One thing I like about SM Malls lately is how they present Filipino products in an engaging way. The last time I was at the Kultura section at SM Department Store in North EDSA, tobacco-making is being demonstrated.
From the tobacco plantations, the leaves are fermented and aged for two years. After going through quality control procedures, they are places into varying classifications of wrapper, binder and filler. The classifications determine which blend would most suit the leaf.
Basic cigars are formed by wrapping filler tobacco in binder leaf. These are then placed in a mold that gives the cigar its shape. The molds are placed in a press overnight. The tobacco is then hand rolled into the cigar. The cigars are placed in an aging room to preserve and enhance the flavors.
Tobacco production became a stronghold of the Spanish colonial economy. It was towards the end of the 17th century when the Spanish galleon San Clemente brought to the country 200 ounces of Cuban tobacco seeds. These exquisite seeds were cultivated by the Spanish friars and flourished in the fertile region of Cagayan Valley, Isabela, a province in northern Luzon named after the Queen of Spain.
The Spanish administration became interested in all aspects of the production and trading of tobacco that it became a state monopoly in 1780. The tobacco monopoly, which was directed by the public Treasury, was a source of wealth in the 19th century.
In Manila, the Arroceros district was the home of the tobacco factory and warehouses, which provided jobs for 8,000 women and 1,500 men.
In 1881, the entire tobacco manufacturing industry in Manila became united and established the Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas. This union gave rise to what is known today as La Flor de la Isabela, a name given in honor of the province where the first Cuban seeds were first cultivated and flourished.
La Flor de la Isabel holds the title of being the first and oldest cigar factory in Asia and one of the oldest cigar companies in the world. Tabacalera is its oldest and most popular brand. Called as the Manila Cigar, it is described by discriminating cigar connoisseurs world-wide for its mild, sweet, and very spicy taste.