The Beer Facts ; Or why beer drinking is a good index of Filipino happiness

- Wilson Lee Flores () - June 19, 2001 - 12:00am
Fernando Poe Jr., the late comedian Bert "Tawa" Marcelo and many other pop icons have in TV commercials pushed beer drinking as part of the country’s tradition of exuberant fiestas, celebrations and camaraderie. The country’s greatest living novelist and National Artist Nick Joaquin is also said to be happiest and most artistically productive while drinking beer.

Although Southeast Asia’s first ever brewery was concocted by a member of the Spanish colonial elite in 1890 and after whom the once fashionable district around Malacañang Palace was named after, subsequent owner Don Andres Soriano and his son Andres Soriano Jr. elevated beer into a veritable national drink loved by Filipinos from all walks of life. It is ironic that self-confessed drinker Joseph Estrada, despite his campaign cry "Erap Para sa Mahirap," is reputed to prefer expensive hard liquor like the finest red wines such as the Petrous brand or Johnny Walker Blue – not the average person’s affordable beer.
Beer Consumption Suffers In Economic Crisis
How have the economic slowdown and the recent political turbulence been affecting the happiness of the people and the average consumption of the national beverage? When the country hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir made a memorable remark in a business forum in response to a Westerner’s comments about the "McDonald’s Index" as a measure of consumer spending. The Malaysian leader corrected him, saying that in the Philippines, the correct term would be the "Jollibee Index." In the question of happiness, perhaps an accurate measure of the people’s level of happiness is the amount of beer consumed.

Asia Brewery, Inc. (ABI) executive vice-president Michael "Mike" Tan told this writer that during an economic crisis and when people are sad, beer sales suffer and more people drink hard liquor. His firm is the Philippine producer of "Beer na Beer," the world’s biggest selling brand "Budweiser," "Colt 45" and the Texas state brew "Lone Star."

He said, "It seems that people want to drown their sorrows more with hard liquor, to forget their problems. I hope the country’s economy improves dramatically, because people will drink more beer if they are happier and if they have more money in their pocket."

A top official of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) said that before, whenever world copra prices went down, leading to less income for coconut farmers and their families, beer sales in many provinces likewise declined. As part of efforts to counter a possible beer sales slowdown, SMC recently launched its unique tequila-based beer called "Texquila."

Although the Philippines lags behind most of Asean countries in economic growth and was recently surpassed by Vietnam in tourist arrivals, the country remains a major power in beer production and consumption. SMC vice chairman Ramon Ang said, "In terms of volume of beer produced, the Philippines ranks fifth in the Asia Pacific region, following China, Japan, Australia and South Korea. If we exclude the more developed economies of Japan and Australia and the highly-fragmented China market, San Miguel will be one of the larger players in the region. Among the Asean countries, we are the biggest in terms of volume."
Why Beer Is Good For The Health
When the Philippine economy started to suffer from the repercussions of the jueteng scandal late last year, this writer surprised friends and relatives by starting construction of a three-storey restaurant, bar, art gallery and entertainment center on Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City. The source of surprise was the two bars inside the establishment which sold a lot of beer and other liquors along with Filipino and Spanish foods. Despite having good music, artworks by talented painters and a wholesome ambience, still the idea of selling beer seemingly has an unsavory connotation for some people. The image problem of beer is not actually in the beer itself, which is actually cleaner and healthier than many popular drinks, but in people’s abuse and excessive consumption of beer. Also, seedy establishments peddling raunchy entertainment have become popularly known as "beer houses" or "beer joints."

In the late medieval era, the surgeon Paracelsus declared that "beer is a divine medicine." The German Brewers Association spokesman Erich Dederichs recently told media that the harmful effects of abuse created the wrong and inaccurate impression that beer itself is harmful.

Why is the most popular Filipino drink beer not only not harmful, but actually good for the health?

• On beer bellies

Studies show that drinking beer in moderation and eating healthful foods won’t cause a person to grow fat. I think that many beer drinkers have grown too complacent, prone to only relax, forgetting to take up sports or regular exercises.

• On beer and wine calories

A study showed that a 210-milliliter glass of wine has 155 kilocalories, a glass of sparkling wine has 170, while a glass of beer contains only 90 kilocalories.

• Beer drinking reduces risk of heart disease.

The International Center for Health and Society at the University College of London published results of a study last year, which showed that men between the ages of 25 and 64 who drank beer regularly in moderate quantities had the least danger of heart disease. In fact, scientific studies show that men who drank between four to nine liters of beer per week had the least risk of suffering from heart disease. Nine liters is equivalent to 27 bottles of Budweiser or San Mig Light, or about four bottles per day. Beer has polyphenols, which has many positive health effects, being anti-inflammatory and can guard against vascular disaster.

• Beer drinking helps prevent cancer.

Studies show that beer has xanthohumol, which may play a role in cancer prevention.

• Beer drinking gives "good cholesterol."

It is an undisputed scientific fact that the alcohol in beer affects the metabolism of our cholesterol, because it lowers the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is also called "bad cholesterol." Too much of bad cholesterol in the blood causes arterio-sclerosis. With increased beer drinking, the proportion of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good cholesterol" also increases in the body.
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Please send comments/suggestions to wlfsales@info.com.ph or P.O. Box 14277, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
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