In the year 1786, the Spanish conquistadors expropriated Basi production and sales in the northern part of the Philippines because it was a big competitor against their own wines. The expropriation effectively banned private manufacture of sugar cane wine in the Ilocos region. By 1807, more than two decades later, the angry northerners marched to the present-day town of Piddig, Ilocos Norte to engage their Spanish conquistadors in battle. With Spain taking almost everything – their freedom, their beliefs – the 21-year-long sugar cane wine issue became the tipping point. The Basi Revolt resulted to a bloody battle that spread to nearby towns. A lot of lives were lost on both sides until Spanish troops marched to the north to quell the rebellion.
99 years later, a young man named Javier decided to get some Basi from the local market an hour walk away from his parent’s home in Batac. It was 1906, and 333 years of Spanish rule was already over. Javier bought some sugar cane wine from one of the local vendors and tasted it before he went home. He was disappointed. His family home, surrounded by sugar cane fields, was sitting on a hilly region of the northern province. Seeing the sugar cane around him, Javier decided that he will make his own Basi. He took some bark, seeds, and java plum to put a little flavour into the semi-sweet concoction. This is where Basi del Diablo started and Javier is my great-grandfather.
Later on, Javier married a girl named Honorata and they had eight children – seven boys and one girl. Javier taught his sons to make the Basi based on his recipe. When Javier’s first six sons grew up, America opened its doors to Filipinos and the boys decided to go there for better job opportunities. The youngest son, Benito, was much too young to go to America with his brothers. He ran after them, his lungs almost giving up on him, but the eldest, put him in a rice sack and tied the sack to a tree. Benito was left behind but with him lived the recipe of Javier. Years later, Benito opened a small store and sold Basi but that wasn’t enough. The 14-year-old craved for adventure and decided to walk from Ilocos Norte to Manila. He then found a job at a distillery in the Philippine capital.
Years later, Benito decided to go back home. He later opened a small store -his merchandise included Javier’s Basi and sold it for 10 centavos a cup.
For decades, Benito only sold his Basi to relatives and friends and those who would occasionally pass by his little shop. Storing the fermented sugar cane in clay jars just outside of his home located in the downtown area of Batac, he complained to his wife about thieves. The Basi kept going missing so Benito thought of something to keep the thieves at bay. He told one of his patrons that he saw a demon in his yard and that it lurked where he always kept his wine. From then on, no thieves came near his home. This is the part of the story where the brand got its name. ~Sigrid Salucop