Bakong plant: from ‘pest’ to livelihood source

LOCALLY known as Bakong, the Hanguana Malayana has become one of the major sources of livelihood for farmers in the Santa Teresita town in Cagayan province, helping them overcome poverty.

Bakong is a good source of fiber for various products such as gifts and housewares, textiles, high-grade paper, wall decor, and other artworks and furniture, among others. Santa Teresita’s local government unit (LGU) said finished products made from Bakong are now internationally admired and have been exported to customers abroad on a “made-to-order” basis.

A source of livelihood for farmers.

Bakong is regarded as a good source of fiber for various products. PHOTOS FROM DOST REGION 2

Bakong is regarded as a good source of fiber for various products. PHOTOS FROM DOST REGION 2

In the town’s Barangay Luna, a total of 108 hectares of Bakong plants managed by Laguna De Cagayan Association is where John Benedict de Asis, Grassroots Innovation (Grind) Program regional coordinator of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) in Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), discovered that the raw material “Bakong” had an unusual size.

De Asis noted that unlike what is typically found in the Visayas, particularly in Romblon, the Bakong in Santa Teresita was longer.

De Asis said the DoST could assist the association through technology equipment innovation, research and development, capacity building, skills training and market linkages to strengthen the dissemination of information about this product. “These measures will help them produce more materials from this commodity,” he said.

Get the latest news

delivered to your inbox

Sign up for The Manila Times newsletters

By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Through the assistance of Santa Teresita LGU and the Cagayan’s first district Provincial Science and Technology Office led by Ferdinand Michael Magusib, their monitoring process led to a better understanding of the farmers’ needs and how to assist them.

The DoST is aiming to empower the Bakong farmers by involving them in a solution-mapping process that Grind has been focusing on.

Indigenous to the area

“The Bakong farmers in this town also hope to develop this commodity as it holds the promise of sustaining their lives,” de Asis said.

Meanwhile, local historian Benjamin de Yro said there are no records the plant was brought by the Spanish conquistadors who first landed in the original site of today’s town in 1557. Instead, Bakong started propagating in a lake in the village then called Barrio Namunit.

“Particularly found growing in the Bangalau Lake (now Laguna De Cagayan) in Santa Teresita along the national road, one is easily greeted by the dominant Bakong plant with its prominent long wide leaves as soon as reaching the place,” de Yro said.

While known as Bakong in the Northern Philippines, the plant is popularly known in Myanmar as Sumsum.

Research in 2013 by the Department of Trade and Industry-Product Development Design Center revealed the plant’s economic benefits to the farmers; prior to that, the Bakong had long been regarded as “pests” by the residents.

Research further showed that the perennial rhizomatous herb is native to the Philippines, the Malay Peninsula, Palau and Australia.

Bakong only has two subspecies that grow from 1 to 2 meters tall identified as the “kassintu” and “anthelmintika.” Its linear leaves are clustered at the base of the stem and have long perennial longitudinal veins.

With the help of the DTI and the Department of Labor and Employment, the Bakong has become an alternative source of livelihood among 500 farmers in the town who have been trained to produce fiber from it.

Mike Ibanoz

Mike Ibanoz is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who has spent the better part of two decades covering gadgets and apps, and helping people make smarter tech decisions.

You may also like...