TUBA | Making a life from making wine from the tree of life

44 year-old tuba (coconut wine) maker Eusebio Noya harvests fresh coconut sap that will undergo fermentation. Photographed by Lottie Salarda, InterAksyon
44 year-old tuba (coconut wine) maker Eusebio Noya harvests fresh coconut sap that will undergo fermentation. Photographed by Lottie Salarda, InterAksyon

La Paz, Leyte – The making of tuba, or coconut wine, has been the source of livelihood of Teodoro Noya, 44 years old, of Brgy Sta. Ana, in La Paz, Leyte even before Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name, Haiyan) ravaged the Eastern Visayas three years ago, cutting a wide swath of destruction and felling coconut trees like puny toothpicks.

Before the monster storm, Noya maintained six coconut trees that yielded the fresh sap for processing into tuba.

Of the six coconut trees, only one survived, and just barely. It took that one tree more than two years to recover productivity, early this year.

Nowadays, he gets to harvest the milky sap to make tuba once a week, the final product going for 100 pesos per gallon.

He wishes there could be more trees to extract tuba from.

It would take years and years for the newly planted trees to grow to full maturity.

In the meantime, he tends to the cloudy sap that is collected and allowed to stand for at least two weeks, or even for as long as six months, to yield a better tasting product.

There, inside plastic or glass jars, in a cool dry place, the collected sap ferments, with time doing its unhurried work, naturally.

The tuba is transferred into another container every morning to prevent it from turning sour.

Noya recalled the days after Typhoon Yolanda, when his family suffered hunger because of the loss of their tuba making livelihood: “I had to seek employment elsewhere. We could no longer make tuba. It was a time of great suffering. The trees were almost all gone,” Noya told interAksyon.

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) would pay the farmers for cleaning the coconut plots as a form of financial assistance.

In the midst of the prevailing gloom over the coconut industry, this October 14, the province of Leyte will be celebrating the annual “Oktubafest” where coconut wine makers/producers would gather and showcase their tastiest tuba.

In 2014, the government released PhP2.8 billion to the Philippine Coconut Authority for the rehabilitation of the coconut industry affected by typhoon Yolanda, broken down as P280 million for clearing operations; P1.6 billion for the procurement of fertilizers, including the administrative and the delivery costs; P500 million for the replanting program; and P500 million for intercropping income augmentation.—Source: InterAksyon.com

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