Barako: What it means for the Tagalogs, The Philippines

Barako: What it means for the Tagalogs, The Philippines


Being a Tagalog, parents born and raised in the adjacent cities of Batangas, Quezon, and Mindoro, there is just one word that say so much about the Tagalogs—well, at least, from my perspective.


For Batangas or other Tagalog-speaking cities, ‘barako’ would refer to a male stud—one possessing macho qualities. The likes that would make women croon, or for some—get offended by the jockish display of masculinity. But, aren’t we just fond of them? I, for one, find them funny, sometimes, hilarious. Well, with the right kind of suaveness, the male barako would be a great catch—and an amusing date at that.

When one thinks of the barako, one might even think of the bulugan—or the male pig (or according to a friend, a male goat even), raised usually in the rural areas of Tagalog cities (or maybe even, in non-Tagalog cities). From what I know, the bulugan are aggressive, wild and untamed. Possessing the male qualities of the rest of the male species, at least as we know them to be–stereotypically.


Another usage has to do with being a bit too forward—or babara-barako and hence asserting that malesness and male pride, perhaps in front of friends, or relatives, or with one’s drink buddies.


But one of my favorite meaning so far is the ‘barako’ we consume at cafes, or at home usually in the morning. Usually boiled in pots or brewed, barako coffee’s strong sweet exotic aroma and taste is just one of my favorite barako so far. While there are so many varieties of coffee that one can avail of just by visiting Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and the likes, nothing comes close to one’s very own—kapeng barako!


So while the word ‘barako’ is replete with meanings, I guess it’s just about strength, toughness—characteristics not just of the above-mentioned coffees and people, but also of the Tagalogs in general. It pervades our very psyche. It’s part of who we are. It permeates our language, our viewpoint and the way we see things—from people, to pigs, to coffee, to actions. So here’s something I wrote about barako:

Barako ‘ka ko, ‘ka mo,
Mga batangenyong loko,
Loko barako, barako loko,
Masarap barako, loko,
Masarap, ‘ka mo, ‘ka ko,
Magpakaloko, sa barako
Magpakabarako, sa loko,
‘Ka ko, ako’y barako
‘Ka mo, ako’y loko, barako
Halibas, ng halibas ‘ka ko
Ang loko, ang barako,
Paloko-loko, pabara-barako.

Sa Batangas,
ang loko ay barako,
ang barako ay loko,
Masarap maging barako,
Masarap, magpakaloko,
Tara nang magpakabarako.
Humigop ng barako, loko.

Explanation in English of the poetry above: The different meanings of the word “barako” were juxtaposed together to mean coffee, male stud and the act of being too forward.

/// Written by Noah Maranan, The Philippines