By VEN LABRO / Manila News Online
Click www.manilanewsonline.com for the original link of the article.
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines- – Tuba, the bittersweet traditional wine of the Warays, has now leveled up and is ready for export abroad. The native wine is set to be exported to China.
According to a recent PNA report, the “Leyte-based wine player, founded by a Filipino-American George Vacal Paraliza and his wife Tila Paraliza, signed a contract with Fly Dragon International Marketing which has a big market in China.”
Eastern Visayas is the second coconut producing region in the country, and it is not surprising that tuba is its people’s favorite wine. For centuries, tuba gatherers in the region had been climbing coconut trees early in the morning, carrying on their shoulders a bamboo container as they collect coconut sap in some selected trees.
During his first climb, the tuba gatherer would look for unopened flower in a coconut tree. Then he cuts the tip of the flower and attaches a foot-long bamboo receptacle filled with chopped tan bark or “barok.” The juice would flow into the container that could hold about a liter of coconut sap.
Every day the sap from the receptacle in different trees is collected, brought home and transferred to a glass container. Then the process of decantation/filtration starts. The tuba is decanted again and again until there remains no sediment. After the decantation, the tuba container is covered tightly.
The longer the tuba is aged, the finer and mellower the taste is. A one-year-old coconut wine is already good, but those aged 3 years or more have much better taste, and the Warays call these aged tuba as “bahal” and “bahalina,” respectively.
Improving the taste of the native wine
About five years ago, there were already efforts to improve the native wine — making it taste better and selling it in presentable containers. However, these attempts to sell it not only in Eastern Visayas but in other parts of the country seem to have fizzled out for unknown reasons.
Then in late 2010, a new brand of bottled tuba found its way, first, to the local market and then to other parts of the country. Lately, businessmen from other countries like China, India and Singapore have shown Interest on the native wine.
In August 2010, George Vacal Paraliza, a retiree from the US, rented an old warehouse in Marasbaras district of this city and turned it into a coconut wine production plant. By late November that year, he started coming out with his own brand of premium coconut wine – the Vino de Coco.
“I have many fresh tuba suppliers. The problem of tuba suppliers is that they are dependent on fiestas, that’s when the demand for tuba goes high,” said Paraliza, who has been a wheelchair user since after he suffered from a stroke in 2004.
He added that tuba suppliers now have him as a ready market for their tuba collection every day. “I want them to deliver here only very fresh tuba,” Paraliza said, adding that the coconut sap must not be over 12 hours old.
Producing the region’s best wine
Paraliza’s tuba processing plant can produce around 1,875 cases of 750 ml tuba wine every month. Each case contains 12 long-neck bottles of the native wine. But he admitted that at present they still do not maximize production, only churning out each month 400 to 500 cases.
The Coco de Vino comes out in four kinds: the sweet red, dry red, dry white and sweet white. Each bottle sells from P220 to P250, depending whether within or outside the region.
Paraliza said they already have endorsements from the Philippine Coconut Authority, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Science and Technology. He added that he has been closely working with these agencies regarding his tuba business.
He added that they are also hoping for an endorsement from the Leyte Sangguniang Panlalawigan or provincial board.
Wine making is not new to Paraliza. “While in the states, I have a hobby of home wine making. I can make wine…I can make wine from almost anything,” he said.
While working in the United States, Paraliza regularly visits Leyte, where he get to taste again the native wine. He noticed that the tuba still tastes the same that he vowed then that someday he would make the tuba taste better.
A native of Leyte
Paraliza, 67, was born in La Paz, Leyte. Then he and his mother moved to Cebu City, where he continued his studies and grew up. His mother, a nurse, later migrated to the United States and in 1967 he was petitioned to the US by his mother.
Paraliza’s wife, Tila, is from San Antonio,Texas but he met her in Guam, where he had stayed for some time. The couple has eight children and 21 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
In a brief interview, Tila disclosed that businessmen from Singapore and India have recently also called or emailed them, saying they were interested to become distributors in their place of Coco de Vino.
Paraliza, on the other hand, said he won’t be spending his life savings if he does not believe the business will succeed.
He disclosed that he has plans to have beer-size containers for his tuba. “We will try to compete with beer,” he said, because the price of beer is bound to increase with the implementation the sin tax. Tuba, a traditional wine, is exempted from the sin tax, he added.
“It’s about time also, that our (tuba) product will be known outside the country,” Paraliza said, as he hopes that the lowly tuba would soon have its debut in foreign lands.
This dream of Paraliza — to sell his favorite native wine abroad — will soon be a reality.