Sino ba si Datu Puti?


by Karla Rey, for Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Most campaigns around the world are built around a smile, a winning expression or a pretty face, but one brand has to take a contradictory road — making a super asim face — and made it an iconic, signature identity.

Datu Puti vinegar came into the market in 1975, owned by the Reyes family. The local condiment brand was one of the earliest to invest in advertising and promotions, and it paid off big time: the "Mukhasim," a mash-up for "mukha" (face) and "asim" (sour), that literally means "sour face", paved the way for the brand's mass recognition and unprecedented sales.

Sino ba si Datu Puti?

It is true that there was, in fact, a Datu Puti. He was "one of the 10 Bornean Datus to arrive in Iloilo before the Spanish colonization" (according to Wikipedia). However, this pre-colonial chieftain has no connection with how Datu Puti vinegar was named. The brand name actually came from combining the surname ("datu") of the mother of the family who introduced it in the market, and the Filipino word for "white", from the color of the traditional "sukang paombong" or palm vinegar, which Datu Puti is derived from. What to use for the logo was a no-brainer.

The first ever Mukhasim campaign was unleashed in the early 1980s, and featured an elderly Conrado Piring, or more popular as Pugak (of the Pugak & Tugak comedic tandem that rose to fame in the 1950s), in datu clothes. But it was Pugak's iconic Mukhasim that was most remembered and is resurrected time and again.

Clip courtesy of Datu Puti/NutriAsia

The 80s campaign gained even more ground with sponsored segment in the popular noontime show Eat Bulaga, where game studio viewers attempted to put on their best "Mukhasim" face for prizes.


Through the years, the Mukhasim campaign has had top celebrities as endorsers, all willing to contort their faces for the sourest expressions upon a taste of the vinegar.

Judy Ann Santos did the "asim na 'di bitin" in 2008 and the Mukhasim Facetival commercial featured three of the hottest stars of local television that time: Ina Raymundo, Carmi Martin and Eula Valdez. The Mukhasim campaign of these three lovely ladies in 2009 featured an open invitation for consumers to show their most mukhasim faces and get featured for a new commercial.

Kain na, Kamao!

This year, Datu Puti nabbed their biggest endorser with no less than the Pambansang Kamao, Manny Pacquiao, along with his almost-as-famous mother, Mommy Dionisia.

Their full length commercial combines Datu Puti Vinegar and Datu Puti soy sauce makes an entertaining fictional story of how Manny met his wife Jinkee, how he was discovered and how he became a champion boxer.

Kung May "Puti," May "Itim" din?
Datu Puti has now been a trusted brand for 35 years, and has expanded their product family: Datu Puti Soy Sauce (which apparently would have taken the name Datu Itim) in 1996; Datu Puti Patis (fish sauce) in 1999. Also in the product line are Datu Puti Spiced Vinegar, Datu Puti Premium Lite Soy Sauce, Datu Puti Premium Sugar Cane Vinegar, and Datu Puti Premium Fish Sauce.

But it's the Mukhasim sour face that has proven to be sweet success for the vinegar brand. "This elicits so much laughter you can't help but share and try it yourself with friends and family," says Oscar "Ren-ren" Reyes, the group head of NutriAsia that now owns the Datu Puti brand. "It enters your personal space in a positive way and in doing so increases your love for Datu Puti vinegar. This has been what Mukhasim has been doing through the years and it has made it a timeless icon."

To achieve that timeless and timely status of the brand, Ren-Ren isn't about to reveal his cards yet. "To say exactly what the campaign will be in the future before we get there will be counter intuitive because we need to be always in the 'now," he says. He adds that the brand is part of Pinoy "pop culture. We will continue to get into it."