By Archie E. Nacional*
I remember that every time my mother my mother does her marketing chores, she always looks for budbud. So I wondered. What’s so special about this salt of Miagao? Why on earth is my mother so devoted to it?
Perhaps, this is the right time to satisfy my curiosity. I may learn much information about budbud while doing this article. I found out from the book of Failagao entitled “History of Miagao” that the salt-making industry in Miagao originated in Barangay Guibongan in the year 1823. Actually, from my personal interviews with budbud salt-makers, there are three salt varieties identified in Western Visayas. These are the budbud of Miagao, the baldoza and the Guimaras variants. They vary according to the method of producing the salt.
Of the three, Miagao’s budbud is the most unique and very traditional.
The salt is made on bamboo nodes. Several bamboo nodes are split lengthwise and set horizontally on posts about a meter from the ground. Coastal sand is placed inside these halves to serve as the filter. Then, sea water is poured into these bamboo splits and dried under the sun. And the finished product? Clearer, whiter and more crystalline salt. Not as salty as the other varieties.
In fact, budbud is classified as first class salt. The Baldoza variety is classified as class B. It uses bricks tiles or concrete as salt beds. The salt from Guimaras is said to be Class C.
Budbud making is also a tedious method compared to the two. To produce a clearer and more crystalline salt, salt-makers filter the crystal salts several times and rinse it with seawater. Thus, the output is of very high quality and worthy to be patronized by devoted buyers.
Miagao is the salt-producer for its neighboring towns like San Joaquin, Guimbal, Igbaras, Tubungan and even Tigbauan and Oton. In Miagao alone, budbud is patronized by many prominent families in town like the Flores, Moleta and Monteclaro families, who buy the sackful. The Miagao budbud is also sold in public markets of nearby municipalities in Iloilo.
I went to Barangay Guibongan to personally gather data about budbud. I found out that several decades ago, many of the residents were budbud makers. But when their economic conditions improved, many families gave it up. At present, only eight people in Barangay Guibongan continue the tradition of budbud making.
October, being rainy season, I didn’t see the salt-makers in their work field, at the shoreline. A certain person referred me to a salt-maker named Edna Fabon. She is 52 years old and has been a salt-maker for 23 years. I was amazed to learn that her husband Manong Santiago and their eldest son, 23 year old Simplicio are her partners in salt-making. Actually, Manang Edna learned salt-making from her parents, considered as very good salt-makers of Guibongan.
She confirmed that budbud is not an ordinary work. It takes 1 to 2 days to produce 1 sack of salt. In a month, the family of Manang Edna produces 15 sacks of salt which they sell at P1,500.00 to P2,000.00 per sack. It is quite expensive, but well worth it. “You’ll have your satisfaction with your meals when you use budbud salt,” that’s what Manang Edna assures.
Manang Fe Santiso and her husband are also salt-makers. During the summer season, the Santiso’s earn as much P17,000.00 a month.
But budbud is a dying tradition. Many have given up this industry when their lives started to improve. A number of former budbud makers in Guibongan who were able to send their children to school are now content to receive allotments from their OFW children. While this may be good for the families, this is also a threat to the budbud industry. Who knows? A few years from now, budbud making might no longer be practiced in Barangay Guibongan, Miagao. I hope this will not happen.
Personally, I want this budbud to be known not only in Western Visayas, but in other parts of the country as well. Not because I am a Miagawanon, but because this traditional method of salt production is unique and truly reflective of the rich culture of Ilonggos.
*Archie E. Nacional is a Fourth Year BA Community Development student at UPV Miagao. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.