Catanduanes is blessed with rich natural resources. Aside from a vast number of marine resources, the province also has abundant farming land, as well as a climate that is suitable for many different agricultural crops to thrive in. Because of this, the agriculture industry in the province has played a huge role in pumping its economy.
Aside from abaca, its cash crop, Catanduanes is home to a many a variety of produce, most of which are underutilized. One of these mishandled potential yields is the pangi.
Pangi (Parartocarpus woodii Merr.) is an indigenous tree believed to be a native species of Mexico. It was discovered by Edgar D. Merril in 1906, and this discovery was verified by J.C. Regalado in 1969. It is known by many other names, such as biga in Samar and Leyte, buwata in Ibanag, and na-nangka in Tagalog.
This fruit-bearing tree grows in Mindoro, Samar, Bucas Island, and in some parts of Luzon, including Cagayan and Camarines Sur. Pangi trees that grow in Catanduanes are mostly found in the Northern part of the province, including the municipalities of Bagamanoc, Viga, Caramoran, and some parts of San Miguel.
The climate in these areas is conducive for the pangi to propagate in. Catanduanes’ geographical position is exposed to off-and-on seasonal tropical storms. The province has no dry season and experiences a very pronounced maximum rainfall from November to January. During this wet season, the pangi fruit, which is usually reaped from July to September, has already been harvested.
Pangi is a wild plant. Undomesticated, it grows from seeds that fall from the mother tree to the ground. The pangi tree shares synergetic relationships with the coconut, abaca, as well as root crops like cassava, gabi, and camote, which are known to commonly sprout under the pangi tree.
Discovering Pangi’s Potentials
According to Mrs. Nena V. Santos, Science Research Specialist of Catanduanes State Colleges, pangi has already been a familiar flora in the provincial landscape since the Japanese period, but then, the people were not able to reap the potentials of the said fruit; thus, it remained an unpopular sustenance that is alienated to the Catandunganon population.
“Dati na yan na piga kalaon, ugaring, sa kainawatan ning panahon, nagkagaladan na so mga tawo and they were not able to pass yung kaalaman sa mga nagsunod na generation,” she commented. She also affirmed that, locally, there are only a few people who can recognize the fruit.
Santos’ research, conducted with CSC Program Specialist Juanita Cervantes and titled “Wealth in the Wild: Unraveling Pangi’s Versatility as Food and Income Source”, explained that the most important part of the pangi is its fruits. At four to six years old, the tree bears fruits which can be used as food.
These fruits can be converted into flour, which can then be made into pastries and confectioneries. Several food products into which pangi flour has successfully been incorporated are cookies, steamed puto, brownies, and chiffon cake.
Pangi flour has a great market potential since its quality is not far from the quality of wheat flour, but its retail price is much lower than the commercial flour. As a commodity, these products promise a new industry for the people of the Norte. Still, according to Santos, these products from pangi fruit would take a while to appeal to the locals’ palate, since baduya (deep fried fruits coated in flour) is the only delicacy of the pangi fruit familiar to the natives.
Meanwhile, aside from its fruits, pangi wood is also another beneficial resource popular in the local region. Its timber serves as raw material in making small tool handles and knife sheaths. Pangi wood can also be crafted into small pieces of furniture, as well as implement handles and firewood. Testimony to the wood’s resilience is the ample number of natives who use its timber as posts and walls of their houses.
Santos plans to submit a proposal to different funding agencies, such as the Department of Science and technology (DOST) and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in 2013 to support another exploration about the potentials of pangi. Through these funding agencies, the researchers would be able to conduct a nutrient analysis of the pangi flour, which would cost more than twenty thousand pesos. The necessary experiments would be done with the help of the Food and Nutritional Research Institute (FNRI). The researchers also plan to take pangi into a series of other tests to find out whether the tree can also be medicinal or not.
The researchers also plan to conduct trainings on pangi flour making in barangays where pangi grow. Through this, the residents, especially housewives, can make pastries and confectioneries, which they can consume especially during typhoon season when the province’s agricultural produce are scarce. These pangi products can also be sold. Once introduced in the market, pangi can become a business avenue especially for the people from the northern part of the province.
Another proposal will suggest the use of pangi for tree planting, because compared to using Mahogany, which is the oft-used species, planting pangi is more practical. Pangi would provide the people with food, especially in times of weather disturbances, whereas the latter would only give timber, the exploitation of which is illegal.
For now, the researchers continue to supervise the germination of more pangi seedlings in preparation for the launching of pangi flour in the market. Once released as a commercial product, pangi flour has to meet standards that will determine its future as an industry, but first, the researchers must make sure that its demand does not outlast its supply. One bakery in Viga has already offered to serve their customers pangi cookies.
Pangi is just one of the numerous resources accessible to in the province which is of great help to the people of the locale. Only this year, the Catanduanes State University has awarded the Pisog nin Uswag recognition to a few researches that aim to optimize Catanduanes’ agricultural terrain by commoditizing native comestibles. One project developed pasta sauce from yellow mangoes by converting the fruits into cream. Another investigation demonstrated that bananas, including its peelings, can be prepared as flour. Other researches even ventured into more creative novelties by investigating the rearing of edible frogs. We can only hope that these other projects advance in the same way that pangi flour has.
Taking the potential of the pangi tree into consideration, keeping the plant overlooked would indeed be a bad entrepreneurial move for the province. Catanduanes is fortunate that beyond these ecological assets, the island is also blessed with innovative minds. With the hard work and perseverance allotted by the researchers in their pioneering investigations, plus the resilience of the Catandunganons, the progress of this kidney-shaped island is just a few steps away.
Christine May Petajen