Why a Rum Festival?

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

NEXT month Bacolod will celebrate a Rum Festival, officially sanctioned by an ordinance. The organizers explain that Bacolod cuisine and Sabor Bisaya will be part of the event, but rum is the centerpiece. Sabor Bisaya is a trade promotion scheme to showcase native food in Negros that creates a sense of pride to all.

But the Rum Festival is inappropriate and retrogressive, contrary to the need to teach people how to live a healthful life. The festival’s name glorifies inebriation of alcohol drinking and celebrates a Bacchanalian feast of the ancient Greeks and the Romans that involves heavy consumption of wine to the point of losing self- control. Sabor Bisaya seems to be the icing to a poisonous cake.

There are beer and wine festivals. Octoberfest in Germany is widely known. Wine producing regions have their festival. I attended a wine festival in Normandy, France and in Amsterdam, that went with eating various kinds of cheese and induced sleep.

The strength or alcohol content called “proof” of wine, beer and rum is different. Wine has an alcohol content of from 3% to 17% while beer has 3% to 11%. Rum, on the other hand has 80% proof while whiskey’s content can increase up to 95%. Beer and wine thus are usually considered food and not as alcoholic drinks although in large quantity can cause drunkenness.

To call the new Bacolod event as a Rum Festival projects the image that this city is into drunkenness rather than the best part which is the sampling of its best cuisine. The festival name is already a deterring factor, for who would come to a festival that will draw drinkers of hard liquor or drunkards? The organizers covered up the promotion thrust with a wide variety of food because of the negative alcohol tag.

True the festival is a tourist attraction but what kind of tourists – food connoisseur or heavy drinkers who will find a good excuse to guzzle alcohol? Is the city encouraging drinking alcohol?

That the city has issued an ordinance for this festival runs counter to the intent of President Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the Nation Address where he urged stricter measures against alcohol consumption. He wants limitations including higher taxes, called sin taxes because alcohol is an occasion for sins.

Will not, in fact, the Rum Festival encourage consumption of alcohol?  Alcohol must be“good for one’s health” as to be an official festival.

We know the accumulating health problems that arise from the consumption of alcohol. The increasing number of people queuing up for dialysis and its heavy cost attest to the problems that arise from alcoholic drinks. Indeed, so dangerous is alcohol that in almost every country the consumption of alcohol with high concentration are strictly controlled due to their negative impact on health, especially the liver, the heart, the bone joints, the brain and the kidney, not to mention the hazards of drunkenness in driving, disturbance of peace and order and family life.

In some countries, the imbibing of alcohol is totally banned. The Church and almost every denomination proscribe alcoholic drinks except as part of their food or for health, like wine.

By this festival, Bacolod is taking a dangerous and even evil road for its citizens. It is the wrong way to teach the young and the old about healthy living and civic harmony. I cannot overemphasize the hazards of hard liquor because city officials know that and yet they are projecting the idea that alcohol consumption is good enough that the city even officially endorses it.

The sugar industry is presented as a beneficiary because rum is distilled from sugar. This explanation reveals the main purpose, thus the festival’s name, to encourage rum consumption to benefit private interests. Truth is we produce enough molasses to meet market demands while alcohol consumption is declining.

Sadly, the city is cheering people to a bacchanalian fest rather than to avoid alcohol completely for obvious reasons.

The producers of rum, whiskey, vodka, brandy, and even bootlegged drinks will surely gain tremendous impetus for their officially endorsed consumption. What multi-million advertisement can match this festival?

Can’t the city just have a food festival? Is Bacolod trying to spite the President? Are the rum producers taking up the tabs, and more? Where are our religious, moral and health leaders?