J. Sedfrey Santiago
INNOVATING ON THE FILIPINO TRADITION OF LAMBANOG-MAKING
Lambanog is a traditional Filipino alcoholic drink made from the distillation of fermented coconut sap. While its production in the distillery may sound to be a simple albeit laborious process, the gathering of coconut sap at the tree’s crown, however, poses danger to the life and limbs of the coconut sap tapper called mangangarit. Without any harness, the mangangarit speedily climbs coconut trees with bare hands and bare feet, and transfers from one tree to another in the coconut plantation using bamboo poles tied to the tree crowns without any safety net that could catch the mangangarit’s fall. Not too many know that the technology used in producing lambanog, which predates the coming of the Spanish conquistadores, was introduced by Filipinos brought to Colima and Jalisco through the Galleon Trade. This is the same technology used by Mexicans in making tequila. While tequila has long achieved international fame, the lambanog continues to languish in identity crisis, thanks in large part to the reference by certain influential sectors in Philippine society to the lambanog as the Philippine vodka, which it is not. With the increasing exposure of lambanog to the global market, this paper proposes that there is a need to delineate lambanog as a truly Filipino drink and to protect the Filipino-ness of the lambanog-making tradition through the concept of geographic indication based on its specific terroir which includes the use of a shared drinking glass when it is consumed by family and friends in gatherings called tagayan.