The Inbox

Preserving a family legacy: sukang Iloko

Catherine and jars of fermented vinegar

Text and photos by Leilanie G. Adriano, VERA Files

Catherine Pascual Abadilla, 66, exactly knows what she wants and she does it perfectly to preserve her family legacy of producing a stimulating aroma and a very strong taste of a dark  liquid Ilocanos are known for ages—Sukang Iloko.

Cormel Foods, derived from the combined names of Abadilla's father Cornelio and grandfather Melchor,  has evolved as a home-based leading producer and distributor of a chemical-free organic vinegar popularly known as the Ilocandia's original sukang Iloko. It is now also a multi-awarded family-owned company, commercializing tropical fruit wines and distilled spirits here and abroad.

Disturbed by the selling of adulterated vinegar in the local market (that is, adding chemicals and food coloring which are not good for the health), she said this triggered her desire to preserve the unique taste and quality of Sukang Iloko labored by her old family back in the rural village of Araniw, Laoag City.

As a food technologist, Abadilla was concerned about the safety of consumers. Adulterated vinegar is not accepted by the Department of Health standards.

Through continued research and technology development, she perfected the traditional vinegar-making formula she inherited from her elders who used to own a small holdings of vinegar-making in a sugar cane-producing rural village in the city.

She said the process of fermentation was one of her favorite subjects at the University of the Philippines where she took BS in Food Technology. This inspired her to pursue her study when she took a master's degree in Food Science in the same university. Her graduate level dissertation entitled "Physicochemical and microbiological characteristics of Basi during fermentation" was all worth it when she tried her developed technology to their home-grown vinegar-making venture.

"At first, my aim is to improve vinegar and basi which are being sold at the public market using recycled plastic containers without any label," Abadilla said.

Abadilla couple and staffBut things changed in 1996 or about 16 years ago when Dr. Saturnino Ocampo, then the regional director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Region 1, motivated her to commercialize her developed technology instead. That time, the DOST started its aggressive promotion of ripe technologies beneficial to local communities and she was then teaching at the Mariano Marcos State University-Home Technology Department in Batac, Ilocos Norte until she retired.

Together with her husband Camilo, 67, and their two children, the Abadilla family decided to put up a 100-sqm. processing building beside their ancestral home located at the heart of the city to start up the project.

From an additional 50 earthen jars the DOST provided them to increase their production, they were able to create a product following by word of mouth.

Raw materials (sugarcane and tropical fruits) were initially sourced out from their small farm but with increased demand, they trained several farmers to deliver them the needed supply.

She takes pride in keeping the original Sukang Iloko, a chemical-free organic vinegar derived from naturally fermented sugarcane juice and plant extracts locally known as samak that turns the liquid color into black.

The popular Sukang Iloko comes with a unique product label consisting of a heritage house like those preserved in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, a kalesa (horse-drawn carrier), earthen jars and samak leaves to indicate that the product was processed in the century-old tradition of fermenting sugarcane juice and samak in earthenware jars. It also maintains a standard 4.5 acidity level, obtaining a quality seal approved by the Bureau of Foods and Drugs (BFAD).

From their original product Sukang Iloko, Cormel Foods  has develop additional product lines such as basi and other tropical wines from duhat (java plum), mango and bugnay (wild berries). Their latest baby product is the duhat juice now being tested in the local market during trade fairs and exhibits organized by government agencies.

Since its conception, the DOST has assisted Cormel Foods to develop and improve its products.  The DOST gave them a zero-interest loan worth P500,000 payable in three years to cater their customers' growing demand for Sukang Iloko.

After graduating from the first Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP I), the DOST gave them another P800,000 soft loan (SET-UP II) payable in three years without interest. This time, said amount was used in their tropical fruit wine-making business that evolved through time.

But their Sukang Iloko remains as their prime commodity. To date, Cormel Foods is producing at least 500 gallons every month to meet their product demand.

A number of hotels, supermarkets and distributors from Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces of Cagayan, Ilocos Sur and Abra directly buy from them.

"This is why Ilocandia's  Sukang Iloko is not readily available in groceries unlike other commercial vinegars," their son Anthony, who supervises the marketing and distribution of their products, said.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

  • Pacquiao has lost his 'pop', Mayweather
    Pacquiao has lost his 'pop', Mayweather

    Floyd Mayweather says Manny Pacquiao has lost a step and that the Filipino's superstar slide has coincided with his decision to split from former strength trainer Alex Ariza. The 37-year-old undefeated welterweight champ Mayweather weighed in Wednesday on the latest performance by Pacquiao who beat Timothy Bradley on April 12 in Las Vegas in a rematch of their first bout in June 2012. "Actually, I did watch the fight," said Mayweather who is training to fight Argentina's Marcos Maidana in a …

  • Jodie Foster marries girlfriend
    Jodie Foster marries girlfriend

    Jodie Foster has reportedly tied the knot with Alexandra Hedison, who she has been dating for less than a year. …

  • Bad news for Samsung: 85% of people in Philippines willing to buy homegrown …
    Bad news for Samsung: 85% of people in Philippines willing to buy homegrown …

    Smartphone growth is being fueled not by big names like Samsung but by the increasing demand of homegrown smartphone brands in the country. …

  • Eruption now engaged to GF
    Eruption now engaged to GF

    [caption id="attachment_131583" align="alignright" width="240"] Newly engaged couple Eric Tai and Rona Samson; (inset) Samson’s engagement ring (Instagram)[/caption] Eric “Eruption” Tai has already proposed to his non-showbiz girlfriend Rona Samson. The “It’s Showtime” mainstay offered Samson the ring near Mayon Volcano, Albay over the Holy week break. Tai shared during Monday’s episode of “It’s Showtime,” how he asked Samson the big question. “Umakyat kami, siyempre Eruption at Mayon Volcano. …

  • 'More Fun in the Philippines' campaign brings more visitors from New Z …
    'More Fun in the Philippines' campaign brings more visitors from New Z …

    More New Zealanders are finding fun in the Philippines, based on recent data revealed by the Department of Tourism. …

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Pacquiao has lost his 'pop', Mayweather

    Pacquiao has lost his 'pop', Mayweather

    AFP News - 20 hours ago
    Pacquiao has lost his 'pop', Mayweather

    Floyd Mayweather says Manny Pacquiao has lost a step and that the Filipino's superstar slide has coincided with his decision to split from former strength trainer Alex Ariza. The 37-year-old undefeated welterweight champ Mayweather weighed in Wednesday on the latest performance by Pacquiao who beat Timothy Bradley on April 12 in Las Vegas in a rematch of their first bout in June 2012. "Actually, I did watch the fight," said Mayweather who is training to fight Argentina's Marcos Maidana in a …

  • Jodie Foster marries girlfriend

    Jodie Foster marries girlfriend

    Cover Media - Thu, Apr 24, 2014
    Jodie Foster marries girlfriend

    Jodie Foster has reportedly tied the knot with Alexandra Hedison, who she has been dating for less than a year. …

  • Obama 'ate only half' the sushi course

    Obama 'ate only half' the sushi course

    AFP News - 13 hours ago
    Obama 'ate only half' the sushi course

    Barack Obama may have enthused publicly about the sushi he was served at an exclusive Michelin-starred restaurant, but he stopped eating half way through the meal, reports said Thursday. Pictures showed the US president being served sake by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the counter of the tiny Tokyo eatery, as part of a meal billed as a chance for bonding, at which neither wore a tie. But a report Thursday said instead of making small talk and savouring Japanese delicacies at …

POLL
Loading...
Poll Choice Options