Sunday, March 3, 2013


Before the Europeans settled the Marianas, the Chamorros didn't get drunk.

Why?  No tuba.  Or any intoxicating beverages for that matter.

It was the Filipinos who introduced tuba to the Chamorros.  Tuba even made its way from the Philippines to Mexico, an example of reverse cultural influence.  Usually it was the other way around; Mexico influencing the Philippines.

Collected from the sap that seeps from the cut flower of the coconut tree into a bamboo cylinder hung around the flower stump.  When the first cut heals and the sap no longer flows, the stump is sliced again and the stump bleeds more sap.  The sap is most productive at night, and tuba makers collect the sap in the morning and before sunset.

When the sap is first collected, it is very sweet and can be converted right away into a form of syrup or sugar by boiling.  If left alone for four hours, it has fermented enough to become intoxicating, but still sweet.

Unless it is refrigerated after this point, the tuba will ferment quickly and become an excellent vinegar, binaklen tuba.  In the two bottles above, the sweet, cold and clear tuba is to the right; the room temperature, darker vinegar is to the left.

In the old days before Payless supermarkets, Chamorros would use tuba as a leavening agent, like yeast, in breads.  One can always tell, for example, when tuba was used in making poto (rice cakes).

But there's nothing like drinking ice cold, sweet tuba on a warm day....

Ilek-ña i Amerikåno, "Ei na minannge'"

A statesider tries tuba for the first time - and likes it.

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