23 Mar2009

Fresh Sugar Cane

by Marketman


As a child, we often purchased fresh sugar cane on our way to the beach in Batangas. I was always fascinated by the fact that everything sweet (or at the time anything that contained sugar) came fromt these fibrous, chewy, juicy and sweet stalks of what is a type of grass, if I am not mistaken. So on our recent trip to Negros, I stopped to take these photos of freshly harvested cane that was being loaded up on a truck, ready to be transported to the mill nearby…


The freshly cut and partially tidied up or cleaned canes were laid neatly on the field. Workers then grabbed a bunch and slung them over their shoulder and walked up this wooden plank to load them onto the truck.


Not easy work for a day’s minimum wage, but I appreciate my sugar even more after these few minutes spent on the field photographing them. I understand there are several varieties of sugarcane, and when I asked if these made for good munching, it seems there were other better types of cane that were best for chewing on directly…


…and just minutes later, our host for the day presented a platter of peeled and cut sugar cane, harvested from a nearby field. How sweet is that? And the cane, was incredibly sweet and juicy and not at all difficult to chew on. We brought some back to Manila, and even a day later, they were still incredibly succulent. Yum. :)



  1. yel says:

    MM, sorry to post this inquiry here. But i am obsessed with puto now. Can you share the puto recipe pero yung ordinary na walang ube. Please! By the way, na homesick ako sa mga pics. I suddenly thought of my youngster years when we ambushed trucks delivering tons of sugarcane to the processing plants in san fernando pampanga. We run after those trucks and we pull the overhanging canes at the back of the truck. Tapos tambay lang sa kanto to wait for more victims. Hehehe!!! Gone are those days! Tnx!

    Mar 23, 2009 | 6:19 am


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  3. misao says:

    i’ve worked on a project about muscovado sugar a couple of years ago. watching the farmers harvest and toil to make the product made me appreciate their labor. especially the small-scale ones… very manual labor, so little return.

    of topic… like yel, i’m looking for a puto recipe… the plain white fluffy, soft and slightly chewy ones being sold at palengkes. those that are cut in single-serve diagonal pieces and come in big bilaos lined with banana leaves. hope you (or anyone here) can help. thanks!

    Mar 23, 2009 | 6:37 am

  4. Ging says:

    Brings back memories of childhood vacations at the farm :-)

    Mar 23, 2009 | 6:41 am

  5. millet says:

    ohhh..childhood memories. same size sticks, but chilled.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 6:41 am

  6. solraya says:

    They say the best sugar canes for munching on are the ones with purple skin (if that’s what you call it) :)

    It is supposed to be easier to chew and juicier.

    Do you get to juice sugar cane? It is very good and refreshing. I enjoy it far better than munching on one.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 6:58 am

  7. Vince says:

    People work hard doing that job. Specially in a really hot season. Having strong teeth is a must to peel off the skin on them canes.


    Mar 23, 2009 | 7:10 am

  8. marilen rodriguez says:

    Homesick, homesick, that is what you have done to the lot of us!! Thank you for your keen eye and interest and wit and (compassion, beside) in all that you do!

    Mar 23, 2009 | 7:23 am

  9. Dee says:

    Oh my, brings back so many memories of childhood summers spent in Silay :)

    Mar 23, 2009 | 8:19 am

  10. Mila says:

    My nanny would bring back sugarcane from Ilocos, she’d hack them apart at the knobby sections, peel the bark, then hand me a large stick of sugarcane. I think years of munching on sugarcane helped keep my teeth cavity free! Flossing without knowing it lol.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 8:20 am

  11. Quillene says:

    I miss those wooden carts of ambulant vendors of sugarcane I used to call over during my childhood. Every so often around 3-4pm, they’d call out and we kids would run out of the gate to buy 3 sticks each and munch hapily on the stalks, with the juices running down our elbows…

    Ah, the wonderful days of childhood!

