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Cagayan turning into Napa Valley of northern Philippines

Cagayan is slowly turning into the Napa Valley of northern Philippines.  Thanks to efforts to develop winemaking in the region.

Napa Valley is a grape-growing area in Napa County in the state of California in the United States which is famous the world over for its premium wine. 

Cagayan Valley’s wide range of natural forest and farmlands, is blessed with a variety of fruits, either planted in farms, homegrown, or just growing in the wild. However, most of these fruits are seasonal and not so palatable, leading to oversupply and postharvest losses. 

To avoid wastage, government agencies that provide skills training have organized  farmers and local entrepreneurs in Cagayan and taught them how to process the fruits into various by-products like wine. 

One of the pioneer wine producers in Region 2 is the Integrated San Lorenzo Entrepreneur of Lallo, Cagayan, which makes use of an indigenous fruit called “Lubeg” or Syzygium lineatum, also known as Philippine Cherry. 

The “Lubeg" wine is one of the famous locally-made fruit wines in Cagayan and is now the official One Town One Product of the town of Lallo.

The 'Bignay' or 'Bugnay' fruit, also known as wild berry, is also a favorite material for wine processing. The DOST has extended training to food technology students of Isabela State University on 'Bignay' wine processing through its Youth Empowerment Technopreneurship (YET) program. YET aims to provide a learning venue for the students in enterprise development and utilize their research into income-generating activity. 

In Calayan Island, Teresita P. Singgun, a member of the local sanggunian, also produces local wine made out of 'bugnay fruit' with honey and the Magacan Women Workers Association of Sanchez Mira town produces another version of 'Bugnay' wine. 

The Sto. Niño Integrated Social Forestry Association in Maddela, Quirino was also trained by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in making local wines out of pineapple, wild blackberries, and cassava. The training was in response to the request of the group to improve the quality of their existing wine product and to explore the possibility of coming up with more wines using other tropical fruits abundant in the community. 

Sugarcane is also being grown by farmers in Isabela. The members of Sitio Lagis Farmers and Fisherfolk Association in Ilagan City were capacitated on cane wine processing, making it an alternative product from sugarcane aside from muscovado sugar, juice, syrup, and vinegar. Batanes also produces sugarcane wine. 

Members of the Integrated San Lorenzo Entrepreneur of Lallo, Cagayan process ‘Lubeg’ fruit into wine. (Photo courtesy of LGU Lallo)

Cacao beans can also be fermented and processed into wine. As part of the Cacao Post-Harvest and Bean Grading training program of DTI, some faculty, and students of the Isabela State University were trained on processing cacao into wine and other by-products such as tablea, choco balls, cacao nibs, polvoron, juice, and flour. 

The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform have also capacitated some farmer organizations and local entrepreneurs on fruit wine production using watermelon, guyabano, dragon fruit, banana, macopa, and many others.

Aside from fruits, abundant crops from the Valley are also processed into wine like rice and nipa. Recently, the DTI trained the members of the Casat Farmers Association in Bayombong Nueva Vizcaya on rice wine making. In Pamplona and Santa Teresita towns in Cagayan, locals also produce nipa wine, processed in traditional distillery and brewery ways.  

The Wild Berry Wine of Calayan, Cagayan. (Photo courtesy of TPS Calayan Wine)

To ensure market linkages for these products, DTI Region 2 Director Romleah Pulido-Ocampo launched the 'buy-local' initiative to help local entrepreneurs market their products, boost their livelihood, and propel the local economy. 

For its part, the DOST Region 2, in collaboration with Food Innovation Centers established in State Universities and Colleges in the region, conducts capacity-building activities for professors and students on wine making using the wine fermentation technology they developed.

Nora Garcia, DOST provincial director, said the wine technology is intended to process locally-produced wines using standardized procedures that help increase production capacity and assure consistent product quality.

"We also discuss the food safety regulations to strengthen their implementation and to ensure that the wine products they produce conform with the standards during the trainings," Garcia said.

These wines are available in local markets, displayed in 'Pasalubong' centers, exhibited during trade fairs and festivals, and are usually given as tokens to visitors and guests. The assisting agencies and local government units also help producers market their wine products. 

Nora Garcia (left), DOST Batanes provincial director, demonstrates fermentation process in wine making. (Photo courtesy of DOST Region 2)
The traditional ‘Nipa’ wine processing in Pamplona, Cagayan. (Photo courtesy of Carlvon Aquino)

These products may not be common for many, but it is a thriving industry that provides employment and profit to the locals.

Some studies conclude that drinking wine has many health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, helps combat inflammation, keeps the heart healthy, benefits mental health, promotes longevity, regulates sugar, lowers bad cholesterol, reduces risks of cancer, keeps memory sharp, and many others. But always remember, when drinking wine, it should be in moderation. (OTB/PIA Region 2)

About the Author

Oliver Baccay

Information Officer IV

Region 2

  • Assistant Regional Director, Philippine Information Agency Region 2
  • Graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication 
  • Graduate of Master of Arts in Education, major in English
  • Graduate of Doctor in Public Administration

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