Barako No More?

I spent most of my years in Batangas and although my Dad was from Masbate/Palawan, I’ve always considered myself a 100% Batangueno. I’m your typical Batangueno — great and proud of his roots. In Tagalog, magiting at mayabang. Joke lang. Pero half-meant. After all, wala pa akong nakitang Batangueno na hindi proud na taga-Batangas. Gaah, that’s for another story.

Ayun na nga, magiting at mayabang. Sa madaling sabi, barako. Haha.

My mother has a store in Lemery’s New Public Market. Batang palengke ako, ika nga. I used to roam around the market. My eyes, feasting on almost endless colorful arrays of stalls selling toys, clothes, food and other stuff. One of the most noticeable colors also has a very noticeably strong smell. Brown. Coffee. Kapeng barako.

Barako is not a common coffee variety, although it is abundant in Southeast Asia especially in the Philippines. It has the largest beans of all the coffee varieties. Its taste is said to be superior to Robusta, and most Filipino coffee drinkers prefer Barako to Arabica. The Arabica-Barako blend is a popular gourmet coffee. Barako is considered to be the best among Liberica species. (Wiki)

The Lemery Public Market was like a vast coffee pantry. To be honest, even when sleeping, I’d know if we had entered the market premises once that aroma started tickling my nostrils. I used to see at least a couple of “barako stalls” within one block. Parang bigas na may mountain range-type na nakadisplay tapos doon sinasalok yung coffee beans or powder. In one lane, I’d find at least five coffee stores. And God knows how many lanes our market had at the time.

Since I stepped foot on college, I had always asked my mum to buy me packs of kapeng barako. I had not gone back to that market. Until last month. Seven years had gone so fast that I failed to see how much that market changed. At the time, I knew something had changed but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. I couldn’t figure it out.

Last month, I was approached by someone from Howie Severino’s team from GMA7’s iWitness. She asked me what was worth featuring in or about Batangas. Topics flooded my mind — from the fish pens on the edges of Taal Lake to the soon-to-be-erected Monte Maria Shrine (bigger than Rio de Janeiro’s Jesus Christ the Redeemer) to political dynasties (ahem Ermita ahem Leviste ahem).

As I was thinking of something to suggest, it hit me. What is “wrong” with our local public market today, what’s changed, what’s missing are the barako stalls. They are practically vanishing.

But it’s not just in Lemery. Batangas is losing it. Barako is, in fact, nearly extinct. Why? Wow Batangas enumerates the reasons:

“Many farmers believe that harvesting coffee is nothing but a dreadful waste of time and effort. There are several reasons why farmers refuse to farm coffee. First, it is because they can’t assure themselves that they can earn a profit. The world price dictates how the local price should be.

Secondly, many agricultural lands were sold off to build commercial, industrial and residential areas. Since farmers can’t afford to pay large land taxes, they decided to sell their own lands and look for another way to earn larger money and secured profit. Although some of them, instead of selling their lands, switch to planting more profitable crops into which they can gain larger than what they had before.

The next problem is the lack of modernization and technology. In other countries, they use modern machineries and equipment to harvest coffee. Although some of the large coffee farms can afford these machineries too, majority of Filipino farmers use their hands in doing almost everything.”

And apparently, the coffee capital of the Philippines shifted to Amedeo, Cavite. To the ire of some Batanguenos. But Amedeo has been rehabilitating the coffee industry for years now.

And it makes me sad, considering how much of Batangan glory is coffee. According to this article by Sunstar:

“In the Philippines, coffee has a history as rich as its flavor,” says the National Coffee Development Board (NCDB). The first coffee tree was introduced in Lipa, Batangas in 1740 by a Spanish Franciscan monk. From there, coffee growing spread to other parts of Batangas like Ibaan, Lemery, San Jose, Taal, and Tanauan. Batangas owed much of its wealth to the coffee plantations in these areas and Lipa eventually became the coffee capital of the Philippines.

“By the 1860s, Batangas was exporting coffee to America through San Francisco,” the NCDB records. “When the Suez Canal was opened, a new market started in Europe as well. Seeing the success of the Batangeños, Cavite followed suit by growing the first coffee seedlings in 1876 in Amadeo. In spite of this, Lipa still reigned as the center for coffee production in the Philippines and Batangas barako was commanding five times the price of other Asian coffee beans.”

