My cellphone rang. It was a messenger call from a cousin in California. She is asking me to send her 100 pcs of buyos to them through someone who just had their vacation lately. I asked, can’t you make it there? The last time, I was abroad, I cooked my buyos and it turned out just like the good old buyos of the town of Aringay.

And of course, the answer would always travel back to the good old days where buyos made the town famous. The town of Aringay is around 240 kms north of Manila. It is in the province of La Union. It is mountainous in the eastern side and had long blacky sandy beaches in the west. The province of Pangasinan is at the southern border of La Union while the eastern portion is Benguet and the northern border is Ilocos Sur. It is abutted by the Lingayen gulf in the west.

Buyos had been a dessert fare in Aringay and had become popular in other towns. It originated in one sitio of San Benito Sur now more known as SUNBEAMS due to the neighborhood association. The original Makers were from the Dulatre family and had diverged among its descendants as well as neighbors. Sioning’s buyos was so popular during the 60’s. My mother used to send me to Auntie Sioning’s house. There were three reasons I fear going to the place. First, you pass by the cemetery before you reach their house. Second, you pass by a foot trail beside a bamboo forest. And thirdly, they have dogs which looked ferocious enough to bite you. But once you reached their house you calm down because of the waft of the buyos aroma. It was heavenly so to speak. Sioning’s buyos is so greatly popular that sometimes, it does not reach the market place anymore. All Auntie Sioning does in the market is to buy her viand and ready to take tomorrow’s life grinds again.The buyos is so popular that according to one narrative, another seller that of Banan’s buyos was peddled around the houses in Poblacion. The buyos is such a sell-out that it does not reach the market place for selling anymore. There is so-called branding with the buyos. If it is from Auntie Sioning or from the Banan’s it must be good and it is for abroad.

As with time, the buyos characters have also changed. As with Auntie Sioning, her daughter took the helm when she had aged. However, since most of Auntie Sioning’s kids graduated with professional courses and even the daughter who continued the trade became a teacher, their once source of income have changed. Some relatives like Manang Linda Soriano and the Garcia brood followed suit. The same story, once their kids graduated from college, they slowly drifted from the trade.

Now the buyos makers of Aringay belong to the 6th or 7th generation from the Dulatre clan of San Benito Sur. The daughter of Manang Linda continued the trade while Jovelyn Garcia Tudayan who is a 7th generation Dulatre buyos maker are the well-known buyos makers of Aringay. Tudayan diverged to other ‘kakanins’ aside from her famous buyos. There is also a buyos maker in Sta. Rita West and I am glad their kind has not disappeared from the map of the town.

There is always a heated discussion as to the nomenclature of the buyos. It has been labeled as the tupig. But for an Aringayeno, the tupig refers to the steamed grated cassava rolled in banana leaves. Tupig for other places like Pangasinan and Tarlac refers to the combination of rice and sticky dough, grated coconut together with sugar and rolled in banana leaves. It is cooked over hot burning coals. It has a sweet aroma that usually fills the air.

There is a great difference between the Aringay buyos and the Pangasinan and Tarlac tupig. For one, in consistency. The Pangasinan and Tarlac tupig are good to eat when warm and are just taken out from the coals. It is coconut in taste and sweet. But when cold, it becomes gritty, tenacious and hard. Even if it was reheated, it does not give out the freshness that it had. The Aringay buyos is different. It is made from select glutinous rice, churned in a rice mixer until very fine and mixed with coconut strips and sugar. It maintains its freshness and taste even as long for one month as long as it is frozen. What we usually do is to put the buyos at the microwave oven and one buyos softens to its delicious state in 30 seconds.

In recent months, a feature by a popular TV journalist featured the best buyos in La Union. And surprisingly, she featured the buyos from Agoo, La Union. Imagine the consternation of the Aringayenos who almost took up in arms just to say the buyos is a native of Aringay and now can’t even claim that they had the best buyos in the province.

Buyos has not been given the proper promotion as an industry in the town. Unlike for example the tupig in Villasis, it is being promoted in “pasalubong” counters, properly placed in a gift box. When the One Town One Product project of the DTI was launched, Aringay’s product that was promoted was the bangus. But when the Ong administration came into fore, the Uong Festival (Mushroom) was promoted, then when the Sibuma administration came, initially, it was Gamal Festival and was subsequently replaced by the Kilawen Festival. The lowly buyos that the town was popular from was lost in the grand ideas of promoting the mushroom from Sta. Rita East and the bangus from Dulao and Sto. Rosario. The buyos has lost center stage and was relegated into a booth during the festival with the booth manager making a remark that they sold more in the market than in the festival because of poor festival logistics and marketing. The “buyos” industry is losing ground from its area of origin because of social change as well as lack of government support and promotion. It’s demise is clearly in the works.
As we grapple with the problems faced by the buyos in its area of origin, meanwhile, the Municipal Tourism Council of Aringay is looking into possible ways to promote Aringay as a tourism center. We hope the buyos will find its niche in the tourism program. On the other hand, overseas Aringayenos continue to bring along with them buyos into their foreign homes. Some are rejected by strict customs officers but in general, the great majority of them are able to savor its aroma in their kitchens. And once the aroma pervades inside the house, they feel and sense that they are in their beautiful hometown called Aringay once again.