Asin Tibuok

asin tibuok
Asin Tibuok | @natmuseumbohol

Asin Tibuok

Ever heard of this artisanal method of producing salt?

Salt is an important commodity and has been produced since prehistoric times.

In the Philippines, early Spanish chronicles document salt production as a precolonial industry. A remnant of this still endures at present. The town of Alburquerque has been known for its artisanal and unique salt-making tradition known as Asin Tibuok.

With its more vibrant flavor compared to ordinary table salt, it could turn ordinary dishes into culinary delights.

The process of producing involves innovation and tireless effort from different generations. Saltmakers gather dried coconut husks, locally called bunot. These are then drenched in the salt pond or paril, near the coast for around six months.

After the soaking period, the husks are then sun-dried and hewn into smaller pieces. Once done, these will undergo a firing process, daub, transforming these into ashes, gasang.

A cone-shaped funnel called sagsag, is prepared to be used to filter out the ashes once firing is completed. Filtering is done thrice in different funnels to achieve a highly-concentrated brine solution.

The ashes are then poured with seawater inside the filter with a cork-like container called pasong, positioned at the bottom.

Now, the solution is ready to be cooked at the open pit fire called lagaan, with the small clay pots or kun all lined up. These clay pots are usually made by female potters using the paddle and anvil technique, without the aid of a potter’s wheel.

The pots will first be heated before the brine will be poured onto the pots gradually. Continuous heating and boiling are done for the liquid to evaporate, leaving the hardened salt inside the pot.

When the bottom of the clay pot cracks, that means the salt is already cooked. This tedious and traditional process usually lasts for an entire day.

The Asin Tibuok of Alburquerque is indeed an intangible cultural heritage of Bohol. However, it is now threatened to be diminished unless given proper attention by its community and the government for its preservation, conservation, and protection.

The National Museum of the Philippines’ Ethnology Division and National Museum Bohol Area Museum feature asin tibuok of the southern coastal town of Alburquerque in Bohol! Salt was a major commodity in early lowland – highland trade in Visayas and Mindanao. Salt was exchanged for humay (unmilled rice) and cotton among agricultural communities after harvest season. It is also used to season staple foods such as lugaw (porridge) and as a natural agent for drying and fermenting fish. Moreover, salt is also given to livestock to encourage them to drink water and get the needed minerals.

Asin tibuok was widely produced in the coastal towns of the province, from Baclayon to Valencia, until its decline in the 20th century. The complexity of the process, the high production cost yet low profitability, and the implementation of Republic Act No. 8172 or the Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide (ASIN Law) are some of the factors that contributed to its decline. Asin tibuok’s production was documented by anthropologist Andrea Yankowski in 2006, and in collaboration with the NMP Bohol and Ethnology Division researchers from 2012 to 2022. The series of documentations was supported by the British Museum under the Endangered Material Knowledge Program, the Central Visayas Association of Museums, the Local Government Unit of Alburquerque, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Bohol.

Today, the Kapunongan sa Mang-Asinay sa Alburquerque, a local saltmaker cooperative, continues the traditional production and knowledge transmission of asin tibuok. The ku’n (earthenware pot) makers, salt producers, and basket weavers also developed a partnership for its promotion.

Learn more about the artisanal salt of Bohol and visit the newly opened exhibition at the NMP’s Bohol Area Museum and Satellite Office in Tagbilaran City entitled, Paglawig: The Boholano Way of Life, which has a special section on asin tibuok. The NM Bohol Area Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9AM to 5PM. Admission is FREE!

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