Forget about the commercially prepared Igorot rice wine in a bottle, which seem to be the trend today.
Think about those times when you’ve travelled to the ‘ili’ (hometown) to attend a family feast or simply, for a holiday. Do you still remember that ‘kuli’ (Kankanaey for clay jar) hidden or tucked for sometime, underneath the bed of your grandparents or any of your elders?
That, for me, contained the most authentic homemade tapuey I’ve ever tasted.
As a ‘muyang’ (Kankanaey for child), I can recall some adults slightly admonishing my cousins and I for having too much of it. Naughtily, we would return for more. But to be honest, I was vaguely aware that it was an alcoholic drink.
I have always preferred to stir in a bit of brown sugar before downing the liquid slowly. The best part was when I could finally spoon up and savour those fermented bittersweet red rice sediments that have settled at the bottom of the cup.
First, I was told that the folks in my hometown rarely grow red rice nowadays.
Second, I have had to request in advance, for tapuey to be made for a family gathering. Has it become that uncommon?
Third, my relatives were unsure if someone still keeps the ‘kuli’.
I felt defeated but when I arrived, an aunt eventually produced a tapuey made especially for me. I treasured it like it was the last one ever made.
Well, hope is not lost for this traditional highland tipple. Tapuey straight from a ‘kuli’ may not be as readily available as in the good old days, but it remains a part and parcel of any culural gathering, not only in my hometown, but the whole of Igorot land.