A nectar of love-A A +A
Thursday, January 17, 2013
IN AN Ifugao wedding, a guest was served something to drink at a service table after handing his bequest for the newlyweds. The act of serving a drink is the traditional gesture of gratitude to wedding guests. Upon realizing though that what was served was juice powder plus water instead of the bayah (Ifugao rice wine), he muttered clear enough for everyone to hear, “Higayu man hituwe u’unga! Udu’dul man di hubul mu tun malumii an natempla.” (This was your laziness you young ones. The last juice from the wine jar is better than this sweet mixture.)
The bayah is an icon in Ifugao culture. It has been important to the mumbaki (native priest) in performing rituals especially those pertaining to the rice fields. It has been served to guests in many cultural occasions. But in contemporary times, the bayah starts to dry up or hindered from flowing. Two reasons can be established for this. One, people has embraced another faith that vanished indigenous practices. Another, iwa (the process of making bayah) is an arduous task that when there are occasions that bayah can still be served without contradicting the present faith, people tend to find substitutes such as the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages easily accessible from stores.
If there is though one thing that should draw interest of the young generation to the bayah, it is the process of making itself. Traditionally, the process starts with ulut (separating rice stalk from the grains). It should be noted that the conventional harvesting involves cutting at a certain length of the stalk which is necessary for the bundling of the grains. A botok (one bundle) is the basic unit of measure for the grains. (This is also possibly the reason why harvest season is referred to as ahibotok). Three bundles are often appropriated as hin-iwa (good for one processing) although others would consider hindalan (five bundles) as the ideal size for processing. Next step is bayu (milling the grains with mortar and pestle) done concurrently with to’op (winnowing) to separate the rice from the hull. In the case of dark glutinous rice, the rice is roasted stirring continuously with an inadu (wooden spatula) until the rice is golden brown.
After roasting, the rice is steamed, the measure of water to be used should just be enough for it to be half-done. In the case of white glutinous rice, the process goes directly from milling to the cooking. The half-cooked rice will now be spread in a ligawu (winnower) to cool down. The cooling process will give time to get banana leaves (to be used for wrapping later), neutering them over fire. It will also give time to pulverize the binokbok (native yeast which usually is in bar form).
The binokbok is made from the roots of onwad (a local herb), finely ground rice, mother yeast, and ginger juice. After cooling down, the yeast powder will be sprinkled over the cooked rice and mixed well with a smaller inadu. The amount of binokbok to be used would depend on the ono’nong (intelligent estimate) of the one processing. The mixture will now be transferred to a labba or tudung (some containers made from rattan and/or bamboo) carefully wrapped with banana leaves in order not to be exposed in open air.
The container containing the mixture will be hanged with one end lower than the other preferably in a dark room or a corner away from disturbance. After a day, a very small opening will have to be pinched on one end to allow outflow of initial juice. For two to three days, the juice (called tonoh) will be collected in another container. When no more tonoh is expected, the rice will be transferred into a very clean and dry clay jar, and the tonoh will be remixed to it. The jar will be covered tightly with banana leaves and clothe then kept in a room or a corner where it will not be disturbed for the next five days to two weeks. Rice wine will be extracted from it and add additional liquid for fermentation in a process called tomyang.
The hin-iwa can produce four to six bottles of undiluted rice wine (a 4x 4 bottle of gin is often used as container). The wine maker can heat some sugar until it becomes dark, boil it in water and mix it with the remaining rice in the jar to produce more fermented liquid. This process can be repeated until no fermentation is expected. The last wine juices, often bitter in taste is called the hubul.
With its ingredients native to the locality, bayah connects the drinker to Mother Nature. The elaborate process makes it a labour of love. And remember (from a previous column) that rice is a token from the gods. Assumingly it is the same as with the tapey of other Cordillera ethnic groups. A warning though: the spirit from the matured crops used in the making does not mix well with undeveloped young blood.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 17, 2013.