It would be a sad Christmas for the loved ones of people who died after drinking lambanog
or palm wine in the days leading to Christmas Day.
Rizal Mayor Vener Muñoz said that the death toll has climbed to 15 on Christmas Day Eve on Tuesday after two more residents of Rizal town in Laguna died Tuesday morning at the Philippine General Hospital and Rizal Medical Center.
This brings to 12 the total number of deaths in Rizal town, while three others were also killed in the town of Candelaria town, Quezon due to alcohol poisoning from the same concoction.
Aside from the reported deaths, at least 300 people complained of stomach pains and were hospitalized after drinking the wine over the weekend.
Muñoz said the seven fatalities from Rizal town came from the same holiday celebration last Friday. The mayor immediately declared Laguna under a state of emergency Monday to provide financial aid to the victims.
Meanwhile, Munoz said 28 more residents voluntary had themselves admitted to hospitals after ingesting lambanog as advised by their neighbors and loved ones.
Meanwhile, Laguna has banned the sale of lambanog as authorities probe alcohol poisoning.
“Lahat po ng tao samin takot na po talaga uminom. Kahit siguro magtinda sila nang patago, siguro wala pong (bibili),” said Munoz, who added that the elderly woman who sold bottles of the liquor got her goods from Candelaria town.
The same woman has reportedly fallen ill due to worry over the incident, preventing investigators from getting her statement, police said Tuesday.
“Naospital po iyong matandang babae na retailer po ng lambanog. Natakot siguro dahil sa mga pangyayari, sa dami ng mga namatay sa pag-inom ng lambanog na ibinibenta niya,” said Laguna police chief Col. Eleazar Matta.
(The elderly woman who sold the wine was hospitalized. She was probably scared by what happened, the number of those who died after drinking the wine she sold.)
A certain Fred Rey, owner of the 4-decade old wine brand “Rey Lambanog,” appeared before police on Monday and claimed innocence over the deaths.
“Ilang dekada na raw po silang nagnenegosyo ng lambanog, dini-deny niya na may problema sa pagma-manufacture nila,” the police chief said ina radio interview.
(He said he has been in the lambanog business for decades. He denied there was a problem with their manufacturing.)
But Muñoz said that “Rey Lambanog” had a high amount of methanol, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits from being used as an extender of ethanol or legal alcohol.
According to Jonas del Rosario, spokesman for the Philippine General Hospital, methanol can cause blindness and death.
He added that some manufacturers keep the methanol in because it means greater volume and more profit.
Last year, more than 10 people died from drinking coconut wine, samples of which were found by the government regulator to have high methanol content.
Rey, who was not arrested, promised to help shoulder the victims’ expenses.
Most of the coconut wine in the market is manufactured by locals in backyard operations. The government had previously warned against selling unregistered alcoholic beverages.
READ: Lambanog poison kills four in Tarlac