ADAMS: Small Ilocos Norte town is biggest bignay wine maker

Dr. Bielmajo Bawingan and bugnay wine in
Adams, Ilocos Norte.
Bignay berries.

YOU DON’T HAVE to tell the truth every time because sometimes it pays to tell a lie.  For instance, a lie paid off handsomely for the small town of Adams in Ilocos Norte. Because of a lie, the town has become famous as Ilocos Norte’s biggest producer of bignay wine.

SMALL TOWN – How did that happen? Well, we got the story from Dr. Bielmajo Bawingan when we visited Adams in 2015. She is the better half of then Mayor Eric Bawingan whose constituents consisted of just about 2,700 people.

NO PRODUCT FOR TRADE FAIR – Dr. Bawingan related that in 2007, the provincial government organized a trade fair in Laoag City and obliged all the towns to showcase their products in booths that were provided for the event. Unlike most Ilocos Norte towns which boast of garlic, tobacco, rice, mango and other commodities, Adams did not have anything to showcase at the agri fair. But they were obliged to exhibit something.

BRIGHT IDEA – They finally came up with one bright idea. They bought bignay wine from Baguio which they displayed in their booth. Many of the attendees were attracted to the bignay wine. They liked the taste and when the visitors asked where the wine came from, the attendant, with a straight face, said it was produced in Adams. Several others asked the same question and the same answer was given.

STAND BY THE LIE – After the trade fair, Dr. Bawingan decided that they might as well stand by the big lie that their attendant at the fair gave to the visitors. In all seriousness, they vowed to produce bignay wine. They call it bugnay wine because bugnay is the Ilocano term for the berry most other places in the Philippines call bignay.

EASY FOR THE TOWNSFOLK – It was quite easy for the Adams people to produce bugnay wine. For one, many of the old folks are experts in making tapuy or rice wine. So they know the process. Then there were wild bugnay trees not only in Adams but also in other towns of Ilocos Norte like Pagudpud and Burgos. Also, bugnay trees were plentiful in Sanchez Mira and Alcala in Cagayan.

MANY BIGNAY IN OTHER TOWNS – Dr. Bawingan said they bought a lot of berries from other towns but at the same time they also planted their own bugnay trees. The good thing about grafted or marcotted bugnay trees is that they start bearing in just a couple of years after planting. 

DOST DONATED PALAMUTI – When the Department of Science and Technology learned about the wine-making project, it donated 2,000 grafted seedlings of Palamuti, a variety propagated at the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City. It’s a prolific variety that was originally a selection by the Institute of Plant Breeding in Los Baños.

FAST TAKE-OFF – Bugnay wine making took off very fast. At the time of our visit there were already 65 families, including employees of the municipality, who were engaged in making bugnay wine. Dr. Bawingan herself is a big time wine maker. The year before our visit, she made 6,000 bottles (250 ml) of a special edition (with cork) that sold for P750 per bottle. Normally, though, a 250-ml bottle is sold at P250.

ASSOCIATION TO CHECK QUALITY – The other wine makers also produce by the thousands of bottles. Rove Paul Apugan, for one, made 1,700 bottles the year we visited Adams. Most other wine makers produced about the same number of bottles. The wine makers have formed an association, and to protect the high quality of their products, a panel of tasters has to certify the wine before it is marketed.

NOW, YOU SEE. Sometimes it pays to tell a lie.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.