Panagdapil: Preserving traditional sugarcane farming in Laoag City

The months of October to December are sugarcane harvest season in the Philippines.

Though sometimes enjoyed raw, once the sugarcane is processed, its juice can turn into many products, like sugar, vinegar, basi or a local alcoholic beverage, and molasses or tagapulot in Ilokano to name a few.

Panagdapil is the process of extracting the juice from the sugarcane. It uses the dadapilan, a traditional wooden machine composed of two huge cylindrical parts designed to press on the sugarcane stalks to extract its juices.

For the traditional way of panagdapil, farmers use a carabao to pull the extracting machine clockwise while sugarcane is being inserted to its presser to get the juice.

The juice then gets collected in a pot placed at the bottom of the machine.

This process, though meticulous and tedious, is still alive and thriving at Barangay Bacsil-South in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.

The city government recognizes the cultural and historical importance of this practice as well as its potential in the tourism industry.

As the city tourism office continues to search and develop new tourist sites in the city, Angel Lao, tourism officer said that the panagdapil can be a good activity for tourists to get a first hand experience of sugarcane processing and taste the locally-made products.

“The city tourism office ay spearheading yung product development and promotion ng mga products as a community based tourism product ng Laoag City,” Lao said.

She added that this can also open up a wider market for these locally-made products.

The city governemnt is optimistic that the sugarcane industry will continue to thrive as the city tourism office continue to explore ways on how they can incorporate this industry in the mainstream tourism in the city.

Although some sugarcane farmers have switched to modern equipment, Dennis Ucol, a sugarcane farmer from Brgy. Bacsil-South, still proudly embraces the traditional way of panagdapil for its low production cost.

“Kapag tractor kasi ang ginamit, kailangan pa yun ng gasolina, yung kalabaw, yung kakainin lang niya yung iisipin namin – doon kami nakaka-save ng pera,” he shared.

Though modern farming equipment has made it more convenient for farmers to harvest, it is important to look back and appreciate these traditional farming tools which show the ingenuity of our ancestors. (JCR/MJTAB/EJFG, PIA Ilocos Norte)

MADE IN BRGY. BACSIL, LAOAG CITY: Local sugarcane farmers showcase their vinegar and other products from sugarcane. (Courtesy: City Government of Laoag)

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