Let’s Drink To That: The ‘Tapuey’ (Rice Wine)

Homemade tapuey in a ‘kuli’

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 some time, 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 the child), I can recall some adults slightly admonishing the children for having too much of it. Naughtily, they would return for more. But to be honest, I was vaguely aware of it being 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.

Those were my unforgettable tapuey moments in Balakbak, Kapangan, Benguet. Those were the days when tapuey seemed to be remarkably available. Always. Feast or no feast.

Not anymore.

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 at first but my Auntie Luming (bless her) 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 cultural gathering, not only in my hometown but the whole of the Igorot land.

Tapuey is considered exotic and undeniably unique to Benguet and the Cordillera.
So, the next time you go back to your Igorot roots, let it be a part of your journey.
Drink moderately…Cheers!


2 thoughts on “Let’s Drink To That: The ‘Tapuey’ (Rice Wine)

  1. I spent the first 8 years of my childhood in Abatan, Buguias, Benguet. Surely, the tapuey did not go past my young and curious taste buds! But, what I had was the fermented, red rice itself. During a cañao, with a washed bark of a banana plant in my hands, I would eagerly queue up with the other kids, for the served food. The menu is simple, “slabs” (4-5″ almost) of pork from a black, native, pig, cabbages, as big as my head, cut in halves, large, unpeeled,whole potatoes all boiled together in a huge kawa seasoned with the good all rock salt (at times, none!) In my head, whenever I hear the melodic thumping of the gongs, this only means, I will again savor the great tapuey!
    So, it came as a big surprise, when I saw the tapuey in bottles. Though, it says in the label native red rice wine, I feel like it is not as traditional like before. Yes, you were right that the tapuey fermented in a kuli or banga it I strongly believe that it should be in a Kuli.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s