HANGUANA Malayana is a good source of fiber for various products such as gifts and housewares, textile, high grade paper, wall décor and other artworks and furniture, among others.
The town of Santa Teresita in Cagayan province abounds with this plant locally known as Bakong. In the 1950s, the town was formerly Buguey town’s Barrio Namunit, a historical place that was believed to be the landing site in 1557 by the Spanish conquistadores led by Juan De Salcedo.
However, there are no records the plant was brought by the Spaniards and started propagating them in a lake in the village then called Barrio Namunit.
The Bakong plant is particularly found growing in the Laguna De Cagayan (formerly called Bangalau Lake) in Santa Teresita along the national road connecting the Cagayan North International Airport in Lallo town and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority in Santa Ana town.
“You are easily greeted by the dominant Bakong plant with its prominent long wide leaves as soon as you reach the place,” Benjamin De Yro, a product development consultant of the office of Mayor Lolita Garcia of Santa Teresita.
De Yro said this is Cagayan’s contribution to the increasing new fiber discoveries in worldwide that recently took center stage at the Product and Technology Trade Fair in Tugeugarao City during the Aggao Nac Cagayan, an annual festivity of Cagayan province.
Garcia said that for the first time, various products from the Bakong were on display at the Aggao Nac Cagayan for sale at the booth of Santa Teresita at the Capitol Grounds during the festivity.
“We’ve been producing the products for the past three years and this year we are now ready to present them for the Cagayano people and the world to see,” Garcia said.
De Yro said that while it is locally known as Bakong in Northern Philippines, it is popularly known in Myanmar as Sumsum.
“The residents of Santa Teresita have always considered the Bakong as pests in the areas where they thrive particularly within the Laguna De Cagayan,” De Yro said.
Garcia explained that it was in 2013 right after the First National Eco-Tourism Festival of the town when the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Product Development Design Center of the Philippines took samples of the plant for research.
Since then, Garcia said, local ordinances have been enacted to protect the area and plant species.
“It is to the credit of the trade and industry department that we were able to unveil the economic benefits of the plant,” she said.
According to De Yro, researches made reveals that the perennial rhizomatous herb is native to the Philippines, the Malay Peninsula, Palau and Australia.
Bakong only has two sub-species that grow from one to two 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.
He also said that with the help of the DTI and the Department of Labor and Employment, the Bakong has become an alternative source of livelihood among some 500 individuals in the town who have been trained to produce fiber from the plant.
Meanwhile, Nida Dela Cruz, municipal environment and natural resources officer of Santa Teresita said three more flora species along the Laguna De Cagayan await rediscovery.