Bananacue: an all-time best selling street food


It’s merienda time! Time for bananacue!

bananacue 1

An all-time best selling street food in the Philippines, bananacue is made of deep fried banana coated in caramelized brown sugar.  It is usually skewered on bamboo stick when sold, for the convenience in handling and eating. It is not cooked on the skewer.

Bananacue is a favorite mid-afternoon snack for many Filipinos. It is a highly nutritious snack considering that its main ingredient is the saba or cardava variety of banana.

bananacue 2
saba or cardava

Cardava, a plantain banana, is found to have the highest content of nutrients because, compared with other varieties, its roots go deepest and absorb more nutrients from the soil.

Bananas, in general, are rich in potassium, which plays a vital role in delivering oxygen to the brain, maintaining a regular heartbeat, and keeping a proper water balance in the body.  Potassium is also important in reducing strokes and regulating blood pressure.

Besides, banana contains abundant vitamins and minerals that are good sources of natural energy. In fact, consuming just two pieces of banana will give you enough energy to exercise for an hour and a half. It also helps stop constipation since banana contains a certain type of fiber that facilitates in the restoration and maintenance of regular bowel functions.

In addition, bananas can help people who are trying to quit smoking because its B vitamins and other mineral contents help minimize the physical and psychological impact of nicotine withdrawal.  Likewise, its vitamin B6 content helps reduce menstrual cramps and regulates women’s general mood.  Banana’s calming properties can also help pregnant women overcome morning sickness.

Aside from the health benefits, bananacue is also a very affordable snack.  Its cost range from 5 pesos to 15 pesos, depending on where you buy it.

Just a bit of trivia about bananas:

  • They are plants, not trees.
  • Bananas are among of the oldest cultivated plants, native to the South and South East Asian regions.
  • Its blossoms are ideal for cooking as vegetables, and even perfect for salad.
  • Its leaves can be used in wrapping and for cooking.
  • Banana is the fourth most important global food crop.
  • Most of all, bananacue is authentically Filipino.

If you want to try our delicious bananacue, come to the Philippines.  It’s more fun here!

Going bananas: sagging with benefits


While the Philippines has successfully put its piña fabric, the clothing made of pineapple leaves, into the mainstream of the fashion industry, let’s move further forward and identify another possible source of our basic need – that is, clothing, hoping to revive the tradition and lifestyle that our forefathers used to have.  I’m not talking about getting back to the primitive era here. Rather, I mean that it’s about time to adapt a lifestyle that is friendly to our personal health as well as to the environment that we live in; although, it’s prudent to preserve tradition and culture.

Let’s explore, then, the rich textile tradition of the people of the Okinawan Islands.

banana fiber 2Banana-made clothing

The independent kingdom of ‘Ryukyu’, which covers the Okinawan islands (before it was relinquished to Japan), had been known for its rich textile weaving industry, using plant fibers.  Among the plant-based textiles they made was the bashôfu, or the banana fiber cloth.

In the 13th century, the Okinawans weaved kimonos and other traditional clothes from a specific variety of the banana plant, called ito bashô in Japanese. The word fu means fabric or cloth; thus, the term bashôfu.

banana cloth
banana cloth

Banana cloth

Extraction of the banana fiber was done manually and the process was quite tedious, requiring skills and a lot of patience.  Because of this, weavers found it difficult to mass-produce the cloth. Also, the presence of readily available and low cost fabrics, such as cotton, silk, and other synthetic cloths hampered them to put banana-made clothes into the mainstream of commerce.  And, of course, the ongoing World War II was a major factor in the decline of the banana-weaving industry.

Fortunately, though, weaving and use of bashôfu was revived, and even accelerated after the war and when Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972.  Since then, bashôfu has been receiving considerable attention as Japan’s important intangible cultural properties.

Types of banana

There are three major types of banana plants, namely: the food source (the plantain and sweet banana); the decorative plants, and; the starch and fibers sources.  The popular abaca fiber, also known as Manila hemp, comes from the third type of banana.

