Lipa City – The Lipa City Tourism Culture and Arts Council is now preparing for the 2017 weeklong celebration of the Kapeng Barako Festival which is set to happen on October 16-21. Kicking off the festival is the city’s attempt to have a Guinness World Record for the longest line of people simultaneously drinking coffee. This will be done on October 16, from 6:00am to 9:00am on what the locals know as the Ayala Highway (part of the JP Laurel Highway which stretches from the Lipa City Hall up to Robinsons Lipa). Several coffee drinking stations will be installed along the stretch, while different business establishments will be providing freshly brewed “kapeng barako” for everyone to sip and enjoy.
Also on October 16 is the launching of the exhibit “Lipa History on Canvass” at SM City Lipa at 10:00am. The exhibit will feature the works of eight artists who volunteered to paint their renditions of the eight different historical eras of Lipa. The featured artists include Joseph Albao, Janina Sanico, Ravenald dela Cruz, Rex Tatlonghari, Rey Bautista, Robert Tiano, Mone Luz and Edward Padilla Jr.
Former Tourism Council President Mr. Alex Maralit will also showcase his illustrations of the Japanese atrocities in Lipa, while former history teacher Mr. Rex Raymond Torrecampo provided a short narrative of the different eras. The exhibit will run from October 16 to October 20. In the afternoon, the talent competition and casual wear competition of the candidates for Ginoong Barako 2017 will be presented at The Events Center of SM City Lipa at 5:00PM.
On October 18, a cooking contest dubbed as “Barako Chef” will be featured at the activity center of The Big Ben Complex. Headed by coffee connoisseur Nina Maralit, the contest will gather the best cooks around the city. Using Kapeng Barako or Liberica coffee as among the ingredients, the participants will be presenting their dish and recipe for entrée (main dish) and dessert.
Criteria for judging include taste 30%, texture/consistency 15%, technique used 15%, food safety & sanitation 15%, presentation 15% and people’s choice 10%. This activity aims to showcase coffee as an important flavor ingredient in savory and dessert dishes while providing a venue for Lipeño chefs and cooks to explore the culinary possibilities of Kapeng Barako as a major ingredient.
The highlight of the festival will be the pageant night and coronation of the Ginoong Barako at Lipa Plaza Independencia on October 21, where nine young men will vie for the title Ginoong Barako 2017. With its thrust to promote Kapeng Barako as one of Lipa’s historical heritage, the winner will be Lipa’s historical heritage ambassador.
Background of the Kapeng Barako Festival
In 1740, a Franciscan friar crossed the expanse of the Pacific on board one of the galleons and brought with him either three coffee trees or three cans of coffee beans. These he had planted outside a convent somewhere either in Laguna or Lipa.
Early in the nineteenth century, Don Gallo de los Reyes, the gobernadorcillo or town mayor of Lipa, probably having heard of the great demand for coffee around the world, made it mandatory for all inhabitants of Lipa to plant coffee trees. By 1859, as much as ⅔ of Lipa’s total land area was planted to coffee; and this was a time when Malvar and Mataasnakahoy were still part of the town.
Its coffee production was so high that it made the Philippines the fourth largest coffee producer in the world at the time. In recognition of Lipa’s “industry and virtue,” Maria Cristina, Regent Queen of Spain, bestowed upon the town the honor of being called “Villa de Lipa” on October 21, 1887. This elevated Lipa from being a municipality into a city. At this time land owners and hacienderos amassed a great amount of fortune that can last for generations.
Quoting Teodoro M. Kalaw in his book Aide de Camp to Freedom. “There was in those days, very much money. It was also lavishly spent. Calle Real (now CM Recto Avenue), where we live, was crowded with shops, stores and bazaars, just as Manila is today. In the afternoon, when the sons of the wealthy promenaded around the town, they were accompanied or rather, escorted by a host of servants who opened the way for them and protected them from the jostle of the populace. The poor and we of the middle class, contented ourselves with just watching from the sidewalks.”
Lipa City was then coined as “Paris of the Orient”. Regrettably, a fungus infestation beset coffee plantations around Lipa in the latter half of the nineteenth century, leading to a decline in production. The city status would subsequently be revoked and Lipa would revert to being a town.
The years 1859 to 1892 were the golden coffee years of Lipa. However, the palatial mansions that were built on this time was unfortunately razed to the ground during the World War II, Lipa being the second most devastated City in the Philippines.
To remind the Lipeños of their rich historical heritage, a city ordinance declaring the month of October of each year as the celebration of coffee festival in the city was enacted on November 7, 2005. Since then, the Lipa Tourism Culture and Arts Council has been tasked to organize a series of activities that will disseminate to the public on how coffee played an important role in the heritage of the Lipeños.