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Jun 02nd
Home Sections Humor & Satire How Bananas (And Abaca) Prevent Filipinos from Going Banana
How Bananas (And Abaca) Prevent Filipinos from Going Banana PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Humor & Satire
Saturday, 03 November 2007 03:25

Former Board of Investments Gov. Ben Sanchez’s column, "Bananas Are Helping Keep RP from Becoming a Banana Republic" inspired this writer to recall his recollections of the "the heavenly fruit that tasted like nectar sweetened in honey" (to borrow the words of Alexander, the Great Greek).

The recollections and anecdotes in this sequel never found their way to be included in Henrylito D. Tacio’s "A Banana A Day Keeps The Doctor Away," as quoted by Governor Sanchez.

So here goes . . .

The Filipino generic term for banana is "saging." Because the Philippines is the world’s fourth-biggest exporter of this fruit, bananas, therefore, keep the economy from "sagging," oops, slumping into historic new lows. Without the banana enriching the Filipino diet, banana (and abaca) exports providing badly-needed income to the subsistence farmers, the Filipino people would have long gone banana (to use an oft-quote cliché).

Then there was the U.S. Peace Corps volunteer who was assigned in the Bicol Region in the 1960s. When the American volunteer first arrived in Bicolandia, the folks presented him with different kinds of the fruit. So, he tasted all of them, from the "saba" (fried as "maruya" or "sinapot" in the Bicol language), the "lakatan" (the export variety) and the "latundan" (the so-called "mini" bananas) Finally he was given a variety from Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon Province – the so-called "ginuyod" (slim banana that remains green in color even when already ripe). The Peace-Corps volunteer, who was learning the local language, remarked, "Of all the bananas I have tasted, this ‘saging’ (referring to the ‘ginuyod’) is the most-delicious of them all." Maybe that comment prevented the Bicol economy from saging, oops, sagging ever more.

The banana has always been a favorite object of humor of Filipino stand-up comedians. Here are some of the one-liners: "Did you know that banana is a natural medicine for beautiful skin? Filipinos say that monkeys eat lots of bananas and that is reason apes do not have pimples or acne."

In the early 1990s, this writer proposed to his fellow Bicolnons that they use abaca, a cousin of the banana, as a rallying point in achieving socioeconomic independence from The Imperial Manila. (Abaca – AKA Manila hemp – does not belong to the hemp family. The Philippines, however, is the biggest producer of abaca fiber in the world.) I floated the idea of forming an ABACA Republic, as the Bicol Region grows the most-number of abaca plants in the Philippines. I said ABACA could be the acronym of "Alliance (or Army) for Bicol Autonomy and Cultural Advancement." I registered both the, and the screen name But I gave up the domain name when another company registered, as even if we put up a chain of retail stores named "Abaca Republic" (to compete with Banana Republic), people might get confused. So I just renewed every year the and gave up the other domain name. The plan is to put up a chain of stores call the Manilahemp Republic and use this slogan in competing with the Banana-Republic outlets: "Why go banana when you can go hemp?"

Incidentally, the abaca plant’s so-called "female" variety bears fruits that are similar to the banana in appearance. But the abaca fruits have lots of seeds and very few mortals eat them. But wild birds enjoy these abaca fruits and are nature’s instruments in dispersing the (abaca) seeds.

Supposedly then President Cory Cojuangco-Aquino vetoed a plan to hold a "Banana Festival" in Davao City, as the Davao provinces have the most acreage (hectareage) devoted to banana plantations. Why? Because President Aquino feared that the Banana Festival would accelerate the turning of the country into a Banana Republic, especially since then Col. Gregorio Honasan III and his fellow RAMbos liked to eat bananas and Banana-cue (roasted "saba").

But finally speaking of bananas, this story circulated in Southern Philippines in the 1970s. The tale said that the owner of the largest banana plantation in the Philippines hired MBA graduates and executives with Ph.D. in economics to introduce a better system for packaging bananas. So the whiz kids introduced a conveyor system for the woman employees to use. The MBA kids and economic wizards then reorganized the women into three groups to supposedly maximize efficiency. The first batch was composed of single girls, who were to pick up from the conveyor belts the smallest bananas and put them into cardboard boxes. The second group was composed of married women, who were ordered to pick up the medium-sized bananas for packaging. The third group was composed of widows and separated women, who were to attend to the biggest bananas. After three months of doing the "conveyor-belt" experiment, the whole set up was scrapped. Why? The first group of single-girl employees picked up daintily the bananas at their tip and this disrupted the system. Many bananas also fell to the floor. The second group (composed of married women) played with the bananas and playfully tossed them into the boxes. And worse, the employees who were widows or separated women not only played with the biggest bananas but also brought some of them home. # # #

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Last Updated on Saturday, 03 November 2007 03:35

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