UBI has become a staple food of Boholanos. PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF PAULINE SONGCO
When the province of Bohol experienced hunger during pre-Hispanic times, locals treated ubi or purple yam as its staple food.
Bohol has seven varieties of ubi, dubbed as its “savior crop,” according to local grower Mang Esmiraldo Maligsa.
Kinampay, known for its aroma, is the type of ubi that is usually made into ice cream. Baligonhon has no aroma but has a darker shade of violet. Kabus ok, on the other hand, has a whiter color.
Iniling has a yellowish color and is usually eaten with latik. Binato is named after its rock-like appearance while Binanag is often used for cooking vegetable dishes. Out of all the ubi variants, Tam isan is the sweetest.
Maligsa added that ubi is only harvested twice a year (November and December). It is planted during March, April, May and June.
Roasted Ube Salad.
During a media familiarization tour of Bohol last month, Governor Arthur Yap said the province is concentrating on creating nurseries where farmers can grow more ubi.
“We have about 600 hectares of ubi farm which is, in my view, kulang talaga. This is a 4,000 sq. km island, so we have 400,000 hectares. There should be a minimum of 20,000 to 30,000 hectares for ubi,” he said.
Aside from nurseries, the local government is focusing on distributing planting materials. Yap added, “That’s important in any crop that you want to propagate. Your planting material and nursery have to be there. If not, you have no chance to propagate it.”
Yap said that ubi only takes up a small percentage of Bohol’s revenue.
“Ubi has a very special place in our history. But if you really look at it, we haven’t given it enough attention: 500 to 600 hectares and the yield is only six tons per hectare. Compare it to Thailand and Vietnam which is 12 tons per hectare. If there is any message that I was driving in this festival, we’re not doing enough for ubi. We have to plant more. Not only do we have to propagate, we have to find a way to increase its production volume and, of course, its value adding,” he said.
Other than turning it into a jam, chef Ma. Christina Sulta, who placed second in the UBI Cook-Off, put her own spin in creating dishes made from ubi.
For starters, her Roasted Ube Salad utilizes local farm greens and coconut cider ube kinampay as dressing. Her Sabaw Kabaw sa Ube is a popular dish in Loboc which uses carabao meat enhanced with three kinds of ubi: Binugas for thicker soup consistency, Baligonhon for color and Kinampay for aroma.
The main course is Nil ‘Ubi’ hang Alimango, mud crabs stuffed with lubi (coconut strips), cooked in Buko juice and flavored with Hamutan, a local variety of Basil. The dessert, Ube Coconut Cake, uses Ube Haleya and young coconut jelly covered in gata sponge.
Aside from the cook-off, Bohol held an ubi showcase at the Old Tagbilaran Airport where a variety of ubi products were highlighted. Strict health and safety protocols were implemented for the safety of the visitors.
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