When (Andres) Bonifacio’s competence to hold the portfolio of the department of the Interior was questioned by Daniel Tirona, the Supremo, indignant, demanded a retraction. He failed to get it. Furious, he declared the proceedings null and void, and left. NCC Chairman Laurel recounted with pride on Henares’ program how his grandfather, Sotero, head of the Batangas delegation at Tejeros, and a Bonifacio supporter, reacted to the uproar that followed. He called for lambanog. He drank, pulled out his gun, and put it on the table. He demanded that, as they had all agreed to earlier, the decision of the majority be respected. Otherwise, mag ubusan na tayo (An Online Guide On Philippine History)
That is our humble national spirit in Quezon, the incomparable Lambanog, gracing the pages of history.
In Calauag where I come from, Tagalog is the lingua franca. On reaching college-age, we are invariably transported to Manila to enrol mostly in some schools somewhere in the University Belt.
So were thousand others from all corners of the country bringing along with them their peculiarities, idiosyncrasies, dish (food), and of course their dialects. We love and went along with our classmates and had no major quarrel with them, except, of course, the dialects.
We enjoyed the pinakbet, bagnet, and the dinengdeng of the Ilocanos. Of course the laing of the Bicolanos and their notorious Bicol express. The Visayans, their otap, sinugbas, guso (seaweed) salad, baked kamote with cream (which is like mashed potatoes, only sweeter) and the tolas. From Mindanao their to die-for balbacua, kinilaw from the salmonan (plainly “fish place”), inihaw na panga ng bariles (roast jaw of yellow fin tuna) and its sawsawan.
But coming along with them were their dialects and greek jargons. We were not expected to break those codes. For us it was the height of unfairness. Tagalog for them was a breeze and once they set foot in Manila they were all brushed up in Tagalog.When we talk with our cumprovincianos and within their earshots, we open up ours hearts (and problems) with them especially the affairs of the pockets. While these non-Tagalogs snicker behind our backs because we could not divine what in heaven’s name they were talking about. Paranoia became us. “Pinag-uusapan tayo ng mga dapungal”.
Thus, the birth of the Calauag vernacular. The Calauag lingo is nothing but a juxtaposition or complete reversion of the a) main word like, kain=niak, tulog=golut, inom=moni, tubig=gibut, alis=sial, sira-ulo=aris-uol, pulutan=natulup, Calauag=galawak, Lopez=sepol, Quezon=nosek, linang=nganil, ulam-kanin=malu-ninak, lambanog=gonambal or b) subject in a sentence (and even its predicate) like “aris-uol ang oat na oti” or this guy is a fool; “sabal mo na natalup arap yagatan na!” or bring out the finger foods and let the drinking binge begin! Our translation is far from the city edition of merely scrambling the syllables like astig for tigas, tomgu for gutom, batsi for sibat, botak for takbo, wakali for kaliwa, etc. By merely juggling the syllables, the listener who is not katataspulong easily gets the drift of the conversation.
It was soon christened as salitang-galawakin. In Candelaria I heard one conversation with a dash of baliktad but they could not approximate the ease by which a galawakin delivers it, including the inflection au naturelle.
Not only that. The galawakin has developed his own grammatical rules. An inverted verb has its own peculiar subjugation. Example: nini-ak, gugulot, momoni, all in future sense;numini-ak, gumugulot, nagmomoni, in current sense; numi-ak, gumulot, nagmoni, in past tense. Prefixes and suffixes were developed not from the original word but from the reversed expression. A person from Lopez or Gumaca can identify a galawakin from the way he talks. And don’t forget the expletives. The Calauag version abates the impact of the obscene or the gross. Not only that, the galawakin dialect brings with it the rich culture and the imagery of the place. Every inverted word evokes the contours of the terrain and the psyche of the people that speak it. In galawakin-speak we utter our thoughts in a unique manner while the world around us is in suspended animation.
