tira-tira balikutya balikutsa

It’s what many childhood memories are made of – raw caramelised sugar candies that have a bubbly texture as they melt in the mouth. Locally produced, they were sold in public markets or corner stores. Nothing fancy, just something sweet to satisfy a child’s sweet cravings.

I associate tira-tira (also called balicutya or balicutsa in Ilocano) with elementary school field trips, when our teachers would pack lots of candies and ices for those who get motion sickness to suck on. If nobody gets sick by the middle of the trip, our whole busload of hyperactive youngsters would get a ration of the treats!

Years later, I realise tira-tira is one of the icons of Filipino sweets. They originally came in only one form – 2 inch-long tubes, much like candy canes without the hook. Now I see they’re also made into hearts and curlicues. Tira-tira is taken from the Spanish for ‘pulling’ (tirar, from tirón – help! I can’t conjugate!), the process after boiling sugarcane juice with which the candy is made. This is fairly indicative of its beginnings in haciendas such as those found in Northern, Central and Southern Luzon. The sugar industry still thrives in the same provinces, as well as in Negros, where new sugar mills emerged in the 1800s. It is in these places where one finds pure chunks of sweetness for young and old to enjoy.

The picture above has the remnants of the packet my cousin gave me. Other traditional products from raw sugar such as inuyat and pinocha (panocha to Tagalogs) are still being produced and sold in the marketplace but we take these for granted. That of course piqued my curiosity. I would like to see how these are made! Hmmm… perhaps I can go on an adventure one of these days. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the three pieces of tira-tira.

Ramirez Store & Native Sugar
Vigan City Public Market
Mobile No. +639062520154

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