Dr Abe V Rotor
Vegetative phase of the life cycle of pongapong, (Amorphophallus campanulatus). The plant grows luxuriantly, then dies out without trace of its trunk and leaves. Overnight, like a fairy tale, a curious giant flower breaks out of the ground. Center of Ecozoic Learning and livelihood (CELL), Silang, Cavite.
Pongapong is a rare plant. Its reproductive stage is in the form of a single bulbous flower arising from an underground enlarged root. The flower is pollinated by flies attracted by putrefying odor of meat. Once fertilized the flower settles down as if decayed as the seeds mature and become ready for dissemination. The vegetative stage of the plant is succulent appearing like a giant fern. The enlarged root is often harvested for hog feed. It is cut into small pieces and cooked with other feed ingredients. Dr. Anselmo S Cabigan, biology professor examines the plant.
What a life you have, my pongapong fair:
At one time you are all but a huge flower,
Emerging in royal velvet with deathly air;
Yet in monsoon, you are reborn a tower.
Breaking out while Hades is in slumber.
They call it "TIGI" | "tigue" in Iluko.
March 3, 2011 4:04 PM
I was never fond of root crops, more so the indigenous ones. Of course, those that come into mind are the usual, more “famous” ones like the carrot, potato, turnip and to a much lesser extent, the yam (Ube) and camote (sweet potato). But upon reading the piece on the pongapong, I recognized it and I may have come across it on one of my forest travails. The pongapong emits an odor much comparable to rotten meat and attracts carrion beetles and flies. The flower is unique in appearance and breaks the very existential definition of a flower, a fragrant piece of plant life. Gross as it may sound and smell, I couldn’t fathom the diversity of our root crops in the Southeast asian region.
It really amazed me to know that despite the appearance and the stench it emits, the pongapong actually is being considered as a food source, specifically as a vegetable. Imagine cooking it in the normal Pinakbet or Sinigang recipe. And it is quite a comparison to be able to relate the pongapong to the much delectable squash and sinkamas. And to think that this plant has therapeutic qualities like combating rheuma and serving as your forest-grade all natural, all-organic Biogesic, all I can say is it is truly enigmatic.
March 6, 2011 10:14 PM
Anselmo Sr. said...
Thank you for publishing this rare picture from the former Botanical Garden at SPUQC. The gardener must have mistaken the corm for some other flowering species. I remember a long drought in 1956-7 when we had no rain for 10 months and all our crops failed. My father and I collected some unopened pungapong leaves and immature wild papaya fruits from the riverbed. The vegetable dish flavored with bagoong-alamang tasted heavenly but sleep was uneasy after a day without rice. We did not know "El Niño" yet but I never forgot that one day when there was no staple on the table.
March 8, 2011 1:44 PM
Iara Restini said...
Well I have myself a pongapong growing its flower out right now! I found it amazing! I have never seen one or heard about it and all of a sudden it came up in the midle of my garden. How come? I can't understand how it did happen!
Do you have Amorphophallus Paeoniifolius for sale? I need it on my thesis that should be done this sem and I can't find a sample here in Cavite...Pls reply ASAP..Thanks
Pongapong is strictly a wild plant and has not been comercialized to my knowledge. It was once popular as hog feed in the Ilocos in pre-war era. For reference, see Useful Plants of th Philippines, Volume 1, by William H Brown. I mentioned two potential pharmacological uses in the new post on the same subject which might interest you. Thank you for following my blog.