Extraction processes of banana fiber

 


Banana fiber properties

banana kimonoBanana is a natural bast fibre, having its own physical and chemical properties of fine quality. It has been proven to have these unique qualities:

  • it resembles the fiber from ramie and bamboo, but it is finer than the two
  • banana fiber can be spun  in almost all methods of spinning, such as, bast fiber spinning, open-end spinning, semi-worsted spinning, or ring spinning.  In other words, its spinnability is better than other fibers.
  • it can be as soft as organza silk when refined using traditional techniques
  • lustrous and lightweight
  • breathable
  • very high tensile strength
  • low in elongation
  • has a high moisture absorption capacity
  • repels grease and water
  • remains extremely flexible
  • it dries quickly
  • fire resistant
  • comes from a renewable resource

banana-made clothing

Why we should patronize banana clothing

Banana is grown in 129 countries around the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, India, Hawaii, and some Pacific islands.  It is the fourth most important global food crops, serving our different needs such as fruit and food sources, and food wrapping (leaves).

Banana plants are sustainable. It takes only about 12 to 16 months to yield.  But, once the fruits are harvested, banana stems seem to have no more use but to be dumped in landfills.  And there are billion tons of stems that are wasted annually in banana plantations. Good thing that our ancestors found a way to utilize these otherwise waste materials. They saw that these junk banana stems can actually provide us with a sustainable source of fabric that helps us reduce our dependence on synthetic fibers.

Of course, we know that production of synthetic fibers requires chemical-based fertilizer, pesticides, extra energy, and other non-biodegradable elements  that are harmful to both the environment and people.

By advocating banana-made products, especially clothing, we are promoting organic and sustainable lifestyle as well as helping the banana-weaving industry to flourish. And of course, we are reducing wastes at the landfills.

Other products from banana fiber

Aside from clothing, banana fiber also makes a good material for:

  • tea bags
  • Japanese yen notes
  • paper
  • bags
  • towels
  • curtains
  • bed sheets and other household items
  • cement bags that can carry 25-kilogram weight
  • material to reinforce a vehicle’s interior parts
  • novelty items

Eco-tourism on Siquijor Island


The tiny Siquijor Island has now become one of the new tourist and traveler destinations in Central Visayas, Philippines. Its pristine white sand beaches, waterfalls, caves, and other sites have attracted many people seeking for a tranquil respite.  And because it is sparsely populated, Siquijor is able to preserve its natural beauty – and the islanders continue to hope it will remain that way.

map 2

Mt. Bandilaan National Park

Situated at the boundary of Lazi and Siquijor towns, Mt. Bandilaan National Park may not be very high compared with other mountains in the region considering that it rises to only 557 feet at its peak.  But it’s comparable to the more popular Mt. Mayon in Albay, Bicol for its almost perfect cone shape.

Mt. BandilaanMt. Bandilaan is home to indigenous flora and fauna, including the Bandilaan Butterfly Range and Breeding Farm, and the site of several caves, five natural springs, a shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the Stations of the Cross.  You will also find there many of the endangered Philippine trees.

As you begin your trek up the park, you will be greeted by pristine streams at the foot of the mountain, which seem to invite you to take a dip in its cool waters. Its naturally aesthetic terrain eases your journey to the top, allowing you to appreciate Nature’s beauty along the way. While the more adventurous tourists may get excited and challenged by what could be inside the caves, the prudent ones may find delight in the panoramic view of the entire Siquijor island from the Metal Observatory Desk at the top of the mountain. Or, you may just want to enjoy the coolness of mountain breeze and the natural forest smell.

Mt. Bandilaan 2

The Park could also serve as a perfect place to meditate or have a quiet communion with nature, especially during low season. And if you are religious, you may even want to pray the Station of the Cross there.

Just a note of warning, though.  You must be careful when climbing up the stairs to the Observatory as there are already signs of wear and tear on some of the steps; although, the authorities governing the park are attending to this minor problem.

