Letters: From Atty. Lynn A. Macalingay via email, Oct. 23
Mayat diay inbingay nga proseso ti panagaramid ti tapuy (tapey kuna ti taga-Besao). Here are some additional pointers which I learned from the baaks of Besao. Different ways of doing it, but basically the same:
1. Yes, it is true that balattinaw (red rice) is more eye-catching – but it does not guarantee a better taste.
2. Definitely the bubod has a lot to do with it. That’s why, in the ili, people know who makes good ones. When it comes to factors, bubod is just one. However good a bubod can be if the person does not know how much to put on, then it would not produce the desired product. Any drinker would know for fact that too much bubod can give the tapey a bitter taste and a little too less will not give it any taste at all. On bubod, some of the best ones we tried were those coming from Tococan, Bontoc.
3. While some cook the diket fully, a lot of those here who are tapey-drinkers would agree with me that the “not-so-cooked” kind can be better – tapno kano adda ti mangalngal. So, one way to do it is to ladle out the diket while it is still half-cooked, but not too rare, otherwise the yeast might not be able to work its fermenting wonders.
4. After spreading the bubod, here is another way of wrapping it. Get a bitoto (or an upright basket – the old folks prefer this tapno kano maanginan diay tapey), layer it with banana leaves, and then put the diket already “salted” in it. Cover it with banana leaves. Now here’s what often spells the big difference – it is always supposedly best that the bitoto should be placed on a tappan or patnay (which is that part of a dirty kitchen where wood is stacked just above the hearth or fireplace). This way, the temperature of the tapey would be maintained (at least warm).
5. Here in the frigid New England states, this is a dilemma. Perhaps it could be done during the summer where the concoction could be placed in the attic. We have a neighbor here – an old woman from Talubin – who tried the process here but did not get good results. In fact, her brew tasted more like apple cider watered twice over. Her comment: “Maid gamin maipapudotan na ya.”
6. If placed in a tappan, the tapey will usually ripen after a day or two. One knows when the juice starts dripping. Unwrap the whole thing (which would be warm by then – this is called the kabekbekwa or kapewpewa stage of the tapey, which is sweet and is always loved by children and adults alike) and then transfer the contents to a gusi after which a special lid padded with banana leaves would be used to seal the jar. It is important that the jar be kept sealed tight for at least a month for the fermentation to fully take place and produce the tapey.
7. In traditional Besao practice, the new brew cannot be opened by just anybody else unless it is naipitik by the amam-a or elders. And by an elder, this is strictly based on age. At least that was the practice when we were growing up, and anybody could get a lambasting from the old folks if one is opened without such a ritual. A nice practice but I don’t know if such reverence to the old folks still exists.
8. Another factor I know which does affect the outcome, no matter how good a bubod can be, is the jar itself. There are jars which can produce terrific taste, but maybe good for a month or so (as the brew immediately gets sour days after being opened), and there are really some where the brew is sweet and will remain that way for a long time. This is of course considering the proper way of closing the jar. We have four jars in our ancestral home and two just can’t seem to match the other two in taste and in duration (maintenance of the taste). My late mother would asinan (spread the bubod) the diket in one setting and the results would always be the same. That’s how I know that the type of gusi has something to contribute to the outcome. #