Actually, this post is about my disappointment. Haha.

I applaud Cavite for trying to revive the barako culture; I really do. I just wish that we, Batanguenos, could do the same. History shows how much Batangas owes these little brown smelly beans. And for that alone, I think we have a responsibility to revitalize the barako industry. Maybe we could do something like what Cavitenos do.

I never got back to that iWitness Researcher. But I hope the barako problem gets more attention. I hope that when I come back to that market I used to roam around in, I could see that one color or smell that strong aroma or dip my hands into those mountains of grains that I missed the last time I was there.

After all, it’s not just coffee. They’re not just beans. They’re not just trees. They used to scream the name the land I grew on. And it’s Batangas.


    • OMG!!! na-miss ko din batangas! U’r right yoshke very few now are selling coffee beans… I’m a true blooded batangena too.. i was born in the town of San Luis and studied elementary and high school in OLCA… I was really saddened that your article about kapeng barako is very true… nagigng extinct na ang coffee beans sa atin…. sayang ksi napaka sarap ng kapeng barako…. if happened to go to Lemery Public Market nowadays, naku magugulat ka sobrang iba na cya.. the old public market was burned down years ago.. and there stood the Ctimart Mall now… so they relocated the wet market near the sea, near the very old boulevard cinema… sobrang iba na ang lemery ngaun.. the Our Lady of Caysasay Hospital has been recently renovated.. as in sobrang laking hospital nya na.. so they it’s name to Our Lady of Caysasay Medical Center i think… very progressive na ang lemery nowadays… we have Max’s restaurant na din, red ribbon, greenwich, goldilocks, chowking and others.. pati banks dami na din… i hope u could visit lemery once again…. i hope i could see you there…

  1. I remember being served barako during a wake in Lobo. As someone who isn’t much of a coffee drinker, it was actually quite tasty. It’s kinda sad that households don’t readily serve it to guests anymore.

    I know Marks and Sparks has a brand of coffee that is deliberately overpriced in order to “support the farmers”. It would be great if they did the same thing for barako.

    Incidentally, I’m in Baguio at the moment, and BenCab’s museum café serves coffee that’s grown and roasted by BenCab himself on the museum grounds.

  2. go go go Cavitenos! heheheh! ooopps!
    musta na yoshke?

    sana makatikim ako ng ganyang kape. kasi kahit taga cavite ako, di pa ko nakakainom. hehehe tara magkape sa Tagaytay. hehe

  3. I was in Baguio last weekend and what I really went there for was at least a kilo of coffee grounds. Barako is also sold there. But I bought Benguet coffee. Hehe. I placed my pack of grounds in my bag and now my jacket smells like coffee. Thus, I too. Hehehe.

    How come you never bring me a pasalubong of Barako everytime you go to Batangas???!!!???!!! Hating youuuuu. Hahaha.

  4. i miss batangas…

    yung umakyat sa punong mangga..
    kumain ng tawilis at tilapia..
    maligo sa gulod…kaharap ang bulkang taal..
    magpakabusog tuwing piyesta..

    at higit sa lahat… ang humigop ng mainit na kapeng barako!

  5. No offense meant but Batangas has not attracted me that much. Including Laguna, Cavite and Rizal although I’ve been to the three ones. Pero I’d love to taste barakos. I mean, kapeng barako. 😀

  6. me too..great and proud! although i like coffee that much, i don’t drink the barako cause its so mapait..hard to prepare..before, my grandparents had wide lands of coffee plantation. But our family did not sustain the growth of the plantation that’s why we don’t have kapeng barako na in our “looban.” Now, my relatives (mostly my aunts), have to buy in our town market kapeng barako. I am thinking nga, what if, we still have that plantationa, maybe we’re rich na..ahaha

  7. really? i never realized that the barako is having problems. isn’t there anything that we batangueños can do? for my hometown, talisay, my tita’s high school friends are thinking of promoting the PROTECT TAAL LAKE, PROTECT TALISAY movement. maybe we kabayans can also do something for the barako. let’s put on our thinking caps!

