By KC Santos
NAGUILIAN, LA UNION – This town prides itself as the home of the original basi, or native wine made from sugarcane. Basi has been a traditional drink enjoyed by folks here since pre-war times and is, in fact, a fixture in any occasion in every household.
Visit Naguilian and you will come upon an arch that proudly claims “The Home of the Original Basi”. Basi not only speaks of the abundance of sugar cane in this town but also the rich history of the people of Naguilian.
Arthur Cortez Jr., Administrative Officer of the La Union Provincial Tourism Office and in charge of marketing Niguilian La Union Basi Sugar Cane Wine, said basi wine making industry is one of the most prominent industries that have survived in La Union over the years.
The extracted sugarcane juice is boiled, flavored with various fruits and barks of trees before being fermented for years in earthen jars.
“We value and we really want this product to be known because it tells a lot about the people and our traditions,” said Cortez.
To support the industry, the local government has set up a manufacturing complex specifically for the continued production of the wine by groups like the Basi Producers Cooperative of Naguilian.
Cortez said wine makers in their town are very keen on producing high-grade wines since they want to preserve a traditional flavor that will remain familiar to the townsfolk of Naguilian.
Naguilian La Union Basi Sugar Cane Wine was featured during the recent “Tara Na sa Norte Travel Fair” held at Robinson’s Place Manila.
Ilocanos love their basi so much they are even willing to shed blood for it. In 1807, Pedro Mateo led the Ilocano uprising against the Spanish government, who took over the manufacturing of basi in the region.
The leaders of Naguilian declared September 16 as a non-working holiday to commemorate the Basi Revolt.
Basi is best enjoyed chilled or when mixed with other alcoholic beverages. It shares the same taste and benefits of the red wine but has an earthier flavor, according to Cortez.
But he admitted making basi more appealing to consumers is a challenge for Naguilian wine makers. While they dream of exporting basi abroad, he said their focus at present is marketing it to local buyers.
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