(August 31, 2010 – November 29, 2010)

Traditional Ways of Milling Sugarcane in Ilocos Norte

Driving along the countryside during summertime in Ilocos gives a picturesque view of rows and rows of sugarcane plants. These tall plants belonging to the grass family grow favorably in tropical climate. They are among the main crops in Ilocos because they are sources of sweet juice called sucrose, a substance that can be processed to produce sugar. This sucrose is extracted from the sugarcane stalks by the process known in Ilocos as dapil or panagdapil.

Before modern versions of the sugar mill were introduced, the dadapilan was the only machine used to extract the sweet juice from the sugarcane stalks. In a cool outdoor setting, the dadapilan made from sagat tree, composed of two huge cylindrical parts designed to extract the juice from the sugarcane stalks was a common scene in the farms. This machine is powered by a blindfolded carabao or cow hitched to the end of a log attached to the mill. As the carabao walks in circle around the mill, the juice is squeezed from the stalks fed into the mill. This sucrose called bennal is collected in a container called silyasi. The bennal is boiled in a huge vat called sinublan and is used to produce molasses of different types, basi (wine), or vinegar. The refined molasses become sugar which is the most commercialized product from sugarcane. All these sugarcane products are means of livelihood for the farmers and their families.

Panagdapil is an arduous task but it is not all sweat and hard work. After the dapil is completed, it is party time for the neighbors, young and old. Some delightful snacks made from banana shoots, papaya strips, young coconut strips candied in the bennal called kalti are served with other sweet delicacies. It is merrymaking time where the farmers may even drink to a toast of basi, as sweet smell hangs in the air.


Dadapilan is a wooden sugar mill made of sagat (molave), composed of two cylindrical mills for extracting out the juice of the sugarcane. The dadapilan is powered by a circular motion of a carabao hitched at the end of a log attached to the mill.

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