Bandilaan Butterfly Farm

Butterfly farm

Located within the Mt. Bandilaan National Park is the 1,460-square meter Bandilaan Butterfly Farm. It is home to 102 of both local and foreign species of butterflies and moths that feed from the huge botanical garden in the farm itself.  Among the species found here include:

  • Kalima, also called as the dead leaf butterfly
  • Snow Butterflies from the Swiss Alps
  • Birdwing Butterflies
  • Philatelic Butterflies (the ones you often see on postage stamps)
  • Moths of Two Continents
  • Philippine Moths
  • Attatus Atlas (this is known to be the biggest moth in the world)

Butterfly larvaeThere’s also an enclosure in the farm that holds the larvae until metamorphosis.

Since its inception, the Bandilaan Butterfly Farm has grown to become a world-class breeding facility for several butterfly species. It is even internationally-recognized for its success.

The farm is managed by competent staff who have been trained under the famous Cebuano lepidopterist, Professor Julian Jumalon.  It’s no wonder, then, that when you visit the Bandilaan Butterfly Farm, you don’t only get entertained by thousands of colorful butterflies, but you also get information about each specie from the staff.

Cantabon Cave

Among the more than 45 caves in Siquijor, the Cantabon Cave is most popular and offers the most wonderful sight. It was by happenstance that a group of foreign hunters discovered this island’s “hidden treasure” in 1985. Since then, the cave has drawn interest among geologists, spelunkers as well as travelers and tourists.  Fortunately, it has remained unspoiled despite the number of visitors who went into it.

Cantabon cave 3

Cantabon cave 2

Located in Barangay Cantabon, 9 kilometers west of Siquijor town, Cantabon Cave is approximately 300 meters long and 10 meters wide.  It is famed for its awesome jewel-like stalagmites and stalactites that glitter in the dark, and other natural rock formations. A small natural pool of crystal-clear water is also formed right in the middle of the cave, even as water cascades from hidden springs.

Cantabon cave 1

When you go explore Cantabon Cave, please make sure that you are equipped with durable shoes, protective gear, and flashlight.  It takes about 2 hours to explore the cave, or even longer depending on how much time you spend each area.

Cantabon Cave is well maintained by barangay residents.  There is even an ordinance that bans collection of stalagmites and stalactites, birds’ nests, and other natural properties inside and around the cave.  Violation of which entails monetary fines and court charges.

Tulapos Marine Sanctuary

Tulapos Marine

Located in the municipality of Enrique Villanueva, also called Talingting, the Tulapos Marine Sanctuary is noted for its underwater beauty.  It is home to a number of colorful marine species, including batfish, or barracuda, which sometimes accompany you as you snorkel around the area. The 14-hectare sanctuary is also famed for its coral reefs, mangroves, and white sand beaches, making it an ideal place for snorkeling.

Established in 1986, the sanctuary’s inhabitants have considerably grown from just a small number of fishes to thousands of living aquatic species, thanks to the vigilant residents and community officials who are bent in preserving these marine treasures.  See the wonders mangroves can do to nature!

Tulapos Mangrove tree house

If you want to get a panoramic view of the entire sanctuary and the vast sea, you may go up to the two-storey Mangrove Tree House.  The treehouse has rooms, a bathroom, kitchen, electric outlets, and a balcony that offers you a marvelous view.

But, just a word of caution. The mangrove tree house is vulnerable to the forces of nature, so you must be prudent if you wish to stay there for a night.  The local authorities, however, are seriously considering repair of the structure.

Cambugahay Falls

Cambugahay Falls is another natural beauty that has drawn several tourists recently. Located two kilometers north from the Lazi Convent, a national landmark on the island, Cambugahay Falls is a multi-layered falls of fresh, warm and clean waters coming from natural springs.

Cambugahay

Going to the falls, however, means trekking through 138 treacherous steps down a terrain that could be slippery during rainy season.  So, you have to be very careful.  And coming back up to the main road could also be arduous, especially if you are not used to climbing up a steep hill.  But generally, though, your effort is compensated with the cascading clean waterfalls, which seem to invite you to jump in.

Cambugahay 2

Surrounded by jungle greenery, the falls are in three levels, the lowest of which is the largest.  The upper levels are smaller with about one to three meters.

You can actually have the falls all to yourself during low season or when you go there very early in the morning before anyone does.  It’s the favorite bonding place of many local families and groups, where they spend time picnicking, swimming, or just catching up with one another.

