Nonetheless, the archipelago does have its unique thirst-quenchers. When you travel outside Metro Manila, for example, you'll find drinks notable not just for their place of origin, but also for what they say about the culture that produced them. Five of the most famous ones are:
Every region has its own method for producing this drink. However, all of them have this in common: They start with fermented sugarcane juice, and end with a drink that's a distinct mixture of sweet, sour and bitter. Ilocanos love this drink so much, their ancestors actually started a revolution over it!
No, they didn't revolt after a random bout of drinking (though that would've been an interesting catalyst nonetheless). What happened was that, in 1786, the Spanish government decided to expropriate the private manufacture and sale of basi, effectively forcing the natives to buy the drink from the government. Twenty-one years later, in 1807, the wine-loving residents of Piddig, Ilocos Norte, had enough, and started a bloody protest against the punitive basi regulations (hence the name "Basi Revolt"). Though the rebellion failed, Ilocanos still believe in this drink's ability to inspire courage, inject vitality and spur appetites in even the lowliest individual.
The name comes from kape, the Tagalog word for "coffee," and barako, the wild boars that feed on the coffee bean plant's berries and leaves. (Incidentally, barako is also slang for a tough, virile man.) True to its name, the Kape Barako has a distinct pungent smell, and it's said to be potent enough to awaken even the sleepiest drinker.
If you'd like to try it, you can buy beans from coffee shops like the Figaro Coffee Company (which we've reviewed before). The beans can be distinguished by their asymmetrical shape, the jagged furrow in the middle and the distinctive "hook" at the bottom of the bean. Some Filipino drinkers would even suggest that it's much better taste-wise compared to Arabica and Robusta. Since there's a good chance they're biased, though, why not try the beans for yourself?
If Russians have vodka, Filipinos have lambanog. Made from the distilled sap of unopened coconut buds, the lambanog has an incredibly high alcohol content (about 80 to 90 proof). This makes it a popular choice for farmers who need to unwind after work, as well as communal activities like tagayan, where men take turns drinking lambanog from a container placed in the center of their circle.
Initially, it was known as the "poor man's drink," since it's relatively inexpensive to manufacture. But because of its alcohol content — plus its incredible (in)ability to give you a hangover — it eventually became one of the Philippines' most popular exports. One lambanog brand even received a Gold Medal from Monde Selection — which happens to be one of the most prestigious quality-certifying institutions in the world. For those who love alcoholic drinks in general, this is a must-add on any "Drinks to Try" list.
Like many Asian countries, the Philippines has its own version of the rice wine. Originating from the Cordillera region, tapuy can be made of either pure glutinous rice, or a mixture of glutinous and non-glutinous rice plus ingredients like ginger extract. It also has 28 proof alcohol, and has a "moderately sweet" flavor that stays in your mouth long after you've drank it.
According to Ibaloi myth, tapuy was introduced by the gods. Because of that, it's customary to offer the drink during weddings, festivals and other important occasions as a sign of invitation to the Powers Above. Regardless of how it really came to be, though, it can't be denied that this is one heavenly drink!
Similar to the lambanog, the tuba is extracted from unopened coconut buds. The difference is that it's undistilled, so it's not as potent as — and is less expensive than — lambanog. With a taste often described as "stinging sweet" and "bitter," it's perfect for those who want to sample Philippine alcoholic drinks without shocking their livers.
No one really knows how the tuba came to be. Some say that, when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan came to the Philippines on March 17, 1521, the natives presented this drink to them (along with what's sure to be a satisfying feast). At any rate, tuba continues to be popular in the provinces — as medicine, as a test of manhood and even as a drink for babies(!).
Other than these five, the Philippines has other drinks that can only be found within its 7,107 islands. As Filipino culture continues to evolve, so will these drinks in the years to come. Looking forward to those until then!