Exploring Sugarlandia: A Taste of the Philippines with Don Papa Rum

Estimated read time 3 min read

I have always been fascinated by the stories surrounding Scotland’s whiskies. Tales of illicit stills, brave pioneers, families working together – and sometimes against each other – have been whispered through the barley fields and rushing rivers that contribute to the making of Scotch whisky. These stories, now often told in modern visitor centers, are still as enthralling as ever. The rich history of whisky adds to the experience of enjoying a dram and exploring distilleries.

So, when I received an invitation to visit Sugarlandia and uncover the story behind Don Papa rum, I was intrigued. Learning that the elegant figure on the rum’s label, along with Filipino flora and fauna, represents a revolutionary hero named Papa Isio who fought for the Philippines’ independence from Spanish rule in the 1890s, completely captured my imagination. As I traveled to Sugarlandia, also known as Negros Occidental, I dreamt of the thrilling tales that might originate from the sugarcane fields that are essential for rum production on the island.

After a short flight to Bacolod, the capital of Negros Occidental, I ventured south to explore Sugarlandia. The streets, lined with colorful homes and bustling with activity, painted a vivid picture of local life. Passing fields of sugarcane against the backdrop of Mount Kanlaon, an active volcano, highlighted the region’s fertile land and rich history. At Hacienda Santa Rosalia, the ancestral home of the Gaston family, I dined in a colonial-style house filled with family artifacts and old-world charm.

Visiting the Bago Distillery, where Don Papa rum is aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks, was a delight. Sampling the spirit at different stages of maturation gave me a deeper appreciation for the craft. The mill where the sugar cane is refined and molasses produced, showcased the traditional methods still used in harvesting. The Filipino angels, who claim a larger share of each cask’s contents due to the tropical climate, seemed quite content with their rum reserves.

Evening brought a lavish dinner at The Ruins, the remains of a grand mansion set aflame during World War II. Local delicacies and Don Papa cocktails set the stage for an unforgettable evening, surrounded by history and culture. The Masskara Dancers, with their vibrant performances, embodied the Filipino spirit of celebration.

A trip to Danjugan Island, a marine reserve, offered a glimpse of The Philippines’ diverse wildlife. Snorkeling among colorful sea creatures and encountering fruit bats in a cave added to the adventure. Returning to Punta Bulata, a beachside paradise in Negros, provided the perfect setting for relaxation. A massage, delicious mangoes, and a beachside boodle fight feast, washed down with a Don Papa Masskara cocktail, rounded off my journey through Sugarlandia.

As I savored the flavors and experiences of Sugarlandia, I couldn’t help but appreciate the rich stories and traditions that make Don Papa rum so special. The fusion of history, culture, and nature in this enchanting destination left me with memories to treasure and a newfound appreciation for the art of rum-making. Cheers to unforgettable journeys and the spirits that make them truly remarkable!

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