• Narra nectar turns up rare forest product

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    SINCE time immemorial, the Agtas or Aetas, Palaui Island natives, hunt wild honeys in the rainforest to survive.

    Today, this rare wild honey produced in this beautiful tourist destination Palaui Island in northern Cagayan province continue to provide livelihood opportunities to the locals.

    At the forefront in honey production is the Palaui Island Honey Hunters Marketing Cooperative with 32 households as members.

    With the support of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), the cooperative now also provide livelihood to dozens of families in the island through wild honey.

    Also called dorsata, this wild honey is among the indigenous products from Palaui Island that is highly regarded for being organic, wild, rare and natural.

    Apiculturists explain that the wild honey is called as such because it is derived from the bee species Apis dorsata which offers an exquisite taste from naturally grown narra tree flowers in the forest of Palaui, an island covering a vast area of virgin forest, natural resources and scenic attractions.

    Ceza officials said the wild honey first drew attention of visitors in the four-day one-stop-one-product trade fair organized by the Department of Trade and Industry at the SM Megatrade Hall in Mandaluyong City on September 18 to 21, 2012.

    Having jurisdiction over Palaui Island in Santa Ana, Cagayan where the wild honey comes from, CEZA has been promoting it as part of the agency’s community support projects.

    Under Republic Act 7922, CEZA is mandated to manage and develop the 54,000-hectare Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, including Palaui Island of Santa Ana town as well as the islands of Fuga, Barit and Mabbag in Aparri town.

    “This rare and organic honey has taken the interest of many tourists and honey-lovers due to its exemplary taste and unique qualities,” said Joyce Jayme, CEZA public relations chief.

    CEZA Administrator and chief executive officer Jose Mari Ponce cited the dorsata honey project as a good example of private-public partnership in countryside development.

    ”It does not only bring good economic benefits but also complements the natural flow of the ecosystem,” Ponce said.

    Palaui Island’s 7,415 hectares—declared as national government-protected marine reserve on August 28, 1994—is home to well-preserved natural ecosystem, including the narra tree, scientifically known as Pterocarpus indicus.

    Environmental experts say that the narra flower is a very good source of pollen and nectars for the bees; colonies of Apis dorsata depend on the nectar of these flowers during its blooming season during the months from February to May.

    Jayme said honeybees from these trees offer great flavors that come fresh from the flower nectar, which the Agtas hunt as part of their staple food.

    In 2009, volunteers from the Canadian Executive Service Organization, an international charity institute, initiated the dorsata honey production on the island as a livelihood training project for the indigenous people.

    Jayme said CEZA supported the initiative by providing a grant to fund production facilities and help train the hunters and promote the product on a national scale.

    She said the noble project also earned the support of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, local government of Santa Ana, Cagayan State University, National Apiculture Research, Training and Development Institute and Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University.

    Meanwhile, Palaui Island was named in 2012 as one of the top 10 beaches and islands in the world by the CNN Go Travel website of the Cable News Network (CNN); it is inhabited by more than 200 families, mostly of the Aeta or Agta tribe.

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