Capilay Spring Park

Capilay Spring Park 2Nestled right in the middle of San Juan town plaza at the southwest coast of Siquijor island is the amazing Capilay Spring Park.  It’s a free-flowing spring, residents had to build a concrete barrier around it to contain the water in a swimming pool-like structure. Many even call it a lake because it looks like one.

Today, the spring is divided into three chambers or pools. The upper pool is where the springs are found, gushing forth cool and clean water into the swimming area, or the second pool.  The third section is called the laundry pool since it is here where local residents do their washing activities.  All the water from the spring drains out into the nearby ocean.

Capilay Spring Park 1Unlike other natural springs, the Capilay Spring Park is located along the highway, making it accessible to the public.  That’s why the place has become a favorite place for local residents to spend their early morning exercises, or late afternoon stroll.  Families even use the park for their weekend picnics because there is a huge space for children to play around.  Kiosks, benches, and tables are also available.

Many artists also come to the park to sketch and paint, allured by the picturesque view that Capilay Spring Park offers.

These natural wonders, however, may face the risk of exploitation when overcrowding and commercialization get in the way. To preserve these attractions, let us all uphold this slogan,

Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints; kill nothing but time

and if I may emphasize,

drop your litters in proper bins!

when you visit these places.

It is very important to minimize our impact on these eco-tourist destinations so that the generations who come after us may still enjoy its beauty.

Hybrid vehicles: a transport to sustainable development


Fossil fuels have brought us into this modern economy. But they also put us in danger because of the increasing carbon dioxide levels they produce. It is now time that we seriously look into the use of hybrid vehicles to reduce emission of carbon dioxide. Hybrid vehicles that are charged by electricity produce clean energy. They are sustainable and cost much less as they utilize nature’s own energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

Hybrid vehicle 1

Hybrid vehicles are similar to the conventional petrol-powered vehicle, except that they veer away from total dependence on fossil fuels.  They are powered by two or more sources of energy. Hybrids utilize any of these natural sources of energy:

  • solar power
  • wind power
  • pressurized or compressed air
  • electric batteries
  • fuel cell
  • liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
  • liquefied nitrogen
  • hydrogen
  • alternative fuels and biofuels
  • manpower

These sources of energy work alternately in such a manner that the more efficient one functions when and where it is needed most.  For example, when petrol engine assumes the gear in negotiating a steep hill, the other energy source shuts off.

Hybrid vehicles significantly reduce the impact of tailpipe emissions by ninety percent. And since their  emission is almost zero, they are gentler to the environment as well as to human health. Hybrids are  economically-efficient, too, as they allow users to be less dependent on petrol fuel.

Car manufacturers continually study and test varied combinations of energy sources to come up with the most cost-efficient and most environmentally-friendly hybrid. So far, the most common among the hybrids use gas-and-electric power combination, called the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV).

Hybrid vehicle 2

HEVs use fossil fuel to power the internal combustion engines and electric batteries to energize the electric motors. Their salient advantages over fossil-fueled vehicles include:

  • They use regenerative braking to recoup some of the energy lost during stopping, saving  energy in a storage battery to be used later to power the motor whenever the car is in electric mode.
  • HEVs outperform gasoline-powered cars in terms of mileage by approximately 20 to 30 percent.
  • When HEVs are switched onto electric mode, they don’t produce excessive roaring.  In other words they operate quietly; thus, reducing another form of pollution – that is, noise.

If you are planning to buy a hybrid vehicle, check first on each car model’s economy information.  Also watch this video on how hybrid vehicles work.

When are we going to commute on an e-trike?


 

In a forum with the Department of Energy on June 30 this year, Puerto Princesa city mayor Edward Hagedorn announced that the local government has purchased one hundred units of the energy-efficient electric tricycles, or e-trikes, to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality in the city.  Hagedorn said that sixty of those units are set to be deployed to the Puerto Princesa City International Airport to serve as taxis; while the rest of the units were appropriated to tricycle operators and drivers association (TODA) for public transport.

e-trikes

This move is part of the local government’s plan to replace the more than 4,000 conventional petrol-powered public transport tricycles with the eco-friendly e-trikes to promote the city’s clean air program, even as it ultimately aims to make Puerto Princesa the first carbon-neutral city in the Philippines.