    Mar 23, 2009 | 8:44 am

  12. B says:

    The black one is supposed to be the better eating cane, but the white/green ones in our garden seem to do fine

    Mar 23, 2009 | 8:44 am

  13. lee says:

    and the Bacolod – Negros series continues

    Mar 23, 2009 | 8:55 am

  14. shalimar says:

    I always shop for pure cane sugar, though at work we have all variety of sugar one can imagine… (we are spoiled I suppose)… one day I was telling a crew mate how I used to chew sugar cane and he listened with so much fascination.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 9:02 am

  15. Chris Davis says:

    Those pictures brought back a lot of memories :)
    My father was an avid gardener and one of the things we had in the garden was sugar cane. It was the dark purple skinned ones. They were a favorite late afternoon treat in the summer heat.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 9:36 am

  16. chinchai says:

    The sweetest sugarcane, I believe are the La Carlota variety. Those with dark purple skin. These were not so common in Negros, mas mahal ito compared to ordinary varieties. Normally, these are planted somewhere in the middle of the sugarcane fields kasi ito ang madalas ninanakaw. Ang likod ng bahay namin sa Negros ay tubuhan, and when we were kids, we would go inside the tubuhan to harvest a few stalks for personal consumption. Some families who doesn’t own a toilet would just go inside the tubuhan to relieve themselves from nature’s call. The sugarcane’s flowers called “baraho” is used for making parols during x-mas season.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 10:01 am

  17. Rhea says:

    Yup, that’s right! It’s the La Carlota variety [with the purple skin] that’s the sweetest. Medyo mahirap nga lang siya kainin compared to the rest as the length between knobs is shorter compared to the green varieties.

    When my Dad was alive, he had a fleet of trucks to haul these cut sugarcanes to the mill. And if the load was La Carlota, then he would need to guard his load else children in the village would steal some for their snacks.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 11:15 am

  18. angelbride says:

    There was also a sugarcane variety called “71” which is purplish and very soft to chew and is very sweet. When i was in elementary grade, there’s a field planted with “71” on the way to school and all the kids in my neighborhood would go by there and take one or two branches-on the way to school or home. When it was harvest time there was barely anything left in that field and i think the owner of the hacienda did not plant that variety anymore. I don’t blame him! I remember my nanay used to make pulot out of fresh sugarcane in the farm and it was so good we eat it with rice when we kids in the house didn’t want uga for sud-an. Also, the sugarcane flowers we call bilaho is great and priceless to make x-mas parol for a school decoration or for the house. Give me some of those gigantic-straw-like bilaho anytime and I’ll make it a x-mas star for you. Great memories, and thanks MM for this everyday reminders of where I grow up and I used to enjoy.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 11:18 am

  19. natie says:

    my siblings and i owe our college education to sugar cane… i also “remember when…”

    Mar 23, 2009 | 11:27 am

  20. Vyanski says:

    Yum! It has been YEARS since I last had sugar cane – and my mom told me that I used to call them “branch ng tree” hehe.

    Anyway, I was just thinking, can shredded sugar cane be used as an alternative to shredded coconut? I happen to saw bibingka in a magazine and remembered that MAYBE, one can just shred sugar cane rather than putting shredded coconut and sugar? But then again, this idea applicable ASSUMING one has an abundant or ready supply of good sugar cane nearby.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 11:48 am

  21. luna miranda says:

    these photos bring back childhood memories. my grandfather planted the La Carlota variety in a small track of land to entice us kids to stay in the property rather than chase the trucks that haul tubo. our summers were spent with a relative living in the hacienda, the sugarcane fields were our playground—we rode horses and carabaos, bathe under the sprinklers, climbed trees and munched tubo as much as we can. i was told that munching tubo is good for the gum & teeth. my mom said we looked like a bunch of aetas by the end of summer.:D

    Mar 23, 2009 | 12:27 pm

  22. Lex says:

    Yes, the variety of sugar cane that was best known for chewing is called “La Carlota”. It was soft to chew and easy to peel with just the teeth. Less of them are available in favor of sturdier varieties that withstood harsh weather conditions. They are less tempting also to people who would grab them from them trucks passing by.

    Hard to imagine that we have to buy sugarcane here in Manila. This was so taken for granted living in Negros province.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 3:25 pm

  23. Diwata08 says:

    We had a few stalks of the LA CARLOTA sugarcane in our backyard in Bukidnon when I was a child too. I remember they had those fine hairy things of the leaves that were itchy when it gets on your skin. The stalks were soooo juicy and sweet and a little itch was small sacrifice. Kaya, kawawa naman ang mga manong na nagbibitbit ng tubo sa truck. Anyway… back to Manila…I wonder if they still have that cart in Luneta that sold Sugarcane juice?

    Mar 23, 2009 | 5:52 pm

  24. Marketman says:

    Is this the la carlota variety of sugar cane?