It soon caught fire and the people from galawak became all too well versed in it that one could not claim provenance from the place without the mastery or even a smattering familiarity of it.
Its evolution as it is now has transformed it as practically a new language. Those who have mastered it could even juxtapose an entire paragraph and the equally learned listener won’t miss a word. In one supermarket in Alabang, I was talking with my kids in pure galawakin, and amused those within earshot as if we were some kind of aliens as they could not figure out the lingo spewing out from my mouth which dropped off as neither Bahasa Indonesian nor Malaysian but all too obviously labial.
But that is only an incidental tale. Let me tell you about our famed lambanog or as we call it in galawakin, gonambal to us.
Legends fly that people from nosek are natural drunkards. The deduction comes easily from the abundant lambanog that flows freely from practically all barangays in nosek. Remember that nosek is a coconut country.
Just like Mexico, it has its abundant maguey plant from where its sap is collected and fermented into what they call the pulque. The pulque was further refined into the mezcal wine. Mezcal wine or brandy evolved as the present day Tequila, Mexico’s famous spirit, which originated from a small town in a valley in Jalisco state, Mexico. Jerez brandy from Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucia, Spain (equally famous for its Arab baths and clock museum (museu de reloj)), whiskeys from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the United States, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay or Merlot wines either from France, Italy, Spain or Chile and many other sites.
I always tell my friends to stay away from local whiskeys and brandies. The reason is obvious. They are cheap imitations or chemical concoctions harmful to one’s health. We don’t have grapes for the brandy, and we don’t have barley, rye, corn, and wheat, either. Beer? We import barley to make malt. SMB prides itself as a 100-year old company. There goes our dollar reserve.
What we have in abundance are sugar, coconut and rice. So if our drink fare is gin or rhum or basi or lambanog, let’s roll and get on. Because those are our real liquors fermented, distilled, and processed from our authentic and native flora free from contamination caused by shipment or importation.
Ginebra San Miguel and Tanduay Rhum should be patronized. They are cheap not because of inferior quality but because no franchise or trademark use or tariff is paid on top of their price. Gin is an original drink because we have a flood of sugar cane from Laguna, Batangas, and Negros. The same is true with rhum. Basi or rice wine comes from our daily staple. And the fantastic lambanog distilled from the fermented sap tuba, from the ubiquitous coconut, the irok and sasa, nipa palms all. Several towns in Quezon have their own distilleries. The one in Tayabas is state-of-the-art. There are moonshines in Sariaya and almost practically in all barangays in Bondoc Peninsula, Lopez, Guinyangan, and Calauag. The lambanog from Tayabas should be labelled as simply Tayabas, or Sariaya, or Bgy. De la Paz, Lopez, as the case may be by naming them based on provenance. That is how Brandy de Jerez, Tequila, Scotch whiskey and the French wines got their appellations.
About 25.4% of the Philippines’ arable agricultural land was planted with coconut in 1997. Most of these plantations are in Quezon. We are all familiar in the lambanog process: the mangangawit prunes the buds; collects the sap from every tree; the sap is placed in atukil; and the volume or tuba is poured in a large container called putuhan where the tuba is boiled and the steam collected as the finished product. There are other steps done by the commercial lambanog-maker, in the further purification of the liquor ensuring its excellent quality.
Lambanog has its own quality gradation. The moonshine from Pitogo has earned a negative repute on account of spate of poisoning. Those from Tayabas or Sariaya have acquired that fine commercial acceptance. Some crudely distilled lambanog from sasa explodes in one’s nostrils and burns the trachea. There are reproductions whose aftertaste duplicates the lala-o or scent of mangrove at low tide. But the best gonambal comes from De la Paz, Lopez as it was made from the finest mighty irok from the rolling hills of Esperanza, San Roque, Maguillan, and Tan-ag, near the banks of the timid lake of Lalaguna. This distilled spirit is as clear as water. It wallops at 90-95 proof. Its taste and scent divine.