Using locally-manufactured fiberglass body, the e-trikes are put together by local assembler, Green Tech EcoCenter (GTE) in partnership with a motor vehicle parts manufacturers’ association.  Because of this, there is a potential for an increased in employment of local people.  Mayor Hagedorn explained that,

“Aside from helping protect our environment, this project will also transfer electric tricycle technology to our locals and enhance the skills of our local tinsmiths, welders, auto painters, auto mechanics, auto electricians, upholsterers, trimmers, assemblers, and fiberglass makers.”

e-trike3The e-trikes are charged by an electric motor powered by a lithium ion battery technology that can accommodate huge loads of luggage and six passengers comfortably seated without straining its motor. The vehicles come in three kWh and six kWh packs.  Those models with 3 kWh battery pack can run as far as 50 kilometers on a single charge, and can be recharged to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes at fast charging stations.  While those models that use 6 kWh battery pack runs up to a hundred kilometers on a single overnight charge.  The e-trikes will also be fitted with an internal cooling fan.

It has been months now since the announcement was made.  We hope that the e-trikes project finally becomes operational in full blast and start plying, not only in Puerto Princesa, but also throughout the entire Philippines.

Wishing you a green Christmas!


It’s almost Christmas!  And once again, it’s time to deck our homes. How about making it a green Christmas, for a change?

Christmas - parol
Filipino parol (lantern)

Christians all over the world, including me, make it a habit to decorate our respective homes for the Christmas season. It’s part of our tradition to set a festive and joyous atmosphere as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

But depending on one’s culture, the actual decoration process varies. It may be done just  a few days prior to Christmas Eve, on Christmas Eve itself, or it may even start as soon as the so-called “ber months” [starting September] usher in, like what we do in the Philippines.

I know, when we talk about Christmas decors, most of you would probably think of those items that are readily available at the department stores. Well, it’s good. But, I’m just thinking, what if we’d try something like a green Christmas this time, perhaps?

For a change, why don’t we try some of these innovative suggestions

Magazine Christmas tree.  Perhaps, you have some pretty old magazines that have been gathering up dust in one corner of your home.  Did you know that you can actually make a unique little Christmas tree out of it?  Take one out and watch the video (below) on how to do it. You may put a little star at its tip, too, if you like!

Alternative Christmas tree materials. There is no need to chop down a fresh tree, actually.  All you need is a little creativity.  I am sure there are a lot of items in your house that can be transformed into a fantastic Christmas tree. How about any of these, for example?

  • A camera tripod
  • An old drying rack
  • A ladder
  • Scrap wires and metals

Dress it up with some of the decors you used the previous year, like: poinsettia, a few strands of garland, beads, balls, bells, some seashells, pine cones, some barks and leaves.  Just add a little glitter and a few strands of series lights to make it appear lively and new!

Live tree.  Perhaps, you have some potted little trees or bonsai in your garden.  You can utilize it for the season, too.

Reuse. It is all right to reuse your old artificial Christmas tree and decors. This way, you help minimize waste at the landfill.  Just make a little bit of retouch to those old materials to make them look new and different from what they used to be.

Christmas - tripod
Tripod Christmas tree

Turn to nature.  If your artificial Christmas tree is beyond retouch, look around for dead tree branches in your locality.  You may even want to collect fallen items from the ground, like pine cones, dried leaves, bark, or twigs. I remember how my sister transformed a bunch of coconut midribs into a beautiful Christmas tree.

Christmas lights.  Choose a series of Christmas lights that are safe to use and are energy-efficient.  The light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, may seem to cost more when you don’t look beyond the price tag.  But they can save you a lot of money because they last up to ten thousand hours compared with its standard incandescent counterpart, which can operate only up to five thousand hours.  Besides, with LEDs you can significantly reduce environmental impact due to energy consumption.

A green Christmas is not only easy on our budget, but it also makes our planet Earth a bit happy.

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