire to write about what I know and still can recall about my culture compels me to write on. So, if it appears that I'm just mimicking what has already been written about "tapey", please indulge me. I am just trying to see how I gorot I am.)

My first recollection of tapey is when I was seven or eight years old. I remember coming home from a practice for our town foundation day and got excited when I saw my mother spreading cooked red glutinous rice on a bigao (winnowing tray) covered with banana leaves. I really wanted to eat anything that very moment but Mom explained the rice is not well-cooked and without sugar for it is to be made into tapey. I was disappointed, nevertheless, I am still glad that I will witness then how she makes wine. The following recipe show exactly how my mother made tapey at home:
Tapey - Igorot Rice Wine , or
Follow-up on Tapey Making

Oh, my mom did not asked me to keep quiet or not to fart while she was making tapey. I guess she didn't believe that such things can make the wine sour or bitter. I remember her explaining though few years later in another of our tapey making session that:
a) Uneven mixing of rice and bobod (rice cake yeast) can result to awful tasting wine;
b) Adding the bobod when the rice is still too hot or very cold results to spoilage or sour-tasting wine; and
c) There are good bobod that can make a wine sweet and there are also some that can make the product bitter or sour. She claims that her mother (our grandmother) is one of the maker of the best bobod in their bario while she can seldom make a good one.

It's my grandmother who said to me that whole grain of rice will make a better tasting tapey than the un-whole or crumbled ones. Also, she emphasized that the rice should be cooked with less water compared to when cooking ordinary rice. She even insisted in using the red colored glutinous rice called balatinaw to have a red-colored wine. (I don't know how grain types and rice color can really make a difference but grandma's wine, as Mom said, is one of the finest in their place and I can attest to that.)

Another lesson I learned from my grandma is the right place to stock the wine. She pointed out that a damp cold places are not good because it takes longer time for the wine to be fully fermented and sometimes pungent smell is developed. Whereas, a warm, dry part of the house, such as near the dalikan (cooking area) makes excellent tapey. However, she did not recommend puting the jars too close to heat or keeping them in the cooking area during hot season. She said that too much heat makes the wine bland and sour.

I could have forgotten the tapey I first witnessed my mother made except that it also happened to be the first wine I tasted. I clearly remember when the big day (fiesta) came, my father gave me a small cup of tapey and told me to taste what Mom and I made. I can still recall savoring the sweet taste and feeling a little bit groggy after a few sips. After a few weeks though, I tried again to drink from what was left with my mom's wine, but I can not take it. It turned bitter-sweet. This article, "How Is Tapey Made", described the different ages of tapey.

Traditionaly, tapey is served only on special occasions - feasts, celebrations and wakes and funerals. And when opening a new jar of tapey, the man of the house or a male elder, tribal leader will always do the honor. It is also a custom that before serving the wine, a sipful have to be spilled first on the soil as an offering to the unseen creatures - this act is accompanied by a simple plea to the unseen beings not to touch or harm any human who partakes with the wine. Also, it is always the women who make the wine. (I do think that since wine making is considered as a part of household chores, this is more of gender role differentiation rather than a cultural thing.) There are still those who follow these practices but most tapey making and drinking nowadays have nothing more to do with customs and traditions.