The humble gonambal is part of our rites of passage. Everybody in nosek has his own bahay-alak. The bahay-alak differs from one person to another. It might be as cavernous as that of Tio Nesto or as minute as that of Sanidad. Bahay-alak is one’s tolerance with alcohol.
My father’s younger brother, I had never seen my Tio Nesto sober all his life. He indulged in his favourite almusal tigre in the wee hours of the morning. He was childless with Tia Flor. Tita Ferin, his doctor-sister, told us that he became sterile as alcohol ran his veins. Kuya Dodie, my mother’s younger brother, on the other hand, had a bahay-alak as huge as a cathedral. Like Tio Nesto, I never saw Kuya Dodie clear-headed. His friend Sanidad, or the town’s sanitary inspector, had a minuscule bahay-alak. Just by the scent of an alcoholic drink was enough to down him. A mile a way, these two uncles of mine were sure coming home when the lambanog aroma wafted in the atmosphere. Tio Nesto was in Calauag, while Kuya Dodie was in Quezon, Quezon. From both sides of my family tree sprouted an alcoholic.
It is no wonder when at the age of fourteen, I tried to down an ipit or pint of sasang gonambal courtesy of Mang Inyong.
The little shop of Mang Inyong was a quaint sari-sari store across the bodega of Ong Bon Jieng. It was never your idea of a convenience store. It was wedged between the old house of Aling Sylvia, the girlfriend of the town judge, and the junk shop of Marquina. The store was a bit indented, that from the main road, one could only see the façade of Aling Sylvia’s house and the clutter of junk in front of Marquina’s shop. Its location was a hit among the high school students of Central College and the Catholic school which are both located on two adjacent blocks in the center of the town. One could loiter in Mang Inyong’s little corner without being noticed by the school authorities. School afternoon sessions started at 1:30. Before the bell rang, we massed at Mang Inyong’s and ordered a few pints of gonambal. One pint or ipit was your regular SMB bottle filled to the brim, at 50 centavos. Mang Inyong’s gonambal came from Pisipis, a barrio in Lopez not far from de la Paz, the origin of the best gonambal. The Pisipis gonambal is a 90 proof punch, enough to cook a fourteen-year old’s liver. But the Pisipis moonshine has a peculiar pungent smell. In 30 minutes we could down tatlong ipit, with Jimmy the skinny as the Yagat Boy. As natalup or finger food we had the famous Target or rock salt. We called it Target because after downing your tagay, your finger hit the plate of salt to blunt the cruel after taste of the sasang gonambal. Or we bought Snowbear, a cheap imitation of eucalyptus candy.
From Mang Inyong, and after three empty pints, we went straight to school. Upon entering the room, the girls were all hushed up as we were all amoy chico, the scent of manhood. We felt then that we were all grown-ups with the swagger of having conquered the world. The alcohol made us believed that we were in another world. While my friends were reddened by the effects of the spirit, I was on the other hand, namumutla.
I was then madly in love with our History teacher, Miss Francia. By coming in a bit tipsy, I wanted to impress her that I was no longer a boy and better looking than his wimp for a boyfriend. She sure noticed that most of the young men were under the influence. Whenever she threw a question, I was raising my hand and my answers were kilometric. I thought I knew that I had her under my masculine spell because she suffixed her reactions with “ that’s very good”. But my standing up and sitting down several times had the effect on my tummy. She noticed that the colour on my face was completely gone. She asked me if there was something wrong with me. I murmured, “I love you Ma’m”.
I was looking at her smiling, but my pretty teacher was unbelievably swirling. I knew there was something wrong with the room. Why was it spinning? Was there an earthquake? I was not sure, but my belly was in trouble. I knew it was to be a belch as I felt a pocket of air bubbled up my throat. I let it go.
The room was in pandemonium. Caloy and Simon were cursing me, since they were seated in front. I messed up their uniforms, their hair, their chairs, and the floor.
I realized that I was throwing up the finest gonambal of Pisipis!