  8. if Mr. Howie S. wants to know more about Kapeng Barako ng Batangas he can do research at Lipa City (Cafe de Lipa)…it will be surely a nice documentary…

    • gusto ko lang e share yung nalalaman ko sa kapeng barako lumaki akong magsasaka original akong taga Batangas, 35years ago may taniman kami ng kape ibat-ibang uri ng kape may rebusta,sarsa, barako at nescafe heh he
      ang kapengbarako ay may pinakalaking butil matataas ang mga puno nito kailangan mo pang gumamit ng hagdan para makuha ang mga hinog na butil nito at makikipagtunggali ka pa sa mga langgan upang makipitas ka lang.. tulad ng nasabi mo mahirap talaga ang buhay ng magsasaka dahil walang sigurado ang kita at walang makabagong makinarya.ang kaping barako namin ay para lang sa aming pamilya ibinibinta lang namin yung sobra.hindi tulad ng rebusta na talagang pangbinta namin..bago makahigop ng kapeng barako ay talagang dumaranas ng hirap o sobrang hirap di tulad sa tim horton na double-double ka lang may kape ka na.. gaya ng nasabi ko na simula pa lang yon sa bunga hindi pa kasama ang pagtatanim at pagpapalaki ng puno. ngayon simulan natin sa pagbibilad kailangan ang tamang tuyo,ngayon sa pagtatangal ng balat ng kape, dahil sa walang sapat na makinarya gumagamit kami ng halo at lusong kung tawagin nila pagbabayo kung tawagin namin para matanggal yung balat ng kape kasabay na ring natatanggal ang balat ng nagbabayo. tapos kailangan ng bilao para sa pagtatahip para maghiwalay ang balat at butil ng kape. tapos isasangag para maluto ang butil ito iyong humahalimuyak na bango o amoy ng kapeng barako. tapos ulit sa pagbabayo para naman durogin yong butil tapos sasalain para maghiwalay yong para maghiwalay ang mapino at medyo malaki pang grain.ngayon meron ka ng kapeng barako, puede na ngayong ilaga o pakuluan ang kapeng barako na nakakaakit o nakakaaddict yong amoy para sa manginginom ng kape.. ako hindi naman ako umiinom ng kape dahilan sa tamad akong magtanim,mamuti,magbilad at magbayo ng kape .. pero ayon sa mga taong may mahusay na panglasa talaga raw ang kapeng barako ay #1

      • Juan, saan ga po kayo sa Batangas? Talagang alam na alam nyo po ang hirap bago maka higop ng masarap na mainit na kapeng barako. Di nyo po naitatanong, hanggang sa ngayon ay meron pa kaming ilang puno ng kapeng barako sa paligid ng bahay namin sa Sta. Rita, Batangas City. Hinahanap ko rin po ang mabangong samyo ng bulaklak ng kape kapag kapanahunan ng pamumulaklak nito. Noong magbakasyon ako last May ay nagdala ako pabalik ng California ng kapeng barako at ibinigay ko sa kaibigan kong white American at nagustuhan niya ang lasa nito. Sabi nya mas masarap pa kaysa leading brand of coffee here in California. Tama Lang na muli nating pagyamanin ang KAPENG BARAKO ng BATANGAS!

  9. zan ka po sa batangas?? me kilala ba kau na taga lemery?? nid q kz ng lay out ng public markrt dun.. para sa thesis qu.. pwd humingi ng help??? hehehe.. i’m from cavite.. ^_^

  10. Amazing! Believe it or not, I read the comments from the very beginning till the end and between the lines. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat. Sa lahat ng inputs. Very informative. Dapat siguro magkaroon ng movement para sa pag revive ng Kapeng Barako ng Batangas. Kapeng Barako is still best during breakfast with bahaw at hawot o sinaing na tulingan. Yet, it is still good being gulped all day long. Naaalala ko tuloy yung bottomless na kapeng barako. Dalawang kilo ng giniling na kapeng barako. Isang kilo ng asukal na pula. Isang napakalaking kaldero at sandamakmak na panggatong. Yung usok ng natural na panggatong ang lalong nagpapasarap don. Kahit isang linggong nasa kaldero yung kape ayos lang. Dadagdagan lang ng kaunting tubig, kape at asukal na pula kapag iiinit ulit, solved na ulit.

    Tama. Hindi praktikal magtanim ng kape sa Batangas unless ito ay large scale para maka-compete sa mga commercial na coffee growers. Lalo na yung species ng kapeng barako na mahirap putihin at kakaunting mamunga kumpara sa robusta.

    Trivia lang. Masarap din yung riped coffee beans kainin. Manamis namis na ewan.

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