Balicucha Making in Ilocos (step by step photos)

The Art of Balicucha Making in Ilocos Sur

Little did I know that as early as childhood I was already absorbing influences for a blogging/writing career. Balicucha candies were among the things my second mom, my yaya Cion, would buy for me from the Laoag public market. I knew they were made from sugarcane juice much like palinang and tagapulot (molasses), but I always imagined they were part of the froth or something because of their rather whitish color.

I met these balicucha candies once again at pasalubong stores and coffee shops in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. It has the texture of honeycomb toffee when it’s fresh. A grown-up way to enjoy balicucha is to drop one (in place of sugar) into coffee, and you get a beautiful toasty caramel flavored coffee like no other in an instant. Balicucha also happens to be one of the popular flavors of a well-loved local ice cream made by the Bungro community in San Ildefonso.

Ilocos Sur Balicucha

Fortunately, I stumbled upon the balicucha makers of Santa Maria at Ilocos Sur’s Kannawidan Festival food and trade fair while doing my research for FoodPrints. Most of the balicucha we get to enjoy today are made by the sugarcane farming communities in Sta. Maria.

Santa Maria is home to another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ilocos, the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Church. The fertile lands of the town bring forth sugarcane among its principal crops. Balicucha might be as old as the dadapilan (sugarcane presser). Other than balicucha, products coming from the several pagdapilan in Santa Maria are muscovado, basi (Ilocano wine) and vinegar. A steel sugarcane crusher has taken the place of the antiquated, original dadapilan from wood. We were actually asked if we wanted the traditional carabao-drawn or the modernized tractor-aided dadapilan.

The photos of balicucha making were shot while Chef Sandy Daza was being filmed in Maynganay Norte for FoodPrints Ilocos Sur.

I Shaped a Balicucha

Trying to form balicucha, in fact the entire process of creating these sugarcane candies, is something I never imagined learning.

I Shaped a BalicuchaSta. Maria, Ilocos SurPagdapilan

Balicucha making starts here. Sugarcane stalks are fed into the mill while a carabao pulls the log (attached to the presser), moving in circular direction, while juice is being extracted.

DadapilanPagdapilanAt a "Pagdapilan"Ilocos Native Molasses

Pure sugarcane juice is cooked until it caramelizes.

TagapulotBalicucha MakingBalicucha Making

Once ready, the hot caramel-colored molasses hardens fast. Quite difficult to do if you are a first timer, the mass is stretched and looped repeatedly until it manifests an even creamy white shade. From there, small portions for balicucha pieces are pinched out.

Balicucha MakerBalicucha MakingBalicucha MakingBalicuchaBalicucha MakingExtra Large BalicuchaLittle girl awaits cascaronBalicucha Making

They are allowed to bake under the sun before they are packed and sent to consignees and stalls lining the national highway in Sta. Maria.

Sugarcane products in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur

With special thanks to the warm hospitality of the Kababaihan at Kabataan ng Maynganay Norte Program Inc., the Muscovado Farmers Association of Maynganay, the Sta. Maria Tourism Office and the Province of Ilocos Sur Tourism Office. And to FoodPrints on the Lifestyle Network for the trust.

Photographed by BlauEarth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015

Di Pay Pinagdapil


Pasencia, awan pay basi ken suka diay Bacsil!

UnasDadapilanSinublanPagdapilanBurnayBalay diay TalonLight Show
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2014

Piddig and the Basi Revolt

THe historic town of the Basi Revolt - Piddig, Ilocos Norte

Situated on the western foot of the Cordilleras, right beside Sarrat, is the town of Piddig (originally named Pidipid which means hilly). It is agriculture that sustains Piddig like most towns in Ilocos. Unknown to many Ilocanos, Piddig is impregnated with history. In 1807, a revolution called Basi Revolt was hatched in the town. Basi is an Ilocano wine made through the fermentation of sugarcane water. Pedro Mateo and Salarogo Ambaristo led the bloody uprising as a result of the prohibition of the local manufacture of basi by the Spanish colonizers. Same difference to the tobacco monopoly, the Spaniards taking control of the wine industry, depriving the true owners of the land their rights and freedom.

Among Piddig’s other illustrious sons are former congressman and governor Antonio Raquiza, poet Capitan Don Claro Caluya, statesman and jurist Don Julio Agcaoili, and Olympian Teofilo Yldefonso.

Light LeakSalarogo Ambaristo The Basi Revolt Shrine, Piddig, Ilocos NorteThe Basi Revolt MarkerSt. Anne Parish Church, Piddig, Ilocos NorteSt. Anne Parish Church

The St. Anne Parish Church. I love the way it sits on a hill.

DadapilanPiddig PlazaDadapilan

A celebration of dadapilan or traditional sugarcane press at the Piddig Plaza.

I happen to have read parts of this book, Piddig Ili ti Nadayag (Land of Splendour), written by an uncle, Pepito Alvarez, just after arriving from Piddig. If you want to learn more about Piddig and so much more about history and the Ilocano culture, the book is helpful.

Piddig, Ili A Nadayag, by Jose "Pepito" Alvarez

What else is there to do in Piddig? Piddig’s rugged terrain is ideal for trekking. I climbed Lubnac twice.

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2013