Baya, a rice wine made in the Ifugao province of the northern Philippines, is made from an indigenous variety of glutinous rice fermented using a native woody herb called onwad as a yeast agent. Traditionally, extracting the wine is surprisingly fast – the liquid drains over one to two days from a rice basket into an ancient jug. Notable is the aromatic fragrance given off by the fermenting rice, with notes of preserved pineapple and cognac. The biggest surprise is the flavor: the first impression is of a sweet wine, but its lasting character is like a heartwarming, high quality cognac. Baya is a sacred drink, a medium to reach the blessing of the “Skyworld,” as known to the indigenous Ifugao tribe. It is generally believed to date back as far as 2000 years, based on the age of the highland rice terraces. A shaman, or in local parlance, mumbaki, chants prayers using the baya as offering to the pagan gods for bountiful harvest and protection of the crops and fields. Certain rice terraces are specifically set aside for grown the glutinous variety for rice winemaking. Today, the ancient technique and pure baya winemaking is a vanishing practice. Drinks called baya are sold commercially for tourists, but they are not the pure spirit. Its commercialization threatens not only the growing environment (planting varieties in excess of land capacity), but also the original culture from which it was born. Pure baya is as much a part of the traditional Ifugao society as the poetry chanted by the high priest in the native language.