LUCENA CITY—With the increase in prices of liquor in the market following the passage of Republic Act No. 10351 or the Sin Tax Law, a “lambanog” producer expects a rise in sales of coconut-based liquor.
“For a regular drinker, P10 to P15 savings from their usual bottle of commercial liquor is already a big difference,” Lito Mallari, (not related to this writer), proprietor of Mallari’s Distillery in Tayabas City, says in a phone interview. “The amount can be used to buy peanuts or ‘chicharon’ for ‘pulutan’ (bar chow),”
The law aims to raise additional revenue with higher taxes on “sin products,” such as alcohol and cigarettes. It took effect on Jan. 1.
Although the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has yet to release guidelines for the price increase, Mallari says lambanog would have an edge over other bottled spirits in the market.
“Even with the additional tax, our price will still be below the price tag of the leading liquor brands,” says Mallari, an accountant. “A P2 increase will definitely pull down the sales of our national competitors to our favor.”
A 750 milliliter bottle of the leading brand currently costs P75 compared to the lambanog’s P60. It is now selling for P90 in the neighborhood store even without the BIR guidelines, according to a store owner.
“The bigger the difference in our pricing, the better for us,” Mallari says. “Besides,” he adds, “lambanog has long been the favorite spirit of Filipino drinkers even in Manila because of its exotic taste. It will not be hard for them to return to it much more with this added tax cost.”
Mallari predicts that stores would again be selling lambanog in 320 ml bottle, popularly called “tipo” or “pandak” in the native lingo.
“A small bottle is only P35. And with an 80 percent alcohol proof, a swig is already a potent tonic that only cost a few pesos,” he says.
Local drinkers shared Mallari’s optimism.
“I am forced to return to lambanog, but it is a welcome change. I started in Grade 1 drinking it,” says Celso Abasco, a carpenter. He was holding a gallon of the native liquor he brought for P250.
His drinking buddies have also returned to the practice of storing bottles of lambanog soaked with slices of ripe jackfruit, apples and grapes, gums or “lipute” (wild blackberries).
“After a couple of months inside a cool cabinet, its taste is much sweeter but potent compared to expensive foreign brands,” Abasco says.
Abasco appeals to lambanog makers not to return to their old trade of mass producing the liquor using chemicals.
“When the lambanog made from chemicals entered the market in the 70s, that started the downfall of the native liquor,” he recalls.
Mallari boasts that his company only uses the best coconut sap they could collect during the summer season for the production of the tonic drink.
Lambanog is created from the dripping sap called “tuba” from the coconut flower. The sweet and frothy “tuba,” a rejuvenating drink by itself is cooked through a process of natural fermentation and distillation that produces the native wine.
The sap is gathered by a “mangangarit” in a dangerous morning ritual involving the climbing of tall coconut trees and crossing of bamboo bridges connecting the trees to be able to collect the fresh raw material.
Mallari says they will start exporting lambanog to the US starting May this year in its exquisitely designed boxes.
He says US authorities have granted its approval of the native liquor which is classified as “distilled coconut spirit.”
“The category adds mystic and exoticism to the lambanog,” Mallari says.