Rizal nostalgia sparks Robusta revival in Laguna
Inspired by the historical account of Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s favorite Robusta coffee some 130 years ago, the city government has moved to make its homegrown bean as the country’s best “heritage” coffee.
At the launching on Friday of “Pistang Kapihan sa Cabuyao” at the Coffee Processing Center in Barangay Casile here, city officials and village folks – along with representatives of national government agencies – revealed the quality and “high-end” packaging of Maestro 1888 Cabuyao coffee’s brand.
In a video presentation, Prof. Clarke Nebrao, the president of the Association of Laguna Food Producers (ALAFOP), discussed the results of his four years of study and research on the history and origin of the Robusta coffee variety in the province, and in particular in Cabuyao, which was known then as Tabuco.
“In 1881, the Agustinian friars introduced a variety of coffee in Tabuco, (which was the old name of Cabuyao), named ‘Canephora’ now known as Robusta,” he said.
He also found out that the Robusta coffee was the favorite beverage of National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal, upon his return to the country during 1887 to 1889.
Historical accounts showed that during that period, Rizal drank the Tabuco (Cabuyao) coffee while writing his poems and letters to girlfriend Leonor Rivera and his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, among others.
“Based on historical documents, the Robusta coffee is considered the Laguna Heritage Filipino Coffee since it started in the province and the favorite of Dr. Jose P. Rizal,” Nebrao said, adding that it has a distinctive aroma, and has palatable and preferable taste for Filipinos.
In his remarks, Mayor Rommel A. Gecolea affirmed the finding of Nebrao that the Augustinian friars, who established a Catholic church in Tabuco in the 1800s, also brought Robusta coffee with them to substitute the roasted rice or roasted corn, practiced by the early Tabuco natives.
“As we drink coffee, we will think of the same variety of coffee that Dr. Jose Rizal used to drink while writing his poems and novels in his time,” Gecolea said in Filipino.
“Talking about Robusta coffee, it is a beautiful part of the history of our place that we ought to be proud of. I believe that we will not only relive the contribution of coffee in our history but we will also revitalize the economy of our hardworking and outstanding coffee farmers,” he added.
The mayor said that for the local economy to grow, the government will have to invest. As a support to the growing coffee industry, the city government bought ‘Café de Cabuyao’ worth P 500,000 in 2017 and P700,000 this year and were given to taxpayers as token and as part of promotions to local folks of a product they can be proud of as their own.
Gecolea said guests and citizens are given free drinks of Café de Cabuyao once they visit the city hall while employees also enjoy unlimited coffee daily.
He also cited the creation of the Laguna Heritage Coffee branded as “Maestro 1888,” in reference to Rizal as the maestro, for the Robusta coffee produced in the city to add a sense of history on a popular beverage.
A Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) representative disclosed that the city has been reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as one of the major producers of coffee in the country.
She mentioned the need for revitalization of old coffee trees or ‘senile’ trees through fertilization, and planting of more coffee trees and expansion of planting areas for greater production.
She also said that the right planting materials and proper processing facilities will produce quality coffee products.
Susan Palo, director, Department of Trade and Industry (DRI) Laguna also called for the need to expand the planting areas to meet the growing demands of coffee locally and globally and of various levels of affordability.
Records of the City Agriculture Office showed that as of 2017, 58.5 hectares have been planted with 51, 638 Robusta coffee trees (38,400 bearing and 13,238 non-bearing) as well as Liberica coffee trees (4,140 bearing and 1, 485 non-bearing) in Cabuyao.
According to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), 82 families who are beneficiaries of the government’s land reform program owned the land planted with the two varieties of coffee, who also formed themselves into the Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC) in 2011. CGUMC was awarded the most outstanding community-based cooperative in 2017. (PNA)