In the 18th century, salt-making technology was introduced to the fishing village known as Las Piñas using solar dry beds. Over time, hundreds of hectares surrounding the old town were converted into salt beds known as “irasan”.
Later, clay tiles or gibak were brought down from as far away as Vigan to line the salt beds. This prevented the salt from coming into contact with the ground and allowed the salt to become as while as snow and established the reputation of Las Piñas as a salt-making center.
During harvest time, the scenery of Las Piñas was filled with small pyramids of white crystals. The salt was graded and classified as either tertia, segunda and primera.
Tertia salt had the most impurities and was darkest in color. This salt was used with dry ice to preserve ice cream.
Segunda salt was used to preserve fresh fish. The wholesale seafood trading communities in Navotas and Malabon were the main buyers of segunda salt.
But Las Piñas was most known for its primera or first class salt which is fabled to be as white as snow. Primera salt was distributed to all public markets of Manila and used to flavor fine dishes.
The reclamation of the bay area and the subsequent construction of the Coastal Road disrupted salt production. The dredging and construction work prevented fishermen from going out to sea. Bulk of the salt produced began falling into the lower priced segunda and tertia categories. Salt imported from other countries like China and India were offered at lower prices. These developments brought an end to the salt production industry, which is now just a memory of Las Piñas’ past.
In 2005, an Irasan Center was constructed where visitors could view a salt bed demonstration in commemoration of Las Piñas’ once much celebrated industry.
Did you know that a Roman solider was paid for his services with an allowance of salt called “salarium?” It is said that this is where the word “salary” is derived.