Pre­serve our dwin­dling sago palm

Agriculture - - Contents -

IF YOU ARE PLAN­NING to visit Bu­tuan City in the Caraga Re­gion, be sure to have a taste of “palags­ing,” a unique lo­cal del­i­cacy which is pro­duced from the lumbia tree or sago palm ( Metrox­y­lon sagu). The age-old tra­di­tion of cook­ing palags­ing has been mas­tered in Barangay Banza, one of the oldest vil­lages in Bu­tuan, by 60-year-old Mau­rita Ari­ola Avenido who has been mak­ing the del­i­cacy since her younger years after learn­ing the artistry from her par­ents. The dis­tinc­tion of cook­ing palags­ing in Barangay Banza can be at­trib­uted to the abun­dance of sago palm where the “unaw” or lumbia starch is har­vested from the palm tree. It is mixed with the meat of young co­conut and brown su­gar to make the del­i­cacy moist and chewy, and very nice and tasty to eat. Palags­ing is like the com­mon “suman” as it is also wrapped in ba­nana leaves, but tastes very dif­fer­ent – a must try for del­i­cacy lovers.

Ac­cord­ing to Avenido, palags­ing has been the main source of her fam­ily’s in­come, which al­lowed her and her hus­band Leonardo Avenido to send their chil­dren and their grand­chil­dren to school. She says unaw has his­tor­i­cally been among the sta­ple foods in their area be­cause the sago palm was so abun­dant, mak­ing unaw pro­cess­ing a vi­tal eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in their barangay.

The com­mer­cial value of a sago palm is vi­tal for the com­mu­nity be­cause it is the main source of sago that is ob­tained from the trunk by wash­ing the ker­nels by pul­ver­iz­ing the pith of the stem. Dur­ing the ear­lier years, the rich starch ob­tained from the bark of the sago palm has be­come the sta­ple food among marsh­land dwellers, par­tic­u­larly the in­dige­nous peo­ple. The starch is also the source of com­mer­cial­ized sago which we com­monly use in the prepa­ra­tion of halo-halo and other re­fresh­ing drinks.

How­ever, the liveli­hood of Avenido and her fam­ily, in­clud­ing the other palags­ing mak­ers, is threat­ened due to the un­reg­u­lated cut­ting of the sago palm and the con­ver­sion of the plant’s habi­tats into rice­fields and other com­mer­cial pur­poses.

Sago palms grow well in hu­mid trop­i­cal low­lands and can tol­er­ate acidic soils. They are usu­ally found growing on buf­fer zones in swamp­lands. The sago palm pro­duces 200 to 300 kilo­grams of dry starch per stem, eight to nine years after plant­ing, mak­ing it the high­est-yield­ing peren­nial starch crop in the world.

In the wild, it does not re­quire re-plant­ing be­cause it can prop­a­gate it­self through suck­ers.

Due to its sig­nif­i­cance, sago is now one of the pri­or­ity com­modi­ties of the Philip­pine Coun­cil for Agri­cul­ture, Aquatic and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Re­search and Devel­op­mentof the De­part­ment of Science and Tech­nol­ogy (DOST-PCAARRD) un­der its in­dus­try strate­gic pro­gram (ISP) be­cause of its eco­nomic im­por­tance and high global de­mand for sago starch for in­dus­trial and med­i­cal pur­poses, earn­ing it the ti­tle “plant of the fu­ture.”

PCAARRD has com­mit­ted to sup­port pro­grams and projects for the de­vel­op­ment and prop­a­ga­tion of the sago palm with their part­ners, not only on joint R&D but also on tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance, gen­er­a­tion of in­for­ma­tion, and ex­change of strate­gies and tech­nolo­gies.

Sago palm pro­duces 200 to 300 kilo­grams of dry starch per stem, mak­ing it the high­est-yield­ing peren­nial starch crop in the world.

Sago starch.

Avenido while about to cook the palags­ing.

Mau­rita Avenido demon­strates how to pre­pare palags­ing, a unique and tasty del­i­cacy made out of sago starch.

Palags­ing looks as com­mon as suman but with a dis­tinct taste and tex­ture, a must try for del­i­cacy lovers.

Jam­sey Perez of the PCAARRD-ACD shows a newly-cooked palags­ing.

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