Bridging the Gap
Tultul-making in Hoskyn, Jordan, Guimaras
(Note: The writer was in Guimaras on January 28-29, 2006 for a research immersion with his graduate students)
About a kilometer away from the Jordan wharf in Guimaras is Barangay Hoskyn, home of the popular tultul, a brick-like kind of salt. The name Hoskyn is derived from the Hoskyn brothers -- Herbert Peter, Richard Franklin and Henry -- all nephews of Nicholas Loney, first British vice-consul in Iloilo. They established Hoskyn and Co. in 1877 along Calle Real in Iloilo City, reputed to be the first department store in the Philippines. They had, at that time, business interests in the area and had acquired lands in the place.
Tultul-making has become a rarity nowadays. There are only very few surviving "masters of the trade" in Western Visayas at present. In Guimaras, the traditional craft is kept alive by the husband-and-wife team of Serafin and Emma Ganila, both 55 years of age, whose residence is in Hoskyn. According to the couple, they are the only ones engaged in the manufacture of tultul in Guimaras today. In fact, their expressed main concern is that they are afraid that eventually tultul will disappear because no one from among their children is interested in continuing the tradition. The reason is that the process of making tultul is long and tedious, and requires hard work and discipline. Also, it cannot be done throughout the year because of the low salinity of seawater and lack of raw materials during the rainy season. Thus, it is limited only to the months of December to May, a period of six months.
Tultul-making in Hoskyn is an age-old tradition. According to the Ganila couple, both their families have been engaged in the craft for generations. Their grandparents and parents were known far and wide as "masters" of tultul-making in Guimaras. The market for tultul is not a problem because there is a high demand for it in both Panay and Negros Occidental. In fact, buyers from both islands come to Hoskyn to purchase tultul, except that the Ganila couple cannot sustain the supply. To get a better return, sometimes Emma peddles the tultul in the nearby municipalities of Guimaras and Iloilo during their market days.
The process of making tultul begins with the gathering of sacks full of dagsa, an assortment of reeds, twigs and small pieces of bamboo carried to the shore by the sea tide. These materials have been soaked in seawater for some time already. The gathered dagsa is then burned in large quantities while continually being doused with salt water on a daily basis. This step alone takes five days to accomplish.
As soon as there is enough quantity of ashes, they are collected and put inside two large kaing or bamboo containers put on an elevated platform. Seawater is then poured on the first kaing to wash down the salt from the ashes. The strained water that is caught below by a pail is poured on the second kaing and the process is repeated where the strained water is caught below.
The next step involves a hurnohan or cooking pan made out of large cooking oil tin containers. The hurnohan is composed of five rectangular containers measuring 3"x12"x14". The strained water is poured into the five containers arranged in such a way that there is fire below each of the container. While the cooking goes on small amount of the strained water from the kaing is continuously added to the container. This goes on for five hours until finally moisture from the solidified salt has completely evaporated and the finished product is left on the pan.
The finished tultul is called a bareta that weighs about twelve kilos. Tultul is heavy because it is too compact due to the long hours of cooking. The bareta is then cut sidewise and crosswise into fifty hiwa or cuts. A hiwa, which is about 1/2"x2"x2", is sold at P 10.00. The Ganila couple can only manage to process from fifteen to twenty bareta a month. One bareta costs from P500.00 to P600.00. The Ganilas therefore earn from P7,500.00 to P10,000.00 a month from making tultul, which is not bad considering the economic situation of the country. It is hoped that the tradition of making tultul will go on and that it will be a source of cultural pride for the future generation.