    Mar 23, 2009 | 6:44 pm

  25. Homebuddy says:

    The purple ones called “alunan” is juicier and best for chewing because they are softer. The green ones are hard and best for milling although they can be chewed if you have hard and strong teeth, “hehehe”

    Mar 23, 2009 | 8:39 pm

  26. Apicio says:

    Pangus is the verb we used for biting off a mouthful of sugar cane and simultaneously and noisily extracting and sucking out the juice. A length of it went for five centavos (circa 1960) and it was the cheapest and most thorough way of getting a dental cleaning and gum workout ever. I used to get around the hard nodes by chewing around the softer spans much like a beaver. Still grateful that my two front teeth did not develope into powerful buck teeth like Apeng´s.

    Mar 23, 2009 | 10:22 pm

  27. noes says:

    my mom used to plant the white one.

    Mar 24, 2009 | 1:40 am

  28. Maria Clara says:

    With our surplus of labor, it makes a lot of sense to me why we do not switch to mechanical farming. Why invest on state of the art trailer tractor with conveyor belt which required maintenance money to keep it up and running where we have abundance of labor and lots of willing body to do the work. It is meager earnings for them whatever is the prevailing wage for them – it is still better than no income at all. Same basic reason I patronize our own muscovado sugar to support our day laborers.

    Mar 24, 2009 | 3:23 am

  29. consol says:

    sugar cane a.k.a. ‘tubo’ as we called it when we were kids …. sarap! so sweet but hindi nakaka-umay. we were told then that gnawing and chewing on it helps make your teeth stronger. we bought the ‘tubo’ from pushcart-pushing :-) vendors in sta. ana.

    years later, it is sugarcane juice naman in chinatown, savored during a photojournalism jaunt with my professor. so refreshing!

    Mar 24, 2009 | 6:12 am

  30. Ipat says:

    Wish it were true that everything sweet came from these. I think by now, in processed foods in particular, sugar cane has been overshadowed by high fructose corn syrup. I shudder to think that that does to taste buds of kids growing up now who might never have chewed on cane (di oa nakapangos ng tubo).

    By the way, MM, eager to know what you think about the creamed spinach of Cris Comerford that is now all the rage. Read all about it here and check the links, too.

    Mar 24, 2009 | 10:42 am

  31. evel says:

    oh, i love “tubo” too!..even now, whenever i see some stores selling “tubo”, halos pakyawin ko na…and then after peeling and bite-size cutting, would be put in the ref..sarrrap!

    Mar 24, 2009 | 10:55 pm

  32. ted says:

    When i was in grade school and when the school is out and visits my lolo/lola’s place, we go out to the farm after the canes have been harvested, they actually cut them at the bottom and leave the roots, well there are actually still about 8-10inches of sugar cane buried on the ground, and we will harvest this, clean and eat them. Same with the sinkamas, after the harvest we go out and look for unharvested sinkamas.

    Mar 25, 2009 | 2:53 am

  33. fembot says:

    The Ilocos tubo is soft and juicy which I like better than the thick, reddish, hard tubo from pampanga, I think.

    Mar 25, 2009 | 4:24 am

  34. chinchai says:

    I think in Binondo there is a street vendor who sells La Carlota variety somewhere near Binondo church. I’m planning to go back there before Holy Week to buy some pirated “debedee” for my dvd marathon. I hope I could still find that “Manong” there. Chilled tubo, coming up!

    Mar 25, 2009 | 11:43 am

  35. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Remember eating tubo and getting all the juice on the front of your shirt. It was so good…I came across sugar cane machines in Bangkok and even in Divisoria—squeezing out the juice and going straight into a glass. Good! But somehow,the old way of eating/drinking sugar cane juice was way better.
    Thanks MM for making us remember those good ole days….

    Mar 25, 2009 | 8:04 pm

  36. adrian says:

    the labor involved to make sugar is back breaking – so who ever said the Filipinos are lazy? Am in the business of producing sugar and I always pray for a day when our antiquated system of loading and hauling cane can be put to rest. See you here the next time Market Man – I hear you have a Part 2 on Negros…

    Mar 26, 2009 | 8:19 am

  37. andy says:

    hello adrian,
    where is your sugar business located in the phils? i’m quite interested…

    Mar 27, 2009 | 2:16 pm

  38. adrian says:

    its right nere in negros occidental, talisay to be exact – am lucky as it is very near the house where i live. what about you andy?

    Apr 1, 2009 | 7:47 am

  39. emsy says:

    we used to have sugarcane plants in the backyard that just won’t die…i loved harvesting them, peeling the tough skin and munching on the stems. my grandma would often say that i looked like a goat doing that.

    Nov 20, 2009 | 11:21 am

  40. onil dee says:

    oh my!! i miss it!! naglalaway tuloy ako!!

    Jul 23, 2010 | 11:24 am


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