Ingredients

Ever Heard of This Local Wild Berry Called Bugnay?

July 12, 2015

My friends and I recently went on a road trip to Northern Luzon. Everything was loosely planned. There was no set itinerary, and we merely relied on friends’ recommendations for where to stay, where to eat—you know how it is these days. We were open to the unexpected, eager for surprise. We just wanted to get away from the city, and what we took back with us (aside from buttloads of chichacorn, dried fish, and bottles of local cane vinegar) went far beyond whatever expectations we had.

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Our first stop was at Pagudpud where we checked in a resort upon a friend’s recommendation. Aside from enjoying the luxury of not having any mobile signal (and diving into palayoks of monggo), we were able to mingle with a few of the locals in the town of Adams who took us trekking to a hidden waterfall, fed us with legit Ilocano fare in their own homes, and made us sample some of their local wines made from a wild cherry known as Bugnay.

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I picked a berry from a basin carried by one of the locals. It looked like your typical coffee cherry; I popped one into my mouth and it burst with bright, tart, sweet flavors, reminiscent of blackcurrants and mulberries. I must tell you that this happened on the way to our exhausting trek, and when we descended, we were treated to a glass of the juiced stuff, after a sip of which left us in mouth-gaping awe—this drink was liquid gold. A few minutes later, Ate Sabel, our host for the afternoon told us that they had a vineyard that produced and sold bottles of the fermented stuff, and of course, we had to check it out.

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Rows and rows of bottles lined wooden shelves—apparently, they weren’t only limited to Bugnay. They had lemongrass liquor, coffee, honey, and non-alcoholic concentrates. Secluded in another area were bottled “experiments” that go way back to 2013. We found out that the winery only recently opened a few years ago, but they’ve been quite aggressive with the production of their wines and products. Turmeric soap, for example, is handmade and crudely wrapped—always a good sign that a product was made minus the machine.

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Research says that bugnay has a taste-changing property, making anything you put on your palate after eating it sour. While we didn’t have the opportunity to prove this, what we were able to try ourselves, though, was the slew of liquor the locals of Adams had to offer. A lemon grass liquor turned out a bit too sweet, but the refreshing taste of the herb was definitely spot-on. The bugnay wines, though, were a revelation, if anything. Smooth yet heady on the berry flavors, each sip tasted like a spoonful of the sweet-sour fruit laced with just the right amount of alcohol. Easy on the palate, this might just prove to be a saleable glass of vino here in Metro Manila.

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Though bugnay, or more commonly known as bignay in Tagalog, has slowly been making an appearance in a number of specialty stores. Holy Carabao in Poblacion, for example, has been stocking up on Bignay Melomel (mead) by Nipa, and there is, also, the occasional sighting in food bazaars. Whether in wine form or not, bugnay can be turned into other products such as syrups, marmalades, and even jams. We were already thinking of how to use it while we daydreamed about the wild berry on our way to Vigan. There is a lot of potential in these berries! And I’m sure there are so much more untapped food gems lurking around in the provinces, waiting for someone to jump on the chance to make something great with them. We’ve seen how adlai became what it is now thanks to our amazing local chefs and local talent. Looking forward to great things with this incredible wild berry.

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Have you heard of bugnay? What indigenous product do you think deserves more attention? Tell us with a comment below!

Mikka Wee Mikka Wee

Mikka Wee is former editor of Pepper.ph and was part of the team until she got whisked away to Singapore in 2016 where she worked in advertising and eventually found herself back in the food industry. She currently does marketing work for two popular Singaporean dessert brands and is a weekly columnist for The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s lifestyle brand, Preen.ph. She has always been crazy about travel, food, and her dog Rocket.

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9 comments in this post SHOW

9 responses to “Ever Heard of This Local Wild Berry Called Bugnay?”

  1. skeptic says:

    Bignay wine is available at kultura stores.

  2. Volts Sanchez says:

    Sounds worth a try, even just for the novelty. Did you find out the alcohol content?

  3. cutedoc says:

    Heard good feedbacks from bugnay wine, its probably the process which makes the wild berries potent.

  4. Dez says:

    I know about the berry since I’ve tasted these way back when, but didn’t realize they now have all these products! 😀

  5. irisinwonderland says:

    At last! These wines have been available at the Baguio City market for a long time already together with the strawberry wines and even duhat wines. Just had some of those wild berries when I went home in the province hahah.

  6. Kat says:

    We have a bignay tree in our backyard. My lola used to make juice out of it, but we never really paid much attention to it, because we liked mangoes more. Maybe I should pay more attention. 😀

  7. Alvin says:

    We call it Bugnay as well in bicol dialect.

  8. anne says:

    DIdn’t know that there’s Bugnay wine. 🙂 We call it Bugnay too in Iloilo. I used to eat a lot of this when I was a kid. They sell it for 20 pesos per pack outside the school campus. 🙂

  9. Ludwig Santiago says:

    I tried the bugnay wine taste good.

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