Instead of a Dom Perignon photo to usher in the New Year, I thought it more appropriate to feature an image of a bottle of the local Bahalina. That way, I’ll feel like I’m participating in the Boholanos’ great love for celebrating New Year’s Eve.
I am not much of an alcohol drinker, but ever since my first trip to Bohol, I’ve always been curious about the locals’ preferred drink. Bahalina, they say. I know of tuba and lambanog, but nothing about bahalina. This could also be just the local term for either the tuba or lambanog. No, bahalina is bahalina, I was told.
I finally had a taste of bahalina at The Buzzz Cafe. As mentioned, being not much fan of alcoholic drinks, or wine, for that matter, I had no way of intelligently describing the bahalina’s taste.
Be that as it may, I ran into a couple of locals, Aris and Ayeh, who know about bahalina-making as learned from their family elders. Since unable to describe its taste, perhaps, giving a basic description of how it's made will somehow absolve my shortcoming, in this regard. Here’s what they told me:
Homemade Bahalina a la Boholano
Bahalina has its beginning from fresh tuba taken straight from the coconut tree into a bamboo casing about 5 inches in diameter and 12 inches in length, and then stored about five days. Some tongog may already be added in the bamboo casing. Tongog is a pulverized concoction of certain plants that gives the tuba its reddish hue.
After that 5-day period, the tuba is then poured into 1-gallon glass bottles (to its fullest so that no air is allowed inside) and then sealed tightly. Plastic jars may also be used but connoisseurs prefer using glass jars or bottles. Plastic, they say, tend to compromise the taste.
When transferred into bottles, after only a day, the tuba becomes bahal. There are older folks who prefer to drink the one- to four-day old bahal, which has retained a bit of the sweetness of the tuba yet, has formed a mild sourness. But only a couple of days later, the bottled bahal will completely lose any of its residual sweetness.
The bottled bahal is then filtered by using a cotton cloth to remove the laog, or sediment. The newly-filtered bahal is then transferred into new glass bottles. This filtering process is done on a daily basis and can take as long as three months, or a hundred days. The laog or sediment must be completely removed; otherwise, the not-so unfiltered bahal will turn into vinegar.
Once completely filtered, the bottled bahal is then buried into the ground, about a foot deep, for about two months, at least. After that period, the filtered bahal has now become bahalina. However, the bahalina straight from the buried bottle comes with a tangy taste; hence, the locals add about two liters of Pepsi-Cola for every gallon of bahalina. Some people use honey as sweetener, while others prefer powdered grape juice.
The bottled bahalina can last for many years. In fact, connoisseurs prefer the aged bottles, at least five years. That is because the older it gets, the bigger the hagtik or kick that it gives. But for the even more serious connoisseurs who crave for that even bigger hagtik, they derive the tuba from a nipa tree, instead of just from any regular coconut tree; the entire filtering process of which remains the same.
Now, the remaining question: where did bahalina originally come from – Bohol or Leyte?
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Wishing everyone a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve celebration!
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