By: Benjie De Yro
What was once considered a water pest and irritant in Sta. Teresita, Cagayan is actually an emerging industrial flora in the country today. In fact, no less than the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and DTI -Center for International Trade and Exposition Mission (CITEM) will publish a book on it for presentation in Bangkok and New York.
Just what is this plant which makes Sta. Teresita, Cagayan the toast of research and marketing promotions for the international market?
Meet Bakong (Hanguana Malayana), a versatile plant native to the Philippines and some parts of Southeast Asia and thrives in wetlands and terrestrial habitats.
So versatile is the plant that it even surprised the DTI- Design Center of the Philippines in 2013 when it discovered the many uses of the plant which calls the Laguna De Cagayan (Bangalao Lake) in Barangay Luga its home for as long as the residents can remember.
In fact, an undergraduate study on a machine to extract Bakong fiber was one of the most applauded thesis for the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Industrial Design at the University of Santo Tomas on March 2015.
Researcher Nino Christopher D. Garcia successfully defended his project called “Design and Development of Bakong Plant Fiber Extracting Machine for Sta. Teresita”, Mayor Lolita Garcia said that through the Department of Trade and Industry, the municipality was able to acquire the machine worth Ph250,000 on December 10, 2015.
It was the first of its kind as the machine is exclusively for the bakong fiber only.
From the stem, the machine can extract fiber measuring 1.2 to 1.4 meters long. To capacitate the Laguna De Cagayan Handicraft Association, Garcia said the local government unit purchased three of the same extracting machine in time for this year’s 1st in Namunit Festival featuring eco-tourism in February 23.
Earlier, a group of handloom weavers- members of the association- were trained by a mechanical engineer from PDCP on how to extract the Bakong fiber from the stem of the plant. Two sets of weavers’ training have been conducted March this year by the municipality and the DTI.
“The fibers are now more pronounced, longer in length and clean as compared to those manually extracted by hand,” Garcia said.
Samples of the quality of fiber made into fabric are now on display at the mayor’s office as the Mayor assured visitors and potential buyers of more designs next month as part of a Bakong utilization exhibit during the town’s festival.
The discovery of the plant is not accidental, according to the Chief Executive. Before 2013, she thought of knocking at the door of DTI for a possible study on the possible use of the plant. DTI brought PDCP to Santa Teresita and the rest is now industrial history.
Over at tranquil Laguna De Cagayan, the sight of a massive vegetation of Bakong which can reach as high as 1.5 meters highlighted the lake early mornings when the soothing fresh breeze bringing the sweet smell of golden rice plant initiating their panicles, is applauded by the hundreds of various migratory birds.
Until 2012, the Bakong has always been unwanted in the area. Most of the fish farmers occasionally trim them down or eradicate them totally because “it has no value” to them.
Not anymore. The water pest have been dramatically transformed into a potential industrial gold mine. Why, it can now be an alternative raw material for elegant and sophisticated furniture designs never before seen in any industrial exposition. The lowly Bakong finally arrived.
But just when we thought that would be the end of a series of features for Bakong, latest development prompted this writer to write another.
That would be another story to tell. Northernforum.net