Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 4      February 27- March 5, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Sayote: The Survivor’s Vegetable

It may not be as glamorous as the lettuce nor as colorful as the carrot, two of the more popular vegetables produced in the Cordillera, but the lowly sayote has proven itself to be a life-saver, both for farmers and calamity victims.

Northern Dispatch

Posted by Bulatlat

La Trinindad, Benguet – Sayote is a green, papaya-shaped vegetable, a bit hairy and belongs to the gourd family, just like cucumber, watermelon and pumpkin. The cucurbit is also known as chayote or sechium edule.

The sayote has several times served an important role during calamities in the region. Sayote was used to help victims in the areas affected by the 1990 killer earthquake that severely ravaged, among others, Baguio City.

When Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales erupted in 1991, Benguet farmers were mobilized and about 250 tons of sayote and other relief goods were sent to the victims. Recently, an “Oplan Sayote” was again launched to help families affected by the typhoons in Quezon, Nueva Ecija and Aurora provinces.

Green gold

Sayote is also the only sustainable vegetable in the market because of its availability throughout the year, hence, earning the description “green gold.”

The cheapest vegetable in the market, sayote is grown especially in the Benguet municipalities of Kibungan, Atok, Kapangan, Tuba and La Trinidad in northern Philippines.

In an interview by Northern Dispatch with Jerry Calasiao, 28, a farmer of Sitio Gayasi, Wangal in La Trinidad town just a few kilometers from Baguio City, he explained why his family plants sayote: “Napili mi ti sayote nga imula ditoy ayanmi ta bassit ti magastos ken bumayag pay, saan ka a mula a mula a kasla kadagiti dadduma a nateng nga agmula basta malpas ti apit.” (We chose to plant sayote because of the minimal expense on farm inputs. Its lifespan is also long, unlike other vegetables which require immediate re-planting after harvest time.)

Sayote is also the best vegetable for us because it’s harvestable weekly and can sustain our daily needs, he added.

According to Calasiao, a sayote plant survives for as long as 15 months before it is replaced.

He said, “We usually use three kinds of fertilizers, which are Triple 14, chicken dung and Viking for better produce. Farmers can harvest 20-25 plastic sacks of sayote weekly with the equivalent price of P1,500 to P2,000 depending on the market price,” he added. The price of sayote usually increases during Christmas and summer, he explained. 

Calasiao further said that farmers earn more during summer and during typhoon months because few sayote products reach the market. This is because the Halsema Highway, the road connecting Baguio City to the rest of the Cordillera provinces, closes during typhoons due to land slides.

A good price for sayote goes up to P17 to P20 per kilo. Farmers claim that sayote price is at its lowest at 40 centavos per kilo when supply from different municipalities abound.    

Roberto Calpasi and Manuel Fermin, farmers from Atok and Kapangan, respectively, say that Benguet farmers have failed to seize the opportunities offered by sayote farming. The two were referring to the “tsamba system” wherein the farmer’s income is multiplied when the price goes exceptionally up high.

But even without this, the farmers still agree that there is money in sayote. “You can harvest twice a week if you have a wide sayote garden. You have less expense and minimized effort in sayote production,” Calpasi said.

Practical vegetable

Jasmin Diclas, 21, a student and sayote farmer, claims that farmers choose sayote because it is appropriate for the mountainous Gayasi area. Diclas is one of the many students involved in sayote farming to support their studies, as payment for their tuition and daily expenses. Helping farm sayote trained her to be independent, she said.

Diclas described the problems they have encountered, such as the times when sayote fruits and leaves grow only the size of bitter gourd or ampalaya.

During the harvest time, farmers usually hire two farm workers to help at P5 per plastic sack. For farmers whose fields are located far down the creek, they utilize the tram line of Doming Angkil, paying the latter P3 per plastic sack. Earlier, without the tram line, farmers had to carry their products for some distance before reaching the market.

Thus, aside from being a handy tummy-filler during lean months, the sayote has evolved to an important part of Benguet’s upland agricultural industry, helping send many of its children to school and feeding hungry families during hard times.

Best sayote

Gayasi of the village of Wangal is known as the sayote capital of La Trinidad. Diclas and Calasiao both say that Wangal produces the best sayote in Baguio and Benguet. Being near the market and trading post, their products are less damaged during transport, they said.

Sayote farmers said that programs that will help improve their sayote production and marketing of their products will surely help.  Bulatlat



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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