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SIGNIFICANCE OF ASIN TIBOOK MAKING IN ALBURQUERQUE
Salt was an important commodity in many of the world’s early economies. It was widely produced, traded, used and consumed. Traditionally, salt was procured from a variety of sources including rock salt, brine springs and seawater.
Today, salt is still an important commodity, but it is primarily purchased commercially rather than traditionally made. However, in Bohol Province, Particularly in the town of Alburquerque, a handful of families continue a local tradition of making salt from seawater, sustain the traditional technology and contribute much in the local economy in the recent past.
In the mid –twentieth century Bohol is known as trader of all native products to neighboring islands and or province such as brooms, mats and occasionally takes salt to trade for humay (unmilled rice).
Today, the economy of Bohol is primarily dependent on agriculture and some light industry. Agricultural production is concentrated in northern and central parts of the province where there are rich rice farming plateaus. Much of the rest of the province is unsuitable for agriculture due in part to deforestation and erosion. As a result, the communities in these areas rely on fishing and some light industry such as rock salt making and pottery and the like.
Southern coastal towns of Bohol, Valencia, Dimiao, Loay and Alburquerque are prevalence of salt production in different methods for processing seawater into a consumable and saleable product. These differences can be attributed to environmental factors such as weather, resources, and landscapes, as well as distinct cultural traditions.
The simplest method of extracting salt from seawater is through natural evaporation by the sun. This process is most successfully carried out in climates that have extended dry periods.
Other areas are known to use a more labor intensive method for processing seawater into salt, preferring to concentrate it before allowing it to naturally evaporate in the sun. The process is referred to locally as bubu (to sprinkle) because the plot of fine sand is sprinkled with seawater for seven days until it becomes concentrated with salt. The sand is filtered and the resulting concentrated water is placed inside long bamboo poles that are cut in half vertically and laid out so that the water is exposed to the sun. Within two days, the water evaporates producing salt in a crystalline form. Outnumbered young generations on producing salt using this traditional method.
Largest community of current salt makers in Bohol resides in the barangay of Sta. Felomina and East Poblacion, Alburquerque town which then the most active area of salt production in the past as well. The salt maker are then using the multi-step process which requires an initial soaking, firing, and filtering process to produce concentrated brine which then cooked by heat-induced evaporation.
It involves many steps and includes all able –bodied members of a nuclear family. The first step involves constructing a paril (salt-bed or soaking pond) for soaking coconut husks. Paril are small coral-lined pits that are constructed among the coastal mangroves, where the seawater is able to reach them during high and low tide, but which are also protected from the strong coastal tides. Average size paril measures approximately 7.2X6.7 meters wide, and .5 to 1 meter deep. Paril are family –owned, and once built require only minimal cleaning and maintenance each season.
Once the paril are prepares, coconut husks and wood are collected as absorbing agents for the salt and fuel for the fire. The asinderos generally gather the wood and coconut husks from along the Tagbuane River where the trees are more plentiful. Bamboo rafts are used as the primary means of transporting the wood and husks. The rafts are navigating along the coast from Sta. Felomina and up to the mouth of the river approximately 2 kilometer and back through the mangroves to the paril.
The coconut husks are brought to the family’s paril and allowed to soak for 3 to 6 months to absorb the sea’s minerals. During the soaking process, the rest of the necessary equipment is prepared, or repaired if used during the previous season. First a kamalig ( hut) is built. A kamalig is a simple, rectangular, open-air structure that shields the equipment and salt makers from the rain and sun during the cooking process.
Other equipment that needs to be prepared ahead of time includes: sagsag (funnels) which are made of nipa, buri, buri palm and vine; pasong (containers for the brine), which are carved from coconut wood; and laga-an (stove) which is constructed from hardened ashes. The salt makers must also purchase kon (earthenware pots) for cooking the salt and a buwayanan (pan) to hold the brine. Buwayanan were formerly made of baked clay, but today they use pans made of galvanized iron.
The husks are left to soak in the paril 3 to 6 months. They are gathered and chopped into small pieces and allowed to dry in the sun. This takes one to four days, depending o the weather. While the husks are drying, an area in the center of the hut is flattened and smoothed in preparation for the fire, and a small kamada (wooden structure) is built for the base of the fire.
“Asin Tibook” literally means “unbroken salt,” and comes in big blocks inside clay pots. The result of such a unique and specific process is a salt that tastes just as distinctive. A far cry from the iodized salt that’s in everyone’s kitchens, Bohol’s Asin Tibook has a strange, smoky flavor with a fruity edge, perhaps because it comes from coconut ash.
Asin Tibook is like no others—the salt is not available anywhere else other than the town of Alburquerque, Bohol. Historically Asin Tibook used to barter for others good at the neighbooring town.
At present, Asin Tibook is now made available in the market and going worldwide.