Learn the 7 things you should know in a Filipino Drinking Session!
They say that alcohol is a social lubricant and oh boy, don’t Filipinos know that all too well. Filipinos, in general, are not alcoholic per se. We just know when to crack open a cold one with the boys and girls. Graduation? Let’s drink! Fiesta? Let’s drink! Your boo dumped you? Let’s drink!
It’s not uncommon to find a group of people drinking in a baptismal celebration or a kid’s birthday. Filipinos will drink to anything worth celebrating — even if the person they are celebrating can’t drink yet. This is the Filipino drinking session or inuman in Tagalog. If you are new to the Philippines or new to inuman, here are 7 things that you should know in a Filipino Drinking Session:
1. The first sip is for the spirits
If you’ve been in an inuman, you may have noticed that Filipinos “waste” the first shot of a bottle of liquor on the ground. That first shot is actually an offering to the gods or spirits that may have joined your drinking session without your knowledge.
This is often called, “alay sa demonyo” or offerings to the demon. It may sound sketchy at first but don’t worry! You are not joining a drinking ritual to summon a demon. Some say that you offer the first sip to the spirits so that they won’t curse the drinking group. Some believe that it is common courtesy to provide drinks to everyone in an inuman, mortal or not. Regardless of what you believe, don’t make the spirits feel left out, that’s all.
2. Cheers for the Tagay!
Disastrous representation for the Filipinos aside, the infamous Filipina in the “Many People, Many Places” video series was actually right when she said that there’s actually no “Cheers!” in the Philippines. Instead, Filipinos have the “Tagay!”.
Tagay is actually the shot of drink you are supposed to chug in a Tagayan session. In a tagayan, a glass is shared by the members of the drinking group and the tangero is the assigned person to refill and pass around the tagay. You will know it’s your turn to chug the tagay when the tangero shouts “Tagay!” and pass you the shared glass. However, since it is pretty similar to how Westerners say “Cheers!” before downing a glass, some people also use it to substitute with “Cheers!” in a Filipino drinking session.
Pro Tip: it is best to behave around your tangero. If a tagayan session is to be compared to a courtroom, the tangero is the judge. He/She can decide how much liquor to put in your tagay. However, you can also inform your tangero if you want to get punch-out drunk or stay sober after the session and he/she may adjust the amount of your tagay.
3. Anything is a Chaser if you drink hard drinks enough
You don’t need to be a bartender to mix drinks in an inuman. In fact, some of the crowd-favorite mixed drinks and chasers are usually the results of one guy getting too creative with the available sachets of powdered juice in the host’s house. Arguably, the best kinds of chasers are those imbued with childhood nostalgia like chocolate drinks, only to be drunk immediately after a shot of gin or tequila.
However, don’t be surprised if you encountered Filipinos downing beer immediately after a shot of gin. Pro Tip # 2: If you find yourself in an inuman or tangayan without a fruity or chocolatey chaser, anything that has a lower alcohol content or sweeter than the main hard liquor is a chaser!
4. Figuring the best Finger-food
A Filipino drinking session isn’t that difficult to figure out if you think about it. All you need are (at least) several bottles of beer, a bucket of ice, good stories, and great friends. But there is one thing that can make a breezy and chill inuman session turn to a night of unwarranted decision-making crisis: What to eat as a pulutan?
Pulutan is usually the finger food consumed during a drinking session. It helps you pace yourself while keeping down the alcohol. Pulutans are usually salty, crunchy, and/or fatty. So, while they do help you pace yourself and keep alcohol down, pulutans generally make you thirsty too. Thus, making you drink more alcohol. If that is not enough to convince you, here are some Filipino pulutan for that ice-cold beer of yours:
Deep fried pig trotters or knuckles served with a soy-vinegar dip. Do I need to say more?
Crispy Chicken Skin
Have you ever asked, “Hm… What will make eating chicken more amazing”? Well, THIS. THIS WILL MAKE EATING CHICKEN MORE AMAZING.
The genius behind the deep-fried-chicken-skin movement: Deep fried pork fat.
So, go and choose your yummy poison! Just be careful of the unending cycle of buying pulutan to accompany the drinks— finishing the drinks, and there are still remaining pulutan — buying drinks to accompany the pulutan— finishing the pulutan, and there are still remaining drinks, and so on and so forth.
5. Not all that glitters is gold, sometimes it’s beer
In a country where a bottle of beer can start at 25 PHP or around half a US dollar, it is not surprising that beer is an integral part of the Filipino inuman scene. It is cheap, simple, and easy to pair up with any pulutan, beer is a great start for a hardcore night of heavy drinking or a relaxed social drinking with friends.
It also doesn’t conform to those sexist tags like “hard drink” and “ladies drink”. Anyone can drink beer (as long as you have the acquired taste for it)! It’s true that the learning curve for liking the taste of beer is kinda high but hey! Once, you start to liking beer, any alcoholic drink will be easier to drink too.
6. Demon-marked gin will not cause blindness
Filipinos may love their beers but Filipinos love for gin is a whole-wide-known love story. It is etched in the statistics (Ginebra San Miguel is world’s biggest gin brand) and seen in local tagayans along the street. Gin is a staple for most Filipino inumans. The most famous example of gin in the Philippines is the demon-marked gin, Ginebra San Miguel.
The art in front of the demon-marked gin is as famous as the bottles it covers. The painting of St. Michael the Archangel defeating the demon was painted by none other than Fernando Amorsolo, a National Artist of the Philippines. He is known for his light and romantic portrayal of rural Philippines and the simple way of life.
There are several myths about this particular brand but one of the most enduring ones is the myth that drinking too much Ginebra will cause blindness. It was so prevalent that Tagalog speakers have a term for it, “gin bulag” or “blind gin”. However, this is, in fact, not true. Unless… you drunkenly walk around after drinking Ginebra, waving a stick— Then, yes. You might become blind if you do that.
7. Local Wines
Last but definitely not the least, we can’t talk about Filipino Inuman if we don’t talk about the local wines in the Philippines. Beers and gins are fun and all but if you want to experience authentic and indigenous Filipino liquor, then start but don’t limit yourself with these local wines:
Known as the “poor man’s drink” because of its relatively easy distillation, Lambanog is a long way from simple fermented coconut sap. Today, lambanog is also sold with different flavors such as apple, cherry, and mint to entice a bigger market. Whatever you do, don’t treat Lambanog too lightly. At first distillation, it can have as much as 40-45% alcohol content. This may go as high as 85% after the second distillation.
Just like Lambanog, tuba is also made from coconut sap. However, it is never distilled. If you distill tuba, it will become Lambanog. It only has around 4% alcohol content.
Native in Ilocos Norte, it is made by boiling and fermenting sugar cane juice in earthen jars. Basi takes 3 months to ferment and up to a year.